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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Grinch is Welcome

It's official. 

My favorite Christmas movie is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Jim Carrey style. 

I love it because it's an incredible story. Dr. Seuss knew how to tell a good story. Redemption, hope, welcoming those who don't feel welcome, all the things. But this year, on the third time through, I'm starting to see this story fully and differently. 

When Cindy Lou-Who goes to the Grinch's lair and invites him to the Whobilation, it feels so important. Because she's just not afraid. She's not afraid of the outcast. She doesn't see him as different. She sees him alone and she sees Christmas and she thinks, "why can't he be a part of this?"

And then she invites him in. She extends an invitation for him to join into what they're doing. She goes to his house, looks him in the eye, and tells him that he's welcome. 

Because everyone is welcome. Even those who seem to reject it and are green and terrifying and are really, really messy, well, they're all welcome. It's really an extraordinary idea. Can you imagine what it would change? If everyone knew they were welcome?

I think it sounds simple, yet the depths of welcome are unfathomable. 

And in this season of Christmas, God came down to us in the form of a baby and told us that we are welcome. Jesus spread his arms and said, "come, you're in!" He changed everything. 

May you experience extraordinary peace, hope, and love this season and a great sense of the invitation you've been extended. You are welcome.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Alternative

I literally do not have time to write this.

I have an essay due Monday on the eschatology of the New Testament and a message to learn and give tomorrow, but I've got blog thoughts and they must come. One thing I've learned in the past year or so is that it is essential we do what brings us rest and peace. Or else we become less full versions of ourselves. Doing the things we love make us free.

I've been thinking a lot about the alternative. I'll explain what I mean. I've actually seen it the most in my life when it comes to hope. Hope is so beautiful and life giving and the very breath we breathe, but it's so unbearable, so risky, feels so dangerous. To hope is to believe, to open yourself up and pull it right out into the path of disappointment. Hope is, if I'm being honest, very scary. The letdown feels too much to make hope even an option. 

But then, I think about the alternative to hope. Is fear the alternative? Isn't living in fear ultimately the choice we make when we turn our backs on hope? I am convinced it is. I'm convinced we clam up, tighten our fists, curl in a ball, and cringe as each new day comes. Those are the effects of fear. So while hope seems so painfully scary, I know that I do NOT want fear. I'll do anything to avoid a life of fear. I don't really know, but in some cases, I know I don't want the alternative.

So it can be said of my day today. 
I don't want to do something. I won't go into what or why or how because to be honest, I don't even know. It's one of those being stuck, hearing lies, confusion kind of things. It's very weird. But anyway, that was my day today. I just sat and stared and couldn't will myself to prepare or do what needed to be done. It was very confusing. On that top of that, I couldn't really quite name it either. Usually once I name a roadblock or a fear, I can sail past it. But this time, I kind of just sat. I knew fear was winning, but it felt like too much of a hard thing to try and overcome. It felt like I was laying down under a slab of concrete. 

And the only real comfort I could find was my disdain for the alternative. I was choosing the alternative. While I don't want to do this thing, I don't want to not do it (haha. double negative). I never want fear to win.. ever. And that certainty in my life (fear=death) is helping me walk slowly towards wholeness, towards the hard thing. Maybe it's too overwhelming to pick the answer or decide right away, but what if we eliminated options? Fear is off the table. Backing down is out of the question. Disengaging is not on the radar. Rejecting people is just not an option. Now what? What now? What is left? And while that may seem scary, it's not fear winning. Because in the end, you'll end up choosing something that fear says you couldn't. 

mmm. yes. 

So, there are those things you and I are not quite sure about. It's the life of being in seminary, I guess, or maybe it's just our plight as humans. You believe something your whole life and then you learn something new and you think, why did I ever believe that one thing in the first place? No seriously, you really cannot remember ever coming to that conclusion. Did it just appear in your brain (?), and now new knowledge is threatening to change it (hi readers. nice to meet you. i hate change. k. bye). Or the craziest is when YOU change. You become more whole and free and real. No joke. Being alive is exhausting. 

So I camp out in the Gospels and read about the person of Jesus because I think sweet relief, He never changes. He is the best choice, He is Hope, the greatest alternative to fear. I think he would say, "my girl, get out from under that slab of concrete and start doing the hard thing. It's a part of how you grow. Fear is powerful, but I am more powerful. We can do it. It's messy and weird and you probably won't get it right the first or tenth time, but fear.will.not.win. My grace is much, much bigger." I'm sure He gave that speech to Peter a handful of times. 

Okay, back to work. Seeya when I seeya. 

Monday, December 8, 2014


I've been listening to a lot of Serial lately. 
I say "a lot of Serial" instead of just "Serial" because I have been re-listening to episodes #sorrynotsorry.
It's an amazing podcast, full of crime and intrigue, puzzles and details (all the things I love). I really could go on and on and fill multiple blog posts about it .. but I'll save my verbal processing for my closest friends. 

Serial tells the story of a murder case that happened 15 years ago. We hear piece by piece of the story every week, and it really is so fascinating. But one thing that has grabbed me the most in the ten episodes so far is when the storyteller, Sarah, talks about spin.

Every piece of information has spin, she says. You hear a piece of information, any piece of information - for example, "Adnan was a devout Muslim and because of his family's religion, he hid his relationship from them"- and then it could mean either one of two things. 1) Adnan was a liar. He was deceptive and sneaky and betrayed his family. or 2) Adnan was just like every other American teenager and had a girlfriend. It wasn't an portrayal of poor character, just a illustration that he was just like everyone else. 

There is a side to everything. It's how lawyers win cases. It's how anybody does anything. And so many times throughout Serial, I'm floored by how true that is. How one thing could mean this.. or it could mean this. Which one is the right one? Are they both right? It's confusing, isn't it? Is there a source, in any given situation, for truth?

And so it is with our lives, isn't it? Something happens and as the situation or conversation or whatever takes on a more clear picture in my mind, I wait to see where I will land. Was that person offending me? Were they encouraging me? Was that personal? Was it not personal? I feel like I teeter so much in the middle. Where will the gauntlet land, where will I decide to rest this situation? How will I spin this? Is it spinning? Is it not? Sometimes it feels like such a crapshoot. 

It's why I am so adamant about the Armor of God. It's why I think my pride will eventually be the death of me. It's why I believe prayer is a daily decision of life or death. It's why I'm always whispering to myself "God is always good, I am always loved." It's why I play Real or Not Real. I'm taking a New Testament class this semester while simultaneously learning about Ephesians with ADVANCE and Paul's letters are packed with how to live a wise life. Be kind, be humble, be like Christ. I guess it's all serving as a filter when and as the confusion hits.  

Maybe you're like me and you sense those precious and weighted moments in time. You know what I'm talking about? Those make or break moments, they smack me hard in the face. You're faced with something // and these are the moments where the choice screams before the spin. 

I could go one of two ways, but I want it to be automatic. I want to know where I'm going to land. I want to land in humility, in assuming the best. I want to land in thinking less about myself, more of others. I want to land in kindness, graciousness, compassion. In wisdom, thoughtfulness, Christ-mindedness. It's a daily battle, but I want it to become ingrained in me. 

I'm reading Anne Lamott's new book (Small Victories) and it's gold. She writes about feeling welcome, living a life of welcome (I want to underline and quote the entire thing. I'll save that for another post). But there's this one part in there that I love so much. She writes about her community and how when she first discovered them, their welcome was both lovely and confusing. She said she had always thought of herself one way - "I figured it was obvious I was a fraud and kind of disgusting" - but her friends saw her as someone else entirely - "my friends thought I was irresistible, profoundly worthy of trust." Then she writes this //

"I thought at first that one view must be wrong, so I made the most radical decision, for the time being, to believe my friends." 

Yes, Anne, one view is wrong. When presented with a piece of information (whether Adnan betrayed his family or not.. or in Anne's case, her very being, your very identity), the spin doesn't have to dominate. And each choice towards obedience and wholeness, makes for a more full and free me. 

for the record, for my Serial people, I believe Adnan was trustworthy and just a normal American teenager. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dear Isolation

Dear Isolation.
You are no friend of mine.

I drift so easily towards you. You open your arms so enticingly and I walk right into your trap. I can't get out of your embrace easily, so I hang out there. And you're so cunning and you whisper lies to me, that I don't need anyone and that I'm just fine there. Oh isolation, you are dangerous and you fill me with a combination of burden and numbness. You feed pride and you feed confusion. 

You cloud what's real and not real. In your presence, I'm terrified. 

I gorge on Netflix. I avoid all people. I disengage because I think this season will be easier to walk through alone. Isolation, you make life ten times harder and joy ten times harder to find. You're a choice I make, and yet you seem to be a choice I can't make. 

But the good news is that vulnerability is your biggest nemesis and verbal processing just happens to be one of my best tools to fight. 

So, I'll put my armor on. Day by day, each new morning. 
Guarding my mind with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. 
And prayer, yes prayer. 

So hear me friends, as I struggle to face isolation and the unknown and the meantime by myself, there are people in your corner who are dying to fight with you. They're dying for you to come back to the corner, sit on the stool for rest, get some water, wipe your brow, get you ready for round two (or three or four or ten)

They're dying to get in the ring with you, take a few shots for you. 
Let them in. 

You don't have to have it all figured out. And you don't have to have it all figured out alone. 
But start unraveling the mess in your mind by starting somewhere. One step.

Freedom awaits. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Letter for Those Who Feel Like They Can't Do the Hard Thing

Hey friends. 

This post was headed in a completely different direction. 

I feel like I've been dragging lately. I feel like I'm juggling fourteen things at once with just two hands and I can't do them all well and I am just oh so tired. All the hard things. If I could just stop feeling so much or discipline myself to go to the gym more or do schoolwork every night. I want to throw all structure and calendars into a fiery flame. can i get an amen?

I had lunch with a dear corner friend today, and we just processed all the hard things. Each of us in two very different seasons, but each a resounding me too. And I was so comforted. That women helping women can breathe hope into tired wearied souls. And what keeps resounding in my head is dig in, dig in, dig in. 

So, this letter is to say I know. I hear you, sisters. Life is sometimes hard and messy and stops for no man.

But I want to breathe hope today. 

This hard thing that we've chosen or that we've been called to or that has been dumped into our lives like something unwanted, lets say it's possible. The it can look like daily, practical discipline, or maybe it is just surviving. 

Is school your hard thing? Any kind of school // middle, high, college, graduate. Maybe you just hate learning, or maybe you love it but it's a hard semester, or maybe you're just not good at it. It's taking more discipline than you have - financially, socially, relationally. 

Or maybe it's your next new adventure that is taking more out of you than you were willing to sacrifice. Maybe you're just exhausted // of the unknown and the new and the discomfort. 

Or maybe you know what you need to do LIKE GET YOUR BUTT TO THE GYM OR GET YOUR FACE IN THE WORD. And you blame exhaustion that is keeping you from doing it. 

I say amen to all of that. A-men. 

Life is hard. Marriage and parenting and work and friendships and finances and family // I think it's all a hard balancing act. Each one a place of refining all on its own, much less combined! Praise God for these hard places, yeah? Somewhere in the hard graces, they keep us flailing back to Him. They keep us remembering and living grace upon grace, gratitude and freedom, and this new life we have. 

So maybe you just need this today // Adjust, take that step that you've been hesitating to take. Stay up later to study, find a rhythm, get a workout buddy, ask for help, meet with someone to go through your finances. Have that hard conversation. Above all, REST. Then get up and get moving.

Come on, let's do it together. Dig in and do what's hard. 
Lean hard into this thing. I promise you this is all a worthy sacrifice.

But, then there are those of you {of us} who are in the meantime. 
This time of waiting is your hard thing. There really isn't much you can do on your end to change this circumstance that you so desperately want to see changed. 

I spent most of last week listening to North Point Church's latest series and feeling burdened. For those in a season that they just don't want. For those in a season they just didn't ask for. For those who can't see the end. For those who have prayed the prayers of Paul (remove this thorn) and of Jesus (take this cup). For those who haven't yet reached your power is made perfect in my weakness or nevertheless your will be done. For those that have reached that peace, that surrender, but just need an every day reminder. 

Maybe you've prayed so many times face down in the carpet to realize that maybe this is the road God is calling you to walk. 

So, hear me when I say. 
Where you are is valid. 
When you're not sure where God is taking you, I know. 
Let me believe for you // unfailingly and unflinchingly. 
I believe {because our God is a good God} that you can live in this meantime and experience abundant joy. 

You can do the hard thing. 
You can walk this road. 

Name it, speak it out loud, run head first into whatever scares you. I really believe that is one part of the key to the beginning of freedom, of surrender. Fear loses all its power when you tell it who's boss. The hard season may remain, yes, but now there is room for joy to rush out of it. It's the way our God works. 

Maybe this letter is your freedom. You're allowed to have those kinds of days where you acknowledge the hard. There are some chosen hards, some unchosen. Give ourselves some time, some tears, some mentalwork, and a clarifying moment may emerge that asks, can we glorify God in these seasons? 

The road may seem hard and long, and the end unclear. The why may not have been answered. But you are not alone. Our God promises to be with us, especially in the meantime. Especially in the hard. And He's not only with us, He's gone before us. He's not surprised by anything. And He loves you. I believe He is working something beautiful in your story, something that will blow you away, even when you feel like you can't see up from down. The value of where you are, where you've been, where you're going // well, it's more than you could imagine for yourself. 

Tbh, I really don't know a whole lot. I don't know how to explain it. But I do know God is good. He comes and pursues each of us uniquely. It's all such a mystery sometimes, but He is constant and good. Sovereign and divine. Compassionate and gracious. He cares deeply for the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost minds (hand raised). 

Take a deep breath. 
You don't have to have it all figured out.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rest (and Pumpkin Spice Lattes)

We have a really good friend who is a leader of one of our High school girl's Lifegroups. I find myself constantly referencing her, praising her. She's that great // she loves our girls so well.

She's a public school teacher, and the other day we went to her high school and had lunch with her. It's one of my favorite parts of my job // entering into the schools, going to where our students are. Talking with them, meeting their friends, encouraging the teachers who lead with us. It's such a highlight for me. 

This particular school day, we asked our leader what she sees in teenagers on a daily basis. What do they need, what are they struggling with, what is real to them. And she said, "rest. They need rest. To stop, to unplug, just rest."


And that latched on to something in my brain and wouldn't let go. 

I have always misunderstood rest. It's a need to unplug, yes, and it's a need for physical rest, yes // but it has to be so much more. There is a restorative nature to it. 

To rest is to restore. 
There has got to be a calm about resting, a lying down in green pastures.
A pause. 

So, lately I've been practicing the discipline of restoring. 

  • I've woken up late one day, at the time I should have been somewhere. But something in me just sat up, shrugged my shoulders, got ready without rushing, stopped by Starbucks for a PSL, and made it to prayer time.
  • I've chatted with my long distance soul sister. We shared all our recent learnings and encouraged one another, in the usual and in the new. 
  • I've wandered around Target with a pumpkin spice latte and bought some organizational supplies (praise God from whom all blessings flow). 

And what I am discovering is that, for me, rest is being present in the moment I am currently in. Not leaping ahead, not going over and over what's behind, but being here. Tell my thoughts to CHILL OUT, I will get to you later.  

Rest is weirdly elusive and stupidly mysterious. And so maybe this blog post was just written to point you to a better blog post // will ya go to werewolfjesus.com and read what rest really does for our souls?

I particularly love this part //

"I think this has been a vital first lesson - not just because of the general importance of rest, but because it brings us weirdly closer when we help each other pursue rest. The rested versions of ourselves are more thoughtful and less snippy and have greater self-control. The rested versions of ourselves say thank you and give advice and share stories. But most  importantly, the rested versions of ourselves carve space to sit with Jesus and be reminded of who (and whose) we are. We stop demanding completion and affirmation from each other. We are recharged to love each other better and deeper when we spend time with Love."

And that takes me back to our Life Group leader. 
And what we all need. 
We're all in pursuit of this rest, because oftentimes the rested versions of ourselves is the better versions of ourselves. And these words are helping me realize that my rested self leads to my best self, which in turn helps others to be their best and fullest selves. What a cool cycle! We remind each other of who we are.

So, go rest. 
Go take a nap. Work out. Do something active. Read. Write. Paint. Sing. Listen to a podcast. Drink PSLs. Bake something. Create something. Memorize Scripture. Drink a cup of coffee. Be still. Have a life giving conversation with someone. Spend time with Jesus. Whatever it looks like, practice rest (like for me, right now, I am currently at Amelie's not doing any schoolwork. Because I just felt like writing. My soul rests).

I told my Life group this the other day, and so I'll tell you too. If I look out of it and disengaged and disoriented, will you ask me if I've written lately? Because that's how I pursue rest, that's where I am quieted and calmed and present and restored. A dear friend asked me that once quite a few years ago in a season of crisis and it helped restore my mind after a long period of not writing. And I think that question was the first step in this journey of rest // this better, recharged-to-love, version of me. 

So, how do you pursue restorative rest?
Can I help you get there?

Monday, September 22, 2014


I don't think my mind works like most people's. Does it, do you people get like this? 

How do I put this .. nothing leaves my mind. I've got a full plate up there. If I haven't talked about it or written it down or faced each thought with the care it needs (bless it, bless my needy little mind), it stays up there. 

I think a large part of it is because I love puzzles. I love the real life ones. It's why I love Law and Order SVU, why I love doing receipts at work, why I love a task that has an obvious result. 1+1 = 2. If I spend time on this - researching and studying and reading and writing and talking - it will equal this. I roll around in the details with joy and throw them in the air like confetti because one day THEY WILL FORM SOMETHING GLORIOUS. 

This + this = that. 

But hello, I work with people. I'm in ministry. I'm a pastor. There is no formula, people are messy, I'm messy, there is no this + this = that. Sometimes things aren't where they are supposed to be and sometimes people disagree and sometimes change happens. And as 'normal, everyday life' as that sounds, it always gives me pause. 

It's one of my favorite things that God has ever taught me. That sweet, patient, gracious God. He always whispers to me, "If you always focus on the answer, you will miss the big picture."

And that's it. I miss it. I write this to remind myself tonight and tomorrow and then again next week. With my obsessive love of to-do lists and crossing things off and putting things where they need to go, I am missing it. I step back and gasp at what the faithfulness of God has created. All of these tasks I do, they are important! But as a small part of the larger piece of Kingdom work. And all the things I stressed about or wondered about are (let's be honest) major on the minor. And I can see that God works without needing to know where storage bins are or check in computers go. His work isn't limited by our human competence (or incompetence, amen? Amen).  

I love the way I've been made. I love the way my mind works. I love that I am a thinker, that my mind is vibrant and alive and full of poignant thoughts. It likes to check and double check and double check again. It makes me, me. 

But above that and above all. 
God is good. His work is good. He's got good, mighty, and powerful things up His sleeve. And as my friend always used to tell me, God is a sneaky God. So go forth with EYES OPEN. and don't miss what He's doing.  

Sunday, August 31, 2014

You Will Just Know

Everybody has the hard days. 
The days of darkness, sadness, insecurity, suffocating doubt, whatever it may be. A weight, a burden, a heaviness. Something in a hard fight stealing your joy, perhaps. 

I remember a particular day. 
A particular day when I called my corner for some insight, some advice. Corner did just that // gave prayer, life, encouragement. Encouraged me to seek others, pray, to believe the Spirit of God is greater than anything. It was so life giving. 

But I remember at the end asking specifically // but how will I.. know? How will I know when this is lifted? How will I know if I am out of the valley? In other words, how will I know if all of this is working?

And I remember the answer given // you will just know. you will feel a spirit of freedom. 

The "you will just know" answer.
That timeless response, the 'trust me, trust yourself' answer.
The answer of faith. 
And I remember occasionally in the weeks and months that followed having good days and feeling free and thinking, but is this a spirit of freedom? Is this me 'just knowing'? Or this just a good day?

But now. This is what it means. I just know. 

In the two months since my last post was written (but does anyone really read this blog?), I've had the best trip of my life to see my Colombian friends, participated in the wedding of dear sweet friends, dumped a bucket of water on my head (twice), discovered Johnnyswim, read lots of books, sobbed my way through Fault in our Stars, ate pizza at midnight with ADVANCE friends in Atlanta, and learned more about myself than I ever thought possible. 

phew. what a summer. 

And amidst all the activity and the growth and the challenge and the PURE JOY, is this constant persistent thought. I love closing a chapter, I love writing about it, I love evaluating a season, I love a good takeaway. And this one keeps coming back // in all my seasons. Whenever I self-examine and turn around and look back, this always seems to be my learning //

God is good. 

At times, it's been quieter and has sat meekly in a corner of my mind. It's raised its hand, but hasn't tried to shout over the lies that boast for attention. It's been quiet and the one to take the most beating (I mean, come on, what is good!?). Until now // when its shed it's cliche layer. And now most clearly, in the jumble that change sometimes brings and through so many questions and so many thoughts of pure joy and newness,

this thought roars so loud and clear. 
God is so good.

It's my takeaway, my knowing, my solidifying confirmation of the character of God. 

He's gracious and compassionate and it's the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. He is all of these things and He does not lead his children into destruction. I catch my breath and lose it for a minute when I think about the incomparable greatness of a Creator who allows our hard edges to be refined and made more whole, full, and free. It's magnificent. 

This light, this confidence, this freedom. This gracefulness, this wholeness, this gratitude. This rest, this newness. In process, yet still the me I was made to be. 

I just know. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Letter for My Single Ladies

Dear friends. 

Look around you.
This time is so, so sweet.

There's this weird "not yet married" trap that we can fall into. Who decided that was a thing!? Maybe it's the world or the enemy or the whispers we hear of not enough or graceless truths from other people. But if we identify with the sigh of not there yet, oh my friends, we can miss the beauty happening RIGHT NOW.

Can we love the journey and this story God is writing in each one of us?

My dear single friends.  
I feel like some of you need to hear this. 
Take heart. Lift up your head. 

Your story is alive and it's valid. 

Some of you have dated a lot and can't find fulfillment. Some of you have been hurt and have been told mean things and had your identity crushed. Some of you have compromised yourself and aren't sure it's worth another try. Some of you simply have never prioritized dating or marriage and really couldn't care less about the whole thing. Some of you identify as single and you count down each day until you're not. Some of you are frustrated and exhausted and weary.

Whoever you are, wherever you are.
Keep on keeping on. The story is now.
You are being refined and being made more whole now.

Some of my people are in deep struggles that I may never know. On the same note, I am in deep wrestlings that they have never known. It's what makes each of our stories perfectly unique // that the places where God has chosen to pull me closer to Him are different than the ways He is drawing closer to you. It's one of the ways He's such a personal God // that my singleness and your marriage and my work life and your stay at home life are all part of refinement. It's not a formula, or one thing over another.

The summer before I was going off to college (many moons ago), a neighbor revealed her excitement for me by exclaiming, "Oh, college! Those were the best four years of my life!"

I remember thinking, how sad. And that woman's weird encouragement worked to ignite me and I vowed to make the best years of my life the ones I was living.

The best is always the present and the best is always coming, because God says I want the best for you. I am the way. And you can meet me now. The best isn't past and you haven't missed the best.

I don't want to speak generically, because we're all on unique journeys. I don't want to make blanket statements and claim to know what God is up to in each of our lives. But I do want to take you by the face, look you in the eye, and whisper hope deep into your soul. I want to ignite encouragement that your story is bigger than maybe you ever dreamed.

Can you trust that this is your story?
There are no accidents. We are loved not by an absentminded God who forgets His children, but by a passionately, fiercely loving God who is right with us in this life. He knows your very being and knows your very fabric.

You are on a wild, rich journey. Delight yourself in the Lord.
I can't wait to see where He takes you. It will blow you away. 


Monday, June 2, 2014

Birthday Reflections

My birthday makes me so weepy with gratitude. 

I live such a good, good life. I am aware of that on a day to day basis, but it is on my birthday when that sense is heightened. 

See, I had a friend tell me once a few years ago that birthdays are always important, no matter how old you are. I think I had shrugged my shoulders, mentioned I was turning 24, no big deal, just another birthday. To which he said NO. BIRTHDAYS ARE SPECIAL. 

It changed the way I see this day. 

My "new year" isn't January 1. It's June 2. I make new commitments, new prayers, new hopes, new what ifs. I gaze, full of awe, at the year that has passed and I am filled with hope at what is to come. And.it.just.makes.me.cry. It's like the small picture gets put on hold for a day and I can see this beautiful story of a life laid out in front of me and it makes me gasp at its beauty and adventure, wonder and grace. 

The story is hard. The journey has not been painless. Becoming real and whole and a fullest self is a battle this side of heaven. But this refinement is sweet and this glorifying God is where life begins and God is shaping souls to be his mouthpiece, his image, He has given us LIFE. 

Lift up your head. 
Hold on tight. 
It's a wild ride. 

At the close of this day - after so many laughs and games of wiffleball and hugs and squeals of joy and food (so much food) and fun (so much fun) and corner (so many people huddled close in my corner) - I am confident that this life is right where I am supposed to be. That, by His grace, He has landed me right exactly HERE and has lavished this sweet fragrance of His goodness all over this life I live. 

It is astounding. 
Maybe when I get to heaven, I'll be able to truly articulate this gratitude that swells from deep within, that makes my eyes well when I think about my people and the love they give me. I cannot fathom a God who literally turned sorrow to joy, and yet it is the life He has breathed and rescued and allowed me to lead. It is the story He is telling. 

Yes, oh yes, birthdays are special. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When You Enter the Promised Land


The Bible is full of charges for us to remember. Moses speaks to his Israelite people before they arrive in the promised land and he tells them specifically to remember. Remember the Lord, remember what He has done, remember to love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Remembering must be a lifestyle. 

teach it to your children. 
repeat it again and again. 
talk when you sit in your home. 
when you walk. 
when you are going to bed. 
when you are getting up.  
tie them on your hands and wear on your forehead as reminders. 
write them on your doorposts. 

Write it on your hearts. 

Because when you enter the promised land // when your trial is over, when you make it out of your cave, when your sadness and darkness and fear is over, when the Lord brings you into the land he swore to give you, with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of good things that you did not fill, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant, when you eat and are full //

do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of slavery. 

It is a call to see the riches and goodness of where you are and remember who got you there. 

I think remembering is one of our best tools. I think it's tied so closely with our hearts. In Ephesians 6 when we put our armor on, I think the helmet of salvation that we cloak our minds with whispers remember. 

Remembering frees us in moments of crisis. It centers us in moments of disorientation. It relieves us in moments of burden. Remembering stills us in moments of fear. It fuels us in moments of gratitude. It gives hope for today and for the journey tomorrow. 

What helps you remember?
  • Cement dates and times in mind and in heart, to draw attention when anniversaries arrive and important dates come. Dates of your freedom, dates of answered prayers. 
  • Screenshot encouraging text messages and pictures (I do this LIKE A BOSS) and save them to a folder. Scroll through them to remember.
  • Write, write, write. Then go back and read, read, read. 
This week is a big week of remembering for me. A big week of celebrating. I've been face first in old journals, just breathing in remembrance. It's got a sweet fragrance. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Gracious + Kind

I watch New Girl like it's my job. 

I come from the camp of people who like to have the TV on most of the time // while cleaning, cooking, eating, sleeping. I like to watch things I've already seen, so I can only pay attention halfway. 

I'm into New Girl. I'm on the third time through season two. 

It's alarming to me how both 1) the show portrays behavior. 2) how accurate that behavior really is. 

Awkward situations make people act in strange ways. Nick and Jess are in the throes of trying to figure out the terms of their friendship/maybe more than just a friendship. It's painful to watch at times, because all they need to do is look each other in the eye and be brave and tell the truth. But they skirt the topic, cause pain to one another, and prolong the in-between. 

oh, it's sometimes real life. 

This post could go one of two ways. It could tell you how I've lived a Nick/Jess life and how that tension nearly buried me alive. How it look a long time for me to live bravely because I was afraid of a lot of things. How the truth made me anxious, especially if it wasn't reciprocated, and so I generally hid from it. 

But I want this post to say something different. 

I want this post to tell you that you have a choice. 
You have a choice in the way things happen to you. You have a choice to be defeated or to stand tall and firm. You have a choice to own what happens to you, and to believe it all works for His glory. You have a choice to put on Armor and to believe it holds you fast. 

You have a choice to treat people with respect. You have a choice to be kind and to speak life and to offer encouragement. You have a choice to laugh in the face of fear or awkwardness or uncertainty. You have the choice to not cause pain, but to be a balm to someone's soul. You have the choice to swing someone's day towards wholeness. You have a choice to bring heaven here to earth. 

You have the choice to be brave and to live as the King's son and daughter that you are. 

Life happens fast. It really does. There's the Ferris Bueller quote that says life passes by and there are the moms who say their teens were just babies yesterday and there are the comments that life is fleeting, but y'all it is just that. We can't waste it, because time is precious. There is no pressure, but there is value in our time and there is value in what we do. 

A wise friend said this to me once, "we are witnesses of the coming re-creation of heaven and earth. witnesses of God's industry to restore that which has been ruined. without our witness, our testimony, how can people hear & know that Jesus is making all things new?"

And it changed the way I lived. 

What will change the way you live?

I urge you to live graciously. I urge you to live kindly. I wake up every morning and go to bed every night pleading for the same thing // Lord, help me to be gracious and kind. I urge you to change your story if you need to. I urge you to make today the day and lean hard into Christ. I urge you to get down on your knees and cry out loud to the One who has never left you or forsaken you. 

We get to live this life! Let His great Love fuel you. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Letter for Those Who Feel like Fear May be Winning

Dear Friends. 

Fear can lap at your heels like a threatening current, bite at your ankles like something wild, crowd above your head like a swarm of bees. Fear is notorious for taking you under, swallowing you whole, leaving you alone and in pain. Fear is no friend. 

There are the days when fear doesn't want to die, and it comes around and revisits like an old, unwanted friend. It'll sit in your head and try to make its way down to your heart. It'll attempt to get comfortable in the places where it thinks you don't notice. Fear hasn't won any battle, but Fear doesn't know that. And so it sometimes stays. 

But hear me when I say this // fear won't always feel so stifling. The closer you draw to Truth, the weirder and dumber fear sounds. I promise you this - YOU WILL BE ABLE TO LAUGH IN THE FACE OF FEAR. 

Fear will never win. 

What I've discovered to be true is what comes in the act of naming fears. There's a real power in the vulnerability and the trust of speaking your fears out loud that sends them trembling. So, speak them to your friends. Speak them to your corner. Speak them to your counselor, your Life group leader, your boss, your spouse, your co workers. It'll lift something, it'll free something, it'll join people in your journey. Speaking it is facing it and Fear doesn't like when you face it. 

My dear friend once asked me, "what are you afraid of?" And days into weeks after I spoke out loud and named it, I realized it was freedom that was hovering over me now. I wasn't afraid anymore. 

So, take heart. 
Lift up your head. 
There is great hope. 

There is a God who is fearless in His pursuit of you. Who is right there with you. It's a part of His character to turn all things to good, even and especially the hard graces. 
And days from now, weeks from now, years from now, you'll be able to see the asset, the value, of this wonderful story He was and is telling through your life. It will blow you away. 

Fear can't take that from you. 
Lift up your head. 


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Speak to your Soul

People talk about their safe places. Where's your place that you feel safe, connected to God? My counselor always tells me to find that place to spend time just being with the Lord. Not necessarily reading or talking or praying, she says, but just a presence with Him.

If you know me long enough, you know about my spot. 
My friends know that if they're coming over to my place and it's a nice day outside, don't even bother coming to the front door. Just walk around back to my spot. I'll be there. 

I've done a lot of searching out there, a lot of wrestling. I've spent entire days out there, I've eaten meals out there. I have cried sweet tears out there, I have laughed and felt the deepest of joy out there. I've done some good listening. I've even hauled living room furniture out there because people are over and I just don't want to go inside. 

Another safe place is with my people.

There's a family that has lived life alongside me for a majority of the past four years. Their home is a safe place for me. It's there that I've had rich conversations by the fire, deep laughter over a cup of tea, sweet encouraging prayer. I find it no coincidence that during the past year, I've had some of my richest moments with the Lord while spending weekends alone at their house while they've been on vacation. There's an expectancy there, a presence of the Lord for me there. My soul rests there because I am safe there. 

Where does your soul rest?

I read a blog post recently by John Ortberg on how to care for the most important part of you. He says that these days, we're always talking about self care and how there are a lot of books written about the importance of self-talk. People are always talking to themselves. 

But in the Bible, he says, people talk to their souls. 

The next time you get angry or upset or dissatisfied or afraid, instead speak to your soul - soul, why are you so afraid? Why are you so angry? O my soul, why are you downcast?

Ortberg writes that in the soul exists the presence of God and when we speak to our souls, it naturally turns to prayer because God is there. You are the keeper of your soul, he writes, but just its keeper and not its captain. The more we focus on our selves, we neglect our souls. The soul is like an inner stream of water that gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of life.

I like that.

In my recent quest for defining self care, maybe it's been more about soul care. Maybe in moments of confusion and desperation in this season of disorientation, maybe it's my soul that has needed the most care. On top of speaking truth to myself, maybe I need to speak deep to my soul.

My dear friend and I went out to lunch the other day and I shared a little bit about my season (to which she spoke the two most powerful words in the English language - me too). And we were both baffled and intrigued about the idea of rest. What is rest, how do we rest? Because resting cannot possibly mean a physical rest. It cannot possibly mean lying down and taking a nap. It cannot possibly mean getting a pedicure (holla) or taking a day off. It includes all these things, that is for sure, but these are just symptoms. A response to what it truly is.

Maybe it's a presence of the Lord kind of thing.
A speaking to our souls.
A being safe and resting there.
A deep calls to deep, like Psalm 42 says. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Where the Story Begins

Everything is connected. 
It's hard to tell where any story begins. 

My 7th grade Life group and I are reading the story of Esther, and I'm reminded of the same reality there. I love that her story starts with the queen just before her, Queen Vashti. Because if Queen Vashti hadn't refused the king and been dismissed from her queenship in a such an abrupt manner, Esther would not have gained access to the kingdom for such a time as this.

What we think is the hard start of the story of our journey, it's so fun to keep looking back and back and back to see how all things worked together. How if that hadn't happened, than that wouldn't have come to fruition, and if that person hadn't asked you to do that or if that opportunity hadn't come about or if that pain hadn't hurt, then this story wouldn't be what it is. 

I like to think of it as the power of asset. 
Each moment, each door closed, each door opened, each opportunity, each pain (AMEN), we end up on the other side better than we were before. It starts us off on the next leg of our journey more free and more whole.

It's a crazy comfort to think that God is weaving this giant story in all of us. That at the end, our lives won't be disconnected experiences along the way BUT ONE BIG STORY of how He made us new in the time we were given. Each point isn't isolated, but breathes life into the next. Our learnings, well, they prompt more learnings. And I think, the me that is here now wouldn't be able to live this if I wasn't the me that I am. Because the me I was before hadn't learned yet what this me needs now. It's all asset talking. 

So, it's hard to find a real beginning. 
Two years ago?
When I moved to Fort Mill?
When I was in college?
My childhood?

My soul friend told me once that past is prologue.
She actually posed it this way - "please keep living this story and fighting this fight because what if this was the low point? what if this was the middle ground? if past really IS prologue? I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE WHAT'S NEXT. I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THE NEXT CHAPTER. you are in for one great adventure."

And it filled me with hope inside and reminded me of the Last Battle, where it says that all their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth had ever read; which goes on for ever; in which every chapter is better than the one before. 

To imagine the divine writing of a story that has only just begun. 

God is continuously at work, and maybe that's where our true beginning is. 
Can you imagine what is to come!? 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Freedom Friday

I don't have a great work/life balance. 

It's because I love my job so much. My job is both natural and challenging, fun and difficult, makes me laugh, makes me cry. I am passionate about what I do because I work with an amazing team made of the most amazing people and we do amazing work. I experience real joy at work because I am growing at work, both personally and professionally. 

I don't see my job as "work" BECAUSE I LOVE WHAT I DO. 
But then, sometimes, I work all the time.

My good friend told me the other day, "if you don't tell your job what to do, your job will tell you what to do." (y'all, my boss told me that. my boss. I told you how great my work environment is, didn't I? preach). 

So I took his advice, packed up shop, put iPhone on do not disturb, and headed to the beach with some Life group friends for the day. It was spontaneous and impromptu, the way those kind of vacations should be. We were going to do nothing but sit, with toes in the sand. 

Except we got there. 
and it was freezing. and windy. 
sand blowing everywhere. 
it. was. freezing.

straight up yoga pants and sweaters

So we walked to Poe's (best place to eat in the whole wide world) and we re-evaluated. We had planned to sit on the sand on day and read and think about nothing at all because we all needed to take a deep breath. now what?

What if we adjusted instead and treated this day like an adventure? 
What if we did things we had always wanted to do, no matter convenience or time?
What if we treated this day for what it really was // a Freedom Friday?
What if we really dove into our circumstances with neither worry, fear, or disappointment?
What if we made memories, as Tim Riggins would say? 

Our first stop was Cypress Gardens. We got in a boat and rowed our way through a water trail out on the swamps. It was like make-believe, a place out of a fairy tale. 


I almost can't use words to describe it, it was that beautiful. 

There were cypress and tupelo trees coming straight out of the water. There were lily pads everywhere. We saw one alligator .. and one was absolutely enough for me. There were bridges to float under and narrow passages to squeeze through. There was a stillness and a tranquility that couldn't be made by man. 

To say we had the time of our lives would be an understatement. 

We laughed so hard trying to steer the boat. We screamed at the sight of a potential alligator. I was so tense at one point, I was ready to jump out of my skin. So many laughs, so much relief. We gasped at the beauty of the scenery. We each acknowledged the peace and the beauty, the serenity and the unadulterated pure joy we were all experiencing. 

      It was so beautiful and beyond compare. It was beautiful because we were face first in the creation that God made and said was good. And it was beautiful because I was experiencing it with the creation that God made and said was very good. My friends, His people. 

 And then this happened.

We headed to a nearby monastery next (yes, I wanted to check out a monastery). As we drove up, it was like a plantation, the long road with its majestic overhanging trees. And then once we entered, we were allowed to just wander free. It had a stillness, a calm, an almost pensive pause. I wandered down long, expansive roads with wooden carvings of Jesus as a baby and then Jesus on the cross. I spent time in the gardens and by the ponds. It was peace. 

I could have stayed out there forever. 
We had a staff prayer recently where we spent time in centering prayer and set our minds on encountering Jesus. It was very powerful for me, and being at the monastery walking those roads felt a little bit like that experience. 

with Jesus. 

At each stop, I could feel myself getting lighter and lighter.

Then we felt like eating ice cream, and so this is what we had for dinner. 



On the way home, we listened to Mumford & Sons and Dixie Chicks. We talked about why life is sometimes hard, but oftentimes rich. We made what ifs, which for this Life group has always been something sweet and good and special. We laughed, a lot a lot. 

Thankful for days like this one to laugh and to love, to take a deep breath and live, for friends and the joy they bring. 


Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I live in extremes. 
This is either the best food I've ever had or the best conversation and I'm so happy and the BEST DAY EVER... or it's the worst and could this day please end and I'm so discouraged and I don't know how I got here or there and what is this. 

I'm convinced it was the way I was made. 

I am a passionate thinker, I am a feeler, Lord help me I am emotional (cue the empathy). With most things, I am all in, I am filled with passion about EVERYTHING. I have a hard time being middle of the road. Sometimes it's weird and exhausting. I'm sad, SO I'LL WEEP AND THINK ABOUT HOW BROKEN THE WORLD IS AND ASK TO BE LEFT ALONE. But is there a such thing as just being.. sad? 

Emotions and feelings change and confuse us. The world was ending yesterday, but today I feel free? Well, which one is it?
That's the problem with feelings.
Emotions are insecure. They're full of instability. If we based our identity on what we felt, we'd never be able to put our feet on solid ground. What would be our firm foundation? 

I'm glad God is unchanging. 
I'm glad our Savior is a God that remains the same. His love is just as beautiful and encompassing as it always has been and always will be. I'm grateful that Jesus is not and has never been a Savior of confusion, but He's the One of perfect peace. We don't have to worry about God going off the deep end. He is constant and unwavering. 

The Bible describes God as a Rock, our firm foundation, a Fortress. He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. We can build our house on solid ground. We can trust a God who's never failed and won't start now.

Because We all Need a Corner

a little over a year ago, i was in a sad place. 

i had loved and i had lost.
it was good. 
it was gone.

i was fighting sadness, beating back lies about who i was, about why things didn't work out, about who God was. and in the midst of the wrestling, on the days when i couldn't tell the reals from the not reals and before i knew that God doesn't waste anything, and during the nights i spent on my kitchen counter

i had a corner. 

my corner dug in around me, got down in the ashes with me, put up tents in the sadness, and vowed to sit through it with me, all the while encouraging and praying and believing. 

just like my friend Marri, i believe that when we speak encouragement to one another, we are passing courage. we literally pass courage to each other. we literally tell one another to be brave, to fight, we pass hope. the Body repairs itself. in the disorientation, my corner aligns me. 

there are valuable pieces of every story and this is one of my deepest values. and what started out as a painful journey turned into my richest one, because i learned the value of bringing people in close. me // an introvert with isolation tendencies.

we're not made to live in fear, we're not made to live in uncertainty. we're made to abundantly adore our Creator and glorify Him in the deep joys of the every day. 
but life is hard
ministry is hard
relationships are hard
and it's those days when we cannot place a thought if our lives depended on it and it all feels weird and like a mess and we're not sure how to climb out.. 

one step at a time
this will all be an asset to you
God is always good and you are always loved
proud to fight the good fight alongside you
be encouraged
it is okay
live well

and then i promise your tank will be filled.
and then after encouragement gets passed to you, pass it on to someone else. 
and then laugh a little. i promise that laughter is a light and a healing and a grace. God is a God of joy!