psalm 131

Psalm 131:1 – 3
Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—now and always.

This has to be one of the most simple, most profound Psalms I’ve read lately. I’m at that stage of “I haven’t spent enough time with you here” in my time with Jesus that totally betrays how much I’ve been starving myself. Guilty as charged—but also, not really, because I’m probably harder on myself than Jesus is. He’s just happy to see me at this point.

How can three verses be so convicting, so game changing?

I read the first few words with eyes burning and conscience seared. Am I really able to say this of myself? I don’t even feel like this is remotely true.

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Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty.

Oh, that it were true! Oh, that it were something I could say with confidence. What was David’s voice as he said it? Was it with questioning eyes turned heavenward, seeking an honest answer of correction if need be? Was it something he believed with a full an uninhibited trust?

My heart betrays me. My voice is thick with the pride and haughty sludge that churn in my core—how did I get here? I don’t feel anything spiritual, and maybe I don’t even feel any remorse yet. I still dully in my sin, only vaguely aware of it’s presence as I approach the throne, trepidation in my steps as I consider, Am I truly okay? Are we good here?

Oh, Lord Jesus. I don’t feel it, but I know it. I now my heart and my insides and I know how bitterly evil they have been. Every little photo I see, every comment, every situation I hear about; I hear the song of the Pharisee that you so quickly identified as “missing it” falling out of my mouth. “Thank goodness I am not these people”, I condescend casually as I lift eyes towards heaven, choking on my piety as I’m tripping over the man in the road; he’s too weak from the attack by the robbers to even call out to me.

I desire to be able to be still like a weaned child, but first comes the removal of pride and haughtiness. As frequent of visitors as they’ve become, they haven’t stayed so long that I cannot evict them without probable cause. But I fear I cannot even recognize them anymore—they blend into the surroundings of my soul with ease now.

Help me, help me, help me, Jesus.
I am lost without you.

our eyes are not big enough

I read something the other day that one of my friends posted about consistency being how they could feel and recognize Jesus.

It was interesting because I almost immediately disagreed with it. In fact, at least in my experience (whether it’s right or correct or not), I feel Jesus the least when my life is consistent. I think that’s why everything here has been so difficult for me.

I feel Jesus the most when I am out of my comfort zone, when I am insecure or when I’m forced to try something new. I feel Jesus when I smell pungent new smells, and see the colorful canvas of the wide world and free fall into the rolling plains. I feel Jesus when I have nothing but Jesus, and my words are inadequate because they aren’t understood. I feel Jesus when I don’t know what’s coming next and when I have to wait for Him to tell me what to do. I feel Jesus in the adventure—in the freedom from monotony and routine and obligation.

Sometimes I think Jesus is my only consistency in life, and I like it that way. I like the imagery of He and I, roaming around together. He’s the one who said a prophet isn’t accepted in his own town and the one who spent time traveling all around with twelve guys loving and caring for people all over—and it wasn’t even at His home.

Praise the living God—it is alright.

Jesus wandered.
Jesus wandered with purpose.
And Jesus is with me.

The joke is on both of us because Jesus is present in both the consistent monotony and the wild adventure. Maybe our eyes are not big enough to see Him as He really is, in all His splendor—being fully wild and fully dependable, fully God and fully man, fully strong and fully soft.

Oh, what a wonderful life it is to share with such a Creator.

“He’ll be coming and going” he had said. “One day you’ll see him and another you won’t. He doesn’t like being tied down–and of course he has other countries to attend to. It’s quite all right. He’ll often drop in. Only you mustn’t press him. He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” 

 C.S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

with everything but ourselves

Sometimes we don’t have words for those we love as they’re in turmoil. We can receive their words, try to comfort, do what we can. I’ve recently come to believe that none of really know what we’re doing or how to truly fix anything with ourselves or one another, even and especially sometimes when we’re walking with Jesus. I think what we need to do more often than not is to simply sit with our loves in the dark places, wordlessly, but physically present.

In Judaism there is this custom that believers have where they will enter into mourning for the dead for seven days. This custom is referred to as shiva. 

shi·va (ˈSHivə/)
noun
1. a period of seven days’ formal mourning for the dead, beginning immediately after the funeral. Ex. “She went to the funeral and sat shiva”.

I like the idea of people being brave enough to walk into atmospheres that they cannot fix, they cannot change and just being. It sounds vulnerable; I’m not usually comfortable walking into environments where I feel I have no solutions. Americans as a whole are conditioned to avoid this feeling, I think, because our whole culture seemed to be packaged with this stout-hearted, “I know what I’m doing and I have all the answers” mentality.

Sitting shiva.
Wordless.
Solution less.
But present.

There is a value in our presence that I don’t believe we fully understand. We’re so busy trying to fill the void with solutions, productivity—we search for neat and tidy conclusions in life where sometimes, I think, there are none to be found. It is not hopeless, and I hope that’s not the message that I’m conveying. There is something oddly intimately about being present with someone in shiva. I think something we’ve lost in the West here is that we fill the chasm of space between our bodies with everything but ourselves.

Maybe we don’t need answers.
Maybe we don’t need distraction,
or meaningless chatter,
or trite quips.

Maybe we need a look, a touch,
the skin of another human being,
soft and tender and warm,
saying, “I am here, and I am with you”.

For however long we have, we are together—without condition and reservation. This is our intimacy.

The opposite of loneliness is not togetherness, it’s intimacy.
– Richard Bach

how we do this on that west side

11206019_10155643254895220_5126192768675363742_nRecently I was allowed to fly free for a few weeks on the West Coast with some of my dearest friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since my graduation (which was an upsetting three years ago, guys). I cannot even begin to put into words how rejuvenating it was for me to get out of the routine of my life here at home, clock out of the salon, leave my lipstick behind and just go. It didn’t come a moment too soon, since all work and no play was making me the dullest of boys.
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I was definitely spoiled by my friends, with so much one-on-one conversation, slice-of-life moments, reminiscing and impossibly fun scenarios–like driving all over LA in a mini coop convertible, visiting La Jolla to see the sea lions and the beautiful, wild Pacific and a chilly evening at Dockweiler for a bonfire.
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11151071_10155626169040220_312303178295700785_n10501754_10206935101755591_3516896204813691471_nMore than anything, it was amazing to feel excited again. I’ve been so focused on doing all the responsible, consistent, adult things that I’d forgotten what it was like to really let loose and have a good time.

I had so many lovely moments like, breakfast at Crave with Meghan, followed by hours of thrifting and sharing life moments together. We’ve been consistently skyping on Wednesday nights for several months now; she’s come alongside me to be my community and share in Jesus time with me because of how I’ve been struggling with church lately. Somehow she managed to do about 50 hours of writing for her spec script, radio drama, pilot and host a weekly podcast twice, and still be emotionally available to me, host me for two weeks and cart me around for LA adventures. She’s a gem.
10520523_10155643253490220_6164372294628367685_nDay trips to San Diego and Griffith Park with the only Juan for me, who’s the biggest adventurer I know and makes everything epic regardless of what it looks like on the surface:

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Slumber parties with Jenna, who’s still the feisty, little mama bird I remember her to be even though she’s got her own office and an assistant at the Dream Center and in charge of all the short term teams. I got to go out on the streets with her for Adopt a Block and go out to dinner with everyone for Lizzie’s birthday. Work hard, play harder:
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Jenna and Lizzie took me for my first tattoo experience at Alchemy Tattoo in Silver Lake the very first day I got there. What started as a consultation turned into getting the tattoo immediately since it was so simple. Shout out to the ladies for holding it down while I almost lost my cool in the moments leading up to the needle actually touching my skin.
11181873_10155615673680220_1763650329262669564_n17782_10155615550340220_2571254107121616422_nI’d been thinking about this tattoo for almost three months prior–I wanted something that I knew I would always look at with fondness, something I’d never regret. Africa was the first thing I thought of and I knew in my heart that was the one I wanted. I got a simple outline of the continent with a heart over Tanzania because I will always have a part of my heart left there. I got it on my shoulder because it’ll easily show with all the tank tops I wear, but will be easy to hide if I go overseas again with any basic t-shirt. It was just one more little adventure to have within my time in California.

Chelsea was actually the one who took the photo of my tattoo during one of our lovely little tea dates at the tea shop where she works which features a lot of really cool graffiti that I took advantage of. She’s a lovely soul and it’s so fun to see her “adulting”, as we call it, so successfully and see her giving heart to all she does.
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There’s really too much to try and recount in a post. Many of you won’t know the friends I’m referring to, or possibly about the places I went. In the end, it’s a wonderfully personal time that brought life and light to my soul again–if we’re fortunate in life, we all have kindred spirits, illuminating moments like this. So imagine that when you read this, and I think you’ll meet me where I’m at.

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Oh, Florida. It was hard to come back to you, but nothing is forever.

I thought I lost my heart way back in Florida
Then I found it in California…

Surviving ‘Modest is the Hottest’ Part 2: What It Meant For Me

It’s interesting to me how in certain moments, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant to the outside, our whole perspective our place in the world is changed. I mean, we’re always experiencing things in our day-to-day life and they teach us, but there are those specific moments that really stand out as game changers. Your perception on where you stand is either reinforced or challenged.

I remember being no older than fourteen laying awake shaking in a severe panic attack on the couch in the middle of the night with my mom for nearly two hours because I was afraid to go to our homeschool commencement. I had heard too many whispers and felt too many looks already and I was on edge. I wanted to be pretty, but it felt like I couldn’t and I had to hide behind clothes that make me feel frumpy because it was the right thing to do. I ended up going in a tank top (with three inch thick sleeves) and a knee length jean skirt, which was both modest and pretty, but whether it was my projection or a reality, I felt judgement as tangible as I feel the keys of my Macbook now. I avoided most of my male classmates because I was scared that their mothers would feel like I was seducing them somehow. I looked at the other more modestly dressed girls and wished that I were more like them, because they were safe and revered as ‘good girls’. If only my skirt were a little longer, or my shirt a little looser… If only.

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How I felt like people saw me

I remember specifically going out of my way to clean up the reception afterwards because I was hoping that they’re see that I had a good heart and good intentions, but I felt no such relief. Nothing was ever said directly about that incident and I filed it away under: it doesn’t matter what you’re intentions are. Only what people think about how you look on the outside matters in the end. 

From then on, I determined I wouldn’t give anyone cause to talk about me. I would be perfect. I would be position myself in such a way that no one would notice me. I would look exactly the way I needed to be safe from sidelong glaces.

I started buying clothes that were too big for me to hide my body. I trained myself to walk in such a way that my butt wouldn’t move at all, and I learned to stand so my chest never stuck out. I cut off all my hair in a shapeless, unflattering bob because I knew boys didn’t like short hair and I thought maybe this would help me fly under the radar.

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I absorbed the mindsets and turned a critical eye on other girls who weren’t as chaste as “us”. I became that legalistic, unforgiving standard who made excuses for other people’s disrespect and sin because “she was asking for it with that outfit”. As for bathing suits, what bathing suits?

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I wore tshirts and mens’ gym shorts to the beach for years on co-op days to avoid any gossip. (I didn’t have to if we weren’t at co-op, so that taught me that in order to fit in with the ‘good people’ I had to perform.) I felt heavy and hideous while I was swimming, but at least I was safe. I watched the girls who were prettiest, who dared to wear some makeup to our homeschool classes, be ostracized and gossiped about.

What do I learn from all this? I learn that trying to look pretty is dangerous, beauty is sinful, beauty will be used against you.

Outside of my homeschool group, I also had a job and eventually started going to Community College classes. In these circles I was considered a prude.

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Everyone made fun of me for my cardigan sweaters (which I really loved) and the tank tops that I put on underneath formal dresses to avoid cleavage. There was really no place where I could win, because no one was ever really happy. If I wasn’t such a people pleaser I would have been able to realize that I myself wasn’t happy, either. But that wasn’t what mattered. I had to keep myself safe from other people’s opinions and all boys because, bless their little hearts, they were visual creatures and they just couldn’t help themselves.

The guy I liked at that time never got near me and always made sure there were pillows between us on the couch. I was eighteen and I was still wearing clothes at the beach because I had to respect his weaknesses. Literal coffee dates were held without eye contact because of the temptation it posed.

Oh, the things we do to each other while we’re trying to “do the right thing”.

There was a flicker of doubt in my uber modest lifestyle one day during the thick of it. I was walking into the mall in my men’s tuxedo pants after work one day and in the reflective glasses I watched a grown man turn to stare at my butt (which was basically indiscernible in the pants) and I wondered how he could break the rules like that. I mean, I was covered up! Hidden! How could he look at me like that?

When I went away to college I was surprised to learn in our female dorm meeting that shoulder blades were a turn on for guys and wouldn’t be tolerated. That was a new one for me. Everything else about finger tips and cleavage and midriffs was like remembering the words to the songs you used to sing as a little kid. I watched the faces of girls that were clearly only sent to this school because their parents refused to send them to a ‘secular’ school contort as they heard these foreign sounding words and I just sighed and looked at the ceiling and waited for it to be over. I know this all already.

At this point, I not only had drank the koolaid about modesty, but I’d also picked up that all girls who are pretty, dress to be pretty and make an effort in general to be pretty were shallow and stupid and they deserved everything bad that happened to them.

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I made sure no one made that mistake about me. I wanted to be known as kind and hardworking and smart, and I couldn’t be any of those things and also look pretty. Obviously. Shout out to my gauchos and my dad’s sweatshirt for keeping me company those semesters. I dressed up on occasion, but it made me so uncomfortable because everyone would inevitably make it into a big thing because I rarely looked human. One day I did my hair and makeup and wore a skirt and tank top and I literally had to coax myself out my dorm door by repeating, It’s not a sin to look pretty”, a million times. After the reactions I got from friends (who meant so well) and guys I ‘sort of’ knew, I didn’t do that as much.

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There was a guy that I was talking to at one point who kept shaming me for wearing shorts and commenting on my Facebook pictures telling me to “put on some pants”, so that didn’t help anything. I borrowed my sisters green prom dresses for a formal event and everyone made comments about how they couldn’t believe my chest looked like that. I tugged on my dress all night and turned sideways in every photo so no one could see my boobs.

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By the time I got to LA, I officially had less rules for my clothes than I’ve ever had and I finally felt safe to jump into the lazy, bohemian look that I really loved—I mean, it’s Los Angeles.

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Who’s going to comment on my clothes? No one, but I there was a girl I knew that always would talk about how guys were looking at me and objectifying me any time I was with her and that helped build the walls of my complex higher. This was also the first time a bathing suit picture of me made it to the internet, nearly six years after I first got Facebook.

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I was twenty-one. I was trying to make sense of the world outside of the rules that used to make so much sense and it was a little jarring. I felt both free and lost all at once.

Whether it was projection of internalized shame at failing to measure up to some unspoken rule or the criticisms of others, or a little bit of both, it messed me up.

BUT tune in next week to hear about how I realized that I get to evaluate my experiences and that I don’t have to accept everything as the truth and now I just live my life not crippled by fear.

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