December 8, 2014

When Sometimes, the Story is Not How You Want It to Be. {A Journal Excerpt}

"More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." -Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson

then... why? 

Maybe I'm praying the wrong prayers?
Maybe God isn't listening to me (which I know isn't true).
Maybe I haven't submitted quite as well as I thought I did.
Maybe it's just me.

But this I know: my God is a God of good gifts.
His desire for me is of good, and not to harm.
What if this story that I want so badly to end "my" way, or what I thought was His way... wasn't good? Wasn't what He wants for me right now?
...isn't necessarily the ending?

and so i wait. 

"Sierra, why is it that you seem to grasp at pain so much? And run to those who are in pain, even when you know you can't help them?"
I paused for a moment.
It was a moment of intense sorrow coupled with intense examination of this intriguing question.
"I suppose... I suppose it's because I'm still learning to let go- constantly learning to. You know how much of an emotional person I am."
She smiles slightly.
"And how I put my heart and soul into almost everything I do or give; and maybe that's wrong. But honestly I think the Kingdom needs emotional people to love... them. Empathetic people.
But you're right... Christ lived and suffered and died to take that pain away. He was in that pain to take mine away, and give us hope instead.
And...while I do live every day in light of that, rejoicing of the purpose and hope and grace He has given me, there are others in darkness and their own pain that have heard that Jesus loves them, but just can't grasp it; and oh~! that makes my heart ache. As a believer... as a redeemed sinner... I've had those hardships and heartaches- those secrets I don't know I'll ever share without once more feeling broken- but nothing compared to my Jesus and His suffering for love of me and you! He has put all those to rest. Life is so much easier knowing that He has already taken the burden from me. I'd rather have more hardships with Hope by my side than very few without. I think it helps when I come to find people in pain because I can tell them that I too have a story. And suddenly? Their trauma can become my trauma I can help them bear for a time until they realize they can bring it to the Cross."

She's silent for a few moments.
"Is it really worth that anxiety and depression you could suffer because of it?"
"Yes! Oh, so worth it. He has taken everything! I want others to learn of His Love and grace and healing, and water from which they can drink and thirst no more."

I suddenly convince myself once again. His way is better than my way, even when I sometimes question the hurt on "bad" days.

"Refiners' fire.." 
I muse. 
"'...though I walk through the valley... I shall fear no evil...' " 
My story I write has holes in it. My characters have holes in them. The story I would write for me... would have the same.
But the story my Father writes for me... is complete.
Is lacking nothing.
Just like He'll make me when He's finished.

and so I wait for the next chapter... 
serving Him as best I can now. 


November 21, 2014

Eucharisteo | v.8

eucharisteo: yoo-khar-is-teh'-o               to be grateful, feel thankful, give thanks. 

"The root word of eucharisteo is charis, meaning “grace.” Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks. Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning “joy.” Charis. Grace. Eucharisteo. Thanksgiving. Chara. Joy." -Ann Voskamp

Being thankful for the little gifts that He gives us in every day life. These posts of "things to be happy about"  will be sporadic until i've reached 1,000. Some will be beautifully worded. Some will be broken. Some will be a short sentence. All will be gifts.


number seventy-one: Early morning photo-shoots after a fresh rain. 

number seventy-two: Actual steam rising to toast my chilly face. So much tea lately. 

number seventy-three: 5 o' clock work mornings manifest themselves in full glory as I watch the sunrise from my little car, shivering and soaking in the wonder of a new day. 

number seventy-four: Slivers of sunlight streaming through the clouds. 

number seventy-five: Apple-picking days with my family- apple cider, apple pies, apple crisp, apples. Oh yes. Quite wonderful. 

number seventy-six: These days, my eighteen-point-seven years could seem like a hundred. And yet, day after day, "My power is made perfect in... you at this place. In your weakness, precious one." Ah, these words. These words make my heart soar. 

number seventy-seven: I am so thankful for prayer. 

number seventy-eight: It's the season to turn on Vince Guaraldi (author of the Peanuts score), and have "fun" as that carries me with a light step through cleaning my room, working on school, etcetera. 

number seventy-nine: I've been the listening ear and recipient to so many different testimonies lately, whether through a few lines dropped online, a close conversation, even my workplace. I'm in awe of the constant weaving of stories that somehow find a small place together at such a time as this, and that i have the privilege of being able to listen and rejoice in my Savior's glory. When two lives collide. 

number eighty: I've been going through 1 Corinthians with my C.B.S. kidlets lately, and studying it myself for the core groups. I can honestly say these ladies are such gifts from the Lord in this season. Older, wiser liver of this life speaking volumes to my younger, broken soul, leaving fingerprints permanent...perhaps without even realizing how much some of her words mean to me. 

number eighty-one: My kidlets- all the time, of course; but there's something special to be dropping off your middle sister to a class and have a little guy of eight or nine from last year's co-op class wave to you ("Hey, Miss Sierra!") and give you the biggest hug he can. I live for moments like these. 

number eighty-two: Ponderings on the words "staying grounded" in the non-spiritual sense. Lord-willing, I'll be stepping out on my own wild, much-needed venture (more on that soon) next September. I've been feeling the need for a change of scene recently, but not keeping my roots in one place can seem overwhelming. I know for a fact, there's nothing beautiful or "romantic" about feeling ground torn from under your feet, having a constant ache in your chest that leaves your knocked on your knees, begging for the pain to cease as much as you prayer for His will be done is ever constant as well; but I also know for a fact.. that beautiful things come from these circumstances. And that there's a journey beyond my wildest dreams ahead. 

number eighty-three: Wide, wild field of open zinnias. 

number eighty-four: As odd as it sounds, I'm so thankful that another set of courses became available (since CLEP's have become a bane to my existence to put it melodramatically)- Western Civ has never been so fantastic (for Western Civ, that is). 

number eighty-five: Worship. 

number eighty-six: Christmas-season scented soaps and candles?

number eighty-seven: Sunrises and sunsets. Dawn and milky dusk. Pastels. 

number eighty-eight: The warm cooing of pigeons from steep rooftops is a comforting sound. They're roosting, gathering together; and I want to do the same. 

number eighty-nine: Entire days I could spend reading to the gentle pitter patter of rain (as the clouds choose, of course) on the windowsill. Honestly, I think about uprooting, and I realize it'll be the moments like these I'll  miss. When I curl up on my bed or in the patch of sunset to my window, and Grace-Hope comes to just sit with me and knit and try to hold some sort of conversation with me while I'm lost. It's simplicity. When Daddy calls me a kitten. When Marmee and I can cook and chit-chat. When Alexandrea and I got for a completely spontaneous hike or photoshoot or something-or-other. 

number ninety: First bonfire. Smoke rising. Chilled faces, toasted warm hands. S'mores. And s'mores. And also, how do I forget every single year how much I enjoy these? 

and in case i don't see you before then, happy thanksgiving. be blessed.

November 13, 2014

Album Review || The Undoing {Steffany Gretzinger}

"The Undoing invites listeners to embrace not so much the destinations we reach with God, but the many processes we walk out in this life with Him: the crucial moments along the way." 

If you've talked to me regarding music or music choices in the past three months, you've probably heard me rave about Steffany Gretzinger's album, The Undoing. A little more than two months ago, I was going through one of the most difficult time's my heart's ever experienced; and then a friend "accidentally" referred me to this album as a "wake-up." I began to listen, and oh, my heart sank deep in immediate, intimate worship with my King. In this review... I hope you give this album a listen as well. I could not say how much the Lord used the words to  draw me ever closer to Jesus; but the tears I felt streaming down my face as I sat basking in His sunlight might come close.

Recently, my sister told me that she'd watched an interview where the artist talked about this being written in a specific order. Basically (long story short), I lost it as I drove her home in the car- because it made that much sense to me; and it made me realize how much more this album was... sent to me. And all I can say is, since Jesus has often spoken to me through music, this is beauty. This is Abba-to-child. I couldn't be more thankful. This is the process of growth, love, pain, and healing. As one of her songs says, "there is reason in the journey; there is purpose in the learning." My prayer is that this will bless you as much as it blessed me in this season.

1- Morning Song.
First off, this is the beginning- in the morning. Make sense? This one is beautiful. "Mercy sings me the promise of Your love, and I'm reminded how far we've come. You're the One that my heart is beating for." 

2- Constant One
The first time I listened to this was on an early morning bike ride. I pray on my bike rides, and when Jesus speaks to me, I call them "bike thoughts." This particular morning was a tough one; and this precious piece of worship came on my shuffle...
"It's amazing how you take me just for who I am, in the valleys and in the mountains." 
Constant One- a simple song of how He is faithful. How He relentlessly chases after our hearts.

3- Out of Hiding
I sing this all the time- without realizing it. I read the words aloud as often as I can, and become overwhelmed just as easily. This is an Abba-to-child song. I listen to this and get chills. You are free in me. I tore the veil for you to come close; there's no reason to stand at a distance anymore. You're not far from Home. 
"Oh as you run what hindered love, will only become part of the story." 
'Everything happens for a reason,' I have to remind myself every day. 'Just trust, Sierra. Just trust. He knows. I am His treasure; He is the Author. He knows the end of the story.'  He did so much for me, for you, on that cross; all He wants is our hearts. 

4- I Spoke Up
I relate to this so much. Short and to the point. How often I can hold all I am feeling and all I hold dear to my heart silent in order to, in essence, please. No more of this. 
"So I spoke up and I spoke out. I learned that love don't hold its tongue, and passion doesn't bow to what they think. It's You and me. Sometimes it's painful to be brave, to look fear in the face and know your name, to find your strength." 
Lord-willing, I'll be going on the mission field next year. I like to capitalize the "Love" in this- because Love doesn't hold its tongue. True Love is brave. If His Love is pulsating through my soul... I cannot be silent about it. I've remained silent far more times than I can count on one hand, and I refuse to have regrets about speaking His Name. 

5- Cecie's Lullaby
"Don't you think I know best?  I've been your Father for a long time." 
Oh my. I type these words and even now realize how much I forget and fall short. He truly knows best. I've been so tired. I'm so tired. 
"No one knows you better than Me." 

6- I'm Letting Go
This could be the song of the year. I wake up to it. I fall asleep on it. I worship to it, cry to it, and long for His presence over and over again- so much it hurts sometimes. 
I chatted with my C.B.S. kidlets this morning about being content and thankful this morning, and it dawned on me how often we need to give thanks- in all circumstances. How often I forget
"You've brought me to the end of myself, and this has been the longest road. Just when my hallelujah was tired, You gave me a new song. I'm letting go, and falling into You. You remind me of things forgotten; You unwind me until I'm totally undone; and with Your arms around me, fear was no match for Your love. Now You've won me. And if I lived a thousand lifetimes, and wrote a song for every day- still there would be no way to say how You have loved me." 
No matter how often I think I know where I am going, I need to remember to live with open hands. I had begun to close my hands, and He had to pry them open again; and it hurt. But it was only to draw me back to Himself. "He's not finished yet, Sierra. Let Him work. Let Him stir. Let Him move." 

7- Promise I Always Will 
I don't like listening to this one. It's sad, and could be somewhat regarded as a secular song (think the "love" portion of the themes of growth, love, pain and healing). But it's beautiful, and I end up listening to it anyway since "it's part of the story."  I'll leave it at that. 
"Before we burn down all our bridges, let’s look a while on what we've built."

8- Steady Heart (feat. Amanda Cook)
This is one of my constant prayers: lead me on.
"Steady heart that keeps on hoping, lead me on. And as the dawn breaks and the clouds clear, in an open space, together we will run." 
We will run after You, Lord. Though the sky is dark, You have promised to lead us, You have promised to guide us with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire. He does not bring us this far to leave us now. 

9- No Fear in Love
Perfect Love casts out fear. I've come to a point where I am uncertain, and am learning that, since my God is Love, Love holds the pen to my future. I have no fear of what's to come; He will carry me. There's peace and grace in such a thought. 
"Stir in me a love that's deep, a love that's wide, a love that's sweet; and help me, Lord, to never keep it to myself. And if my heart should dimly burn, and if my feet should fail to run, call my name and I will come right back to You. I wanna stay close to You. It's really that simple. I wanna stay close to You my whole life long."  
Help me, Lord, to never keep that precious Love to myself; help it to constantly pour without bounds from my soul. 

10- Open Up Let the Light In
After the previous cry of worship... the music continues right into this, and builds. The simplest six words are sung, and my goodness; it's a most wonderful joy pouring through your soul. 

11- Getting There
A song of triumph in the Holy Spirit. 
"And we will see You in the land of the living; we will find You in the mystery. Your presence is the joy set before us for now and all eternity. Your presence is the promise: there is nothing that could stop us. We're on our way." 
Here is the end of this one journey; where the joy spills over. Healing. We're not "there" yet. 
"There's a reason for the journey; there is purpose in the learning. Not everything in life comes naturally. We've tasted of Your goodness; we know that You are for us." I truly believe this is the essence of the woven story of this album. Each of us go through this "story" multiple times, and over and over again He cultures us for His glory and our good. The sooner I learn that these "trials" are more than they seem, the sooner I can find Him. 
He's glorious; He's beautiful, and I see Him clearly manifested in this album. He sees our innermost parts, unwraps us, and makes us like Him. Truly, we are in the arms of a God who loves us so much that He lets us go through these things to make us like Him... and that is something to cling to every day of my life. 

Besides You... I desire nothing on earth. (Psalm 73) 
What submission... what joy is there in this statement? 
How many times have I lost my way, slipped upon the path, fallen and scraped my knees... and yet Jesus was there to hold my hand, to catch me. To carry me. 
I don't need to know what's next, because... like that post I wrote years ago... "I've been there." 
He is constant, He is unafraid. 
He knows! 
I do not! 
When I submit, when I let go.. ah! there is the beauty! Here, He is the strength of my heart.

All those who wander...
all those who struggle to find heart...
I know. 
I have been "places." 
And I will likely trod those paths again. 
So come to His arms.