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 Beloved Manifesto.

via

I have lived with the word beloved for seven months now, and as with the words that came before it, I can honestly say that this word chose me. And as I have prayed, God has been faithful to show up and show me what this word means. Beloved is everywhere I look: on my instagram feed, in the books I'm reading, the sermons and songs I'm listening to. I want to etch it on my skin, but more than that, I want it written on my bones. I want beloved to permeate my heart and every single breath that I take for as long as I am on this earth.


The Manifesto

I will share the grace of Jesus Christ who made a way for me to be adopted into the family of God and called me his beloved.

I will tell my truth with vulnerability and courage because I am beloved.

I will laugh, in Jesus' name, because I am beloved.

I will treat my body with kindness because I am beloved.

I will not despise the holy ground where my feet reside today because I am beloved.

I will plant seeds of grace and truth and I will tend my garden faithfully because I am beloved.

I will pray continually, without ceasing, in every circumstance, because I am beloved.

I will dream big dreams and celebrate small moments because I am beloved.

I will believe in the power of the first step, and every step after that, because I am beloved.

I will find the place where the passion of my heart meets the need of this world because I am called, and because I am beloved.

I will be a confident minister of the gospel because I am beloved.

I will take time to rest and refresh the inner parts of myself because I am beloved.

I will hone my creativity, because I was made in the image of a creative God and I am his beloved.

I will seek wisdom in every situation, believing that God will provide, because I am beloved.

I will choose to see others as beautiful and blessed, and I will refuse to compete with them, because I am beloved.

I will speak to the injustice and pain in this world, in my own neighborhood, and let them know that their days are numbered, because I am beloved.

I will move toward, rather than away from, people who are of different ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, church denomination, gender or gender identity, economic status, or sexual orientation because I am beloved.

I will refuse to pick up any armor that is not of God. I will refuse to add to the noise of debate and discord and water cooler gossip. I will demolish walls of division brick by heavy brick because I am beloved.

I will refuse to feed my body, my energy, my relationships, my creativity, or my peace to shame because I am beloved.

I will humbly serve my spouse and raise my children to know and walk in the love of Christ because I am beloved.

I will be a faithful friend and speak light into the lives of others because I am beloved.

I will fling the doors wide open to make room for others, and I will make room for myself so that we can come undone together because I am beloved.

I will not despise my brokenness, and instead, celebrate its daily redemption, because I am beloved.

I will not allow my one wild life to be driven by anxiety because perfect love casts out fear and I am beloved.

I will sing my song on the mountain tops and in the valleys. I will walk through deserts and do hard and holy things. I will be led by still waters and it will be well with my soul because I am beloved.


Psst! Click HERE to download a free printable copy of The Beloved Manifesto.

banner year.

Processed with VSCO with f1 preset So I thought about a lot of words leading up to January 1. There were a lot of dreams and desires and not nearly enough prayers. But what I've learned in my past two years of choosing a single word to meditate on is that the words I chose really chose me. They were circled on a map before I ever started the journey. This has been the case more so this year than ever. I was reading a friend's email and the word beloved crawled out of the computer screen, took my hand, and said I want you to live here. 

See, in my short 25 years, I've lived under a lot of banners. I've given other people the power to assign my worth. I've slept with liars, as Hannah Brencher says. I've let them set up shop in my heart and watched as they mass produced themselves like cancer cells. Their half truths echo the garden's question: did God really say?  Did he really say that he was trustworthy and dependable, that he created you just to love you, and that he really is in this for the long haul? I read it out loud, the verse in Hosea chapter six where he tells me what he really wants is love. All the things I do to make my heart look presentable don't really matter to him.

I didn't realize until just recently that what I'm battling is actually shame. The devil's made it his mission to sneak in the back door and pervert everything good and true about love. For a long time, I have felt like I have to be perfect in order to be loved. I thought that even the slightest imperfection would render me unable to add anything of value to the kingdom and disqualify me from ever having meaningful relationships. I have lived under the banners of "try harder" and "never enough."

But Song of Solomon says there is a feast to be had, and God is inviting me to the banquet. When I squint really hard, I see that his banner over me isn't "look good," or "try harder, and I might love you," or "you should have known better all those times you screwed up."

His banner over me is love. Plain and simple. No prerequisites or strings attached.

Its a lot to grapple with, this love for the sake of it. It seems too good to be true most of the time. So I run from it. I work hard to build my own cities, as Emily P. Freeman writes. I look for security in the things I vainly think that I can control. I work hard to accomplish and then become frustrated when accolades don't keep me warm at night. But the beloved life? I'm learning that it actually looks less like a check list and more like an invitation. I don't have to do anything except show up. Honestly, it feels a bit like I'm showing up to my own intervention. A literal come to Jesus meeting. And there are some walls that need to come down. Like my need for control, my pride, my overwhelming need to be seen, and my constant search for contentment in worldly possessions and other measures of success.

Beloved. It sounds so tranquil, but the truth is, it might take a war. Now that I sit with that, I realize that it did take a war. And the war was won.

He made a way. He came all the way. He is for me.

He is a good, good father. It's just that sometimes I get nervous and squirmy and take my heart off the table. I've been a Christian for 20 years now, but it has taken me every single day of those 20 years to realize that you have to give him your heart over and over again.

Perhaps my most honest prayer is this: I'm sorry for all the days it didn't take. 

I'm so, so hungry. 

And finally, teach me how to be still, to trust and taste and see. 

The Unexpected Lesson I've Learned from Choosing #OneWord365 (a guest post)

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset I had never really been one to make serious New Year’s resolutions and stick to them. In the back of my mind, I had the quintessential “lose fifteen pounds, write more, eat out less, and call my dad every Sunday,” but none of my goals ever really stuck. One of my biggest struggles when it comes to my identity is that I’ve always felt more like a dreamer and less like a doer. I could spend hours upon hours fantasizing about doing a home tour on my blog, but when it comes to actually doing the dishes, I have absolutely zero motivation.

When I happened upon the OneWord community through a friend’s blog, I thought this is something I could get on board with. I was tired of not having any motivation to complete a list of tasks. What I needed was vision: a steady anchor to guide my life.

Continue reading at OneWord365...

take heart.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset So, here we are: January 5th. 

And yeah, some of us are planning to run that 5K, to write more, have a quiet time, lose the weight, stop procrastinating, get the junk room organized, quit smoking, make that person notice us -- but most of all, we're just looking for more resolve.

I think what stops us in our tracks by week three is that creeping feeling that we really don't deserve that thing we're after. One day, life will get in the way, and out of nowhere it has been a month since we went for a jog or stepped foot in the junk room. One day, the gossip at the office will say something mean behind your back and you'll end up chain smoking four cigarettes and its easy to think in that moment that it has all gone straight to hell.

So let me just say this, before we even reach the one week mark and all the lies start throwing rocks at your window in the middle of the night and croon on and on about how you're not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough, not _______ enough: you were made for this moment. 

And I'll be your Aibileen all day long, telling you how kind and smart and important you is. Cause yeah, its easy to forget sometimes.

Maybe you're like me -- sticking just your toes into the pool, hanging out on the sidelines and waiting for your big moment. Maybe you're finally ready to chase down that dream, but you don't know what tomorrow holds.

He goes before you. He will be with you. He is the Author of hope and dreams and second chances, and He doesn't ever leave us where He found us. In fact, He tells us to not look back, but instead, look to the new things He is doing.

But sometimes, we'd rather look the other way. Sometimes, this new thing He is doing feels a lot like pain and grief and loss. Sometimes it looks like waiting for a diagnosis, or watching a family member walk down a road filled with desperation and heartache. Sometimes it looks like reaching the end of our rope, hands scalded from trying so hard to hold on.

I'll say it again: you were made for this moment.

I believe the fringe of your rope is one of the most sacred, holy places.

We fear that it is the place that God's love runs out. But what if it is the birth place of His grace? What if the end of our rope is the beginning of watching Him provide in ways that we do not understand? What if it is the starting line of immeasurably more?

What if, at the end of the rope, we find that hope is the anchor for our souls?

Because we know that the storms will come. We know that some days, we will feel our hearts capsize in our chests -- but what if it is really the hand of God turning us over, molding us? Those things that feel like suffering in the temporal are shaping us and preparing us for the eternal.

And these stories of ours, conceived from mountains and valleys, are how we overcome.

My sweet cousin-in-law Julie came up to me at a family get together over the holidays and told me that I had inspired her to choose a word for 2015. Like me, she mulled over several before reaching the word she knew was for her. The word she chose was obedience. 

My breath caught.

He delights more in our obedience than any religious ritual, more than any sacrifice or hard bargain we could drive.

When God calls, He equips. He promises to go with us. We can change the face of nations when we obey. Giants are defeated when we step out in faith.

Our hope does not disappoint. This battle has already been won. We can rest assured.

Shalom.