Coffee Date No. 11

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask if we could sit outside. After a few days of really precarious weather, including a bitter cold front and the greatest risk for tornadoes in South Carolina in something like a decade, the air is finally warm and the sun sits high in cloudless skies. Also, I would, at long last, be drinking something iced.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d share that I haven’t been perfect at Lent this year. But really, am I ever? I decided to give up social networks this year, and honestly, while I have logged on occasionally, it hasn’t been nearly as often or for as long as it used to be. And even though I feel a bit uninformed, I feel lighter. Besides, it is not my responsibility to respond to every single thing going on in the world — nor is it healthy to even attempt to. 

 

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask about your margin. Lately, mine has felt kind of nonexistent. Even though my plate has been spilling over with good things, my soul still feels a bit edgy. I didn’t realize until this moment that it is possible to have a full and glad heart and at the same time have a soul that resides on the border of chaos. What I can tell you is that I know that God has given me some supernatural energy this past week, and that I need a double dose this week because we are moving to a new place this weekend. It is a new start that feels like grace, and hopefully, once we return the keys to the U-Haul, we will be able to breathe again.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d admit that my word for 2017 hasn’t gotten a lot of love. I landed on rhythm for the year and had all sorts of good intentions for planning out a budget and a better morning routine and actually following the cleaning schedule on the fridge, but literally none of that has happened. But I think (I pray that) this move will help me to dig deeper into the discipline. And of course, I’d ask how things are going with your word, because there’s nothing I love more than stories of becoming rooted and established, and I think that’s what our words help us to become.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask if you have an accountability partner in any area of your life. What is that relationship like? How did you go about finding and asking that person to keep you accountable? Honestly, accountability makes my skin crawl, but I know that I need it in order to be the person I want to be for myself and those around me. Once we finish with this move, I would really like to get back in the gym. I haven’t been since the holidays, so there’s that. Also, I really need to be better about getting in the Word. I started a Bible in a Year plan on January 1, but can we all just admit that trudging through parts of Deuteronomy and Numbers is a bit reminiscent of trying to get through Captain Ahab’s monolog about whale blubber? Anyway, I digress. The point is, I am longing for someone to stand beside me and say “hey, I see you, and I know you can do this because it is worth it.”

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask you about your normal, but I wouldn’t try to compare it to my own. It is so dangerous to assume that our normal is the same as the person across the table or across the globe. And I’ve been trying hard to avoid blanket statements in my conversations because I just find them to be ignorant and irresponsible. My friend Kristen recently wrote an incredible blog post about this very topic, and her timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you how wonderful I think you are. And I would mean it. When I look at the people I count as friends, both online and IRL, I could not be more grateful. There’s this line in a song in Hamilton that has been hanging out in the recesses of my heart lately: let this be the first chapter where you decide to stay. And I think that’s beautiful. Here is where I would very much like to stay.

 

What would you share on our coffee date? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Coffee Date No. 10

 

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that I’ve given up social networks for Lent. If you’ve clicked over from Facebook or Twitter, you might be wondering how and why it appears that I’m posting to the sites, and the answer is the publicize feature on my blog. It allows me to share posts to Facebook and Twitter without actually having to visit those sites. Anyway, I would tell you that I looked up the rules for Lent, because I thought that Sundays were exempt from fasting. The site I looked up said that whether or not someone fasts on Sunday is up to their individual conscience. Knowing my own lack of self-discipline, this made me more than a little itchy, so I just decided to give it up for good, with no off days, until Easter. What makes this hard is that I basically have zero accountability. I’m alone for long spans during the day, so if I were to log in, there wouldn’t be anyone to call me out. But I have to say, I have made it this far (almost a week as of the day I’m writing this section) and thanks to Hulu, it hasn’t been that difficult.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask what your thoughts are on Lent. I guess I never really understood it until I became an adult, and until God sweetly and patiently started showing me the areas in my life where I was worshipping other things. I used to think that that sounded really extreme, but the devil is way more sneaky. I see what other people have, and am quick to believe that I will be more whole once I attain those things. I believe they will make me feel better, but in the end, I only feel the holy conviction that comes with realizing that Jesus is the only true life-giving thing, and that I should be craving more of him.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d share that my husband’s hard work and dedication at his new(ish) job was met with the word salary a couple weeks ago. I cannot put into words how proud I am of him. This feels a bit like coming full circle after everything that happened in October. If not full circle, then the home stretch, at least. I’ll be honest, I still don’t know what God’s plans were when C lost his job five months ago, but he has done more than enough to prove himself a faithful provider in the weeks and months since. Even though most days my mind was fraught with worry, my heart knew that we would be taken care of. The company he is working with is a very small business, but they have felt like family from day one, and they have been so gracious to make room for us. I couldn’t be more grateful.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I would gush about the latest episode of This is Us. No spoilers, but of course, I sobbed. The scene with the mailman was especially poignant, because it made me really think about how my life has the potential to impact the lives of those around me. I want to be the kind of neighbor who people can come and ask to borrow a cup of sugar from, and it makes me sad that we don’t really do that anymore. In the spirit of transparency, I don’t know a single one of our neighbors. We’re all so busy coming and going that we forget the simple truth that we belong to each other. Do you know your neighbors?

 

If we were on a coffee date, I might tell you about a conversation I had with a girlfriend recently about having children. Specifically, about the kind of children we want to raise. My ideal picture of having a family currently looks like adopting in addition to having my own children. I think I’ve always liked the idea of adopting, but over the past few years, the Lord has really laid it on my heart to open my home to children who don’t share my DNA and might not look like me. Anyway, I told my friend that I don’t care what they look like, what they wind up being good at, or who they wind up choosing to love.  All I want is to raise my babies to be kind and generous people who follow Jesus.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask how your heart is. What you’re praying for, if you feel seen, how you’re growing in ways that surprise you, what you’re struggling with, and what you’re celebrating. And I’d try to be honest when I tell you about mine. We wouldn’t talk about how God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, because in my experience (and I’m guessing, yours too) God is always gently nudging me farther and farther away from my comfort zone. I wouldn’t offer any bumper sticker slogans, because they just don’t cut it. Instead, I would ask how I can pray for you, and I would pray right then and there. And I would probably cry, because when am I not crying?

 

What would you tell me on our coffee date?
Spill your guts in the comments, link up your own post,
or, you can always email me.

Lent in Photos, Mostly (Week 2)

05: River Street Sweets in Savannah (good thing I didn’t decide to give up chocolate!).
Made an impromptu trip down to see some family.

 

06: Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, perhaps the most beautiful church I have ever seen.

 

Let the measure of success be the measure
to which you love Jesus more. — Jennie Allen

07: Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home. Flannery will always be my main squeeze.

 

My friends and I would love it if you would join us for coffee.

 

08: LG is obsessed with doing everything herself now. Upon successfully reaching the top of the slide without help, she confidently announced “I climbed the mountain!” I just couldn’t love her more.

 

Lent in photos, mostly. (Week 1)

01: Ash Wednesday in the front yard with LG. Warm enough for tee shirts and bare toes.

 

02: When friends have bad days, my first response is always “want to get sushi?”

 

Discipline, in the spiritual life, is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master. — Henri Nouwen

 

03: Lent reading, courtesy of my friends at Lifeway and B&H Publishing.

 

04: Sunday at my favorite little coffee shop.

 

A love letter to those who want to take back Lent, by the beautiful Ann Voskamp.

 

A Lent soundtrack just for you. ♥

A few things I learned this winter.

In case you haven’t been around these parts for very long, let me explain. One of my favorite writers, Emily P. Freeman, periodically shares a list of things that she has been learning (in the past she has done this monthly, but I think she recently decided to share them seasonally instead). They always include a healthy mix of the serious and the silly, the poignant and the frivolous. You can find her lists and lots of other beautiful things over on her blog.

So, without further ado, here are a few of the things I’ve learned over the winter.

 

1. Minimalism is less about what you possess and more about what possesses you. This realization is totally changing the way I think about my stuff. I watched the Minimalism documentary on Netflix and was stunned when they said “you can never get enough of what you don’t really want.” Um, ouch. What makes this lesson all the more important is The Contentment Challenge and really gaining an understanding of the truth that things will never be able to fill and heal me the way that Jesus and his body do.

 

2. Taking chances on people is always worth it. A couple months ago, I started looking for a local simulcast of IF: Gathering and found one at a tiny storefront church in Clemson. I signed up immediately, without knowing a single person who attended the church or was attending the gathering. And it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time. The women who hosted were some of the warmest and most welcoming that I’ve ever encountered. Since then, C and I have had dinner with one of the hosts and her husband, and another attendee and I are planning on getting coffee next week.  Another friend and I had an impromptu lunch date after bumping into each other at the hair salon and just getting to spend the time getting to know her better was such a gift to me.

 

3. The TV show Lost isn’t quite as intimidating as I originally thought it would be. I don’t know why I do this, you guys, but I let hype intimidate me. It really is ridiculous, and I know there’s a lot I’m probably missing out on that I would really enjoy because of this. C introduced me to Lost last weekend, and we’ve almost reached the end of the first season. I honestly thought I wouldn’t understand it, but so far, it isn’t so bad. I just wonder if there will ever come a time when I don’t hate every single person on the island with the exception of Jack and Sayid.

 

4. The best remedy for being overwhelmed by the tension is to do small things with great love. I cannot tell you how much this has healed my heart, you guys. A couple months ago, a friend shared that she, her husband, and their daughter were all battling the same stubborn flu. So I offered to bring over dinner, and I think I ended up being more blessed than they were. It’s why I love writing love letters with MLL and picking up the tab when I can and just being more willing and more open with my own brokenness.

 

5. Confession is a big deal. Lately, my car has looked like a confession booth. As a recovering good girl, I have to admit that confession never used to feel like a big deal. It wasn’t as if I had a lengthy rap sheet, after all. But recently, I have started to simply confess my need for Jesus. And the fact that my life is usually plagued by mixed up priorities, and all the times I feed my gifts, my body, my marriage, my identity, my relationships to shame. Just saying it out loud while driving to Target or the post office helps me to feel lighter.

 

6. As a low energy person, I must take advantage of days when I’m feeling motivated. Speaking of confessing, there were a handful of days over the past month or so that I really felt driven to get things done, but instead, I clicked next episode. Inevitably, I ended up hating myself for this. So I’m really going to try to be intentional about how I steward those days in the future.

 

7.  Maybe people see me after all, and that’s really okay. I am used to being the needed, rather than needy. My preference always leans more towards wanting to help others before I am helped. Perhaps the most simple way to put it is that my most prominent spiritual gifts are hospitality and service. Which is great, except for the fact that it means I struggle alone more often than not. But a couple weeks ago, a friend texted me after seeing C at work and basically said hey, I know that things aren’t easy and I know you must be hurting, but I just want you to know that I see you guys and I appreciate you. Cue the ugly crying.

 

8. The word panic actually comes from the name of the false god Pan. You guys, could Jesus be more kind? Could he have made this any more simple and obvious? All my panic is directly correlated to my tendency to drift towards lesser loves.


 

What are some things you’ve learned lately?
Let me know in the comments below.

A love letter to the tension dwellers.

Dear you, dear me, dear us standing weary hand in hand together, 

I must confess, I know next to nothing about politics. I am 26 years old, and only registered to vote for the first time this year, so if you want to tune me out, I understand. But I’m not coming to you with political opinions. Instead, I’m coming to you with this heart and these ears and these hands and feet. They’re all I’ve got, and honestly, they’re kind of busted up. But the older I get, the more I learn that people don’t need opinions or advice. They don’t need perfection. What they need is to see the bruises. They need to know that you’ve seen enough of life and this world to know that the answers aren’t always black and white. People need to see you living into the tension.

I almost gave up last week. My social feeds were like a nasty car accident that I couldn’t look away from, and I could feel my blood pressure climbing with each new post. I cried when Michelle Obama surprised people who were paying tribute to her on late night TV. I went on and on to my husband about my feelings about our new president and the choices he has made in the last 28 days. The marching and the not marching and the refugees and Planned Parenthood and the how dare you’s and name calling. One guy I follow actually had to unfriend his mom on Facebook because she was harassing him and his friends because they had the audacity to express opinions that differed from her own. But I couldn’t stop scrolling — not until I sat straight up in bed at 3 AM after having a nightmare about ISIS and nuclear war.

I was on the fast track to throwing every piece of electronic equipment we own off of our third-floor balcony and spending an entire week in bed surrounded by snotty, tear-drenched tissues. I could feel the panic attacks coming, but I came here instead. To write us a love letter.

 

I have a lot of friends who are experiencing deeply personal pain — friends who have watched their babies die, friends whose marriages have crumbled, friends who have siblings in mental hospitals, friends who have lost jobs or received harrowing diagnoses. Those things can feel like too much to survive, without the turmoil we see unfold in our world with each new day. And we’re all silently questioning how we’re going to wake up and face whatever tomorrow holds. Perhaps we’re all wondering a little bit where God is, where the hell it all went so wrong, and how on earth we’re going to find the strength to just stay here.

 

It’s okay to ask those questions. We don’t have to run from them or pretend they don’t exist. It’s okay to give names to the strange and terrible things we sometimes feel and think. We can lay it all out on the table without shame and feel free to let the grief wash over us the way that only grief does.

 

And then.

 

We can choose to push back when the darkness starts closing in.

We can choose to look back at the countless ways that God has proven himself to be faithful and tell the devil that we’ve got too much street cred to be worried about the tricks he’s turning.

 

We can take a hard look at our own walls and decide that today is the day that they come down. We could find a neighbor and let them know they’re not alone — that we hurt, too. We could invite a college student over and talk Jesus and The Bible on the living room floor over Chinese takeout. We could call up the single mama for a Chick-fil-A playdate. We could be brave and send the text message that says “I miss you.” Why would we wait until tomorrow?

 

Jesus rose so that his Bride could rise. The world is desperate and this is our moment

This isn’t some wide-eyed idealism or wild theatrics. This is how the world changes. Person to person, allowing others to stick their hands in our wounds so that they can know they aren’t the only ones who are a little bit bloody from the fight.

 

Jesus prayed that we would be known for our unity — that our single-mindedness, our hard and fast pursuit of his upside down kingdom come to earth, would be so magnetic that the outside world would be unable to ignore it. He asked this of God on our behalf.

 

And then he gave us some armor, because he knew that this day was coming. He saw the headlines coming down the pipeline and said you’re going to need some reinforcements. 

 

We carry around the fullness of God in jars of clay, and God knows we’re tired. He knows we’re pressed. He knows that we’ve stood gaping at the wide mouthed grave of our dream of how the story would read had the pen been in our hands.

 

The invitation is simple, but it isn’t easy. Stay. Give. Dare to show up naked and vulnerable with your wide open wounds, because the place you are standing right now is holy ground. It’s where the healing happens. It’s where we get filled up and sent out. Not the place you were yesterday or the place you will be tomorrow, but this moment right here and now.

It’s the only one we’ve got. 

 

And we can trust that he’s here.

Coffee Date No. 9

If we were on a coffee date, I’d take you to Methodical Coffee in downtown Greenville. It’s where I’m writing this coffee date post from, so you know it’s legit. They have the most delicious mocha I’ve ever had, twinkle lights, and the sweetest little view. They’re currently playing Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell and I think I may never leave.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d have to tell you that I actually met a virtual coffee date friend IRL this month! I got to sit down with Amanda from Not Your Average Coffee Bean, and it was lovely. We sat and talked for a couple of hours about life and love and family and God, and meeting her reminded me that taking chances on people is always worth it.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about my experience with IF: Local last week. Since we’re on the subject of taking chances on people and all. Ten days ago I showed up at a church I had never been to and ate lasagna with women I had never met before and we shared our stories and sang songs on the floor and heard women bring the Word and God showed up. It was so good. I made friends that I hope to keep for as long as God will let me.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask if you’ve heard Ellie Holcomb’s latest album, Red Sea RoadThe title track has been on repeat for an entire week now, because it is just so applicable to my current season. The entire album is just phenomenal, and I couldn’t recommend it more highly.

If we were on a coffee date, perhaps I would cry when I tell you that I’m asking Jesus for a new heart. I feel like I’m starting to move forward in this grieving process, but then last week, I got an email asking if we were planning to renew our membership at the church that let my husband go last fall, and all that bitterness finds it’s way back to the surface. Also, I still feel a sense of hesitation when it comes to reaching out to new people and settling down in a new place, and I don’t want that to be the case. I want to walk into this next season with grace and openness. So I’m asking Jesus to come in and make things new.

If we were on a coffee date, I might tell you that my word for 2017 hasn’t gotten much love lately. I think I dove into rhythm in hopes that I could bypass or at least somehow mask the grieving process that we’ve had to go through after my husband lost his job. That’s not to say that I don’t totally need better rhythms in my life, because I absolutely do. And while I’m certainly not the most patient person, especially with myself, I’m learning that it is okay to take my time sometimes. And I’d ask how you’re doing with your word for 2017.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask if you feel free. Because honestly, I don’t feel free most of the time. I’ve been reading Rebekah Lyons’ new book You Are Free, and I’m trying to soak in the sweetness of a Jesus who lets me come exactly as I am — a Jesus who says that I am already free. His perfect love casts out fear. We talked about that in church yesterday, and I sat dumbfounded in the pew. What that phrase actually means in the original Greek is that the love of Jesus slams the door in fear’s face. And let me tell you, I need me some of that.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask if you have any recommendations for a hair mask. Because girl, my mane is in serious need of some TLC. I think I’m going to book an appointment with my hair stylist so that I can go back to brown and maybe get some bangs, and then I will probably never bleach my hair again.

If we were on a coffee date, I might tell you that I’m trying to take a break from social networking. But that wouldn’t really be true. Maybe I need someone to change my passwords on me, because lately, my feeds are like a nasty car accident that I can’t seem to look away from. And all this bickering is toxic for my soul and my body.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask what is filling you up these days. Is it a hobby that brings you to life, or time with a particular person or group of people? Is it quiet time alone? Do you like to get outside?

If we were on a coffee date, of course I’d ask how your heart is. I’d ask how I can be praying for you. And I’d hope that you would feel safe enough to really lay it all out on the table.

What would you share with me on our coffee date?
Link up your own blog post or share your heart in the comments.

 


Coffee dates were born and brewed at my friend Amber’s place, and
we’re keeping them alive here while she is on a blogging hiatus. 

The lives that came between us.

This place has seen little more than silence over the past four months. In a lot of ways, my heart is still trying to find it’s bearings after October all but emptied me out. Grief, I’m learning, is no respecter of anyone’s schedule. I wish I could say that coming back here felt like coming home, but that wouldn’t really be true. Honestly, staring at this blank page feels like bumping into a lover from a past life. It feels like trying to rehabilitate a broken bone. Nothing is where it is supposed to be, and every move feels painful and awkward and requires more trust than I think I can muster. It isn’t that I don’t believe that healing can happen in an instant — I do. But that has never been the case with me. So this is where I am now. Busted up, but trying to conjure up the courage to take the next step and the next until the scars fade and this chapter is a memory.

January 1 has come and gone, and I am still learning to lean into the ugly beautiful of a fresh start that I did not choose. This is me, sweaty palms and gritted teeth, finally hitting send on the text message that simply says “I miss you.” Finally starting the work of demolishing the walls held up by my pride.

These are the stories of all the lives that came between us.

 

“Close your eyes and point,” he told me. “We can go anywhere.” All I wanted in that moment was to pack a suitcase and be gone before the world woke up. Walking away looked so damn easy. I wondered if anyone would notice we were gone. Will anyone fight for us? I am asking God.

This place is full of ghosts.

My bones are dry. I’m searching for any sign of life. A whisper that all is not lost, that beauty will rise up from these ashes. A permission slip to cry on the floor of my closet until I can’t breathe, someone to tell me that it is okay to hold out hope, even on the days when it feels like the odds are stacked against me. Especially on those days. Hope isn’t some fragile thing, you know. It isn’t for the faint of heart.

 

“Forgiveness,” my friend tells me, “is one of the most supernatural things a human being can take part in.”

These are words my soul needs to hear, but I resist. This feels like writing the eulogy for a dream. I stand over the grave with my fistfuls of soil, not wanting to let go. Not wanting to pick up this cross.

 

I learned something about panic today, sitting stunned and silent in a pew. The word was born from the name of a false god. I’ve made idols from these dreams, from this semblance of control. I’ve seen the faithfulness of God, but now I’m in the wilderness and everything seems dark and empty and I need something to fix my eyes on. I slice my soul wide open and bleed, desperate to change the course of the story.

 

Will anyone fight for us? And it is not lost on me that he has never stopped fighting. Just perhaps that we’ve been fighting different battles — me for my own dignity and him for his image come to life in me. He’d stitch me up, if I would just be still long enough.

 

Perseverance is the cessation of striving. Hadn’t I learned that? Hadn’t I always known that the invitation was to come and die? Hadn’t I answered that invitation with a confident yes? Hadn’t I always said I believed that wherever God had me really was the safest place?

Death will never feel safe. It will never be the choice option. But it is the only option that leads to life and freedom.

 

I should probably tell you, in case you’re wondering: my idols never answered me. They never loved me back. They never held onto me the way that I held onto them in the middle of the night.

 

Maybe this is what coming home feels like, after all.