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. 

Emmanuel, 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 busy or 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 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.

white coat hypertension

bwfount It is a Wednesday. The nurse tries her best to hide the sense of alarm rising up her gaze as it falls on the screen. The numbers shouldn't be that high. The cuff tightens, and I try to breathe, try to keep my knees still. My heart beats, and I can almost hear it, and I think what in the world am I doing here? I am telling the truth. I am saying it out loud.

The doctor calls it white coat hypertension: a common spike in blood pressure occurring in a medical setting  in otherwise healthy individuals. Months earlier, they had done blood work and an echocardiogram because the numbers were too high. Everything turned out to be fine. I try to remember that I am okay.

I tell her that I used to start my day by reading the news, but not anymore. I tell her about the panic attack, how I felt as though I had been run over by a semi-truck all the next day. I tell her about my leg muscles seizing in the middle of the night, and how my patient husband would massage the extremity until relief finally came. I tell her about the last time I self-harmed.  I tell her about the sense of dread -- that Fear has been running the show, and I will do anything to get my life back.

What I don't tell her is that when I called the crisis hotline as a teenager, no one answered. No one told me that depression is every bit as devastating as cancer. I don't tell her that I wake up in the middle of the night crying, and that I can't remember the last time I showered. I don't tell her that sometimes when I'm driving, I want to leave this place and never come back.

I already feel like a fool for saying so much, for actually telling her that I am familiar with the symptoms. I tell her that I must be a doctor's least favorite kind of patient, knowing just enough to get me into trouble. She is kind, and says that it sounds a lot like clinical depression.

I have clinical depression. It is also called major depression.

The enemy that has remained aloof for the better part of a decade had finally been given a name. I didn't know if what I felt was relief. I had always known its face, and could see it coming from a mile away.

The doctor interrupts my thoughts. She says there are medications, and that sometimes that is the best course of action. She says that the side effects should only last for a couple of weeks, and that if I needed anything, I could call her any time. The pharmacist warns that the nausea is the worst of all, and I find that he is right. My stomach churns for days, and seemingly stops like clockwork just as they predicted.

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Every Wednesday evening, a group of teenagers and a handful of twentysomething leaders meet in the church foyer to talk about what it really looks like to follow Christ. Their clothes are monochromatic, and their hair is a different color every week. They bring their questions, and we do our best to show them the way. Don't all of our questions echo the hissed inquisition of the Garden? Is God really good? Can I trust that grace will catch me? 

We talk about how Christ, God with skin, met people where they were, in the middle of their mess. In the heart of their lies, their adultery, their plots, their pain, their smelly, blood soaked cloths -- the clothes they wore to the grave. He never held out for perfection.

I'm good at preaching that to others, and terrible at believing it for myself. I'm thankful that Christ comes all the way to meet me, but I would much rather him call ahead so I can clean myself up. I don't want him to see my dirt, my heartache, my indecision, my inability, my wrecks. I talk a big talk about authenticity, but I'd rather you believe that there is nothing wrong with me. I'd rather you not realize that in the deepest parts of my being, I'm still looking for something.

When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a lot of things. A dancer, a lawyer, a meteorologist. For a long time, I wanted to make signs. I grew up seeing signs nailed to trees and telephone poles: Jesus saves. And I was certain that the people who nailed up those signs made a living doing it. I could make a living telling people that Jesus could save them.

I wish I could go back in time and pinpoint the precise moment when I began to question if Christ truly was everything I had believed him to be -- the moment where the lies forced their way in. You have to perform. You have to hustle. You have to compensate for your inefficiency. How well you follow the rules is more important than the condition of your heart. 

Is it really any wonder that my blood pressure is through the roof from the minute my feet hit the floor every morning? There are days when it seems like nothing I do is right or good or even okay.

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I consider his sanctuary -- his divine operating room for mending hearts like mine. I don't want to believe that there's anything wrong with me. I don't want all the ugly to be exposed. Even more than I don't want the pain, I don't want the ugly, and pride has always been one of my greatest downfalls.

But still, he asks. Do you want to get well?

Will you let me do my healing work inside of you? I know how badly you want to be used by me, and this is the first step. Let me love you back to life.

My heart beats. I am the paralytic, and I can only muster excuses.

But I cannot heal myself.

He won't let me go. His love compels in the most gentle of ways. My heart is his, but sometimes I get nervous and try to take it back. I make a mess of myself. I become bitter.

And he makes beautiful things. If we let him. I want to let him.

 Lord, let it be according to your will.

Come as you are (and a GIVEAWAY).

I've been learning a lot recently about hospitality. My friend Lindsey and I often joke about how we are not "pin-able." We don't post DIY projects or have home tours on our blogs. We work with words, and at the end of the day, we just pray that the dishes get done. Last week, I had to wash the same load of laundry three times because I had let it sour -- and don't even get me started on the ring around the bath tub, because it seems to be here to stay. home We have this idea that in order to be hospitable, everything must be perfect. There must be garland and a gallery wall and the aroma of fresh baked goods. We think that we must be perfect. But I'm discovering that it really doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful.

I look around my sweet friend Amy's home. Two decades worth of marriage and babies, one of which has been spent nestled in our sleepy north Georgia mountains. Tonight she has stoked the fire and opened her doors to a group of women for the second time. There is red velvet cake on the island in the kitchen, and the kettle whistles anxiously. I watch and listen as Amy speaks, her voice dripping with sweet grace, and I can't help but feel a sense of peace whenever I'm around her. I can feel her warmth, her joy, radiating from across the room.

And at one point, I gather up my courage and ask, so you just decided to do this for all of us? Her eyes sparkle. "Yes." She tells me that she loves having people in her home, and that if she had her way, she would never leave.

What I've realized is that true hospitality isn't about how many times your home tour will be pinned. It isn't even about red velvet cake (although, we could probably make a pretty compelling argument for this one).

Hospitality is creating space for people to come as they are.

Over coffee and crafts, Amy tells me that she still struggles with wanting to be all the things. Lindsey chimes in about the inevitable disappointment that takes over when she is overlooked for something -- even when it comes to the things she knows she doesn't have time to do. Leaning into the moment, I said that it must be God's grace that we are not chosen to do all the things.

It was His mercy, His loving-kindness, that sent Christ to hit the mark in our stead -- and yet even the physical person of Jesus did not heal every sick person. Sometimes He simply gives us strength to bear our crosses with grace.

He invites us to come as we are and and find rest for our weary and busted up souls.

He is still Emmanuel, God with us. 

via

With the coming of December, we've entered the season of advent. The word advent simply means the arrival. As we anticipate His coming, our hearts are heavy. We yearn for the day when every tear will be wiped away. We have learned to survive in a culture of scarcity. We live every man for himself, slaving away to build the tallest towers. We try to do enough to make enough to be enough. We want to be all the things.

And Christ offers us rest. He offers an invitation to cease striving. He offers us a life of that which we were made for. All of Him is more than enough for all of us.

That, my friends, is revolutionary.

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Some dear friends of mine made this for you, and I'd love to send it to you, all wrapped up in time for Christmas.

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[audio m4a="http://www.erinsalmonwrites.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/08-Emmanuel.m4a"][/audio]

 

 

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When You're Not Sure How to Be In the World

Hello, you, Yes, you. I see you over there. Some days, you feel like your heart is a pin ball, shooting back and forth between the deep desire to be seen and known, and the overwhelming fear of the consequences. I know you're bruised and busted up.

I see you spending your days hunched over a borrowed desk. I see you with your bed head and unbrushed teeth folding your sixth load of laundry. I hear you speak coarsely to your husband and children, and know how as soon as the words leave your mouth, you desperately wish you could take them back. I know how you dread the ring of the phone at the office, and how you seem to hear it for hours even after you've come home for the day. I see how you pour your heart out onto a page and bravely click "publish," only to find that you can count the number of views on two hands. I see how you're made to feel like less than because your womb has yet to be occupied, made to feel like less because you're not a certain age, made to feel like your dreams and your plans and your commitments are not as important as someone else's. I see you, burdened and bogged down.

I know that you're tired. I know how sometimes nine days out of ten don't go the way you think they will, and I know how swiftly the days turn into weeks and months and years, and all the sudden, you look up and realize that you've lost your way.

PicMonkey Collage2

See, I know you because I am you. We've read all of the books, and we've memorized the verses. We've rehearsed all the speeches about how we're really okay and no one should worry, even though deep down inside, we're far from okay and our own worry guts us on a daily basis.

These days, I don't even know where to begin. Its more than finding the right words -- deep down, I'm hungry for the right life.

The questions keep me awake at night, even after nine and ten hour days at the office. Worries stuff themselves into tiny, gnawing what if's about job security and fulfillment and 401k's and callings and health insurance plans and masters degrees, but mostly how in the world do I make a home when the world is not my home? 

For the past year now, all I've wanted is someone to tell me that it's okay for me to not want to sit behind a borrowed desk and watch my tiny pieces of my soul waste away mile by aching mile, but more than that, I just want someone to tell me that am okay.

A new friend told me last night that she feels called towards evangelism, but she's just not sure. Its hard to press in and chase our callings when we're uncertain of whether or not those callings will pay the bills and keep food in the cupboards.

I pace back and forth, wondering how the Bob Goff's and the Katie Davis' of the world do it.

How in the world do I live a life of love and freedom when CNN and The Times and my Facebook feed are constantly telling me to hoard and be afraid? And how do we lean in to hear and answer callings when the stock market and our parents and the ever well-meaning people at church are so worried about being comfortable?

The way of the world is fear. Fear that we will never be enough, so we try to do enough to make enough to make amends for everything we lack. Fear that we will never have enough, so we try to hoard enough to distract ourselves from our brokenness.

I tell a friend in an email that I feel, somewhere deep down in my bones, that God is about to do something. And while we never get a blueprint for the future, we know that whenever Jesus shows up, blind people start seeing and deaf people start hearing and dead people begin to breathe again.

Dead people begin to breathe again. 

See, His plan wasn't to make us comfortable -- His plan was to make us come alive.

[Tweet "See, His plan wasn't to make us comfortable -- His plan was to make us come alive."]

Where I have craved a road map, He says that He is the Way. Where I have demanded certainty, He has asked for faith. Where I have sought a get rich quick scheme, He has promised unsearchable wealth if I just hold fast to the promise. But perhaps I must come to the end of myself. Grace resides on the fringes. And true fulfillment might just show up in that place where you realize you have nothing to lose.

We can build empires and have lots of letters behind our names that tell the world how important we are, but at the end of the day, what good are those things if they come at the expense of our souls?

Today, my prayer was for help in my unbelief, help in my mindless wandering and endless frustration. Help for my unbelief, because today I feel broken and bitter, and as the hours have ticked by, it has seemed as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Yeah, my soul is singed by the fire of the world that burns for fame and fortune.

But it is the world that He declared good, the world that He so loved. So I pray to be more like Him. I pray to be searched and known and tried and approved. I pray to be found in Him, and I search for evidence of His goodness, even on the hard days.

Because He is the light. His burden is light. And in Him, there can be no darkness.

For the days when you want to be anywhere but here.

Mama said there would be days like this. But sometimes days turn into weeks and weeks into months and one day his or her comment will all but push you over the edge, and you'll walk in the front door a crying mess. You'll wonder what in the world you were thinking saying yes to something like this, and if you had only known, you would have politely said thank you, but no thank you. You dread the emails, the phone calls, the well meant inquiries from people who know you've struggled just to make it through the day, because let's be honest, you're still struggling just to make it through the day, and to even think about what tomorrow may hold is enough to make you want to walk out the door without so much as a goodbye or it was nice knowing you.

There will be days like this, my mama said, when it seems like nothing you do is good enough, but the world keeps tacking things onto your to do list like it's no big thing; like your whole life revolves around making them happy, no matter how thinly you've spread yourself. Never mind that you have a home and a family and its everything that you can do just to keep it together under the weight of all the responsibility.

Hot liquid salt will roll like tiny raging grief tsunamis, and the truth is, all you want is to just be better: a better wife, a better friend, a better daughter, a better sister, a better homemaker. Some days the should be's and the have to be's and the need to be's choke the life from the truth of who you were created to be.

[Tweet "Some days the should be's and the need to be's choke the life from who you were created to be."]

You were never meant to carry the weight of the world. The stanzas of a familiar old tune recall that He's got the whole world in His hand. And if He's got the whole world, He's got you, because last time I checked, no one has ever survived floating around in space without oxygen or food or warmth. You are not a martian.

You might be in the wilderness. 

There's an old adage -- something about whatever God leads you to, He will bring you through. He never leaves you where He found you. The wilderness is God's slow cooker, and perhaps the only way to reach the finish line is to come to the altar with our rawness, our readiness to be seasoned with what He is preparing to teach us on the journey.

The people who tell you that this life with Jesus is easy are lying. They're the ones who could never expose their broken parts. With or without Jesus, this life will break you. With or without Jesus, you will spend a night writhing in tears on the kitchen floor because everything has fallen apart and you don't know how you got here or how to put your life back together again. With or without Jesus, you will be broken, but when you're walking through the wilderness with Christ, love and grace and joy and peace and hope are what shine through the cracks. When you walk through the wilderness with Christ, the pain is never wasted.

It isn't ever that He has caused the pain, no, our brokenness breaks the very heart of God. And so the Word became flesh and came down into all of our wildernesses and said I am the Way. I have given you purpose, I have gone before you, I know what you were created for...

a life of abundance.

[Tweet "The Word became flesh and came down into all our wildernesses and said 'I am the Way.'"]

This wilderness? It only lasts for a moment. The wilderness is where we learn to live radical trust, the wilderness is where we learn surrender. The wilderness reminds us that comfort doesn't come from temporal things, but an eternal Person. This place only exists as a reminder that the world is not our home.

 

A Prayer to Say Yes.

Oh Lord, you have orchestrated all of my beginnings. You've taken account of all my wandering. My hands have wildly flapped open and shut to the mystery you sustain us on. I believe, but help my unbelief. Has there been a more honest prayer? God, meet me in my dark places. Help me put these pieces together to see the masterpiece you designed before the foundation of the world.

Give me grace to take one step at a time, even when I don't yet see where you are leading. Be the lamp unto my feet when the world seems dark and my heart lacks direction. Help me to remember that even when you call me out of my comfort zone, that I am always with the Comforter.

Help me to open my arms and my heart wide to say yes. Help me to run the course of your commandments, knowing that no matter what comes in this life, that you are truly working all things together for my good and for your glory, and may there be no room in my life for fear and anxiety.

Teach me to number my days, and to count all things joy, even when I'm tired and the last thing that I want to do is take on what feels like another burden. Help me to remember that your burden is light. Give me the strength to honor you, even in the hard times. Give me wisdom, give me peace.

Help me to not seek to win the affections of others, but to live each moment in fierce pursuit of your glory, knowing that nothing can separate me from the love that you created me for. You went to the ends of the earth to win my heart and to prove that you are for me. I want to be passionately, desperately seeking your heart.

Help me to go in the strength that I have into a world that is dark and proclaim that you are the hope.

Give me grace to be the light of Christ, and to wash the feet of those who are in pain. Consecrate my life as one of service to your kingdom.

Help me to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, and help my thoughts to center around what is true and honorable and pure and lovely and of good repute.

In all things, search me, Lord. Know my ever anxious thoughts, and if there be any offensive way in me, break me and create me clean.

I'm saying yes,  inviting you to change my life all over again.

In Jesus' name, so be it.