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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! 

Saturday, April 5, 2014


When I stepped off the plane a year and a half ago in Rwanda, I remember feeling a unique and overwhelming feeling. Not fear or excitement, nervousness or happiness or shock. It all felt..


I looked around and thought I have seen this before. Familiarity breeds comfort and so essentially, it was a deep comfort. I remember right where I stood // looking around, observing, outside the airport in Kigali, surrounded by friends, in a new land. I sighed, I smiled, I felt a warmth inside. Home.

I assumed it felt familiar because my sister had lived in a neighboring African country for two years. I had heard her stories, seen her pictures, lived her life thousands of miles away. So I was somewhat familiar with African culture. I thought that was the all of it // my sister had helped me see another culture and so it felt like home.

Until I lived in Colombia this past week.

It was a different kind of initial observation. It all felt new, more new than Rwanda did, but walking through the streets of Santa Marta, it felt familiar. I felt like I belonged there, that despite not knowing any of the same language, we were the same. We could sit in church every night and sing a cappella together in Spanish and in English and we could be one.


I think that feeling is a coming home. Heaven. Natsukashii.

It's our connection to one another // that despite distance and language and socioeconomic status and family and opportunity, we can look each other in the eye and feel at home. We embrace when we can't use words and that presence dissipates distance. We share something in common, something much stronger than anything earthly.

Visiting another culture and experiencing Christ globally always feels like coming home to me. I imagine heaven will feel a little like that // when your world is opened up to include much more of God's people than you ever imagined, people who have been fighting this side of heaven to bring glory to His name. And you'll all get to meet and laugh and hug and look each other in the eye and say, "well done. Well done."

There are so many out there who are loving God and loving people and who believe the same things you do. They live somewhere so different, but when you are given the opportunity to rub shoulders and touch hands and to soak in the beauty of the lives in which they live and do ministry work alongside them, it is a wonder. Refreshing and a comfort.

It is heaven on earth.