Please Play This Song at My Funeral

I’m no scientist or doctor, but when you’re doing pretty much anything in life, I think it’s important to breathe.

In high school, my friend Holly and I cheered together. I’ll never forget the day she moved from flier (the one on top of the pyramid) to base (the one holding the flier in the air). She is a tiny person — her heart is the only big thing about her — so the day she decided to be the muscles of the group shocked us all. I remember helping her, coaching her through the process. Bend at the knees, don’t arch your back. 

After every dismount Holly would let out the biggest gush of air from her mouth. Guuuuuuhhh. I couldn’t figure out how  such a loud noise could come from such a small person.

Then came time to add the cheers to the stunts. Yelling for our football team and throwing human bodies into the air — at the same time.

No words came from Holly’s mouth. Her grand exhales came after holding her breath for the entire stunt sequence. Ready, one, two, inhale… no exhale. No breath until the stunt ended and her flier landed safely on the floor.

“Don’t forget to breathe, Holly!” our coach would remind her during practice. “You have to keep breathing!”

Today, I need someone reminding me of the same thing.

A couple weekends ago, two of my best friends became one in marriage — and I couldn’t be happier. On the drive home from Austin, I spent time reflecting, praying, and thanking God for the people in my life.

Then Gungor’s This Is Not The End came on my car stereo. At the words, “This is not our last, this is not our last breath,” the tears began streaming down my cheeks.

Why that song? Why those words? I had heard them a dozen times before. What was it about the reassurance of breath — a job I typically leave up to my lungs and brain to work out — that broke me?

2013 has been one tough year. In desperation, I had gasped for air, taking in all my lungs could hold. I became lightheaded and dizzy, and lost sight of all truth. Instead, I started believing lies of inadequacy and disappointment. I have been holding my breath for jobs, for relationships, for provision, for heartaches, for health, for the way it should be 

Stale air continued to cycle and recycle. I couldn’t exhale because what if those last breaths were all I had.

Eventually, my face turned purple and I could not even see the life right in front of me.

I never let that last breath go to invite the fresh breath in.

There on Highway 290, I sat puffy-eyed and splotchy while this song reminded me of something I had forgotten along the way: there is another breath after this one. There is always one more breath.

Even in death there is never a last breath; life continues in the heavenly realm. Life started when Adam first drew in the breath of God, the inhale, and it continued when he exhaled the kingdom breath out into the garden.

There will be another inhale, but we have to let go of the breath we’re holding onto first.

There is always one more breath. 

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This is not the end, this is not the end of this. We will open our eyes wide, wider.

This is not our last, this is not our breath. We will open our mouths wide, wider.

This is not the end, this is not the end of us. We will shine like the stars: bright, brighter.

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When Waiting Looks Like Celebrating

The clock read a quarter ’til five and still nothing. No phone call. No email.

Surely she would have heard something by now.

Nothing.

Then, my phone buzzed and those four little words with huge meaning flashed across my screen: “I got the job!” I let out a sigh of relief and a silly grin spread across my face.

“She got the job, she got the job!” I hollered to my roommate. We hopped up out of our seats and made some movement I will for now call a “victory dance.” Nearly a year and a half in the making, we were witnessing a tree of life bloom before our very eyes.

For this hope, this job, we had been on our knees and on our faces; for this dream we raised our glasses in eager expectation. We sat on couches and in cars, across from each other at tables and in coffee shops sharing our prayers and declarations for this hope and longing. And in four little words the longing ceased. She got the job.  IMG_4149

Six, nine, 12 months ago, it seemed nothing was going as planned and I honestly wasn’t sure how God was going to pull this one off.

I am not sure why I had to lose my beloved Grandbud, it all seemed too soon. I am not sure why rejection upon rejection came, it exhausted us all. But I woke up everyday — with my cup of coffee in hand — declaring that he in fact would bring redemption, restoration, and relief from the spinning. Believing and praying that sense would somehow be made of it all and even if sense never came, we would have faith in the purpose. Yet part of me still wondered how out of reach it all might be.

I came to a point where I expected to be disappointed.

Today, we could all name at least a handful of hopes we’re still longing to see come to pass for ourselves and for those we love. I have friends who wish to be married, yet sleep alone. Friends weep in longing for children, yet they still carry empty wombs. Friends dreaming for big things manage to hit every road block to keep them from ever accomplishing their goals.

Yet today, we could also name some people and things worth celebrating — the jobs, the promotions, and the save-the-dates and birth announcements filling every last inch of our fridges. I can’t deny the juxtaposition of the celebrations and disappointments.

I was determined to not be disappointed. In the swirl of it all I found myself wondering where I fit. 

I tried earning my right to fulfilled dreams by being good enough or holy enough to gain God’s favor. It didn’t work.

I tried playing victim, hoping God would take pity on me and give in. He saw right through the act.

I even tried taking matters into my own hands because God must have gotten busy fulfilling other people’s dreams and forgotten about mine. Or maybe he was too tired by the time my turn came around and just wasn’t feeling up to the task. Yeah, not so much.

Then God reminded me: as much pain and disappointment as I have witnessed for others and experienced myself  in the past 18 months, I have also had the privilege to celebrate some ridiculous things with these people I do life with down here in the Peach State.

The same people I stood beside and supported as they packed up their desks — saying goodbye to one season without knowing what the next season would hold — I later celebrated with as they moved to new cities, started new jobs, and stepped into the people they’re becoming. Somehow, that’s made the disappointment lighter, the hope stronger. I am realizing God’s favor  is not a rat race or a lotto— there’s enough pie to go around.

Know I don’t write this from the other side telling you I got everything I’ve ever wanted because God finally showed up. I don’t write to you now because I have my perfect pin-board life with a zillion blog hits, the dream job, and Adam Levine came to his senses and proposed after having a come-to-Jesus moment.

No, I have none of those things.

I write to you still in the waiting.

I am not telling you if you just hope hard enough the dreams will appear. I cannot tell you where the magic lamp is hidden.

But I can tell you it will never look the way you expect. Often times, we miss out on the best in search for the good. That’s why as much as the waiting Sucks with a capital “S”, we wait on the Lord. And part of that waiting is celebrating with those who celebrate — the way Elizabeth’s baby lept in her womb when Mary came to visit with some big news. We are all pregnant with promise and I believe that promise will deliver in due time.

Until then, we press on in what we know — which is who he is, not necessarily where we are headed.  God’s not wasting a moment of this season and neither should you.

There is no use in taking a short cut when it comes to becoming the person God created you to be.

Take the small steps of faith that end in great treks of life. Fulfillment happens in the waiting, in the journey. I don’t plan on missing out on the best in search of the good. And today’s best is celebrating the victories in the lives of those who have celebrated with me.

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