daughter day one

“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”Luke 8:48

“Daughter.”

In a time and culture where fathers advocated for their daughters, this woman came to Jesus alone and ashamed. She was known to all as unclean, and there was no father to defend her or speak on her behalf.

Upon touching His cloak, she was healed from her ailment, from what made her unclean.

Yet, it is the word “daughter” that restores her identity and heals her soul. In a situation where no other defended her, Jesus chose to be her father. With one word, Jesus filled the lack and accepted her. She was clean. She was directly addressed. She was seen―seen by a man who would call her His child.

I have always been uncomfortable with this relationship of father and daughter. It is the identity of God that I relate to the least. While I never expected God to hurt or betray me in this role, I simply didn’t get it. I didn’t understand who I was in this relationship or who He was. I didn’t know how to be a daughter to a father, and I didn’t know how a father would normally relate to a daughter.

Several months ago, I felt that God was inviting me to discover this with Him. I felt that He wanted me to know Him fully, and this was the relationship that was most awkward for us.

So I did what any daughter who grew up with an absent father would.

I turned around and walked―no―ran the other way. I could not get away fast enough.

Because I know that exploring this would ultimately bring me back to the father I never had, the father who never wanted me.

I spent years trying to heal, forgive, and move forward from the abandonment I experienced at his hand. While in college, I had finally done it. I was at peace that he was not there, and I decided I would forgive him so as to not be eaten alive by the pain and anger I felt toward him. His sin was my sin―just manifested differently.

This was the place I refused to go. I already healed. That was it. I would revisit this no more. So I built up my walls, hardened my heart, and wondered why I felt so empty.

(Pro-tip to those who receive an invitation from the God of the universe, Maker of heaven and earth: take it.)

Last night, my mom and I somehow got on the subject of my father. My mom asked me a question about his new family, and I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. So she told me about an article she found, and I looked it up.

Within seconds, I realized this was the biggest mistake I’d made in quite some time.

What I was looking at was an interview about my father, conducted by a girl who could possibly be my half-sister.

I read about his upbringing in China, which was similar to my mother’s. I read about how he did not want his children to experience not having food or clothing like he once did. I read that he came to America in 1988 and struggled until he learned English and could open his own business.

And I was angry.

In one sentence, he managed to insult both my mother and me, as he didn’t seem to care if we had food or clothing. The factual error of 1988 tells me that no one knows about my part in his history because we were a family in America by 1987. There were no details of how he came to America because that would have to include the ugly story of how he married a woman so that he could join her family, who was beginning to emigrate from their side of the Pacific. And then sired a child with her that he did not raise.

And then at the end of his interview, he boldly proclaimed that what he was most grateful for was that he would not have known Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior had he not come to America.

I was livid.

We may have happened before this, but we still happened. There was no attempt to reconcile, despite having been in contact with one of my uncles for years. This made me furious, but my anger only served to mask the deep hurt that was coming from a wound I thought was long closed.

This was why I didn’t take that invitation. This was why I ran. I had been hurt by this man long enough, and I did not want to invite him to live rent-free in my head once more. It took too much to heal the first time.

I have written countless letters, journal entries, and at least one poem regarding what I was feeling toward him, how I was processing, what I needed to do. And a few years ago, I wrote him an eviction notice. I was free from him. Finally.

I do not regret my life without him, despite having wondered more times than I’d like to admit, “why not me?”, “what would it have been like?” I was sent into the fire early, and from there, one can burn, or one can rise. It’s no one’s choice but your own.

But in the midst of this, God blessed my father and allowed him to gift the character “phoenix” toward my name as part of His plan: before I was even born, God declared that I would be victorious.

I was afraid to come to this place because I did not want the wound to reopen. I feared returning to a place of darkness, anger, hatred. But it seems the difference this time is that the wound is shallow and uninfected, and I am pressed to address it while it is so. And it is God who will have to help me keep it this way because my natural leaning would be to pick at it.

To be here now, as difficult as it is, God had gone to drastic measures to barrel through all of the walls I had built up, for the sole purpose of extending His invitation to me again.

God is a God of second chances, and when your heart is as hard as your head, He will break that rock-hard heart to give you one that beats and lives, and ask you to try again.

A spiritual mentor recently told me that because I have endured this much pain, my capacity for hope is this much greater. My wounds and scars run deep enough that the foundation is set for hope and love to be poured in to fill these broken places.

Months have passed since I was invited on this adventure. I was not ready to accept it then, but I think I am now.

It feels like the first step toward something huge.

I am terrified of the idea, but I am also feeling something I didn’t feel the first time.

Hope.

The one gift my father gave me is also my greatest burden. To bestow the name “phoenix” is ironic and fitting and everything I don’t want to bear. But it is a name that is redeemed because God called me something else.

Daughter.

He saw my lack and chose to fill it. He saw my wound and chose to heal it. With one word, He claimed me as His own―His own daughter. With this word, He chased away the hurt, shame, and lies that I had chosen to believe for much of my life.

He gifted me the bearing of a phoenix to fulfill the promise He made to me with this name. I will be refined with fire in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10)

And a phoenix will always rise.

Above the ashes.

I am a daughter―His daughter. And I will learn to live what that means.

This is day one.

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broken cisterns

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.” —John 4:7-30

What kind of water have I been drinking? Where have I gone to fill my waterpot?

The water that I’ve been drinking is intimacy—or rather, an imitation of it. Growing up, I’d never seen an example of intimacy (healthy or not) between a man and a woman. There is a great desire in me to seek it, find it, and experience it. However, I am looking in dodgy places with cheap copies.

Intimacy is not cheap.

Intimacy requires time, energy, effort, amongst other things, and I have been left thirsty because I chase after these substandard replicas that appease my thirst for the moment, then I come back when I can afford to, and repeat the cycle, investing mass amounts of valuable time and energy into something that is worth as much as a piece of rubbish on the side of the road.

Then appears this Man, sitting by the well I draw my water from, asking me to give Him a drink.

“This isn’t fit for You, Sir.”

“Let Me give you what is, then. And we will drink of it together.”

This Man, this Jesus, this Messiah, offers me His water, which satisfies the soul and more than quenches the thirst. He tells me this water is alive, that if I drink of it, I will never thirst for any other water again. All other water will pale in comparison and be revealed for what they truly are.

Poison.

Filling ourselves with something other than Jesus will never satisfy us. The water we drink is dead and only satisfies for the moment, and when we are thirsty again, when the tickle rises in the back of our throats, we guzzle more in hopes that we will not be thirsty anymore—merely to repeat the process shortly after and hoping again that it will be satisfied. (What’s that they say of the definition of insanity?)

“None but God can satisfy the longings of an immortal soul; that as the heart was made for Him, so He only can fill it.” —Richard Chenevix

The body, the flesh, has a time limit. We’re given 70, 80, 90, maybe 100 years, and to God, it is a blink of an eye. Each soul will have eternal life—the question is only where we will spend it. God existed in eternity past and will exist in eternity future. Absolutely only an eternal God can satisfy an eternal soul. He created each of us with a purpose, and in seeking our purpose from Him, He is glorified, and we are filled by Him to do His work.

“Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.” —Proverbs 27:20

Death and destruction are being filled day after day with more and more of the lost, and yet they keep taking. Our desires are just as demanding and gluttonous. We keep going back to the well day in and day out to find a way to be satisfied, but that can never happen. It takes an exorbitant amount of effort to seek after a water source that does not satisfy. In running toward it, we spend ourselves and become more thirsty, and the swamp tempts us with the rancid water that it holds, and we, being so desperately thirsty, drink it in gulps and allow it to pollute us from the inside.

“…and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.” —Ephesians 4:19

It becomes easier to sin each time we choose to do it. Our guilt may be heavy, but our thirst is more urgent still. We see the well for what it is; we know it is unclean, made up of the dirtiest, most putrid stuff we’d ever seen.

But it is there.

It is the closest thing to an oasis we’ve seen in this desert, and we are parched from our journey to seek it out—it is a destructive cycle indeed. After a few gulps, it’s not so bad. After a few gulps, we’ve drowned out the Voice of our Maker that tells us this water is poisoned.

“For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” —Jeremiah 2:13

We are a prideful people who are trying to usurp God’s place in the universe. This verse has roots deep in Eden. In the Garden, our sin wasn’t merely disobedience—disobedience was the medium by which we truly sinned. Our sin was that we told God He didn’t know what was best for us. We told God that we could take care of ourselves. We told God that we are God.

But we cannot be God.

Our feeble minds and the dirt that formed our bodies are not meant to hold God. We are broken cisterns. We cannot hold all that is God inside us—we would go mad trying. But we put a lot of effort into trying, and we put a lot of effort into failing.

“Men are in a restless pursuit after satisfaction in earthly things. They will exhaust themselves in the deceitful delights of sin, and, finding them all to be vanity and emptiness, they will become very perplexed and disappointed. But they will continue their fruitless search. Though wearied, they still stagger forward under the influence of spiritual madness, and though there is no result to be reached except that of everlasting disappointment, yet they press forward. They have no forethought for their eternal state; the present hour absorbs them. They turn to another and another of earth’s broken cisterns, hoping to find water where not a drop was ever discovered yet.” —Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Human pride is an amazing thing. We will go to the point where we are broken and beat up and near death, when we can receive that which we are searching for should we simply extend a hand forward. And yet, we ignore it and try to gain it with our own will and strength. It is the age-old concept of karma—as we reap, so will we sow.

But then in bursts Grace—glorious in its modesty, simple in its complexity—to tell us that we are doing it wrong. Grace topples our defenses—the bricks we lay in stacks to build walls high above our heads—and tells us we are wasting our time trying to fulfill something that was fulfilled by God, trying to attain something that God has freely extended to us.

“I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.” At this point His disciples came, and they were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why do You speak with her?” So the woman left her waterpot, and went into the city and said to the men, “Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?” They went out of the city, and were coming to Him. —John 4:7-30

When one meets God, all other things seem trivial. The things we thought we needed, the things we sought to grasp and keep, the things we filled our broken vessels with—all of it is rubbish when faced with Heaven’s glory. The Samaritan woman met God face-to-face. What good is a waterpot after this meeting? He sparked something in her, made her curious about Him. The Messiah would surely prove more interesting than a waterpot. He was more important than anything else she did or had to do that day, and He was so important that she dropped everything and hurried back to town to face the people she lived in community with—all of whom seemed to know about her history since she so casually mentions that He knew all she had done—and told all of them about Him.

We seek to satisfy our desires on our own, but that only leaves us thirsty again later. The bait is placed in front of our eyes in our lowest, most desperate moments of hunger. And we take it, even knowing a hook spears the bait and will spear our cheek and hold us captive. Then along comes Jesus, who—seeing all of the hooks that pierce our flesh, indicting us on account of evidence of the baits we gobbled up as though we were starved for years—gently removes them and places our hand in His in order to show us a better way.

Jesus is the only one who can satisfy us eternally. Nothing is hidden to Him, and though He sees all that I have done, He refuses to let all that I’ve done be all that I am or will be. Instead, He says that He is the fountain that won’t run dry, that He is the one who will give me rest. Instead, he satisfies my desperation to be filled and continually fills me each day with what I need. I want my entire life to change as a result of this teaching. What more can I do or give as response to having been given more than what I could ever hope to deserve?

Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost… Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David. —Isaiah 55:1, 3

This water is quite possibly the most intimate thing that exists in the universe. It comes from a Man who has been so wronged by all people—by me—in so many ways, yet He offers it to each of us in reconciliation to Himself and lets it cleanse us from the inside, blessing us in order to fulfill His promise for His glory.

sealed by Spirit

Sin, by definition in the Bible, is not wronging another person. It is assaulting the glory of God, rebelling against God. Sin, by definition, is a vertical phenomenon. — John Piper

Ephesians 4:30 says not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, who seals us as God’s own.

To grieve = to oppress or wrong; to inflict sorrow on.

Grief goes beyond anger; it is the intersection of anger and love. It is anger after being stripped of its bite, its bitterness; anger softened by affection, turning it toward the offense and not the offender.

What does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit?

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…”

AKA.

Do not stir up this painful anger soaked in love, do not distress Him, do not cause Him to mourn.

“… by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

We carry the Holy Spirit with us everyday: when we love, when we laugh, when we worship.

When we sin.

No wonder David said, “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight.”

Just before this confession, David also described sin to be “transgression” and “iniquity.” And forgiveness is described to “blot out,” to “wash,” to “cleanse.” These words express the seriousness of sin and the great lengths God goes to in removing ours.

Our sin grieves the Holy Spirit.

Grief is anger tamed by love.

The Holy Spirit loves us.

He loved us without beginning. The words used to describe the love of the Father and of the Son apply also to the Spirit. His love is just as eternal, just as sovereign, just as loyal, just as unchanging, just as unfathomable.

He loves us by sanctifying us to be more like our Savior. He marks us as God’s own. When we stray, when we sin, when we grieve Him by our sin, He pursues us and brings us back to Him.

This is why it is only against God that we sin. Yes, we do sin against others, but it is first God that we grieve before all else. It is first God that we offend; He lives in us. Sin is disobeying God’s Law, going against His holiness, denying that He alone satisfies our souls completely and totally, rather than our addictions (which, isn’t the reason why we are addicted to these things because they do not satisfy?).

When Nathan exposed David’s sin, he did not pick at what David had done to others (which were definitely legitimately sin); he instead asked David, “Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight?”

God’s love is loyal. The Holy Spirit’s love is loyal.

Was it not the Spirit who showed us Christ, who brought us to Calvary, to the base of the cross of Jesus? What love is this, that He should bring me to the place, the moment that would change my life forever?

Because of the Holy Spirit, I can fall in love with Jesus and be His bride. Because He let me see who Jesus was; because He broke my hardened heart and made way for Jesus to rest His throne in it. Because He opened my blind eyes, opened my deaf ears, opened my clenched fist to allow me to see and receive His grace.

He loves me as deeply as my Father and my Savior. He compels me to return after I wound His heart, after I grieve Him. He calls me to confess, to release all the dirtiness of my life into His hands; to repent and replace those things with gifts given by Him for the work of His glory.

No faith is genuine which does not bear the seal of the Spirit. No love, no hope can ever save us, except it be sealed with the Spirit of God, for whatever hath not his seal upon it is spurious. Faith that is unsealed may be a poison, it may be presumption; but faith that is sealed by the Spirit is true, real, genuine faith. — Charles Spurgeon

He calls me His and brands me with Himself to set me apart as His most beloved bride, daughter, friend, and servant. He walks through life with me, and He is a Friend and Helper beyond my wildest dreams.

I do not want to grieve this Friend again. Through I know, in my imperfection, it is inevitable that I will fail and sin, I pray that I will recover quickly, seek Him out immediately, and be willing to be humbled, discipled, changed for the better—because He will not leave me where I land.

Because He loved me, I can love Him back.

What a wonderful gift of grace and love we have.

It’s a Wonderful Life

I could have died when I was fourteen.

No, I didn’t run up against any near death accidents or get kidnapped by a maniac or anything that dramatic. No one was threatening my life either.

Except me.

My dear reader, I know by now you’ve picked up a bit on how traumatic my childhood and youth were. What I haven’t really talked about is how I’d coped at the time. Yes, I’m a tougher, wholer, person today, but then? Then, I was a mess. Then, I was tired. Then, I was sick of it. Then, I was ready to end it.

Day after day of surviving, of doing everything possible to not go back to a house and see the relatives who had invaded what was home for eleven years—it wears on you. Not having a home, not having a place to belong, to feel safe—or rather to have had it ripped from you—it wears on you.

I sat in my bathroom one day; my eyes were dried up from tears long shed. My heart was weary, and my body followed. I sobbed a tearless fit, and I wondered, “how much longer?” How much longer do I have to feel so cornered? How much longer do I have to feel so broken? How much longer do I have to feel so oppressed? How much longer do I have to feel so unwanted? How much longer do I have to feel so unloved?

And a solitary answer drowned all other thoughts.

Not much longer… if that’s your desire.

I could end it. I could finish it. I could finally stop feeling lonely and hurt because of my oppressors’ actions and words. The power was in my hands to never suffer again.

But then a rebuttal resounded through all of the dark corners of my battered soul.

If you do this, they win.

What did they care about what happened to me? Would it have filled them with remorse?

No. No, I doubt it would’ve. They were incapable of remorse.

Instead, my last action on Earth would’ve been breaking my mother’s heart and leaving her completely alone with them.

What a legacy that would’ve been. I would’ve proven to them that they could overpower me.

If I ended it this way, it would’ve been my loss.

And I have never been a gracious loser.

My focus shifted at that moment. I was going to come out of this a winner. I was not willing to allow anyone that much control over me to the point where I no longer had the ability to fight back, prove them wrong, and heal.

So instead, I thought of how I could win, how I could make something of myself, prove that they couldn’t break me.

Being that I was fourteen, plans to change the world weren’t exactly on my mind. I started small. I was going to be a leader in my extra-curriculars, and I was going to graduate high school, and have a life defined by my own terms.

What prompted this entry… you know, I’m not completely sure. I just started thinking about the people in my life and how much I would’ve missed out on had I not chosen to live.

I would’ve died never knowing what family really was.

I’ve just started figuring it out within roughly the last year. I would’ve missed out on redemption: the experience of real family and unconditional love. And I would not have hope for everlasting life but would be living in everlasting death.

Looking back at this time, it’s clear to me that, in this moment before I even knew Him, God had His sight set upon me.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.”—John 10:27-28

It makes no sense, right? As far as I know, there has never been a Christian in my bloodline. I was a Buddhist in an abusive situation.

And God said, “I want her.”

In the midst of a hopeless situation, God saw me and led me into His arms and shared with me His family.

No one else can write a story this good. What a legacy this will be!

My prayer for you, dear reader, is that you know just how loved you are; that when you see no hope, God will shower hope on you; that when you want to give up and let go, you find something to live for, no matter how small it is.

Because you never know when a small thing can change your life in a big way.

innocence

In front of her was a Man who was offering her a magnificent necklace. On it was the most stunning stone she’d ever seen. When the light caressed it just right, so many colors exploded from the jewel, and it shined radiantly.

“This is for you,” the Man said.

“Me?” she questioned, confused.

“Yes, I bought this and am giving it to you.”

She smiled and shyly began to reach for the chain.

And that was when she noticed how dirty her hands were.

Embarrassed, she withdrew her hands. Her eyes were fixated on the dirt, the blood, the filth that stained them. And then she looked down and realized it covered the rest of her, too. She was so dirty and messy and pathetic-looking.

How could she accept this gorgeous piece of jewelry? How could she ever wear it when she was sullied to this degree? It would look ridiculous.

She dropped her hands and looked apologetically at Him. She needed to decline His gracious gift and remove herself from His presence. Much like the necklace, the Man was also too beautiful, too pure, too clean to be associated with her. She took a step back.

And then it started raining.

She looked up at the sky. Hadn’t it been clear and blue up till a second ago? How was it suddenly raining?

A soft laughter escaped the Man’s lips. She looked at Him then, and He gazed at her like she had gazed at the stone: like she was something rare and precious. He nodded toward her hands. She brought them up in front of her face.

The rain was washing away the muck.

A smile burst across her face. She turned her face to the sky so that it, too, could be washed. She held her arms out to the side and began to spin. Laughter spilled from her lips like a kiss from the sun. She closed her eyes and smiled, reveling in the feel of rain against her skin.

Then she remembered she wasn’t alone.

She stopped twirling in the rain and focused her attention on the Man once more. He stood there, watching her spin, an amused smile decorating His calm face.

“The rain I give you is called ‘Grace.’ I’ve showered you with it and made you clean.” He held the necklace out once more. “This,” He regarded the jewel, “this is called ‘Forgiveness.’ I purchased it for you. It is available to you should you choose to accept it.”

She transfixed her gaze on the gem. Such a beautiful gift, and He was offering it to her.

“I give you forgiveness—wear it on your heart. Your innocence is restored through what I freely extend to you. I have washed you clean and declared you righteous before Me.”

To accept something as precious as forgiveness, as delicate as innocence, was beyond comprehension. It was right in front of her, and He granted it to her as a gift. She knew she didn’t deserve it, but He was giving it to her because He loved her. Her grin stretched so wide across her face, the corners of her lips reached her ears. She nodded her acceptance.

“I also betroth you to Me with this and with your acceptance. I will betroth you to Me forever, in righteousness and justice, lovingkindness and compassion. I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you will know Me” (Hosea 2:19-20).

I have been given a gift I could never afford to buy, a jewel I could never earn with all my days’ wages. He has bestowed to me new innocence, and I have become His beloved.

a wedding at calvary

There is a love letter inked in the blood of a Prince. It tells the story of His faithful devotion to His bride. He loved her at her worst and never stopped pursuing her. He pursued her to the point of death and pursued her still. The grave could not keep Him from the love of His life.

It tells of the sacrifice He made for her sake. For her, He relinquished His throne to become as common as she, clothing Himself in the rags of flesh and bone to meet her where she stood.

And still she ran from Him. His love was dangerous – it demanded her life and the whole of her broken heart.

And still He pursued her, relentless in His purpose to make her a worthy bride. His love was dangerous – it demanded His life and the whole of His broken heart.

He gave His life for a wedding at Calvary, where He reconciled her to Himself and made her His forever. For her, He died her death that she may never need to experience it.

His love.

His bride.

This love story is as brutal as it is beautiful, as real as it is fantastical. It is stained with blood and washed with forgiveness.

Rejoice, for the Prince has won His bride.

prayer from a precious heart

(My dear reader, I welcome you to take a journey with me and keep me accountable to this prayer. Pray for me as I come to mind, and walk with me as I take my next steps on this path He’s called me on.)

Beloved, my heart is torn. Who am I to give it to? It is to belong to You, and You will make it habitable for Yourself and Your purposes, yet it is rebellious and ravenous to be filled and loved. Teach me to love whom and what You love and hate what You hate. Give me not a stronger heart but a tender one, able to be broken and recreated to the glory of Your Name; a malleable one, able to be shaped and changed for Your purposes.

Thank You for blessing me with a heart that is strong enough to risk to love and love deeply, but I ask for Your heart that I may risk everything to love even deeper. The risk You took for love far exceeds any attempt I will ever make.

Let my worries and my insecurities be placed in Your hands. Help me trust they will be cared for and worked out there according to Your plan and Your desires. Keep me from trying to snatch them back from You, and focus my heart to see You clearer, love You stronger, and run toward You faster. Bless me to be allowed to break for You, to be redeemed by You, to be completely dependent on You and utterly desperate for You.

My heart I give to You. Mold me as You see fit, refine me in the fire that I may hope to shine more brightly and beautifully than gold and precious silver. Ruin me for the ordinary, and let my life continue to be an extraordinary testament to Your power, love, and faithfulness.

Beloved, in Your hands, I place my hands; in Your heart, I place my heart.

I lay myself at the mercy of Your glory, for the completion of Your love story.

Grace Complete

“It is finished.”

The words that marked a dying man’s last breath.

His words are a comfort to know that it is by grace we are saved, that not of works so that no one can boast. It is finished because He has finished it.

What is it about grace that frightens us so much? The idea of receiving something with no strings attached. Don’t we do that for our friends and loved ones? Then if we who are evil know how to give good gifts to those we love, how much more will our Father who is in Heaven give what is good those who ask of Him? The gospel is His gift to us. Gospel from Old English meaning “good news.” Can there be a greater gift than perfect love and divine royal blood given on our behalf? Can there be better news?

Yet the idea of grace has us running and screaming like the plague. From a God who is so amazing, we believe there must be some kind of “catch” to this gift. Do we question when we receive a gift from our friends? Generally not. There might be a “why” involved, but we usually accept it because we know they gave from their love as a means to show us they care. So why is it different when God is giving us a gift? He’s given many others before. Our breath and our life are beautiful gifts from God. Yet He loves us so much that He is willing to go even further. So that we are not forever bound by sin, God cast Adam and Eve away from the Tree of Life, and though because of their sin they could not reside with God, He never left them. His presence is a gift we receive when we choose to receive His grace.

What is it about grace that frightens us to the point where we decide that it can’t be all there is? To the point where we add onto it things that really don’t factor into what grace in the Gospel does for us? We tell people to live this way or that way. We tell people that they are wrong. We tell people that they have to DO MORE STUFF to keep their salvation. We profile a believer and tell others to measure up to it.

Beloved, don’t you see that these are our responses to His gift rather than ways to receive it?

Because if these are what’s important….. why did the story not end sooner? Why didn’t it end with Jesus’ baptism? Why didn’t Jesus just say “peace out” after He gave us some nice lessons? Why did Jesus have to keep pushing the buttons of the religious leaders who thought they had salvation worked out? Why did Jesus have to shed His blood and suffocate on a cross?

Do you know the Savior? Why is He the Savior if His gift is not enough? If what He went through is not enough to give us life? We spit on grace when we choose works instead. If it is by our means and our works and things that are humanly possible, then why did the sinless God have to die on our behalf? What kept Him on that tree, waiting for death to take Him?

Love. Love that killed a man who had no fault. Do you know that the Savior is in love with you?

Grace.

Grace, beloved. Grace that tells us this is something that we can NEVER earn, that our sin is something we can never atone for on our own. To atone for a sin, one must give his life. The wages of sin is death. And this man took our death that when the righteous Judge looks upon us, He sees the blood of the Lamb who was given on our behalf. In the Old Covenant, God allowed an animal to be sacrificed for a family’s sin. Blood was shed and a death gave way to life. There were restrictions. The animal had to be pure and devoid of blemishes. The blood of the last Passover Lamb signed the New Covenant. That through this sacrifice all mankind can come to the Father. And who was more blameless than Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

God has written us a beautiful love story through the life of His Son. So why are we trying to alter it? God is as creative as He is sovereign. Just look at the world around us. The green leaves of spring topped off with blossoms of bright reds and pinks. The stars that dot the night sky. The sun that gives us warmth. The human body and all its complexities. Can man or other creature have this creativity?

Grace came from Love. True Love died to bring us to Himself, that we may die to our old selves and have life anew in His resurrection. Grace is grace because it cannot be earned. Grace is beautiful because it cannot be earned.

“It is finished.”

If He says it’s finished…… I’m sure as heck going to believe it’s finished.

To Have This Dance

My attempt at writing an otherwise 3rd person entry in 1st person. I think it started off artistically better than it ended, and I DEFINITELY shifted tense part-way through and didn’t feel like fixing it, but the message is there. I might keep adding to this since I felt like I rushed the ending a bit……… or re-write it in the 3rd person cuz I like writing that way better. ha.

Anywhoo, enjoy.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

In a tattered, weather-worn dress, I ran through the woods. It was pouring, and I needed shelter. As I continued to run, dim lights began to dot my vision before me. Though the trees still dip down and obscure my view, I realized that these lights must belong to a magnificent house.

And what a house it was! As I drew nearer, more and more lights come into focus. I came to an abrupt stop as I stood point blank in front of the mansion. My words were lost as I’d never seen such a sight in my life.

But I wouldn’t find shelter here. My hair was matted against my face, my clothes a mottled mess of mud and rain, clinging to me like a leech, my skin is caked with dirt and blood. No, I didn’t belong here. I should leave before anyone notices me staring from the yard.

As I turned to leave, I heard the front door of the luxurious mansion open. I wanted to run for it, but I just stood frozen, unsure what would happen next.

“Won’t you come in?” a kind voice called.

I turned around to meet him eye-to-eye. There wasn’t much to this man. On any other day, I probably wouldn’t have noticed him or remember his face. But as I stood only yards away from shelter, his face would be one I would never forget.

“It’s pouring out here!” he called again. Only then did I realize I was staring. “Come in and warm yourself up!”

Without passing another heartbeat, I tugged up my tattered skirt so I could run easier and bee-lined for the house.

Once inside, I was overwhelmed by the smell of roasting meats and fragrant wine. Warm, pillowy bread had just come out of the oven somewhere and was being taken to the guests for their sampling. I stood at the door, taking in the sight of so many well-dressed, smiling people, and all I could think about was how much I didn’t belong here.

My rescuer was whisked away almost instantly as many began to bombard him with a myriad of questions from his opinion on the wine, to his opinion of the house, to his opinion on some woman’s dress and hair. I was left alone at the entrance of the house, trying to ignore my hunger – hunger for food, for acceptance, for hope. I continued to observe while ignoring the disgusted looks on the faces of those who bothered to look my way.

From what I was able to gather from floating chatter, my rescuer’s name was Jesus, and this party was held in His honor. Exactly what He has done to have such an extravagant party was not the question. It was more like what hasn’t He done? Among the guests in the ballroom was a man who spent his entire life blind who received his sight from Him and a woman who had bled for twelve years who was healed by just touching His clothes. Then there was a soldier whose son was healed through his belief and a man who was once disabled, dancing and laughing with his two friends.

Some others seemed skeptical of this man, attending this event with the intent on learning more about Him in their own way, for their own intentions. Some scoffed at the mention of His stories. Others were curious. These people stood in my general area, looking into the ballroom.

Eventually, the man of the hour walked toward us, inviting the spectators to join in. Some eyed Him warily; others ignored Him completely.

I couldn’t take my eyes off Him.

There was a radiance from Him that I couldn’t quite figure out. It seemed to be coming from His very soul. The smile in His eyes was as handsome and inviting as the one on His face.

Still, others refused His invitation to join Him.

Then His gaze shifted to me.

“How about you?” He said. Then He extended His hand toward me. “Will you dance with Me?”

I couldn’t help but stare. Me? Wet and pathetic-looking after running for hours, days, in the rain? Dancing with this amazing and wonderful man?

His hand lingered in the air between us as I realized I hadn’t given Him my answer. As much as I wanted to throw open the door and run back out into the rain so that all of the nicely dressed people wouldn’t have the pleasure of staring at and pointing at and mocking me as I stood next to this Man in all His radiant splendor, my curiosity and attraction to Him overpowered all other thought.

Slowly and shyly, I slipped my hand into His and allowed Him to lead me to the ballroom.

As we began, my steps were awkward and heavy, stumbling over my feet and His multiple times.

“Let Me lead,” He whispered.

I looked at Him as a warm smile drew across His face. A flush rose to my cheeks as I turned away and nodded. Soon, all else was cast from my mind as I followed His graceful steps around the room.

Then suddenly, a voice cried from outside the ballroom.

“Look at Him! What kind of King associates Himself with the likes of that?”

At that, the crowd outside the room cackled with furious laughter. It was then that I realized how different we were. It was then that I came back to reality.

I look for the first time in what seemed like ages at my mud-stained dress, remembered my disheveled hair that hung in clumps and caked with dirt, my blistered feet and cut up skin from all the times I ran and fell.

A King.

It wasn’t good for a man with His reputation and standing to be seen with me. I began to loosen my grip on His hand and shoulder when He suddenly tightened His hold on me.

“You’re here with me. I invited you, so don’t think about everyone else here.” His voice was like diamonds – beautiful yet strong. He continued dancing with me as though nothing ever happened, spinning me and whirling me around and across the floor.

As the music drew to a close, He led me to a room filled with the most beautiful gowns I’d ever seen.

“Choose one,” He said simply.

My gasp caught in my throat as I registered what He had just said to me. He smiled and then left the room so I could change and clean up.

After dressing and deep cleaning, I retraced my steps back to the ballroom. I looked left and right, trying to spot Him. Then in the sea of faces, I saw Him – eyes warm with kindness and love, a smile laced with joy and pride. I gathered my courage and walked up to Him.

“Will You dance with me, my Lord?” I asked.

His smile stretched even wider as He held out His hand toward me. As we danced, I couldn’t help but think of how much this Man changed my life in such little time. Earlier in the evening, I was running through the woods in the biggest storm I’d ever encountered and covered head to toe with exhaustion and dirt from my journey. And now I’m in the most lavish house I’d ever seen, dressed in a beautiful gown and dancing with my Savior.

“Why me?” I asked.

He tilted His head slightly as if considering my question. “You accepted my invitation.”

“That’s it?” I was quite confused to say the least.

“You trusted Me to shelter you, and you took my hand and danced with Me.”

I lost all my words as I listened to His answer.

“Now, will you let me into your heart like I’ve taken you into Mine?”

As tears began to stream down my face, all I could do was nod and nod vigorously.

“I love You,” I blurted out. I was a little embarrassed having just met the Man not too long ago, but there’s no denying that in my heart, I truly loved Him for saving me.

“I love you, too,” He answered. “Since before you were born, I loved you.”

I knew from this that I wasn’t just a dirty girl in a nice dress. He’s washed me clean of the dirt that clung to my heart.

This Man saved me from the rain and gave me shelter. And He proceeded to save me by giving me identity and a foundation to stand on.

All I can be is thankful, and all I can do is serve Him. And with my whole heart, my whole mind, my whole soul, and my whole spirit, I will love Him because He loves me with all He is.

Who am I?

“They will fight against you, but they will not overcome you for I am with you to deliver you,” declares the LORD.

Who am I? Who am I that the God of the universe would even know my name and care about my details? Who am I that the Creator of everything spent time to give me the life I have, to give me a story to love? True, this story has had its fair share of scars and tears, but from these scars and tears grew joy and smiles and overwhelming love and thankfulness.

Who am I that a man should bear my punishment? That I should be spared and He should be suffering? Who am I that I should receive forgiveness when I truly deserve not an ounce of it?

Jeremiah 1:19 promises trials. They will come from every side, every angle, everywhere a shadow casts. They will come in their multitudes, equipped with the necessary weapons to defeat us. Lust, hunger, desire, money, stability – their weapons are great, and they know which to use and how to use them most effectively.

But they will not overcome us. He is with us to rescue us. When we think we cannot overcome temptation, He shows us we can through Him. When we think all hope is lost, He shows us our hope is in Him. When we think it’s the end for us, He shows us our new beginning with Him.

Why? Why is the weak and timid sparrow allowed to become a strong and spirited phoenix? “The appearance of a phoenix” – a name to live up to for the rest of my life, rising from the ashes to a new beginning. Who am I that i should be allowed to bear such a name? That I should see trial after trial become blessing after blessing?

Who am I that You should even care about me? That I should even receive a second glance?

You’re My daughter, He says. It’s as simple as that. He smiles then. And I love you.

I am Your beloved. I am Your rebellious daughter. I break Your heart, come back for food and shelter, then I break it again. Your love is greater and stronger than anything I could ever begin to dream about. It is a love that sent an innocent Man to die for the most guilty of girls. Who am I that I should receive such a gift?

My daughter.

A betrayer.

My love.

A deserter.

My creation.

A failure.

My image.

One tarnished.

My precious child.

I miss you, Daddy.

This is who I am. I am a failure who’s trying. I am a deserter who’s learning to commit to Him. I am a broken and dirty sinner who’s learning to allow my Father to wash me clean and clothe me in white.

I am Yours. It’s as simple as that.