Reading Time: 3 minutes
"...to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God."
That seemingly small space in between those two lines? That is where we live. Between a proclamation and a promised return. Look at all that has happened in that in between. A Messiah coming as a baby being the greatest thing. Years later, standing as a man in a synagogue, He says that He is the fulfillment of that proclamation. He was the Lord's favor. A man, who was born a baby just like us, but who was God all the same, His Son. A Savior, Messiah, the Lord.
And now, we live in the in-between. The already, but not yet. Watching and waiting as days grow darker, yet brighter each day. What has happened in those in-between days? Life born, then taken by death. Marriages. Wars. Famines. Empires fallen. Markets crashed. Buildings built and buildings destroyed. In the midst of pandemics and politics, isn't there also to be found joy, laughter, and happiness? The days grow darker, but also brighter. For the day of His return has yet to come. The day of our hope and faith becoming sight. For we know if He proclaimed a coming and fulfilled it, He will do the same for His return.
And what awaits us at the return? Comfort, beauty, joy, praise, splendor, and redemption. What has been destroyed will be rebuilt. What devastated once will be renewed. Shame erased. Everlasting joy will be ours. The Lord loves justice and He is faithful, so we know this in-between living is not to be forever. Look again at Isaiah 61:2, there is promise for two proclamations. One for the day of the Lord's favor and the day of His vengeance.
There needs to be no fear in the word vengeance, if we are His. Remember the things that come with His return. Joy, praise, spender, and redemption. If not His? He is still a God that loves justice and it may seem cruel to undergo punishment. Eternal separation, void of any joy, praise, or splendor. To stay in destruction and see no rebuilding. But how cruel to see the eyes of one who loves you, who came for you and chose you. How cruel to see Him come near, remember first as a baby, a light in your darkness. How cruel to have Him so near and then turn around? So not your eyes He sees, but your back?
He did not reject us, but us Him.
Will we turn around and return to Redemption?
"The shipwrecked at the stable are the poor in spirit who feel lost in the cosmos, adrift on an open sea, clinging with a life-and-death desperation to the one solitary plank. Finally they are washed ashore and make their way to the stable, stripped of the old spirit of possessiveness in regard to anything...They are not concerned with their own emotional security or any of the trinkets of creation. They have been saved, rescued, delivered from the waters of death, set free for. a new shot at life. At the stable in a blinding moment of truth, they make the stunning discovery that Jesus is the plank of salvation they have been clinging to without knowing it!
In their integrity the shipwrecked preserve the meaning of Christmas in its pristine purity - the birthday of the Savior and the eruption of the messianic era into history. This Christmas, may you belong to their number." -- Brennan Manning, Shipwrecked at the Stable
Reading time: 3 minutes
When I was younger, I was pretty flexible. I know most of us can say that - we bent in ways as children that we can’t even imagine now as adults. I was most definitely not the sports oriented kid, though I did enjoy the basketball goal my dad installed above our garage door. And he bought me a bat and glove once. We would pitch and catch and there were times I actually hit a few he tossed. But I was never going to be on a team. I’m much too afraid of things flying at my face ever since I stepped foot in a racquetball court with my older sisters when I was younger. People laugh when I say that, but those echoing sounds of balls bouncing and ricoheting off the walls almost uncontrollably. More than once I found myself backed up into the corner of the bright, white boxed room. Pressing myself into the glass wanting to get out of a room that seemed to grow louder and smaller with each hit. I hated it. But I don’t think anyone ever really knew how much I hated it.
I liked quiet things the most. Books, forts with canopies of greenery because they were in the bushes, riding my bike fast down a street with the sound of wind rushing in my ears and hair, pencil diving into blue pool waters and then bobbing up before diving back under and pushing water behind me as I glided toward the shallow end. Back to flexibility, I remember practicing the splits and sitting with my legs v-ed out in front of me - head and stomach to the floor. I could actually touch my toes back then. And reach past them. It was one of the parts of the Presidential Fitness Test I could actually achieve. Rope climb? Forget it. Pull-ups and the mile? Never. My arms and my endurance have never helped me with anything. Well, maybe endurance. But I think that's a lesson I've haven't fully learned yet. But flexibility? Maybe in ways I never knew.
Stretching and reaching out, past myself. I felt strong. And in a way, it took me outside of myself. Almost like an unfolding of myself that maybe felt like it had been curled up in a ball for whatever reason. The poet Rilke wrote, “I want to unfold. I don’t want to stay folded anywhere, because where I am folded, there I am a lie.” In our child self, there is a part that is our true self. And almost certainly, it gets ripped away somehow. We don’t like to think about it, but it happens. We are sinful humans, learning to love and be good, living amongst others doing the same. Life is wonderful. But also messy and heartbreaking at points. Death, abandonment, divorce, abuse. Pick your turmoil, you have it. And in learning to live, to keep going, you chose something along the way to try and protect your child self. But all it ever did was press you forward, one step in front of another they say. And before we realize it, we don’t even remember being a child. Memories lost. Forgotten. Folded up.
Now, at 31, I feel I’m unfolding for the first time since a child. I’ve started doing yoga in the morning and evenings. Say what you will about the practice, and be assured I’m thinking of no higher power than my God. And the flexibility I felt as a kid, where I felt stronger and outside of myself? It’s coming back. My stomach and head can’t reach the floor, yet. I can’t sit with my legs outstretched and reach past them, yet. But in between the deep breathes and stretches, I’m unfolding. Standing taller a little more each day. Stepping into days that seem to expand and not close in around me. Still stepping forward each new day, yet somehow looking back and the child that once felt far away? She gets a little closer each time I turn around.
NEEDTOBREATHE released a new album this week, Out of Body. One for healing and wonder they say. That it truly is. Here are two songs I can't quit.
Reading Time: 6 minutes
A few days ago I shared one of my favorite posts from the archives, The KitchenAid Mixer Dilemma: A Singleness Story. I was not prepared for the conversations I was to have with both my single and married friends. When I reposted it, I also asked two new questions.
Singles: what is something you haven't done because you feel it's something you can't do because you're single?
Marrieds: what is something you wish you would have done when single that you didn't and would encourage singles to do?
Twitter and Instagram began to buzz, with great discussion, and then to what color we have or would love to have. (Have you guys seen the hobnail one?? It's gorgeous.) And with great tips on how to not drop $300 for one, by using coupons and Kohl cash and then maybe you can snag one for $150 like one of my friends. This still amazes me.
Some were confused on how owning a mixer could be associated with being married. And that's exactly the point: it shouldn't be.
And we aren't exactly talking about owning a mixer here. The KitchenAid mixer is a mixer in my story, but it could be something else in yours. The "mixer" is whatever "it" is in your single life that you think you can't do because you are single. The goal? To do that thing, to "buy" the mixer.
I love movies. And one of my favorite things to do alone (when we aren't in quarantine) is to go to the movies. It's one thing as a single that I've never had a problem or second thought about doing. Eating out at a restaurant? That one took me a little longer, but now it's also something I enjoy every once in awhile. Traveling? Also took me a bit to get comfortable doing that solo, and I've yet to do a whole week or something longer than a weekend by myself. Yet, I heard from one of my friends who has traveled solo several times, but hasn't gone to the movies by herself! It's going to look different for all of us.
The number one thing that my married friends answered with on what they wish they would have done while still single? Travel solo. While you obviously can still do this once married (as with anything), traveling solo has so many perks. You aren't as limited in activities or places you can go. You are free to do or see whatever you desire. And if you're an introvert, it's one of the best ways to recharge. So to the singles who are thinking about that vacation? Take it. And to my married friends who still wish to solo travel? Do it. Carving out that time to still be by yourself is important and never a waste.
Other things my married friends suggested? Start the small business you've been dreaming about, go to the movies, buy a house, build good habits, invest in friends and families. No matter what it was, the sentiment was the same: don't wait, do it now. As one friend said: Buy the KitchenAid. Take the trips. Ignore the stupid rules.
And yes, that is the goal, but sometimes it's harder said than done. I think we first have to break free from the notion that life begins at marriage. It doesn't. You are alive and living now. While having a person to join in on those things may be enjoyable, once a second person is added, the dynamic changes. Today, if single, it's just you. And the only person truly telling you "no"? Is yourself. Everything else can be worked through.
Single friends say they didn't wait to upgrade their bed size (and I long for this day, because a big bed sounds heavenly) or to buy a house. Some literally got a KitchenAid mixer (or a Hamilton Beach if that's your brand). And many are traveling (seriously, take the trip). Celebrate graduating college, that first job, your first apartment. While marriage is a big milestone in life to be celebrated, if we only waited for that moment to be fun and throw confetti? Some of us may be waiting for awhile, or may never dance in it at all. Be brave, "buy" the mixer.
And married friends: Recognize when your single friends are silent, or when they say something that makes them feel something isn’t for them because they are single. Most likely that isn’t true and they can partake even if single. Listen and then affirm them to go for “it.” Whatever “it” may be.
And for both married and single friends, if you're able (and desire to), go to counseling. I'm so glad that one of my married friends added this! She began going once dating her now husband, but wishes she had gone years before while still single. What she shared with me is so true and I echo it, it's so helpful to know who you are as your own person before in a relationship. Some people don't need counseling for this, but I'm an advocate for anyone going if they can. After beginning my own journey two years ago, I can honestly say I know more of who I am now in these first couple years of my 30s, than I ever did in my 20s. Like high school, I was ready to kiss those years goodbye. And I know that I'm better prepared now, than I would have been then, if marriage had been something on the horizon.
Friends, there are a lot of "rules" we have to play to keep up with society, or who the culture thinks we need to be. Single people can adopt or have babies on their own now! We can land amazing jobs or move across the world! At the core of who we are, we are all beings made for community and relationships - and the thing we think we can't do because we are single? That could be the very thing where community is waiting for us.
Where will you find it? What will you be brave enough to "buy" during this time? If it's the copper KitchenAid mixer, get two please. I changed my mind, I don't want the retro blue one anymore.
Two book recommendations, for both those single and married:
+ If you're interested in solo traveling, check out Dream, Plan, and Go by Rachel McMillan! She's written "a travel guide to inspire your independent adventure"!
+ If you want some help in being brave, a little each day, check out 100 Days to Brave by Annie F. Downs. You can start it anytime, but a collective group is beginning August 3rd (this coming Monday) and I'm joining in again! This will be my second time and would love to have some friends join in with me. It's not too late for you to join in - she'll post the first five days on her social media, while you wait for your copy. And it's about $10 on Amazon currently or buy at your favorite retailer!
Not that we need more commentary on COVID-19 aka the Coronavirus, here's mine.
I'm allowed to be aware during something that is labeled a pandemic. And so are you. But being aware does not equal panic mode. Cautious? Sure. But not fearful of our lives. When moments like this happen, it seems we go from 0 to 100+ in a matter of milliseconds. And the first time we see someone else panic, our mind goes to, "what-if?", even if only for second. Panic, begets more panic. And panic leads us to the world of worrying. A world that ever entices us to believe that things will spin out of control and never be normal again.
As of writing this, there are over 140,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 5,000 deaths, in 135 different areas, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While it may not be at the numbers of other sicknesses or diseases, those are still numbers to be aware of. Especially as they continue to grow. Again, cautious and aware.
I get that there are lots of implications with "social distancing" and shutting down of schools and businesses. Kids are losing a place where they may get their only meals of the day. Single moms are losing work hours they may not be able to make up. Working parents, who may still have to work, have nowhere for their kids to go - and maybe no vacation or sick time left to take to stay at home. We don't want to be forced to stay inside our homes, save only for walks around the neighborhood. We don't want to do elbow touches or feet taps. It all seems really silly and like an overreaction. And it can be, until it's not.
When you don't know whether the person that used the buggy at the grocery store before you sneezed on the handle or if the person coughing behind you at the pharmacy has seasonal allergies or coronavirus, I get it, it all seems a little too much. How about the friend you had dinner with that seems perfectly healthy, but was around an unknowingly contagious person only hours before? She starts feeling bad, gets tested, and is positive. Putting yourself and everyone else she was around in the coronavirus bubble. Social distancing doesn't sound too bad then, does it? It's not about punishment or dictating, it's about slowing down a sickness that has killed over 5,000 people. Men, women, parents, grandparents, daughters, and sons.
I can't help but think about those people, some who maybe two weeks ago, felt the best they ever had. Only to come into contact with someone who was around someone else that was contagious and got deathly ill. Leaving this world. While it's true that we may never know someone who gets coronavirus, and we pray it stays that way, the circle is getting smaller. You know someone who knows someone that is in quarantine right now. Not on the beach quarantine, like it's a vacay. But stuck in their house. For 14 days. Some completely alone.
We can laugh at the memes that cloud social media and joke that us introverts have been preparing for this our whole lives, I know I have. But, then there is reality. Deaths doubling by the day. And I stop to think, what is my part in this? What can I do? Be aware.
I can wash my hands, stay a considerate distance away from people in public, cover my mouth when I sneeze (I've been doing it a lot lately, thanks allergies!), and pay attention to myself. Shouldn't we do all these things out of normalcy and consideration for others anyways? I would hope so. But now, we simply need to be more aware of doing it.
Do I have all the answers? Nope. Does anyone at this point? No. When a pandemic spreads and panic ensues, it's hard to slow it down - both the pandemic and the panic, or else they wouldn't be called what they are or spread as they do. Will we look back on all of this and say we were overreacting? I think the families of those 5,000+ people would say differently. COVID-19 could also be a new reality for us, just as flu. And if that be the case, may the day come quick where we have ways to better catch and treat it.
But also, may the day come quick when we no longer have to worry of sickness or death. Or of kids not being able to get meals and moms not being able to work. My job and yours now, is to be aware, but God has a part too. Saving and sustaining us, even in sickness and uncertainty. And because I know of what eternity holds, that also allows me to be aware but not panicked. Aware of sickness and death, yes, but also aware that this is not my home. My body is but a shell for my spirit - which will remain when my body does not.
C.S. Lewis wittingly, but truthfully wrote, during the atomic age, words that are still true for us today, with the coronavirus and any other threat of mankind:
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
Death is a certainty, as much as we try to ignore it with panic, or hoarding of supplies. But we cannot ignore it. May some of the sensible and human things we be found doing include: being aware, of ourselves and others, and remembering that eternity awaits us, for ourselves and others.
Someone at work joked the other day that January felt like it was 75 days, while February felt like it has lasted for a week. It did go by REALLY fast and even with that extra day coming up for leap year, it still has flown! Do you agree?
Monthly recaps are something that I've been wanting to begin for awhile. I can easily let the months pass without thinking that anything significant happened. And while some months may be more exciting than others, there's always something to remember. Whether it's something I did, words I wrote or read, or something I listened to. I hope you find something below that encourages.
January & February
+ Put together my new bookshelf and I feel like it completely revamped my room space!
+ Saw Little Women...twice!
+ Bought myself some fresh flowers (reminds me of this post from Kaitlyn).
+ Hung out with my 7th grade girls for our student discipleship weekend!
+ Celebrated my friends Ashton and Dylan at their WEDDING!
+ Started drawing again.
+ Made big strides in counseling.
+ A beignet shop opened in my city...so delicious!
+ Celebrated Mardi Gras!
+ Do I believe Heaven waits for me? I long for many things, but is Heaven the greatest of these?
+ I'll keep following the suffering Savior down this often sorrowful road, because Heaven waits at the end of it.
+ I'm not sure when I started believing that everything isn't found in Him, Jesus. What a lie. He is everything. And He isn't holding back.
Posts I Loved
+ From Amy - We Cannot Allow a Season to Become a Sentence
+ From Gretchen - Giving Up for Lent
+ From Kiki - In the In-Between
+ From Meg - Honest Thoughts on Valentine's Day
Books I Read
Quote to Remember
"...bold love is courageously setting aside our personal agenda to move humbly into the world of others with their well-being in view, willing to risk further pain in our souls..." Dan Allender
Grace is something that continues to astound and leave me speechless.
Free, unmerited favor.
I know I'm undeserving of it, grace, but God extends it freely. And I've been reluctant to accept it. I know I have. I've held out a hand, but once it gets too close, I've pulled away. Thinking that a full dose of grace, or merit, is really only for others, not for me. I've lately been thinking of how I'm not deserving (and I'm not), so it must mean God is holding back (but He isn't).
I've lived in this mentality for quite awhile that when things aren't good, that is just how they are meant to be. Or I don't have xyz like others do, because they are more deserving of xyz. Or the biggest one of all, I'm not meant for xyz.
And xyz can be anything on any given day.
Healing. A relationship. Peace. Joy. Money. Love. Friends.
If I'm being honest, Jesus has felt far away to me lately. God, the Creator, is always there and I'm never without a sense of Him. Holy Spirit has always felt closest to me; my constant, indwelling, counseling, companion. But Jesus? My Savior. He's felt far.
This morning, I felt Him whisper to me again. Breaking the silence that has felt more routine it seems, He told me to stop believing that what He does for others, He can't do for me. Because He can. And He wants to. And while I know I'm not meant for everything that everyone else may seem to have, I know I am meant to have Him.
I'm not sure when I started believing that everything isn't found in Him. What a lie.
He is everything.
Alpha and Omega. Everything begins and ends with Him, including all of this life, that is simply in the middle.
He isn't holding back, because He's already freely given everything. May I receive it.
Empty chairs at tables. A double bench on a patio. Thanksgiving and Christmas planning. Needing to pick up a bookshelf. A piece of cheese.
These things have nothing in common, except that they are all things that made my loneliness palpable within the last month. .
There are four chairs at my parent's dining table, we only occupy three. I dream of the third being filled one day. I sat on their patio while visiting one weekend for a quiet moment outside, longing for someone to be there with me as I sipped my coffee. We talked about Thanksgiving and Christmas plans. The holidays, the worst time of the year. A friend reminded me about a bookshelf that I'm getting from her and I thought of how it won't possibly fit in my two-door car, so how will I get it? Three pieces of cheese sat on the counter to top burgers. I wanted there to be four. This may be the most ridiculous one of all, as the man who may one day come could be allergic or, as tragic as this would be, despise the stuff.
"'Tell me I’m not going to stay here,' she breathes into the phone. 'Just tell me this won’t be my forever.'" Hannah Brencher shared in one of her Monday e-mails. She was talking to a friend who was over being single. "Been there," I found myself saying. Which also happened to be the title of that week's weekly email. A friend who also gets this dose of honesty in her inbox texted me while I was at work asking if I had read it yet. I hadn't and she told me to wait until lunch or something to read it. Basically forewarning me that I would be a hot mess after reading it. She wasn't wrong, but at the end of it, I came away with a whole new perspective on my singleness. An "aha!" epiphany moment and a slap in the face all at the same time.
Sunday I sat across the table from a friend while at lunch and I told her that August had sucked. It had. The end of July is when things really began to spiral and then just spilled over into all of August. It wasn’t fun. I don’t know that I’ve ever had quite a month like August was. She asked me what sparked it, what started the downwardness? I couldn’t tell her, because I’m honestly not sure.
July/August marks three months of counseling. Maybe it’s that I’m getting to those places where I desperately need to be, but don’t want to be. Those places where my emotions have been buried for so long, that I’ve never let anyone see them. They are starting to come out now. And that is scary.
See, I’m a peacemaker. A 9 on the enneagram and avoider of conflict. Something else that means? For me, I don’t do vulnerability. I can look at every single relationship I have — family, friends, guys — and see that there’s only a certain level that I go to. Eventually, we get to a wall and I don’t want to go over it. I’ve never had a thing for heights and apparently never a thing for depth when it comes to relationships.
I don’t let people see me cry, I stuff and bury emotions until they fester, and then I explode into anger.
Does’t seem like a peacemaker at all. Because there hasn’t been any peace.
Last week, I shared how I often need the reminder that God's words are true and wonderful. I know they are truth, but sometimes it's hard to live in that daily. Life throws a lot at us, it gets hard to focus on truth and light. I launched a poll asking whether you guys were in need of this reminder, that God's words are true and wonderful, or if you were obeying and praying His word. Overwhelmingly, most of us said we needed the reminder that God's words are true and wonderful. This space, Polished Arrow, is a place for simply choosing. A place where you can simply choose Jesus above all that life throws at you. A spot where you can come for encouragement and gentle reminders that God is here for you, no matter what decision you are in the middle of making or whatever stage and season of life you find yourself in. The other thing to know? That I'm right there with you. Because the words found here are stories, mainly my story, of how God has shown Himself faithful to me over and over and over again. Simply because? I choose Him. Is it hard? Most definitely. Yet for the grace and mercy He shows continually, it's worth it.
And this week? He showed me that through coffee. Which is just fitting, because well, I love that stuff.
Written on one of the pages of my note-taking Bible, in Psalms, are these words: God’s Word is true and wonderful.
Last week was one of the worst weeks mentally and emotionally that I’ve ever had. I’ve mentioned here and there, but most recently on the blog, that I’m in counseling. The decision to go to counseling was one that I had been throwing around for about a year. In May of this year, I finally made the brave decision to go for the first time.
There is a lot that comes with counseling. I thought holding everything inside was hard, and it is, but once I started voicing everything out loud and had someone responding with truth and light, I actually had to begin to process the things I was feeling. And when it comes to processing things, I’m one of the slowest people. Last week, I woke up one morning with a lot of things swirling in my head. There were some things that finally clicked from my latest counseling session, but I had to go to work. There was no time for me to process anything that was happening in my head. One thing escalated on top of another and I found myself deep in a tunnel of darkness.
I talked about that dark tunnel recently. About how it easily pulls me in and there it seems my steps should be cautious, yet they are the opposite. In the dark is where I almost find myself running carefree. But, I know that eventually I will run into something. I know that I cannot thrive there. The darkness is only hiding what is in the shadows, masking it.
And I know that the Light promises so much more, because there are no shadows where the Lord is.
Yet, the light was so hard for me to find that day. And the next. Even the one after that. It wasn’t until the weekend that I slowly began to feel the darkness leaving and light surrounding me more.
In the past, I would have retreated farther into that dark tunnel. I would have pushed all my feelings and emotions farther down, just hoping they would disappear. I would have stayed silent to myself, my friends, and God. I would have continued to believe that they didn’t care and that they were too busy to listen to my worries. I would have continued to build walls that only further isolate me.
Not this time...
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