Stay Fearless.

I received an end-of-the-year update from WordPress informing me that I wrote a mere fifteen posts in 2015. But, in spite of my record low numbers, the readership remained steady. Dear Readers, I am amazed by your faithfulness. I would have given up on me by now.

While I am not one for new year’s resolutions, now seemed as good a time to start fresh as any. In fact, it feels long overdue. This year has been one of the darkest of my life. And I thought 2013 would be hard to beat. In 2013, I hit the rapids, but I still had God in my boat. In 2015, I kept trying to throw Him out because I didn’t like what He was saying. And, friends, let me tell you, it is really, really hard to brave the rapids without a guide.

But God, ever faithful, ever persistent, finds His way back into my heart in the most mysterious of ways. This time it was through the reading of Laini Taylor’s Dreams of Gods and Monsters. In this fantastical work of fiction, an angel and a devil fall in love. It does not end well. These two races have been at war for centuries, but when Karou and Akiva dare to dream of a different way, the angels and beasts must unite against a greater enemy. It’s basically epic, and you would have to read the entire series to fully understand, but there’s this scene in Dreams of Gods and Monsters:

Liraz—most formidable of the angels—follows her brother’s lead and sides with the enemy. Liraz, whose arms are stained black with the tattooed tally of her victories. Liraz, who is feared by seraphs and chimaera alike. Liraz, who appears, in my mind, the very definition of Fearless.

She stares at Karou’s two human friends who have stumbled into her world. Petite Zuzana and her violin-wielding boyfriend Mik have no wings, no fangs or claws, no place in a world at war.

Weak, she thought, still watching the human pair. But there was another word lurking, defying it. Fearless.

They slept with their faces touching.

I read those words. Read them again and again, stumbling over this groundbreaking definition of Fearless every time.

Fearless quite literally means lacking fear. I suppose that could be a lot of things. Still, it’s hard to imagine that Fearless can define both the warrior who strives against insurmountable odds and the teenage girl who sleeps peacefully in the arms of her beloved.

It’s no secret that I have long been the girl who would stand alone on the battlefield. “Lord, send me,” has been the cry of my heart since I read the story of Amy Carmichael when I was eight years old. I would be perfectly content to wake up in a different country every month for the next year. In fact, I can think of little that would thrill me more than to have such an experience.

I think that’s what I’ve been waiting for as I remain tucked away in this tiny corner of the world. For God to say, “All right. Okay. Today is the day. Pack your little, fearless self up and let’s go.”

But He hasn’t done that. And every time I’ve tried to force His hand on the issue, He closes yet another door in my face.

“Can I please just go now?” I whine.

And He whispers in response, “What would you do if I asked you to stay?”

I haven’t answered His question, mostly because I’m afraid to give it credibility. Like, if I answer this question, I have to acknowledge that He might actually be serious.

Some people were made for staying, but not this girl. The world is too small in rural Ohio. I’ve felt it closing in, suffocating me. I miss the nations. I thought God and I had agreed this move was going to be temporary, but when I give it further thought, I realize God asked me to move and I consoled myself with the idea that it would be short-term. Just until I caught the travel bug and floated off to some other corner of the world.

I, like Liraz, had my swords in hand and my wings unfurled for flight when God confronted me with this scene—this new definition of Fearless.

They slept with their faces touching.

That’s the kind of vulnerability that has the potential to undo you.

“I want you to be Fearless,” God says.

And though I’ve been toting that word like a mantra since Taylor Swift first put it to lyrics and God took my hand and dragged me headfirst—Fearless, I get the feeling He is asking something much different from me this time. Instead of dragging me headfirst into the storm, He is pushing me back down into my chair.

“Sit down. Take a load off. Stay awhile.”

But my feet are already twitching in time with the music and the rain outside looks like the dancing kind.

“China. Venezuela. Mozambique. I know you would be there in a heartbeat if I asked it of you. But honestly—honestly—what would you do if I asked you to stay?”

I twitch. I squirm. I slink down in my seat. It’s the closest thing to an answer I can give Him right now.

“Occupy this space. Be where you are. Invest in the lives of the people around you. Fall in love with as many strangers as you like, but keep them this time. Touch their faces. Let their faces touch yours.

“By all means, be Fearless. Just make sure it’s the staying kind.”

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Absence and Other Tangible Things

“Absence has a presence, sometimes, and that was what she felt. Absence like crushed-dead grass where something has been and is no longer. Absence where a thread has been ripped, ragged, from a tapestry, leaving a gap that can never be mended.

“That was all she felt.”

When I first read those words in the midst of Laini Taylor’s Dreams of Gods and Monsters, they jolted me from the story as I realized, yes, this is a thing. A thing I have never heard described so aptly or beautifully.

Absence has a presence, sometimes. I’ve experienced it throughout the course of my life. Dying dreams, crushed hopes, and insufferable loss steal everything and yet leave something with you.

Absence. A great, gaping absence.

Words like these sing to me, making their way into my journals quite often. Maybe I just like the poetry of them, or maybe I have deeper issues that would require years of extensive counseling to unravel, but these are the things that come to mind when the world rocks crazy and I am at a loss. These are the words that resonate when my knees hit the carpet and the floodgates release the tears from my eyes.

But this morning, as the absence started creeping into my soul, something else crept there, too.

“All she felt,” the quote said.

But wait. That doesn’t have to be all.

But wait. There is more than absence like crushed-dead grass and tapestries ripped ragged.

As I found myself on my knees, in the beginning stages of grieving a gap that can never be mended, I remembered something…

God is, and always has been, the God who gives and takes away. He is, and always will be, good. And if He is good, then every single detail He has orchestrated in our lives is designed to bring good. Every joy. Every sorrow. Every tragedy that rips the very breath from our lungs.

The absence is intimidating. Its presence is strong. But is it all I feel?

Sometimes it is. Sometimes I find myself wanting only to sink down into the depths of it and never resurface. Sometimes it tries to swallow me up forever.

But it is not all there is.

When I turn my face toward the heavens, I find there is peace. There is grace, and joy, and hope.

And the absence? It’s a lie.

Crushed-dead grass can be renewed by the breath of the Creator. Tapestries can be remade by the hand of the Master Weaver.

Absence is not the only thing that has a presence. Not the only thing that can be felt.

Hope has a presence just as strong. Joy is a tangible thing. And grace is always there for the grasping.

Even in this. Yes, even in this.

like crushed-dead grass