MAPS: Finding God's Perfect Place to Be

(This blog speaks on the piece, "Maps," available to watch below.) 


I wrote “Maps” on my knees, crying before the Lord, in the middle of my first “tour” as a solo artist.

I hesitate in calling it a tour because that sounds way more extravagant than it actually was. It was Summer of 2011—earlier that year I had turned down stable jobs, left relationships that meant a great deal to me, and was throwing a wrench into my life's plans as I packed up my bags and crossed state lines in pursuit of preaching the Gospel through spoken word. What was this girl thinking? Who knew. I had close to no idea what I was doing or what it would turn into. I lived out of a suitcase—literally. I had no place to call home. I was going from booking to booking, city to city, state to state, just barely making ends meet. “Tour” seems to imply that it was a temporary journey, an expedition to various places that would eventually come to an end. That is not what this was. I had burnt all my bridges. I had nowhere else to go. I was far more of a starving, nomadic missionary than a touring artist. I had bookings for the next few weeks, with no idea if I was going to keep getting jobs for the rest of the year or if I was going to be homeless. I so badly wanted to go where God wanted me to go, to be where He desired me to be. But all alone, in a new city and state, in the guest room of a pastor’s family that I didn’t know, whose church had hired me for the weekend, I thought, “Am I in the right place? Where am I supposed to be?

I am not alone.

We’ve all been there. Juniors in high school and college, desperate to pick the perfect school or pick the right job. Singles in their mid-twenties, longing to find “the one.” Anyone & everyone thinking of switching careers or relocating a family. We’ve all been at this place, a place of internal desperation & seeking, or quite literally on our knees, begging God to reveal to us His cosmic preferences.

For me, it was here, on my knees on the side of a bed, in my early 20’s, hoping that I was in the exact physical location God wanted me to be.

Turns out, there is far less in the Bible on God being specific in His preferred destinations & plans for us, and far more of an emphasis on where He wants our hearts to be. He doesn’t talk so much about the precise “will” He wants us to follow through with, but instead talks abundantly about the “way” He wants us to do things in the first place— the way He wants us to think and treat people, the way He wants us to surrender and be faithful. He never seems to care about anything more than people knowing and loving Him, and loving His people. He doesn’t seem to care too much about the things we so adamantly obsess over.

The verse I reference in my piece is from Paul, in prison for preaching the Gospel, speaking on being content wherever He is. I love that verse. He did not care if he was behind riches or behind bars—as long as he was living for Jesus, he was content wherever.

Another verse that really spoke to me in that state of wondering is found in James 4.

Verses 13-15 state, “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city. We will spend a year there. We will buy and sell and make money.’ You don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? It is a mist that appears for a little while. Then it disappears. Instead, you should say, ‘If it pleases the Lord, we will live and do this or that.’”

Here the writer is practically mocking us, giving us a fresh perspective on the things we worry about. He is saying, “Who cares about the details? Who cares about the plans? You’re not going to be here for forever anyway. Wherever you go, whatever you do, make sure you please the Lord there.”

I learned something that changed my life that year, and it’s the ending line to my 2013’s album & tour’s title piece, “Maps.”

When I am here, asking, “Where’s the right place to be?” He answers simply, “Where you are seeking Me.”

As it turned out, my physical place didn’t matter all that much. What mattered was that I was in a place of surrender. I was in a place of seeking God. I was so desperate for Him, reading His Word everyday, having hours of intimacy with Him everyday, longing to have His discernment everyday—and that place of hunger, that place of obedience was indeed the right place to be.

We can’t ruin God’s plan by choosing a certain school, job, or city. We are just not that powerful. But we can ruin our own relationship with God, the quality of our own lives, by not being in a place of seeking Him daily, by not being in a place where He is in the center of our thoughts and desires. If we miss Him, then we are the ones who undoubtedly miss out. Instead, we need to be in a place where we are content with knowing and following Him. We need to be in a place where we say, “If it pleases the Lord, I will do this or that.” We need to be in a place where we say, “I am seeking God with all my heart. I am right where I am supposed to be.”

In Psalm 84:10, the songwriter states,

“A single day in your courtyards is better than a thousand anywhere else. I would rather guard the door of the house of my God than live in the tents of sinful people.”

Prior to the Summer of 2011, I had been in a place of worshipping men, status, and my own fleshly desires. But that day, I was in a different place. For the first time in a long time, I was in the right place. I filled that room with worship as I spoke to the Lord over and over, “One day with you is better than a thousand somewhere else. I just want to be where you are. I just want to know you.”

I was in the right place.

May we all be in that right place. That place of seeking God. That place of indulging in His Word. That place of looking like Him, loving others like Him, and trading in our own desires for Him. May we not obsess over the maps. May we not worry about the plans. If we are pleasing the Lord, we can do this or that. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we will be in the right place if we are seeking, loving, and following Him.

 

I Have Big Hair & I Preached in a Prison in Alaska

I have big hair.

I’m young. I’m a woman.

I’ve never had a lot of money. My dad was an uneducated, ex-heroin addict. He later became a preacher… a street preacher; I grew up at an outdoor church in a homeless park. I’m multi-racial—as a youngster I didn’t know whom I was supposed to fit in with or what I was supposed to look like. I was never popular. I was never the best at anything.

I know what you’re thinking: Wow, this girl is crazy amounts of cool.

Obviously not. I’ve never been cool. And not only are all of these things a part of me, some days they still follow me around. I’ve been on stages in this country that I’ve been told I was “the first woman on,” or “the first non-white on.” Seriously. Those are real quotes. I’ve been told that I’m too young to do what I do. I’ve been told to cut my hair to look older. I’ve been told to straighten my hair to look whiter. I’m still looked down on by numerous PKs (pastor’s kids) I knew growing up and some I now meet on the road, because my dad “wasn’t a real pastor; he was a street preacher.” So no, I’ve never really found a box I’ve felt comfortable or welcomed in. And up until these past couple of years, I thought all of these things were negative things—vices that stood in the way of me being effective.

But then I preached in a women's prison in Alaska, and that all changed.

I performed 2 pieces and then shared the Gospel—I mostly preached about sin, true love, and true redemption (really, what else is there?). The response was powerful—I was completely humbled. As the lines of women, both guards & inmates approached me, whether with smiles or with tears, I learned many things. One, they never had a woman speaker in this prison—all had been older men, and it was extremely hard for these women and girls to receive from them. Two, most speakers that they heard from did not come from backgrounds similar to theirs (broken homes, life on the streets, addiction, abuse, etc.—all parts of my own life), and thus they felt like the speakers were better than them or talking down to them. Three, all of these women thought I looked like them. There were Hispanics, Asians, Caucasians, First Nations (what some know at Native Americans), Hawaiians, and more predominantly, Natives (what some know as “Eskimos” – though a derogatory term in Alaska.) The Natives there would pull on my hair, asking if it was real, and then commenting, “You have big hair! You look like us! Are you Native?” I looked like them. I came from where they came from. I didn’t talk down to them. I was young, I was a woman, I had big hair. As I cried out to God in the mountains of Anchorage, Alaska, all my heart could feel was, “You were designed for this.”

In his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, Pastor Rick Warren writes,

“Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.”

I have found this to be undoubtedly true. For me, it was my greatest vices, seeming roadblocks, and most intimate sins that allowed the connection between these women and me.

 

Everything in my life had designed me to not be the best, not to be privileged or admirable, but to be at a level that the average person, the sinner, the addict, and the woman in a prison in the woods could hear the Gospel from. It is these same vices that have allowed me to be relatable to various specific groups all over the country. Like Pastor Rick said, others have found healing in my deepest wounds.

What has your life designed you for? Perhaps there are stories in your past that you regret—because of those stories, what groups of people can you reach? Perhaps there are physical traits about yourself that you don’t always love—what advantage does this give you in certain settings? Perhaps you don’t fit in a box. What can you now do with your uniqueness to be a catalyst of a brand new movement? Because of who you are, what you’ve gone through, and what you’ve done, who do you relate to? What deepest wounds of yours can help heal others?

The things that make you unique and specific, whether your struggles or victories, are what God will use—uniquely and specifically, in other people’s struggles, for their victory.

In the Bible we see many examples of God using people’s history and past to reach a specific group of people, one of them being Paul the Apostle. He was a Jew, a “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Phi. 3:5), but was also a Roman citizen and was taught in very prestigious schools, learning Classic Greek as well as Koine Greek (the dialect of the common people). Because of his broad education and his family history, Paul understood both of these cultures. After his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9, 22, & 26), Paul would later become a missionary to reach both groups, both the Jew and the Gentile (1 Corinth. 9). On top of that, he used to be a murderer, and could relate to people’s dark pasts. Living amongst & understanding both of these very different cultures, as well as the many sins of his own flesh all contributed to why he was so effective to the first-century world. He looked like them. He talked like them. He had been where they had been.

He was designed for this.

Perhaps my dad, an ex-heroin addict, was the perfect person to reach the addicts and homeless on the streets. Perhaps Paul, a multi-cultured murderer, was the perfect missionary to reach many societies and tell them about the depths of sin & grace. Chances are, you can’t do exactly what I can do, and I can’t do exactly what you can do. We’re on the on the same team, but we’ve been designed with different skills & roles for different strategies against the same Enemy.

Really, I’m just a young woman, with a dad from the streets, with big hair. But now more than ever, I am excited about how I look, where I’ve been, and who I am.

We don’t have to be everything. We just have to be more of who we already are.

He’ll use anyone and anything… if we let him.

Philippians 1:12: "Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the Gospel." - Paul