Daffodils & Duke Basketball

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Every year like clockwork, the sounds and smells come around, stirring familiarity and deep rooted memories of joy and belonging. The brown snow melting into clumps of mud on the sidewalk while tender bulbs gasp for the first fresh air they have had in months, waiting to display their glorious golden trumpets. While inside, it fluctuates between windows beginning to crack and the gas fireplace roaring. Time is marked by the fog horn buzzing on the stop clock, serenaded by the NCAA theme song. Throats aren’t typically sore from spring colds in the Wilson house, but from screaming at the TV and anyone in a baby blue uniform with dirty feet.

This is a monumental, marked moment every year in my life. These signal the start of a new season, a new year of my life. These are the sights and sounds of my birthday. You see, I was born in the great state of North Carolina, where basketball- especially college basketball- is greater than life itself. It ranks up there with football in Texas and Hockey in Canada. In the late 80s, my mom worked at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina, where she quickly was ushered into being a super fan. She dragged my dad along with her and they haven’t ever turned back.

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The whole month of March is crazy with basketball, but for Duke, the first half always holds a special amount of tension, because before the nation goes to the national championships, each division plays in their own championship tournament. In Duke’s case, it is the ACC tournament. Every year, teeth are grinding to see who will have bragging rights over the other between Duke and University of North Carolina (UNC), one of the biggest college rivalries ever. The ACC tournament always happens over my birthday.

Imagine the entire town divided over which shade of blue and out for blood. It’s not just a sport. It is a way of life.

So on March 10, 1989, Duke and UNC played the first bracket of games for the ACC tournament, building an insane amount of tension. The Duke game was set for 2pm that afternoon and the OBGYN begged my mom to give birth before then, as he was a season ticket holder and had to be there. My mom was determined. So fueled by the upcoming excitement of a basketball game, the help of contractions and an epidural, I was brought into this world, into a loving family, into an enduring tradition. Duke won that day. I’d say my parents won even more.

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When my parents loaded me up in the car to drive me home for the first time a few days later, all of Durham was buzzing with electricity. But as my dad pulled into the driveway, my mom noticed that the bonneted heads of determined daffodils had made their way out from hibernation to greet my presence into the world and my new home.

A few years later, my little family moved north to New York so my dad could go back to college, but every year, like clockwork, there would be a bouquet of daffodils on the table while squeaky Duke sneakers ran up and down the court.

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Gone, Part One

I

I

Everything was numb. My body moved through the actions it needed to make, but in my head, I just sat back to watch. Every piece of clothing placed in the suitcase brought a cacophony of extreme emotions. Uncertainty, insecurity, abandonment and perhaps a sliver of hope. It took three of us to zip close 2 huge suitcases. That tightening around my heart happened- the panic of not having adequate goodbye time.. the grains of sand slipping through the cracks and crevices of my fingers and my heart way too quickly. I could barely look N in the eye as I left. Her eyes were hollow and her once beautiful ebony and ivory smile was far off in the distance. I could not get to the get-away truck fast enough. Someone prayed. I didn’t hear a word. My ears and heart had shut down to protect myself. The familiar bumpy ride that followed made me want to fling open the door of that Land Rover and beg BH to take me if it could bring these dear people to an understanding of the Father.

Over my last sip of Pamplemousse,  I begged the tears to not make an appearance. Last hugs happened as I walked through security. As I sat to board, I kept myself distracted by the presence of an armed American soldier by my side. We talked of college and engineering and family and hobbies. Anything that wasn’t what we currently were sitting through. As we prepared to walk to the airstrip, a handful of international reporters and cameras deplaned. My ears felt warm as anger pulsed through my veins. How will they even begin to understand the complexities of what is going on?

The tarmac is hot and my eyes burn with the blazing sun. My companion offers to carry my carry on up the steps and I’m reminded there are still gentlemen in the world. The wheels underneath me spin faster and faster until they no longer make contact with the ground as hot tears come quickly and silently.

Letter of Love

A Letter from the People of the Cross to ISIS

The world is talking about you
Your apocalyptic dreams and spectacular sins
Are now awakening the middle east
In your holy war, come to holy ground
Come children of Abraham come
The people of the cross gathers at your gates with a message

Love is coming after you.
Like a rush of wind grazing over the pacific
From hills of the mount of olives to the desert winds of Jordan
From the cedars of lebanon to the silk roads of the East
An army comes. With no tanks or soldiers
But an army of martyrs faithful unto death
Carrying a message of life
The people of the cross
Comes to die at your gates.
If you wont hear our message with words
Then we will show you with our lives
Laid down.

For every throat you slit and every woman you rape
For every man you burn and every child you turn to dust
There is blood on your hands brother

But Come Brothers Come

Come with your bloodstained hands,
Come with your eyes full of murder for the people of the Cross,
Come lay your guns and your knives at the foot of the cross
A love that is overdue and overwhelming
Breathes through your cities

Though your sins are like scarlet
They can be washed white as snow
Though you call yourselves servants
He will make you into Sons
Where can you run from His love?
Even the darkness cannot hide you

Come Brothers Come
There is the sound of a rushing rain
To remove your sins and bind your wounds
You die for your god but our God died for us
The King of Kings comes to be the sacrificial lamb
Slain on the altar where we should have been
Jesus Christ, Isa Al Masih
Walks through the Middle East

There is forgiveness tonight oh brother
There is healing for your sins oh brother
We are no different.
Apart from Christ, we are no better than the worst jihadist
Christ has been crucified once. and for All.
To make sinners like you and me into brothers
Even you.
Even now.

Heart Thoughts

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Love the broken ones, the ones that need a little patchin’ up
See the diamond in the rough and make it shine like new
It really doesn’t take that much, a willing heart and a tender touch
If everybody loved like He does, there’d be a lot less broken ones..

-“Broken Ones”, Talley Trio

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Don’t stop the madness
Don’t stop the chaos
Don’t stop the pain surrounding me
Don’t be afraid, Lord, to break my heart
If it brings me down to my knees

– “Don’t Stop the Madness”, Tenth Avenue North

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 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty.  ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”

Haggai 2:6-9

I will never doubt His promise

The first ray of sunshine peeks above the just-before-morning grey cloud, singing to the world of the miracle nestled in a feeding trough. The rooster preens in preparation for his morning routine, which, in turn stirs the animals there in a stinky, dirty stable that had turned to holy ground 12 hours previously. Mary’s heart starts dancing in a pitter-patter jig with the joy of the Father before her eyes open. Her shoulders and back feel the brunt of sleeping on a hard dirt floor, but it didn’t even matter, because HE was here. The Savior. This little baby, prophesied to bring redemption to Israel. The thought was so unimaginable to her still, so unreal.

But God knew. He knew of this joy of the morning after the birth of a fully God and fully man Savior, but it held strains of sadness and grief. For the knowing and understanding that in 33 short years, this innocent, sinless baby would walk through the streets of Jerusalem, half beaten to death, wearing a crown of thorns and being wrongly accused of blasphemy. His birth signaled the beginning of this journey, which would end in the Son being separated from his Father.

When a life begins, parents are hopeful and excited. Birth is a celebration of parents and baby meeting for the first time in 9 months- the first of many. Hearts brim and overflow with dreams. Of college and sports and fame and achievement and milestones. Those precious moments of slumber, fuzzy peach skin, soft as silk and miniature fingers and toes bring wonder and praise to the Father who makes this miracle occur.

What we often don’t talk about or pretend that we don’t think about is when, at some point along this path, things go wrong. An extra chromosome is found. Oxygen is limited right after birth. The spinal column isn’t fused together properly. A body part is missing. Too much or not enough fluid in the brain. Organ failure. The list goes on. No one asks for this to happen to their baby. And none of these papas or mamas love their babies any less because these things happen. They are just as beautiful and precious as a baby born in a non-complicated birth because they are image bearers of the Most High God. Just like that little baby sleeping in a trough that morning.

We can prepare all we want mentally for the possibility that one of these kiddos might leave us for the arms of Jesus, but it sure doesn’t make it any easier when it does happen. We cry out, screaming at God, asking why. Why her? Why did she only breathe our air for three years and then go? And so fast! And at Christmas? Nothing in many years of college training ever prepares you for when this happens..

In the midst of grief and anger and questions; God whispers, a reminder of his ever presence. Of the mixed emotions He felt that first Christmas that continued until Jesus hung on that cross and the curtain to the Holy of Holies ripped in two. His Son was separated from him and died a painful, agonizing death. I’m right here. I’m redeeming the world. All will be right soon. Never doubt my promise.

So, to Christ I will cling. In the midst of tears.

Stupid Girl

Last night I sat amongst a room full of weary souls, parched for words of Life to lap up to their dusty toes, desperate for a drink, reminding them of the infinite grace and hope the Gospel offers in this Advent season. There were many moments I wanted to pause and rewind. To play over and over again in my mind. To encapsulate and engrave into my memory so I could revisit them, deep in the recesses of my heart on a day in the midst of a dark, lonely season.

Women who spoke from the heart, who let the Lord’s words flow from the scriptures and from their lessons learned, put into the form of poetry, words and music. Tears fell. Worship happened. Love built. And I treasured away these things in my heart, much like Mary did that night in a cold, drafty barn, exhausted and bleeding from a physical and emotional end of a pregnancy that was leading to the answer of cries of centuries of the Faithful.

Maybe it’s because I’m a word girl, a geek. I play with prose, adjectives, conjunctions and punctuation until I create an art form with irony and literary devices that both thrills and petrifies me as my heart is laid bare before countless pairs of eyes. But hearing similar words from women who feel and express these complicated and twisted emotions using similar ways in which I also attempt comforts me in a deep place, whispers to me that I am not alone and never will be.

So after I left that place of hearing my heart sing and grasp onto the beautiful Hope of Christ this Advent, I listened and heard a recording of one of the three women who shared last night, her words hitting me square in the chest once again. Reminders to be me. To be vulnerable. I’ll let her words do the talking:

…Truth is, I’m scared. And no matter how much I duct tape the mouth of that awkward teenage girl I was, she gets to doing that muffled talking of hers and I understand.  See; she’s nervous. And so am I because one day, you’re going to see the real me – I’m talking about the me you’re going to see on a goofy Saturday when I’m wearing my uncute glasses and too big sweatpants. See- I’ve never given you a chance to meet her, which really means I’ve never really given you a chance to meet me. So I’m going to throw on these old coke bottles and I’m going to wear these faded-grey-used-to-be-black sweatpants and sit next to you and I’m going to lean in, just for the joy of your conversation and maybe I’ll discover that I’m not that stupid girl after all.

-“Stupid Girl”,  Amena Brown

All Glory be to Christ

Should nothing of our efforts stand

No legacy survive

Unless the Lord does raise the house

In vain it’s builder’s strife

To you who boast tomorrow’s gain

Tell me what is your life?

A mist that vanishes at dawn

All Glory be to Christ

All Glory be to Christ, Our King

All Glory be to Christ

His rule and reign will ever sing

All Glory be to Christ

His will be done, His kingdom come

On earth as is above

Who is himself; our daily bread

Praise Him, the Lord of love

Let living waters satisfy

The thirsty without price

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,

All Glory be to Christ

All Glory be to Christ, Our King

All Glory be to Christ

His rule and reign will ever sing

All Glory be to Christ

When on the day, the Great I AM

The faithful and the true

The lamb who was for sinners slain

Is making all things new

Behold our God shall live with us

And be our steadfast light

And we shall e’er his people be

All Glory be to Christ

All Glory be to Christ, Our King

All Glory be to Christ

His rule and reign will ever sing

All Glory be to Christ

One Thousand Words

Hairbrush, nail polish, makeup, heels. Check.

Lint roller, phone, dress, bobby pins. Check.

Grab the camera and rush out the door. Was heading to a friend’s apartment to chat and get ready for a fancy evening of swing dancing and celebrating a mutual friend’s birthday.

Hair teased and pinned. Mascara wand twirled its magic. Dress  on and zipped. Butterflies dancing for the sheer pleasure of dressing up.  Time to take those first photos. What I hadn’t realized, though, was that in the rush, I forgot to place the memory card back in. So when I turned on the camera, this stared back at me:

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Wind completely knocked out of me. Don’t even remember taking this. But I miss her. So much that my heart physically aches.  And I feel the conviction. As I dress up fancy, paint makeup on and smile big, I see a correlation to how I am handling these deep emotions of the last several months. I come face to face with them in the strangest moments when I least expect it. Tears come at inopportune times.

And I find myself wishing I could spend just one more afternoon walking those parallel bars with Lucy. Listening to her steadfast heart cling to the promises of the Lord that I seemingly can never remember. Becoming childlike again. Allowing myself to be completely and totally honest about each and every emotion. Letting the Lord in to move, shake, heal and restore that which is not in line with Truth.

Friends, I am in such desperate need of the Lord tonight. Aren’t you? I feel the weight and can’t even fully form all that I am feeling into words. But what if we admitted that and simply said God, I need you now. Only you.

Amazing what one forgotten picture will say.

Freedom Reigns

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There I was, under a tree, assessing a patient. Except two things: first, I was surrounded by machine guns and second, I was 500 metres from a neighboring country that is persecuting Christians left and right. I was inhaling the most tangible fear I have ever felt and yet, exhaling peace, as I consistently scanned my surroundings between brief consultations and prayer with each patient. Time and again, patient after patient would sit in the plastic lawn chair and tell us of the persecution they faced from a nearby terrorist organization that has run rampant in their country and how they would not back down from proclaiming Christ as Lord of their life.

First I saw her sister, gingerly carrying a flimsy cardboard envelope as if it was her only possession. It was handed to the anesthesiologist standing to my right as the surgeon and I helped the second woman to the plastic chair. It took several hands to get her to where she needed to go but not without the twinges of pain flashing across her face. The pain poured out into her words and through her eyes as she began formulating language and pieced together explanation for the inexcusable violence and terror she has faced for many years and only now affecting her enough she required medical help. From a mile away, I could have seen her injury on those x-ray shots they carried so preciously. The state of them told me this was not a recent injury and that the little money they had was spent on getting them done. She needed help. She and thousands of others. Her heart, her body screamed for healing.

I have done an incredibly inadequate job of formulating words to match the horror, fear and evil I witnessed with my own eyes. They call these indescribable moments for a reason. Except, this isn’t just a “moment” or a phase. This is daily life. Day in and day out, breathing in fear, so desperate for Hope, Healing and Redemption. When your househelp supports herself at the cabinet in the kitchen while she wails at the injustice. When you become numb to the reason why you must have a soldier follow you with an AK-47 every time you go to town. When you outright laugh at the absurdity of what was happening so you didn’t have to think about what it really meant. When you know and believe and proclaim Christ as protector but you secretly have doubts. When you create an easy access list on your computer of the most important items you must grab in under an hour in case of emergent evacuation. When you place all 4 heavy duty bolts on all three doors to the outside and silently whisper pleas to the Father for safety every night. And when your heart is heavy and burdened for the soldiers of Boko Haram, knowing their God-given purpose is not being sought.

You may be wondering why all this is coming out now, after being back in the States for almost 3 months now. Shouldn’t I be “over” this already? Please hear me when I tell you that the Church needs you. Desperately. We have absolutely NO concept of what it means to not be safe here in America. We shouldn’t feel guilty about this, but we need to acknowledge that it is true. And then we need to pray. Intercede. Cry out to the Father who never EVER changes like shifting shadows. Ever. Men, women, children- anyone who is reading this blog; OUR GOD IS A GOD OF POWER. You see what is happening with ISIS and Hamas? God is there. He is working. Yes, there is so much pain and so much horror. There is. But there is One who is greater and He will forever reign, regardless of what these people are attempting to do to weed out the Lord. But friends. God has NOT called us to sit at our desks, watch the latest episode of a TV show or pour water over our heads in response. Oh, American Friends, he has called us to PRAY. Pray with power, conviction, emotion, authority and full assurance that the Lord is the same yesterday, today and forever!!!

Pray for the members of ISIS, Boko Haram and Hamas, that their hearts will be broken for God and they will run straight to Him, regardless of the repercussions. Pray for the persecuted, for strength and stamina physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Pray for the broken families and for the horror they have witnessed with their very own eyes. Pray for the safety of American and other foreign troops in the area, for their safety, protection and that they would seek after the Lord. Pray for the believers in these areas, especially with many being followers of Islam, it is extremely difficult to be a Christian – pray for strength, boldness and complete assurance of Christ. Pray for the missionaries still in these areas, for supernatural peace, for a deep and beautiful understanding of God’s goodness and the grace to relieve friendships and ministry partnerships in the hands of the Lord.

And friends, I need you to also understand and know that these topics are not easy for me to discuss. Just because I am back in the States and usually have a smile on my face does not mean my heart is healed. Seeing ISIS show up in my newsfeed paralyzes me. My heart is unable to feel because it is already full of processing my own grief. This stuff is real, y’all. I’m asking for your prayers. Your support. Your understanding. Be educated. Search for the articles that aren’t tainted by an American reporter. Seek out how you can pray better. And share this. Spread the word. Because our God reigns and He will forever reign in this place.

Long time, no see, Blog!

My wonderful blog reading friends!

I owe you all an apology. This blog has been neglected since I left France, back in February, which is just craziness. When I arrived in Cameroon, my internet was quite poor and this blog was too fancy to fully work correctly there. Because of this, I resorted to using GoCorps website for my blogs instead. If you didn’t see those blog posts, please check them out at:

 

http://gocorps.org/goers/2013/lydia

 

I had to be extreemely careful what I posted online during my time in Cameroon, so if you are wondering about my vagueness or want to know more about why I am back in the States so soon or even what I am up to now, keep posted here, because I certainly am not done blogging!

I’ll be back.. keep those eyes peeled! 😉