A reminder on the days when I don't feel ready.

At twenty-three years old, I had barely even been to an amusement park when the six year old brother spotted a carnival parked behind the mall. I am no adrenaline junkie, and besides, my parents always said those things were a waste of money anyway. But C's parents are slightly more spontaneous than mine, so we climbed the hill to the parking lot, paid what was admittedly a lot of money, and earned our wrist bands. I swallowed hard. The first ride was more or less a gigantic swing that lifted us side to side at dizzying speeds that made me think that my stomach was going to fall out of any number of orifices. I thought, surely our brother will be scared, surely it will be too fast and too high. But he loved every last minute of it. By the time the ride had slowed to a stop, he was ready, hungry for more. I still remember how my shoes seemed to be stuck to the ground, be it from the spilled cola or my anxiety, and how all the sudden I was falling on my face to worship the God who made the sturdy earth beneath me.

Then there was the time that I boldly announced to C that I wanted to go zip lining for our anniversary this year, and before I could grab the words and stuff them back in, he had already purchased a canopy tour. Even though we were never that high off the ground, the walk up to the first platform had me thinking that I had made a huge mistake.

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I ended up going on every single ride at the carnival. If you asked, I would tell you that I just didn't want to be shown up by a fearless six year old, but deep down, I think I was desperate to just let go. What amazing, life altering, kingdom expanding, chain breaking things could happen if I just learned to let go?

Because the truth is, we can never experience true freedom when our anxious feet are cemented to the platform, refusing to jump. We won't ever feel like we can do the impossible, if we're clinging for dear life to what feels easy and comfortable. If I were to get really honest, I think most days I'm not sure if I can trust God to be the harness. Most days, I don't think letting go will really accomplish anything.

But scripture is literally overflowing with the testimonies of what God can do when we get ready and let go: Ephesians says that He is able to do immeasurably more than what we can ask or imagine.

For this girl who likes things to be easily controlled and measured and managed, letting go seems crazy, even irresponsible. But somewhere deep inside, I'm ready. I'm ready to encounter life outside my often smothering boundaries with a God who is absolutely boundless, ready for my story to become His love letter, ready to be changed.

I'm ready to feel His wind in my hair and soar.

Linking up with Kate and the Five Minute Friday girls today. 

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in search of golden things:

I have been silent here for what feels like forever. There have been a few false starts: halfhearted posts that sit idly in my drafts folder, paragraphs written and rewritten a hundred times, only to be given up on in the end. I did something strange this morning: I turned the radio off for my commute to work. I sit here physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually exhausted. But the truth is, I think underneath all the exhaustion is the bitter fear of silence and stillness. White space intimidates me, and I hasten to fill it. I have said yes to too many things over the past few weeks, and in the process of the seemingly unending yes, I have said no to my husband, my home, and my health. I had a panic attack recently, and pretty much live in fear of having another one. Last night, my drive home was spent in sniveling tears. I have been packing heavy for too long, allowing each person, each snide social media post, each frustrating situation to take up residence in my heart. I wonder what this is, this stark inability to let things simply roll off my back.

Processed with VSCOcam with a5 preset The rain is falling outside my open window, speeding cars humming and splashing as they travel up and down Grant Street, and this is the first silent moment I have had in ages, and what do I want but to turn on the music, check Facebook, browse for something new to occupy. I can only take so much silence, so much stillness, before I begin to get antsy. I start to twiddle my thumbs and shift uncomfortably in my chair, my stomach uneasy, hanging in the balance between craving the quiet and fearing it.

I think, I must be doing something, must be completing something, must be meeting with someone, answering someone's call. But the phone sits quiet on my desk, and deep down inside, I secretly dread the ring. I dread someone else needing another answer, blaming me for another problem, and I can't help but take responsibility.

I stare at the wall, painted deep red and scarred from too many nails, and I think of all the things that have been nailed to the deep red walls of my heart. I think about the possibility of being sick from all of this, and how the only sure antidote to sickness is worship. Worship is the only anti-venom when the snake slithers.

We worship by building the kingdom through the passions Creator God infused in our cells before the foundation of the world. We worship by magnifying His light in the things that bring joy to our hearts: the things that give life.

Sometimes its hard to find any semblance of life when the whole world seems stormy gray. I search for the signs, and my mind wanders to the pink tickle of mimosa flowers, the new grass sprouting in our front yard that began as the tiniest of seeds poured out of our hands, and I remember that we are made the same way: to push up through the black layers of earth and respond to the rain with one brave bloom, and another, and another, until all has come alive.

There comes a time when we must reevaluate the yes and the no, a time to return to that which renews after spending so much time in the desert.

Hence this blog.

Linking up with Lisa Jo Baker and a host of other brave and beautiful women for Five Minute Friday.

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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When you have to trust God... again.

My dad has worked his whole life to make things better. He takes care of people. There was never a night that I stayed out too late that he was not awake, waiting for me. He never fails to ask what he can do for someone else, whether it be picking up frozen peas for my roommate or remodeling a house for a pastor. He shows up every time. This is who he is. I get this from him… this need to take care of things. And at twenty-two years old, I am learning how to be responsible.

Sometimes, If I am not worried, I fear I am failing to take care of things and be responsible. So I worry a lot. To the point of tears and paralysis, often.

How can we possibly survive living paycheck to paycheck, feeling like there is never enough oil in our jars, the summer my brother’s car broke down, I had to balance my bill for college in order to graduate… the winter my dad lost his job at home and I had a hundred and four degree flu at school and I was too afraid to tell him because I knew he would worry because that’s what he does.

How do we make it when it feels like the world has rolled on top of us and this time its going to be different, you’re so sure that you won’t make it. When I’m exhausted, and just want to be finished because I don’t know if I’ll survive another day of this uncertainty and things falling apart.

And it doesn’t seem to ever stop. I can’t get Simon Bolivar’s last words out of my head: “damn it, how will I ever get out of this labyrinth?”

When you reach the light at the end of this tunnel, you know it will scorch you, leave you gasping, and its all a cruel trick because there are always more lines you have to cross and hoops you have to jump through just to get through the day. The mornings you wake up tired and it takes every ounce of courage to get out of bed and face whatever is waiting for you on the other side of your bedroom door.

I have a lot of those mornings. More than I care to count. The devil lures me into fear and then laughs at me, making me feel like a complete and total failure when I give in.

I need to get it together, I tell myself.

But what I really need is to grab onto grace sufficient for my weakness.

To sing in faith: I will not fear the war. I will not fear the storm, my help is on the way. 

Even if I have to sing through tears, curled up on the floor. To finally breathe, calmed by the measures, by the repeating of scripture over and over and over again.

Because when you breathe panic, there is no way to be filled. Chest rises and falls out of control and its just so fast and you barely receive any oxygen that way.

You must come empty to the altar. Because the God who spoke into the chaos of darkness brought about a living, breathing world, all for the sake of loving it. He is before all things, and in Him, everything is held together.

When I lack faith, He is faithful. He who has promised is faithful.

He sustains me because he loves me. And surely He knows what I need before I ask. So I allow myself to breathe in slow the mercy. The grace that never leaves me where it found me, because He who began this work will be faithful to bring it to completion.

Shalom, selah.