A lifeboat for July: 31 in 31 with me and Rachel Dawson

On our way to the grocery the other day, I told C that I have been struggling to find the light lately. I don't know if it's just a hard season, or if it's rooted a little more deeply than that, but I've found myself groping around for a little bit of hope. What I do know is that I'm not alone. A handful of friends both online and IRL have expressed that they, too, are feeling anxious or depressed or in need of something to look forward to to help them keep going lately.

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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!

Thoughts on safe spaces and how to survive the world.

I wake up early, turning my alarm off and scrolling to see that #HowToSurviveTwitter is trending. The irony of this isn't lost on me: these social networks designed to bring us closer together are actually enabling seeds of bitterness and division to flourish. My heart feels so heavy lately that I wonder if any words will wander in at all, for fear that this weight in my chest will suck the life right out of them. And I don't know if I can handle any more death. Some days, it feels like nothing is safe or sacred or beautiful anymore, and I know when I get these spirally feelings, the only sure solution is to unplug -- to immerse myself in scripture and an extra hot bath.

The truth is, I've spent most of my life trying to save myself. Trying to measure up. Trying to prove to you that I am worthy of love and that I'm not too much trouble. I've been trying to preserve my own way of thinking and acting and I hold onto my own comfort so tightly that my hands burn and blister raw. I've looked for safety in all the wrong places.

Isn't that all we want at the end of the day? Isn't safety the driving force behind everything we do, from buying organic eggs to dropping bombs?

Our craving for safety leads us to lock our doors, and fear bullies us into locking our hearts. What we don't realize when we throw away the key, though, is that we haven't only insulated ourselves from brokenness -- we've also actively refused the remedy for our anxieties.

He who wishes to save his life must lose it.

If there's one thing I know for sure now, it is that the answers are rarely as simple as we want them to be. An old friend told me recently that we are all being thrown into shades of gray, and I tend to believe that's true. So I'm trying not to be too prescriptive these days -- except when it comes to love. I believe that we can choose to love because God loved us first, and he so loved our world.

Love begins with the willingness to see. And when we open our eyes, we will see the brokenness of the world -- the differences that seem to refuse reconciliation. That same friend asked me the other day how we can choose to love each other in spite of these differences, and my only thought was that we simply hold onto each other, leaning into the tension together until all is reconciled. Because we know that the story ends at the table, with a family. We know that in the end, all will be made well. Fear has an expiration date. When we open up our eyes, we will see the beautiful parts of the world -- the evidence of redemption. And sometimes, we will see that the line between ugly and beautiful gets blurry -- like how the scorch of the forest fire makes the soil more fertile, or how a seed must be buried and break open in order for what's inside to reach the surface.

And we can choose to be kind, because there isn't one of us who isn't feeling more than a little buried and broken, and sometimes it is hard to know which way is up.

We can go out on a limb and tell the truth when someone asks us how we're doing. Sure, it might be shocking at first, but I'm learning that it is only when we lay down our own fig leaves of fine that other people will feel freed up to do the same. Instead of shouting our opinions from the rooftops of Facebook and Twitter, we can choose to boldly whisper our stories in the presence of friends. We can put down our devices long enough to learn the names of our neighbors and listen to the worries of our kids.

When we open our eyes and our ears and our hands, we begin to see that the issues we go on and on about affect real people on our own streets, and I’m convinced there’s something about looking into someone else’s eyes that shocks our own hearts into rhythm. When we crack open the doors to our own truths in the presence of others, we crack open the doors to healing. This is how we move from being spectators to the redemption story to being participants with Christ.

He looked us in the eyes wasn't afraid of us sticking our hands in his wounds.

I know that living this way, broken wide open, will hurt, and I can't tell you with any certainty that it will ever hurt less. That is the ugly-beautiful tension of it all: the surgeon's cut is always the first step towards surviving and healing.

This isn't meant to be a political statement. I just mean to say that I'm tired of being afraid. The days of injustice are numbered, but love lasts. And don't we all want to be part of something that lasts? I'm learning how to be a safe space for the people I love. And I'm learning how to find safe spaces in them as well. The world needs safe spaces. Because I know that if we are going to survive, it will be together.

With each other and for each other. And that will be enough.

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.

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.