Psalm 18 for 2018

I love you, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.(v1-3)

I have never been much for reflection and I have never been much for Psalms. Both seemed a bit too Needy® and Emotional® for me, though I never would have admitted that out loud at the beginning of 2018 because I like being perceived as brilliantly thoughtful and inspirationally spiritual. Spoiler alert, I’m not really either of those things and I have never been more convinced of my own innate fickleness and inadequacy than I am now, at the beginning of 2019, looking back on 2018.

I am not going to reflect on 2018 here, at least not directly. 2018 was, unquestionably, the worst year of my life for numerous reasons, and that’s all the background needed to talk about what I really do want to reflect on, which is God, and Psalm 18, and what He did in my fickleness and inadequacy.

See those verses listed above? For the majority of 2018, I would not have agreed with a single statement made in them. I did not love the Lord. I did not consider the Lord my strength. The only rock I would have related God to is one thrown by a pharisee and the only fortress a terrorist encampment. He seemed to only deliver evil people to glorify himself while utterly destroying good people. He was not a shield, a horn of salvation, or a stronghold.

So I never called on him, I never praised him, and nothing appeared safe or saved.

The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. (v4-5)

Right before the summer began- a summer during which I was supposed to serve with City Project- I threatened to leave Christianity. Not because I disbelieved it. I absolutely believed that God was real, that he was the God of the Bible, that Jesus was his son who came to earth and lived a perfect life and then died the death that I deserved, rising again so that all those who believe in his sacrifice would regain a relationship with God. But that was the problem, I wasn’t sure I wanted a relationship with God. Looking at the circumstances surrounding me, I wondered if maybe hell was preferable to heaven. At least in hell I could be spiteful and cruel, which is all I really wanted to be. At least in hell, I wouldn’t have to fake a smile and lie and say joy could be found anywhere or pretend that this world is anything other than absolute absurdity.

In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.(v.6)

The thought of leaving Christianity terrified me. I had abandoned Christ before, when I was in middle school, but even then, in the back of my mind, I still kinda considered myself a Christian. I still kinda had my family as a godly buffer. I still kinda clung to Jesus even while I feigned pulling away. But now? There’s no kinda about decisions made in desperation, and I’m beginning to realize that those are the decisions that count the most. I had to either choose Jesus, utterly, or run.

I told one friend about everything, and she told me to read Psalms.

I partially took her advice, but I also did something she definitely did not tell me to do. I gave God an ultimatum. I decided to flip open Psalms to a random passage and if that passage could not convince me to stay, then I would leave. If it did convince me to stay, then I would stay. And that would be that.

Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations also of the mountains trembled and quaked, because he was angry.

Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.

He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.

He rode on a cherub and flew; he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.

He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him, thick clouds dark with water. Out of the brightness before him hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.(v.7-12)

Let me be perfectly clear- I did not deserve an answer to my ultimatum. Regardless of my problems, regardless of my feelings, regardless of my past faith, if God is the God of the Bible then that means he is the God who spoke the universe into existence, who carefully and purposefully made humanity and then renewed promises with his fallen creation again and again and again. He would be a God outside of time, outside of space, outside of the capabilities of my mind, outside of any emotion or concept I could ever possibly feel or think even if I had eternities of lifetimes spent in total reflection.

And me? I am a human- finite and incapable of accomplishing anything meaningful on my own. I am a sinner- someone who desires to inflict pain on others and unleash my justice upon the world, finding pleasure in the suffering of others while vindicating myself by my own personal gospel. I am absolutely absurd.

I did not deserve an answer to my ultimatum because I did not have the right to make an ultimatum in the first place. I did not deserve an answer.

God came swiftly and gave me one anyway.

The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire.

And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.

Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of your nostrils.(v.13-15)

I slammed open my Bible to Psalm 18. I must have read it prior at some point, because the translator’s title for the Psalm, The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress, was circled in hastily scrawled black ink, but I didn’t remember it. I read it, and it was perfect. It addressed everything I had managed to articulate in my mind and it addressed everything I hadn’t yet thought to articulate. I can’t adequately describe what happened or what I felt, so I won’t bother trying. Some things are better remembered in the heart, anyway, than in words. Suffice it to say, I decided to remain a Christian. I decided to continue with City Project. I decided to try to trust. Absolutely nothing got better, in that moment. I did not feel comforted, I did not feel joy, I did not feel the strength to trust. All I knew is that I had given God an ultimatum, he had given me a good reply, and if I wanted to retain any shred of self-respect than I needed to stay. So I stayed.

He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters.

He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.

They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support.

He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. (v16-19)

City Project began a few days later and I read Psalm 18 at least once every day of it. It would not be entirely true to say I loved Psalm 18 at that time. Some days, I woke up and was so overwhelmed with anger that I would read it to try to convince myself that it was inadequate and that I should leave God. Other days, I woke up and was so sad that I would read it just for the chance of feeling that there was a God out there who loved me. Most commonly, I felt nothing, but Something made me read it anyway, and, Somehow, I always found what I needed for that moment. Sometimes, I needed strength to convince myself to go to the dining hall and eat food. Sometimes, I needed wisdom for a discussion about joy when, in my head, I found I didn’t even believe in joy. Sometimes, I noticed a phrase or made a connection that awed me in that moment, and in those moment, I always needed to believe that there was Someone deserving of awe.

Whenever the Bible talks about rescue, I’ve noticed that a lot of American Christians- myself included- seem to think of it as a climactic, instantaneous moment. Why do we think that? In observable life, rescue is not immediate. Children aren’t adopted in a singular moment. Cancer does not vanish in an instant. Terrorism won’t be destroyed on a whim. True, each of those events may have a moment that could be described as climactic, but those moments do not exist in a vacuum. The greatest rescue of all time- that of Christ for his fallen creation- did not happen instantaneously either. It was thousands of years and words and lives in the making. Why do I expect my life to be any different? And where did I get the idea that rescue would be better if it were instant?

The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.

For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

For all his rules were before me, and his statutes I did not put away from me.

I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt.

So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. (v20-21)

This is all very grim and emo, so let’s have a little fun and laugh at baby Kaycee. This is one of my earliest memories. When I was around 5 years old, my family lived in a house with a room that I absolutely loved. I now realize it was probably a storage closet added last-minute by the architect because it was inconveniently wedged between two of the upstairs bedrooms with the roof sloping awkwardly into it. There was no place in that room where an average-height adult could have stood. I haven’t asked them, but I imagine my parents probably hated that stupid room. I know I would, now. But at the time, it was a Kaycee-sized room and I firmly believed that all rooms ought to be Kaycee-sized rooms. Even better, all of the toys I and my 4 year old brother Kyle shared were in there! I never bothered to wonder how all my toys ended up in there. The Universe was at my disposal, after all. They were probably just there because I wanted them there.

One day, I came up with a brilliant plan. Mom had specifically told Kyle and I not to do something, but I really wanted to do that something. I’m not trying to be vague by referring to the Something as the Something. I genuinely don’t remember what it was- it probably involved robbery since robbery was one of my pastimes during that phase of my life- but it’s unimportant. What’s important is the Plan.

Dragging poor Kyle into the hall, I whispered the Plan to him. We would do the Something, then, we would run into the Room. We would close the door, push all of the toys against it, and then we would hide in the now-empty cabinets. It was foolproof! Mom and Dad were simply too big to get into the room, but even if they tried, the toys would stop them.

The Plan went swimmingly, up until I realized that Dad had this really annoying thing he could do called crouching. Despite the absurdity of the situation, I distinctly remember thinking, “OH! So that’s how the toys got here!” Kyle and I were apprehended and taken to the bathroom for spankings. Those never bothered me much, so I nobly volunteered to go first. Anything to get away from Kyle’s pitiful whimpering, which had begun the moment Dad opened the door and knocked over our toy barricade. Dad denied my request. He told me to wait outside the door so that I would go after Kyle.

Kyle sobbed tearfully, and even though I knew the spankings did not hurt and even though I knew they didn’t bother me, hearing his distress made me cry. I didn’t regret what I had done, I didn’t even regret getting caught, but I regretted dragging Kyle into this whole mess. Hearing him get what he deserved felt wrong because I knew I deserved it more, and I also knew it would bother me less. I didn’t quite know what to make of this at the time, but I think I do now.

Grace is a funny thing. As I have described multiple times now, I kept trying to find a reason to leave God. I made no effort to be blameless in his sight, I made no effort to keep his rules before me, and I made no effort to keep my hands clean. I did not care about any of that. But God, in his mercy and grace, kept me saved. My blamelessness was not my own- it was Christ’s. My adherence to God’s law was not my own- it was Christ’s and his provision (During City Project, I was surrounded by Christian community with wonderful Christian mentors available at all times. The only reason I did not do anything drastically sinful during that summer was because of the time and space I happened to exist within). Finally, my hands were not clean. I was actively looking for a way to rebel against the God of the Universe. I was actively searching for my own Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but God kept putting gates and cherubim in my way, many in the form of Psalm 18. Now, on the other side of 2019 looking back at the closed door of 2018, I feel deep and poignant regret. I do not deserve to call myself a Child of God now, and I would not be calling myself one right now if God had not stepped in and barricaded the paths away from him. I’m so glad that God proved a better Enjolras than I.

I am blameless before God, but that is only because Christ gave me his blamelessness and because God has given me his ongoing grace, keeping me blameless in his sight.

With the merciful, you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. (v25-26)

These verses were the ones that I recall catching my attention during that very first reading, so I think they deserve at least a bit of lingering. A lot of people- Christian or otherwise- dislike the passages in the Bible describing God’s wrath and judgement. I never had much issue with it, but that probably has more to do with the undeniably atrocious amount of arrogance I continue to find buried in my psyche than any spiritual superiority I possess (lookee here, more arrogance! what a shock). It never bothered me because I never really thought of myself as deserving of wrath, but I could hand over a list of people I felt did deserve it, hence, I was unbothered by it’s existence.

Case in point, I liked the thought of God being tortuous. Even if the most harsh punishment would be issued by the U.S. Justice System- which I knew that it would not be- it still would feel utterly inadequate. People say torture is an antiquated thing, and good little liberal 2017 me would say the same, but hellin 2018, I understood the impulse. So I liked the verse for that reason at first.

Have you ever thought about torture for weeks in a row? Don’t. It hurts.

I can’t think of anything much more worthy of the term “crooked” than a curly-haired, geeky Christian sharing the Gospel and espousing grace and hope and joy in the daylight while dreaming happily about torture at night.

These verses quickly shifted from my go-to for misinterpreted glee to the verses that caused me to pray for mercy, even though I knew I was not one of the merciful.

For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down.

For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.

For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.

This God- his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. (v27-30)

At some point in the summer, I wrote some thoughts about these verses in the margins of my Bible. My handwriting resembles that of a mad scientist, so I’ll simply provide a transcription:

“The word of the Lord does, indeed, prove true. His way is perfect. I was literally looking for a reason to leave, but his word still proved true and I could not go. ‘Where else can we go, Lord?’ I feel like Peter. Perhaps a bit begrudging, but it’s a shallow feeling. I’m angry. I’m confused. But I’m still his child and he’s still my dad and he has never lied to me which is more than I can say for most- and he has gone so far beyond mere honesty for me. He’s given me grace, love, emotion, hope, purpose, escape, home, relationship, community, change, everything. He’s given me Jesus and that is enough. I love him because he first loved me. His way is perfect. The word of the Lord proves true.”

Have you ever thought about grace for weeks in a row? Do. It heals.

For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?- the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.

He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.

He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.

You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.

You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip. (v31-36)

In the odd semi-chronological narrative I have constructed for this blog post, we have now arrived at the end of City Project and the end of the summer. And look at everything God did! He gave me strength to consistently eat food, to do everything I had promised to do as an intern, to share the Gospel with believers and non-believers. He gave me the wisdom to talk about joy even when I didn’t know how, to read this passage over and over again and continue to find him, to consistently find myself at a loss for how to prove God inadequate. He gave me the blessing of new friends, of new experiences, of new ideas, of new awe for him. Rocks may not be comfortable, but they are better than feathers when it comes to war. I might be afraid of heights, but I’d rather be there than elsewhere. I went through my middle school Katniss phase, I know archery is not easy and a bow of bronze? Impossible. A shield implies projectiles, a supporting hand implies stumbling, and how does gentleness make someone great?

I don’t know. But I know that all of it happened. I know I was given a wide, wide path of grace and I know my feet did not slip, even though, for all the help I was, I may as well have been meandering in circles throughout my wide path, scouring for metaphorical banana peels.

(Jokes aside, it is difficult to write about the summer without mentioning Psalm 18 and what was going on with me. So if you supported me in any way and were wondering why you have not heard from me, I’m so sorry, but this is why. It seemed feeble to try to write a thank-you explaining that my biggest takeaway from the summer involved highlighting Psalm 18 into an ugly rainbow in my Bible through rereadings. I hope this helps explain some things!)

All in all, God was good and it was a good summer.

I pursued my enemies and overtook them, and did not turn back till they were consumed.

I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise; they fell under my feet.

For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.

You made my enemies turn their backs to me, and those who hated me I destroyed.

They cried for help, but there was none to save; they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.

I beat them fine as dust before the wind; I cast them out like mire in the streets. (v37-42)

What? You thought this post would be over because I resolved my City Project story? Okay, one, I rarely shut up, so I’m going to keep writing until I run out of words or until my fingers fall off, whichever happens first (spoiler: it’ll be the finger thing). And two, spoiler again, there is no real resolution to this story because it’s a true story, and true stories don’t have resolutions yet, but God did more, and I need to talk about it.

Here’s an adorable little quirk of mine that I had for almost the entirety of my Christian life. I loathed David. Absolutely despised him. I hated his story, I hated the way I heard pastors and teachers talk about him, I hated the fact that Jesus came from his line, and, most of all, I hated the phrase man after God’s own heart. 

My thoughts deserve some explanation, I think, because they were not entirely irrational. When I was in Sunday School, I remember teachers explaining the early kings of Israel like this: “The first king, Saul, was all bad. The second king, David, was all good. And the third king, Solomon, started good but ended bad.” I’m sure they meant well, but this extremely simplistic, and thus, incorrect, interpretation of the Samuels and 1 Kings were some of the factors involved in my abandonment of Christianity in middle school. I remember reading through Samuel prior to deciding that God wasn’t real and found Saul to be the most relatable of the trio. I found it offensive that he was reduced to “all bad”. And sure, I could see the downward trajectory of moral degradation in Solomon, but his “badness” didn’t seem nearly as abhorrent to me as David. What kind of a pervert has 700 wives and 300 concubines? How fucked up as a father do you have to be to let your rapist son continue to live as your heir while you let your victimized daughter exist in desolation? How evil do you have to be to have sex with your friend’s wife and then murder him to cover it up?

After becoming a Christian, I never opened Samuel. I would have said it was because I’d already read it, but really, it was because I was afraid of finding myself godless again.

Well, take a wild guess as to who wrote Psalm 18. It was only a matter of time before my hatred towards David became a problem. After all, I could only pretend that the above passage was metaphorical and about me for so long before admitting that I have, in fact, never thrust an enemy through and ground them into dust, as awesome as that would be. I have also never cast anyone out like mire in the streets, in case you were wondering.

You delivered me from strife with the people; you made me the head of nations; people whom I had not known served me.

As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me; foreigners came cringing to me.

Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses. (v43-45)

Early in the semester, my now-familiar frenemies named Anger and Confusion were throwing an absolute rager in my mind, so through the headache, I pointedly told God, that no, I was not going to read that stupid Psalm ever again because it was written by stupid David and there was nothing on this stupid earth that would make me change my mind. In fact, I said, (because I’m stupid) I’m not going to read the Bible at all. So I closed my Bible and went on Youtube.

The very first thing in my feed was the summary of 1 and 2 Samuel by The Bible Project. I’ll link it at the end of this post. I clicked it and watched it. Outside of God, I don’t know what compelled me to do so.

I love learning about literature, so the explanation regarding the narrative structure drew me in and caused me to watch both videos. As ridiculous as this might sound, especially if you don’t know me that well, but to hear a man’s voice acknowledge David’s sin, especially in regards to Tamar, caused Anger and Confusion to pack up their party and left me crying alone in the comforting stillness. It wasn’t a happy cry, but it was a relieved cry.

It was enough to get me to grab my Bible and flip Samuel open randomly. I was too tired to search for the beginning.

Let’s make this a bit interactive, okay? Go find a Bible and open it to 2 Samuel 22.

Got it? Read it a bit.

Can you imagine my shock?

According to my newfound knowledge through The Bible Project videos, the last few chapters of 2 Samuel are supposed to work as a “snapshot” of David’s life, to summarize the message God was sending through David by piecing together non-chronological stories and writings from David at the end of the book.

73 of the Psalms in the Bible were written by David, and he probably wrote hundreds more throughout his lifetime that were not included in the Bible. And out of all of those, out of everything this man wrote, Psalm 18, my Psalm, was the one that was not only written by him, but chosen for him.

Have you ever read a poem, watched a movie, or heard a story that struck you in your heart? Have you ever felt an inexplicable connection to a character or a person, someone unknowable, but somehow, you know them and they become Something to you? I have, multiple times. When I was a little girl, it was Belle from Beauty and the Beast. My aunt introduced me to the movie on a car ride to Florida when I was seven, and I insisted on watching the movie over and over and over until we arrived because I discovered that I loved Belle so much. Later, it was the Lord of the Rings movies. The intense, unfulfilled yearning for a past that will never return and the courageous journeying towards a murky future- all against an aesthetic of vulnerability, honor, and loyalty- deeply shaped my view of the world, in ways I am still discovering. Most recently, Jane Eyre and Victor Frankenstein have me enthralled, along with their authors, Charlotte Bronte and Mary Shelley.

I have never, in my entire life, felt a connection to someone unknowable as intensely as I felt my connection to David. I spoke earlier of rescue not being instantaneous, and I stand by that, but any and all hatred I felt towards him vanished instantly. How could I hate him, after everything we’d both felt? We’d both experienced the Lord as our strength, as our fortress, as our rescue. I know what Sheol feels like, I know how desperate you have to be when the sight of a flaming and dark God brings you joy, I know what it’s like to find thunder comforting, I know what it feels like to be saved again and again and again and I know why David continuously attributes everything good and everything perfect to God.

You can’t hate someone who is just like you. You can’t hate someone you understand.

The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation- the God who gave me vengeance and subdued peoples under me, who delivered me from my enemies; yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me; you rescued me from the man of violence. (v46-48)

I read 1 and 2 Samuel, and then I read them again, and then I read 2 Samuel a third time and I can’t wait to read them again. They have very quickly become my favorite books in the Bible, and I could write endlessly about what I have learned in them, but I’m worried my fingers will fall off, so I’ll save it for another time. Suffice it to say, like everything, it’s all a bit more complicated, a bit more confusing, a bit more real, and a bit more about God than I had made myself believe.

I am so glad that David was a man after God’s own heart because that is very good news for me. God is a just God who makes himself seem tortuous to the crooked, but to the merciful he shows himself merciful, to the pure he shows himself pure, to the blameless he shows himself blameless. There is no one, no, not even one, human being who is merciful and pure and blameless. David was crooked, and he deserved torture and death, but God, in his grace, lead David to look forward to a perfect King, one who would defend the defenseless, uplift the oppressed, and be worthy of the fealty, love, and worship of his subjects. I am crooked, and I deserve torture and death, but God, in his grace, lead me to look back at a perfect Carpenter who lived a perfect and sinless life, who was merciful and thus deserved God’s mercies, but instead, took my wrath upon himself so that I might forever and always be blameless in God’s sight, a woman after God’s own heart. Jesus rose again, and so we all, myself, David, believers past and believers future no matter how crooked, can have life and have it abundantly.

I look back on 2018 and I am tempted to dwell on the fact that it was the “worst year of my life”, as if years mean anything and as if I don’t have eternity. That’s absurd. There were abundant blessings in the form of a truer understanding of the Gospel and a release from anger that I have been holding on to for far too long. Rescues take time, but they happen all the time. 2018 was good, even if it did not always feel that way.

If you made it to the end of this post, thank you so much for reading. I hope you found some encouragement. Whether or not reflection is Needy® and Emotional®, I have found that this has been necessary and cathartic.

I think it is only right to let Psalm 18 have the final word of my reflection. Hopefully, God-willing, it contains a spoiler for what comes next in my life.

For this, I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name.

Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever. (v49-50)

The Bible Project: 1 and 2 Samuel

The Bible Project- 1 Samuel

The Bible Project- 2 Samuel

Helpful Books

I didn’t have time in the post to mention them, but here are three books I read throughout the past several months that have been incredibly helpful.

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

In His Image by Jen Wilkin

The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament by Sandra L. Richter

If you are not a Christian, or if you have any questions about the Bible or Christianity or something that I said, please feel free to message me. In case my verbosity hasn’t clued you in to this fact, Jesus is kinda my favorite discussion topic, so I’d love to talk!

 

 

 

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Things I Think About: My Family

My Dad:

I like him.

He might be the most similar and dissimilar person to me in the family.

We’re both quiet, sarcastic, kinda petty, loyal, and hardworking.

He’s conservative. I’m liberal. He’s selfless for his family. I’m selfish in my family. He thinks about his family, I think about the world. Different worldviews fuel our different politics.

Sometimes, that’s hard to talk about. Sometimes it’s easy.

We both don’t like hearing different point-of-views. I say I do, but I don’t. I’m trying to work on that so that we can have better conversations.

He’s really funny.

He laughs so hard he has to take his glasses off to wipe away tears while watching Seinfeld and Friends, especially anything to do with Kramer or Chandler. I love that.

He likes nerdy movies, but he’ll never give me a decent answer when I try to start a Serious and Analytical conversation about one. “Dad, who was your favorite character?” “Oh Umbridge, definitely, she was awesome.” “Dad, what did you think about the family dynamic of those characters?” “Denethor was just trying his best, I think he’s great.” “Dad, which Avenger is your favorite?” “That blue guy from Guardians of the Galaxy. Not Yondu, but the one with the hammer and the infinity stone. Best character Marvel has ever made.”

Gahhhhhhhhhh

Randomly surprising though, he watched Queer Eye with me??? And liked it??

My Mom:

She’s great.

Like, really really great.

When I was thirteen, she said I could just read whatever I wanted. I didn’t have to run it by her. That was awesome and exactly what I needed at the time. She knew I was responsible and would never read anything inappropriate. Her vote of confidence insured I never did.

She listens and she’s really good at adapting to my and my siblings’ various interests.

For her entire life, she never read any books. Not in high school, not in college, never. Then one day, she picked up The Picture of Dorian Grey and read the whole thing. She loved it and we had a great conversation about it. Next, she read Jane Eyre. Then, she read all 1000+ pages of The Count of Monte Cristo. She’s moving on to Frankenstein next. I’m astounded.

(Yes, all of those books were suggested by yours truly. Victorian Literature is the best genre I will fight you on that)

She really likes bees. I don’t know why, but it’s pretty cool. She knows a lot of random bee facts.

She really likes Raleigh, NC. It makes me slow down and appreciate where I am. I’m always waiting until the summers so I can just leave. I’m always waiting until after college so I can just leave. She makes me not want to just leave.

familyyy

my brother purposely looking weird to ruin our perfectly good meme pic. rude.

My Brother:

One of my favs.

He’s the only person who has made me laugh until I cried until I hurt my stomach until I laughed some more.

He’s smarter than me and I try to be pissed off about it but honestly, I’m just proud. I lie and tell people I helped him learn all he knows (I didn’t).

Probably the person I feel most “me” around.

We agree on a lot, so it’s always surprising to find anything we disagree on.

Turns out, he thinks AI could and should possibly take over the creative writing industry. I think very little could be worse for humanity than that. He thinks human thought patterns or something could be uploaded to computers. I think very little could be worse for humanity than that. Our arguments aren’t really arguments though. He cites interesting and relevant information while I just yell “NO!” repeatedly.

I don’t know why he puts up with me sometimes.

We go to the same college and I thought he wouldn’t want to see me that often, but instead he joined the same family group I’m in (kinda like a Bible study but really not sorry non-Summit peeps). That made me really happy.

He makes me want to do the things I love to do.

My First Sister:

When she was born, I actually felt like a big sister and that’s the best thing to ever happen to me.

I’ve always been kinda mean so people just assumed she’s the “sweet one”. There’s a lot of sexism wrapped up in that and she and I talk about sexism a LOT and it’s great.

PSA: She’s not the sweet one. She’s the strong one. You’d be better off fighting me. I’m the loud one. I’ll make your soul shrivel up and rot, but hey, at least you’ll still be technically alive. Can’t say that would be the case if you messed with the First Sister.

I’m not about to test it, anyway.

She lets me and Second Sister play The Sims on her computer. The three of us together have a town comprised of nothing but shenanigans. We made a character who was an amalgamation of the three of us (Krisaree Flemizalaine) and she married Ben Solo because First Sister and I were going through a post-Last Jedi crush on Adam Driver and we outranked Second Sister so Krisaree married him and then had four kids named Marijuana, Casserole, Armitage, and Sandwich Flemizalolo. It’s wild.

Speaking of, we are both feminists so that’s cool. After much discussion, we have decided the most equalizing way to handle the last name situation is to have both parties involved change it to either an amalgamation or, if that sounds stupid, something that represents your relationship (If you both like stargazing, change your last name to “Gazing” or if you’re both feeling boldly extra “Star”).

She’s lowkey romantic lol

My Second Sister:

If memes had a physical embodiment it would be her.

I don’t really know if she likes me or hates me most days but that’s okay, I like her.

She wears Simply Southern shirts and always has Starbucks and has blond (highlights?? lowlights?? Streaks?? Ombre?? idk!) in her hair. I, uh, don’t do any of that.

She fell asleep watching The Last Jedi.

For Christmas, she gave me a beautiful silver bracelet engraved with a phrase she selected and ordered herself. The message? Get Shreked m8!!

I wear it a lot. I like it.

She loves animals so much. She takes care of the Dachshund and the Chihuahua so well, she has two guinea pigs, and a fish named Keith.

She’s devilishly witty. No thirteen-year old should be as quick with a sardonic response or a subtle roast as she is, it’s too much power.

She can sing really beautifully but she only will in the shower when she thinks no one is listening, she typically sings in a way that can only be described as Nasally Opera Meets Hugh Jackman Wannabe Who Has Never Heard Hugh Jackman Or Anyone Else Sing. It’s a particular brand of awful.

Her favorite song to sing in this ethereal tone? Death of a Bachelor by Panic! At The Disco.

Her favorite song in general? All-Star by Smash Mouth.

The Dachshund:

YES he’s a member of the family fight me

He’s the only dog we have ever gotten as a puppy so we got to name him. There was a lot of fierce debate. I suggested “Sirius”. First Sister suggested “Padfoot”. I suggested “Chewbacca”. Mom shot down all of those and said we could not name him after a Harry Potter or Star Wars character.

So we named him Teddy. His middle name is Lupin. hahahahHAHAHAHAHAHA take that mom and your naming dictatorship the rebellion will rise.

This dog knows how to do nothing. He doesn’t know to sit, how to stay, how to not bark at nothing, how to not jump on people, nothing… except for two things.

He taught himself how to play fetch with a red rubber ball. And he knows how to go to his bed at night.

He likes to cuddle when he gets tired.

He gets brambles caught in his long fur and he needs help picking them out but he doesn’t like getting help, he’s very stubborn, he’d prefer the branches just stay.

The Chihuahua:

Rescue dog. Normally, we don’t rename rescue dogs but his name was Gizmowing and that’s just awful so First Sister changed it to Milo.

He will also respond to Baby Milo, Milu, Meelo, Meelu, Milos, Milos Milosovich, Dos Bub Bub, Malroe, and Baby Malroe.

(This dog has no idea what his name is)

I’m trying to get him to respond to Malfoy. He kinda looks like a ferret.

Very nervous.

Very shaky.

Always needs cuddles.

My Family:

We have a collaborative Funko pop collection.

We all love film. Everything from Marvel films to Oscar-nominated films to sitcoms to TV dramas. Even if we don’t all love a certain thing, we all love to talk about it and share our opinions. It’s fun.

Everyone is introverted except for Mom.

We all love Jesus a lot.

Everyone supports everyone.

The worst part about missions is leaving your family but the best part is leaving knowing that your family encouraged you to do it and is so, so proud of you.

The way our family works now is very different than the way it worked when I was a little kid and the only explanation for the change is the grace we all found in the Gospel.

I really, really love my family.

I think they’re the best people I could have possibly spent the last 21 years with.

Looking forward to another 21 years. (42 better watch out!)

I think there’s a lot more I could say about them, but I’ll stop there.

***

I still need to raise a bit more for my summer missions which you can read about HERE.

If you’re interested in contributing, you can donate online HERE.

Thanks for reading!!

familyyy2

a terrible selfie

me ugh

Ghost Slugs 2018

It’s been awhile.

I kinda sorta forgot this blog existed.

I did that last year too, right up until SUPPORT RAISING reared it’s beautifully ugly head.

(Side note: If support raising had a physical manifestation I think it would be the ghost slug. Ethereal in a very weird way, but I definitely have no actual desire to touch it. Interesting to hear stories about, but I’m glad it’s generally for people on the other side of the ocean)

Anyway. Guess what reminded me of this blog again?

Yep. Support raising. But you know what? Unlike the past two years, I am really excited for support raising. God has done and is doing so much in my life right now. My life has become quite the adventure.

When I was a little girl and I thought of adventure, I always pictured the happy endings: the destroyed evil, the victory celebrations, the inseparable friends, the dragon hoard, the hero’s glory. Despite my desire for these things, I have never once in my life skipped to the end of a good story, and I’ve been realizing I wouldn’t have it that way in my life either.

Thus, support raising.

God has given me the amazing opportunity to be a City Project intern. City Project is a two-month intensive discipleship program designed to help college students better learn how to be with Jesus, be changed by Jesus, and be on mission with Jesus. It does this national, local, and international contexts. First, students will spend one week in NYC learning to share their faith, often for the first time. Next, students will spend four weeks locally, near their colleges, taking discipleship classes and applying Scripture in practical and meaningful ways. Finally, students will travel to an international location and serve with a field partner for two weeks.

It’s almost a bit painful for me to write about City Project in such clinical terms. I did City Project two years ago and Jesus used it to absolutely change the entire trajectory of my life.

I had been painfully disconnected from others, now I genuinely enjoy befriending people and getting to know them and their stories.

I had been terrified to travel, now I love it.

I had been incapable of vulnerability, now I’ve been told by a mentor that vulnerability is one of my strengths.

I had been ready to shrug aside my writing in exchange for a more lucrative job, now I’m prepared to take any crazy risk God calls me to take.

I had been frustrated with Jesus because I knew that he existed but I didn’t love him, now I love him because he first loved me and even when I fail he still loves me which makes me love him more and gahhhh he’s just so awesome I can’t articulate the things.

I had assumed Jesus’ death for me was a decently logical decision by God, but now I know that the only thing more absurd than my painfully sinful existence is Jesus’ willful decision to sacrifice everything he rightfully and righteously earned in exchange for giving me, an active rebel and enemy to him, the chance to choose him and the salvation offered to me. It’s absurd and holy crap I’m so glad it is.

City Project changed everything, and now, I get to be a part of that for others. I love it when God uses motifs.

As an intern, I would lead a team in NYC, lead a small group of women locally, and then help lead an international team. I would help plan and set up special events, assist the other staff members, and be a part of a discipleship program specifically for the interns.

In this new adventure of mine, I need both prayer and monetary support.

Please pray for myself, the students, and the staff participating in City Project. Even though the program doesn’t start until the summer, God is not relegated to any particular time in order to change people. Pray that we would all actively seek to know him through the support raising process, and that we would see it is a blessing. A difficult blessing, but one nonetheless.

For me in particular, please pray that I don’t attempt to take on my worries alone. School is very stressful this semester, family is stressful, ministry is stressful, it’s all just stressful and, like the stubborn pea-brained chickadee I am, I keep attempting to handle everything solo even though I know it’s always so much better when I give my cares to God. Literally, I’m able to chill AND I get everything done. Why I don’t naturally always turn to him is beyond my comprehension. I’m a stubborn pea-brained chickadee.

Monetarily, I need to raise $1,500 by March 30th. Any little bit counts and I could use all the help I can get! If you’d like to donate online, here’s the contribution form: summitrdu/supportcityproject.com

For your financial privacy, Summit Church will not disclose how much you donated, they will only tell me that you did donate so I can thank you. Also, if you’d prefer to send a check, just tell me and I’ll get in touch to let you know how!

Thanks for sticking with me and reading this post! I actually have some more posts planned (shocker I know) including a short story I’m looking forward to sharing.

I am so excited about this summer. God is going to change so many lives, God is going to start and continue so many adventures, and God is going let his Gospel be known to many.

I might even see a ghost slug.

 

Second City Beginnings

Have you ever had a friend who was the Sarcastic Friend(c)? You know the one. It’s the friend who always pipes in, no matter the conversation, with helpful exclamations like, “Awesome! Wow!” or “Thanks a lot!” or just simply “no.” When speech is inappropriate, they still manage to mumble dry comments beneath their breath, or at least to compensate with exaggerated facial expressions. I’m the Sarcastic Friend(c) to a lot of people. But I’ll let you in on a Sarcastic Friend secret. It’s a deep, emotional struggle that every Sarcastic Friend is forced to face at some point in their life.

Ready to know the inner turmoil of your favorite bundle of snark, memes, and nihilism?

It’s hard for the Sarcastic Friend to find their own Sarcastic Friend.

Fortunately for me, I settled the issue years ago. God is my Sarcastic Friend(c). And I’m actually not being sarcastic about that, I’m completely serious. Want proof? Here’s some dialogue throughout the last year of my life.

***

January 2016

Me: I’m going to study abroad in England. Deal with it.

God: You do that. I’m sure it’ll be great. You’ll go there in an attempt to quell your wanderlust, but instead, you’ll just be faced with the reality that your life is pointless and vaporous everywhere in the world, not just in your current boring reality of America. Have fun!

great_gatsby

Me: >_>

God: Lol. Or, I dunno, you could do City Project.

Me: I don’t want to.

God: You know? You’re right. You’d only be spending your summer growing closer to me and the community I’ve placed around you. You’d finally see that the change you’ve been trying to make in yourself can, and will, only come from me. You’d only get to share the Gospel with the lost instead of just sitting around and talking about it like the good Pharisee that you are. You’d only get to finally realize that I love you.

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Me: Fine! I’ll go!

God:

Me: —well?

God: What, are you expecting a “well done good and faithful servant”? That’s cute.

Me: Shut up.

God: No.

September 2016

Me: Well, that was an awesome summer! Thanks for making me go, God. I learned a lot, grew a lot, completely changed the trajectory of my life, and learned to trust you in everything.

God: k

Me: That’s not really fair. I went, didn’t I?

God: Did you? I thought you just randomly found all of those minimalist Christian T-shirts and merch from South Asia.

Me: Okay, you’re clearly in a weird mood. I’ll just be over here working on my study abroad application…

God: You do that. I wouldn’t waste the time though, if I were you.

Me:

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God: Oh, did I not mention? You are not going to study abroad this summer.

Me: Of course I am! You can’t stop me!

God: Ah, there’s that infamous ‘trust in everything’ you became an overnight expert in.

Me: Okay, hypothetically, if I weren’t to study abroad in England, where would I go? What would I do this summer? There’s nothing else really available, other than summer school or an internship.

God: Second City.

A Snape Reaction Gif Obviously - Imgur

Me: But, God, I already gave up one summer and now you want this one too?

God: ‘But, Father, I already washed their feet now I have to die too?’ quoth Jesus, in the Message Bible, probably, circa never A.D.

Me: Don’t bring Jesus into this!

God: Oops, right, I forgot about the “don’t bring the guy who saved me whom I then voluntarily asked into my life” clause in this, apparent, democracy.

Me: Look, I’ll admit, I really want to go back to South Asia. I want to spread the Gospel, I want to live my life missionally, and I want to obey you. But I’m scared.

God: —do you want a sappy spiel that includes the “never shall I leave you”, “hope and a future”, etc. verses, or do you want an Aladdin reference?

Me: Aladdin reference, please.

God: Good choice, fam. Do you trust me?

Me: Uh, not really. But yeah, kinda.

God: I can work with kinda.

***

My relationship with God is unconventional, but I love it. I have friends who talk about how God is gentle and comforting to them. I have friends who talk about how God is fatherly and wise to them. I love hearing their stories, but honestly, if God had tried to approach me as some cuddly, quiet friend or as one of those dads always giving good advice, I would have run screaming. But that’s not how he saved me. He first proved his existence, then he proved my sin, and then he basically said, “I’m here. I love you. I died for your sins and you can accept the free gift of grace, if you want. It’s your choice.” 1 John 4:19 says “we love because he first loved us.” It’s so strange and so wonderful that God knows the best way to love each person. The family and friends with which I am closest are the ones who treat me with bluntness and humor. Needless to say, God loves me more perfectly than anybody else ever could.

Which is why I am returning to South Asia this summer!

Last summer, I participated in a program through my church called City Project. City Project taught me how to spread the Gospel in local, national, and international contexts (North Carolina, NYC, and South Asia), it taught me how to leverage my career for the glory of God, and how to live on mission. I took theology classes, had my first internship, and learned what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Without a doubt, it was the best experience of my life.

My church offers a follow-up program to City Project. It’s called Second City.

During Second City, I will spend the entirety of my summer in South Asia. I have the privilege to return to the exact city I was in last summer. I can not share all of the details of the trip, but essentially, I will be partnering with Christians in the city to better spread the Gospel among a people group in which over 90% of individuals have never even heard of the Gospel. I’m so excited, and so blessed, to be a part of this incredible trip.

You might be a bit confused at the last part. After all, I did not sound very excited during my little dialogue with God. Do you want to know why I was scared? I was scared because going to South Asia means I’m going to get sick again, I’m going to be rejected, I’m going to navigate an enormous city, I’m going to be immersed in a culture utterly foreign to both me and my personality, and I’m going to be completely denying the American culture that insists I will be a failure if I don’t get a job RIGHT. NOW.  It will be stressful, people will break my heart, and I won’t see my family for the entire summer because I’ll be on the freaking other end of the world.

When God first tells me to do anything, doubts and insecurities flood my mind. Excuse after excuse try to drown out the truth. All of the excuses essentially say the same thing: you can’t, you can’t, you can’t. 

They are right. I can’t. God can. That’s the whole point.

I don’t go on mission trips to do stuff for God. I don’t go on mission trips to earn anything. Both are impossible. God doesn’t need me for anything. As Mordecai told Esther in Esther 4:14 “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise…from another place. …And who knows whether you have not come to kingdom for such a time as this?”. If I did not go, God would raise up someone else. If they did not go, God could make a rock declare his truths, as Jesus said in Luke 19:40 “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”. He doesn’t need humans to do anything for him, because we can’t. We are too weak. Strangely, paradoxically, that’s why God wants to use us.

When I went to South Asia last year, I was struck with how weak I truly am. I had spent years studying apologetics and memorizing logical arguments and researching scientific evidence, but this particular culture had no interest in my pretentious Western thought. I was ripped of every strength I thought I had, forcing me to pray ceaselessly for God to provide me with the words to say because I had none on my own. He did more than I could have ever asked or imagined. He let me see people understand and accept the Gospel. He let me see my own sinful heart, arrogance that I did not know was there, and he changed me. He taught me how to love and how to finally believe that he loved me.

I don’t go on mission trips to be a “good Christian” or to prove something to God. I go on mission trips because God knew I was weak, yet he still loved me and sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross, the punishment that I deserved, so that I would not have to. He offered to give me Jesus’ perfect record as my own so that God might be able to have a relationship with me. Then, he pursued me so bluntly, so relentlessly, that I came to believe in him and I accepted his grace. Now, he has given me a purpose, and that purpose is to go. To go where God calls me to go and to do what God calls me to do. I don’t do this out of obligation or fear; any attempt to make me feel either emotion immediately makes me feel and do the opposite. No, I go because I love my God and I love what he has done for me. I go because I trust that his intentions are for my good. I go because I believe God desires all to know him, but how can they know him if they are not told?

Which leads me to the point of this entire blog post (yes, yes, I DO have a point, stop rolling your eyes, you wannabe Sarcastic Friend(c)!). I would love to have the privilege to partner with you in this mission. My final support deadline is April 9th, and I need roughly $800. If you believe that God is calling you to monetarily support my mission, click on the link below. It will lead you to a contribution form. I will not be able to see the amount donated, but I will be able to see your name (if you so choose), so that I can write you a thank-you note!

www.summitrdu.com/supportsecondcity

More importantly, if you would partner with me by praying for me, I would be extremely grateful. Here are some prayer requests during the weeks of preparation before leaving for the trip:

  • Pray for unity in the team. Missions are joyful and loving, but they can also be stressful and difficult. Pray that my team will be unified in Christ, that we will keep our focus on Christ, and that we will treat each other as Christ treated his team of disciples.
  • Pray for the people. God already knows exactly who we are going to meet. Pray that each individual we speak to will already be searching for truth, for meaning, for Christ, before our plane even lands.
  • Finally, praise God for the undeserved blessing of this opportunity. As I said above, God does not need us to do things for us, but in his kindness, he allows us to be a part of his mission. It’s like a dad baking cookies, and his toddler child begs to “help”. The father joyfully complies, even though he could accomplish the task without the “help”. Yet, he still holds the daughter’s hand to help her stir, or he patiently teaches the son how to properly measure ingredients. The cookies would be made regardless of the child’s involvement, but the child benefits because they learned something about the world, and more importantly, something about their dad.

Thank you in advance for your support. I cannot wait for this summer!

I Love Fantasy Because…

  1. Fantasy is any Time. Fantasy is medieval kingdoms or wizarding boarding schools or ancient pantheons among men or urban sport cars crashing through a magical countryside. It does not have the pretense of era-boundaries.
  2. Fantasy is magical.
  3. Fantasy is thematic.
  4. Thematic magic illustrates intangible morality (what if Power was a Ring?), it enables symbolic conflict (Expelliarmus or Avada Kedavra?), and it delves into philosophy (“If you had the chance to change your fate, would you?”).
  5. Fantasy has taught me to view the world with sympathetic eyes. Could that sullen girl, always glaring, be a princess forced from her kingdom? Could that loud and obnoxious boy, always seeking attention, be a minstrel who hides his pain behind a smile? Could that flirtatious person, always seeking romance, have been forced into this personality by a primeval society that makes them believe it is their duty to act in such a way?
  6. Fantasy is fun.
  7. Fantasy is absurd.
  8. Fantasy is ridiculous.
  9. I want to ride fire-breathing dragons. I want to turn my enemies into ferrets. I want to wear a tasseled cloak and soar through misty nights. I want to speak friend, and enter. I want to believe the world was named because Adam said, “Well, here we are”. I want to live in the fun, the absurd, and the ridiculous. I want to, because I need to escape.
  10. Fantasy is anywhere. Fantasy is frozen tundras or grass-danced hills or volcanic wastelands among ash heaps or mysterious jungles teeming with supernatural forces. It does not have the boundaries of reality’s science.
  11. Fantasy is horrifying
  12. Fantasy is scary
  13. Fantasy is dark
  14. I don’t want to catch myself considering, even for a moment, if I would create a Horcrux. I don’t want to admit that my obsessions might have caused a two-sided personality to emerge within me. I don’t want to catch myself hoping for the villain’s success simply because he’s charismatic. I don’t want to read about the death of good people. I don’t want to think about the evil parts of me. I don’t want to admit that horrors, fears, and darkness plague reality as well as fiction. Yet I need fantasy, because I want to learn.
  15. Fantasy is any Thing. Fantasy is pure unicorns or riddle-prone dragons or elephants! but bigger! with two more tusks! or Rodents-Of-Unusual-Size? I don’t think they exist. It may not be scientific, but it is extraordinary.
  16. Fantasy has taught me to approach the world with an adventurer’s mind. A long night of homework is no different for me than it is for Kvothe- it’s the stepping stone to get where I want to be. A boring shift at my job does not define my life just like the years Aragorn spent wandering the Shire-outskirts did not define his. Eowyn broke rules, Hermione never changed, and Lucy’s faith saw her through to the end. I can do the same.
  17. Fantasy is heroic.
  18. Fantasy is a story.
  19. Heroic stories- stories about good, evil, and everything in between; stories about internal dialogues manifested in outward conflicts; stories about people but with the masks of reality torn apart- are meaningful.
  20. Fantasy is anyone. Fantasy is Chosen Ones and dark-cloaked rangers and oppressed women turned warriors and all of the intricacies and complexities of the human soul described through elves, dwarves, fairies, mermaids, orcs, nobility, orphans, and dragons and so much more. It is Extraordinary manifested with no hindering pretense.

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