Tuesday, December 13, 2022

What Are You Waiting For? Just Let It Go

Today I finished the yearly watch-thru of The Lord of the Rings.  I was struck by the scene at the end, when Frodo is standing at the edge, ring in hand.  He has come so far.  His journey was filled will trials, pain and tremendous grief.  He FINALLY made it up the mountain, and is positioned to finally throw the ring into the fires of Mordor.  It is what the entire series had been building to.  It was Frodo's purpose, and ultimately, the ring was his reason for leaving the shire.  He knew his mission, and though he stumbled along the way, he stayed focused (with the help of Samwise Gamgee) and he kept going, though the way became increasingly more difficult.  And now, he has made it to the end.  

It should be simple, right?  

Take the ring and throw it in.  

And yet, Frodo hesitates.

He knows that the ring is evil and brings ruin to all who carry it. He knows that he must destroy it-the fate of the world depends on it. But as evil does, it twists and tempts and can confuse and corrupt even the purest of hearts.  In some ways, Frodo, carrying the ring to Mordor, has become attached to the ring.  Though he knows the perils it brings, he feels a certain draw or kinship with the ring.  He has worn the ring, and he knows the ring. Every time Frodo put the ring on, it was to hide, or to feel safe.  The ring brought a certain sense of safety, and when it came time to give it up, he hesitated.

We are like that with our addictions and sins, aren't we?  We can look at it and know it is wrong, and yet we still feel a draw to it.  I saw an addict in Frodo's face in this scene and it broke my heart.

Sam, having seen what the ring had done to Frodo, how it has stripped him of everything that makes him human (much like addiction), weeps while asking, "What are you waiting for?  Just let it go."

Read that again.

"What are you waiting for? Just let it go."

Frodo stands there for a long moment, thinking.  And then he turns around, having made his choice, and he declares, "The ring is mine."  He puts the ring on and disappears, and Sam is left alone, utterly devastated.

Having traveled all the way to the end, ready to throw the ring into the fires of Mordor, Frodo decides it's too precious to him to actually give it up. He gives himself over to his desire for the ring above all else.

I find myself incredibly disappointed in Frodo.  How could he have come so far, just to run right back to the very thing that was destroying him?  It's easy to watch that and think, "You idiot!  You were right there at the edge of victory.  Why would you give it all up now?"

My heart sinks watching his face and hearing him choose the ring over freedom (for himself and those he loved).  It's the same way I have been disappointed every time my husband has used pornography to act out. The same way I am disappointed when I see one of my kids choose a path that will cause them pain.  The same way I am disappointed in myself when I go back to the same toxic ways of thinking that have always ruled my life.  It is a disappointment filled with heartbreak.  Because in each of those scenarios, I can SEE that there is a better way.  

Frodo found out as soon as he left the shire that life is incredibly difficult.  The same is true for us.  Life will put things in your path that you didn't expect, and that you certainly didn't ask for or want.  You will experience pain and sorrow and be hurt in ways you never imagined possible. You may make it almost to the very end, and find yourself hopeless and ready to give up.  

Don't let the pain and confusion and evil all around you destroy your spirit and what you know to be true.  Don't give up.  Do not lose heart.

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Do you know what I love about this? Even though Frodo chose himself and chose selfishness in that moment where victory was certain, he was given another chance to make it right. He was provided one more opportunity to do the right thing. Gollum bites Frodo's finger off and Frodo is finally free of the burden of the ring. Once the ring is removed from him, Frodo comes to his senses and his desire to destroy the ring is once more stirred up. He risks his very life for one last confrontation with Gollum where they both go over the edge, and Gollum falls, and the ring is destroyed, once and for all.  So even though he made it to the end and chose poorly, he was given one more shot at victory.

This is one of my favorite things about God.  No matter how many times we stand at the precipice of freedom, ready to throw our chains into the fires, and then we turn away and go back to the safety of our sins or addictions or fears, God says, "Try again.  Get up and fight. You can still have victory." 

I mean, he gave up his son, who didn't have to come to this broken world, to show us that victory is within our reach. To give us chance after chance after chance.  I don't know about you, but that alone is a reason to hold firmly to hope. No one but God forgives with such unwavering grace and mercy and love. We will not always do it right the first time.  We will make mistakes and we will hurt people.  But we don't have to live under the weight of shame and condemnation. We are offered a second chance. And then another. And another.  And hopefully, one day you will stand at the edge of victory and instead of holding onto that "ring," you will throw it into the flames and be free of it once and for all.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Come and Claim Him

There are many reasons to love the Lord of the Rings (books or movies-I'm not picky).  I turn the movies on at least once a year, because they take me on an entire journey, mentally and emotionally.  I have always loved one part in particular, though I have never understood why until this week.

There is this scene in the book where the elf Glorfindel has to help Frodo and his friends across the Ford of Bruinen to get to Rivendell.  In the movies, they placed this task on Arwen, and we find her at the banks of the ford, a dying Frodo laid across her horse, as the Nine Riders pursue them relentlessly.  When all seems lost, with courage in her posture and ready to give her life for this mission, Arwen looks at them and says fiercely, "If you want him, come and claim him."

As the riders rush into the water to try to get to Frodo, Arwen calls on the power of the elves and the waters rise, rushing upon the Nine Riders, giving Arwen time to escape and deliver Frodo for healing to the land of Rivendell.

"If you want him, come and claim him."


Those are fighting words.

I connect with them because, as it turns out, I am a fighter.

I resisted claiming this title for myself for a long time, feeling like it meant I thought more highly of myself than I should.  But the truth of the matter is that I am fighter.  There is a resiliency in me that until this year, I didn't really understand that I possessed.  It isn't anything that I have, dependent on myself.  It is something that comes because I TRUST Jesus.  I believe what the Bible says about him.  I have faith that I will be rescued, even if it doesn't look the way I might want it to.

And I find this challenge of "come and claim him" to be incredibly encouraging.

I am under constant attack from the arrows of the enemy.  An enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy.  That enemy is running rampant in our world and entangled up in our lives.  We have a Savior, a commander who leads us and guides us through the enemy's territory.  

This world?

It's not as God intends it to be.  The garden of Eden is what He intended. But he didn't want us to be robots, forced to follow him simply because we have to.  He made us, special and set apart from all other creation, with a mind that is capable of knowing Him.  Our brains, able to think and choose and decide for ourselves set us apart from animals and other living things.  God wanted someone who would choose him because of who He is.

So, he gives us a mind unlike any other, and with it comes the power to hurt or heal (ourselves or others).  And throughout our lives, it delights God when we seek after him.  When we bring our joy and sorrow alike to him.  When we acknowledge that we are nothing, specks of dust in the grand scheme of things.  And yet, he loves us immensely, more than we can even put into words or fathom.  It makes NO sense.  I know it doesn't make sense.  That doesn't mean it isn't true.  

So, when I watch the Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring) and I see and hear Arwen say, "If you want him, come and claim him." that feels like the gauntlet is being thrown down and I can't help but get excited and want to join her in that fight.

It is not lost on me that Jesus is Arwen for us here.  His blood covers us and when the enemy comes calling, and he will, Jesus steps in, his grace and mercy speaking for us, and he says to the devil, "If you want him, come and claim him."

And THEN, when the enemy pursues, God shows up.  His waters rush in and are too powerful for the enemy.  We are covered by his blood, by his grace, and nothing the enemy can do to us can extinguish that.  We are covered.  It gives me chills to think about this scene and how Jesus has stood at the fords of my deepest pain and shame and told the devil that if he wants me, he has to come and claim me from the grasp of God himself!  Which God has proven over and over again the devil is simply incapable of doing.  This keeps hope alive, even in the darker times.

Monday, November 21, 2022

It's Not About The Lights

One minute you're putting up Christmas decorations (not the tree...not before Thanksgiving of course!!), and the next, you're a weeping bundle of emotion, devastated because your husband is less than enthusiastic about the fireplace decorations that made your heart happy.  Is he a jerk?  Is he insensitive?  Is he rude?

Of course not.  

Does he care about Christmas decorations? No.  

Does he have any issues with ME putting up decorations?  No.  

And yet, the look on his face when I asked him if he saw the lights, and then the subsequent comment of "....um...they're lights..." utterly broke my heart.

Why?  Because it wasn't about the lights or the Christmas decorations.  And bless his heart, my husband listened when God urged him to ask me if there was something else going on outside of the lights that was upsetting me.  Because unbeknownst to my sweet husband, about an hour before the misunderstanding over the lights I was crying in the bathtub (my usual spot for self-reflection and weeping...of course...).  Because I had allowed some things that hurt my heart to kind of speak some lies to my heart.

I'm struggling to find my place.  

In life.  

At work.

As a mom.  

As a member at a new church.  

I feel disconnected.  I have tried to embrace female friendships and put myself out there.  It is terrifying and after months of pushing into this, I'm a little tired, and feeling like I'm not really connecting with anyone in the same way I see my husband doing.  And I found myself wondering tonight if I have any value.

It's the same lie that has chased me my entire life.  That I don't matter.  That I don't have anything to offer.  That if something bad were to happen, I would be alone.  I don't even believe it as I type that.  And yet, my heart was so heavy tonight with the lies, with the accusations.  Even as I could reason that it didn't matter in the grand scheme of things, that what God has called me to (to SEE people and to LOVE people just as they are RIGHT NOW) is the ONLY thing that matters.

Here's the thing: insecurity creeps in ALL THE TIME.  It is like a constant war in my mind.  The same old lies come calling, and there is this tension because I can sense that they are lies, and yet they FEEL and SOUND so real, because I have always just accepted them as true.  Now that I am working hard to become stronger and heal and stop carrying my past shame and guilt around with me, I am increasingly aware of just HOW MANY lies took up home in my heart and mind.  Unlearning decades of lies, sorting through them, weighing them against the truth about who God says I am...it's all a bit confusing and sometimes it gets jumbled.

And sometimes I just get sad.  I used to want to rush past it and get back to "not sad" as quickly as possible.  These days, I'm learning to just sit in the sadness.  To just feel it.  To face what I am feeling, to confront and call out the lies, and speak the truth to my heart, even if I can't muster belief in the moment.  To change the structure of my brain by choosing to make a new groove.  It's OK that I feel sad.  It's okay that all I want to do tonight is lay here and cry.  It's OK, because what started out as me feeling utterly alone has brought me to this place of turning to Jesus.  Of crying out to the one who knows my pain, who sees my tears, and who longs to hold me until the tears stop and my body stills, and then keeps holding onto me.  

I can't even look at this place I am in right now and wish it away.  There is a certain beauty to understanding myself in new ways, and giving myself a little extra grace on the days where I am struggling to love myself.  The enemy is whispering lies in my mind, and yet through all the chaos and confusion, I hear God singing over me.  It's good to be so loved.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A Tale of Two Houses

In 2003, Kris and I bought our first home in Hazelwood, MO.  We had two toddlers and a brand new baby, and were desperately in need of a bigger place.  It was move-in ready and was purchased in a rush by two kids barely out of their teens, who didn't know the first thing about owning a home.  It looked nice, and that mattered to me.  We didn't have to do any work to get it ready and we wasted no time settling in.  Perhaps had life been different, that home would have held different memories for me.  But within a year of moving into that home, I was knee deep in a 7.5 year on again/off again affair--all the while, my husband was battling a relentless addiction to pornography.  We had three babies, essentially, and I don't even remember much about those early years in that house.  I just know that when I look at a calendar, we moved into that house just over a year before my affair began.  So essentially, my entire affair occurred under that roof and my memories in the home became entangled.

It should make sense then that I have a lot of negative memories associated with the old house.  There isn't a single room in that home that wasn't touched in some way by the choices that Kris and I made in those early years of our marriage.  It became increasingly more painful to stay there after the affair ended, because we carry such deep connections to our memories.

I am just now learning about memories we make as babies and trauma that our bodies experience in infancy and how that impacts us as adults.  We don't carry memories in our brains as babies--our infant memories are stored in our physical body, and if my therapist (and other researchers) are right, then part of my issue with chronic pain may be tied to memories I made in my body as a baby, and trauma that I experienced, before my brain could make mental memories.  

So in light of that, it stands to reason that my memories of things I said and did in that home that spit in the face of my marriage and the vow I took would be a factor in my views of the old house.  It always felt dark to me.  There wasn't a lot of natural light at all, and it was difficult to even light up the living room, as there wasn't a way to have any kind of overhead lighting. We relied on floor lamps, which never quite give you the same light quality, and I never could make it look as bright as I wanted it to be.

As a baby, I wasn't safe physically or emotionally, and I learned how to hold pain in my body. I mistakenly taught myself a long, long time ago that NOTHING is safe.  Any kind of pain, mental or physical, mild or severe, will be treated the same way by my body--it will lock it in, fortify it, and make the breakthrough that much more elusive.  The more you dig into something, the deeper the groove becomes, until you respond the same way without even having to think about it.  It can be incredibly difficult to dig a new groove in the opposite direction.  Not impossible, but difficult.

While we are discussing it in therpay, I am not simply unlearning how I processed the affair (both in and out of my body)--I have to go back further, dig into painful memories from my childhood and deal with those first. And THEN maybe I can find my way to peace that isn't easily swayed by what my body THINKS is happening.  Many times, my brain and body are already trying to dig their way out of flight mode before I can even think rationally about a situation - big or small.  I have learned the wrong way to deal with any potential threat, and it has led to a lifetime of responding to danger (or a lack thereof) with the same panicked response, regardless of whether the danger is real or simply perceived.

It does seem highly suspect to me that my issues with chronic pain didn't begin until AFTER the affair did.  We haven't talked about it too much in therapy yet, but I know we will address it at some point, as I can pinpoint WHEN the pain began in earnest, and it lines up exactly with when I began to separate myself from my heart.  While I had bouts of depression prior to 2004, my fear and anxiety skyrocketed and over the next nearly 8 years, I reinforced the need to hold pain inside my body.  I already knew how to do it, because I had been doing it naturally since I was a baby.  But in 2004, I began in earnest to hide all of it.  And it all stayed hidden inside my body, and inside my mind.  

One therapist told me early on that if I didn't end the affair it would kill me emotionally.  That has stayed with me and as I look back at the deterioration of my soul and mental health, she was right.  That was the only thing she was right in, as she also gave me very unwise, ungodly counsel at the time.  The affair and how it affected me emotionally literally was my undoing, in so many ways.

But sometimes, we have to come completely unraveled before God can pick up the pieces and redesign them to be everything he wanted.  A lot of times we make our own messes.  Sometimes life gives us things we can't control that we would never wish for.  And there are other times where we sit in graves we have dug, and we need someone else to come in and breathe life back in where we let sin or fear or confusion choke it out.

God was already bringing light and life back to my heart while we lived in our old home and I am forever grateful for that.  The old house is where God tore down the walls Kris and I had put up to keep each other out, and the old house is where God restored our marriage.  God certainly shone brightly into the darkness there and sustained me until he was ready for me to move out of the old house.

When He knew we were ready, God brought us to a home that is quite literally full of light.  There is an addition in the home called the sunroom if the alarm system they left is to be believed.  We just call it the family room.  But it isn't just that room.  There are windows EVERYWHERE.  There is so much light in this home, and more than that, the prior owner was an electrician and so there are a billion lights and switches, and we still haven't figured out what all of them do yet!  There are a ridiculous amount of lights here, and it just makes me smile thinking about how ridiculously full of light God is!

For years after the affair ended, I hated being in that old house.  Once I understood that it was all the painful memories that I created there, God gave me just enough peace and contentment to keep me patient while we waited for this home to be ready for us.  It was still hard to walk in certain rooms and know what I had done and to know how much a part of my home this other person was, but God did a miracle in my heart that allowed me to live with my memories without them taking up too much room in my heart and mind.  It was put on the back burner, and it was something only God could have done.

And now that I am out of there and in this new home filled with so much beauty inside and out, and I look back at the other house, I see where God has brought me.  Truly from darkness to light.  First, he worked in my heart and soul and poured light in until I was bursting with it.  And now, literally in my home itself, God has redeemed and restored what the locusts had eaten.  Our home was never a safe place for us or for our marriage.  But we have another home and a second chance for this home to be what God intends it to be.

He has given me a house of light, in exchange for the one I clothed in darkness.

He has given me bright, open windows (and peace in my soul) where there used to be gloom and clouds and regret.

He has put me in a place that LOOKS like the country, feels like the county, smells like the country, IN THE CITY, only minutes from the old house.

He has given our oldest two daughters and our son-in-law a place to call home (in the old house) and given us a place for our adult kids and eventually grandkids, a respite from the craziness and busy-ness of their lives.

He has taken a home that was used for evil and given us space to invite people in for a meal or fellowship or prayer.

He has taken two weary hearts who fought hard to stay together and keep fighting to make their home a safe place from a house of darkness and placed them in a house of light, and every day reminds them how loved they are.

There isn't a day that I don't walk through this house or see a room from a different angle and think, THANK YOU GOD!  Every day in this home is an absolute joy,  And it isn't because bad things suddenly stopped happening.  I am still wrestling with knowing that my husband's addiction reared its ugly head again two months ago.  I am in therapy trying to deal with traumas I didn't know I even had, from being adopted as a baby.  Life is hard and my kids are going through things.  There are marriages crumbling all around me, that I thought would never fall, and there are so many situations where I can't see the way through.  But God sees.  God knows how to bring peace to those going through the worst or hardest fights of their lives.  But he always gives us a choice, doesn't he?  It's up to us - he just asks us to believe that what he said is true.  The same God who carved a pathway through the Red Sea so his people could flee to safety is still true today and still longs to make a pathway where there seems to be no way for whatever you are going through.

Life isn't beautiful because bad things stopped happening in this amazing blessing of a home.  Life is beautiful because I know where my hope is.  Life is beautiful because God who gives good gifts to those who love him.  This world is not my home, and as much as I love this new oasis, this house is not my home.  But if this house and the joys we have already experienced here in the last two months are ANY indication of the home to come...well, it's hard not to get excited about that!

Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Year So Many Things Changed...

 This has probably been the most disruptive year I can remember since 2012.  It isn't all bad.  There has been so much good, so much blessing, and so much grace.  There has also been a lot of pain, of every kind: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.  And yet, even in all of that pain, there has also been tremendous grace, mercy, peace, and comfort.

2022 is a year of change for us.

Our son moved to Columbia, MO last year and so this year, we have had to learn how to manage our children being in multiple locations.  We have had to learn to love on our son from afar.  And he has not been free from the pain and change--it has been an extremely difficult year for him, especially on them mental health front.  As a parent, as a mother, it cuts deep when you cannot be there to protect and comfort and love on your kids.  So I have had to learn to love him in different ways, and try to show up for him from in genuine and tangible ways, when we can't physically be there.  And yet, in this, I have never been closer to my son.  I have watched Kris pursue his son this year with passion and purpose and this has been essential in our son continuing to learn that we love him NO MATTER WHAT.  What a blessing it has been to both see this relationship between them develop and grow, but to also see my own relationship with my son, once so tumultuous and difficult become something so beautiful.  It has been healing my heart in so many ways and my son and I share a closeness and a bond and a connection I honestly never imagined possible just 3 years ago.  It brings me to tears whenever I think about it.

Kris attended an intensive retreat back in February, and that has brought its share of changes.  All of them good.  For him and for us.  God has been preparing him to lead our family in new ways, to new horizons.  I have watched my husband dig in deep to things he has never been willing to face, let alone enter into the pain of.  He has taken step after step to heal in deeper ways and I have had the joy of watching it happen. My husband is a good, GOOD man.  When I say that, he's that guy that people describe as a GOOD man.   How I was lucky enough to spend my life with a GOOD man baffles me.    

I have also seen the enemy attack, and been devastated in ways I didn't think I could be again.  Because GOOD men are still imperfect men.  GOOD men still cause you pain.  GOOD men still misstep and GOOD men fail and disappoint you.  

But do you know what else a GOOD man who loves God and is growing also does?  

He gets up.  

He dusts himself off.  

He picks up his sword and he chases after God all over again.  

He comes to the person he loves and he is honest, even though he knows it will break her heart.  He doesn't try to hide.  He faces it and he apologizes.  And he doesn't just apologize.  He comes to you, completely broken and humbled and telling you that he has not given up the fight.  He will stand and he will fight.  And he will repair (with God's help) the damage he has done.  And beyond that, a GOOD man sits with you in your pain.  He holds you through day after day of panic attacks, even if your body won't stop trembling for hours and his back is out.  He bears up under the shortness and frustration and tense moments and words right now because it is his job to bring healing to the relationship.  And though right now, my equilibrium is off, my GOOD man has stepped up in ways I have never seen and I KNOW that I am safe with him.  So I will hold onto that truth until I finally FEEL safe again.  I am a fighter, and I know what I have and what I want.  I know what I almost threw away and I have watched God do miracle after miracle in both of our hearts and our marriage these last 10 years.  So I know that I can trust that God will bring all the hope and healing and comfort and peace as we walk down this path and navigate these difficult conversations.

I have not been without missteps myself.  At the beginning of summer, I found myself suddenly in the midst of extreme temptation.  The devil kept trying to pull me back into old habits and old ways to soothe my hurting heart, long before Kris stumbled.  But for the grace of God, I surely would have fallen back into old patterns.  When I saw it happening, I was so desperate to NOT go back there because it was so incredibly difficult to recover from and I knew it wasn't what I really wanted or needed.  So I brought my burden to Kris, and it caused him pain to know that I was struggling with wanting attention, but we worked our way through that.  

The enemy is real and fighting hard to destroy what God has not only ordained, but fully restored and healed.  And this has all also happened to me during a year of extreme spiritual growth.  And not just spiritual.  I began Pain Reprocessing Therapy and have 7 weeks under my belt.  It has been some of the most difficult work I have done in my life.  Dealing with my dead marriage in 2012 somehow felt easier than what I am walking through right now, perhaps because I wasn't trying to unpack 43 years of pent up ways of living my life, trapped with the frightened heart of a little girl.  And while Kris is right beside me through it, he isn't able to soothe the heart of that little girl.  He can't repair what is broken in her heart and mind.  I have to do that.  And so while I am not alone, I have to do the work myself, and I have to dig in to things I don't want to look at: specifically something that came up in therapy this week--I don't like that little girl.  And so that's probably the place to start, and it is likely a road on path to freedom from the neuroplastic pain that my body keeps locked up inside of it.  So I will dive in and I will fight for a sound mind and a body that knows how to properly interpret pain.

Beyond that, we have been waiting for two years to be a part of a new church plant we heard was in the works.  Covid put plans for that on hold and it has taken a while to finally get up and running.  But here we are, just 4 days away from the launch of The House in Ferguson, MO.  Kris and I feel so blessed to be a part of what God is doing in the community of Ferguson.  There is so much pain there and so much healing that is needed on so many fronts.  The House will be a place for the broken and the lonely to find a family.  It is a place to come HOME, no matter where you have been or how far or long you have run.  And it is place where those who have only known broken homes will start to understand what family really is.  

It is terrifying and exciting in equal measure.  I know God wants to use us, individually and as a couple, and that our story can bring hope to others who are drowning.  So we stand ready for this change and it has not been lost on us how the enemy will ramp up his attacks.  And believe me, he has definitely increased the intensity with which he tries to entice us back to sin.

And if that wasn't enough, we decided to throw a move into the mix.  We began earnestly saving money to finally move out of our little starter home that we raised our family in.  When we finally saved enough for our down payment and closing costs, we began the house hunt.  We didn't know how many houses we would look at or how long the process would take.  I was scared, of course, not knowing how to wait.  But God had been preparing me all summer to just sit down and wait.  He showed me he was right there with me in the waiting.  And as I tried to walk forward in faith and obedience in that through this process, he showed up and moved quickly.  We had already looked at 5 or 6 houses.  Each one had tiny little elements that showed me that God loved me, but none were the right house.  

One Thursday, possibly exactly one month ago (give or take ONE week), we looked at a house.  It had the "bones" of what we wanted, but it didn't have main level laundry and it didn't have a kitchen that would have worked for me without fully rehabbing it up front.  But it had a pool, which has become less about want and more about need over the last few years with my spine and my mental health.  We began to imagine ourselves in this home and talked about putting an offer in.  

And then the crazy stuff started happening (thanks a lot, Lindi!).

Within an hour and a half of looking at that house, my friend sent me a link to a different house she had found and jokingly asked if I had an extra $25,000.  We did not have any extra, let alone THAT much!  The house we had just looked at would have put us at the highest end of our budget with rehabbing the kitchen.  But I looked at 3 pictures and then immediately took my phone to Kris' office at work and said LOOK.  We looked at the pictures together, and I said I wanted it, even without a pool.  He was like but look--there IS a pool.  Wait what?!?  It's this beatuiful AND it has a pool?  And that pool is 20 times better than the pool I just looked at?  Kris surprised me by saying he loved the house, and he immediately starting thinking about ways to make it work.  I left his office and said "I want it."  I don't think either one of us, in that moment, seriously thought it was something that would happen.  We didn't have any extra $25,000--that adds a LOT to your monthly payment and we simply couldn't afford monthly payments at that price.  So we still talked about putting an offer in on that other house.  

Our agent was able to get us in to see the too expensive house the next day, and we were only the second people to see the home.  We had spent time praying about each house we looked at, before walking in.  We were not rushing into anything and we were trusting that God would guides us in this process.  So as I walked through the house I couldn't afford, I found myself trying not to fall in love with it.  I did envision myself there, but in a way you dream about owning a mansion and marrying a movie star when you are 13.  I didn't let myself get wrapped up in it.  The kitchen was actually smaller than I envisioned for myself (though it had the exact amount of counters I told Kris was a must) and I didn't really want to look for things to love at the house I knew we couldn't afford, so I honestly didn't even look at it in the same way I looked at the others.  I think I might have been afraid that if I looked too close, I would not be able to let it go.

Even when I went out to the back and found possibly the most gorgeous deck and pool with butterflies everywhere that anyone would want to sit out on day after day after day, I didn't let myself invest emotionally in that house.  But after we looked at it and discussed it, I knew it was something I wanted.  Kris felt the same way.  We didn't have a quick summer romance with that house....we were patient with our emotions about it.  We both wanted to put an offer in on the house.  But we couldn't offer what they were asking.  And in this market right now, good luck getting a house without offering at least asking, in most cases, waiving inspections just to sweeten the deal.

But God blessed us with a very wise and exceptional agent.  My friend who sent the link to that house is married to our agent, and I swear the two of them are an incredible team.  She found the house, and he guided us through how to approach our offer.  He advised us to offer the list price, and waive inspections.  He knew there would be multiple offers on a home like this, in a very quiet neighborhood in Ferguson.  We listened to his guidance and we looked at our budget.  It wasn't really feasible to offer asking, or offering anything at all.  And yet, we wanted to try anyway.  

We really felt God's hand guiding us through the entire process and Kris felt compelled to put out a fleece.  If you aren't familiar with the story of Gideon in the Bible, just know that Gideon asked God for a sign.  Not once, but twice.  And both times God gave him a sign.  He didn't have to.  He could have been silent, letting Gideon make the decision for himself.  But he showed up for Gideon in ways that made it clear this is what he wanted. So when Kris floated the idea of laying out a fleece and asking God to give us a sign, I was just like "okay."  What was our fleece?  Our fleece was to offer $15,000 higher than what we knew we could afford.  And it was still $10,000 LESS than asking.

If we gave up our monthly beach savings (which most of you know is a genuine sacrifice for me), we could swing the payments.  We weren't sure how to come up with the extra closing costs or down payment we would need if they did choose us, but we were trusting that God would show us one way or the other if this was the right house for us.  If the house were the right house, then we would figure out a way to quickly gather the extra money we would need to close.   

We put this offer in, though it was less than asking.  We waived all inspections in faith.  It was highly unlikely that we would even be considered.  We looked at that house on a Friday, and put our offer in on Saturday.  The sellers would decide on Sunday night.

Saturday evening, we got a text saying that there were other offers higher than ours.  We were given the opportunity to increase our offer.  We talked and prayed about it, looked at the budget and really felt like we needed to stick with our original offer.  It was already a stretch when we had asked God for a sign at the amount we offered.  So we said thanks, but no thanks.  If this house is meant to be, they will choose us.  

However, we did not believe that we would be chosen, knowing there were other offers higher than ours.  Not in a "we don't have enough faith" way.  It was more of a practical, "it would literally take a miracle" belief.  So that night, we prayed about it, and we let the house go.  I did not believe we would get it, and I felt peace about going back to make an offer on the other house or continuing to look.  But I still held out for a miracle.  I told so many people that weekend that it would take a miracle for us to get that house.  

I've forgotten a few details, but at some point Sunday night, we got our answer to the fleece we laid out.  We were given a yes.  We were given a miracle.  We got a text saying that if we went up an extra $5000 on our offer, the house was ours.  We started scrambling to see if we could come up with that much extra cash at closing.  If we took all of our beach money we have saved, and if you look at the fact our first house payment wouldn't be due until November, we would have almost the exact amount we needed.  

We asked for a sign.  We asked God to show us if we were moving in the right direction.  We put out a fleece and said if they choose us, that is a yes.  So we felt comfortable accepting their counter offer, at $5000 higher.  We wrote it up and signed it.  They signed it.  We didn't know if it would pass the occupancy inspection, but we walked forward in faith.  And it was in that that God provided another miracle.  The inspection passed with flying colors.

And then, as if that weren't enough, God did ANOTHER miracle.  The house didn't appraise for what we offered.  Do you know what amount the house actually appraised for?  The amount of our ORIGINAL offer, the one we put out in faith, as a fleece, trusting that if the home were right, then that was the right amount.  And now, I am sitting at my dining room table in my dream home that has things I never even knew were dreams, just in awe of God.  The weather for the next week is just gorgeous enough to eek out a few good days in the pool before we close it up for the year.  Today is my youngest's 17th birthday and all of the family, including my son, will be in town to celebrate her and this new home that we will some day have grandkids running around in.  It makes me weep to think about the patter of tiny feet and the laughter and the memories that will be made in this home.  I am more grateful than I have words to express.  I cannot believe that this is my life.  I am so so thankful that I have pressed into God, instead of pulling away.  We are here today because we have walked forward in faith and because God loves his children so much and he loves to give us good gifts when we sincerely seek after him.  He delights in us and this home is just a taste of how much.

So, all of that to say, 2022 has been a big year.  It has had tremendous pain, heartbreak, and devastation.  But it has had even greater amounts of comfort, peace, joy and miracles.  When I think about the work God is calling us to, and I look at this home, I see a safe haven.  For us, and for those lost and hurting and drowning in a sea of pain.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

It's Not Really Depression, Right?

 I feel like I am standing on the edge of the cliff.  Up here, I can look around and down below, and I can see a vast landscape.  It isn't luscious and green.  It isn't filled with flowers and color.  It is dark and deep, and it is an abyss that calls me by name.  It KNOWS me.  It recognizes the shape of me, the energy I put off, all the things that are in me that do not belong.  It calls to me.  It shows me beautiful things, things that look good. And yet, if I look at them from a different angle, or light shines down on them, they crumble to dust.

When I get to this point, I think I fool myself into thinking I am not depressed.  I am clinging so desperately to my own sanity, and I already feel like I am drowning.  The depression beckons me to just lay down and stop fighting.  Just stay in bed.  Just today.  Just lay down and succumb.

It is so alluring, this call to lay down and just stop. To let it all wash over me, and just spend months locked away from the world, while I suffer under the weight of it.  I look at where I am right now, and I look at what is on the horizon, and neither option is desirable.

I honestly don't want to be in either place--either in the middle of depression, or on the edge of it.  And yet, it is the place I find myself.  Yet again.  It's a ride I can't get off of. I don't have the luxury of just setting depression down and simply hoping it goes away.  My entire adult life (and likely much of my teen years) has been a balance between sanity and mental torment.  

Most days, I win.  Not the me who I am trying desperately to put to death, but the me who is fearfully and wonderfully made.  The me who loves Jesus and wants to serve him...the one who relies on HIS strength because I know I have none left...that's the me who usually gets through yet another day.

Then there are other days where I'm exhausted from fighting.  I am weak.  I give into the feelings and the chaos.  I let my mind wander around through a minefield.  It is as if during these dark times, I have convinced myself that this minefield I am trudging through is not filled with traps and pain and death! And so I spend some time there, being filled up with all things empty.  

Even while I am there, I am disgusted.  I know it isn't right.  I know it isn't true.  I know it isn't what my mind needs to be fixating on. This obsession, this compulsion to consider the what ifs - I want it to die.  I don't want to be this scared, nervous, obsessive person who is easily swayed by whatever looks good. Even if I can see it dripping with death and decay, there is still this small part of me that craves that. How? Why? I know it's empty and dead. And yet, because it's pretty on the outside, it calls to me.

This is depression.

It dresses itself up and it tries to play itself off as good.  It tries to trick me.  It tries to whisper that it is what I need.  And when you are exhausted and raw and unsettled, giving in to it sure does sound like the easiest thing to do. In fact, it IS the easy thing to do. To just lay down. To just close my eyes, stop fighting for just a few minutes, and let what happens, happen. Because I can fool myself into thinking that it'll only grip me for a few minutes or hours. But those hours turn into days, which turn into months. Dark, awful, scary months, where I can't trust my own mind or thoughts because they want to convince me that life is not worth living anymore.

I'm a little angry, if I am honest, calling this place I am in depression.

Yesterday, I felt like I was just on the edge, like I hadn't given in.

And this morning, I wonder if I have been fooling myself.

The panic, the anxiety, the things that lead into depression, that's where I am at, right?  Just there?  Not any further?  I haven't really tipped my toes into this again, have I? And what if I have?  Why does this always come with shame? Why can't I just BE unsettled and BE not okay without it also ushering in guilt and shame for feeling like this to begin with?  I want to beat myself up for finding myself here. It is a vicious cycle and it would be so easy to just let is all crash down on top of me.

I know that's a lie. Because the truth is something God showed me before I even started writing this: yes, I am here again, trying desperately not to get sucked in and pulled under. And yes it is hard. And yes, I am currently fighting a fight for literal life. 

This time around, I can see it coming - maybe not a mile off, but I'll tell you this.  The last depression in 2020?  It snuck up on me and I was completely surprised to find myself in the midst of day after day after day of struggling to get out of bed, take a shower, brush my teeth, go to work, be around people, trying NOT contemplate ways to make it all just stop.  

I just typed that I wasn't going to be surprised by it this time around and then quickly deleted it, because as I sit here writing this, I guess it has surprised me once again.  I thought I was "safer" from the depression this time around, because I could feel it creeping in. And yet, maybe I am already in the midst of it.

The difference is that right now, in this very moment, I am STILL in the fight. I do not want to let it wash over me.  Well, I WANT it to.  But I also know that I can't. No matter how exhausted I am from the constant struggle to keep my head above water, I have to keep swimming. And even though it's hard and I'm very, very tired, I choose to put one foot in front of the other.  Today, I choose to fight another day. The alternative, trying to dig myself out of that abyss, it's not something I want to do again.

I don't know how to get through it. I want to avoid it altogether. And yet, that's not usually how it works with anything in life. Sometimes we have to walk through the really hard things before there is relief. It would be too easy and I would learn nothing if it were not incredibly difficult.  I wouldn't complain if it were a little LESS difficult, but I know that the freedom and growth will be worth the struggle.

So today, while I still can, I choose to fight. 


Monday, June 20, 2022

A Psalm of Sorrow

 Go a little deeper.

That's what you are saying.

It's the calling you have placed on my heart.

You gave me ten years to rest and heal.

You gave me time to learn and grow.

And now, you want me to go deeper.

Can I be honest?

I'm not sure I want to.

Not because I don't want to be in the deep.

Not because I don't want to grow more.

Not because I don't desire MORE.

It's just, if I'm honest, I'm scared.

I don't know what to expect.

We both know the unknown has always terrified me.

How do I move forward in faith, instead of fear.

I can hear you beckon me

I feel your Spirit moving in me, drawing me deeper.

I'm not sure I'm scared about drowning.

I'm not ever certain what I am actually afraid of.

I have been in the deeps with you.

When I thought it would hurt, when I thought you would wound, instead I found healing.

I found peace.

I found freedom.

I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good.

Time and time again, you have lavished love and grace in my life.

So why is it so easy to get distracted?

Why does the slightest wind shift my focus?

Why can't I  just stay in the deep with you?

Why am I always swimming to shore?

Why can't I just stay put and let the waves shift and move me?

I don't want to give you control.

I guess when it comes down to it, I don't want to let it all go.

Surrender, you say.

But what about all the other things?

All the stuff that tells me it is more important?

Who will worry about those?

I know the truth.

Why can't I activate the faith I cling to?

Why does this feel so hard?

It feels too big, like I will never learn.

How long will I fight against this?

I want to change.

I want to die to myself.

And yet, at the heart of it, I realize just how much of myself I still love.

I want it to look the way I want it to look.

I want to give you my heart and also hold onto the parts of it that aren't yet yours.

That's the truth, isn't it?

Admitting that I want it to be all about me.

I want the accolades.

I want to be seen.

I want what you have called me to give.

That's at the heart of what I don't want to admit.

Humility is this intangible thing that feels too big to grasp.

And yet, I know it's required.

I have to die.

I have to be willing to let you excise the parts of my heart that no longer belong.

I am alive.

I am free.

I don't have to be consumed by this.

You remind me constantly of your love and grace.

Why do I long for it to be enough, yet walk through life as if it isn't?

I hate this about myself.

I don't want to be self-centered and vain.

I don't want to feel this way.

But I do.

So what now, God?

It feels like we are at an impasse, because I don't want to let it go.

I don't want to give up this last piece of myself, the piece that makes me me.

Even though me isn't worth much.

The me who wants to live is not healthy or safe or filled with your spirit.

Why is the battle against my own will so hard?

It's MY will.  

I should be able to control this, shouldn't I?

I'm angry and I'm frustrated.

All of my insecurities rise to the surface and I don't know how to make them bow.

I don't know how to move past this.

And yet, you give me clarity.

You show up, on quiet drives to work.

You orchestrate worship that drives me to the foot of the Cross.

You remind me that you are bigger than all of my fears.

You love me, even this part of me I am trying so desperately to cling to.

You love even that girl.

The one who feels small and defeated.

The one who loves herself more than she should.

The one who knows the good she ought to do and doesn't do it.

Your grace.

Your mercy.

Your love.

Those are singing over me today as I wrestle with feelings of shame and anger and insecurity.

None of it matters.

In the grand scheme of things, I'm irrelevant.

Remind me when I forget.

Keep showing up.

Keep giving me your grace.

Keep showering your mercy upon me.

Keep lavishing this love I can't understand.

Bring me to my knees.

Give me courage to stay there, as long as it takes for you to make me clean.

Wash away anything that points to me.

Forgive me for making it about me and what I want.

Soothe my heart when it feels empty.

I know that you see me.

I know that you are the only one that matters.

Bring me back to that place where my heart was wholly about you.

To live, I must die.

I want to live.

Teach me to live.

Friday, June 17, 2022

A Psalm Of Chaos

 I am unsettled.

A bomb has gone off inside of my body.

Every moment is a battle.

Each second is a fight for control.

I choose FAITH over FEAR.

But I am still afraid.

Thoughts come unbidden.

I don’t want this.

I don’t want to think about these things.

They are not true.

They are not noble.

They are not right.

They are not pure.

They are not lovely.

They are not admirable.

I WANT to think about excellent or praiseworthy things.

So why are the *other* thoughts so loud?

I hear them, like constant screaming in my brain.

I force the negative thoughts to bow down.

They have no place in a heart that has been set free.

But the thoughts, they stand up again.

I force them to bow. Again.

Again, they rise.

Again, I make them bow.

The thoughts boomerang throughout my mind, draining my energy.

I want the roiling in my stomach to stop.

I want the constant feeling of suffocating to go away.

I want to feel stable again, even if just for a moment.

I want to not be tired from the fight.

I want the struggle to end.

But God, I don’t want to rush you.

I know that you are taking me somewhere new.

I know that you want to put this fear to death once and for all.

You want to walk me through the path to freedom from the anxiety that cripples me.

You are asking me to wait.

You are asking me to sit in this; all the while, you call me deeper.

You never promised it would be easy.

You actually promised it would be very difficult.

Because Jesus doesn’t make any sense.

The Cross is confusing.

It’s hard to understand how death can bring life.

And yet, it does.

Knowing that doesn’t make me less tired.

It doesn’t take away the shaking, the trembling, the heavy breaths that never feel quite complete.

How long am I called to sit in this?

Until it no longer has a hold on me?

How long will it take?

I’ve never been quick to learn the lesson.

So I want to rush through the pain and the stretching.

I want to be on the other side.

But I know it doesn’t work like that.

I have to walk through this, no matter how hard.

I have to sit in the panic that never quite leaves, until it no longer has a hold over me.

How do I get from here to there?

I know the end goal.

I can see it, just on the horizon.

I know that I can reach out and grab it.

Why can’t I connect my brain and my heart?

Why is it always so hard to surrender?

I can feel the resistance.

It just builds and builds, the more I desire to lay it down.

I hate this feeling.

I hate the internal struggle to let go.

To say, OK. It’s time to stop fighting.

And what about now?

When I am trying so hard to lay it down and let it go?

Why is it still so hard?

Why does relief not come?

How long do you want me to endure this?

I will.

But is there an end?

Will I ever be free of this anxiety in this earthly body?

Or is this another thorn in my side, like the pain?

Does this keep me from becoming prideful in all you have called me to do?

Does it point to you?

Or is there a deficiency in me that you want to fill?

I think there’s freedom for me.

I want there to be.

But the struggle is nearly unbearable.

The constant bringing my mind back under control has left me feeling weak and exposed.

This is spiritual warfare.

I expected it.

I knew that the enemy would ramp up efforts to divide and destroy.

I watched him do it before.


I refuse to let him have a hold in my life any longer.

If I need to put this to death once and for all, then I will buckle up and hold on for the fight of my life.

But can I rest a little along the way?

Can I have time to breathe and cry and recover?

Can I pause, when it all spills over, and just be held for a few minutes?

I close my eyes, and I call on the name of Jesus.

I sit at my desk at work, trying to hold it all together.

Tears fall down my cheeks as I try to focus.

I’m not sure I’ll make it through, and yet again, I do.

I put one foot in front of the other.

I take shallow breaths, because deep ones elude me.

I put my head in my hands and I cry out to Jesus.

Give me strength.

Give me relief.

Give me peace.

Teach me to put to death all that still remains of me.

I’ve been asking this for a while, and you are answering.

That’s why I am here, in this chaotic place.

Because I asked you to take me to the next level.

I told you that I was ready.

So I am not surprised by this.

I don’t even want you to take it away really.

It’s just that on days like today, I just want to rest.

Just for a bit.

And when I cry out for that, you remind me.

I am called to NOT be weary in doing good.

I am called to NOT give up in the kingdom work.

It’s all about you.

It has nothing to do with me.

So once again, I cry out for more of you and less of me.

Renew my mind.

Refresh my heart.

Give me strength to keep fighting.

Remind me when I am weak that it’s okay.

In my weakness, you show up best.

If weakness is what it takes for me to know you, continue to bring me to my knees.

Calm my anxious heart.

Still my shaking bones.

Ease the trembling I feel in my spirit.

My hope is in you, therefore you WILL renew my strength.

I will mount on wings like eagles.

I will run and not be weary.

I will walk and not be faint.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Final Thoughts

I wasn't sure if I would round this series about Moana out with a final, tenth post. I left it open for some final thoughts, partly because I wasn't sure if I would have too much to say, and partly because I wanted to leave room to talk about Tamatoa and not at all because it would somehow soothe my OCD brain.  I didn't want to give Tamatoa his own separate post mixed in with all the rest, because his character didn't quite fit with the others, in terms of what I felt like God was teaching me. But I kept it open, just in case, and it turns out it was necessary because we can't really finish this without looking at the risk that comes with Tamatoa.

I am going to make a confession here: there is a part of me that is incredibly attracted to shiny things. There is a draw to something that looks expensive and more beautiful than everything else around it, especially if I don't already have one. As humans, we are constantly chasing after the next best shiny thing, aren't we?

Because of that truth alone, it would be foolish to skip over Tamatoa. Tamatoa tells us in song that he used to just be a drab little crab. I am not sure what happened to that once-humble crab, but through the course of his life, he began collecting all the shiny things. He believes that all of his stuff somehow makes him tougher. Over time, he has learned how to manipulate the world around him. He understands intuitively that his shininess attracts fish, because fish are dumb and drawn to things that glitter (his words, not mine). So he can keep covering himself in all things that shine, and prey will then come to him! He has perfected his system to the point that he doesn't have to do any work at all. 

He has this down to a smoothly-polished science. His entire life is about looking more attractive to others so that in the end, he can feast on anyone who approaches him. He doesn't care about actually bringing people into his realm except that it benefits him. If it is shiny, he can collect it. If it is prey, he can consume it. What a dangerous place to be! Jesus warns of this in Matthew 23:27-28:

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."

After the movie ends and the end credits roll, we see Tamatoa lying flat on his back, in the exact place Maui and Moana left him in the the Realm of Monsters. Perhaps they have been gone only minutes or maybe it has been yearss, but Tamatoa has obviously had some time to ponder, as he sings:


I'm so shiny

Didn't help me though, did it?

Still upside down here.

Just need a little push.

In the end, Tamatoa came to the realization that all of his shiny collectibles could do him no good if he ever found himself upside down and stuck. I don't know what happened in Tamatoa's life that led him down the path of using shiny things as protection from the world. But there is no doubt that somewhere along the way, he began to collect things that he felt would protect him from whatever trauma he had endured. He stayed in his pit deep in the ocean letting all the shiny things come to him, too scared to venture out and find the healing he so desperately needed. 

And when he got himself into a situation beyond his control, because he had sheltered himself away from everyone, he suddenly realized that there was NO ONE to help him. He did this to himself, and he has to stay there until someone skilled at stripping away all the shiny things can come and put him back on the right path. It reminds me of the scene from Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where Aslan has to help remove the dragon scales from Eustace, because he is the only one who knows how:

Hear me: what's on the other side of your broken, walled off heart is far better than what you are floundering with now. Maybe it's time to stop holding onto everything that makes you feel safe. That probably isn't working anyway. If you surrender the fighting and stop clinging so tightly to all the lies your life has thrust upon you, and you go towards that unknown, terrifying light, you will find the freedom you've been striving after. 

You will learn that what you were so afraid of was actually the LOVE and GRACE and PEACE that Jesus says you are worthy of. 

Yes, even you. 

Even if you're sitting in a pig pen of your own making, surrounded by all things shiny.

Come to him and find rest.

After Moana restores the heart of Te Fiti, we see growth happen instantaneously. The hard outer exterior of molten lava begins to crumble away, and in its place new life begins. It starts with Te Fiti and once she is healed and full of lucious plantlife again, she reaches her hand down and touches the blackened land around her. And we see new life spring up under her tender touch.

If God has rescued you and cleaned you up and given you a time of rest, you will experience this kind of growth and beauty in your life. Isaiah 61:3 says, "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."

Don't be afraid of this process. It might stretch and strain you, but it will not kill you. 

It will make you stronger, transforming you will from stony, blackened land into be a beautiful tree, nourished by God, rooted deeply in Jesus--and that tree will be unable to stop from bursting forth and giving birth to an entire forest of beautiful trees, made so by the Master Gardener.

Keep trying it on your own for a time, if you really must.

Convince yourself that faith and God don't matter, and try to do it your own way. 

You do you. 

Do what makes you happy. 

Chase after the high, the job, the status, the money, the praise of others, all the shiny things. 

But when you learn how empty this striving is, when you accept that life is hard and you cannot always be happy, please remember that Jesus isn't going to look at you and say, "Why did you keep running? Why weren't you better or stronger?" Instead, he is going to look at you with eyes filled with love and a heart bursting with compassion. Maybe you are fighting a fight you have no business being in, through your own making, or perhaps it is one that someone unfairly left at your feet, after they stole away your heart. 

Just know that when you look into those eyes brimming with tears that mirror your own pain, you will not see judgment or hate. You will look into his eyes, and you will be invited into the warm embrace of a Father who has only ever wanted to make your heart whole. And Jesus will simply say to you, "It's OKAY. I will carry you for a while."

The world tells us to be happy and to look out for number one. Don't look inward and become obsessed with your own pile of worthless treasure. Sure it brought Tamatoa joy and nourishment, for a time. 

But listen! 

In the end, Tamatoa was just living in a deep pit of his own making, prancing about in treasures that didn't do anything but age along with him. And even worse, when he did find himself in need of rescue, his treasures had absolutely nothing to offer. They could not save him. 

If you are ready to move forward, I pray this over you: that you find healing for your own trauma. I pray that you learn that there is purpose in the pain, and that recovery from trauma IS possible. Heal so that you can be whole. So that you can teach your children or those around you what living freely IN SPITE of trauma looks like.

And once you have done that, I pray that you dive deep, back into the very ocean you were rescued from, and that you strive with all your might to restore the other hearts that have been stolen.

If you have been in the ocean seeking out hearts in need of rescue and you have become weary, don't give up. Remember what you were called to do. If you have slowed down or stopped the fight altogether, wake up! Be like Maui and get back in the fight. 

If you can't remember, I will remind you who and WHOSE you are. I will be Gramma Tala to you.

And maybe right now, you are in need of rescue.  And maybe I can't do anything more than bring a raft and float with you in your pain. But I hope you hear me: that is exactly what I am willing to do. I will be Moana to you.  

I SEE you and I will stay in the water with you as long as it takes to get you to safety so that you can heal, dive back in, and then help me get the others.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Part 9 - Te Ka & Te Fiti

I saved this one for last, probably because it was the most powerful of all of the revelations God gave to me through this movie.  Before I started writing this series on Moana, I obsessively watched the movie for three weeks. I just couldn't shake it or get it out of my head. I needed to watch it. There was something intense within me that just had to figure some things out. I felt like this movie unraveled me and the only way I could make sense of it was to write about it.

For weeks, I couldn't understand why I needed to keep watching this movie. At the same time, God was orchestrating some things behind the scenes. I felt led to reconnect with an old friend, and did so, all the while feeling nervous and second-guessing myself, because this old friend surely had enough friends who could come alongside her, didn't she? 

As I kept watching this movie, I began to see this old friend in a new light. One day I was watching Moana and reached the end. All of a sudden, clarity came crashing down on me and I understood that God had been leading me to reach out to this old friend because her heart had been stolen. 

And it had been missing for a very, very long time. 

And worst of all, NO ONE NOTICED.

That is the part that utterly crushed me. And it set in motions a series of events that only God could have orchestrated and ordained, renewing that old friendship and somehow shaping it into something even more beautiful.

When Te Fiti's heart is stolen from her, we see a darkness spread over her. It is swift and leaves nothing untouched. There is so much darkness and damage that an evil fire demon named Te Ka rises up and surrounds Te Fiti, becoming an impenetrable barrier so that no one can ever reach Te Fiti again.

In some ways, Te Ka has become a protector of Te Fiti. She doesn't have her heart, and so essentially, Te Ka surrounds Te Fiti and will not let anything or anyone get near her. That is why Maui and Moana find themselves trying to fight Te Ka. Their biggest obstacle in getting the heart back to Te Fiti is this lava monster. 

It is in trying to get through a narrow opening to Te Fiti that Te Ka strikes them down. This is the event that cracks Maui's hook and it is also the event where he walks away, leaving Moana to restore the heart that Maui stole.

Moana is not deterred. With renewed vigor and hope, she is determined to make it past Te Ka, to Te Fiti, so that she can restore the heart. She is almost there, but Te Ka is bigger and stronger.  Just when the battle is fiercest and it is clear that Moana will not make it, Maui returns to the fight once more. 

If running away is Maui's biggest flaw, then running right back into the fight is one of his greatest strengths. 

I'll give Maui this: he ALWAYS came back. No matter how much the world hurt him. No matter how prideful and arrogant he was. No matter how distracted from his true purpose he had become. He knew what was right, and in the end, no matter how long it took, he always dusted himself off and put himself back in the fight.

And he comes to Moana's rescue at just the right time. But he doesn't take on the burden of restoring the heart of Te Fiti. What he does do is give Moana the time she needs to get through the opening. He sacrifices his own desires, he pushes past his fear of being nothing without his hook, and he faces Te Ka one last time, knowing it is very likely the end of Maui, demigod of the wind and sea. 

Maui had come face to face with who he was, what he had done, and then decided who he wanted to be. He knew that he would lose his hook, which to him felt like the only value he had to offer. But he gave it anyway, because he was finally willing to own his culpability in all of it and he understood that it was the LEAST he could do.

Because of Maui's sacrifice, Moana is finally able to make it through to Te Fiti. Maui yells to Moana to get the heart to the spiral, so Moana races up to the top of this desolate island. When she gets there, there is no spiral. 

As she always does, Moana sees past the surface. Past the fury and the raging and the screaming. While Te Ka has her heart set on Te Fiti's, Moana has eyes only for Te Ka's heart. 

Suddenly, this is no longer about Te Fiti. Something has changed within Moana. 

She SEES Te Ka. 

She sees who Te Ka truly is.

And so we come to the most pivotal scene in the movie, and it is a mirror of what God has been teaching me over this last month.

Moana truly SEES Te Ka, probably for the first time ever. 

She understands, intuitively, why Te Ka is raging so hard to get to Te Fiti's heart. 

And suddenly, she isn't afraid. 

She doesn't run or try to hide. 

In a moment of clarity, Moana knows exactly what to do. 

Because Moana knows WHO Te Ka really is.  

If you have never seen the movie, I encourage you to watch it in full, but for the sake of this post, this is the scene, the one that leaves me weeping and filled with purpose:

Te Ka has simply been Te Fiti all along, living without her heart for 1,000 years. 

Te Fiti's heart was stolen from her, and this event was SO traumatic that in a way, Te Fiti became completely disengaged from her heart. Doesn't our unhealed trauma leave us like this? Without the heart inside, protected as it should be, Te Fiti quickly became overcome by darkness. She was burned up, hardened by her pain, and left raging without any way of escape. She stayed this way, continuing to build layer upon layer of protection, year after year, until suddenly, no one even recognized Te Fiti for who she really was. <-- TRAUMA!

Here is where God brought me at the end of all of this.

There are people out there right now, in my very life, who have had their hearts stolen. 

There are GODLY people even, right in our churches, who are crushed under the weight of not being SEEN. They fight and flail about in the water, screaming and raging for someone to SEE them. For someone to see that the fire burning inside of them is trauma and pain, and they wait there wounded and bleeding, just praying for someone to restore their heart. They are surrounded by wind and waves and cannot get to safety on their own. We must be willing to dive into the water and GO GET THEM!

We walk next to people in our daily lives and we hug them as we go by, never really knowing that they have become a shell of who they once were. Someone has stolen their heart. Maybe it was someone who had bad intentions, and maybe the person doing the harm was the very person sent to protect their hearts.  

I can't just sit by any longer and pretend that I am innocent of trampling over hearts and lives. There have been hearts that I have stolen. There have been Godly people within the body of Christ to whom I KNOW I have caused great harm and it is devastating to know that in that person's life, I am Maui--that for selfish reasons, through the lens of my own unhealed trauma and pain, I placed myself above another, and took what did not belong to me. I am guilty of this. And I can't undo the harm I caused. I couldn't even return the heart to these people.

And perhaps that is why I am so spurred on by Moana and this idea of restoring hearts. Because I know the great pain of having stolen someone's heart. I have seen the devastation it leaves in its wake. Even now, ten years later, I still see the craters it has left in peoples' lives. I see the havoc it wreaks even now in my mind, as I have to war daily with unbidden thoughts. I am wrecked that there once used to live within me a wounded animal that lashed out at those who never deserved it. I am crushed that my pain caused even a moment of pain in someone else's life. I have had to come face to face with the very wretched person that was at the center of the old me. I have done horrible things, and I will spend the rest of my life trying to make amends for even the tiniest fraction of it.

Here is what I want you to hear, if you are tossed about by the wind and waves and you are drowning under the weight of it all:


I will be your lifeline.


I have crossed the horizon to find you

I know your name

They have stolen the heart from inside you

But this does not define you

This is not who you are.

I know who you are.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Part 8 - Moana

When Moana is just a little girl, we see a scene on the beach. Moana is on the shoreline, and the water moves back revealing a shell. Moana bends down to pick it up, and sees another shell, further into the water. The water continues moving back, revealing another shell and Moana tries to fit them all into her tiny hands. As a song plays, the water continues to move up and around Moana.  She is still standing on dry ground, while there is water all around.  It reminds me of when Moses led the Israelites through the sea. 

As Moana watches the water and the sea life swimming all around, a wave rises up and looks down on her.  She makes a face, and it appears to mimic her. She reaches up and the water touches her hand, then plays with her hair, causing her to laugh. But Moana's attention is quickly drawn back to the water, as she sees a shimmering green stone glide towards her. She holds it in her hand, tracing the design on it, until she hears her father calling her. The wave of water lifts her up and ushers gently her back towards the shore. She drops the stone on the beach as her father rushes out to pick her up and get her away from the water's edge.

We don't see much about that stone until Moana is a teenager (maybe young adult?). It is when she is with Gramma Tala, trying to understand who her ancestors were and why they stopped voyaging. It is in this scene that Gramma Tala gives the green stone back to Moana.

Moana's original purpose was confirmed by her grandmother, who had witnessed the ocean calling her that day. Gramma Tala is the one who told Moana that she needed to find Maui and say to him,

"I am Moana of Montunui.  
You will board my boat, sail across the sea, and restore the heart to Te Fiti."

The ocean has been calling Moana since the beginning. She somehow knows intuitively, despite the warnings, that there is safety and freedom in the ocean. Having a heart full of love and compassion for her people, she steps into the ocean, all alone. We obviously learn later that she is not alone - in fact, she has an unlikely companion, Hei Hei. Later, she adds Maui to her tribe and they voyage on, pursuing Moana's purpose, which is to get Maui to Te Fiti. That's what drives her. It is her job to force Maui to CORRECT the mistake he made in stealing Te Fiti's heart.

After rough seas, being shipwrecked, fighting coconut pirates and a covetous crab, Moana has become weary. She is frustrated but unwilling to give up. Maui decides it is just too hard. It is not worth the PERSONAL risk. One more hit on Maui's fish hook and it will be destroyed. He is simply unwilling to risk helping Moana any longer, because his whole identity is wrapped up in that stupid hook. They have fought and fought and fought, and we find Maui ready to give up, once again. He cannot imagine a world where he has any value without his hook. He clings to it so tightly and when it is at risk, he lashes out.

Maui is angry with Moana for trying to force them to push past Te Ka, as they try to get to the island of Te Fiti. They are thrown back and Moana sees Maui sitting with his back to her on the boat. He shows her his hook, which is cracked and flickering. Moana insists they can fix it, but Maui is frustrated and says, "It was made by the gods. You can't fix it."

Moana says, "Next time we'll be more careful. Te Ka was stuck on the barrier islands. It's lava, it can't go in the water. We can find a way around."

She is surprised to hear Maui say, "I'm not going back."

Moana doesn't understand. She says, "We still have to restore the heart."

Maui explains, "My hook is cracked. One more hit, and it's over."

"Maui, you have to restore the heart."

"Without my hook, I am nothing."

"That's not true!" Moana exclaims.

Maui gets in her face this time and yells, "Without my hook, I am nothing!" He takes the stone, the heart of Te Fiti, and drops it on the boat in front of Moana. Moana picks it up as Maui starts to walk away. But before he can leave, she calls him out, "We are only here...because you stole the heart in the first place."

It is here, in the midst of his pain, in the midst of being reminded of what he has done, Maui's trauma response takes over. Moana has triggered his guilt and shame by reminding him that it is his fault they are here to begin with. And it is through his own lens of unhealed trauma that he says some pretty hurtful things to Moana. "No, we're here because the ocean told you you're special...and you believed it." He starts walking away.

Moana, still full of her purpose, says with authority, "I am Moana of Montunui. You will board my boat..."

Maui turns back to Moana and simply says, "Goodbye, Moana."

Not deterred, Moana continues, "...sail across the sea..."

"I'm not killing myself..." Maui interrupts again, "...so you can prove you're something you're not."

Moana comes back at him, holding out the stone, "...and restore the heart of Te Fiti!" She continues with a fierceness and desperation in her voice, "The ocean chose me!"

Maui looks at Moana and says, "It chose wrong." 

He walks to the edge of the boat, turns into an eagle, and flies away, leaving Moana alone outside the home of Te Ka, the demon of earth and fire. Moana stands there looking down in defeat, with the heart of Te Fiti in her hand. This is a pivotal moment in Moana's life.

I would venture to say that we all come to places like this. Where we are exhausted and weary from the fight. Whether it is a battle of our own making, or one that we are called to fight so that others can  have hope, we get tired. We swim and swim in an endless ocean. The wind and the waves come and they push us under. They batter and bruise us. Until one day, we will find ourselves standing at the edge of our boat, too tired to take another step. Too hurt and left alone by the world, it feels like we simply cannot continue in the journey.

It is in this moment that Moana says, "Why did you bring me here?" As she looks up, she sees a wave shimmering with light, hovering over her. She focuses on it and says, "I'm not the right person." 

She holds up the heart of Te Fiti and says, "You have to choose someone else." Frustrated and feeling like she isn't good enough, Moana insists, "Choose someone else. Please." 

And she holds the heart of Te Fiti out to the wave. The wave looks at it in Moana's hand, and then it does what she asks: it simply takes the heart of Te Fiti and it returns it to the ocean deep.

Moana falls to her knees, sobbing in grief.

Moana desperately needs someone to speak truth into her hurting heart. Sensing something, she looks up to see a shimmering light approaching the boat. A great, glowing light in the shape of a string ray swim around the boat. The shimmering light disappears from the water and we hear Gramma Tala's voice before Moana looks up to see her.

"You're a long ways past the reef..." 

When Moana recognizes that it is Gramma Tala, she runs and collapses into her open arms. Rescue came for Moana's heart when she needed it most. She is still in the middle of the ocean, outside a demon's door, and she is still physically alone. But this vision of Gramma Tala gives Moana a much needed emotional rescue.  Sometimes, God will actually rescue us from the dangerous seas. And other times, he will call us to stay in the middle of the ocean, seemingly all alone. 

But he will NEVER leave us alone. The Holy Spirit comes at just the right time, to remind us WHO WE ARE.

Gramma Tala, in this moment, doesn't spur Moana forward. She doesn't tell her that she MUST keep going alone. She simply says, "If you're ready to go home, I will be with you." This is what Moana wanted to hear. Moana needed to know that if she was too weary, she had permission to end the journey. No one would have faulted Moana for returning to Montunui. It is understandable that after everything she went through she would want to turn back. No one would judge Moana. 

It was never her job in the first place to restore the heart of Te Fiti. After all, she didn't steal it. Maui did. And if Maui was going to refuse to put it back, then what did Moana owe to anyone? It was not her job. Gramma Tala gives Moana an out, and you see a relieved Moana turn to take the boat home. 

Moana starts to put the oar in the water, but a look comes over her face and she isn't certain if going home is the right decision. She was told that she CAN go home. She is under no obligation to go forward. She will not be forced to keep going into the ocean. And she can feel good about her decision to go home, because she was only ever trying to help someone else do what they needed to do. 

When she sees Moana with the oar in her hand, in that moment of contemplation, Gramma Tala says, "Why do you hesitate?"

Moana shakes her head and says, "I don't know."

Here is where the magic happens. Here is the beauty and how the Holy Spirit works within us. It is in this moment of indecision, of second guessing ourselves, that the Holy Spirit reminds us of who we are. Gramma Tala does the same thing. She sings a song, made just for Moana:

I know a girl from an island
She stands apart from the crowd
She loves the sea and her people
She makes her whole family proud
Sometimes the world seems against you
The journey may leave a scar
But scars can heal and reveal just where you are
The people you love will change you
The things you have learned will guide you
And nothing on earth can silence
That quiet voice still inside you
And when that voice starts to whisper,
Moana, you've come so far
Moana, listen. 
Do you know who you are?"

This entire scene stirs up deep feelings inside of me. Because I have been at my lowest low, not understanding who I was, or what my purpose was. I have gotten distracted by the world, or frustrated in my journey. I have found myself in this weak place and each time, God showed up. The Holy Spirit came rushing in with new life and and much needed truth. He reminds me that I am worthy. That I am loved. That I have value. That my story can help others. I have experienced the God show up for me just like Gramma Tala did, time and time again. 

And many, many times the Holy Spirit has asked me, "Do you know who you are?"

God knows that I know who I am. But he also knows that I am quick to doubt, quick to hear the lie, and quick to get scared. I fight insecurities and pride all day long. He asks, "Do you know who you are?" because he wants me to remember that I already know. 

Moana was asked if she knew who she was. And she didn't reply with a simple yes or no. That isn't what Gramma Tala was after. Gramma Tala was asking Moana to repeat back to her WHO she was. She wanted Moana to dig deep, think hard, and then speak WHO she was. Moana pauses and says, "Who am I?" And then Moana, knowing what she is really asking, tells Gramma Tala who she is.

I am the girl who loves my island
And the girl who loves the sea
It calls me
I am the daughter of the village chief
We are descended from voyagers
We found our way across the world
They call me
I've delivered us to where we are
I have journeyed farther
I am everything I've learned and more
Still it calls me
And the call isn't out there at all
It's inside me
It's like the tide always falling and rising
I will carry you here in my heart
You remind me
That come what may
I know the way
I am Moana

And then in what I think is one of the more powerful scenes in the movie, Moana--full of purpose once again--dives into the ocean. She swims deeper and deeper until she finds the heart of Te Fiti on the bottom of the ocean. She takes the heart returns to her boat, and prepares for the next leg of her journey. 

Maybe in the beginning restoring the heart of Te Fiti wasn't her job. Maybe it was never supposed to be her responsibility at all. And yet, Moana knows who she is, and she knows what is important. If Maui won't restore the heart of Te Fiti, even if she has to go alone, Moana will take that role upon herself. She is simply unwilling to stop until the heart of Te Fiti has been restored.

People will drop the ball all the time. No, maybe it wasn't your job to sit next to that person you sensed might be hurting. Maybe you thought they already had someone to rescue them. 

But what if the person who was SUPPOSED to do was too afraid of the fight and ran away? 

WHO will sit with them in their pain if not you? 

Are you willing to risk that NO ONE will be the hands and feet of Jesus to the people in your day to day life?

Listen, don't make the mistake of thinking the people around you have all the love and support they need. If God puts someone on your heart, it is for a reason. He knows what they need and while you may THINK they have all the people they need in their life, you could be the very person that can give them a breath of fresh air. You can help hold a heart that is hurting. Don't let doubts or insecurities or fear keep you from reaching out to someone. Don't even fool yourself into thinking that they have it all together and they don't need any more friends. Because if you do, you just might miss the person drowning right next to you. Maybe you aren't the one, like Maui, who actually stole that person's heart from inside of them. But you ARE intended to be Moana. You are intended to go, to sit next to, and to love on the people around you.

Moana's heart is broken over Te Fiti and what Maui did to her. And after Maui leaves, her purpose and vision become crystal clear: I MUST RESTORE THE HEART OF TE FITI.  Because if she doesn't, no one will. 

And to Moana, that would be a great tragedy. 

Moana, who sees the good in everyone around her, who loves her people and has incredible compassion for her own people, also has a heart for those who have had their hearts stolen by the world or people who were supposed to love them.

Before, Moana tried to convince Maui to restore the heart. But Maui is gone. There is no one else left to do it. If Moana doesn't do it, then she can go home and enjoy the time she has left with her village and family before the darkness covers everything. And no one would blame Moana if she did that. But Moana sees something beyond herself, because the ocean called her all those years ago. So she repairs the sail and she gets ready to voyage again, declaring:

I am Moana of Montunui.
Aboard my boat...
I will sail across the sea...
and restore the heart of Te Fiti.

It wasn't her job, but she went anyway.

Just because it wasn't YOU who caused the hurt, or just because it isn't YOUR job, doesn't mean you SHOULDN'T do it. 

And worse still, maybe it WAS you who caused the hurt. 

Maybe it IS your job. 

Regardless, we are called to dive into the ocean, swim after the heart that has been cast aside, and then make our way to Te Fiti to restore what was stolen.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Lessons About Purpose From Moana: Part 7 - Maui

Maui. Where do I even begin?  This post will perhaps contain the most spoilers for the movie.  So, if you still haven't seen the movie and you made it to this one, either go and watch the movie, or skip over this one (and probably the rest of the series!).

I think it might be easiest to go in chronological order with Maui, simply because I think it is needed to get the full picture.

Maui was thrown into the sea when he was a baby.  He was just an ordinary human, unwanted by his family.  The gods saved Maui and gave him a magical fish hook that would allow him to turn into whatever animal he wanted.  It also gave him power to create.  So the legend went that he created the sun, the land, the plants, the trees, anything that humans wanted. At the heart of Maui was a little boy longing for love and approval.  He had experienced a great deal of trauma when he was little.  And yet, he was still compassionate towards those around him and wanted to make them happy.  He became so focused on making other people happy, and he became intoxicated with how that made him feel. Somewhere along the way, Maui forgot that his fish hook was a gift from the gods and it was only because of them that he had any power at all.

How many Christians have lost their way like this? Where they spend all of their energy DOING good things for God or the church, and then they revel in how much good they are doing?  Look, I don't think it happens like that overnight, and I don't think it is intentional.  What I really think happens is that good men and women start out with a passion for serving God.

But life comes at them and the enemy comes at them.  They are beaten and blown about by the winds of this world, and they put their focus on themselves.  They forget to watch the one calling them out onto the water, the one who can keep them from sinking. And this happens over and over again.  Until eventually, that person starts to build up walls.  They embrace this false identity that they did everything in their own power. They use arrogance as a mask for the pain in their hearts. They long to be loved by the world around them, and they go to great lengths to prove they are worthy of love.

Do you know someone like that?  Maybe you ARE someone like that.  We have all found ourselves in that place.  Maybe the circumstances look different, but at the end of the day, aren't we all just longing to be loved?

I love Maui for so many reasons. He was so very, very human.

I have been a great source of pain in other people's lives.  I hate that.  I wish that I had not hurt so many people with my own pride and arrogance and selfishness. Have you ever heard it said that you are the villain in someone else's story?  I am aware of so many people in whose story I am the villain, and I am sure there are other hearts I don't even know about that I trampled over.  I have been Maui.  I have stolen another person's heart from inside their chest. I have seen firsthand the devastation that comes when you step all over another person just to suit your own needs.

Maui doesn't succeed in delivering the heart of Te Fiti to his people. He is struck down and the heart (and his fish hook) are cast into the sea. Maui is then marooned on an island, where he has remained for 1000 years. He has spent all of that time plotting, planning, hoping for a way off of this island. An island that he is only on because he stole something that didn't belong to him. He deserved to be there. He had not been using the gift he had been given in a worthy manner. So he was forcefully placed somewhere he couldn't hurt anyone else. 

Moana finally makes it to Maui's island and attempts to introduce herself. Instead of really listening to who she is and why she is there, Maui just starts singing about how amazing he truly is. As the song continues, we begin to see that each thing Maui has done has been marked on his skin.  His tattoos tell his story. For better or worse, those markings are a sign to the world of WHO Maui is. One marking even shows something done TO Maui: his mother throwing him into the ocean. It wasn't just his triumphs that were tattooed upon his skin.  Maui's trauma was also on full display. It is out there, and anyone who sees Maui, who really SEES him, will have to see his trauma. They will have to see it and understand that all of his decisions have been based on his understanding of (or lack thereof) said trauma. 

Maui is scared of Te Fiti's heart. When Moana shows it to him, he cowers back and tells her that nothing good comes from that heart, and that there are others out there who will want to steal it. Right on cue, an angry band of coconut pirates comes to steal the heart. Maui and Moana fight to escape and keep the heart out of their greedy little hands. 

At one point, the pirates take Hei Hei, since this crazy chicken has swallowed the heart. Moana has to fight to convince Maui to go after Hei Hei and the heart. They turn back towards the pirates and when all seems lost, Maui once again wants to turn back. He even tries to convince Moana that the heart she is after isn't that important and she can just find a better one. He is so far detached from what he has done (stealing the heart from the island of Te Fiti) that he doesn't even understand the weight of responsibility he has in restoring the heart. He doesn't even see the pain he has inflicted. At this point all he cares about is saving his own life. 

It's easy to stop here and think how awful Maui is. Be careful. Because that's all too often where each and every one of us find ourselves. Do not become so self-absorbed that you cannot fathom being the villain of someone else's story. The minute you think you could never be, you just might be stomping all over someone else's heart unknowingly.  

What we might miss, if we aren't looking closely at who Maui really is, is that Maui is a hurt and scared little boy. His trauma has shaped his entire life. He was unwanted by his parents.  He was thrown out like garbage. Someone came along and saw him and chose to make him into someone else. He then spent his life trying to prove to everyone around him that he was worthy of love. He went to great lengths to show people how great he was, to the point that he lost sight of his lowly beginnings and envisioned himself a god. Until one day, he did something terrible, and the consequences were even worse. Both for him and the rest of the world around him. Instead of being thought of as a hero, Moana brings with her a very harsh truth: Maui is no one's hero. What he did, in the name of heroism, caused great harm to all. Maui is shocked to learn that the world doesn't see him the way he thought they did. It is here that Moana sees her "in" and tries to convince Maui to return Te Fiti's heart.  She speaks to Maui's desire to be a hero, to be loved by all, and finally entices him to join her on her quest.

Maui spends the rest of the movie doing two things:

#1. Teaching Moana to sail
#2. Running away

Since Moana and Maui are stuck together, Moana begs Maui to teach her to sail. He replies with "It's called wayfinding, princess. And it's not just sails and knots...it's seeing where you're going in your mind...knowing where you are...by knowing where you've been." Maui takes one look at Moana and determines she could never do what he is so skilled at - wayfinding. He speaks to this, emphasizing, "You are not a wayfinder. You will never be wayfinder. You will never be a wayfind..." until the ocean sticks a tranquilizer in him and he has no choice but to start teaching Moana.

Remember, Moana's people were master wayfinders.  That's all they ever used to do. It is something that has been placed deep inside Moana's own heart and she desperately wants to learn how her ancestors did it. This journey across the ocean will be led by a master wayfinder, by someone who knows exactly how to do it. Maui begins teaching Moana reluctantly, and then after a close call together, he finds joy in teaching her how to do what he knows best: wayfinding.

Maui makes a comment to Moana after she wakes up from a nightmare saying, "A real wayfinder never sleeps so they actually get where they need to go." Did you know there is a Bible verse that says something similar? Mark 13:33 says, "Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come." In this case, the author was referring to Jesus' return. For Maui and Moana, it signified their destination. The idea was the same - when we are out on the ocean, it is important that our eyes are always open. It is imperative that we stay awake. It is our job to spot anything or anyone in the water. We need to always be ready to rescue. And we need to remember that this world is not our home-we need to fix our eyes on the horizon, because one day, we will get to take that final journey across the ocean and go home.

Later in the movie, Moana has a heart to heart with Maui. If Maui had any say in the matter, he would have shoved Moana under the water to shut her up. It's one of my favorite scenes in the movie, because it reminds me of one of my closest friends. I have a habit of poking the bear.  There are a few people in my life who do NOT like to talk. Especially when it is something that might make them feel a certain way. Sometimes I get too close, and I know because my friend will tell me to shut up, or stop talking. Or will look away, or smack me. That's my sign that we've crossed the line into too personal and I should back off.  And sometimes, I do back off.  And other times, I gently prod, because I know that she needs to talk. My husband is the same way. It's hard for some people to think about how they feel, let alone talk about it. We let our trauma and hang ups keep us from sharing the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves. But those are the very parts that need to be seen in order for us to truly find peace and healing.

We can't be like the Maui who fought to bring life and joy to the people in the villages and lost sight of what mattered most.  We can't become so caught up in doing things for and in the church or our communities that we make ourselves a god by our good works. This will result in a very self-focused person who is incapable of seeing those drowning closest to them.  It keeps us distracted from our true purpose, which is to SEE the others who are lost and need a lifeline.

We can't be like the Maui who lets our trauma direct our steps. At the first sign of danger, Maui has learned that running is the only safe option. Boy do I know this path well. We have to learn to talk about our trauma, in order to give it its proper place in our lives, so that we can truly get out there and be wayfinders. We can't truly see other people through their lens of trauma unless we first deal with the trauma that has shaped us into the individuals we are today.

We have to be like the Maui who after running away countless times KEEPS COMING BACK.  Stay in the fight.  At the end, Maui came flying back in at just the right moment to help someone else fight the battle of their life. We weren't meant to go through this life alone, and we certainly don't have to do battle alone.  Yes, Maui kept running away.  But Maui was consistent. Maui was relentless.  He got scared and he let his fears draw him away from his purpose.  But each time, he came back.  Each time, he dusted himself off and tried again.  

And that last time he came back, he did so without his hook. He had finally learned that his magic hook is not what made him who he was.  With or without his hook, he was simply Maui: a human who had lost his way, kept moving forward, and taught someone else how to be a wayfinder. All of the scars of his life, the tattoos across his skin, defined him.  All of the good he did didn't matter. He had to learn WHO he was, without his hook, and see that he could still fight, even if he had nothing left to offer.  

When Maui finally does open up to Moana and shares his heart, which included the pain of his past and his fears, Moana does something beautiful.  She does something she does over and over again with so many in this movie.  She truly SEES Maui.  She sees past the facade. She seems the hurt little boy, who was just looking to be loved.  She tells Maui, "Maybe the gods found you for a reason. Maybe the ocean brought you TO them...because it saw someone who was worthy of being saved."

So, if you are still reading this, I want to say to you what Moana said to Maui, and I hope you are listening: Maybe God found you for a reason. Maybe God brought you here to show you that you are someone who is worthy of being saved.