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. 

The new normal.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset 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.

The long way home.

I've started to write this post a dozen times in as many days. I've looked forward to writing it for a long time, without knowing what these days would look like. This time last year, I didn't know where my feet would wind up. Bob Goff once said that sometimes, as followers of Jesus, we get to leap before we look. This time last year, I would have put on my best game face and told you I knew what that meant. I thought I knew a lot of things back then. But the reality is that life with Jesus is an endless process of unlearning all those things you thought you knew.  It is about finding your place in the tension filled days of being and becoming. Your place is in him. It has always been in him, and it will always be in him, forever and ever amen.


The Wednesday morning ladies are knee deep in the story of Gomer and Hosea. If you've ever doubted that scripture should be paired with fine wine, the book of Hosea will be all the convincing that you need. It is all about a man who sets out to marry an unfaithful woman just because he loves her. When she falls head over heels in love with the world and everything but her husband, he goes to find her, naked and ashamed on an auction block, and buys her back. Its a jealous scandal of a love story, and it has my name written all over its pages.

It seems so fitting that we're studying these scriptures now. For the past 365 days, I've been in the woods. I used to romanticize the woods. Whenever a favorite writer of mine would talk about her own woods experience, I would nod along, totally believing that I was right there with her. I thought that just because I was in a hard season, I could name it whatever I liked, and woods was what was in vogue. I coveted the stories of those who seemed to have this whole lost and found thing all figured out, or at least more figured out than I did. But I was wrong. There is nothing romantic about being in the woods. But I've learned it is a place for falling in love. And I was only just receiving my own invitation.

"Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. -- Hosea 2:14, NIV

The woods is where he gets you alone so he can win you back. The winning back is beautiful and victorious and everything that you just know deep down in your heart it will be, but the same thing is true for the alone part. This is the part that when you pray for it, people tell you to be careful. I never really understood why church folk will tell you to be careful what you pray for, as if God could give anything other than good gifts.

I tell you that to tell you this: I thought that moving to South Carolina would fix me. I thought it would be a fresh start, and that I could effortlessly be whoever I wanted to be. I thought South Carolina was my chance to take the pen and write a better ending.

I didn't expect that the past year would be one of the loneliest uphill battles. I didn't know how many times I would raise my fists at heaven and tell him he got it wrong and that we didn't actually belong here. If we belonged here, it wouldn't be so hard. If this is where we were supposed to be, then I shouldn't feel so alone. I would feel seen and wanted and appreciated here if this was my intended destination. But I didn't actually feel any of those things. Some days, I still don't.

Yeah, that Bible -- I see so much of myself in its pages. I know my lines by heart, a truth that shakes me straight down to my core.

The wilderness is the place where all our idols and identities are wrecked. It is an operating room, and make no mistake, the blade hurts like hell. I had a professor tell me once that the problem with living sacrifices is that we're always crawling back off the altar, and now I know why that's true.

He asks do you want identity? Find it in me.

You want peace? Find it in me.

You want beauty? Find it in me.

You want purpose? Find it in me?

You want wholeness? Find it in me. 

This love, this wilderness, this healing -- it isn't the tidy kind. It is bloody and dirty and gritty like spending a fortune, a life to buy you back. Even on the days when you never asked to be saved.

Most of the days, it won't feel like being saved. Most days, it will feel a lot like losing and being lost and there's an enemy who would love nothing more than for you to believe that grace stops short of the end of your rope.

But it doesn't.

I don't know why this love. I surely didn't earn it. It isn't the story I would have written for myself, and I know it is far from over. Some days, I feel like the way out of the woods is so close, but then I get turned around again and he winds up saying hey, I'm not finished with you yet. 

He is still naming me, still asking me to come home, even if we have to go the long way.