The Long Way Home

For 13 months we lived in a beautiful home in the country. There was a garden in the back with a rose bush that had overgrown. As I began to weed the garden, I would find roots sprouting from one end, that lead me back to this big rose bush. It had grown so strong for so long, without anyone tending to it, that the roots had overtaken this garden. Isn’t that quite like life?

A painful event would happen to me and I would run from it. I would not face it, but let it root deeper. And time would pass and things would pile on my resume of things I majorly failed at, things I did not want to face. The roots were too deep. And my arms were too weak to begin pulling. So I kept running, finding anything to fill the space between me and those roots. Even now right before bed or a random place in time I can get a flashback of some long forgotten stupid night and cringe. Even now I can still fall back into the lie of the enemy that because of my past I am no good. But I am strong enough now to recognize his lie.

I don’t believe that God is angry with me for not choosing life. I believe He was deeply, deeply saddened that I didn’t know His Truth well enough to know that this was life. I believe He heavily wept over the fact that I was deceived into darkness. I believed in the lie – this was not life. The lie that I would feel relief, and this was something I would soon move on from as if it never happened. But this was my wildly unkept rosebush, overtaking the beautiful garden within me. I believe God felt sorrow towards me when I felt so alone. I believe God my Father deeply mourned for my loss, when I hardened my heart to avoid feeling anything. But greatest of all, I believe He welcomed my baby Home and that I will see my baby face to face in Heaven.

And that is just it: we’ve become so numb to what we don’t want to come to terms with. With what we would rather avoid. We want the easiest route and the easiest way out. But I’ve learned going the distance produces perseverance. I want to take the long way Home to Heaven, I want to stop at every detour. Walk up every steep mountain. To walk through pain and remember what it felt like. I want to take my time, to be completely raw in truth. I’ve grown to desperately love truth. To love on everyone lost. Everyone going through affliction. I choose the long way home. Facing our roots and pulling them out from within the deep produces an inner strength we never thought possible. Our past has no control over us unless we choose to let it. Because past things are passed things. Our past cannot harm us any longer if we choose to use it for good – in the helping of others.

Up until recently I would pray for God to break me away from my past. To let me forget. The memories. The pain. The embarrassment I still feel. But God did not. So finally I thanked Him for not allowing me to forget, because if I forget how can I be there for anyone else with similar roots? How can I help someone avoid growing these same roots? If I forget then there will never be a lesson learned. If I forget I will once again have taken the easy route out. Instead I’ve chosen to walk through it, root by root, room by room, with God holding my hand. Facing things I’ve been avoiding. Facing things I’ve been praying would just disappear. Decisions I have made. Forgiveness I have been withholding. Guilt I have bagged away. And it’s only then have I realized that the burden seems to grow lighter. I imagine my heart with these rooms full of filth, and God walking with me hand in hand, power washing the walls clean with each one we face.

So what roots have you been avoiding? What shortcuts have you been taking? If you’re wondering if the burden will ever get lighter the answer is yes. If you have been trying to work up the courage to face the painful fear of the past I challenge you to pull that first root. Take that first small detour. Walking through pain is not easy, but it is worth the Light. It is worth the freedom. Your face shines all the more beautiful in the freedom. I know you yearn for the freedom. And in your wild heart of hearts you were created to run in the freedom of the day. Choose today.

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Where Shore Meets the Sea

I hold on to things. I’m by no means a hoarder, but I definitely still have “Babs”, the stuffed-dog I got when I was two. (And I definitely still sleep with her, my husband has accepted this.) I hold on to memories and love and pain all the same. Like stepping away from relationships. All of those years I held knuckle-white tight. And learning to be independent and who I am as this person God created. If we let them, people will shape us into a shadow of ourselves, and when they leave we can’t recognize our own reflections. Sometimes we have moments where we have to choose whether to remain stuck in the waiting for change to hopefully come or we have to take the leap to reach change now.

I get lost in my own mind sometimes and relive moments with my grandma, I still have her number saved in my phone as if I could call her whenever I want to. I get lost in her memory and her goodness and her love for Jesus. I wish she could see me loving Him, too, the way she always prayed I would. I remember the night she made her way to Heaven and I wasn’t sure how any of us would continue to live. How would we make it without her? But tomorrow came and we had to choose to move with it. I’m so thankful I finally chose to move with it.

We walked down the beach tonight and there was a young boy with his mother, and I think of my child. I think of the way his memory used to be shut away, too painful, always taunting by the enemy. And I think of the way God has redeemed it, so beautiful, so thankful I can talk about it. He would be big enough to run alone and play in the ocean and laugh and talk with me about who knows what. It hurts for a moment but I think of Heaven immediately and the setting sun behind us. And I smile. I’m full of joy in heart at the thought. How much greater is it all on his side of Heaven?

And a year ago I couldn’t face this. The pain of growth and releasing of hands and moving forward. But sometimes God works in our time, when it comes to matters of the heart. He doesn’t rush our wounds to heal and He doesn’t push us when we aren’t ready. Because He knows it’s not easy being us. He came down on earth as one of us. He knows life can be ugly and burdens can be heavy and this bed seems far too safe compared to the world outside of our window. He knows people die and fathers leave and relationships end. He knows results come back a devastatingly positive and the rain seems never-ending. And so he doesn’t push us, but encourages us, that yes, the pain in your heart may be overwhelming some days but there is a sunset over the ocean painted just for you that he doesn’t want you to miss. Just a sunset over the ocean that can help our feet to move forward, even if it’s just one small step at a time.

And what’s on the other side of moving forward has been so worth getting out of bed. So worth the releasing of hands. So worth all-in trusting Jesus. So I will leave my pains right here, where the shore meets the sea. I will let it wash away with each wave. Because although there is pain, God is still good, the sunset is still so beautiful, and Heaven is surely worth it all.

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A Voice is Heard in Ramah

“I don’t want something so tragic to be suppressed into my stone heart. If someone is going through this I want to pour into them. It hurts. It sucks. It’s full of regret. It’s full of wondering if there’s healing. If anyone will ever understand. I want people to know that I understand. I believe there is healing. I believe this will always be painful. Always be embarrassing. Always be shameful. But I believe one day I will wake up and a burden will be gone. One day I will wake up and breathe light. It will hurt but I won’t be scared to share. To speak truth about abortion. To speak up.”
January ’14

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This week will be 42 years since Roe v. Wade came into affect. 42 years. 56 million babies. What they don’t tell you is abortion is not an easy fix. It does not take away the fact that we are still mothers and fathers. Sometime around now I could have been celebrating life. I could have been buying birthday cakes and candles and there could have been celebrations. And I’ve fought with my inner self for some time. It seems like over the years I’ve counted every footstep I’ve taken that has separated me further from that day. Further from my younger self who didn’t choose life. And it rings true that we don’t realize what we had until it’s gone. And by then it’s so far gone from here. I’ve spent time staring out blank windows feeling an emptiness. Watching the snow fall out blank windows and days would change but the pain always remained the same. I’ve spent time with a jealous heart when mothers walk hand in hand with their babies. And I’ve spent time wishing for mine. Daydreaming of an echo of a voice in my mind and wanting so badly to reach it. For it to be real. I’ve beat myself up over the goneness. In the silence. I stayed silent for too long. But 56 million babies have come and gone and how many more since my own? How many more moms only realize what’s missing when the missing comes far too soon? I wonder if they are dealing with it or if they keep it hidden in their heart. I wonder if any of them have begun to stare into the same blankness and are wishing that same wish. One thing the abortion clinic doesn’t prepare us for is that there’s no refund. There’s no getting our babies back. When we realize what we have actually done. They say it is best for us. That we will be relieved. But abortion is forever and so is the yearning for our babies back. They never prepared us for the day we would blankly stare out of these windows watching the snow fall, missing a baby we only knew for a little while.

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If I could give advice to anyone facing abortion I would tell them to really think about it. Lay it all out there. A baby might not be convenient in your busy life right now, but life will get quiet. And in the midst of the silence “what-ifs” become overwhelmingly loud. The temporary inconveniences will pass but the regret is lasting on the heart. Know that the after-affects of abortion is more draining than chasing around a toddler ever would be. I want to face it head on. I don’t want to be scared of it. I want to speak life into it. I want to declare victory over abortion. Because the world tells us to keep it hidden in the darkness but there is healing in the light. After all this time I’ve finally found peace. I’ve found a piece of healing. I’ve learned to loosen my grip on this secret. I’ve learned to embrace the memory of the one I only knew for a little while, and I marvel in the Lord’s promise that I will one day see my baby face to face. I refuse to stay silent anymore, because my child’s death will not be in vain – for there will be victory over abortion. You were here. You existed. You are remembered.

A voice is heard in Ramah,
Mourning and great weeping,
Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more.

but I will turn their mourning into gladness;
I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

Jeremiah 31

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The other side of it all


It’s Okay to Stay

I thought by now maybe we’d be somewhere new. Somewhere broke down on the side of the road in the motor home we bought three years ago that’s now probably been sold a time or two since we sold it last fall. I’ve spent time wondering maybe if I didn’t miss some turns then maybe we’d be somewhere far from here by now. But we’re still here, in our hometown.

Sometimes you’re called away but sometimes you’re called to stay. Just stay. And when you’re gone from everything, all that you know, in a new town and new faces, new street signs and stop lights, it takes all that you have to be brave. Brave to step on the new sidewalk outside of your new house. Brave to re-memorize where the closest Tim Horton’s is on the corner (you pray to God there’s a Tim Horton’s). Brave to say hello to new faces. To start over again. And that’s always viewed as honorable. You’ve made it, right? Getting out of your hometown. But sometimes you’re asked to stay. Stay planted in the familiar. You don’t have to use that old GPS in the center counsel because you’ve drove down Michigan Avenue a million times or two since you were a kid. Seeing a familiar face every time you go to the store and it all feels like home. A different memory at every red light floods your mind as your car comes to a stop. When did it become such a bad thing to say you’ve lived here all your life? When did it get written in the rules that we have to leave in order to really have lived? Sometimes life’s missed when we’re so busy saving up for the next bus ticket out. 

Yes, it can be brave to leave, to start over where nobody knows your name, but it also takes courage when we are asked to stay. Invest love and life right where your roots are planted. In the familiar. In the faces who already know you. What you have done in your past and the mistakes you have made. It’s brave to to pick up and start again, right where you are. 

Sometimes we’re asked to pack up our things and invest in a new place. But sometimes we’re asked to just stay.

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Fear is a Liar

When was a time you felt most scared? What was it over? How much did you allow that fear to dictate your life? Did you triumph over it or are you still allowing fear to whisper lies to you in the dark?

Fear is a liar, and if we accept these lies we remain chained to it. I won’t forget the way these lies slowly crept into my mind. The fear of being honest about who I am and the path I have walked took over my life so much that I shut off and shut down. I believed that there was no way I could be honest about how I felt or that I could be my true self, because fear told me it was absolutely impossible. Fear told me that everything I’ve ever done in my past was too ugly, and too unforgivable, that no one would understand. Fear took away my self-worth. Fear took away my potential. Fear took away my voice. The enemy oppressed me with so much fear because he feared who I was created to be. His mission was to paralyze me in this fear, and I believed him when he said, “This is it. This is all God has for you.” A life of a shell of myself and that God could never use me because of my past. I believed fear when it said that I could not overcome. I believed fear when it said that healing is too hard, and that a life lived out for The Lord was not possible for me. I was listening to fears loud voice so much that it tuned out The Lords still, small voice telling me I am. I can. I will. Fear began to scream louder in my face the more God spoke gently to my heart. When fear told me I’m not worth fighting for, Yahweh said I’m worth dying for. When fear told me I can’t trust in God, El Roi said with Him I can move mountains. When fear told me I won’t overcome, El Shaddai said I will be victorious.

Fear is a liar and the enemy fights the worst fight to keep us there. When we are so captivated in fear then it’s hard for God to use us. When we eat the lies fear feeds us then everything God has for us is tainted. I challenge you right now, today, to take a fear in your life and call it out. Like a bully that’s been taunting you, stand up for yourself and push it back. You will see that it’s not as tough as it appears to be when you just take the first step. There is victory and light that comes from breaking the chain of fear and leaving it in the dark. God promises that we are, we can and we will.

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Handing Over the Keys to the Cellars of Our Souls

Every one of us walking on this earth have a few cobwebs in the corners of our souls. Maybe your mom once told you not to have any cookies before dinner but they were so enticing that you ate one anyway when she left the room. A cobweb forms. Maybe you told a “white lie” to your best friend because it feels easier than facing the truth. Another cobweb forms.

But maybe you have a cellar in the basement of your soul. It’s dead bolted and has a million and one locks just to ensure that no one gets in. Maybe it’s been there for so long that the cobwebs have become so thick. It’s even formed mildew so not even you want to touch it. The enemy guards that cellar with his strongest forces. He wants to make sure no light shines through. He wants that cellar in your soul to remain hopeless. Impossible to open. And he wants to continue to torment you with it.

He wants you to believe that if anyone knew what was locked inside then they would abandoned you. That they would disown you and be disgusted with you. He wants you to believe that you are the only one who has done what you’ve done or what has been done to you. That no one can relate, understand or help. Let me tell you that that is a lie from the deepest, fieriest pit of hell. Whatever has happened to you in this life, whatever is chained inside your cellar, there are over 7 billion people in this world, you are not the only one. It’s impossible. God says there is nothing new under the sun. Although it feels like it, you aren’t the first and you won’t be the last.

God didn’t create our bodies for cellars in our souls. We are not capable of keeping them there long enough without going crazy. Without forming some kind of destructive behavior. What is that one thing you’re holding on to that hinders you from reading your bible more? What is it that stops you from growing deeper in your faith? You may veer off course a little bit, and for some of us a lot a bit. You may have junk in your cellar that no one could have ever imagined. But God knows. No matter how well you believe you’ve fooled everyone else, God knows. He sees your cellar. Down to your deepest wound, and He mourns for you.

You may believe that nobody else in this world could ever know how you feel or how much your cellar has made you suffer, but God knows. And He wants to brush away the cobwebs. He wants you to hand over the lock and key and allow Him to free you. You might be thinking, “Well He’s God, why doesn’t He just take it from me and do it Himself?” He’s a gentle God. He’s a patient God. He’s a God who gave us free will to choose to remain under the weight of the enemy’s thumb or choose to bring it all to His feet and say, “Okay, Lord. I can’t carry this on my own anymore. I need a Savior. I need you to carry this for me.” And He will. And He already has when He had His only Son drink the cup of our sins and taste the bitterness of all the filth we have ever done. His son Jesus, the Savior of you and I, who carried it all and was nailed on the cross so we could be free to willingly choose to hand over the keys of our cellars to God, and let it all go.

Enough is enough, have you had enough? Are you ready to hand over the keys?

When you call on me, when you pray to Me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for Me you’ll find me. When you want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you home again, you can count on it.

Jeremiah 29

  

Violet and the Kitty

As I’m babysitting my nieces tonight, dear, sweet Violet threw a little tantrum as she watched through the screen door her beloved kitty Conan frolicking around outside. With her 5 month old sissy in my arms, I asked, no I begged her, to just come back and watch some more Peppa Pig on the tv. I would not win this argument. Strapping on their matching jackets, I could not help but want to feel so mad at my adorable niece for throwing such a fit, but her excitement to be outside once she knew she had won put a smile on my face. Oh how I love this little girl.

With her hand in mine, and baby sissy in my arms, we walked out to my sisters gorgeous backyard, over looking acres of field.

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And the hunt to find Conan the Kitty begins…

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She’s close I can feel it…

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What’cha lookin’ at?

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Where’d she go?

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I think I know where she is..

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So close..

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This way!!

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You can’t get away now..

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And they lived happily ever after…

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of Salt and Sea

Have you ever missed someone so much you still look for them in crowds? You replay their voice in your mind so you never forget it. You’re scared that because it’s been so long you might wake up and it’s gone from your memory.

There was a sunset last night over the ocean and I would have waited all night if I knew you were gonna show. In my heart I wanted to share it with you, but I imagine it was so much more beautiful on your side of Heaven. I still waited a while, hoping you could be there next to me. You would ask me how I’ve been and I would bury my face in your lap. Where have you been all this time that I’ve needed you? I know where you are, but sometimes I can’t understand the distance between.

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I’ve been dreaming of you walking up to me, and I want to stay there a while, but I know we can’t live in our dreams. I drove passed your house not too long ago, it’s so much smaller than I remember as a little girl. The cement garage is gone and the paint is chipping away. I would have knocked on the door to just sit inside but I’m still as shy as the day you left me. So I sat outside for some time, missing you. I planned for you to be here forever and it hurts when things don’t turn out the way we had planned. And it hurts to think about how much time has passed, you’d think I’d feel better by now. I hoped I’d feel better by now. Everything is different since you’ve been away, and if I could go back to the day when we were all together with you I would. If you knew how much we needed you maybe you could’ve stayed a little longer. Maybe if we knew just how much we needed you we would have picked up the phone faster when you called. Oh how I wish you would call.

I’m thankful for what you’ve left behind in my mother, when she rocks her own grand babies to sleep I see you. And the way my aunt loves Jesus the way you did. I still see you in my family and it all feels like home to me.

Do you miss me as much as I’ve been missing you? Is Jesus as sweet as you said He would be? Have you saved a table in Heaven for your family? If I could have you back for just one more moment, there’s a million things I would want to say. But I think I would much rather sit quietly to hear you speak instead.

I’m waiting patiently while I watch the morning sun. In my heart you show up next to me. But I’m okay with sitting alone knowing the colors are that much more beautiful on your side of Heaven.

Happy Birthday.

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Beauty in Ashes

I was woken up by my sister last week to find out the Henry’s, who own our home and graciously allow us to live here, house burned down. I just felt pure devastation for them. They lost everything. Howard and Penny’s spirits are so good and are completely trusting The Lord. I felt so sick about it, though.

You know those moments in life that feel like they could make the saddest part of a tragic movie? I couldn’t help but think while I walked up the drive from my house to the Henry’s garage as the freezing rain pounded on my frizzy curls, that this is it, this would be the saddest part in a movie ever seen. A group of men talked in the garage so I waited until I caught Howard’s eye to approach him. I held back the tears as a peaceful wave of deep blue sea glanced over at me and a smile flooded his warm face. “There she is.” He smiled.

I told Howard we would move so they could stay in their home, so I was prepared to move out within a week. I trust Gods plan but I couldn’t help but feel selfish, too. I would miss it here so much. I would miss the country. I would miss seeing Howard and Penny spending time outside. I would miss this home. I had these plans to make a garden in the yard. To plant flowers outside the window. To pick asparagus across the street. And I felt selfish and bad for thinking of all I would miss when in their 80’s it was probably not in the Henry’s plans to lose the home they built 35 years ago and everything they owned in a fire. Sometimes we make these glorious plans in life and sometimes they fall through. But isn’t God always there to break our fall? He’s always there to catch us. His plans are always greater.

Something profound Howard said was they will build a new house in the same spot. Fire took away everything. Burned down every wall. Every door. Every possession. It’s gone. It’s ash. It has every reason to manifest hurt, pain and devastation in the same spot where there was once a home. But Gods plans are not what we expect at times. And they will rebuild. The way he said those words to me planted firm in my mind. Confident. So sure. Although the very home he built with his own hands is fallen ashes on a hill, God sees the bigger picture. And though every item they’ve ever owned has been lost, maybe at least one soul could be found in this. Maybe just one soul will see just how faithful God is in a seemingly finished situation. I walked up the drive today and the sun shined through the burned pillars and the birds still chirped and rested in their homes nearby, and God said it is long from finished.

After almost a week of being unsure of where the Henry’s will end up along with ourselves, and continually giving it to God and asking for His will, we are able to stay in our home. Thank God for providing a home for the Henry’s as they rebuild. There’s that word again. It sticks with me. It feels mighty as I say it to those who ask me what the Henry’s plans are. I’m not sure what their plans were but the Lords are to rebuild.

I looked up the definition for “rebuild“.

to repair
to strengthen

To strengthen. Through a fire God is able to strengthen their faith in Him. Through a fire others are able to witness their deep reliance in Him, and by that their own faith may be strengthened.

It reminds me of Job and how everything was taken from him. People who knew him might have felt devastated for him. They might have wondered how something like that could have happened to someone so faithful and good. No one would have blamed him for being mad at God. But he didn’t turn away. He poured everything he had left into him and he was strengthened more than ever before. Strengthened enough to rebuild. God was faithful to Job and He continues to be faithful to the Henry’s. He is always the same, never changing.

As Howard, Penny and their family prayed around the spot their old home once stood, a card was pulled from the ashes, that read “God is in control.” They plan to frame it and have it be the first item to go into their new home. Although it stings to lose what they lost, just like Penny says, they are just things, memories in their minds. We told her how sad it is to look out our back window and see a burned down home, and she laughed. “There you are complaining. How good are you with artwork? Put a plaster board in front of the window and paint something beautiful on it so that’s all you see. God brings good out of bad. We can only hope this will draw people to come to know Him. We recognize the loss but we recognize The Lord.

Don’t you want to reflect even just a small portion of their hope? I do. When all seems lost we can either stare out the back window, mourning over the ashes, feeling sorry for ourselves. Or we can put our hope in the one who has already mourned our loss long before we ever did. We can take a piece of plaster board over that window, paint a beautiful sunset and have faith that it will rise again. Because He promised it would rise again. And with that promise we can rebuild.

Lord, it’s gone. And gone is gone, so we move on.

-Penny Henry

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For I know the plans I have for you. I’ll show up and take care of you and bring you back home as promised. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out. Plans to take care of you – not abandoned you. Plans to give you the future you hoped for. When you call on Me, when you come and pray to Me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for Me, you’ll find Me. When you get serious about finding Me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed. I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back home, you can count on it.

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The Living God

God. I want to fully experience God. I want to know Him in my own experience and not by who others say He is. I want to taste Him for myself and then be able to share Him with others. The real and living God. The one who isn’t just sweet but also spicy. Not just a purring kitten but a roaring lion. I want to run away with the one that calls my name in the night whose name is Jesus. I want to be washed by His water. I want to experience His church at work together and not just a group of people looking out for number one. I want a God at His best who will love me at my worst. I want to dance with Jesus in the secret place, where the warm sun lingers in my hair and the wind sways the flowers at our ankles. And I want to cry with Him in the valley low when my feet are tired so my Warrior carries me to the other side. I don’t want just any god. Not just any god will satisfy me continually. Oh, I’ve tried other gods and I’m always left wanting more. My tongue thirsts for more at these empty wells. I want the God who is in love with me. The one who is the keeper of promises and the one who can satisfy my needs. He will be the one who is more than enough but in Him I will indulge. No, not just any god will do, but the one who offers living water. And when I drink it my taste buds will sing for more. A taste unknown that I have known all along. These hands will throw the map away for I have found the well I’ve been searching for. I have travelled all of these years looking and it was never too far away from me. Yes, this is the God I want. I want to experience Him for Him because He loves me for me. Because he never tells me to change. Because He knows every detail about me and yet He still offers me more to drink. I want to kneel by His side and wash His peoples feet. I want to do work with Him. These hands will get dirty and yet they will always be clean. I want to let go of anger, frustrations and guilt. I want to stop wondering when I will catch my break and just stand in the rain to catch the glory of The Lord on my tongue. I thirst for a fullness that only He can satisfy. I want the Jesus who made wine and the one who gave bread. I want the Jesus who flipped over tables in disgust and the one who raised the dead. I want Him to comfort me in the pain and I want Him to confront me when I need reality. There is only one who forgave and gave life to the adulterer. There is only one who touched and healed leprosy. I want Him. I want Him who did all of these things and didn’t want recognition. I want the one who hated religion, tradition and all of the jewels. I want the one who wore rags and had dirt on His feet. I want the one who loves all people whether gay or straight, who would eat lunch with the homeless and breathe life into the lungs of those who cannot see a way out of misery. I will never find this God in those who mix mud in the water but in He who spit in mud to bring vision to the blind. I want to forget about all of the rest. I want the One, True Living God.