Mountain Climber

 Photo by  Abbey Sargent

Photo by Abbey Sargent

What is more, I  consider everything a loss for the sake of gaining Christ.

Those, friend, are big words. 

God doesn't joke around about the necessity of giving up what we think we want so that He can reveal what He has in store for us. He desperately wants to be allowed into every corner of our lives, but He can only breathe life in the spaces we have allowed Him to be. My roommate Chelsea is always saying: Our Lord is a gentleman. He will not come in uninvited. But once you invite Him in, He's going to move.

Through the wild roller coaster of the last two and a half years, Nashville has been my constant. Nashville was my greatest accomplishment and biggest joy. I moved here to grow up, to settle down, to prove I could do it. Which I did, and I latched onto that sense of accomplishment with pride and fierce determination to not see it taken away.

What I've learned in the last month in that Nashville has become an idol. It's the one part of my life I haven't been willing to turn over to the Lord (okay I'm sure it's not the only part, but it's the biggest part so roll with me). I have been hanging onto my life in Nashville so hard, my knuckles are turning white. 

But all at once, on a Tuesday morning, I heard the most unmistakable whisper: Go home.

Oh, God, SURELY NOT. Surelysurelysurely not.

Go home.

It took me all of 24 hours to make the decision. The doors are wide open, the request is clear. I'm going back to Kansas City (*for a season). Nashville still feels like home, but I know there is heart-level work that needs doing, and I don't think it can happen here.  

People are asking, BUT WHY THOUGH. I'm going home because He asked. Because a lukewarm life is no life at all and if I say I'm going to follow Jesus I better damn well follow Him. And part of following Him is giving up idols in order to be brought into the fullness of all He is. Idols do nothing but get in the way. It's like my friend Tim says: Often, the things we love the most are thisclose to what God has for us, but we get so focused on what we think we want, we end up totally missing the breathtaking gifts He has waiting.

It's like stopping a hike halfway up the mountain. 

Legs start to become jelly and exhaustion sets in, and, hey, the view is pretty spectacular right where you are and is it really going to be that much different from the top? Let's just take pictures here and call it a day because my legs are freaking killing me.

But, oh, if only you knew! If you work a little harder and make it to the top of the mountain, the view is incomparable. Not only that, but once you make it to the top you know what you didn't before-- you are stronger than you ever believed. You made it, by the grace of God and the discipline of perseverance.  And the reward is wildly beyond what you could have imagined at the bottom of the mountain. Or even at the halfway point where you thought you were satisfied.

That is why I'm leaving Nashville (*for a season). I'm halfway up the mountain, but DANG Y'ALL I want it all. He has whispered so many promises. He is so good and so worthy of possessing every little thing in me. And even if it kills me, I'll give it all up for the sake of gaining Christ (That sounds dramatic, but sometimes that's how it feels, ya know?).

I'm going to keep straining up the mountain, reaching for the fullness of knowing Jesus and becoming more like Him. Moment by moment, mountain by mountain, until Paradise.

This isn't goodbye, I'm pretty sure. Far be it from me to assume I know the plan, but I feel fairly confident I'll be back in this sweet city I love so dearly. But still, to say goodbye even for a minute is hard. I love ya, Nashville. XOXO.

[PSA: if you want to get coffee or confess your deep, undying love before I go, call me.]

The Rickety Unknown

I'm subconsciously trying to grasp onto something, a n y t h i n g, tangible in this rickety season of unknowns. Okay, maybe it's not subconscious. Maybe it's very conscious. I'm getting clingy, and frazzled, and expectant, but not in a good way. What I mean is, I think there's such a thing as good expectancy. I know there's a verse or two about waiting on God with an expectant heart. 

(just Googled "wait expectantly on the lord," like a champ, AND...)

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3)

There ya go. Good expectancy. The bad side of that is where I've found myself a lot this week. On pins and needles and hoping the answers to all my hopes and dreams are just around the next corner. Expecting them to be around the corner. It's not a restful expectancy-- it's very anxious. There are two internal dialogues fighting for top spot in my brain:

Internal Dialogue #1: Wow, Papa, WOW. You have provided so mightily in this season. No, I'm not where I expected to be, but Your hand of provision could not be more gloriously evident. I'm not even worried because I don't need to be. Mostly I'm basking in the sunshine and Your goodness. You SO GOT THIS!  YAY YOU! YAY ME! YAY EVERYTHING!

Internal Dialogue #2: LISSIN, I have done a very impressive job of waiting EVER SO patiently on You in this season. Like, I lost two jobs and I didn't even complain, and I only cried twice. I'm still super single, and I'm not even making a big deal about it. So any time you want to shower all those forthcoming blessings upon my EVER SO PATIENT BROW, I'll be here. But like I'm waiting. Currently. Still. Waiting. On that thing.

Internal dialogue #1 is more consistent, but internal dialogue #2 is louder. This week especially. Which is natural, even normal, when every building block of one's life is unstable. But the more I think about that, about how everything feels so unstable, I start to ask myself, well, what is stability?

My dictionary app describes stable as "something firmly established; not likely to change or fail."  Friend, is there a thing on this green earth that can truly claim that description? At the risk of sounding pessimistic, I say no. Not truly. Every earthly thing we can cling to has the potential to change, fail or crumble. Job, relationship, home, wealth, status; all of it could crash at any minute.

And here I am flipping out about no job, no relationship, no real sense of being anchored, while God is standing at my back whispering, I'm here, holding you up. What more do you need to feel stable, my girl?

OKAY THEN. GOOD POINT.

Any sense of stability coming from a job, babe, or paycheck will ultimately be, honestly, not all that real. Not if it's the only thing holding me up. But standing on the solid, capital R Rock is the surest of sure things. Isn't there a song?

On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.

So maybe life is not as rickety as I feel like it is, currently. Maybe this is just a season of learning where my feet need to be planted. Not on any physical comfort, but on the One who is firmly fixed and established yesterday, today and always. 

Particularly Epic Twenties

 Photo by  Abbey Sargent

Photo by Abbey Sargent

My friend Brittany and I have spent a lot of time talking about what the heck it means to rest in a season of uncertainty and waiting. We are both jobless, aside from part time work here and there, and both kind of going, "Heyyyy, Gooood?"

We both are in a place of waiting. A place of being and not doing, which for our personality types is like being confined to a tiny yard in the middle of the Grand Canyon. Frustrating beyond belief. 

Guess who else didn't do anything particularly epic in his twenties?

Jesus spent thirty of his thirty-three years of life chilling and learning and growing. Did people ever look at Jesus in his twenties and wonder what the heck he was doing? He knew what was coming, but they definitely didn't. They might have just seen a twenty-something bro spending way too much time at the synagogue. And maybe they whispered about it.

I wonder if Jesus ever questioned his Father in those years before his ministry began. Was he ever like, "Hey, dude, what's going on here? I have a world to save, shouldn't we be doing something about that?" 

(SIDE NOTE: I'm not trying to make the Savior of the universe sound irreverent. But if he was fully human he must've had moments of doubt at one point or another.)

I'm sure, if Jesus ever did ask such a question, the Father responded with something like this:

Dude, chill. I don't need you to do anything right now. I need you to become something. I need you to wait and let the seeds I've planted in you grow. There is such greatness there. I am so excited to see the fruit explode out of you! But it's not time yet. So just rest.

My fellow millennials and I are a generation of instant gratification. Which I think feeds into this intense desire we have to DO COOL SHIT in our twenties (emphasis added to communicate intensity of desire.)   And maybe Jesus did, too. But he heeded the gentle voice of his Father, who was saying, Wait. Don't rush. Rest.

Jesus didn't do a dang thing to fulfill his life's purpose until he was thirty. But there is no doubt that he lived his life to the absolute fullest, and that he walked step by step with the Father. He didn't miss anything. His twenties were not wasted. That decade was a season of becoming. 

So maybe I won't be married and write a best-seller and cure world hunger by the time I'm twenty-five (which is nineteen days from now, if anyone was wondering). I'm learning to be okay with that. Maybe my twenties are a season of becoming. For heaven's sake, it's not like I'm running out of time. Statistically speaking my life isn't even half over yet. And as much as I want to impress everyone I know with HOW TOGETHER I AM and HOW SUCCESSFUL MY LIFE IS, I'm learning to acknowledge the voice that is saying, Your dreams are my dreams, sweet girl. But don't rush. Wait for me.

If waiting and becoming, instead of rushing and doing, will make the end result vastly greater than I could ever ask or imagine (spoiler alert, it will), then I can wait. I want to wait. But it won't be a lazy waiting. It will be waiting on one dream while a thousand others are realized. God is not inactive or complacent. If He's asking you to wait, it's only because He wants to grow you and teach you and prepare you. And the growing, teaching and preparation will be anything but boring. 

So cheers to a season of being, not doing. May it better equip us for the moment He says, This is it, kid. This is your moment. Go do what I made you to do.

Confidence in Rain

 Photo by Brittany Greenquist

Photo by Brittany Greenquist

When I do chores, I listen to The Sound of Music. Well, actually I listen to a Broadway Pandora station, but The Sound of Music cycles through a lot. Which I don't mind at all. Nothing like Julie Andrews singing wildly about confidence to get you through a sink full of dishes or a pile of laundry.

That song, "I Have Confidence," is quickly becoming my battle cry. 

What will this day be like? I wonder.
What will my future be? I wonder.
It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free
My heart should be wildly rejoicing
Oh, what's the matter with me?

Truer. Words. Have. Never. Been. Spoken. Quite suddenly, and not by choice, I am facing the reality that everything I know could change at any moment. I am asking the  question, What will this day be like? very earnestly because I do not know the answer. It's all up in the air like juggling balls at a circus. I'm scared out of my mind, but not (weirdly enough) because I fear my circumstances. Have you ever seen God make a move so big, there was no doubt He was gearing up for something bigger? That's what I'm scared of. I'm scared because I know He's about to ask for my whole self, and I know I'm going say yes.

I've always longed for adventure
To do the things I've never dared
And here I'm facing adventure
Then why am I so scared?

Jesus knows the desires of our hearts better than we ever will. No part of you is hidden from Him. Even your deepest secrets, the ones you've never said out loud, He knows. And I don't just mean the bad secrets. I mean your secret dreams. The things you think you can't possibly attain because they're too wild. He knows those. In fact, He probably put them there. So why is it that when we sense the adventure coming, we panic? I'm asking the question of myself right now. I feel like my toes are on the edge of the cliff, so close I'm knocking little pebbles off the side, and it's almost time to jump. And my heart is pounding.

Oh, I must stop these doubts, all these worries
If I don't I just know I'll turn back
I must dream of the things I am seeking
I am seeking the courage I lack
 

I was given the gentle reminder recently that God has promised to go before us and behind us, as our front and rear guard. But He can't protect the front end if we run ahead of Him. We have to move with Him. Step by step, day by day. Bolstered by the courage that comes from the bone-deep knowledge we are safe within the protection of our Savior. No matter what. Doubt and worry vanish like fog in light of God's promise to protect us.

With each step I am more certain
Everything will turn out fine
I have confidence the world can all be mine
They'll have to agree I have confidence in me
 

Everything won't just be fine. It will be beyond whatever I could ask or imagine. That is the truest truth I know. If I've learned anything in the last year and a half, it is that God aches to give me every good thing He has stored up with my name on it. But He can only give it when I agree to come further up and further in. The vastness of the Lord's goodness is waiting to be explored the minute I say, "Lead me."

I have confidence in sunshine
I have confidence in rain
I have confidence that spring will come again
Besides which you see I have confidence in me

Confidence doesn't come from wealth, circumstance, or power. Confidence (the good kind of confidence that will last until eternity) is found only in that space between the front and rear guard. When you know you're walking in step with Papa, there is only confident peace. Because to walk with Him means to know Him. And to know Him is the rest in this truth: He loves you wildly, He cares deeply for you and He is unchangingly good.

So maybe in order to get through this season of gigantic unknowns, I'm going to have to sing along with Julie:

I have confidence in confidence alone
Besides which you see I have confidence in me!

Not confidence in myself, though, but confidence rooted in my Jesus, who will never, ever fail.

Lacey Finklestein's Front Door

I have a vivid snapshot from my childhood, a collage, really, of all the times I went to see if my friend Lacey Finklestein could play. Lacey Finklestein was my neighbor who lived two doors down, and she had a cool older sister named Ashley and a brother whose name I don't remember and also a pool. I distinctly remember running down the hot sidewalk (summer afternoons in Montgomery, Alabama were not for the faint of heart or tender of foot) and knocking on her big front door, hoping she would be home. Sometimes she was, and we would spend hours playing whatever games seven-year-olds play in the summer. Other times she would be busy, and I'd run back home. But regardless of the outcome, it was never weird to knock on Lacey Finklestein's front door one, three, or five times a day to ask if she would come out to play (I take that back- it might have been weird. But I didn't think so at the time).

I was thinking about this the other day- about how not weird it was to knock on Lacey Finklestein's door unannounced, and I realized something. Adult me would never show up on someone's doorstep without a text or a phone call first. It would seem like intruding. It has this air of being socially unacceptable, maybe.  Why?

I think it has a lot to do with vulnerability. From both sides of the door. 

First, the knocker: When you rat-a-tat-tat on someone's door unannounced, there is a chance they will not invite you in. There is potential for rejection, which shouldn't be that big a deal but, if you're anything like me, you tend to take any form of rejection way too personally. And willingly nominating oneself for potential rejection is vulnerable.

Next, the door opener: Let's be honest, there is NO TELLING what state you will be in on a random Monday afternoon. Could be PJs, could be underwear (JUST KEEPING IT REAL), could be the middle of an intense musical theatre singalong session. And then a knock. A knock to which you must respond, at the risk of being caught in the midst of whatever is going on in your zone. Very vulnerable.

Kids don't care so much about potential rejection or being caught in an inconvenient moment. They are wildly resilient, less easily embarrassed, and generally not as concerned with social norms as their adult counterparts. We could take a cue from them, I think.

Adult hangs are much more finely crafted. Partly because we're hella busy, but  there are other layers. I only know this because I fall prey to it so often, but there is a big emphasis on going out to meet people. Like, "let's go get coffee at such and such trendy spot," or "hey, this new brunch place sounds nice," or whatever. Do you think there is, just maybe, a little bit of a self-protection thing going on there? I do. When you meet someone out of the house, you can present yourself however you please. Cute outfit, prepared topics of conversation, neutral meeting place. When someone comes into your home, they will see a lot more of, ya know, you. The pictures on your fridge, the books on your shelf. Your not-so-clean bathroom. To invite someone into your home is kind of a next-level friendship thing.

Why can't it be a first-level friendship thing? At what point did running down the sidewalk and knocking on the door to invite your friend out to play become an inconvenience for them and a moment of social weirdness for you? 

I have named this summer the "Summer of Spontaneous Hangs and Door Knocks". I want my home to be a wide-open place to gather. I want my door to be knocked on, when I'm not expecting it. And I'll probably start knocking on other people's doors without calling first. Because there is something sacred about gathering in someone's home. Something special and familial in curling up on a couch instead of sitting across from one another at a coffee shop. I want more of that in my life. More entering into people's real life and inviting them into mine, and less putting on a show.

Seriously, don't be surprised if I come over.

Test Time

My roommate Alida sat across from me in our living room one Tuesday morning, both of our noses buried in our Bibles. (DO NOT be fooled, friend, into thinking this is normal for me. I'm the worst at any kind of planned quiet time, so this particular morning was a miracle.) I don't remember what exactly I was wrestling with that day, but I do vividly remember something Alida brought up. (The following is an artistic expression of our conversation, not the word-for-word thing.)

RACHEL: blahblahblah stressssss blahblah
ALIDA: Hey, Rach, guess what I just learned? Did you know that in this passage I'm reading the Hebrew definition of "trial" is different than what we think of as "trial"?
RACHEL: Tell me more.
ALIDA: We think trials are being on the stand before God, and He's coming after us for messing up. But actually, it's just a test. And tests are just a regurgitation of information we already know, right? So trials are about proving we know something we already know.
RACHEL: HOLY !%$& ALIDA THAT'S BRILLIANT.

Last week, the practical application of that winter morning conversation hit full force. I saw with wide-open eyes the gift an unexpected trial can be.

Here's the thing: Trial is another word for test. When you take a test, you are (hopefully) just applying knowledge you already have. Tests are assessments of proficiency and knowledge. The trip-up, I think, is this: we hear that analogy and we think when God tests us, He's standing over us with a big red pen and if we don't pass the test we're screwed. Which makes the whole trial/test analogy stupid and terrible. What makes it BEAUTIFUL is this: 

The test is not about proving anything at all to God. He already knows what we are and are not capable of, and He promises in Scripture to not tempt us beyond what we can bear. I think He uses trials to let us prove to ourselves that we have grown; that the seeds we have seen (or not seen) Him plant are beginning to bear fruit. And that, friend, is one of the sweetest gifts I can imagine. 

I only say all this because I'm living it. A curveball was thrown last week; the kind of curveball that incited instant panic. But directly on the heels of that panic came a wave of peace. And I practically heard the whisper: My girl, be still. You know me.  You know my character and you know I can provide anything and everything. You know I love you. Be still.

By the grace of a Savior that loves me immeasurably, I was able to say, "Oh. Okay, cool." Which was followed quickly by, "THIS IS THE BEST FEELING EVER, WOW GOD YOU SO GOOD."

Here is what I know I know, now:

1) Visible circumstances are never the whole story. God is busy doing His thing, always.

2) Facts are not the same as truth. Facts change. Truth does not.

3) God is fully capable of and fully intent on providing for my every need. Even the needs I am not aware of.

4) God is good. So sweetly, gently, mightily good.

This is how to become stronger. This is how God grows those fruits of His Spirit. Just like a seed needs seasons to change and rain to come in order to grow, you need seasons and rainstorms to see growth in yourself. And PRAISE BE to a God that gives you a front row seat to see His work in your life. That's how you know He loves you, friend. 

Risky Business

I've been thinking a lot about vulnerability lately. Mostly because I suck at it. And I don't get it. "Vulnerability" is a huge buzzword. People loooove to talk about "being vulnerable" and "being real and authentic." I totally get it in theory, but, honestly, the practical application is wildly out of reach.

Last week my feelings got hurt, like feelings do, and I had a huge epiphany. Yes, yes, those two things are related.

I carried on through my day, being butt-hurt and thinking about how I was going to react when I saw this person who (let's be honest) did nothing more than wound my pride. I was all like, "I'll just not talk to him. That'll show him. Right?"

Then this lightning bolt came down from the heavens and I was like, WOAH.

I caught myself in the act; frantically building up concrete walls of protection to keep from getting hurt and actively choosing to shut down. It's a routine I've practiced for longer than I can remember. Whether in friendship or relationship or co-worker-ship or what have you, as soon as something goes wrong this heavy gate, not unlike the ones on medieval castles, slams shut in my heart.

I may not know what vulnerable is, but I know what it's not. And it's not that.

I swallowed my pride and went out of my way to be nice to said pride-wounder. Well, in my head I did. I'm not sure how well it translated. He probably didn't even notice. But in my mind I was going ABOVE AND BEYOND to be nice and not say something snarky or act all aloof. And you know, everything went right back to normal. 

And I had a new idea.

Imagine yourself living in a castle. A castle with big stone walls, and a moat all the way around for protection. Cool. What if your very favorite activity is to stand atop your castle and throw meaningful, expensive, lovely gifts to everyone you know on the other side of the moat? Seems legit. You are SO NICE to give all those gifts. Except that you're actually totally cut off from real life, from the flesh-and-blood people you're trying to love. You don't really know them, and they definitely don't really know you. How can they? You're on the other side of a moat surrounded by giant, impenetrable walls.

Real love steps out of the castle, out of protection, and offers itself up at the risk of getting hurt. Loving well is not about protecting oneself and only giving what is comfortable. Real love puts others first, which by definition means it doesn't primarily think about self-preservation.

Maybe vulnerability is the willingness to let yourself get hurt by others. They won't do it on purpose. But they could do it unconsciously. They'll do it without knowing it happened. And you might feel a sting, or a bruise, or a slap. But that's vulnerability. It's laying your pride on the line and say, "I'll take off my armor in order to love you for real, no matter the consequences."

Sometime's it will hurt. But sometimes, I think, it leaves us open to love in its truest form. Once the armor is off, and we offer our naked and trembling heart-- we are open not only to potential pain, but also to the potential to receive that same kind of raw, real love in return.

So the question is, is it worth it? I have spent my entire life unconsciously saying no. But all these stupid books I've been reading lately have been telling me the only way to really live is to really know love, and the only way to really know love is to be really vulnerable. I know, very deep down, I want to love raw and real. But it a risky business, actually loving people. Now that I understand it a little better I'm terrified of it. And I'm realizing I have next to no idea how to do it well. But I want to learn.

Here's to draining the moat and letting down the drawbridge and leaving the defenses behind. Here's to vulnerability.

Book Day

 Photo by Ashley Campbell

Photo by Ashley Campbell

My first attempt at literature, written in fourth grade, was a (very short) novelette entitled The Day Pearl Harbor was Bombed!, which followed the jarring adventures of a young man in the navy in 1941. I was very, very proud of my accomplishment and decorated the cover with patriotic drawings and my mom probably showed it off when her friends came over to visit. Because that's what moms do. 

It's been a long while since Pearl Harbor made its debut, and a lot has happened since. I've grown up, and learned some things, and became a significantly better speller. And I keep thinking of things to say and so I keep writing them down. 

And somehow, by the grace of God and maybe a happy accident, I've managed to write a book. A real one. It's exactly 138 pages longer than The Day Pearl Harbor was Bombed!, and not half as dramatic. 

I would continue to try to wax poetic about writing and Jesus and la tee da, but at this point all I can think is, IS THIS REAL LIFE?!, so there's that.

Here's the link: Buy Relentless here!

I'll just be over here dancing around like a maniac to Broadway showtunes and eating brownies. PT freaking L. 

Here's to you, single gal

Here's something I've been thinking lately: on a cultural level, after a certain point, women quit being celebrated for just being. Hang with me. As a kid, we're celebrated for normal kid things, like walking and reading and graduating swim lessons, or ballet class, or high school. Then we are celebrated for going to college, being active in a sorority or major or whatever, then we graduate and accolades pour in. But after that.... the celebrating kind of stops. Until an engagement. Or a wedding. Or a baby.

Um. 

Now what I AM NOT SAYING is that I hate celebrating engagements and weddings and babies. Those things are great, and beautiful, and I love celebrating women who are walking into those seasons and I can't wait to walk into those seasons myself. But do you see what I mean? There comes a point when the next "official milestone" is something totally out of a girl's control, so she just kind of.... chills?

Listen, I am all about the next milestone, but in the mean time I have done anything but chill. I am learning and growing and changing and I see a hundred women around me who are doing the same. Women who deserve a freakin' PARADE for all they are accomplishing, big or small.

So, here's to you, single gal.

You should be celebrated for learning to change the oil in your car, and also for the time you squealed because you thought your jumper cables were going to blow up.

For all the times you played in the kitchen and concocted Barefoot  Contessa-level meals for one. And for the times you prepared Barefoot Contessa-level meals for the multitudes and opened up your home.

For working hard and paying your own bills. You are a bad-ass. You should be celebrated for putting on your tool belt and figuring out how to fix things around the house. And for being humble enough to ask for help when you need it. 

You should be celebrated for learning how to budget and be a real adult and navigate the stress of payments and loans and flat tires.

You should be celebrated for being powerful. Don't ever be ashamed of your power, or your ability to lead. Those are God-given gifts and damn, girl, He'll use them. You should be celebrated for the moments you don't feel powerful, and you really just want a good snuggle, and the only snuggle buddy available is your puppy.

You should be celebrated for going to that wedding alone, and looking REAL FINE and tearing up the dance floor. 

You should be celebrated for planting that herb garden. And for not waiting to put down roots in your community. 

You should be celebrated for taking that really long road trip by yourself. It wasn't easy, but you DID IT, GIRL. You should be celebrated for killing the gigantic bug in your bathroom. For all the bugs you've ever had to squash, really, because no one else was around to do it.

For being kind, generous, intelligent, brave, sassy, loud, quiet, gentle, bold, creative, vivacious, resilient, tender, strong, messy, and real, you should be celebrated.

 For babysitting your friends' kids on Valentine's Day, for starting your own business, for spending a whole weekend watching Gilmore Girls, for loving your community well, for doing your laundry, for cleaning your kitchen, for chasing your dreams, YOU SHOULD BE CELEBRATED.

Here's to you, beautiful single gal. Even though no one's throwing showers for you, you are doing things worth celebrating. You are great and worth a whole day (other than your birthday) of celebration. If Hallmark needs another money-making holiday idea, I have one: Single Gal's Day. All for you, ya big cutie.

Go forth and be.

 

Fast.

IN CASE YOU DIDN'T KNOW: the early church, and all the following generations who honored the practice of fasting, knew what was up. If you want God to move, give up the things that are blocking your vision. Because pro tip: He is always moving and doing His grand thing. Just sometimes we totally miss it because we're too busy being distracted. When all the buzz is taken away and we are left with radio silence, the soft voice of God is a lot easier to hear.

So, last week I felt so out of sorts I grabbed onto this idea of fasting out of pure desperation. I didn't know what to expect, or what would happen, but I wanted to shake something in my heart. Here's the thing: I went through a wild season a little bit ago during which I was so raw and humbled, God and I were, like, super tight. I was walking close because I was afraid I'd drown otherwise. And, honestly, it was awesome. Not the season itself, but the closeness to Jesus. 

But then things got better, I got stronger, and I got a little (a lot) cocky. Which felt good until it felt not good. So I fasted. For five days, I turned off my phone and wasn't allowed to spend a single dime. No electronic communication, no spending. I wanted to fast from food, because that's more glamorous, but my roommates and my dad were quick to say, "Nope, that's not it. Pick something else. Something that will actually be a sacrifice." They were right.

Here are some excerpts from my journal this week.

Monday (pre-fast):

Give up communication and spending. Five days. Lord what if someone needs me? What if I miss seeing someone and the world is thrown of its axis? WHAT IF?

Trust me. Trust me, dear one.

What if I run out of toothpaste or food or something?

Just trust me.

Fasting, or this fast in particular, is about trust. Trusting that God is more in control of my life than I will ever be, and nothing I do will get in the way of Him. Who knew?

Tuesday (day one):

I felt out of sorts because I wasn't getting constant affirmation via texts/likes/comments. When there was a moment of quiet during the day I instinctively reached for my phone.

I also have no idea what I'm supposed to be praying about.

Wednesday (day two):

No phone officially feels like I'm on vacation. I'm sitting at the park right now because I'm trying to listen and I think I felt a nudge. Whether I did or not, this dappled sunlight and soft breeze is making my heart swell in my chest. So thank you, Papa.

[Pause. There was more here, but I'm holding onto it for now. All you need to know is, God is good. Real good. Okay, play.]

When did we lose the freedom to just show up? I remember being seven and waiting on Helen Kennamer's doorstep until she got home and we could play. Why is that socially weird now that I'm twenty-four? Why do I feel like I have to call first? It seems to me that living in community should extend into our living spaces. Mi casa es su casa, for real. [more on this next week.]

Thursday (day three):

Finished 7 and started Scary Close. It's funny-- the only screen I'm not allowed to use is my phone. TV and computer are still fair game. But I'm not drawn to those. And since I'm not distracted by going anywhere or trying to go somewhere, I've noticed I'm hungry for something substantial. For some meat to chew on (good thing I'm not food fasting). These books are making my mind spin. And I've got all the time in the world to gobble them up.

Friday (day four):

Got a free beer from Alex at Taproom because I told him about the fast.

Heard "Every Little Thing (Will be Alright)" on the sunny, breezy drive home and laughed from the pure joy of realizing the truth of those words.

Used MapQuest for the first time in like five years.

Saturday (day five):

Sat in the park at Musician's Corner (God bless Nashville and its free concerts) and couldn't keep a grin off my face. God is good. He is moving, big time. He is showing up and showing off and assuring me, over and over, that He has plans He is working out. I just have to be in tune enough to follow His lead. Praise. So. Much. Praise.

Sunday (fast over):

53 unread emails and 60-something unread texts. Oops. But wallet very happy.

Coming Clean

 photo by Emma Wilson

photo by Emma Wilson

UPDATE // 

It's Monday, May (the) 4th (be with you).

Starting tomorrow, I'm entering the before-now-unexplored-by-me waters of a real live fast. Not food, even though that sounded the coolest at first, but two things that are probably playing a big part in the unrest of my soul. 

Here we go.

ORIGINAL POST // 

If I'm gonna be #liveauthentic right now, I'm feeling kind of icky. Kinda of cluttered, kind of distant, kind of scattered. But at the same time, claustrophobic. It's not like THE WORST THING EVER, but it's enough to make me antsy.

I've slimmed down my closet. I've paid my bills (early). I've confessed sin. I've organized and reorganized my sock drawer. But something is going on. I'm telling you about it because if I don't speak up, I think it will only get worse. I'm already in dangerous territory-- I've become pretty cynical and I'm starting to put walls back up that the Lord has spent a lot of time breaking down. 

Last week, I wrote about praying through hard stuff and how Jesus prayed in the garden the night he was betrayed. I wrote about it, fully believe in it, encouraged you to join in it. But I haven't done it. Nope. Not once. Not in weeks. 

Here's my confession: I'm pushing back at Jesus because I don't want to deal with truth. I am subconsciously (but actively?) shutting down my heart to brace for something I'm afraid will hurt, and in doing so am shutting out the One who will actually be able to ease the pain. 

I'm not praying through the hard stuff. I'm trying to ignore it.

Yikes.

I think I just admitted that to myself at the same time I was admitting it to you.

So what does it look like to repent? I honestly don't know, and I'm not going to get on a soap box and preach about it until I do. So maybe there will be a mid-week post update after I've learned something and actually applied it.

Incidentally, I am currently reading Jen Hatmaker's book 7. It's a book about cutting down on excess and letting God in, for real. I'm on chapter three and my world is already shifting. I want to get rid of half my possessions and eat nothing but bread for six months. Not really. 

But almost.

Because I'm getting desperate. I feel bad habits coming back and I don't want them to, but I also don't feel motivation to do anything about it, really. I need an awakening, and I want to ask for it. But what happens when I do?

As it turns out, fasting comes highly recommended by two of my favorite authors. I've read a lot about fasting this week. Not coincidental, I'm sure.

A fast might be just what I need. And after I've done that, whatever it looks like, I'll get back to you. 

 

Thoughts from Center Stage

 

So I’m in this musical right now, and it is the very best thing.

Godspell is a chunk of sacred text, the book of Matthew, turned into an experimental piece of theatre that has remained relevant ever since its premiere in 1971. Needless to say, Godspell is one of my all. time. favorite. shows.

What I love about it most especially, besides the music and the fun, is the fact that this totally secular show with absolutely no Gospel-sharing agenda is, almost completely, word-for-word Scripture. HELLO HOW COOL. I really think Jesus gets a secret delight out of showing up where he is least expected. And he definitely wasn’t expected in a Broadway hit in the seventies. Yet, Godspell is a gospel story from top to bottom.

There is a garden scene right before the crucifixion in Godspell. The show goes from happy-go-lucky to downright solemn in about 2.2 seconds. Jesus says goodbye to his disciples and says, “Stay with me while I go over there to pray. My heart is ready to break with grief.”

Every night, I sit just left of center as my little disciple self, pretending to sleep, and listen to my friend Wesley, who plays Jesus. Here’s what I love about theatre: it makes dry words on a page come alive. Every night, I think about how this very scene played out all those years ago.

When Jesus prays, it’s not, “Oh, Father, please give me strength to do this hard and terrible thing.”

Nope. He straight up says, “Father, if there is any way for this cup to pass me by, please make it happen.”

Um. Hello. Trinity Member No. 2 was like, “I know this is the plan, but please no thank you.” IS HE ALLOWED TO DO THAT?

Yes. Of course he is. Because he’s talking to his Papa. Friend, when talking to Papa, I think the only option is to be completely raw and real. I think that’s how God wants us to pray. He wants us to come to Him for comfort, in the midst of our very darkest valleys. He wants us to be real about what we want, even when there’s nothing that can be done.

Sometimes I censor my prayers. I do this thing where I don’t even say what I’m really thinking, because probably He doesn’t want to hear it. And what would it help? And I can't make him mad. I have to be at my most holy at the feet of Jesus, right?

No.

Wow, no.

In the garden that night, Jesus knew what was coming. But that didn’t stop him from crying to his Papa. He didn’t bite the bullet and isolate himself, like I so often do. I think I assume God can’t be bothered. Or, is it really worth it to pray if I know nothing will change? But in Gethsemene, Jesus shares the depths of his heart, the aching and the fear and the panic. He puts it all out there. He asks for the cup to pass.

But then he says, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

That is the trick. To be in tune with the heart of the Father is to be able to be totally honest in moments of hurt, fear, and terrifying trial. But then to stop and say, “Not my will, but yours be done.” If prayer is supposed to be how we get closer to God, then the best way to do that is to be honest about every little thing. But, if we know the heart of the Father, we will always come back around to, "your will be done."

 Listen, God already knows your heart before you say a dang thing. Whatever hurt or fear you are holding onto, whatever rude thoughts you’re thinking about that person you’re really mad at—He knows. So what’s the point in pretending?

I think the example of Jesus in the garden should be our blueprint for praying through trials. Admitting weakness, admitting fear, asking for what we want even if it might be impossible, but trusting the Father enough to say, “Your will be done.”

 

Nash-iversary No. 2

One week ago I celebrated my two-year Nash-iversary. HAPPIEST DAY. Two years has certainly slipped quickly by, but I also feel like I've been here much longer. Time is funny that way, isn't it? 

I got all nostalgic for a moment last week, like ya do, and thought back over the last two years and what got me here. When people ask why I came to Nashville, I always tell them, "Because I could." Which is true. I did it because, well, why not?

Sometimes, I think God steps back and lets us make choices. What I mean by that is, while I believe He is always orchestrating and watching, I feel like there are watershed moments where He stands right behind us and whispers, What are you going to do? Nashville was one of those moments for me. I had two equally good choices: stay in Kansas, save money, and reroot in my hometown, or up and move to a new city for absolutely no reason, and see what might happen. 

The winter before I moved, I drove down for a visit with my friend Monica. While in town, I spent time with my future roommate, Meagan, and she asked me how I was feeling about the move. At the time, I was uncertain. I didn't feel a strong nudge from Jesus in either direction. In fact, I got pretty wish-washy about it for a bit. I wanted a flashing neon sign. Like, HEY GIRL, DO THIS. But no such thing ever appearedThere was no carrier pigeon from the heavens, with a handwritten letter telling me to go. In fact, I (honestly) had very few conversations with Jesus about Nashville. I remember telling Meagan I was afraid of the move, because I knew moving to Nashville would stretch me and grow me past my current comfort level. The Main Dude knew it too, clearly. Because He knows all the things. But He didn't force anything. He let me decide.

And here I am, two years later. Completely blown away by the beauty, grace, stretching and growth. Ready for whatever year three might have in store. Very thankful.

All that to say, if indecision has ever got you stuck, and you feel like you have to wait for a neon sign from above, maybe you don't. Maybe it's time to take a step. One deep breath, one step. Let the adventure happen. To be frozen by fear, or indecision, or the desire for security is completely normal. But frozen things are stuck. And you, my friend, were not made to be stuck. You were made to explore and create and do. Throw caution to the wind a little bit. Like, be wise about it, but also don't over think. Leap. Maybe you'll soar, maybe you won't quite. But either way, there will be blessing. There will be growth. And there will be wild beauty and grace every step on the way.  

Glass Slippers

Fairytales play a whimsical song on my heartstrings. I love them. Always have. I love the magic and the mystery and the adventure and the romance. I love the transformations. I love seeing the impossible become possible, and broken things be fixed. 

Disney recently remade their own classic, Cinderella. The first time I saw the preview my heart jumped. No really, it did. Because whimsy isn't just child's play, and the stories that quickened my heart as a little girl still do.

I definitely wasn't disappointed. The remake was every bit as magical as my four year old heart and my twenty-four year old heart could have ever wanted. I especially liked the time the writers took to give a little backbone to what had previously been a pretty two dimensional story. Like, how the H did Cinderella end up being a servant in her own house? How did she get that name? Because no one's parents would actually name their kid Cinderella, ya know?

There was a scene where Cinderella gets her name, and it happens in a way things very often happen in real life. Her stepsister makes a joke at her expense, one that hit a little too close to home. Words have power, friends, and often the identity we give ourselves comes from lies spoken over us. Ella begins to see herself for what her stepfamily has named her, not who she really is.

Enter the fairy godmother. The stepfamily has left for the ball, Cinderella is grieving the loss of a dream and what feels like the final stamp of her new identity as unimportant and unwanted. But then. Then Helena Bonham Carter shows up in a bedazzled wig and makes magic happen.

This is the part I started to tear up.

My friend Tim loves to talk about identity and purpose. When people cry in movies, he asks, "Okay, why are you crying? What about this story is getting you?"

So of course as soon as I started crying, my brain clicked on and I thought, "Why am I crying?"

Transformation. I love the picture of transformation. I love that a common girl is remade into a princess. But the transformation doesn't mask her true identity, the transformation reveals who she truly is. Cinderella is beautiful, and so very worth royal treatment she is given. She is not her circumstances, and she is not the lies her stepfamily put on her. She is desired. She is loved. She is, truly, set apart.

My heart longs to know it is special. I want to be the ragged urchin transformed into royalty. I want the prince to find me and say, "Oh, she is worth endless searching with only a shoe as a guide." Don't we all, at least a little bit? 

Friends, the fairytale is real. It is so, so real.

Two thousand years ago, a crucifixion happened on the side of a mountain in Jerusalem so that I could become a princess. I am set apart. You, friend, are set apart. And, the minute you turn around and take the gift, you can be given a new name and be transformed. Jesus loves (LOVES) to help you shed who you think you are and remake you into who you actually are. He died on a cross in order to have that privilege.

The other best part about this new Cinderella was the very end, when Ella goes to meet the prince and try on the glass slipper. As Ella descends the stairs, and you can see nervousness and excitement dancing in her eyes, the narrator asks the question, "She wondered if who she was, who she really was, would be enough."

Oh, how often do I wonder the same! Do you?

In the fairytale, of course she is enough. And Ella and the prince skip off into the sunset and it's a little bit (super) cheesy but also satisfactory. Because, okay, the story is a little bit cheesy. Whatever. But here's why I left the theatre with a full heart:

Even though Ella had to admit she wasn't a princess, the prince still looked right at her and said, "You are worth it." Which is exactly what Jesus says to us when we come before him as our broken, sinful, very real selves. 

Who I am is enough. And not because I'm an angelic, courageous, kind soul with very few flaws to speak of. No. I am enough because Jesus says so. Because he died on a cross to gain the privilege of transforming me from urchin to royalty. He has stepped into false identity, painful circumstances, and darkness and said, You are not these things. You are treasured, you are loved, you are mine.

Today is Easter Sunday. I had no intention of writing a super sappy Easter post, but I guess I kind of did. Because a retold fairytale reminded my heart of some big truth in a very tender way. So, praise to the One who conquered death in order to bring us into new life. 

He is risen. He is risen, indeed.

Waiting Games

So I wrote this book. And I meant to release the book at the beginning of March. And, wouldn't ya know, little road blocks kept coming up. Just when I thought it was ready to go, there was a formatting issue, or a huge typo (guys, I spelled Jehovah wrong and no one caught it), or someone brought up a content question and I started rethinking. 

Nothing huge, and nothing that can't be fixed, but I'm beginning to notice that, once again, the Lord is making sure this happens in His time and not mine. Which is making me think. What's the reason? What puzzle piece is He holding onto that I can't see? I don't know, and I don't think I need to know yet. But I'm getting a little frustrated by the very obvious brake He's putting on this project.

Which brings me back to thoughts on patience and trust. I've been on such a high lately I wasn't too worried about either of those things. It isn't hard to trust when everything is going well, ya know? I've been getting a lot of free reign lately to do my thing. A lot of Jesus being all like, Carry on, ya big cutie! 

But He's asking me to trust Him again. There's been this little nudge (that I have maybe been totally ignoring) to slow down and take meticulous care of this little piece of my heart I'm about to publish for the wide, wide world to read. And I don't really want to. If I'm being honest, what I want to do is hurry it along and get it out there so I can say I published a book and begin to receive accolades and the parade I'm sure is being prepared in my honor (jokes, y'all, please don't plan a parade.) I want to call it done.

But it occurred to me this morning that this project isn't worth completing if it isn't done side by side with Jesus. Just like a relationship wouldn't be worth it, just like the best job ever wouldn't be worth it, just like anything wouldn't be worth it. I want this book to have impact. I want it to serve the Kingdom. I want to tell my story well. And, while it's a perfectly good book now, I starting to realize it's imperative to listen to the gentle push that is saying, Wait.

Here's what I'm thinking: If your goal is to walk in step with the Lord, then you have to trust Him when He asks you to wait. What would be good now could potentially be greater, if you can let go in trust and hand over the keys.

I'm sitting on that truth today. Being real with myself about the fact that I want control of this situation. I want to publish the dang book when I want to publish the dang book. But I'm pretty positive I'm being asked to wait. Maybe He will tell me why at some point. Maybe not. But if there's one thing I know, it's that I will be much better off slowing down and keeping step with Jesus rather than rushing ahead (like I so often want to do.) I know He has it under control. And I know He wants to see this dream come true as much as I do. So I'm chilling. And editing. And waiting.

Jehovah Jireh. God provides.

Be Still, My Heart

 Photo by Lindsey Riley

Photo by Lindsey Riley

Anxiety is a tricky thing. It's considered certifiable disorder, but whether you're diagnosed with it or not, I think everyone struggles with anxious thoughts and fears at some point. I had it really bad last year. Like, couldn't make it through a six-hour barista shift without having a panic attack bad. There were a lot of factors feeding that anxiety, but there were also moments my mind went into anxious overdrive over absolutely nothing. It's terrifying to feel out of control of your thoughts. That's where I was for about six months. Out of control, and living in constant fear.

Thankfully, my anxiety began to dissipate, slowly but surely, and now I'm a-okay.  But that doesn't mean I don't get anxious and panicky sometimes. My creative, active mind can (creatively) spin all kinds of fears and truths and lies into things I need to worry about. Do you know that feeling? That nagging little whisper that can convince your heart of the worst things?

I've had a couple of weeks recently that have been weeks of deep breaths and silent prayers. There is a spinning hamster wheel in my head that will not stop, no matter how hard I try to make it go away. I've had a heavy weight in the pit of my stomach, and my heart flutters with fear at the littlest thing. There's this little (but powerful) liar hissing in my ear that I need to fight for control in a situation that doesn't even involve me. The liar also tells me I am insignificant, and that I am not good enough. And, even though I know all those things ring very false, they are still very loud bells.

So I have a new routine. Whenever I feel the weight of an anxious thought begin to press into my mind, I find a quiet corner and close my eyes. Take a few deep breaths. And start reciting:

Father, You have promised to daily bear my burdens.

There is something pretty powerful about reminding God about what He's already promised to you. Like, obviously He knows, but I have this feeling He likes us to claim those promises for ourselves, and be bold enough to say them back to Him. And He has definitely promised to carry our burdens.

Psalm 68 says, Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign Lord comes escape from death.

Our burdens can be a death of sorts, you know? It's so easy to be weighed down by anxiety and whatever else, to the point that you are dead in your soul and broken by fear. Our minds are a glorious gift from God, but Satan has figured out a way to weasel his way into that gift and use it against us. Because that's what he does best. He wants us to be trapped. (He's the worst.)

BUT GOOD NEWS. We have the ultimate Pal to take over that burden. All we have to do is hand it to Him. 

Here's a cool thing: David doesn't tentatively ask God to help a brother out in Psalm 68. He walks boldly into the throne room with praises already on his lips, saying THANK YOU, LORD, for this sweet gift. That is the attitude we need. If Christ is in us, and we are in Him, His strength is our strength. Therefore, we can throw off the burdens and the whispers and the lies and say, Hey, Jesus, this is all yours. He has promised to catch and carry the load. He wants to catch and carry the load. He wants you to be light. He wants me to be light. He wants to take the things that are troubling us, the anxiety and the heaviness and the fear, and throw them far away.

So we can run freely and confidently toward Him.

Road Trips and Big Gifts

I drove to and fro across seven of the fifty states this weekend. That's a lot of think time, y'all. For an internal processor such as myself, upwards of seven-hour car trips can be kind of nice. Plenty of head space in which to stretch out and dig down. Life has been wildly, beautifully busy these last few weeks, and I had some settling and sorting to do. Do you ever take time to just sit and let your mind go? Like our bodies, I think our brains need play time. Space to expand and explore and create without any kind of boundary or filter or agenda. 

I spent the first drive, from Nashville to Kansas City, teaching myself Godspell harmonies. Because, wouldn't ya know, one of the ways God is loving on me right now is by letting me be in my favorite musical of all time at a little dinner theatre in North Nashville. Buy tickets. Seriously it's going to be so tight.

When I wasn't warbling through the chorus of "By My Side" fifteen times in a row, though, I sat in silence. My thoughts just kind of wandered. I prayed through some tough spots, and asked for forgiveness for some ding dong things I've done lately, and also said thank you a whole bunch of times. You know, a big thanks to Jesus for all those dreams that have been coming true. Then I sat quietly. And Jesus did that thing He does, where He talks without speaking. A single verse floated from one side of my mind to the other, and with it came the sweetest revelation.

Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Heart dreams and desires seem like the same thing to me, friends. I've been all aflutter with joy over these dreams Jesus is letting me catch. It never occurred to me that He was granting the desires of my heart. But OF COURSE He is.

I imagine Jesus looking me right in the eye, with a warm smile, and saying something like this:

My sweet girl, nothing brings me more joy than giving you what your heart desires. When you are delighted, it brings me delight. I love to watch you laugh and enjoy the  life I have given you! I want to lavish good things on you, can't you tell? And, my girl, if I'm giving you all these things now, can you learn to trust me to give you the rest of your dreams too? Trust me when I say, I'm looking forward to your wedding day as much as you are. But for now, soak up all the fun and growing and joy I've given you in this season. I'm handing the the rest.

Do you love to give gifts? I do. Christmas Day is my favorite day not because of the gifts I am given, but because of the gifts I get to give. I love picking things out, and wrapping them with care, and I always get a little excitedly antsy when it comes time for my family and friends to open them. 

God knows that feeling. He freakin' loves giving gifts, too. Probably more than I do. It actually brings your Savior infinite delight to lavish gifts on you, his precious one. I don't know why it's so hard to buy into that idea but can definitely be. Friend, let yourself believe it. Learn to see His gifts as they come, and receive them and go have a ball! 

Pro tip: Spring is definitely one of those gifts. Sunshine and fresh air and new life, ya know? Get out there and bask in it. 

Touch the Sky

snow bunny

On Wednesday I sat in a laundry basket in the middle of a park on a snowy hill while my friend Amanda made snowballs and threw them at small children.

As I basked in the sparkling winter sunlight (while simultaneously losing feeling in my toes) I had one of those rare moments of epiphany.

I am living the dream.

People say that all the time, especially when they don't mean it. Like when you ask the guy working at Sonic on a 107 degree day how he's doing, he's all like "Oh yeah, livin' the dream."

But it occurred to me, on that sparkly white hillside, that I am actually living. my. dreams.  

I just finished reading a book about how stories work, so I have some new lingo to frame life with. For example, an "inciting incident" in a story is is the event that sparks the fuse of the plot. I like that. Because it's true. There are events in the story of our lives that light a fire under our butts and change the plot. 

About a year ago was one of the biggest inciting incidents of my story. And, as I look back at the narrative of the past twelve months, I am struck by two things. One, I am quick to see all the ways my life has not changed in that time, and two, my life has actually changed completely in that time.   

One spring ago, I had a broken heart and a lot of cloudy dreams. This spring, I have a heart that is being recreated, and dreams running wild and coming true all over the place. And the beauty is, I really didn't do anything.

The American dreams says we have to hustle to make shit happen. That nothing will come unless we do it ourselves. I'm not against a good hustle, but I'm starting to think that mentality is wrong.

One of the biggest lessons I've learned lately is that I am pretty useless without Jesus. I mean I'm great or whatever, but when I try to do things on my own they usually crash and burn. It's only when I admit my weakness and let Jesus in that things start groovin'. Which makes total sense. My Father is the biggest dreamer of all, and He has put His dreams in my heart. It stands to reason that in order for those dreams to become real, He would have to be the one to do it. My finite humanity can't bring infinite dreams to fruition.

When a dream tugs at your heart, maybe your first reaction to shut it down. It's too big, you might say. No way that could happen.

Friend, I am telling you. It's possible. And there is only one thing you have to do. Show up. That's all. The dreams that are stewing away in your heart were given to you by the ultimate Dreamer. He knows exactly what you are capable of in His power, and He just needs you to step up to the plate.

Out of my greatest season of weakness, I have seen my biggest dreams take flight. Because once I had nothing to lose, it was easy to say, "Well sure I'm down. Why the heck not?"

Why the heck not has a been a big thing for me in 2015. 

What I am positive of is this: Our biggest dreams will become reality when we look onward and upward and seek Jesus. All he asks is that we show up and grab His hand. 

Choices

On Monday, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Truly. I was in a foul mood for absolutely no reason. I mean, I got to work at 6:45 in the morning and was already ready to go home. You know those days?

I looked my boss in the face and said, "I apologize in advance, but I woke up on the way wrong side of the bed today and I don't know what's up."

She responded, in her calm, matter-of-fact way, "Well then I guess today will be a day of choices."

I think I took a physical step back to take in her words. The simplest thing, but so utterly profound.

A day of choices.

Sure, I was in the dumps and wanted to sucker punch even the kindest people for most of that morning. But every time something rubbed me the wrong way, I could make a decision. Respond out of my bad mood, or respond out of love. Because love isn't a feeling. Love is an action verb. A choice.

The funny thing is, as I made moment by moment decisions to respond with love, my mood changed. The little details of the day that had been driving me so crazy evaporated as my brain went into to overdrive in an attempt to love big. The act of loving made me feel love toward my customers and coworkers.

I think last Monday was an illustration of a huge principle. The feeling of love comes and goes. If you respond out of your emotions, you will be fickle and temperamental. But if you choose to respond in love, if you consciously think through loving your neighbor well, no matter how you're feeling, those choices will begin to shape your heart. 

Often, I think we give ourselves a free pass to behave badly because we feel a certain way. But all that does is create a cycle of bad vibes and gunk, and everyone you encounter will get dragged into the mess, too. 

It seems to me that the better thing is to escape the cycle by choosing to do so. There are always options, if we choose to see them. One will be self-serving, the other will be full of grace. And the choice is always yours.

Every day is a day of choices. Some days might be easier than others, but to set your mind on choosing love requires active thought.  Try it for a day. Try it on a day you really, really would rather not. See what happens. I think you'll be filled to the brim, and ready for more.

Feet on Dreams

 Photo: Emma Wilson

Photo: Emma Wilson

Sometime we have a dream. You know, a heart dream that nestles down into us and flares up every so often like a shooting star.

Sometimes those dreams sit in an armchair in our brains until they become old and gray, unused. And some dreams put their feet on the ground and start running. Those are the kinds of dreams that make the world spin. The kind of dreams that lead to lightbulbs and bestsellers and discovering America. 

My boss Gracie has those kinds of dreams. A ton of them. They have led her to start a small business focused on crafting handmade jewelry and clothes, changing the lives of women in her community, and creating a brand that celebrates womanhood, community and beauty. All in under two years.

I think dreams are a love language, created by Jesus. He delights in planting something in our hearts that will take root and blossom and burn in us until we make it happen. It's how He changes the world. It's how He teaches us to trust. The biggest dreams, the ones most worth going after, are never going to come easily. 

And I really truly believe He puts such dreams in everyone. Maybe you haven't found yours yet, but I bet if you sit on it for a little bit, the dream would come to you.

In November I had an dream grab me by the hand and take off. 

Writing a book was one of those things I always assumed I would do. Eventually. Key word: eventually. Like, at the age of 45, after years of gathering wisdom and once I had become someone worth listening to. It never occurred to me to write a book now.

As last year drew to an end I took a moment to catch my breath and survey the damage. Sounds dramatic, I know, but a lot happened and it took some processing. One way I processed, season to season, was through writing. Obviously. If you followed this blog at all, you probably picked that up. But I also journaled through tears and in moments of fear-shattering joy. I word-vomited all over Moleskin notebooks and in iPhone notes. Without meaning to, I told a story. 

It's kind of impossible to recognize a story as it's happening. There is no rhyme or reason, no plot, no obvious inciting incident or climax, when you'e living it. But in November, I started to gain a little perspective and see the story. I had just lived through a pretty life-changing thing. Life changing not because of the circumstances (the circumstances were pretty ordinary, honestly, in the grand scheme of things), but life changing because of what I saw Jesus accomplish. He chased me and stole my heart and made it new.  And it occurred to me that the thing you do with stories, is tell them. 

I began to gather all my old blog posts, journals and letters and put them in chronological order. I edited and organized and added a little bit more to the end, and by the second week of January I had a book.

And I'll be self-publishing that book in about two weeks.

I don't expect it to blow up, or even to make a medium-sized splash. I'm mostly just doing it to know I can. Why wait until 45, when what I have gained at 24 is worth sharing? And I'm confident this story is worth sharing.

So, I'll keep you posted. I've given myself a deadline that (hopefully) I will stick to, and there is much to do before then. I am so excited. And scared. Blogging is one thing, putting a year's worth of heartbreak and learning and soul battles in print is downright terrifying. But it also feels good.

While I'm finishing this dream up, go find yours. And we'll drink some coffee and chat about it. And give praise to the biggest Dreamer of them all, who loves to see our dreams run wild.