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. 

Coffee Date | Six

Processed with VSCO with a5 presetPssst! Coffee dates were born and brewed over at Amber's place.She's currently taking a hiatus from the blogging world, but the coffee's always on here. 

If we were on a coffee date, I would be drinking a hot peppermint mocha. I wait patiently while the whole world loses its mind over pumpkin spice, and then become giddy when the wintery drinks come out. Chocolate and mint together is one of my very favorite things.

If we were on a coffee date, I might tell you about how I've struggled with community lately. Is being in community ever not a struggle? I don't know. This past month and a half has just been so lonely, and I still think to myself on a daily basis that I never would have chosen this. But I try to forge ahead, knowing that the growing can only happen through the dying. I'm grateful for the way His love pursues.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you that saying something is always better than not. I'll be the first to admit, it can be tempting to not say anything to someone who I know is struggling. I don't want to say the wrong thing and appear insensitive, and sometimes I simply want to give people their privacy. I believe that people are generally well meaning in this. But not saying anything at all can make someone feel so painfully alone. All it takes is a gentle I'm so sorry, and I'm here. Those six simple words can make a world of difference.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd share that I'm nervous about visiting a new church. Last month, our time with the church we have been part of for six years (our entire adult lives) came to an abrupt end. Feelings are still fresh, and I'm still attempting to process them. One thing I don't want is to bring bitterness into a new body or be hesitant of new connections. I'd ask if you would pray for us in this.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask what you're reading. Right now, I'm knee deep in Ann Voskamp's new book, The Broken Way, and I couldn't love it more. I got to meet Ann at a book signing in Atlanta for my birthday and she is every bit as beautiful up close as she is on her blog and in her books.

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that your identity is not a brand. This is something I have to remind myself of on the daily, especially since I spend a fair amount of time on the internet. My virtual village is made up of photographers and artists and strategists and people who make money doing things that didn't exist this time last year. And everyone is worried about marketing and branding, but I am just a girl who loves words and people and my website isn't fancy and so sometimes it can be hard to find my place. But our identities are not brands or trends or fads or movements, and we don't have to hustle to market or pitch our souls.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask if you've seen this study, and I'd tell you that it breaks my heart. I wanted to shake everyone I saw in Target today and say "are you really okay being the driving force behind your neighbor's fear?" Because I'm not okay with it. But since shaking total strangers in the middle of the aisle with the laundry detergent probably isn't the best idea, I'm choosing to write love letters instead. Because I want people to know that they are most beautiful where they're broken and strongest where they limp. We all are, and that is how we'll get through this.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd share this from Liz Gilbert (warning: strong language). And then I'd ask how you make the balance work best for you, because figuring it out is tough.

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask how your heart is and how I could pray for you. And I'd really try to listen. I'd leave my cell phone in my bag because the world is distracting but you are more important, and I'd want you to know that by giving you my full attention.

So tell me, friend. What would you share on our coffee date? Tell me in the comments or link up your own blog post below. 

Coffee Date | Five

Processed with VSCO with b2 preset

Coffee dates were born and brewed over at my friend Amber's place. 

If were were on a coffee date, I would not be drinking anything pumpkin spiced. It just isn't my favorite. I don't mind it, but if there are other options available, I'd surely go with mocha or caramel first. Also, because it is early October in the south, the weather can't make up its mind right now on issues of temperature, but I'd probably go with a hot drink, just because I am nostalgic for these cooler days.

If we were on a coffee date, I might share that my heart is so heavy lately. There has been more than enough loss and pain to go around these past couple weeks, and I'll be honest, I've questioned a lot. I know God is good, and I know that he has good plans, but did his plans have to include this? And I might ask you to pray: for my husband and I, for our friends, for our community, our country, our world.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask how your heart is. And I'd leave enough silent space for you to gather whatever thoughts needed to spill out. Sometimes I think we lack a sense of reverence for that space. And maybe we would cry, because I'm doing a lot of that these days.

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask you about transitions (Amber and I have this in common). Because we're in the middle of a huge and unexpected one. We have the opportunity to change a lot of things, and neither one of us is sure exactly which direction we will end up going. I don't tend to flourish in seasons of change, and trust isn't always my first response when life doesn't go the way I hoped, so I would be open to advice.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you I'm really sitting down with Uninvited, and I'm bawling my way through itMaybe because a lot of Lysa's story resonates so closely with my own. Maybe because it is so timely for this season that we've been thrust into so unexpectedly. These words have been a balm.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask about your village. I'm grateful that mine includes a couple of people who will take me to Taco Bell at 10:30 at night and listen no matter what. If you don't have those people, please find some. Do whatever you need to do. Be vulnerable. Say yes to coffee dates and trips to the mall and nights spent laughing about old boyfriends over craft beer. Find people who have your back, and who love you just because.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd remind you that you are worthy of loving. I'd tell you about the fire I see inside your bones and how much light you give to the world, and I'd thank you for showing up because showing up is hard as hell sometimes. I'd ask you to please keep showing up, even on the hard days, because we need you. I'd tell you again, we need you.

What would you tell me if we were on a coffee date? Link up your own post, or share in the comments below.

A few goals for October.

Processed with VSCO with c3 preset Its only three days into the month, which means it isn't too late to share some goals for October, right? I didn't think so, either.

October goals

+ Work on adopting healthy rhythms, including tracking our spending, staying at home more, cooking yummy food, working with LG on her colors, staying on top of the household chores, heart checks with people I love, date night, disconnecting from the internet, quiet time and prayer, and self-care routines.

+ Count the fruit. I'm thinking about starting a gratitude journal this month, or at least being intentional to share here about what's growing and bringing joy.

+ Read 3 books. I won't attempt to commit to three specific books, because when I do that, I always end up going in an entirely different direction. But I have a couple hours to read in the morning before LG wakes up, and a couple hours (fingers crossed) in the afternoon when she naps, so I really have no excuse to not read all the books.

+ Start praying about my word for 2017. Honestly, I just typed that and snorted, because 2017 doesn't even feel like a real year. But of course, it is real, and it is only three months away! I can't wait to see where God will choose to take me in the coming year!

What are some of your goals for the month? I'd love nothing more than to cheer you on!

Currently | September


loving | Fall weather! This morning, it was chilly enough to need a light jacket, so basically, I'm in heaven now. Reuniting with my man after a week spent apart. Sudden rainstorms as viewed from my porch. Also, the unexpected gift of a long weekend and celebrating friends' birthdays with surprise flower deliveries.

wanting | I can't say I want for much these days, but I am definitely going to go out and purchase this vest this weekend. I will wear it with everything.

needing | Our whole community needs peace after Wednesday. Pray for us, especially sweet baby Jacob and his family?

watching | New Girl and Law & Order SVU (Hulu has ALL the episodes).

listening | Colin & Caroline's cover of The Chainsmokers and this worship song on repeat.

reading | Jess Connolly's blog about being a caesar salad, Hosea with my bible study group, Simply Tuesday with my book club, and a hundred other things.

learning | More and more everyday about being the beloved of Jesus.

feeling | A bit tired and drained, but so very grateful.

craving | Comfort food = pork roast with sweet potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts, and green beans.

smelling | This candle makes my apartment smell so dreamy, but it isn't overpowering.

laughing at | This video"If Apple made a stadium, would it be called the MacArena?"

celebrating | One year anniversary of being in South Carolina. 

Tell me all the things about your September? 

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.