Tag Archives: Hope

Something like Heart Surgery.

Everything feels hard and fragile at the same time. And it feels that way because it is the way things are right now. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t been actively blogging for a while now. I was in the middle of a move so I let things slide and then I tackled true and real vulnerability which took all of the emotional effort I had at the time.

And then, November 2016 happened. The Cubs brought me great joy. America brought me great pain. I don’t even want to single out the president because yes, that’s painful too (growing increasingly worse) but what he revealed about this country, about us, about people I love, about institutions (like the Church) that are important to me was gut-wrenching. It still is most days. That night, when the results came in, I was torn to pieces in a way I did not expect and was useless for a week. You’d think I’d have put the pieces back together by now but I haven’t. I’m functional (because that is something I know how to do: function in a crisis) but I can’t go back to before. The scales have fallen from my eyes. The fact is, I am still processing (every single day since that dang day there is something new to process so I don’t even have time to ever really truly process…I’m sure some people can relate) and so to write things down, concrete things that will be here on the internet, well it just seems difficult and maybe even unwise. (I mean, I do it for a living but it gets more personal and less formal here).

But here I am.

My convictions are not weaker. In fact, they are stronger. But when I write something here, like this, I have to dig deeper than I do on Twitter or Facebook. And even though my convictions have grown deep and true roots, there are still things I am processing. Like my faith. I never stopped loving Jesus but I did stop loving people professing to be Christians (or at least loving them as easily as I did before). That’s a hard truth right there to write.

It isn’t what Jesus has asked of me (love God and love others). But, man, I wish I had the words to explain how hard I have prayed for help to love people who loudly profess ideas and ways of thinking that are hurtful to me, hurtful to other people I love, and so hurtful and destructive to whole groups of people. I mean, I have repeated Jesus’s command through gritted teeth to myself too many times to count. I have wrestled with God over all these people using his name for ugly at best and evil at worst. And yes, I know he’s got it. I know that what they mean for evil, he will use for good. But watching it…watching it hurts.

Loving people through gritted teeth has meant unfollowing some people on social media (not that big of a deal but it took me awhile to realize that was the loving thing to do instead of seething with anger and hurt over their ignorance). It’s meant not discussing politics with others and not because conversations aren’t important (I believe they are more important than ever…and I had/have them) but because nothing but a heart change was going to be effective. It’s meant praying for people I do not like very much. It’s meant grieving over the beliefs of people I love.

It’s meant examining my own privileges. It’s also meant admitting, “I don’t know” to questions and problems. Maybe if more people were willing to admit what they don’t know, the world would feel different. It’s meant clinging tightly to people who get it, who are in the struggle, looking for answers, coming back with nothing, and then going out and looking again. It’s meant new friends and saying goodbye to old ones. It’s been a time of grave disappointment in people I thought I knew but maybe I didn’t.

So while all that is happening, I have also been experiencing incredible happiness. I fell in love and we decided to marry one another. We’ve been growing together and we are getting marriedwe are getting married. I’m not one to gush but I truly do not know what this last year would have been without the discovery of two things. First, that I could love and be loved, deeply and truly and completely. Secondly, in the midst of such difficulty, I could know such happiness. I’m a different and better woman having met this man and working towards marrying this man. That is a blessing that could make me weep and those tears would not have anything to do with romance or mushy-gushy stuff but God’s mercy to me in bringing me and C together. Just like I can’t get past the incredibly tough stuff, I can’t get past God’s benevolence to me.

But the question I have struggled with is: how do I write from this place? How do I write from a place of such pain while some of my long-held dreams for my life are quietly coming true simultaneously? Some days I feel split in half so writing about it seems absurd. Literally every time I have thought, “I’ll write a blog post about the wedding, like how I used to. I’ll talk about colors and flowers” something horrible happens in the world and I am back to processing things.

I haven’t added my voice to the fray because there is such a clamor right now. That isn’t to say I don’t speak or use my voice, I just didn’t and don’t know how to do it here, in this space. So, I end up with this rambling thing that may not make sense but I’m going to push through because I’ve got to decide if I am going to maintain this space. And I can’t make that decision when I don’t show up. So I am going to try and show up and see how it feels.

One thing has not changed and that is my trust and belief in God. I will be the first one to say that I don’t get it. I don’t get how a sovereign God is at work right now but I believe he is. I have been beyond disappointed in the Christian machine this past year (specifically white evangelicals). I didn’t realize how insidious and disgusting this cancerous way(s) of thinking had spread (which shows you and me my privilege) in the community I used to call home. Maybe that’s why this is happening? Maybe our racism, our sexism, our xenophobia, all of our ugliness that we have internalized needs to be exposed.

When my mom was in her twenties, she found out she had a large hole in her heart that had been there her whole life. It was now compromising her life but this hole–the circumference of an egg–went unchecked for over twenty years. Until a strange exhaustion set in. Until her entire color changed. Until all these symptoms revealed the very real problem that required open heart surgery.

Maybe what’s happening all around us is surgery. The thing about surgery though is that it hurts a lot. Its goal is to heal but man, does it hurt and it is incredibly violent when you consider it. You have to cut and bleed before you can stitch and heal. Then, there is a long recovery. So my hope cannot even be in the process because that sounds horrible. My hope is in the Surgeon. But this is so hard.

I think of my mom, the scar she still bears so many years later.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7,8 ESV

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To Choose Hope over Resignation.

parisTo ignore what happened in Paris past weekend and other cities around recently would be easier than addressing it. And yet to ignore it feels very wrong to me. I don’t know what to say or what to write. I know I am sad, horrified, disgusted, stricken, and a million other adjectives and yet this weekend I cozied up by myself and worked on my novel, playing in the world that I can control because staring what happened straight in the face made me feel raw. I had to disconnect from it. I was cowardly about it.

You know, I’ve done these seminars for two different companies I’ve worked for on the differences between generations–the traditionalists, the baby boomers, generation x, and the millennials (the latter of which I fall into). Companies do this because there are stark differences in ideology and approach to life and work and if one can recognize and work with those differences, the company is better for it. I’ve read whole books on being a millennial christian. And I’ve scrolled past constant headlines about my generation (I read them for a long time but I had to stop because they just upset me). Apparently we mesmerize and befuddle the other generations (our parents and grandparents). They study us like we are strange creatures (May I suggest their parent’s and grandparent’s generations probably felt the same way about them at times?).

In all those seminars and books I’ve read, there is something always pointed out by experts. Millennials are the only generation to know what it is like to live with terrorism on American soil that was specifically targeted at civilians. Just as we don’t know what it’s like to live through a draft and what that does to a generation of men, the other generations don’t know what it is like to be an adolescent watching the Twin Tours fall while they are sitting in Social Studies class. I’m not an expert. I probably wouldn’t have thought of this distinction if not for the experts themselves talking about it.

What does it say about me–about my friends and people my age–that I am horrified and shocked at what happened in Paris and what’s been going on in other cities for weeks and months, yet not at all shocked at the same time? I live in a world where extremists can take innocent lives and try to devastate a city. I grew up in that world. A part of me feels so jaded and I hate that (hence the quote above about staying soft) because I feel like if we just replace ISIS with Al Qaida and rewind a few years, nothing has changed and nothing will change. I keep searching for a word to claim my feelings and I think perhaps I found it. A huge part of me feels resigned. It is different than feeling defeated. But it is still not how I want to feel. I do not want to be resigned.

I cannot get one of my favorite poems out of my head; it’s Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Dirge Without Music. It’s been one of my favorites since I was too little to even understand it (weird, yes, I know).

I don’t know what to give or offer the world here on my small space of the internet. I don’t know what to say. So I will just leave someone else’s words instead. They are far better.dirgewithoutmusic1For me, this poem is grief embodied. It captures the pain and horror and hopelessness of losing someone(s). I have hope though. It’s in God. It’s knowing that because of what Jesus did, our bodies may turn to dust but we can know Heaven with Him. And yet, when in the midst of grief and sorrow, if we could only be so eloquent, this poem holds the words we might express. I ache by the end of it.


I wrote all of that and then I texted a friend who has lived and worked in Paris and now resides in Europe. I listened to my friend and then this friend graciously listened to me and spoke the Gospel over me. And I said that I believed it. I believe that God is good and that God will conquer evil and that He will be glorified. I believed it but I was still feeling resigned and I explained that I thought it was because I was paying too much attention to man’s response, which felt like déjà vu and also in some ways futile because this world we live in…man, is it messed up.

And so I find myself recommitted to looking to Jesus. He is my hope and my salvation. He is my anchor. I don’t have to know how I feel or worry over the world’s response or despair that this will happen again. He knows how I feel already. He is in control. And I remember His words, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

My friend said, “The Gospel runs toward pain.” And it does. It is. It can. Because in the world, there will be tribulation. But my heart can be full of hope and yes, even peace. Because Jesus has overcome the world.

So this is what I am actively clinging to from now on. This is what I am actively choosing to believe and trust and put my faith in.

All my Love,
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P.S. I wrote this before news broke on Monday that governors of 26 states (including the one in which I live) are telling the world that Syrian refugees are not welcome in “their” states (even though they have no power to make such a decision constitutionally; it’s a federal issue). That will have to be another blog post for another day but Lord, please have mercy. It’s shameful and such a disgrace that a country of immigrants would turn away immigrants, that people who claim to know Jesus don’t remember or live by this sentiment, which He expressed in many ways, at many times.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ ” (Matthew 25:31-40) And maybe, read the rest of the passage too…

Also, see Jen Hatmaker’s Facebook post which includes an article from the Economist which is pertinent any time anyone makes the argument that this is a security issue.

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Procrastination Station and Dreaming Big.

health1I once read an article that discussed procrastination and why people do it. According to some source related to science, people who procrastinate on the regular love the thrill of it. Endorphins are released actually, etc. Here is thing: maybe that’s true about the endorphins but I do not like enjoy procrastinating. I do it quite often, but I don’t enjoy it.

Recently, I’ve realized one reason I do it. If something is important to me, a dream I really want to actually come true, I put off doing the work for it. Then, when I don’t get the job or don’t win the contest I can shrug my shoulders and “not feel as bad” because I didn’t put my best work into it. I don’t want to let myself down.

This makes sense. And yet, it is complete nonsense.fix4

I am trying to let myself dream the dreams that I have shied away from dreaming. It’s too scary. What if it doesn’t work out? This way of thinking also bleeds over into dating and relationships–wanting something so badly but not going for it because it could crash and burn.

But God.

How many times does God have to say, “Nina, I’ve got this” and follow through on his word?

Answer: too many to count.

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This other thing I do is assign human traits on God. There are things I am scared to trust him for because I’ve had people screw with my trust in big ways. It still surprises me sometimes (and it shouldn’t…I’m in the word…but there is a difference between knowing something and living it out whole heartedly. Am I right?) when he does follow through on his word. When did I become so jaded?

I have been realizing a lot of things lately–not so much ugly truths about how I view the world and God and my life and dreams but hard truths that require big prayers and action.masterpiece

Today I’m challenging you (and myself) to dream big or go home.

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