Ashes, Frankincense & Myrrh

Today is a day of fasting and mourning for me. No, literally.

I chose today to not eat breakfast or lunch and dedicate time to reflection and inspiration for a breakout session I need to finish writing. Earlier, as I was walking past my coffee table, I bumped this cute wooden incense-holder Clif and I bought not too long ago. It spilled light gray ashes on our carpet, and the visual struck me.

Pride and shame have been my life long companions. Pride helped me in the midst of hardship; it kept me from getting overwhelmed and helped me avoid what I didn’t like to feel or think about. Shame was there, too. I didn’t know it, but shame was what protected me from potential rejection… at the cost of experiencing success.

Growing accustomed to life as an adult with the after-affects of their presence on my brain has been awkward and difficult. How do you say goodbye to your companions when they’re no longer needed? How do I break up with them without rejecting their role in shaping me?

As I thought about what ashes symbolized, I snorted inwardly at the tired metaphor of a phoenix rising. Even though the Lord does speak to me in cheesy symbolism, I knew the significance of ashes meant more specifically for me. Pouring ashes over one’s head is a biblical act of humiliation and grief, like in 2 Samuel 13:19.

Next to the wooden incense burner is a bottle of Frankincense & Myrrh lotion I own. How serendipitous.

Jesus was gifted gold, Frankincense and Myrrh at the beginning of his life. God is giving me new gifts as I finally am able to face the sorrows he gave me when I was young. Losing my father was such an elusive concept until now. What does a toddler know of death? It didn’t slow me down.

I decided to mix ashes with the Frankincense & Myrrh lotion and massaged it into my skin. I can finally have true life when I do just that: allow all the sorrows and joys I’ve experienced to mix and join together; almost like a glue to piece myself together again.

While praying, I somehow heard Lanny (my dad) speak these words to me: “Keep going. Embrace life. Don’t let it get the best of you.”

I won’t, dad. Look at how far I’ve come!

A Third Set of Seven

My thoughts are a whirlwind as I write this post– as they always are. It’s hard to focus on just one blog-sized topic when my ambitious brain desires to condense all my visions, passions, musings, etc. into an eloquent chunk of inspiration. At the moment, I happen to be sitting in my new favorite coffee shop (since I, and quite literally hundreds of others, were forced to find a new study spot after the Coffee Pot closed) after a long day of work at Textbook Solutions and doing some car maintenance in day that was way too hot for human life… thanks, Texas. I retreated to Wake the Dead for AC, iced Jasmine tea, and some much-needed time to think and relax.

Looking back on this summer as it nears closing, I am amazed at the things God is teaching me and doing in me.

Psalm 51 has been on my mind for a several months now. At first God impressed it to me as a way to comfort me deeply in a tough time. He wrapped me up in the truth of what David was feeling in this Psalm; that recognizing the complete depth and severity of his sins was the only way to fully feel the love and rescuing power of God. A couple months ago, I felt commanded to do a few different things from verses that seemed highlighted to me as I was reading:

1) v. 3 “For I recognize my shameful deeds– they haunt me day and night.” I feel commanded to cultivate a habit of confessing my sin both to Him and to others. I have struggled with shame for most of my life. I feel that in my my mind I can alternate between prideful arrogance when I am being self-sufficient and can pretend my sorrows and flaws don’t exist (or at least aren’t that bad), and when I am faced with pain from unresolved sin I often listen to the enemy’s lies, feel sorry for myself, and hold resentment and bitterness towards others.

2) v. 6 “But you desire honesty from the heart, so you can teach me to be wise in my inmost being.” I feel commanded to desire inner goodness, not outer perfection. I have always cared more about what people think of me than I should and usually end up hyper-focusing on how I present myself to the world. I am so much like the Pharisees, and I deeply desire to break away from that dead way of living and cleave back to thirsting after Jesus’ heavenly wisdom, never being satisfied with my measly earthly wisdom.

3) v 10, 12-15 “Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me… Restore to me again the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to sinners, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that I may praise you.”

I feel commanded to treat my brokenness not as something to get rid of, but as means for a stronger relationship with Christ and to begin evangelizing as a part of my daily life. I’m learning that God can use a broken, messy person for his purposes more readily than someone who thinks they have it all together. I heard the Lord telling me that it’s time to start loving the Texas State campus on purpose and without holding back. That idea is scary for me… but God is serious about me getting myself out there into the world and focusing on other people’s lives. I desire my spirit to be righted by daily pursuing my connection to Jesus. I desire for my joy to be restored from within, and I desire to be unfrozen from fear, carelessness, and inaction toward God’s ordinances and enabled to serve His purposes for my life!

I am so happy to say that I’ve made progress in these areas since first setting these goals for myself in May. Just in being obedient in these first few steps, I have felt peace and security more deeply than I’ve experienced before. I’m excited to finally be in a healthy place to pour love out to strangers and friends alike as I act as president for 2.42 again this next year and as I continue to grow in all of these areas.

My prayer is that I would get to know (and subsequently love) Jesus better and better every day. Fun fact- 14 years ago this month, when I was 7 years old, I was baptized by my uncle in a community pool. When I was 14, I was baptized more formally as a young adult in front of my friends and family, also in July. This July, as a 21-year-old woman, I may not be getting baptized a third time (that would be plain heretical) but I do feel a sweetness with Jesus at my side! I’m so grateful that a third set of 7 years has passed, this time ending in a victorious place as a more whole and flourishing person than I could have ever hoped. The best part? This is only the beginning!

Here’s to 7 more years. Who knows what they hold?