Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Let It Be

       There's a place my daddy used to take me to when I was a kid called Holly Creek. On long hot summer days we would journey there with my younger brother Chase in tow, primed for adventures fit for our wild imaginations. It was just that, a creek, that wound lazily from the mountain on down to the valley at the foot of it. Sprinkled with drops of sunlight through the overgrowth above, the creek's water glistened like fine glitter and hushed any voices that were not creature or nature, as it broke itself against the smooth stones that supported it. Green covered branches of life sprouted from the roots embedded underneath and offered shade for passersby as well as homes for critters. Chase and I would swim in the creek as Daddy fished. I tried the fishing part, but I always caught a tree limb high above me rather than fish from the waters below. However, a daddy-daughter fishing trip did offer 16 trout to my Barbie fishing rod one year. It was a lucky day. An unforgettable day.
      I remember Chase's guttural little boy laugh as it echoed off the sides of the mountain walls surrounding the creek. His head would fall back, his eyes squinted, and his dirty-blonde hair would shake liquid crystals onto his perfect peach skin as the heavens' light glowed behind his fuzzy ears. The water carried it and our childish little bodies, dusted pink by the sun's rays downstream as our memories etched into the stones, never to be washed away by the current. Life was so simple. We'd float, letting the water carry us without worry of the rocky obstacles ahead. I can still see my little brother, using sticks as water moccasins and trying to scare me. Splashing me. Laughing his life's song and threatening punishment and death by tickling. I never worried about anything as I looked up at the break in the trees overhead, seeing only the blue of the heavens and wondering if God was there relaxing on one of the larger rocks, providing the cool in the water, rocking me with the ebb and flow of His gentle hand.
       Now the break in the trees means something different. When I close my eyes I see the busyness of the forest and the water. The blurriness of the creekside makes the colors run together like wet, drippy paint. But the blue that it all frames . . . there's peace in that place. If only I could focus on it rather than the rushing waters and the passing bank on either side.
       It's one of those uncertain times when I don't know where the current is taking me. I heard someone say not long ago, "I don't believe God has a plan for your life."  It confused me and I actually got kinda ticked off as I thought, well, dude, you just completely negated Jeremiah 29:11 and a plethora of other imperative scriptures. Then a classmate explained it better: It's not that God doesn't have a plan. He does. But you have to play your part in it or it doesn't come to fruition.
      One can't just sit around doing nothing and hope she's accomplishing something. This semester I've learned that we're a part of God's story. But characters in God's story DO SOMETHING. They aren't sedentary. They are active players in this blessing we call life.
      However, when one decides to be a part of the story and actually do that something, she also has to understand that she's usually doing it blindly, completely unaware of the outcome or future. And regardless of writing skills or any tenacious audacity she may hold in her heart, she's not the one holding the writing pen.
      When we found out we were moving to Nashville I was never once scared of what would happen with my education. God had brought me this far and DSC wasn't the end all be all of colleges. In fact, I was getting my wish: I would finally leave DSC and earn a golden ticket to somewhere better suited for me, my educational goals, and most importantly my spiritual goals. Father opened every door that needed to be opened. Money fell from His hand. I was anxious for nothing.
      Over time God has shown me His mighty plan, the one I'd been praying about and following since I was old enough to understand. I changed my major. I moved. I turned my life upside down and dumped everything out for Jesus, as He tossed what I didn't need and organized what I did need. I stood back and watched Him, moving where He pointed, dancing as He directed the symphony around me. I was at such peace.
      There's a song I love that says, "In the process, in the waiting, You're making melodies over me." I plan to paint that and hang it in our music room here at the house. We've experienced quite a bit in the almost 5 months we've been in Nashville . . . this house, for one. I'm still speechless over that  miracle. Jo's job, Lilli's acceptance into her school, my acceptance at LU, our tuition miracles . . . but God's next surprise would be one to confuse the living daylights out of me. And in my humanity, I would fall prey to the anxiety from which I am always and forever running. Oh, me of little faith . . .
      Jesus' mother Mary was a simple 13 year old girl with high hopes for her future before she became the womb to house the Savior of the world. She was to wed Joseph. Her life's calling, like many other young women of the time, was to be that virtuous wife and mother that all aspired to be. But God, in His great wisdom and all-surpassing power, had a different plan. And a cooler one, I might add.
       I read Luke in its entirety this semester for my Story of Jesus class; we did a pretty in-depth study of the book and I learned some things about my Father that I'd not considered before. It's amazing what happens when we read the story a second, or one thousand and second time, and take different perspectives.
      From the outset, I found myself noticing Mary more in Luke 1 than ever before. When God comes to me in His still small voice I question everything He tells me until He simply says, Brandi. His spirit is all over me and He knows every thought before I even form it, so my answers come quickly in those times that He speaks so clearly. But Mary was different. The angel, a source of comfort sent by the Creator Himself told her she, a virgin, was going to have a child.
      Sweet Mary . . .  A 13 year old girl clearly understood the implications of pregnancy before marriage. She would face a painful and humiliating death if she was found out. Life as she knew it would end. Her family would face public shame. The man she was to marry would be shamed and above all his heart would be shattered. I can imagine his thought: my darling bride, so pure and precious to me . . . how could she betray our would-be union? How could she slaughter our would-be life that was to be filled with love and children?
      But Mary, in her innocence and simple but authentic faith, in her complete, unhindered trust in the Lord only asked one question: How can this be when I've never known a man? How, when I'm a virgin?" And the angel told her that she would be overcome by the Holy Spirit's power in miraculous creation and conceive a baby boy. Mary's response? "Let it be."
      Oh, that my faith could be like Mary's. Let it be, God. But I add to the how's and throw out a million why's. Mary didn't know much more than what the angel had told her. Your child will be the Savior. He'll be awesome, fabulous, blessed, everybody's gonna love this kid and tell you just how magnificent He is! That's all she knew. Logic and Reason screamed "death." Faith screamed "life."
      Faith seems like a better friend than Logic and Reason. That's why I usually don't ask Logic and Reason to stay for dinner. They complain too much about my cooking anyway: this is fattening, I'm not full, could you please cook something other than your normal menu? But Faith . . .  she's the best guest to serve at my table next to Jesus: what a beautiful spread; I am grateful; I am blessed; I am honored to be a part of this celebration. Dinner time with her is always a celebration, as we sit down and thank God for our meal, our family, our home, our small bank account that we know will make ripples in the kingdom. Faith is my encourager and supporter, and she reminds me daily of who gave her to me and my family.
      On this rocky ride down the creek I'm finding myself clinging to faith with one hand and Jesus with the other more tightly and in a way I haven't before. The past year and a half has brought with it quite a few trials and questions, but I'm praising God for every single unknown, for they have prepared me for this moment. I'm kind of a weeny, so while I'm clutching on to Jesus my face is buried in His chest as He carries me like a baby, wadded up into a tightly knit chunky ball, eyes squeezed as tightly as they can squeeze for fear of seeing anything that might shake me loose. How silly of me! Nothing can snatch me from His hand (John 10:29) and I'm surely not going to be knocked loose from it. I see Jesus laughing, His beautiful head swinging back as a hearty laugh escapes His lips: Open your eyes, child! I want you to see the way we're doing this . . . together. It's gonna be awesome and I don't want you to miss a single thing! 
      My educational journey has not panned out the way I'd imagined: to graduate with an English degree, get a masters and a doctorate, teach, write, take over the English world. (That last part was just an extra for snickers and giggles.) Instead, I listened to God and changed everything over to theology when we moved. My decision has gotten me laughed at, made fun of, questioned beyond belief. I've been belittled and chopped into fish bait. I've even gone as far as questioning my own faith and sanity. And I've wrestled hour after dark hour with God. Paul didn't completely prepare me for this. Death, yes, but not this. So as I stare blankly down the loaded and sawed off barrel of "what are you planning to do with a degree in theology" I've done my best to finally let it go and feel comfortable in saying, "God hasn't made that totally clear to me yet." Allow me a moment to digress: God has made His will perfectly clear to me, I just don't have all of the pieces. Not to be vague, but I'm not spiritually ready to divulge all He's showing us regarding it. But we'll get there in the next few posts. I promise.
      In preparing for spring semester, God showed up. Don't get a student loan. You know that's not my will for you. Just trust me. So I refused any loans for spring semester; I feel that I was disobedient in the fall and got myself into an almost $6,000 loan mess that I'm going to have to pay off. It isn't God's will for His children to be in want (Philippians 4:6) or to be a slave to the lender (Matthew 6:24). I did just that rather than trusting Him. I wasn't about to make the same mistake twice as God allowed me a few minutes to understand math and I saw my measly $6,000 triple.
      NOPE.
      So I prayed: God if this is what You want, I'll follow You. I'm trusting You and Your plan. So . . . are You gonna provide my leftover tuition? It's $8,080.00 . . . just in case You didn't already know. 
      I waited for Him as I was purged from my spring classes. In a confusing line of events, I was put back into my classes; after financial counseling and even more prayer, I let the school know that God wanted me to forgo any loans. They were completely understanding and more than nice, but they politely told me that I would be purged form classes the week after Christmas.
      I raved. I ranted. I wrestled. I cried. I sobbed. I begged. This whole scenario went down very much like those toddlers you see in the mall that you really want to paddle. I was more than angry with God. I shook my head and my fists as I cried for mercy. Why?! I have worked my ass off for 3 years, God, THREE YEARS! (Yes, I cussed. It's not like He can't read my mind, y'all.) What are You DOING up there?! (I kicked a pile of laundry.) GOD!!! I growled and screamed and clenched my fists. I beat them at His beautiful chest. Haven't You watched me stay up until the morning hours working on papers, scratching out note after note, reading, studying, researching, freaking BRAINSTORMING!!! I've stressed! I'm exhausted! I gave up time with my family for this!! I've done everything You've asked! I moved to friggin' TENNESSEE for You! I gave up my ENTIRE LIFE!!! And for WHAT?! So You could play God and pull the rug out like, My bad! Changed my MIND?! 
      As disrespectful as that probably was, I don't see the point in lying to God by sulking and not talking to Him. Jacob wrestled with God and got a limp from it. But he also got a new name: Israel. God knows my name and that's more than a title. He's the One who has seen me at my darkest and catches me after I punch the air and His chest, wearing myself out, holds me, comforts me, and reminds me that He instilled that passion in me. Don't lose it, His peaceful whisper pours over me like warm water. It's only another tie that binds us so closely together, one that only God sees from the inside out, regardless of respect or shame. He knows the roots of the reason behind my fit. He untangles them so they can breathe, and plants them in new, fresh, enriching soil. Besides that, if we can't be honest with God, we can bet that honesty with others will be wholly obsolete.
      After much anger and trying so hard to understand the lofty mind of my Savior, I finally gave in. I fell on my face in my closet one Saturday morning, clutched Father's beautiful feet and let it all go. Fine. Let it be. I give. And I'm sorry. I'm going to do this Your way because I've seen my own and it usually sucks dog nose. Don't fail me, God. PLEASE. DON'T. FAIL. ME. I begged.
       Have I ever, Bran?
      For the first time I would let go early enough and trust God from beginning to end. This was what He'd been preparing me for, and while I am still absolutely terrified, I am also strangely at peace.
      God made it clear not to ask Him again about school and tuition. My questions had been "how are You gonna pay for this? Am I gonna get behind? What about Greek? I'll not graduate on time, what then?" Quietly God reminded me that to trust Him is to have faith in knowing that He has the answers to those questions; I don't need them. Why carry around the answers when God is using them to build the future they support? I didn't ask after that.
      When God shows up in the car to tell you His big plans, you don't question that either. Lilli and I were driving to our hair appointment when we came home for a Christmas party just for the weekend. As Jeremy Riddle sang God of the Redeemed I said to Lilli, "I absolutely love this guy's voice. I'm gonna sing with him and Bethel one day. Just watch. We're gonna do it, Bug."
      Side note: sometimes I feel like Stephen the Irishman on the movie Braveheart. His fellow Scotts and Irish thought him a bit loony for claiming he heard the voice of God. They thought it even crazier when Stephen answered Him . . . aloud . . . and then promptly obeyed Him. I'd rather hear God's voice over those mocking voices any day of the week. They're like nails on a chalkboard to me. And I'll answer Him before I'll ever even entertain the racket that comes from the screeches sometimes referred to as the voice of Reason. Reason and Logic can bite me.
      In this moment, God had my full attention. Reason and Logic were nowhere to be found as He gently pushed into my soul all that He was about to accomplish. The blue sky appeared as the creekbanks blurred by on either side of me. My spirit fell into the Creators peaceful waters and trusted it absolutely. True to His nature, God revealed and promised several things, two of which have come to fruition in the past 5 days. While He was clear that I was not to get a loan, He assured me that He would provide, just as He always does, and His provision would be in a way I would never expect. I still don't know if that means I'll go to school this semester or if I'm supposed to take a semester off, which has never been a part of my plan.
      As I've been waiting on Him, He's made more and more information readily evident concerning our ministry. If I'm not meant to be in school this semester, I know exactly why and what I'll be doing. Again, I don't mean to be vague, but trust also comes with an enormous amount of silence and we all know that's a leap for me. However, I'm learning.
      As of this morning, I was purged from my classes for the coming semester. Oddly enough, I still have that strange, immensely satisfying peace filling me to overflowing as I continue to allow God's will to carry me, knowing that the stones and rocks beneath me won't hinder me in any way. Nevertheless, God could show up in the next five days with $8,080.00 and I could still get into my classes. Heck, He could show up with tuition to finish my last two semesters plus this summer AND pay off my loan. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. It's not like He has to make a bank run. Either way, I am positive that God's plan is better than the one I have in mind. I have no idea what is to come. And I'm okay with that, because Jesus does. That's all I need to know. For now I'll focus on the blue and forget the blur of greens and browns around it.
   
     
       

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