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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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.

Coffee Date No. 11

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask if we could sit outside. After a few days of really precarious weather, including a bitter cold front and the greatest risk for tornadoes in South Carolina in something like a decade, the air is finally warm and the sun sits high in cloudless skies. Also, I would, at long last, be drinking something iced.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d share that I haven’t been perfect at Lent this year. But really, am I ever? I decided to give up social networks this year, and honestly, while I have logged on occasionally, it hasn’t been nearly as often or for as long as it used to be. And even though I feel a bit uninformed, I feel lighter. Besides, it is not my responsibility to respond to every single thing going on in the world -- nor is it healthy to even attempt to. 

 

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask about your margin. Lately, mine has felt kind of nonexistent. Even though my plate has been spilling over with good things, my soul still feels a bit edgy. I didn’t realize until this moment that it is possible to have a full and glad heart and at the same time have a soul that resides on the border of chaos. What I can tell you is that I know that God has given me some supernatural energy this past week, and that I need a double dose this week because we are moving to a new place this weekend. It is a new start that feels like grace, and hopefully, once we return the keys to the U-Haul, we will be able to breathe again.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d admit that my word for 2017 hasn’t gotten a lot of love. I landed on rhythm for the year and had all sorts of good intentions for planning out a budget and a better morning routine and actually following the cleaning schedule on the fridge, but literally none of that has happened. But I think (I pray that) this move will help me to dig deeper into the discipline. And of course, I’d ask how things are going with your word, because there’s nothing I love more than stories of becoming rooted and established, and I think that’s what our words help us to become.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask if you have an accountability partner in any area of your life. What is that relationship like? How did you go about finding and asking that person to keep you accountable? Honestly, accountability makes my skin crawl, but I know that I need it in order to be the person I want to be for myself and those around me. Once we finish with this move, I would really like to get back in the gym. I haven’t been since the holidays, so there’s that. Also, I really need to be better about getting in the Word. I started a Bible in a Year plan on January 1, but can we all just admit that trudging through parts of Deuteronomy and Numbers is a bit reminiscent of trying to get through Captain Ahab’s monolog about whale blubber? Anyway, I digress. The point is, I am longing for someone to stand beside me and say “hey, I see you, and I know you can do this because it is worth it.”

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask you about your normal, but I wouldn’t try to compare it to my own. It is so dangerous to assume that our normal is the same as the person across the table or across the globe. And I’ve been trying hard to avoid blanket statements in my conversations because I just find them to be ignorant and irresponsible. My friend Kristen recently wrote an incredible blog post about this very topic, and her timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you how wonderful I think you are. And I would mean it. When I look at the people I count as friends, both online and IRL, I could not be more grateful. There’s this line in a song in Hamilton that has been hanging out in the recesses of my heart lately: let this be the first chapter where you decide to stay. And I think that’s beautiful. Here is where I would very much like to stay.

 

What would you share on our coffee date? I'd love to hear from you.

 

Coffee Date No. 7

If we were going on a coffee date, I'd suggest someplace local. There are a couple of coffee shops near the university that I am just dying to try. Not that I don't enjoy a chestnut praline latte in a cheerfully controversial cup, but there is just something so poetic about holing up where the locals go.

If we were on a coffee date, I might share that I'm playing with the idea of launching a lifestyle blog in 2017. Then, I would laugh and shake my head, because my real lifestyle consists of too much ChickfiA and Netflix. I washed the same load of laundry three times this week. I've never DIY'd anything in my entire life because patience is not a virtue that comes naturally to me. And I rarely use my Ulta card. So, yeah.

If we were on a coffee date, I would share this liquid eyeliner that I am absolutely over the moon for (since we're on the subject of going to Ulta). This stuff dries down fast and seriously stays put.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd have to tell you that my friend Erin Loechner wrote a book and I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek! Reading Erin's words, having them in my hand, feels like going to lunch with an old and dear friend. I could sit with her for hours and feel like no time has passed at all. I absolutely could not adore her more. These pages are an invitation to take a deep and healing breath.

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask how you feel about the holidays. Are you missing a loved one, pining for someone to love, battling depression or anxiety? Which of your relatives is the hardest to shop for? Do you abide by the whole want/need/wear/read structure when purchasing gifts for the kids? Is there a movie that you watch every year? How do you divide your time between your family and your spouse's family?

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tear up when I tell you how much I love Advent. Growing up, my parents were not well versed in the church calendar, but as an adult, I've come to appreciate it. Advent in particular causes me to slow down and take notice. I want this awe and wonder to permeate every minute of every day.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask about what you've learned in 2016. I love the spiritual discipline of keeping an eye on how God is moving and keeping track of the things that he is teaching you. For me, more than anything, God has shown himself to be a faithful provider. He reminded me that more often than not, the greatest gifts come in the most unexpected packages. And he showed me the beautiful importance of leading with my limp.

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask how you do January 1. Do you make a list of resolutions? Do you outline core desired feelings? Do you choose one word to guide you through the year? I've tried all three, and am the self-proclaimed worst at simple goal setting. As an INFJ, I shy away from sharing my goals with others because I hate the idea of anyone seeing me come up short. I also have a love/hate relationship with accountability that makes it hard to involve others in my goal setting process. That said, according to Gretchen Rubin's quiz on habits, I'm an obliger, which, in a nutshell, means that I am more likely to keep promises to others than I am to keep promises I make to myself. So I'm basically ruined for resolutions and goal setting. And while I do have a handful of core desired feelings that I like to keep in mind, what has worked best for me is choosing one word to meditate on for the year. I'd ask if I was rambling and you would tell me to shut up and do the work, because that's what good friends do.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask how your heart is today. I saw this tweet the other day, and man, it is so true. We have the opportunity to honor one another with our fully attentive presence, and I want to be someone who does this well and without any hesitation.

 

What would you tell me if we were on a coffee date?  I'd love for you to share either in your own post (don't forget to link up!) or in the comments below.