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Soul Views Blog

Finding my voice…

“Power”

Standing alone in a dark room, I can’t keep myself still.

Beads of sweat rolling down my face,

I’m panting for each breath

Because I’m laughing uncontrollably at the thrill of it all.

Excited.

Nervous.

It’s electrifying.

It’s exhilarating.

It’s terrifying.

The only sane part of my soul seems to be stripped from my body.

I sit amazed watching this hollowed, empty version of myself as the scene unfolds.

This can’t really be me…

And I can’t help but think, how did I get here?

I’m the image of terror.

I cling tightly to the now warm metal of the pistol that may as well be glued to my hand…

I find power in its weight.

How did I get here?

I watch myself swing my power wildly through the air.

I’m firing aimlessly at nothing at all.

I’m out of control.

… But this shallow version of myself seems amused.

How did I get here?

Power-hungry, I don’t realize I’m no longer in control.

A shot fired for MY truth that I now shoot at someone else…

How did I get here?

Stuck-up, I don’t realize I’m no longer in control.

A shot fired for the mask of perfection and judgment that now seems stuck to my face…

How did I get here?

Self-centered, I don’t realize I’m no longer in control.

A shot fired for the good deeds I do just for the applause…

How did I get here?

I’ve watched the image of pride spiral herself into this moment…

And this is how she got here:

She’s worked diligently “In Jesus’ Name” without His opinion, trusting her own.

She’s found every speck in every eye but forgot about the log in her own.

She’s done this whole life thing proudly on her own.

But maybe the biggest offense:

Not realizing she doesn’t know Him at all…

But thank God.

Before one more shot can be fired,

There’s a Hand much stronger than mine to resist me.

Restrained.

Confined.

… Safe.

All I ever really wanted was to hand my power over to the One with the wisdom to show me how to use it.

I rise at midnight to thank you for your righteous judgments.

Psalm 119:62

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Woman

“. . . For you were made from dust,

and to dust you will return.”

 

The beginning of the end,

The curse that still chases after me today.

I am the woman easily deceived and still running.

As the earth continues to echo about that fallen day in the garden.

 

I am the woman wrapped with shackles clinging tightly to my wrists

Forever linking me to the ground cursed to the endless depths by my biggest mistake.

It shouts of my one regret.

Mankind… Wo-mankind… forever changed because of it.

 

I wear the chains that scream I have no worth,

They whisper lies of shame,

Clutch onto my every movement to say my effort makes no difference.

 

Because I’m the woman who took the bite.

The woman who fed the poison to my husband.

I’m the woman still punished.

… The one who still deserves it.

 

Or so I’ve heard for far too long…

 

What if…

 

What if I’m the woman who says enough is enough.

 

What if I’m the woman who quits fighting to loosen my own chains.

 

What if I’m the woman who opens her hands in worship

To the only One with the power to set me free.

 

What if I’m the woman who takes what was buried in dust and instead plants roots…

Deep in foundation breathed out of perfect love.

 

What if I’m the woman no longer linked to the curse of the past,

But linking generations in front of me to the One true hope.

 

What if I’m the woman who makes a home in forgiveness,

And against all the odds breaks the surface.

 

What if cultivated by the same dust that once covered me,

I’m the woman who stretches far and wide now

Growing more precious fruit than I can hold.

 

What if I’m the woman who savors every delicious bite that falls on my plate now.

 

All to show the dirt the Truth…

 

There’s a voice that whispers,

 

“You are that woman.”

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Dear Applicant, III

I saw my cousin Danny in July, a couple days before I took my third California bar exam, and he told me about a test he struggled to pass years ago…

He told me, “I had to get out of my own head and remember I’m everything I believe I am.”

He spoke of the fake-stress of that season of his life, and looking into his eyes it was clear that in order to understand the weight of his advice I had to try and see even a piece of the depth of his journey…

From a wheelchair and tired soul, he was teaching me about fighting in the midst of the hardest fight of his life… One that was stealing his body and precious breaths from him.

Just remember, you are everything you believe you are…” is what he said.

 And he told me he was BLESSED…

That he couldn’t ask for anything more from his life…

That through it all, God was SO GOOD to him…

As I reflect on what this year has meant to me, may those words be tattooed on my heart for the rest of my life and those moments of God-sent faith on display be forever saved on the DVR of my soul…

On the eve of my third-round of bar results being released, this year-long journey has come full circle…

I’ve learned that there will always be a test in front of me…

That God develops us as fighters because as life goes on our battles get greater…

How the fight of my year is SO SMALL in the grand scheme of His plan for me…

And I pray that I learn to fight every one of my battles with the same surrendered trust and gratitude to God as my cousin Danny did…

A true victor.

And already so greatly missed.

 

 

My soul, wait silently for God alone,

For my expectation is from Him…

Psalm 62:5

Dear Applicant, II

Maybe peace, real peace, is unlocked with the key of gratitude… For everything.

The shackles I tug on are the ones I place on myself….

In bondage:

I cling. I hold. I live…

Under the weight of “what could have been.”

In the mist of my chaos I am only lost in the mess if I choose to be.

I say I want to fly free, but do I mean it? How badly do I want wings?

Enough to fight my way out of the dark places?

There are seasons of life we don’t choose… But like a cocoon, could they be part of the process…?

Necessary for the transformation.

If I believed in the victory I’ll hold on to tomorrow, would it make me thankful for today?

If soaring high above the person I used to be could make me forget the pain of today, would it at least make the fight worth it…?

When my only choices are to stay in the slavery of who I used to be, or fight for the wings of who I’m destined to be… What will I choose?

On the right side of victory, I’ll always look back and be thankful for what broke me.

Because maybe when we fall apart, our destiny falls together.

Part of His plan all along.

What if I could live thankful for that now?

… While I’m still in the dark.

 

But those who wait on the Lord

Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Who Am I?

It started as a stack of gifted declaration cards… Over 100 of God’s truths… Reminders of what He thinks of me for the days I spend feeling unseen…

Who Am I?

 

It was the match that when lit ignited the junk in my life, broke me off from the past, and began a revolution in me… Even as nothing changed.

But when your mess in the dark finally comes to the light, it’s hard to stay the same.

Who Am I?

 

Do you talk about God more than you talk to God?

It only takes one scroll through your phone to find the internet’s best “faith-filled” self-help gurus.

But if we lived as half the people we paint ourselves to be maybe we’d have less mess in the dark and more masterpieces in the light…

That was free. Write a post about it.

But what if you uploaded every lesson you posted to the feed of your heart…. Not just for likes, but something you actually use in your life.

Who Am I?

 

Not a game to be played.

Not a victory to win.

I am more than a season.

I am more than a dream…

Who Am I?

 

Can I really be mad at the dreams broken at my feet?

With everything I’ve seen, everything I’ve heard, everything I know… I was bound to wake up eventually and realize that I grabbed a seat on the train leading to nowhere all on my own.

And dreams speak too.

We talk a lot about the future, the “soon” and the “someday” …

Maybe the break comes when I wake up to the reality that my time is the only thing in this life I have to waste.

Who Am I?

 

What if the broken dreams at my feet are really the glass ceiling I placed on my own life?

And the pieces around me are evidence that it’s finally come crashing down.

What if there’s more…?

And I’m the one meant to soar there.

Who Am I?

 

I am patience and joy in the storm…

The seed that’s already been sown…

Maybe this rain is right on time.

Who Am I?

 

“You are everything you believe you are…” is what I heard.

In that case, I decided I am Faith personified.

And Faith walks…

Head held high.

Her direction is always forward.

 

 

 

My frame was not hidden from You,

When I was made in secret,

And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth…

Psalm 139:15

What’s In A Name?

What’s in a name?

That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet…

 Long before Shakespeare, I think Jabez understood best that our names don’t truly tell our whole story. Still, I think some of life’s irony comes in the form of finding our identity in the names we’re called…

1 Chronicles 4:9 says, Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying “Because I bore him in pain.”

 I think Jabez teaches us about conflicting identities… The way he lived vs. What people called him… And I think it was the intersection of this conflict that prompted him to pray boldly to God.

And even though verse 10 says that God granted him what he requested in his prayer, I always wondered why didn’t God change his name…?

Was the name Jabez, “causes pain,” what pushed him to be a more honorable man…? He prayed, keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain! But did he cause anyone else pain…? Or was he living defined by the past…?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But I believe God didn’t change Jabez’s name because he didn’t have to. There’s more behind a name… And for Jabez I think what he was called helped him run towards who he wanted to be, and shaped him to be a more honorable man than the others in his family.

What’s in a name?

 Whether it is the names we’re called, the mistakes that call after us, the pain we endure, the heartbreak of disappointments, or the afflictions that each seem to come in this life… Why do we begin wearing these things around our necks like nametags…?

Rejection… Bitterness… Heartbreak…

 Those are some of the nametags I’ve worn… The names I’ve answered to. Maybe they were names people and circumstances in life gave me… But only because I willingly assumed them over time.

Wasn’t that God’s point when he left Jabez’s name the same…? To prove that we don’t have to be the names we’ve been called… We can define them ourselves.

Because if Jabez ever really believed he was his name, “causes pain,” could he really ever become an honorable man? Maybe God didn’t have to change his name because Jabez never really believed it was his identity anyway…

As we sit patiently… or crying out to God… for our breakthrough that hasn’t come yet, maybe the problem is we’re wearing a nametag that God never gave us in the first place…

What’s in a name?

The name is only yours if you answer to it…

 

And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.

 1 Chronicles 4:10

Into The Light

Blind, I wandered through the darkness.

Alone. Stumbling… falling… helpless.

I wondered to myself why the only sound to be heard

Was my own voice bouncing

Off of the darkness and back to the open space.

My own sea of fear… doubt… and bitterness.

 

The seeds of my potential falling from my heart.

But not sown into pasture

They are lost in the vast unending darkness around me.

Stumbling through the road of myself

I clung and wrestled with only the seed of your promise…

 

Then came the day I tripped to the end…

Views wide shut you stripped the blades from my eyes.

And I saw that I wasn’t drowning in my own ocean of darkness…

But really it glowed… it illuminated… it blinded.

 

The seed of my hope was really the remnants of my cross

Falling faithfully at your feet.

Face-first at the end of myself,

A blooming sunflower now

I basked… I soaked… I lost myself.

As all of my heart yielded

To the warm embrace of the Son.

Just Apply

I remember going to see my college advisor and soon-to-be friend, Mr. Readus, the same day I decided I was going to go to law school. For better or worse I’ve been wired with a “DO NOW” personality, and when an idea is planted in me I run with it, whether I’ve thought things out or not. This was no different; I knew pretty much nothing about the journey I was about to throw myself into.

It didn’t matter to me. My whole life up until that point centered on being a softball player, and at Alabama State I fell comfortably into my identity as a student-athlete. I knew it would eventually end, but my whole world was rocked when my softball career ended before the start of my senior season. I was hungry to pour myself into what was next for my life, and I decided that day it was going to be law school.

That day Mr. Readus didn’t ask me why; I think he knew I was just ready to enter my next chapter. He became my new coach and we began strategizing all the moves that had to be made. I didn’t realize that for most lawyers this dream was engrained in them long before their senior year of college, and most of them actually knew what they were doing long before that. But that didn’t matter to Damien.

First, I learned about the LSAT. When I didn’t do as well as I wanted I thought about letting this goal go and thinking about something else, but Damien encouraged me to apply to schools anyway.

When we got to the application process I hesitated as I tried to guess who would take me. Damien told me at least once a day to apply to Syracuse University, and each time I told him I knew I wouldn’t get in. Looking back, the moment that changed everything for me was the day he told me he believed in me so much he would pay for my application to Syracuse himself, he just wanted me to apply. So I did.

But this is real life, and my LSAT score was low, so after a long wait I didn’t end up getting into Syracuse or a number of the other schools I applied to. In the end I only got into two schools. When I thought about sitting the year out, Damien encouraged me to pick one and go anyway. I think we both knew it was then or never for me.

But looking back now it wasn’t really about Syracuse. It was about Damien believing in me at a time when I questioned a lot about myself. And it’s a little late, but I only now realize that helped shape the person I’ve become.

Damien eventually asked me why I wanted to go to law school, and he helped me pick Thomas Jefferson School of Law and I came home to California. The next chapter of my life was always meant to be San Diego, but that’s a story for another day.

I checked in with him over the years and as I shared all of the accomplishments I never believed I could obtain, I thought about all the days I spent in his office figuring out where I wanted my life to go. I try not to relish in my past for too long, but I’ve been able to do some amazing things. I made law review after my first year, I represented my school in the biggest international law moot court competition in the world, I published an article in a scholarly law journal, I graduated cum laude… I did all these things after learning to believe in myself, the way he and so many others always believed in me.

When I heard Damien passed away last week, initially I felt guilty because I don’t know if I ever expressed to him how much he shaped who I am today. I think it’s amazing to see God gifted in the people who have touched our lives, and through the lessons He helps teach us through them… Even when those people are called home too soon. I regret the words of gratitude I never shared with Damien. But the beautiful thing about God is as I was beating myself up over all the things I never got around to saying, he reminded me of Syracuse.

I’m ashamed that it took a shocking loss to remember and appreciate such a simple but powerful gesture in my life. I don’t know if he even realized it, but by applying to Syracuse Damien taught me to invest in myself, and in other people.

That small leap of faith lead to much larger leaps I’ve taken in the years that followed. And through knowing Damien I’ve learned that it isn’t always about getting in… Sometimes it’s just about being willing to apply.

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:1 (NIV)

Dear Applicant #601

“Dear Applicant #601,

Today you officially failed the California Bar Exam… Who will you be now?”

 That’s how a started a letter I recently wrote to myself. I don’t tell you about this failure for you to feel sorry for me, or to feel sorry for myself. I share this publically because in the midst of a really heartbreaking low I’ve found a little beauty here too…

It is the utter shock… Knot in my stomach… Numbing tears, that all describe the depth of this failure. And if you’ve ever seen your hard work and dreams drift just out of your reach, you understand the darkness of the place I’m talking about. But that’s only what I saw at first.

A long couple of months ago God took me through the book of Exodus. I got stuck when I read, “When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” (Exodus 13:17 (NLT)).

He opened my eyes and helped me realize that the long way isn’t the wrong way, because what the people didn’t know at the time was that God was protecting them when he took them the long way… Along a route that they couldn’t see instead of the short route which was visible. At the time I came to this revelation I shared it with a friend who identified, and I was blessed yesterday when he threw it back at me and challenged me to believe it myself.

I would never pray for pain like this on myself, or on anyone else. But for reasons that may never truly make sense to me it’s been written into my journey. In my letter, I told Applicant #601 that the short path looks good now, but only God knows what was waiting to overtake me on that route.

So I’m not happy about the long journey ahead of me, and if you are experiencing an obstacle that seems too big to overcome, you may relate. But in this place where my desires are clashing with God’s will for my life, I’ve found what it means to pick up my cross: to give meaning to my suffering… By adjusting my plan… To fit His purpose.

So will you join me as we travel the long route we can no longer see? … Even when the main road is right in front of us?

That’s step one to the Promised Land.

 

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22 (NIV)

The God I Wished I Knew

He is jealous for me.

Loves like a hurricane

I am a tree

Bending beneath

The weight of His wind and mercy…

Those were the words I heard in an old, dark church when I met God…

I just didn’t know it at the time.

When I walked into the old church that day the only things I knew for sure were first that the circumstances of my life weren’t working for me anymore; and second, I was desperate to feel something different.

What that meant…? At the time I didn’t know.

I remember the long line of wooden pews, two columns side-by-side. And I remember my view from the back of the room as I sat in the last pew and watched the lights turn off and worship begin.

This was typical for me. Service after service I searched in the expressions, tears, and praise of those around me during worship for whatever it was I was missing…

After awhile that day I closed my eyes and wondered why I was even sitting in that pew. I thought about the stress of my day and I felt the heaviness of what I now recognize as shame on my entire body.

Shame? The girl sitting in that pew never would have identified it that way. She spent her whole life striving to be the best and the brightest. And most of the time she succeeded, she had it all together… At least that’s what she successfully convinced herself…

But the further removed version of myself knows better now. That girl carried the shame of each “failure.” Each lost opportunity was heavy, whether academic, professional, or personal… Especially personal. I held on to each relationship that didn’t play out the way I wanted it to…

The heaviness and pain of a lifetime of failure and mistakes felt too heavy to bear sitting in the old wooden pew that night…

Amazing grace how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now I’m found.

Was blind, but now I see.

 Those were the words I heard when I stood up in my pew and fell to my knees… It wasn’t the first time, but it was the first time I meant it…

I fell to my knees because I was lost, but I wanted to be found. And I knew I was blind, but that night I was so desperate to finally see…

See what? I didn’t know that night. But after watching those around me in church for so long, I was hungry for whatever it was that they had but I was somehow missing…

“Please God take it from me…”

 That’s what I repeated over and over in my mind and in my heart as I bowed both my physical body and my entire soul before the God I desperately wished I knew… My request I couldn’t articulate that night, but now I know I was just asking him to take the load that was becoming too heavy for me to carry on my own.

In that moment I felt a rare, and unfamiliar tear… And it felt good. And the more I continued to plead with the God I wished I knew, the more tears flowed from me.

He is jealous for me…

 Is what I heard when I felt someone’s hand pat my back… Loves like a hurricane…

 I realized someone had seen my tears of freedom and silently comforted me where I was in the back of the room for a minute… I am a tree… Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy…

 I continued my silent plea with steady tears, and my silent friend began to move on…

OH HOW HE LOVES US…

 Those were the words I heard as I felt one last pat on my back… And simultaneously an electric surge of chills ran through my whole body…

HE LOVES ME,

OH HOW HE LOVES ME…

 Those were the words I heard as on my knees I began to sob away the heaviness of a burden I had spent my whole life trying to carry on my own. In the midst of those tears, those words and that love pierced me deeper than any other experience I held on to…

And against my own plan, in the dark, on the floor of an old church, in the last wooden pew at the back of the room, the God I wished I knew became the God I’ll never forget…

 

Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see– how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him…

Pslam 34:8 (MSG)

 

The Long Way Isn’t the Wrong Way…

I started having problems with the GPS on my phone a couple weeks ago. In the technology age we live in I feel completely dependent on my “maps” app every time I’m trying to get to a new place, you can probably relate. My biggest problem was even though my phone could find my ultimate destination; it couldn’t keep up with my location to give me the step-by-step directions I needed. As a result, whenever I started a new trip I would miss a few turns then find myself hopelessly lost, overwhelmed by the helpless feeling of trying to find my own way back to the route.

When I took my phone to the Apple store they told me my GPS calibration was slightly off. This meant that even though my phone knew where I was, and where I wanted to go, when I started moving, it lost my location and could no longer give me the directions I helplessly needed, and would otherwise get if I had perfect calibration.

I think God works the same way. I believe each of us as a plan and purpose already set for our lives, and I’m sure there is a direct and perfect route to get to that destination. Some of us already know what that destination is, the problem is the wrong turns we take when we’re trying to find our own way through the route.

Like my phone, our step-by-step instructions can only come when we are perfectly calibrated to Him. The same way I was hopelessly lost without the guidance of my GPS is the same way I’ve been helplessly lost trying to find my own way in the direction of my life. But each time I’m reminded that the long way doesn’t mean the wrong way, because unlike my phone we always have the opportunity to get back to perfect calibration with God. And in reality the long way was already part of His plan…

Maybe you’ve already had this revelation. I encourage you to share your voice in this world that could use more light. But maybe you’re not there yet, and you’re still lost trying to find your own way back to the route. Wherever you are, it is my hope and prayer that you join me as we find His way, and awaken our soul vision…

When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”

Exodus 13:17 (NLT)

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