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.

Coffee Date No. 8

If we were on a coffee date, I’d probably be drinking an extra hot cappuccino. It snowed in South Carolina over the weekend, and the temperatures haven’t made it much above freezing over the past few days. All I want is to be warm!

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask how you rang in the new year. First, we’d probably talk about the physicality of it. Did you make it till midnight? We were with the Salmon side of the family, and C’s eight year old brother was beyond excited about seeing 12:00. As for us old folks, we made it to see the ball drop, and then, well, we dropped. Then, I might ask you how midnight felt inside your heart. Was it hopeful? Did you get any sense of closure to the wild chapter that was our 2016? Did you feel relieved, or did fear and dread bully their way in?

If we were on a coffee date, I’d have to tell you about my word for 2017 and the kindness of God. Today is January 9, and my word has already shown up in my everyday life in one exceptionally meaningful way. I’m telling you, nothing but the sweetness of Christ. I was reading (well, listening to) Steven Furtick’s book Crash the Chatterbox, and at the end, he talks about 2 Kings 13, and how Elisha tells King Joash to strike the ground with his arrows in order to gain victory over the enemy they’re about to face in battle. If you don’t know Steven Furtick, he is the incredibly passionate and charismatic pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina. Steven brings it home by telling the reader to take up their own arrows to strike the ground before our enemies and never stop. “Pound the ground until you make a rhythm… a heartbeat,” he says. Mic drop. Point taken, God. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

If we were on a coffee date, I might tell you how heavy my heart is these days. I don’t even know how to describe the level of sensitivity I feel towards things that would normally have little effect on me. I feel lonely and frustrated by nearly everything. I can barely scroll through my social networking feeds without crying. I can’t watch awards shows on television without becoming emotional hearing the speeches. And don’t even get me started on Michelle Obama’s last public speech as FLOTUS.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask you if you had read Chip Gaines’ recent blog postYa’ll, I don’t understand why some people have nothing better to do than stir up controversy (something else I’m overly sensitive to lately). Someone recently attempted to get the Gaines’ to speak out against homosexuality. Chip’s response to them is absolutely flawless.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d excitedly tell you that my friend Erin Loechner‘s book Chasing Slow comes out tomorrow! Talk about a beautiful book. I loved every single word of it. I want Erin Loechner to be my best friend and big sister and accountability partner and home stylist, please. This woman is just such an incredible gift, and this book is her broken and mended heart on paper. You definitely need to buy a copy for yourself, your sister, your best friend, and the girl in line behind you in the grocery store.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask you a question that a pastor friend of mine asked on Facebook recently: is it possible to make a difference for Jesus while living a seemingly obscure life? I said a resounding yes. Jesus broke the ladder to come as a baby to earth, born in a town that most thought no good could ever come from. And he said crazy and outlandish things like blessed are those who mourn and the first shall be last and the last shall be first. He doesn’t measure with the same outlook as the world.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about an amazing post by Colleen Mitchell that I read last week. 100 Things I’d Rather Hold in My Hands Than My Phone in 2017. Talk about being convicted. I was watching a documentary on minimalism on Netflix the other day and they said that the average person checks their phone over a hundred times a day. Phew. So I love that Colleen took offensive action and decided to make this list, and I have to ask, what would you rather be holding this year?

If we were on a coffee date, of course, I’d ask how your heart is doing. If its anything like mine, it is coming apart at the seams these days. And I’d try to really listen, because I feel like there’s no better way to truly honor you than by giving my full attention and carrying your story well. So go ahead, tell me about the funniest thing that happened this week or the thing that someone said that made you cry. I am all ears.

 


Coffee dates were born and brewed over at Amber’s place.
She’s currently on hiatus, but we are keeping the fires burning
right here every second Monday of the month. We’d love to meet you here.

2017, your name is Rhythm.

rhythm /ˈriT͟Həm/
noun. 

repeated pattern of movement.
systematic arrangement.
measured flow.
harmonious sequence.

2016 was a bittersweet year. I heard more of God’s voice this year than ever before. I found myself digging through scripture in search of God knows what. 26 years worth of hard questions that well meaning Bible belt Sunday school teachers never taught me how to ask, much less find the answers to.

When real life seemed to be tracking with my best laid plans, feeling light was nearly effortless. On the good days, faith didn’t seem to demand my blood, sweat, and tears. I took leaps and did things that I was afraid to do. I tried, and I tried again. And then, October hit. I say it hit because it came in like a wrecking ball, demolishing those best laid plans. A “dream job” in ministry was lost, we watched our hard won community wither up. There were days when I couldn’t go for more than 17 minutes without crying, days it was actually physically painful to hope — to think it anything other than a total loss. There were rogue feelings of humiliation and betrayal, the ever present temptation to scream at the next person who found me in the shower curtain aisle of Target and offered some pat explanation for our jagged circumstances.

On the not so good days, I chased a lot of the wrong things. Relationships, money, accolades, shiny possessions. I thought 2016 would be the year that I reinvented myself — the year I made my debut as the woman who finally, at long last, had it all together. Like a phoenix risen from the ashes.

What I didn’t realize, of course, is that even though the world loves a good comeback story, no one needs the woman who has it all together. Least of all, me.

What was it that Sabrina Ward Harrison said? Rhythm is in the missed beats.

 

It wasn’t a pretty three months. We argued, trying to memorize all of the ways we kept each other grounded (mostly him keeping me grounded) even though focusing on all the tiny, cutting faults seemed easier. But it was real. And Jesus did show up — in songs and skylines and tiny love letters written in Expo marker on our splotchy bathroom mirror. He was near in ways that I didn’t know how to ask for.

 

The year 2016 was named beloved. And there was evidence of my belovedness at every turn. I could feel myself being chosen, blessed, broken, and given. And the evidence hardly ever showed up in the way I thought it would. God and his kingdom are like that, though, always defying expectations. He has gently reminded me every step of the way that just because the story doesn’t read like I thought it would or think it should doesn’t mean that its all been for naught.

 

I learned this year that walking into the holy, naked intimacy of belovedness looks like laying a lot of things down. It looks a lot like stepping into the light, even though you’re terrified of leaving the safety (or, what feels like safety) of the dark.

2016 is part of the story now, for better or worse. And no matter what 2017 holds, beloved is here to stay. Beloved will be the soil from which everything else grows.

 

That being said, I’m ready to turn the page. It doesn’t feel like a fresh start so much as the next hard step into the light. No fireworks, no accolades, just the next small step towards the person I know I was created to be.

 

Rhythm requires intention and purpose to create something beautiful out of what’s there and what’s not. It demands creativity and perseverance to sift through what truly holds weight in a life, and courage and grace to grieve and let go of those things that never did.

How I treat my body, and how I don’t.

Where I spend my money, and where I don’t.

The thoughts that I choose to fill my mind with, and the ones I don’t.

How I use the time I’ve been given, and how I don’t.

How I make a home in a world that’s not my home.

It all adds up to how this one wild life is poured out. 

 

These days, I find myself craving a slower pace. More simplicity. More on earth as it is in heaven, please. I find the desire to claim my land, to plant seeds. This will be the year I walk out of the woods.

This will be the year that I say no, its okay — we have time for this. 

Time to laugh.

To hold on with open hands.

Time to grow.

For little by little, inch by inch. 

For champagne, even if we drink it out of juice glasses.

Time to fight (sometimes with each other, but always for each other).

Time to give.

Time to pay attention.

For 1,000 piece puzzles on lazy Sunday afternoons.

Time to realize that we are not missing pieces.

 

To shut the door to a life of scarcity and being scared. 

Because what we have right now, today, really is enough.

 

Because we know that being made well always requires that we take up our mats and walk — and that things almost always get messier before they get better. We know that easy and tidy were never the most worthwhile. The gold is found in the cracks, and all that will remain is what I love.

Our cups are spilling over, cracked though they may be.


I was graciously given an advanced copy of my friend Erin Loechner‘s new book, Chasing Slow: Courage to Journey off the Beaten PathI was not required to post a review, however, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was an honor to hold Erin’s heart in my hands and have the opportunity to share them with you. A creator and a curator, Erin’s words are so timely — a much needed balm for this battle weary soul. She offers this book as a love letter to you, from someone who knows both the highs and the lows and the struggle to maintain some semblance of balance and order in the midst of life’s unpredictable circumstances. Chasing Slow is nothing short of a gift, one that I hope you will mosey on over to Amazon and preorder for yourself and your friends and your neighbor and your sister and the lady at the coffee shop. Or, you can find it at a bookstore near you on January 10, 2017. Your heart and soul will thank you for it. 

A love letter to the weary watchers this Advent.

Dear you, dear me, dear weary world, dear us standing together —

When I was growing up, I didn’t know anything about the Liturgical Year. We attended a small Pentecostal church with rusty red carpet and green pews and a hefty pastor and my parents were not well versed in the church calendar. I knew about Daniel and the lion’s den, Esther becoming queen, the prodigal son, and how one time Jesus made a cocktail of spit and dirt and rubbed it in the eyes of a blind man to give him back his sight.

I knew about the highlights. Christmas and Good Friday and Easter and that one Sunday every year when people got really wild and waved palm branches around (that especially embarrassed me). Lent was a time when some people decided to give up chocolate for 40 days, but in the end they just felt like losers, because who could really make it 40 days without chocolate? I knew nothing of Epiphany or Advent or the strings of ordinary time that held them together.

As an adult, I grow more appreciative of the intricacy of the Liturgical calendar with each passing year. This year, Advent, in particular, has opened me up to a kind of awe and wonder that I’ve scarcely ever felt. And it has broken me wide open to an unbridled longing.

 

Aleppo.

Orlando.

Bombs, bullets, all the bullets.

“The gunman was…”

Riots.

Planes falling out of the clear blue sky.

Attacks.

“I moved on her like a bitch…”

Townville, South Carolina — all of fifteen minutes away.

Haunted.

#BlackLivesMatter

Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes.

 

The earth is quaking and we can’t stand by any longer and pretend like the storms are happening somewhere out there. They’re inside of us.

Job loss.

Financial crisis.

Crumbling marriages.

Addiction.

Loneliness.

Disease.

Numb the pain.

Gossip.

Betrayal.

All this loss.

 

And buried somewhere underneath the rubble — the realization that this world is not our home. I knock unrelenting on heaven’s door, pleading.

Where are you? 

Have you left us? 

 

My soul yearns.

 

And then.

A thrill of hope. 

At just the right time.

Our King has come. 

Immanuel, God with us.

 

The greatest gift of all time in the most unexpected package.

At some point, I remember learning that the people with the palm branches in The Bible had the wrong idea about Jesus. They thought he would save them from Caesar, when really, he came to save them from their sin.

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother — and in his name, all oppression shall cease. 

He weeps for them. 

Perhaps there are a handful who know, somehow, somewhere in their souls that nothing would ever be the same again.

 

He didn’t come to make us comfortable. Rather, that in our brokenness, we could be comforted. A holy God saw brokenness as being such an integral part of the human experience that he could not go another moment without putting skin in the game. Jesus didn’t come so that we could climb some corporate ladder or hit it big or simply make ends meet or just do okay or feel high and mighty about our stance on gun control and who can use what bathroom. He didn’t come for us to experience the same old stuff on a different day. He didn’t give his life so that we could walk around with the prerecorded response of fine. 

He came to become a casualty, to be cast aside, to be spit upon and mocked and denied and sold out and it didn’t have to be this way. He took upon himself the punishment that we had coming to us — rescuing us from what we surely deserved.

He came to make Love great again.

We know. We know. 

 

And then he asked us to give our lives as evidence.

“Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Whoever is willing to live in this holy, painful tension — whoever is willing to take up his own cross, to let go of dreams and plans and security and bucket lists in order to be poured out alongside me. 

We are broken, and we are broken for each other. We are poured out, and we are poured out for each other. This is the way of the beloved, the way of being transformed to the image of Christ, whose body was broken and poured out for us.

 

We can be the Aaron’s and Hur’s, holding one another up. We can be a generation of Esther’s who are willing to risk it all to tear down the wall so that all might come in. We can be the peacemakers, the prayer warriors, the 2:00 AM answer on the other end of the phone, the lasagna bringers, the roof rippers, the everyday superheroes, the second mile journeyers, the quiet revolutionaries going about the Father’s business.

We can be poured out, because we know that he always gives more

We are the hearts preparing him room, the hearts who know that he doesn’t come in alone, but rather with a host of broken hearts. He touched the sick, broke bread with whores, and called cheats and liars and back stabbers his best friends. He says they’re with me. And when I begin to catch glimpses of my own heart in the folks he chose to spend his time with, it changes everything.

We’re with him when we stand up for the least and loneliest and the left out — we’re the ones who know that when we give the shirts off our backs, we’re giving to him.

We keep both eyes fixed, not in idle wait, but active watching for what we know is on the horizon.  And we must not grow weary. For at the proper time — at just the right time, harvest season will come. The weary world will rejoice and all will be made well. 

 

Jesus, keep us until that day comes.

So be it.

Coffee Date No. 7

If we were going on a coffee date, I’d suggest someplace local. There are a couple of coffee shops near the university that I am just dying to try. Not that I don’t enjoy a chestnut praline latte in a cheerfully controversial cup, but there is just something so poetic about holing up where the locals go.

If we were on a coffee date, I might share that I’m playing with the idea of launching a lifestyle blog in 2017. Then, I would laugh and shake my head, because my real lifestyle consists of too much ChickfiA and Netflix. I washed the same load of laundry three times this week. I’ve never DIY’d anything in my entire life because patience is not a virtue that comes naturally to me. And I rarely use my Ulta card. So, yeah.

If we were on a coffee date, I would share this liquid eyeliner that I am absolutely over the moon for (since we’re on the subject of going to Ulta). This stuff dries down fast and seriously stays put.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d have to tell you that my friend Erin Loechner wrote a book and I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek! Reading Erin’s words, having them in my hand, feels like going to lunch with an old and dear friend. I could sit with her for hours and feel like no time has passed at all. I absolutely could not adore her more. These pages are an invitation to take a deep and healing breath.

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask how you feel about the holidays. Are you missing a loved one, pining for someone to love, battling depression or anxiety? Which of your relatives is the hardest to shop for? Do you abide by the whole want/need/wear/read structure when purchasing gifts for the kids? Is there a movie that you watch every year? How do you divide your time between your family and your spouse’s family?

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tear up when I tell you how much I love Advent. Growing up, my parents were not well versed in the church calendar, but as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate it. Advent in particular causes me to slow down and take notice. I want this awe and wonder to permeate every minute of every day.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask about what you’ve learned in 2016. I love the spiritual discipline of keeping an eye on how God is moving and keeping track of the things that he is teaching you. For me, more than anything, God has shown himself to be a faithful provider. He reminded me that more often than not, the greatest gifts come in the most unexpected packages. And he showed me the beautiful importance of leading with my limp.

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask how you do January 1. Do you make a list of resolutions? Do you outline core desired feelings? Do you choose one word to guide you through the year? I’ve tried all three, and am the self-proclaimed worst at simple goal setting. As an INFJ, I shy away from sharing my goals with others because I hate the idea of anyone seeing me come up short. I also have a love/hate relationship with accountability that makes it hard to involve others in my goal setting process. That said, according to Gretchen Rubin’s quiz on habits, I’m an obliger, which, in a nutshell, means that I am more likely to keep promises to others than I am to keep promises I make to myself. So I’m basically ruined for resolutions and goal setting. And while I do have a handful of core desired feelings that I like to keep in mind, what has worked best for me is choosing one word to meditate on for the year. I’d ask if I was rambling and you would tell me to shut up and do the work, because that’s what good friends do.

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask how your heart is today. I saw this tweet the other day, and man, it is so true. We have the opportunity to honor one another with our fully attentive presence, and I want to be someone who does this well and without any hesitation.

 

What would you tell me if we were on a coffee date? 
I’d love for you to share either in your own post
(don’t forget to link up!) or in the comments below.

The new normal.

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I haven’t really written in a couple months. I’ve told the story to a few close friends, but I haven’t really known how to tell it here. I wish I could say that coming back felt like meeting an old and dear friend — the kind that you can just pick back up where you last left off and feel like no time has passed at all. But really, this doesn’t feel much like that. I’m not the same person I was before October happened. Truthfully, I’m still trying to process the fact that October happened. 

“I feel like I’ve gone through some strange metamorphosis.” I say it out loud to someone, almost without meaning to.

 

Most days, I want life with God to be more like a sprint and less like a marathon. I want to be holy now, want this whole purification thing to take no more time than instant macaroni or a Poptart. But being made well doesn’t happen overnight — at least not in my experience thus far. Love moves slow, because love understands worth.

 

“I try to remember,” I say to a friend as we sip our holiday coffee, “that I have an enemy — and it isn’t the people who hurt me.” Sure, it may seem that way in the heat of the moment, when feelings are fresh and the sting of grief leaves me stunned — when I watch as the trauma brings any semblance of normalcy to a screeching, burning halt. Lashing out and spewing every last ugly thought is what feels good and right, and I am tempted. Except I cannot escape this thought: when Jesus died, I died. Now, every hurt or triumph I encounter in this life must be viewed through a new lens: the lens of the cross.

“Not that that makes this any less painful,” I continue. “I’m not naive enough to think that any of what happened is okay.”

The pain demands to be felt.

“I’m just learning to trust that he is making me okay.”

When our hard won community withered, when I reached the end of my rope and the bottom fell out like a hidden trap door underneath me — grace caught me. He allowed the air to remain in me.

 

I look at the new chapter that is 2017, and my heart is deeply ready. 

Not that we know where we’re going or how we’re going to get there, because we don’t. But we trust that he goes before us.

“I go knowing that I am cherished and cared for and deeply beloved.”

I believe that now in a way that I hadn’t dared to believe it before. And believing it has changed me — rescued and ransomed pieces of my soul that I had rather let lay in the grave.

 

Nouwen writes that as Christ’s living body on earth, we are taken, blessed, broken, and given to the world — just as he was taken, blessed, broken, and given for us.

The past two months have broken me.

What offers me the most comfort these days is how Jesus looked at brokenness as being such an integral part of living that he was willing to forsake glory to experience it with us. He chose it for my sake. I’m grateful for the grace upon grace of it all. In awe of the abundance. 

 

But he gives more. 

 

I find myself wanting to live out of that more, to live as though Christ in me, the hope of glory, can never run out. To live like he is close, that he wants to be close, and that his love for me goes on and on.

To shut the door to a life of scarcity and being scared.

Because I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize that I was a grace and glory hoarder. When you catch a glimpse of the way of the beloved, you want everyone you know to come with you. Therein lies the secret of the givenness.

 

I’m not the same person I was a few months ago, I tell her. She is patient and kind and offers the kind of soul deep hospitality that my heart has been longing for.

I walk with a limp now, a soul war torn from these battles in the wilderness. But you don’t get to the abundance any other way. There are no shortcuts to holiness, no formula that makes sanctification more palatable or predictable.

But he makes the scars beautiful. He makes beautiful things from us.