dreaming with the Lord.

IMG_7149[1]Over the last few weeks, it has felt as if I have been living in a dream.  After an incredibly crazy five months of living in Paris, I arrived back home in Gaborone a few weeks ago and the more I have tried to process that season, the more I keep wondering if it wasn’t all a dream! The “How was Paris?” question keeps coming up and for all my years in school, I somehow can’t seem to find the right words to string together to give an answer that goes beyond “Yah, it was good.” As I think about it, I realise that for me, this simple question begs more than just an answer that speaks to the actual lived experience of being in Paris, but it compels me to unpack stories and testimonies of dreaming, of taking risks, of embracing places of discomfort and unfamiliarity, of believing the Father’s goodness, of seeing the faithfulness of the Lord and of learning to live as a carrier of hope. (And lezbehonest, I can’t begin to unpack all that in a casual conversation). For a couple of years now, I have known that the Lord would send me to Paris for a season of my life and as I look back on my time there, it can’t help but feel like a dream because it was literally birthed from a season of embracing courage and vulnerability to dream with the Lord.

Two years ago, in the middle of what was undoubtedly one of the hardest and most testing seasons of my life, I found myself married to hopelessness and sitting miserably in the seat of despair and disappointment. The wise counsel of James to “consider it all joy” when going through testing tasted like bitter medicine that I was struggling to swallow and somehow even the promise of a refined faith worth more than gold didn’t seem to be able to ease my frustration, needless to say I hardly felt like rejoicing. You see, during that season, I had been wrestling with disappointment. I had been trusting the Lord for some specific things and as the days and months went by, it seemed more and more that I was watching everything that I had hoped for simply fall away – and with that, it felt like every seed of hope I had in me was falling to the ground and being buried by the soil of disappointment. In the middle of this place, I clearly remember the Lord speaking to me about the choice that I had – I could either choose to partner with disappointment and hopelessness or I could choose to believe in His unwavering goodness and allow Him to walk through the doubt and confusion of it all with me. I chose the latter and that has made all the difference! As I allowed the Lord to come into the broken places of my heart, I felt Him invite me to dream with Him and to embrace hope again. In the midst of that messy season (and through many many tears), the Holy Spirit began to breathe life and hope over me again and I found myself slowly embracing the adventure of dreaming with Jesus. I allowed myself to become vulnerable enough with the Lord to put words to the dreams I’d only felt somewhere deep in my soul but had been too afraid to lay bare. I started dreaming about everything – from the biggest things to the seemingly small and somewhere in the midst of all that, I laid out the Paris dream before the Lord.

Two years later, I sit here, looking back in awe at how I have literally watched the Lord breathe life into my barren and hopeless places and cause a season of dreaming to become reality. My time in Paris was packed with many lessons and experiences that I will carry with me forever, but if anything, it has taught me more than any other season of my life that hope does not disappoint. I have come to learn about the healing power of hope because the One who is Hope loves to restore and make all things new.  I think that the Paris adventure was actually about more than the Lord making a dream come true – but it was about the Lord teaching me to step into deeper intimacy and vulnerability with Him.

He really is a good Father who loves and delights in His children – and in their dreams too, because He has put vision and hope and life and dreams and joy and courage into our very DNA as His image bearers. I love that more than just having a crazy five months in an amazing city, I can write this season down in my history with the Father as another record of His goodness and faithfulness. It is indeed just like God to turn our disappointments into a dance floor. He causes our feet to dance on disappointment and fills our mouths with joy. Even when we endure hardships, these are but only for a while and there is a greater reward in coming out of the wilderness with our trophies of war – with fresh revelations of the Father’s nature that become like weapons we can use in the next battle to silence the lies of the enemy. He really is that good. HALLELUJAH!

embracing the process.

I won’t even lie about it, I think I may just be a bit of a Pinterest addict (if you don’t know what Pinterest is, then we may just have a problem). Seriously, I can spend hours on Pinterest indulging all kinds of dreams and not even feel guilty when I eventually realise how much time has passed. In fact, there’s some sense of satisfaction as I lie to myself about having found some great ideas for the future (and yes, the great finds are ALWAYS for the future – for my one day home, my one day wedding, my one day wardrobe, and maybe even my one day life). I’m constantly adding new boards to my profile just so I can house all these great ideas, and ever since I made the spontaneous decision to cut my hair and let it grow out naturally – for black girls, this means laying off the chemicals – I’ve added a board dedicated to all my future hair dos (LOL, I think I sound ridiculous).

In my pinning frenzy, it has dawned on me that there are two problems here. Firstly, as great as each image is, it really only shows me the end product of a perfectly groomed head of hair. The process which has led to the final outcome is often not included, and even when it is, it still looks rather perfect. This means I don’t get to see all the messy and frustrating bits that are part and parcel of the hair journey (the bits that I actually have to deal with on a daily basis). And as I deal with the actual hair on my head away from the fantasy Pinterest hair dos, I sometimes become incredibly impatient and sometimes frustrated because the picture I have in my mind is of the end goal – the long, beautiful and healthy locks; and the process which leads to it sometimes feels like an unnecessary evil (I mean, do I really have to sit with a hair mask on for the next 45 minutes, only to spend the following 20 minutes detangling each and every section?) Secondly, and probably most importantly, what I see is SOMEONE ELSE’S perfectly groomed head of hair, which is completely different to the locks that I’ve been given. I can try and imitate each look I see, but the reality is that just because it has worked on someone else’s hair does not mean that my hair will respond in the same manner; and if I constantly compare the progress that my hair is making against this ideal image, I will probably never learn to embrace and appreciate my hair just as it is.

As I contemplate the frustrations I sometimes have as I deal with my hair, I realise that there’s a lesson here. You see, I’ve come to realise that so often, we love to see the end result, but we despise the process. We love the promises that God makes to us; but we kick and scream our way through the journey that He takes us on, forgetting that in and through it all, the promise of His presence remains. We want to live in the promised land, forgetting that we may have to walk through the wilderness for a season, in order that He may prepare us for all that the promised land will bring. We want to gain victory in specific areas of our lives, forgetting that it is only through battle that a victory is gained. Somehow, just somehow, we forget that we are a people made for process; and in our pursuit of the end, we rob ourselves of the beauty of going through the undoing.

And as if that’s not enough, we can so often allow the thief called comparison to creep in, and it robs us of the beauty of being completely present as our own journey unfolds. We forget that each of us has a race to run that has been perfectly marked out FOR US, and instead we are so often distracted by comparing our race with that of another runner.

in the process,
in the waiting,
you’re making melodies over me.
and your presence is the promise,
for i am a pilgrim on a journey. -Amanda Cook, “Shepherd”

In the midst of the current process that Jesus is taking me through, I’ve found such comfort in knowing that the Good Shepherd of my soul is always watching over me, and more than that, He has promised me His very presence as my constant companion on the journey. I can walk confidently with Him, with the full assurance that He knows the way (in fact, He IS the way). Over and above that, He has the perfect plan for ME, one that He (in His perfect wisdom and knowledge of me) has tailored so specifically. I’m so over comparing my hair with someone else’s – that goes for my life as well. Instead, I’m learning to hear the melodies He sings over me in the process – in MY process.

“Success doesn’t have anything to do with the outcome, it’s all in the process.” -Steffany Gretzinger

a sheer gift.

gift

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides.  James 1:2 (MSG)

A sheer gift?! Surely, this can’t be right! How can the Lord call us to consider tests and challenges as a sheer gift?!

I’ve been meditating on this scripture and many others like it that call us to be joyful in the face of challenges, and I have found it both frustrating and encouraging that as a disciple of Jesus, I am called to “consider it pure joy” when my faith is being tested. It has been frustrating because in the midst of an incredibly challenging season, there have been many moments when all I have wanted to do is simply complain, and complain, oh yes, and complain a little bit more. And in those moments, I come to the Word, sometimes hoping to find in it the license to wallow in my disappointment, but here it is (the Word of God that doesn’t bend and change to accommodate my emotions) calling me to consider tests and challenges as a sheer gift? (Wow, way to rub salt on an open wound Lord!)

But I look at this again, and for some reason the very call that I at times feel is a little bit (or maybe a lot) unreasonable is the very same one that encourages me. You see, the Lord is very familiar with the weaknesses of the human make-up, and He knows that in the challenging seasons – the seasons where we deal with disappointment and frustration and hardship – rather than consider these things a pure joy, we are prone to behave as the children of Israel did in the desert, forever complaining and grumbling against the Lord. And were it not for His Word to give us perspective, we would end up just as the Israelites did in the desert – frustrating the Lord’s plans for us, which He meant for our good, to mature us and to have us come forth with a refined faith of greater worth than gold for his praise, glory and honour.

So, as I go through the fire, I am moved by the care of Lord over me and I am reminded that there is always joy to be found, even when I go through challenges. But even more than that, I am moved by the realisation that Jesus is committed to seeing me come forth as a mature and complete bride, so that at the end of the age when He returns, I may be presented to Him as a pure and spotless bride. Jesus, the glorious King, is coming back for His inheritance – His bride! And in that day when He returns, there will be great rejoicing “for the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready“. He is coming back for a pure and spotless bride, one without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, and it is through the challenges, through the hardship, through the trials and the tests, that the stains, wrinkles and blemishes are being removed, so that we may be readied and that Jesus may received His full inheritance in us.

That is why the tests and challenges are a sheer gift, not only are they growing me to live well for Jesus in this life, but they remind me that this life is not all there is.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8: 18

the beauty of the mess.

I look at my calendar and I realise that it’s June – and that means we are almost halfway through this year! The realisation makes me want to curl up into a little ball and cry, but at the same time it also makes me want to rejoice for what lies ahead. You see, 2014 has been a different year (in fact, different doesn’t quite begin to encapsulate all that this year has been so far, but it will do for now). It’s been a hard year so far, full of unexpected outcomes, moments of frustration and disappointment, tears (many, many, many tears) and so many conflicting emotions.

It has felt as if the Father has been far away, attending to all His other children while I have sat in this place, waiting for Him to remember me, waiting for Him to see me, waiting for Him to speak to my heart, waiting to feel Him breathe hope and joy over me again – basically, just waiting. And it is in the waiting, in the stillness and in the quietness, that I have begun to learn the beauty of being a complete mess before Jesus and letting Him have His way with me. Here in this place, away from the well articulated Facebook status, the perfectly filtered Instagram shot, the picture perfect Pinterest board is L I F E – and it’s messy and real and raw, but by His grace, I find my heart able to rest in the embrace of the Father who does attend to me as He does all His children, who remembers me, who sees me, who speaks to my heart and who is always breathing hope and joy over me. I find my soul rejoicing that Jesus is so jealous for me, so eager to have me look more like Him that He takes me through seasons such as these so that my faith may be refined for His glory.

Oh, how a good dose of perspective changes everything!

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“It’s really not about image, and not about perfection, it’s not about success and not about your possessions or the places you go. Life is full of real, unfiltered mess ups and challenges, there are moments full of peace and moments full of questions. We are human – how quickly we forget, our maker made us this way for a reason”.