A few things that I'm loving this summer.

Jonathan David & Melissa Helser's podcast. // This is changing everything for me right now. I crave Jesus so much more because of this couple.

Shannan Martin on how proximity changes how we look at politics. // From the first time I encountered Shannan's words, she has been a hero of mine. I can see the fruit of her passion for Jesus and his kingdom. She's living it, and I'm constantly in awe.

My favorite lip balm for any time of year.

Our dear friend Kevin chatting about letting people come past our front porch. // Because people won't feel welcome in our churches until they feel welcome in our lives.

Just plain good advice.

The Big Sick // We laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed. One of the sweetest, most honest movies I have ever seen.

So many pretty, pretty things.

Trips home, and trips that take us 1,000 miles away. (Happy 4th anniversary to us! ♥)

Such an incredible honor to help get this wild, beautiful book into your hands.

Kaleb's thoughts on prayer. // "God hangs his reputation on the work he is doing in you." (Sermon starts 25:57).

Feed me this spaghetti and tell me you love me.

This drugstore mascara outperforms one that costs three times as much.

"Love, wounded a word as it may be, love can see all of it. I am determined to see all of it. I do not get to go blind again." // Say it louder, Buddy.

 

What are you loving this summer? Let me know in the comments below. Sharing is caring!

sabbath and the church of clean bed sheets.

Tonight, church looks like stretching out under freshly washed bed sheets with a lavender candle flickering on the side table. I can barely hear the hum of the dryer over the worship album flooding through my headphones. It is Saturday. Sabbath. These ordained moments, preciously crafted to remind me that rest was never an afterthought. These moments, intricately designed to still my soul and return my attention to Father God.

Tomorrow, things change. I have known this for going on four weeks now, and have forced myself to be cautiously optimistic. Whenever someone asked me if I am excited for what is to come, this is how I have described myself, trying not to let on that change has never been something that I have relished, especially when the plucking from all familiarity is completely beyond my control.

This place is where I come to tell the truth: I am deeply afraid. But you already knew that. Fear has never had to force its way to center stage in my life, simply because I have never really had the courage to stand up to it. Perhaps what I'm realizing tonight, the truth that leaves me lying awake, is that that is beginning to change, too. It is an uncomfortable revelation, because I have learned there is a certain feeling of security that comes with allowing fear to run the show.

That verse about fear and love not being able to coexist? I've always known it. But what the mind has filed away doesn't always find its way to the heart, and trust is a path not quickly or easily worn.

Call me crazy, but I feel like I'm about to go on a date with God. 

I never went on many dates, but on the rare occasion that I was asked, I would always stand in front of the closet for what seemed like hours trying to decide between classic black and something more bold and adventurous. I would fret over the possibility of getting spinach stuck in my teeth or saying the wrong thing, after which the date would consist solely of awkward silence. And I would try to recollect all the small details about my life that seemed impressive and enticing. The possibility would absolutely terrify and excite me.

Something is different about this, though.

He already loves me. Just the way I look tonight. I am unarmed and I am undone. 

Nothing I could boast will impress him. No flaw will deter him. But I try anyway. Like Gideon, crouched in hiding, I whisper through the tears: surely, you have chosen the wrong person for this victory, this wild love affair.

His response is always the same. He simply asks me to trust him through the uncertainty. He asks if he can go before me, and I can tell, he's hoping this time his pleas will get stuck in the cracks of my worn out heart. His face is tender as he quietly speaks a bigger truth: striving has never been the way to meet love. I breathe deep. We both know that I am exhausted.

A friend told me this years ago, and her words have never left me: everything Jesus is says that it is okay to be weary. Everything about him says that it is okay to be uncertain. We simply have to be willing to bend a little, and it is okay to acknowledge that flexibility doesn't happen overnight. It takes practice and discipline and showing up, even when you're scared, and even when inspiration seems to have stood you up.

For the first time, perhaps in my entire life, my hunger for the love weighs more than my fear of the uncertainty. It outweighs my perceptions of control and safety, which can't save me, even on my best days. My hunger for this love affair is more intense than any desire for success or popularity or any trivial thing that I have worked to earn.

Because what I can be certain of is that if I let him go before me, I can trust that he will catch me. He will dust me off and sweep me off my feet again. I can feel him beginning to win my heart; fear being crowded out as he patiently woos me.

And I want to keep showing up for this. Because the greatest love stories always grow from uncertainty, closing your eyes, and leaping anyway.

 

thoughts on leaving & fresh starts.

I've spent the past few days at home, recuperating from a car accident. Most of that time has been spent sleeping, but during my few waking hours, I have had a lot of time to think about what is to come in the next days and weeks. Naturally, I have tried to drown the thoughts with endless episodes of Law & Order SVU and documentaries on the royal family. I've spent time browsing Facebook, trying to catch up on highlights that seem to constantly reel from everyone's life but mine. It was there that I stumbled across a photograph of a girl sitting in a little cafe in the heart of New York City.

The caption read: I'm twenty-four, and I'm already on my third fresh start.

As much as I tried, I couldn't shake it. She was beautiful, and her words resonated somewhere deep in my soul, and I am a romantic at heart.

I think back to the beginning of college, and how in those days, I felt every bit like a Pablo Neruda poem. Everything felt transformed, the way you feel when you can finally breathe deep the coming of a new season. I could be whoever I wanted to be. I would sit for hours on the patio of our little cafe and become totally submersed in the beauty and mystery of words. I fell hard for a boy who was rugged and adventurous and passionate and refused to back down from an opportunity to share the Jesus that he knew, even if that Jesus didn't look quite like the other person's. In my mind, he broke all the right rules and embodied all the things that I wanted to be. When his car pulled into a space in front of the campus coffee shop, my heart would always skip a beat. I wanted to be the girl who impressed him. A year and a half later, his body would dissolve under the weight of the cancer, which was probably there before we even said our first hello's. Now, I remember him with fondness and respect, and it has taken me this long to realize that even though he was deeply loved by all who knew him, he was a person with flaws and fears the same as my own.

Then, I fell head over heels for a boy that lived half way across the country. He had wooed me with his smooth compliments and messy hair, and we would instant message until the wee hours of the morning. He was charming and funny, making comments about how he thought of me every time that Bruno Mars song came on the radio. He had all but convinced me to drop my whole life and move to Texas when one day, he asked me if we could have a conversation that didn't involve God. Needless to say, things quickly devolved after that, and my friends held a legitimate intervention over cold cafeteria lunch.

Eventually, I married one of those friends. And I haven't looked back. Grace is always inviting us to look forward.

But my pendulum hasn't stopped swinging. For every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction, and when trying to be mysterious and hiding bottles of red wine under my bed in my dorm room stopped working, I put all of my striving towards being the good girl. I wanted to be the perfect wife, the perfect homemaker, the perfect accountability partner, the perfect church greeter. I wanted the words I wrote to be syrupy sweet, which was a stark contrast to the dark and gritty words I had penned in the years earlier. To be fair, I was never really in danger of being a "bad" girl, but the idea of being someone else was intoxicating. It never really mattered who -- I just wanted to be someone, anyone else. The me that I knew on the inside was on the edge.

Maybe that has always been the case. I have lived completely enamored by the idea of being anyone other than myself. I have been willfully cruel to my heart and my body. I have fallen victim to and become addicted to comparing myself to others. Envy is a drug that will cause you to rot from the inside out.

⋅⋅⋅

That has always been me: the girl with no permeable membrane. I absorb everything without any regard for the consequences. I carry headlines and tragedy and grief and responsibility around with me in heavy suitcases, and can't remember a time when I felt light. As long as I can hide behind the heaviness, I don't have to deal with the truth of what's going on inside my soul. Chesterton was right, it is easy to be heavy. Eventually, you completely forget that you can't breathe. Even on the good days, the whole of your life could be chalked up to simply surviving.

When I chose bloom as my word for the year, I didn't realize how difficult the lesson would be. But isn't that just like God? We plan our way, but he determines our steps. I didn't realize how much work it would take, how much introspection would be required of me. I am an expert at avoiding the ugly places -- the places I'm still afraid to admit are barren and parched. The places I'm honest-to-God terrified of surrendering.

Yeah, those places exist. I'm not proud of them. Really, I'd rather keep them hidden for all eternity. But hiding isn't exactly conducive to any sort of growth.

I figured I would start small. Even though we were in a town that we felt no affection toward, I committed to not have such a bad attitude about it. Or at least try not to have such a bad attitude. Then I worked halfheartedly on my attitude about my job, my marriage, my ministry, my body. I invited other twentysomething women over for dinner. I started tithing and volunteering more at church. I thought if I could perform better, faster, and stronger, blooming would happen naturally. What I didn't realize, and perhaps avoided realizing, was that blooming had nothing to do with my performance and everything to do with where I was remaining. I was remaining in my own perception of security, my personal ivory tower of Babel, trying to work my way into the good graces of a God that I had invented.

You guys, I can talk such a big talk. It is scary how well I wear these masks. But it is time to get real.

⋅⋅⋅

To remain is to stay, persist, abide, and endure. None of these things has ever come easily to me. I suppose, like any good thing, remaining takes practice. It takes giving everything over to the discipline -- to eat it, sleep it, breathe it.

Breathe it. 

His name literally means the sound of breathing. Can I actually force myself to settle down and cope with something so simple? That's the thing about this faith -- it always manages to turn common sense on its head.

To remain is to wrestle -- to wrestle with the God of the universe and hand over all of my insecurities and my frustrations on the days where I want to shake my fists and ask what the hell he was thinking when he decided to make someone like me.  To wrestle like Jacob, who refused to let go until he received the blessing.

There's a longing inside of me, a hunger for the real God -- not the one I've made up to suit my own personal preferences and agenda. Most of the time, that God would eventually morph into a failure seeking fear monger.  Who would want to give their heart over to that?

⋅⋅⋅

I don't really know why I've written all of this down. I guess it is because my husband and I are getting ready to move and I am nervous. It is a fresh start -- another chance to start over and be anyone I want to be. A chance to impress people with my little bit of mystery, my love for documentaries, my dupe for Carrabba's delicious olive oil bread dip, and a blog that has been read on five continents.

But I've been defining myself by those things for too long. I want to leave them behind and make room for my soul to breathe -- to unpack the baggage, to learn what it means to cease striving and simply be; to remain solely in Christ, apart from whom I can do nothing. I wonder at what it must be like to walk in that kind of freedom. I've decided that more than I want people to be impressed by what I can do, I want them to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am seeking the kingdom first. In the curves of my body, the recesses of my mind, and the depths of my soul. But first I have to know that for myself.

It is hard to be light. But I'd like to try.

The atrophy and the harvest.

If I could only make use of one word to describe my feelings and thoughts over the past few months, it would be hungry. Like the kind of hungry you get when you've skipped lunch and now can't decide what you want for dinner because each idea sounds more enticing than the last.

It started back in April, when my husband announced that he wanted to begin looking for a new place to live. In the beginning, I tried to shake the nagging thought that if I just had enough faith, a door would open for us to return to the town where we lived in college -- where we still have close friends and faithfully attend church. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was an unlikely scenario, but I hoped for it anyway, in spite of the overwhelming odds. Eventually, I even became frustrated with God, who seemed to hide away in silent ignorance of my longing.

⋅⋅⋅

At the same time as we were searching for a new place to live, I was reading Shauna Niequist's book Bittersweet. Its the kind of book that you could easily devour in a single lazy afternoon, but it is so good that you would never want to. I made her words last for three whole weeks, carefully counting each one and considering the lesson it wanted to teach me. I turned the words over like stones, feeling their weight in my palms.

I've never been good at living in the bittersweet tension of right here and right now. I live in haste -- craving God's plan for tomorrow, and ignoring the plan that he has for today.

⋅⋅⋅

The summer of 2011, I fell and broke my leg while working at a camp at college. I knew the instant it happened that it was bad, and I remember the doctor telling me, with shockingly poor bedside manner, just how bad it was. The bone was broken clean through just above my ankle, which had been dislocated, and I had fractured a bone in my foot.

The group of fellow leaders prayed for healing, softly laying hands on my pitifully casted limb. But there was no instantaneous healing. Instead, there was surgery and physical therapy. As painful as the physical injury was, some instances of vulnerability were even more so. And I remember the day when a friend nervously told me that he questioned whether or not the lack of healing was due to his own lack of faith.

⋅⋅⋅

When I was preparing to graduate from college, I had this fear that the school would find a reason to withhold my diploma. I imagined them combing my academic file with a fine toothed comb, in search of even the smallest setback. I'm sorry, we cannot let you graduate, they would say. You have a seven cent fine in the library. Or worse, we recalculated the points for your statistics final, and you did not pass the course. I was considering all the scenarios, even as my class practiced entering the chapel, rising and being seated on cue. My gut lurched at the thought of the past four years of blood, sweat, and tears being for naught.

And now, looking back, I wonder. Is this really how I view God? Like some distant registrar, combing through a file in search of failure? Waiting until the last possible moment, when all my hopes are up, to let me know I still owe him?

 ⋅⋅⋅

When I finally took the moon boot off of my newly healed leg, half of my calf muscle had all but disappeared. I think it was Danielle LaPorte who talked about how the desire muscle can atrophy. It was one of those concepts that left me short of breath, realizing that my dreams are chilling out on the back burner, their consistency being morphed into that of day old oatmeal.

I've talked a lot about my dreams lately, but I haven't been terribly specific. I'm also not very explicit about my goals -- mostly because accountability makes me squeamish, and the last thing I want to do is disappoint. I'm afraid of what will happen if the engine stalls. So for the most part, I settle for simply wishing things were different.

I do this with God, too. I want him, but at the same time, I'm afraid to want him. I echo Flannery O'Connor's prayer, dear God, I cannot love thee the way I want. 

Recently, I threw my prayer journal across my bedroom in a fit of frustration. I wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible after coming to the incredibly painful realization that I have been holding back. There were so many things I was unable to scribble out onto the pages that night. But how on earth do I even begin to explain to God just how hungry I am --  and how I'm ashamed to admit that I've asked him just to throw me a bone instead of going hard after the whole harvest?

I want to know his wild thoughts, to walk in ways that are higher than my own. I want the green pastures.

 ⋅⋅⋅

I've always been mesmerized by other people's pastures. The days and weeks have quickly turned into months and years as I have fought to contort myself, make myself look more like them so maybe I could snatch a piece of their harvest. I'm always forgetting the truth: my failed attempts to be other people are of no use; he just wants me: my dreams, my wrecks, my fears of being small, my willfulness, my heart. 

All this time, I've feared specificity. I've always thought that if I'm too specific, I probably won't find exactly what I want. But James says that we do not have because we do not ask. The simplicity of grace always leaves me breathless, wanting more.

So I prepare to break up the hardened ground, in hopes that the seeds find good soil.