A Prison Guard, Military Man, Teen Missionary... and me.

This week has known ugliness. So many people are hurting. People I love are hurting. Many are angry on both sides of a dividing line. I have struggled to find inner peace myself for days now. It has held heartache and pain for so many. We should not forget that. This week has held both sorrow and joy for me personally and I have carried all of those emotions inside of me from one side of the gamut to another. It's exhausting sometimes, trying to understand the bigger picture or at the very least, trying to make some kind of sense out of it. But when it feels the darkest inside of me... somehow the God of my heart finds a way to shine a light down in there, to remind me of His grace and His mercy, of His forgiveness and ultimately, of His unchanging love. It is a priceless gift to me. One I value more highly than anything else in my life. But it hasn't always been that way. I let too many weeds grow in my garden. I stopped nurturing the things I should have cared for vigilantly. I've dismissed Him, disappointed Him, turned my back on Him, even walked away from His heart for more than a decade of my life. But I have often said, the Great Shepherd still leaves the 99, to come back for the one. And He did come after me. He pursued, whispered, loved, and ultimately broke and humbled me in ways I never expected and have yet to share. Someday, maybe. If He asks me to.

For now, I'd like to tell you a different story. I guess it's an illustration of why I believe with everything in me, no matter how I am feeling (because thankfully, it is not dependent on how I am feeling) that God cares about us as human beings, and that we were created to love Him back. That the people that come into our lives, do so for a reason, often to teach us something we haven't yet grasped. Perhaps they pass out of our lives for the same reason as well. In my own life, there are too many instances like this for me to consider them coincidence.

It was a beautiful day and I was drawn to a place I have come to love in New York called Three Mile Bay. Very near this sleepy small town, is a lighthouse where I spend a good deal of my time, whenever I can get up there. It's in Cape Vincent, just across the border from Canada. For about three years, we owned a little home up there, right on the water, and it was very special to me. I had just spent several hours that morning, wandering the old places that touched my heart, walking the shoreline and praying. Too many things weighing on my heart, and I always go back to the water to deal with them. When I was done, and had turned back toward home, I passed a little park with a boat launch and decided to sit and eat my lunch, and take the opportunity to work with a new camera I had purchased but had not yet made friends with. I watched a man kayaking not far from me and took several shots of him, before he brought it in and dragged it across the parking lot, tying it to the top of his truck. I watched him the whole time, and he had smiled politely but had not approached me. He turned to get in his truck and then paused, looking at me. Then he closed the door and came back and sat down next to me on the concrete wall I was sitting on. My first thought (sadly) was a quick prayer. Dear God, please don't let him kill me. But that feeling only lasted a few seconds.

We spoke of many things that afternoon, and by the time he left, he was my friend. We spoke of family, of faith, of current events, and most significant of all, we spoke of Israel. When I got home, I found a note from him here on FB with a link to a blog called Beautiful Brutal Truth. I read it for hours. It was right around the time I read Taylor Shea Smith's post titled "Mosaic". She is a 19 year old girl with a whole lot more wisdom than I ever had at her age.

In a world so filled with hate, these three people reflect my Jesus. They don't look perfect, and they probably don't even look like Jesus people to you. But they know Him, like I know Him. Like I believe He longs for us all to know Him. Prison guard, military, teen missionary to Ecuador, and me. We come from all different walks of life, and yet somehow God connected us. I am so grateful. Josh's post was so precious to me, I decided to print it out and keep it in my nightstand, to remind me that real love, true love, forgiveness and grace and redemption have nothing to do with me (thank GOD) and everything to do with Him.

And this is my own bold, beautiful, brutal truth.