Advent for Weary Souls

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I’ve spent every Christmas Eve of my life seated in a cushioned church pew or standing on wooden platform, raising a glimmering candle in the air and singing sweet songs about a sweet baby who gave himself to this world through the miracle of incarnation. My heart is as full of gratitude as my eyes are full of tears because this is our long expected Jesus. This is an Advent for Weary Souls.

This baby King came to this world in the humblest of circmstances. He came poor, weak child, utterly dependent on his mother. He was persecuted and hunted by Herod, scrutinized by his parent’s community, and born in the presence of barn animals. He spent the first two years of his life in hiding from a man who wanted to kill Him. He was an unexpected King born for the hated and neglected of the world. Much to humanity’s surprise, He was not born only for the Jews, but for the Gentiles. For the women. For the sinners. For slaves. For those who would never learn to love Him.

I think, if He was born today, generations to come would raise candles in the air and sing of a baby born in an alley to unlikely young parents who fed him on food stamps. He’d be wrapped in dirty newspapers and laid in a milk crate. Prostitutes and homeless people on city streets would come to adore him in place of shepherds. You might be shocked, but they may even be black. HE might even be black.

Jesus would sit with the kid who is made fun of for having two dads. He’d befriend and defend the kid who’s called “faggot” as he walks down the hall. Jesus would give dignity to the girl who cries when she sees the word “whore” painted on her locker because He knows her real name. He gave it to her.

At the dinner table, Jesus wouldn’t laugh along at the racist or sexist joke. He’d look at the teller with eyes full of love and grace and tell them just how much the lives of women and minorities mean to Him. Act like it or not, their lives matter too.

Instead of making trips through the disrespected region of Samaria, he’d be getting off the city train at the stops where you grip tight to your purse and become stiff in your chair.

If Jesus was born today we wouldn’t deny that He came for us all- that He values us all. But He was born over 2,000 years ago, and for some, this is just enough time to forget just how far and wide the gift extends.

I don’t know if some have just forgotten or maybe they never understood- Jesus is for everyone. If you claim to follow Him, than you should be for everyone too. In word and in deed. In the way you vote. In the way you spend your money. In the way you spend your time.

Jesus’ birth was about unifying a broken world. From the moment He was born and forever, Jesus has made room for all of us at His table. The invitation goes out to all people regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. This Christmas is about so much more than your personal relationship with God. This is about all of us. This is about our broken world.

His birth was an advent for weary souls– a voice for the voiceless, parent to the orphan, advocate for the oppressed and misunderstood. This year when I raise my candle, I will rejoice that Jesus, who is ever interceding for us, intimately understands the plight of our world. As we end a year that has been charged with immense hate and discrimination, we can look to our Blessed Hope, our Great Equalizer, a baby born in a stable and laid in a manger.

The Good Stuff

I should be thankful all the time, but November’s got me feeling some sort of way. So rejoice with me, because even though life is weird right now, IT’S REALLY AWESOME. Here’s why.

THIS IS US

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Cue all the emotions and all the tears and that fluttery feeling you get in your heart when you love someone. This show has become a Wednesday night ritual for Megan and I and a perfect excuse let out all the stress induced tears we’ve been saving up.

Thoughts so far: Jess (I think his name is Jack but that doesn’t really matter because uhhhh Gilmore Girls) is perfect in every way, Kate’s weight loss journey is making me all sorts of empathetic, Randall is my bff, Kevin is fine, Mandy (maybe Rebecca?) is a 70s fashion kweeeen, and MIGUEL IS A DIRTY SCOUNDREL I JUST KNOW IT. If you need a new show, I highly recommed it- but be warned…. it’s a journey.

DOS BROS $5 MONDAYS

Dos Bros, when you came into my life, I had no idea what you’d mean to me. For years I prayed for Chipotle, but thankfully I got you instead. Thank you for all you are. I don’t tell you this enough, but you are so important to me ❤

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(I hate myself)

MY PERFECT NIECE AND NEPHEW

My favorite people in the entire world. It’s such a gift to be an aunt. LOOK HOW CUTE THEY ARE.

 

BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER

About a year ago, I bought an Episcopal Book of Common Prayer from a used book store. Recently I’ve really enjoyed using it as part of my quiet time with the Lord. It helps me get back to God-centered, scripturally sound prayers when I’ve become a bit too self concerned.

I think this is simply beautiful:

Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and who wants to give more than either we desire or deserve: pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy, forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and meditations of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer- Proper 22

MAY 2017

Hey do you have any plans for May? Because I don’t. I could be enitrely freaked out about this, but I’m choosing to cherish every moment that I’m in and trust God that He will let me know the next step and exactly when to take it…. and probably not a moment before.

I’m actually really thankful that I have practically no idea where my life is headed. It turns out that the future doesn’t offer an arm to hold you up, but Jesus actually does. I’m falling so hard for Him all over again and it rocks. He’s got my back. My calendar is all clear for Him.

So that’s it! Comment and share the things that are making your life great!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Break Down

I sat down on a dirty curb on Garson Drive. The tears rolled down my face and sizzled on the scorching July pavement. Across from me- my car- incomplete with only three inflated tires.

No one ever told me how hard it would be on my own. I wasn’t ready for this fork in the road- to come to this place that will completely redefine who I am. Somehow, I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be to become my own woman- apart from my family and friends.

Here, in this new world, I’m not known as anyone’s daughter, sister, friend, or wife. I am only Abigail. Don’t misunderstand me- my life is full of wonderful, loving, loyal friends and family. But, for the first time ever- there’s a tangible divide between me and everyone else in the world.

So here I am- on a curb across from Passion City Church, where I felt like I was sitting by myself in a crowd of 2,000 people- like the world was moving around me while I stood still. I never knew that “alone” could be so tangible.

Conveniently, everyone I could call in the city of Atlanta was out of town or unavailable. I couldn’t even call my parents because helllloooo it was 11am on Sunday and they pastor a church.

Waiting on the tow truck, I couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. A desperate whisper fell from my lips: God, I feel so alone.

About that time, a man wearing a bright orange safety vest ran across the road with a bottle of water.

“Sorry, I couldn’t help you sooner,” he said.

“Why don’t you get in the shade, and let’s see if we can’t fix this tire.”

Well, at this point the tears are REALLY flowing. If you know me- this shouldn’t surprise you. I cancelled the tow truck, and for forty five minutes, David and another PCC traffic volunteer worked the stuck-on tire from my car.

“I know what this is like- being alone and broke in a new place. You can feel kind of helpless. I know what it’s like when you can’t afford a tow truck,” he said with a laugh.

David and I talked about his 20-something daughters and about life and how sometimes hard is good. Pouring sweat in the Georgia summer sun, David treated me- a total stranger- like a daughter. He showed me the love of Jesus.

That quiet voice welled up in my heart with an answer: You are not alone. 

With a parting hug and a cracking voice I said, “Thank you so much. This means so much more to me than changing a tire. Thanks for being Jesus to me today.”

“If we could be Jesus to you today, than we’ve won. Thank YOU for breaking down right where you did.”

Thank God I broke down right where I did. Hard is good, and sometimes it takes a breakdown to hear God’s truth.

I am not alone. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fireworks and Christmas Lights

This weekend, I came home to possibly the best place in the world to celebrate the 4th of July, to celebrate the 4th of July.

It was wonderful, restful, and full of laughter. I wish I could’ve stayed to take part in every last firework and bratwurst and watermelon slice. Even so, I pulled pass the crossroads and toward Atlanta long before the sun went down and the fireworks went up.

I love fireworks. I love that groups of people huddle together on corners of quilts and foldable lawn chairs to watch in amazment as explosions light up the sky. I love that you can watch the firework travel up in the sky and burst within a few seconds of being lit. I love the ones that kind of sizzle and sparkle before they burn out. It’s quick. It’s dazzling. It’s romantic. It’s beautiful.

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Sometimes, God gives us fireworks. Some of my best friends are “firework friends.” Our lives crossed at the right moment, and the friendship came naturally and quickly. I experience much joy and beauty from these relationships. The internship I’m doing this summer was a firework. At the right moment, God surprised me with the opportunity and it’s completely dazzling and beautiful.

I wish that everything in life was as easy as fireworks. No guessing, no unknows, and if I’m honest- no trust required.

Around Christmas time, there’s an elderly couple in Cleveland that puts up all manner of lights in their front hard. If you were to drive by the house on any given evening, you would likely be disturbed by the erratic flashing and inconsistent pattern the lights take. I may go as far as to say that if you’re prone to seizures- you may just want to bypass this street altogether.

If you merely look upon this scene, you’ll miss the whole point.

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Swarms of cars pull up to the church parking lot across the street from “The Christmas Lights House” every evening. They cozy up with their people and mugs of hot chocoate and turn their radio dials to the musical accompaniment for the light show. All of a sudden, the sporadic and chaotic blinking of lights, begin dancing to a melody. The entire purpose of the lights depends on this key factor. These lights combine with music to tell a story. A story that people all over the county come to adore. It may take time, but it’s dazzling. It’s romantic. It’s beautiful.

This is a video of the light show. Watch it once with the sound off, and then again with the sound on. What a world of difference it makes when you can hear the music.

Right now, life isn’t fireworks. I feel like I’m standing in silence, looking across the road at a bunch of random strobe lights in an elderly couple’s front yard. As much as I may try, I just can’t seem to force all of my dreams and desires to become reality. No amount of staring at the mess in front of me is going to make it understandable.

I really want God to turn the music on for me. I’m longing to understand why He’s doing what He’s doing. I know that right now, I have to wait to hear the music. But, I’m holding onto faith that the mess that’s happening right in front of me is just one chapter of a dazzling, beautiful, romantic story authored by God and admired by me.

Take heart, my friends, when the fireworks are few and far between, and prepare your heart for the wonderful day when God finally turns on the music.

Windows

When I was in elementary school, almost every winter morning I would wake up, scramble over to the window and pray that snow would be on the ground so I didn’t have to go to school. Considering I grew up in Marietta, Georgia, that didn’t happen very often. But… a few special times, glee filled my little heart as I peered out of my upstairs bedroom window to find a blanket of snow covering our hilly front yard.

I had to catch my breath as I caught the first glance of the New York City skyline through an airplane window. Only a few months ago, I clapped and cheered when the large rectangular window of a bus revealed my first glimpse of the Holy City to my hungry eyes.

It’s through windows that I’ve waved my last, teary goodbyes to my parents as I headed back to school. The view of a lit Christmas tree in a living room window has warmed my heart time and time again. Light pouring through a window wakes me. Car wash windows make me smile. Rainy windows make me feel thoughtful. Stained glass windows make me feel nostalgic. Open windows make me feel free.

Of course, “The Reverend Mother always says ‘When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” (If you don’t get the reference, then just leave)

Windows serve a purpose. They provide a connection between two things on either side of a barrier. Without windows in our homes, we would hardly have any natural light and we would never be able to see what the weather was unless we went outside. Windowless cars would be much, much too dangerous to drive. Windowless airplanes would be boring. Windowless shops would hardly sell a thing.

Here’s the important thing about windows- no one ever stops to admire how beautiful a window is – They remember what they saw because of it.

I want to be a window.

What if, regardless of any other vocation or calling, the foundational purpose of my life was to be a window for God’s love? I want my life to be about pointing others to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I will spend every breath I have left on earth becoming a connecting point between the lost and the only One in which they can be truly found.

Are you willing to give your life to show the world the one who saved it?

As a student, let your life be a window. As a husband or wife, let your marriage be a window. As a parent, be a window to your children. Be a window to your clients, your friends, your family. Let the power and light that saved your life pour through your opening in this barrier between Christ and a broken world who has not yet known the freedom on the other side. Be a window.

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(Arjun Narayen Photography)

Israel Part Two | How Israel Made Me A Feminist

It’s been about a month since my return home from Israel. “Life”started back full force, practically the moment I got back, and I find myself missing the carefree nature I adopted on the trip. *Sigh* Those were the days.

Nevertheless, time has begun to cement what I experienced in my head into my heart. All the room that I left empty of expectation has been filled with feelings, emotions, and connection to the holy sites we visited and the Holy One who gave them holiness. Like I said before, I tried my best to rid myself of expectation. You can find out more about that here.

In the eight days I was in Israel, I saw lots of places. I saw many historically significant sites representing thousands and thousands of years of biblical narrative. We saw a gate as old as Abraham, Mount Carmel, the old city of David, the remains of the temple, numerous city excavations, and much more. These places were amazing on their own, but for me their significance lay in the story they told- the story of God redeeming creation and making a way for me to experience the joy of His presence.

You may have noticed that the word “feminist” is in the title of this blog. If you know me very well, this may surprise you, because I’ve never strongly identified as a feminist. It’s not that I’m misogynistic or anti-women’s rights, because of course I am a woman. I suppose I just never really concerned myself too much with the issue before. But, something in me finally made a connection while I was in Israel.

In the great story of creation that we experienced between Dan and Beersheeba, women lived in the shadow of their male counterparts. They were dependent on the protection and wealth of men, always a few steps behind, unable to read the word of God, and denied the ability to worship God as their husbands did. Unheard by their husbands and fathers, but never forgotten by God.

When Jesus came, the world changed. He lived and died to redeem the whole world, and when the veil was torn, God’s presence was not limited to men alone. The power of what Jesus did on the cross was not limited to Jews, or Greeks, or men, or women. Jesus saw me, a woman full of sin and shame, and chose to give his life for me so that I may experience His presence. He is so good.

I never truly had an appreciation for my freedom of worship and unlimited access to the Holy Spirit until I witnessed the exclusion of women from that same freedom among other major religions. I am so thankful that as a single, Christian woman I can have a personal, full, rich, deep relationship with Jesus Christ apart from my father or my husband. And, if the God of the universe has seen fit to give me full access to Him, why should I think that he wouldn’t empower me to serve in any role for his kingdom? No one is even qualified to be a Christian. What reason do I have to feel like I am unqualified to do amazing work for God’s kingdom just because I am a woman?

I’ve always known this, but I’ve not always remembered. I’m so thankful that I came away from this trip empowered as a woman of God. I don’t need to wait to get married to serve God in big ways. He died on the cross for me, got up from the tomb for me, and wants to use me right where I am. Hopefully it doesn’t take a trip across the globe for you to understand this. I pray that the weight of God’s grace and glory would rest on you personally, empowering you to be the person God is calling you to be today.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29

Woman worshipping

Israel | Part One

Dreams come true, people. They really do. I know this because in just a few short weeks, I will be BOARDING A PLANE TO ISRAEL. Here is a gif of Taylor Swift awkwardly dancing to celebrate.

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My dad, who is co-leading the trip with my mom, asked me to write a blog about my expectations for the trip. That request was somewhat laughable. I have SO MANY thoughts and feelings about what I’m going to experience in the Holy Land, and yet I know that none of them accurately describe what I will think and feel. That’s just kind of how these things work. I’d rather not try and shove this opportunity into the tiny box of my expectations.

So, Dad, to answer your question- I’m trying not to have any expectations for this trip. I will, however, attempt to describe what’s been going on in my heart as we prepare for our most anticipated pilgrimage.

As I revisited the itinerary for our trip, and remembered the biblical events that occurred there, it was as if a cloud of Sunday School felt boards and singalong cassette tapes started resurfacing in my mind. I brushed aside the sudden craving for animal crackers and lemonade out of a mouth wash cup, and I tried to remember the first time I heard many of these incredible bible stories.

With a child-like faith, I fell in love with a God who calmed a storm with his hands and walked on water. In wonder, I believed in a God who proved his love for me on a cross and rose from the grave three days later. It’s remarkable for me to consider that after all these years, I can still hear these stories and learn something new. The power of God’s word hasn’t worn off on me and surely never will.

Today, with an overflowing heart, I believe that the Jesus who did all of those things a couple thousand years ago is the same one I fell in love with at sunday school in the late 90s, and is the same one whom I follow today. This Jesus is the real reason I’m even going to Israel.

Of all the sum of my hopes and expectations for this trip, here is the only thing I know for certain…

I’m not worthy to go where my Lord was born … But I’m so glad he was.

I’m not worthy to walk where my Lord lived … But I’m so glad he did.

I’m not worthy to stand on the ground where my Savior gave his life for mine … But I’m so glad he did.

I’m not worthy to enter in the tomb where my King laid dead, but rose on the third day … But – oh. I’m so glad he did.