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.

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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.

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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.

When You're Not Sure what You Have to Offer: an (in)RL Story

I've spent the past few months wondering what it is I have to offer. There have been many days spent ugly crying, days spent pretending and vainly attempting to make myself appear more attractive, and days just spent in silence. I've wrestled with my story, struggling to find the words to say to you and to myself. Almost a month ago, the twentysomethings gathered in our pastor's house and were issued a challenge to come up with a mission statement for our lives. I was already struggling with feeling unqualified, especially among a group of worship leaders, children's ministry leaders, the color-coded spreadsheet maker. It seemed like everyone else's stories were so fluid and inevitably better than my own. I wondered in those moments why I argued with my husband about going to this gathering in the first place, and now, I'm expected to map out the trajectory of my life in a paragraph? I shrunk into my chair, my heart sinking back into the hole it had dared to crawl out of.

I wonder if my story has a place. Sometimes, I wonder if it even has a plot. And I want it to be wrapped up in a curled bow if and when I do offer it to you.

But really, would a story neatly wrapped up with a perfectly curled bow do anyone any good? {Click to Tweet}

Perhaps it all came to a gruesome head over Easter weekend. Saturday morning was spent with a foster child who revealed secret abuse, and then in the afternoon, a family member's words cut deep. How much of the world have you really seen, she asked, and I think sometimes maybe the devil can squeeze himself in between the syllables. And in the midst of it all, I sent out a plea for prayer. People rallied from all over the internet, most without even known what to pray for.

Then, at the end of April, I stayed up late on a Friday to watch the stories of beautiful women unfold on a screen. The entire  hour and a half was spent in a cadence of tears and laughter, sensing the presence of the Lord as I hear the hearts of so many beautiful women over at (in)courage. The next day, I drove an hour and a half down the road to Dawn's house and met with a few of those women. I wondered, would my struggle to be accepted and to belong be the elephant in the room? Would it be painfully obvious that I was trying to overcompensate for what I thought I was lacking? This meet up was all about being real about our stories, and for months, I haven't known how to write the first word. Not to mention how I've struggled with the byline, wrestling God for the upper hand, for the right to control how my life's plot unfolds.

A church sign scrolls on my half hour commute from the office to the comfort of home: does your spiritual house need a spring cleaning? And sometimes it's the small things that grab hold of your attention, tears threatening to dive off your cheeks as your tires pound the pavement at sixty-five. I wonder, in all the noise -- the hiss heard in between the syllables of her retort, the whistle of the bombs falling in the war of comparing myself -- have I forgotten my passion?

I sit like this until a Tuesday morning conversation over breakfast. She was, for all intents and purposes, a stranger to me at the time. Our work occasionally brought us together with a quaint "how are you," but there was never any more than that. But we ended up talking for the better part of an hour. On the surface, our words bounced back and forth on the topic of what we could do for the foster child from weeks before. But beneath the surface? Our words were fueled by passion for the power of stories.

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. -- Revelation 12:11a

This is how we overcome, by looking back and seeing how God had redeemed our stories. By telling the devil that his head was crushed and in no manner will he be the victor over our lives {Click to Tweet}.

Recently, I've been going through an old sermon series from college, in which our campus pastor talks about God reaching into our weakest, most tender places -- the dark spaces that bring us shame and lead us to believe that we could never house glory -- and transforming them in His power. It is the crux of scripture: His strength being made perfect in our weakness. {Click to Tweet.}

Not to say that the Lord needs me. Grace says He chooses me.

Dear heart, when you are at what seems like the end of your rope -- the end of your hope -- He is calling. When you feel like there is nothing good about who you are, remember that tiny three word declaration: it is good.

There are days and weeks where it feels like my well is all but dried up. My heart, devoid of inspiration. My heart, empty. And in the middle of it all, I shrink into the oblivion of feeling unqualified.

I forget that's the kind of person God wants. 

At twenty-three years old, I can literally do just about anything I want. And what I want, more than anything else, is for my one life, my one story, to make His name great.

If you have prayed for me over the past few weeks, I can only offer my humble thanks, and ask that you would continue praying. Pray for wisdom, pray for increased sensitivity to His voice. Pray for divine appointments and confirmation. Pray that my faith would exceed my doubt, and in the midst of it all, I would know His presence.

And I will pray the same for you.

a letter to my fifteen year old self.

Dear fifteen-year-old Erin, 315_40079260820_2003_nIts me, twenty-three year-old Erin. It may seem impossible to you in this moment, but believe it, girl, because we are here, and here is sticky sweet like all the sweat and honey.

Let's be honest, though: you're feeling like your life just fell apart.  Mom decided that she enjoyed the idea of freedom more than she enjoyed being married to Dad. She'll choose other men over her husband and children, and your friends at school will tell you that divorce is normal -- fun, even, because you get two of everything now. And even though it might be normal in 2005, you are painfully aware that there's nothing fun about it.

Your friends will end up ditching you because you feel too much. And it isn't really that you feel too much, its more like you don't know where to put your thoughts and feelings, so they're kinda mashed up right now.

Those angsty poems you've been writing lately? Yikes, girl. I'll let you in on a crazy good secret: someday, your blog will be read in thirty-three countries.

You might not feel like it right now, but you are important.

Not because of how many countries your blog will be read in someday, or in that shallow, "I only wear A&F and Hollister and date the cutest guy in school" kind of way, though. You might think you want that, but trust me, deep down, you really want more than that.

I know that you used to get made fun of a lot when you transitioned from homeschooling to public school a few years ago, and it seems like that has worn off a little. But there's this one girl who just has it in for you, and you have no idea what you did to ignite such a hateful blaze.

I've learned that they naysayers are everywhere. There are a few every now and then with skin on, but most of them live in your head, and they're much harder to get rid of. Stick to your guns, girl. You possess a strength beyond what you can even comprehend.

You'll fight hard with depression, even before your mom decides out of the clear blue sky to call it a day and wash her hands of eighteen years of marriage. It won't make sense and it will be scary, and you'll feel like hiding all day long. And I still have days like that, but they are much fewer and far between. We are making it, one day at a time. And that's okay.

People will tell you that your standards are too high. It happened to me, just the other day. I was doing an activity for job training (by the way, you're going to be a social worker someday) where we talked about personality traits that we sought out, or at least tolerated in a mate at sixteen versus the ones we looked for and tolerated at thirty. The instructor will be shocked when you tell him that you would in no way tolerate someone being disrespectful to you at sixteen. He'll make fun of you, and you'll feel sad, but only for a nanosecond. Then you'll brush it off and pat yourself on the back for the fact that even at the flighty, impressionable age of sixteen,  you never settled for less than what you deserved.

Speaking of dating and finding a mate -- that guy in the yearbook you thought you would end up marrying? You don't marry him. Instead, you'll go off to college and find out that the man of your dreams was living just three hours away the whole time, and you'll think its hilarious how God does it. And let me tell you, he is cute and sweet and quirky and all the things you wrote down in your journal that you want to find someday.

The Lord has a plan. I know that sounds super vacation Bible school, even to you, but its true. Hard things will happen to the people you love, and you'll question. You'll shake your fists at a God you've believed in all your life, and you won't know it at the time, but He uses those things to take you to places you have never been. Your faith will grow in ways you never thought possible, and you will learn that all is, indeed, grace.

You'll realize that you're important, not because of what anyone else thinks of you, but because He loves you. And your soul will fall in love with life in a thousand and one beautiful ways. Your heart will overflow. You will find joy in the most unexpected places.

In the meantime, keep going to football games with Dad and screaming your head out for the Panthers. Keep believing that in spite of everything, these are the best days of your life. Eventually, you'll realize that everyday is the best day of your life because everyday is an opportunity to grow.

You are awesome, and I think about you all the time.

-- Me

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Contributing to the beautiful Emily Freeman's collection of letters and shamelessly plugging her amazing book for young women. You can check out Graceful here on Amazon.

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