Lost&Found

After a day of babysitting, I drove an hour to meet a friend for coffee. As soon as I parked, I reached over to the passenger seat to pick up my wallet, and it was not there. I looked on the floor, nope. I looked under my feet. Nope. I looked in the back seats, I looked in the trunk. I looked in the passenger seat again, and again. Surely if I moved my jacket enough times, my wallet would appear underneath, right? Guys, there’s no panic like “Losing your wallet” panic. I immediately retraced my steps from the day.  The house I babysat at, the McDonald’s I took the boys to after their basketball game, home. Worst case scenario, I left it at McDonald’s and someone grabbed it. Or Someone might have turned it in right? Right? I whipped my phone out, googled that McDonald’s that I went to and called them to ask if they had found a black wallet. No one had found my wallet. I realized after I had called them that my wallet must have at least made it to my car or my home with because I deposited my check from babysitting into the bank.  With a calmer spirit, I called my mom, and lo and behold my wallet was at home.

“Cool story bro,” said the reader.

Thanks.

But wait, let’s take into account one thing: I HATE CALLING PEOPLE.  Especially strangers. I went to the aquarium a few days ago with a friend. Before, we were unsure if they were open, so I told my friend I’d call the place and ask. But I never did because I hate calling people.  Guys. My job search was a million times more difficult for me because I did not call people to follow up on my applications. Never in my life have I called a business to ask them a question. Until today.  I found the number, pressed dial, and didn’t hang up.  (usually, I stare at the number to dial, never press the call button, or when i do, I hang up before they answer. I got some serious phone anxiety) I called Mcdonalds because I lost my wallet. I was willing to go to great lengths to find this wallet. Why? cause it had everything in it: debit card, credit card, my license, $14 in cash, and my chapstick. It was worth a lot to me.

 

You know what has even more value than a wallet? You. We’re all sheep gone astray, prodigal sons, the blind, the lame, the weak, we’re sinners. We are lost. And the Gospel is a beautiful, life-changing, heart-transforming story of how the God of the Universe went to great lengths to find, save and redeem us. Why? He is a loving, loving Father. We were made in His image and in the beginning, man’s relationship with God was perfect. A few chapters later in Genesis: the Fall. Man sinned. God is holy. Sinners can’t be in the presence of God. We were separated from God. The cost to find us? His only Son. God in the flesh. Left Heaven, became man, lived a perfect life, died a horrendous death, rose from the dead and beat sin out once and for all. Talk about going a great length to find what was lost! Whether you’ve heard this story a million times, or for the first time now: I pray the reality of the Gospel sinks in. You are loved so much.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:8

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it,he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Luke 15:4-6

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You are not ‘too much.’

For as long as I can remember, I have been a very sensitive person. And as long as I can remember I always phrased that sentence by saying: “I am too sensitive.” But recently, I’ve discovered that by saying I am TOO sensitive its implying that God made a mistake when He made me which is a lie that the world has been telling me for years. When I was in elementary school, there was a boy who got made fun of a lot. One day during lunch, some  boys were mocking him and teasing him and I overheard it and started to cry. A teacher asked me why I was crying, I told her what I had seen. And I remember her saying “Don’t feel sad.” As if an emotional response to an injustice was a shameful thing. Don’t feel. Then, through junior high and highschool, time and time again someone would say something to me and it would hurt my feelings. “Don’t feel that way,” they’d say.  I was too sensitive. The worlds a tough place no doubt, and it’ll tear us sensitive folks up if we let it. But I think there’s a distinction between letting the world get to us, and letting ourselves feel how we feel. (also, side rant, why is it the sensitive person’s fault in a conflict? why can’t it be the person who was insensitive? Why can’t they own up to that? I’ve started so many conversations with “Im probably being too sensitive…” but have never ever heard the words “I was probably too insensitive…” from someone.)

Anyways, I’ve discovered that this sensitivity is not just for sad things. It’s also a sensitivity to great things. I find a lot of joy in the small things. A cute dog? YES. A fluffy cloud? awesome! free samples at target? OH BOY! But on this end of the spectrum there’s negative nancy’s as well, “Calm down,” they say. “Over-reaction, much?” they’ll retort. “It’s JUST a cat, marlie.” So the world has had me on this teeter-totter, balancing act, *other circus metaphor here* with my emotions. Don’t feel too sad, don’t feel too happy. And its translated into a life long battle for me of accepting my own emotions: allowing myself to grieve, allowing myself to feel sad, allowing myself to get way too excited about the little stuff. Even worse, it’s been a life long performance for God. Trying to find that emotional sweet spot, where I feel sad about things but not too sad because Christians have joy, right? I didn’t realize I was doing this until yesterday. Whenever I do start to feel sad, depressed, upset, frustrated, my inner pharisee kicks in with phrases like. It’s your own fault you feel bad. You are being selfish only thinking of yourself.  Is God not enough for you?  

Oh and it works the other way too. Something good happens and I get really excited about it. And in comes Ms Pharisee again,  calm down marlie, you’re putting too much emphasis on this. You should care more about God than this. If you did care about God more, than this wouldn’t make you so happy. 

It’s a cycle. And writing those thoughts down and seeing them makes me realize what total crap and lies the Enemy has been feeding me for so long. Yesterday, in my car, I was stuck in this cycle again. And my thoughts essentially centered around the idea that God loved me more when I had everything put together emotionally. In the midst of the chaos there was a soft, soft whisper,

“Marlie, I’d love you even if you hated me.”

And like  water bursting through a dam, I allowed myself to feel whatever I felt at that time. And rested in the fact that God’s love is unconditional, meaning, it’s not based on whatever condition I’m in. He doesn’t love me more when I’m all put together, and He doesn’t see me as a burden or love me less when I’m an emotional wreck. He just sees me. His Child.

And He sees you. No matter where you are at today, in this moment. Listen to the truth: it is okay. If you feel too much, you are loved by a God who made you and created you. He loved you before you were born, you are not a mistake, you are not “too much” of anything. The world might tell you otherwise, but rest and find freedom in the safe arms of Christ.

Isaiah 40:11 says “He tends his flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;”

Rowlett, Texas

On December 26th 2015, a EF-4 tornado touched down in Rowlett and left a 4 mile path of destruction through the city. Usually, when I hear of a natural disaster, I’m saddened, but not moved to action. I read the headline, say a quick prayer and then check my Facebook. Or, I’m watching the news, I comment on what a tragedy it was, and then start watching Netflix. Distance blinds me from the reality of the destruction. However, a week ago, this tornado hit less than a mile away from my home. I read the headlines, and check Facebook, Facebook is flooded with pictures: home destroyed,lost pets, people needing shelter, businesses offering free food, churches offering donations. I see the Mayor’s updates on the city, I see the videos of people finding their dogs in the rubble, and I know their faces. I recognize them. All of it a constant reminder that this tornado was not in another city,  state, or another country, this time. On December 26th, the quiet city of Rowlett, Texas was hit.

But this isn’t about me. This is about the people I met this morning. I signed up to help the animal shelter pass out donations in a neighborhood that had pretty severe. They sent us out in pairs, to drive around and ask people who were out and about if they needed anything for their pets. Driving around and seeing the damage was surreal. There were houses without walls and roofs, yards without fences, and lawns with nothing but debris. I started to meet the people, and talking to them you realize how ‘human’ they really are. It’s so easy for us to put people in categories and it dehumanizes them. It became pretty obvious that a lot of them just wanted someone to talk to. A question about dog food often turned into a confession of their frustration, sadness and just despair in the midst of all that happened. One woman said, “You know. I’ve been the strong one in the family through all this.” Her house only had one wall still standing. “I was strong until I realized it was just as cold and wet in my home as it was outside. I stood there soaking wet and cold as we tried to salvage what was left, and just broke down.”

(Side note: And see, that’s why prayer is important. We can supply food, pet food, we can clean up their debris, we can get them trustworthy insurance companies and give them shelter. But, they are human and they have emotional, spiritual and mental needs as well. When you pray, you are interceding for them, asking the Lord to wrap His arms around them as they reach that ‘moment(s)’ when the reality of what has happened hits them.)

Many of the people I talked to were in such good spirits, after losing their homes, cars, even a few had lost their pets. And the opportunity to give them pet supplies, and give them one less thing to worry about was such a cool thing.  While we were delivering supplies to a house, a family down the road was sitting on their porch and playing music really loud. It took me a few moments, but I realized the song was the hymn “It is well” , another family had put a cross in their yard with the words: “God is Good.” Their house was in shambles.

This tornado has impacted and changed a lot of lives. I saw two boys in their yard (probably around 6, and 8 years old) playing. And I thought about how this tornado would be a huge turning point in their life.  I guess if anything, from my short time out there this morning, I observed the devastating reality of losing everything, but also the beauty of community. When walls are torn down (physical walls, or emotional barriers) it leaves way for helping and healing to take place. While we were passing out supplies, across the street the Mayor was having a rally and giving a speech to hundreds of volunteers before they began volunteering. Then, they came. A group with burritos and juice, a group handing out free chickfila sandwiches, Firemen driving around checking on people, cops paroling the area making sure everyone is secure.

If there is any hope in  all of this brokenness, there’s this:  people are experiencing community. The “No-strings attached” and “Take as much as you need, we have plenty!”kind of assistance that stops people in their tracks. “Really? Are you sure?” Many of them asked. And we responded “Yes! People have been do gracious to donate so much.”

So if you donated, thank you. You are the reason why we could say “yes! take as much as you need.”

If you are contributing financially, thank you. You are helping fund the hands and feet of Christ in the devastation.

If you volunteering your time, your food, your home, your skills/talents, thank you.

If you are praying, keep doing so.  God is answering prayers, and His peace is all over that neighborhood I walked through today.

If you are overwhelmed, and don’t know what to do or where to start, keep reading. I want to end with a short story that I’m going to tell in my  retell in own words. These two guys were walking down a beach, they noticed thousands of starfish were on the sand. A guy started picking them up and putting them back in the water. The other guy watched and then asked “What are you doing? There’s so many. It’s not making a difference.” And the other guy responded as he threw one starfish in the water, “Well it made a huge difference to that one.” You don’t have to throw them all water to make a difference.

You don’t have to clean this city up by yourself to make a difference.

Do something. Find your starfish.

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