On mile markers, giving up, and learning to love my neighbor.

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I.

So, it seems that I have somewhat accidentally started a book club, birthed from the sentiment that if you want something and can't find it, you should make it for yourself. Tonight, I'm meeting with my friend Emily, who happens to be the groups coordinator at our little church, to discuss the particulars, but starting in mid-September, my Thursday evenings will consist of homemade food and dog eared pages with friends both old and new.

Honestly, I didn't have much say in the matter. Within five minutes of my bringing it up to Emily, she took the liberty of inviting two people. Then, of course, there's God, who, in his unrelenting pursuit of me and my busted up heart, has been kneading answers into my prayers and asking me to do hard things when it comes to growing community and blooming where I'm planted. I told another friend that I'm both excited and scared: this feels a bit like going off the deep end, but more like taking back ground from the devil. Where those two meet up is always the starting line for good ideas.

Besides, if you ask me, the best church services happen in living rooms over chips and salsa.

II.

The last thing I wrote here was about soul-hospitality, and the kind of revival that can only come through vulnerability and offering up the messiest and most fractured pieces of myself. I penned those words for a laundry list of reasons, the gist of which added up to the fact that we've lived here for a year now, and I don't feel any closer to what my heart knows that church and community should be. The past twelve months have seen me weary and worn down from spinning my wheels and living a try hard life.

I had all sorts of plans to fix myself. I would lose the weight and buy all the cute clothes, find quirky wall art and construct a Pinterest worthy gallery wall, market my blog like a pro and gain lots of followers, toss more money in the offering bucket at church, volunteer more. The truth is, I’ve been picking up whatever fig leaves I can find in an attempt to look more whole than I actually am.

The paradox is that it is only when I lay down my masks and become more fully myself that there can be less of me and more of Jesus.

The most potent truth of all is that what I'm really missing is Jesus. There have been days, some more recent than I care to admit, when I have begged him through sobs to show up. It isn’t that I haven’t been looking for him all this time. I’ve just spent my entire life looking for him in all the wrong places. I believed I would find him within the realm of my own comfort and safety.

Suffice it to say, he has rarely, if ever, resided there. And slowly but surely, he is tearing down my walls, meeting my resistance with loving kindness.

III.

The other day, the man and I were talking about church, both our little body and the body collective. Hesitantly, I admitted that for all the things that keep me wrapped, there are also a handful of things that I desperately wish were different.

I wish there were easy answers for how to navigate community with broken people. Most of the time, I'd settle for somewhat difficult ones. But Jesus wasn't known for showing up with blue prints. Instead, he turns everything we think we know on its head. Because he knows that the deepest need of our hearts isn't a formula -- the deepest need of our hearts is him.

And then, he put some skin in the game by offering himself.

He met people smack dab in the middle of their mess, unafraid of getting his hands dirty and not the least bit intimidated by the second mile.

He touched the sick, broke bread with whores, and called cheats and liars and back stabbers his best friends. And when I begin to catch glimpses of my own heart in the folks he chose to spend his time with, it changes everything.

IV.

I don't mean to make a big production out of a simple ladies' book club. I'm not parading around under the assumption that it will somehow change the world, I'm simply praying that it will change mine.

I'm tired of the rat race, exhausted from seemingly endless days spent pining for the approval that is already mine. And anyway, the last thing I need is gold stars and applause (though let's be honest, I crave them like an addict).

No one needs my formula and ten point plan to better myself -- least of all, me. So I'm giving it up, leaving it on the side of the road so I can better walk in step with Jesus, loving as he loves.

 The kind of love that doesn't give up on broken things.


I was graciously given an advanced copy of my friend Shannan Martin's new book, Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted. I was not required to write a review, but upon finishing it, my heart couldn't not share it with you. Reading her words felt like breaking bread with a trusted friend, the kind that dares you to leave your comfort zone and loves you enough to not let you get away with making any excuses. What's more, she cheers you on, acknowledging that it isn't always the biggest leaps that count the most, but the baby steps taken in faith. When you walk away from an encounter with someone who has been with Jesus, you're never the same. Shannan is one of those people for me. You can preorder her book Falling Free today, or find it on a shelf near you on September 20. And if you're curious, we will most definitely be reading it for the book club.

Tear down the banners.

2016-07-07 10 It is 2016. In November of this year, I will have been writing online, in some form or fashion, for eleven years. Honestly, that doesn't even seem possible, but its true: I grew up here. I graduated from high school, moved off to college, had my heart broken, lost friends to cancer, found and married the love of my life, started taking medication for depression and paralyzing anxiety, and most recently moved to South Carolina to pursue a life in ministry with my husband. All of that happened here in this space. I've barely known anything different. This space was born out of my need for a place to come undone. It has always been a sanctuary.


A look in my prayer journal as of late would reveal my hot pursuit of wisdom in regard to community, and in a deeper sense, an overwhelming longing for home. I think that perhaps that's just part of growing up -- maybe at some point we all lose our idealistic views of what home is, and the truth is, we have to mourn that loss.

Judging by most standards, I had an idyllic upbringing, but at 14, the cosmos of my life shifted. Our family had recently moved, my mother had started a new job, and I was in the beginning of my freshman year of high school. We were always in church -- every single time the doors were open. On the outside, we looked great. But behind closed doors, my parents were seeing our pastor for marriage counseling. I began to struggle with depression. I can't say that I wanted to die, but I just had this overwhelming feeling that the world would be better off without me, and I didn't know where to put that kind of pain. At the least, I didn't think anyone would really notice I was gone. Now, I mentor a group of young girls through our church, and the idea of one of them secretly carrying that kind of pain is unimaginably difficult for me.

I remember the night I called the hotline because I couldn't see any way out, I remember how the line rang and rang and eventually I hung up. I tried to talk to my mom, but she seemed to have other things on her mind. I remember telling her that something was very, very wrong, but no help came. Eventually, she walked away from our family. What's more, when she left, she told me that I was the weak one.

At this point, I've struggled with depression for almost half of my life. And most people still don’t really talk about mama’s who leave.

I don't talk about my mom much -- and it has been a year since I have seen or spoken to her (I feel like I should note here that this has not been my choice). Our relationship has been sporadic at best, but mostly nonexistent. I avoided talking about her because I never wanted to be seen as someone who would leave. I treated slipping out the back door like it could be passed down through DNA, like eye-color or the dimple in my chin, or hereditary disease.

But our wounds stick with us. In the words of Donald Miller, we learn if we are lovable or unlovable from other people, and in that moment, I allowed my mother to hand me an identity of not strong enough, and the brokenness in my home to name me broken. 

I've borne the weight of those banners for more than a decade, and I've bled from the shame of them. Even though the scars have faded, they still feel fresh on most days, and I'm always only one lie away. Love has always been something that I've had to fight for, rather than something that has already been won on my behalf.

So I did everything I could: I served dinner to sick friends, did all the peer counseling I possibly could, wrote letters, volunteered with the elderly, and invited people over every chance I got, hoping that people would be impressed by how well I could show up and show love. My heart was in the right place, but my motivation was almost always twisted, at best. I hoped that if I did enough things right, you would always answer when I called, that you would bring donuts and say all the right things to set my fragile, tilted orbit right side up again.

I put my hope in broken people, who even on their best days, could never save me or offer me the kind of love I was truly after. I let people break me, and I'm sure that in my own brokenness, I have hurt other people.

The only place I wasn't taking my cup to was the very place that I needed to go the most: the feet of Jesus.

I won't tell you that I get it all right nowadays, because that would be a lie. I fall flat on my face all the time. But my life is starting to look a lot different. I'm starting to rethink the questions I'm asking -- praying that I would be open to whatever it is God wants to teach me in these seasons marred by so much shame and loneliness. I'm making room for God, and I have found him trustworthy and more than loving enough to hand me a new identity: that of being beloved. 

A Love letter to the hurting

Dear friend, I won't presume to know exactly what you face today. I won't storm in like that. But I want you to know that you are far too beautiful to be standing under the banners of broken and not enough and unwanted and unqualified. 

I believe that there is a God who invited you first, a Jesus who made room for all of you: your dreams and your doubts and your quirks and your passions and your fears. I believe that you are fully known and deeply loved, but I know that those are easy words to say and hard words to live. But believe me, that first step is so, so sweet.

He answers when you call. He will fill you. He will lead you. You are already found.


I was graciously given a sneak peek at Lysa TerKeurst's latest book, Uninvited: Living Loved when You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. I was not required to write a review, however, I cannot recommend enough that you purchase this book. In fact, I cannot recommend highly enough that you purchase an entire case and hand one out to every woman you know. Not very many women have impacted my faith the way that Lysa has, and I am so grateful that the Lord led her to write this book for such a time as this. Click here to pre-order your copy of Uninvited., which will officially hit bookshelves near you on August 9th.