I should be running in Houston right now, because it’s like 66 degrees, and only about 10 of those could probably be described as wet. In my four trips to Texas thus far, this is the coolest weather yet.
But, I find myself sitting instead on this gray-blue, wooden porch swing in an older, antique burrough in the city, reading, writing, and reflecting. And it’s probably better for my soul than any jog would be for my body.
I realize now that the four times I’ve traveled to Texas have become mile markers for me in the last two years. I wandered up and down some streets this morning, looking for a coffee shop, and reflected back to this time last October, when I wandered down some streets with my good friend Jess, looking for both a coffee shop and the broken pieces of my heart, that seemed irretrievable at the time.
This morning, I found the coffee shop with ease, and I realized, that God also has begun putting back together all those broken pieces of my heart with Himself, and some added blessings along the way, “For God is greater than our heart” (1 John 3:20).
I couldn’t help but walk back from Boomtown Cafe, full not only of maple leaf lattes and a breakfast taco, but full of God’s goodness and faithfulness to me. And I started thinking about all my trips to Texas, particularly, Houston, and the state my heart has been in all of them. And it kind of reminds me of these four stages of “the Spiritual Life” that Henri Nouwen describes in his book, Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World. Nouwen talks about being taken, blessed, broken, and given as God’s beloved. While my life, in Houstonian terms, doesn’t follow these stages in that exact order, I have seen my own journey take me to these different spiritual spaces in the last 18 to 24 months, and there are specific moments in time that Houston has managed to capture.
Summer 2011: Broken. This was my first trip to Texas, and I hated every second of it. I was dropping off my best friend, saying goodbye to her, and closing a chapter on one of the sweetest seasons of roommate blessings I’d had. I felt like Texas took my person, my heart, and swallowed me whole, leaving me this desert land to return to, where only loneliness stood waiting to embrace me with open, scrawny, bare arms. I was bitter. I was broken. I just didn’t want Jesus in any of that yet.
Summer 2012: Blessed. This was my second trip to Texas, and I loved every second of it. I got to see my best friend, and I was en route to a special guy I was dating at the end of it. This trip was laughter, it was hope, it was promises of good things to come, and it was easy. I felt like God had begun to restore the things He had taken, and the future was looking good. The future wasn’t necessarily looking good because God was filling all of it though; it was looking good because I foresaw gifts from God that I was desiring to keep and make mine.
October 2012: Taken. This was my third trip to Texas, and it wasn’t planned. I was supposed to be somewhere else with someone else, but God had taken those things. And He took them, so He could give me more of Himself. And on my last evening there, sitting at a women’s night listening to the speaker, God took my heart, and broke me in the good way, so He could bless me in a way that couldn’t be taken.
April 2013: Given. This is now my fourth trip to Texas, and it’s by far the best. I’m sitting on a porch swing, reflecting on what it means to be beloved by God, and I’m realizing how much I’ve been given, and also feeling the challenge to give myself back, and wondering what that’s supposed to look like. God has given me healing, He’s given me hope, He’s given me rich relationships, and blessings beyond measure (both things eternal and things temporal), and my heart just wants to give back, not because it has to, but because it’s content. Full. Spilling over.
Sitting on this porch swing earlier, I read “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). And He has, even here, in humid Houston.