should have's and seasons.

I should have been at the funeral.

 

Yeah, you should have.

 

I didn’t even know. And I’m sorry.


There are conversations you have in your head that haunt you. The thing you didn’t say, the place you didn’t go-- you feel non-existent disappointment tangibly in your own mind.

2016 was a year full of funerals. And I don’t mean literal, although yes, a lot of celebrities died, but so did a lot of other people, as in any other given year and I refuse to believe that celebrity deaths hold any more importance than my neighbor losing their parent. Death is death. Funerals are funerals.

In the midst of a year of tragedies, it’s easy to for the “should have”’s the creep in and destroy joy. The “should have” is full of good intention-- I should have said this. I should have done more. I should have been kinder. I should have been bolder. But the “should have”’s hold no value-- we didn’t. Should having is not important.

What is important is what you WILL. What will we do this next year? What will we say? How will we be kind? How will we be love?

This year, beyond the stream of literal funerals, there were funerals in the form of cracks. Like splinters in a china vase, the church has cracks (it always has!), but this election, this year-- they’re exposed more than ever.

These words from Ann Voskamp in her book The Broken Way spoke to me--

“When the church isn’t for the broken and suffering, then the church isn't for Christ. Because Jesus, with his pierced side, is always on the side of the broken. Jesus always moves into places moved with grief. Jesus always seeks out where the suffering is, and that’s where Jesus stays.The wound in His side proves that Jesus is always on the side of the suffering, the wounded, the busted, and the broken”

This year broke a lot of people. But God shows up in brokenness. Healing comes only when something has first been smashed.  Nothing is new and bright through walls of materialism or false security-- we always have to break. We will always break to become something better. Nothing a should-have can change.

As I look back at this year, I see skinned knees and hands. I see broken lightbulbs of ideas I once held. And I cherish it all-- dear God, yes, please break my selfish heart and life so I can get it, can get YOU and not the manufactured version of you the world wants to sell me, not the rules you that people want to prop up and fight over.

The warrior you-- the one that BINDS UP THE BROKEN HEARTED-- but also knows that for the binding, there must first be the breaking. The one that fights the mediocrity in the lies of organized religion-- the one that is our only dose of HOPE in a broken world.

Broken-- again and again. Broken that light can creep in. Broken that change can be made. Broken that history can walk forward into something new.

This was our year-- broken-- a funeral march-- (and don’t forget that even at funerals there is sweetness and softness and laughter)-- broken to be better.

Here’s to 2017. Bring on the breaking.

something political.

It’s so nice that you have an opinion.
I have one too.
There have been dozens of opinions passed as facts and hard evidence in the year.
Almost everywhere you look, an opinion piece about the election-- about the moral character of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump— is being shoved down your throat.
If you’re fiery, you throw your opinion back—maybe kindly, but most often full of disgust that someone could have a varying opinion on “who is worse” in a very, very losing game.

That’s cool. The election will come and pass and more hateful, disparaging opinion articles will surface about whoever wins. It's a blur to understand which fact is true and which is stretched—all mingled with this incandescent need to share opinion, opinion, opinion. 

I have an opinion too- a political one- but I’ll save that for November.

Here is what I do know that this election has taught us—we need to be better humans.

And your vote is not going to fix humanity. Your opinion isn’t either.

Discussions of sexual assault, racial profiling, the ridiculous need to throw rocks at the other side of the aisle, the war in Syria, the refugee crisis, police shootings, deportation forces, fraud—these are the things that immerse our brains—and all of this does not need a person in political power—it needs Jesus.

If we have learned anything from this horrifying year, it’s that humanity sucks. It’s that we have got to do better. We have got to be better.

When I walk into my high school classroom- I have an opinion. But I don’t share it. Because I have kids whose parents are here illegally sitting in my class. Because I have girls wearing hijabs who have been partial to Islamaphobia sitting in my class. Because I have kids whose parents have taught them to be racist through discussions at the dining room table sitting in my class. Because I have kids whose only form of news is Twitter sitting in my class. Because I have African-American boys who are freaking smart but have been labeled as a trouble maker their whole lives sitting in my class. They see hate. They know hate. They do not need an opinion.

They need a hope of a better world.

As we sit, a mixture of modern America, we read The Crucible and talk about the ways in which McCarthyism of the 1950’s resembles today.


As we sit, a mixture of modern America, we read Civil Disobedience and talk about the ways in which we agree and disagree with our own government. We talk about non-violent protests as a student sits in the back of my class with a piece of tape over his mouth to protest silently for Black Lives Matter.

As we sit, a mixture of modern America, we read The Declaration of Independence and The Federalist Papers and talk about the failings and successes of the Founding Fathers of this country—what changes we have made since these famous words were written and what changes still need to be made.

Gain something from this political mess—a reassurance that this is not our home. That we do not put our hope in a government—filled with both corrupt people and ones who would die for this land.

So put down your loaded opinion. Vote if you want—but know you’re not going to be voting for a “good person” no matter what—but that’s not the end of this country.

If we want to fix this country, heck, this world—it’s not about voting for a “good person”—it’s about being a good person. Fight for justice, not a majority in Congress. Strive to be kind, not right.

At the end of the day, I’m not simply a citizen of America. I’m a citizen of the kingdom of Heaven: a child of a God who does not know hate because in His very nature, is love.

Care about something beyond politics—care about the issues that have emerged in this disparaging race—pick one and do something about it—with your finances, your time, your words. Just do something.

We have got to be better humans.
And that right there is the only opinion I’ll be sharing with the Internet. 

on injustice.

I will never try and pretend that I know anything about injustice or cruelty or hatred. I have lived a life of privilege and I know that. I'm not going to pretend that people should listen to me based on my experiences with mistreatment. 

But. 

It's really important to speak out.  

Take one look at social media and you will see people hating each other really well. 

Scroll through the comments on celebrity and politicians Instagrams and Twitter posts and you will find hatred screaming at you.

Don't read the comments, they say. They're just internet trolls, they say. 

Yes, some.  

But thousands? No. These are real people who use the "freedom to have an opinion" as an excuse to blast anger and hate into the world.  

And those are just words. 

We're currently reading The Crucible in my 11th graders class and it's so freaking important. While it was written to mirror the 1950's McCarthyism, it's a vivid picture of what hate and fear can do to tear apart a community.  

Fear holding power leads to hate. It always has, it always will. 

People in 2016 are afraid. And so again, as throughout history, we hate.  

When you do live a privileged life, it's easy to just avoid what happens outside of your life and just be "a positive light". But those of us sitting on the sidelines have got to do more. We've got to be the one person in Salem (John Proctor) who is willing to call out the bullshit. We've got to fight hate with more than just positivity.  

What are you going to do to fight injustice?  

For me, it's all about teaching. I really think that education and schools are the backbone for fixing so many other societal downfalls. And you might disagree. But don't turn on me. This is my way of fighting injustice, little by little. Fight to increase literacy and life skills in all my kids. Because I actually think the baby steps can help. 

Maybe you're cynical and don't believe the power of education. 

That's cool.  

What do you believe in? What do you do, even? Because whatever you're doing, you can foster intelligence and empathy there. 

What are you doing to rid this world of injustice today, tomorrow, this week, this month.

Because shaking your head and saying "what a shame" or "I hate that" is nice. But at some point, it's gotta be more.  

 

 

on highways that you cried on.

Skies dimming into greys and purples and pinks over lines on the road-- a view that brings awe and glee and makes you glad you’re alive.

Bright twinkle lights as darkness sets in and the car moves forward-- a different type of beauty, but still holds onto you.

Crying on highways has become a habit of mine. I used to cry handling long-distance love poorly, as I let tears roll down to over-dramatic country songs up highway 75.

Then came jobs and commutes and long days learning how to be a good teacher while simultaneously learning to be myself. Then came Christmas with those same commutes and tears for Christmas stories. More years and more commutes and all different stories and songs.

Crying on highways has become a habit of force.

But now I cry at a lot of things.

Those sunsets from before. Wind blowing through the car window onto my face. A hard day. A really good day. A killer song from the 70’s. The freaking beauty of full circles and all the grace of a good God in a broken world.

Highways are the perfect place to hold your tears of joy and sorrow. They stretch out in front of you lined with yellow and possibility. I love them. I love them surrounded by trees and mountains and less when surrounded by big buildings, but I guess there is beauty for some people in those kinds of highways too.

Sometimes I like to think about all the highways that will hold me in the future, that I will drive down day after day and lay the memories of a day or week or year out as the wheels turn quickly.

I’m excited for the highways that are yet to be held, and thankful for the one’s that have made up the years that I’ve lived.

Yellow lines and melting skies-- thanks for holding all the good and bad kinds of tears and days and lives.

on the year that made you.

I think there are some years that make you-- that hold onto you and where you always feel a pull to hold onto those lessons you learned.


There are years that change you-- that rock you-- that flip you upside down.


For me-- 2010 built me.

It’s still building me.


Really, it was my freshman year of college. I lived with the embodiment of true and real friendship. We laughed and ate too much sugar and danced to dumb songs and laughed about boys that loved us and met each other at our darkest places.


I learned what it’s like to physically break. I learned this the same week I learned what sobbing into your steering wheel on the side of the road feels like -- the kind of pain that accompanies the death of a friend.


The best year of my life rolled miraculously into the worst year of my life.


It’s a year that still haunts me-- still holds me. That I still cry over-- how good and sweet and pure all mixed with the feelings of growing up and raw brokenness.


Later that year, I would run laps around a grass soccer field and laugh into the sky with the freedom of a healed bone. I would make different friends and fall in love with a boy.


Years later-- that year will still make me sigh.


There are years that make you.

And all that’s left is you holding onto the sweetness that growing pains show in retrospect.


And you’ll always know-- that was the year that made you who you are today.

on not being defeated.

 “When defeated, don’t be defeated”-- my college cross country coach once told me.

 

It’s not that easy, I thought.

But I’m learning that it is.

I don't know where you are this week, but maybe you're overwhelmedand pushing aside the prayers bigger than you because they feel laughable. But then you remember that God is NOT you, NOT selfish, NOT scared-- NOT human at all. He put those dreams in your heart. Maybe you're at a place where you feel like overshadowed or marginalized-- like every right thing you do is brought crumbling by the single wrong.

 

It’s easy to feel overshadowed-- to feel like your mistakes or even simply your lack of momentum casts shadows over the dreams that pulse in your heart.

 

It may seem dark in this world sometimes. But you can’t forget to adjust your eyes and burn vibrantly on.

 

And just,

 

When defeated, don’t be defeated.

on growing up beside you.

I still remember how you were when I was eighteen. You came to my birthday party-- a scavenger hunt-- even though I barely knew you. Just a kid in my math class, but you were there anyway.


I still remember how you turned your car around on a warm May night to drive to my house and tell me the truth. I was driving down the street and we stared through car windows (going different ways) at our future.


I still remember that August night as we left for college-- and I said “No, this won’t work” and you told me you’d never date anyone else and I laughed. Still eighteen, but slowly growing up.


I still remember when you told me all the things you hated about me at almost twenty. We were on a coffeeshop porch in Athens and I broke your heart and kissed a different boy. For two whole weeks, we stopped being friends.


I still remember kissing you at Christmas the year we weren’t friends and then we were. And you said you loved me. And then you were my boyfriend-- as we turned twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two-- Ben Rector and Rocket Summer and long highway drives in between.


I still remember crying at twenty-three-- moving to different cities and wondering if you really wanted to marry me anyway. We learned how to deal with conflict and more miles and career decisions good and bad.


I still remember promising my life to you the year we turned twenty-four. And what followed were the pieces of laundry and arguments about dinner and backroads and windows down-- new jobs and a puppy and more kissing and fighting and being bad at cleaning and those same life decisions.


And then we were twenty-five, soon (too soon) to be twenty-six. And I remember all the bits and pieces of you and me at eighteen and twenty and today-- you growing up beside me. You becoming who you are and me the same. We grew up beside each other and you invade my memories of becoming. And all I know is that I’m so glad you were there.

on learning who you are.

It’s freeing to understand who you are.


If you’ve ever taken a personality test (like Meyers-Briggs)-- you know the insatiable satisfaction in reading a description of you. You nod-- yes, yes, yes-- to scenarios and traits that you thought made you crazy only to be deeply realized.


If you know Meyers-Briggs, I’m an INFJ-- an introvert often misinterpreted as an extrovert. Creative and emotional- living in a world in my head. My childhood obsession with planning out of my life on sheets of notebook paper now aligned with a personality trait that is future oriented, one that craves to plan and know the future, that feels anxiety with uncertainty, that craves to plan and know the future instead of resting in the Lord.


It’s freeing to understand who you are.


The last day of summer break I wanted to go sit by the lake and finish my book (and cry about it) all by myself. So that’s what I did. You’re allowed to do the weird thing that brings light to your soul. It’s a relief to realize I don’t have to go to festivals or bars or parties to have fun-- that solitude and sunshine are all that my own self needs to find joy sometimes.


It’s freeing to understand who you are.


And doubly beautiful to have friends that understand how you work as well. True, loyal friends have been the best part of twenty-five-- having raw conversations with friends of ten years that have seen you at your worst and still see you for your best potential. That are still along on the ride of becoming the better version of yourself-- and you for them.


It’s freeing to understand who you are.


If you haven’t found that freedom, fight for it. You deserve to stand boldly in the personality you’ve been bestowed upon by a God who giggles at the variances in humankind’s desires and loves the way we delight in a field of bright wildflowers.


Find that freedom and find yourself, you deserve it.

on blowing whistles. (2/30)


When I was sixteen, I was a lifeguard during the summer at a neighborhood pool. It was then that I was taught to prevent the things you wanted to avoid by watching with a vigilant eye. Stop the problems before they could happen. Blow your whistle. I knew CPR and how to strap a body to a stretcher and what how to pull someone out of the deep end properly. But I never once used those skills. Never once rescued anyone or jumped in the case of an emergency. Instead, I watched, waiting, daring something to stop out of place so I could stop it. Blow your whistle. Don’t let anything out of your watch, out of your control.

This is an extremely valuable skill as a lifeguard.

It is not as useful in real time, in real life.

You can’t blow your whistle at life and make the things you don’t want to happen around you stop. You can’t always be in control. I’m still learning this lesson-- slowly, painfully, but learning.

Four years out of college and life is nothing like I expected it to be. I’ve found myself in a constant battle between feeling content and caught. Wanting to change everything and settle into a rhythm at the same time. Often I feel like I’m treading water while seasons change around me. I want so badly to know what’s next-- and then to know if that will be “it”-- if I’ll move and buy a house and have a family in another city in another state. Or maybe I’ll stay here-- either way-- I’m watching vigilantly once again. Waiting to knock any unknowns off their course, while simultaneously waiting for something interesting to happen.

You can’t ask for adventure and fun while blowing your whistle at the first sign that you’re losing control. Step back in line. Head back to the shoreline.

The truth is-- I want to get rocked. I want a curveball thrown my way. I want to jump in the deep end of life and prove that I can handle it-- whatever the big, bold, and new is. But I just keep making sure everything is safe, blocking my own chance of adventure.

Maybe you’re doing the same thing. And maybe it’s time to learn that while learning to save others is important, you’re not the world’s lifeguard. You’re not your own lifeguard.

Honestly-- you just might not drown if you dropped the whistle.
And while it’s hard for you-- control loving child that you are-- that chance is worth the risk.

 

without the complicated brain.

It's easy to feel when you're writing that "no one gets you" when your writing style is less conventional, more allusion. 

There will be things you say and think and wrestle with that belong to you-- and it's refreshing to put that out and see if anyone gets it. 

But most of life is simply extraordinary ordinary adventures. And I don't want to miss out on those. 

 

on running up mountains.

It’s hard to let people in on your greatest and biggest dreams. Sometimes you shut yourself out of them too. I want to write a novel. There, I breathed the words and someone else knows. Which is the worst, by the way, because when people know your greatest and biggest dreams-- they know when you fail. They know when you let mediocrity rise up and swallow you.

I hate that.

The thing is-- if you give up on yourself and you don’t let anyone else in-- you let your own big dreams die. And that’s just not acceptable because these are great and big dreams we’re talking about. You can’t let them die without a fight. Even if you don’t accomplish them-- a life carrying around the weight of your sweetest dreams is something I never want to know. I would rather hold onto balloons of hope and possibility than drag around a perpetual ending.

Lately, it seems like all the things I want are laughing at me. I realize that sounds dramatic-- but it’s true. And so I’m trying (I really am) to fight them all back. I’m trying to be okay with climbing mountains again.

Six years ago, I fractured my hip and learned a lot about relenting to God (but that is another story for another day). And at the end of it all, I got to put my beloved running shoes back on and go for long, sweet runs again. The college I ran for is in the midst of the grace that mountains bring and day after day, I ran up mountains. Every single day after getting to start again with one of my greatest loves, I ran up and up and through all the aches got to say-- “I can run up mountains”. It’s one of the simplest phrases of freedom I’ve ever held onto.

Your dreams will start to fade. You will grow up and get accustomed to the changes in your life that once rocked you. But you cannot simply take in life at ground level. You have to run up mountains-- because it’s better. And more importantly, because you can.

And just like running-- mile after mile-- you have to put one foot in front of the other. You can’t hide inside in the sweltering heat or the icy rain. You’ve got to move.

So here is my mountain-- to write. To write a lot and to write well and to write whether people read it or not.

For September, it’s going to be essays like this one. An essay for every day. That's the slow mileage you have to put in before you can race. Thirty essays.

This is the first-- pushing to run up mountains with joy.

flowers and weeds.

We all have a different context by which our lives are framed—different lens for seeing the world. That’s how the world works. You are born into the life you are born into. And this—this is to those wearing the same lens I am.

 

See if this describes you: between 20 and 30, white, “middle class”. You’re from some type of suburbs (no, I’m from some other small city. Fine). You went to college. You grew up Christian. Maybe you worked at a summer camp. Maybe you were a YoungLife leader. Maybe you led vacation Bible school. Maybe you just went on a mission trip to Central America.

Whatever, you love Jesus. And probably coffee.

 

Maybe that isn’t exactly you, but these are your friends. Here is the thing: this is an amazing lens to be wearing. But if this is you, my friends, you have a role to play.

 

I hear all the time that the easiest way to stomach the news is to not watch it. People want to avoid those political Facebook posts. People urge you to just “see the good” .

 

There are still flowers in a world that feels overgrown by weeds. But the important thing, you know, is not just "seeing the good" instead of the bad. And maybe you can't turn a weed into a flower. You can’t change the mind of the aging white man who hurls hate or racist comments at the bottom of an article about President Obama. You can’t change the girls who comment “fat and ugly” on other girls Instagrams that they don’t even know. But you need to see it. You need to stop just seeing flowers because they’re prettier.

 

You sure as hell can plant some seeds, though.

You can make sure someone behind you knows how to read, knows how to fight ignorance, and knows how to love-- not the shallow, empty love that so many people preach-- but the real, full, offensive love that Jesus actually meant when He was inviting outcasts to be his best friends. But you know what else—first you have to read. You have to not ignore the world or be ignorant to what is going on. You have a responsibility to see people, to the world, to see the violence. You have to recognize it! Recognize people! Don’t go sit in a coffee shop and talk just about what the Lord is teaching you through your need to be patient in your own damn life.

 

And I’m not saying “America is falling apart” because that’s foolish. We have lived in a sinful, hateful, violent world since the beginning of time. We are surrounded by the results of sin: hate, terror, isolation, rivalry, selfishness.

Yes, the world needs redemption.

But we’re sitting here shaking our heads saying, “Come, Lord” when He already came!

He already came!

Stop asking Him to come back and go be the hands and feet of Jesus yourself.

 

Read the news. Get political. I’m always amazed by how little people know.

Yes, we live in a mess of a world.

Yes, it is sad.

Yes, it is scary.

But you are helping no one by ignoring the mess.

You are helping no one by justification of any means.

 

You have a role to play. But that has to stem from real, deep empathy.

Don’t belittle someone’s problem. Listen. Learn.

Crack the lens by which you see the world.

And then, for the sake of the world, say something worth being said. 

slow down, sister

My brain is cluttered. Just like my room. Just like my car. Just like my heart.
And I want everything to clean itself because digging through clutter is a drag.

Rainy summer days—you make a cup of tea at seven o clock because it’s so light out but there is nowhere to go. In the silence the questions ring out—“who even are you?” You think stability will cure you. But you’re just as restless and cluttered. Sitting still remains hard.

Slow down, sister. Be the kind of person you want to be—it’s your choice. But here’s the real truth: you have to be that person on rainy days inside and silent. You are not a perception. You are skin and bones and you are still simplifying. Take the rainy day and once again hide away and find yourself under all that mess you’ve made trying to turn your soul into a show and tell. It’s not as hard as you’re making it.  

pound it out.

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer”—go some of the best words from Hurston in Their Eyes Were Watching God. That phrase held tight to me this year; that phrase that held up a story in a novel stayed wrapped around my brain this year.

And I’m not sure which type of year these past nine months have been—but it (like always) has been a year that taught. And this year, I learned how to fight. I asked questions and God gave me answers and while both questioning and answering and breathing and running and dancing and yawning and crying and even staring blankly all happened—this year my answers came in the answer of a closed fist of the soul, ready to pound it all out.

This year has been like a track workout. Mile repeats. Pounded. Out. Mile. After. Mile. And while it has been good—made stronger—I’m tired. This year I fought for students and I fought for respect. I fought for time, time, time over and over and over. I fought self-doubt. I fought for marriage. I felt like you feel when your legs ache but you’re rounding the final curve on the track—again and again.

And honestly—I know things are going to continue at this pace, after summer, I mean. I’m coaching three sports next year and teaching two preps and I know Andrew and I will continue to have to learn to make each other a priority. But I feel like I’ve conquered something.

This was a good school year. And for the first time, I’m staying put. I’m not changing schools. I’m not leaving anyone behind. This was a good year of training—of fighting. Of pushing through the curve on the track and bursting into that final 100 meters.

It’s time to take a minute (two months) to breathe.
And do it again. Better and stronger. But still fighting. 

this is just to say.

you don’t have to fit in the boxes that were built for you.


Lately, I’ve been having a hard time with words. I’ve been having a hard time taking the colorful strands and zig-zags that make up my thoughts and putting them down.

Lately, I’ve been having a hard time with myself. You think that by twenty-five, you start to understand yourself. But as I learn year after year, I don’t know myself at all.

And I think the problem is that we have these boxes that were built for us. Custom made, even. We have boxes built of the wood that is carved from our childhoods, our high school memories, our families, our cities, our culture, our religion, our choices. We build boxes—measuring and making sure we’re reflecting what we’ve learned along the way—we build boxes. And then the unfortunate moment comes—we don’t quite fit. We don’t quite believe what our parents believe about politics. We don’t quite like the music that our friends do—or somedays we do, but other days you want to be defined by the songs that sung your nineteen your old self to sleep. Somedays, we look back at photos and say “I knew myself then” and we want to hold onto fifteen-seventeen-twentyone—but we can’t. We don’t fit in those boxes anymore.

You don’t have to fit in the boxes that were built for you. And maybe you still want to and that’s not reassuring—but to me, it’s everything. You don’t have to fit in the boxes that were built for you. You can evolve. You don’t have to fit in the Southern religious landscape. You don’t have to fit in the Northwestern state of mind. You don’t have to fit because you are not meant for a box—you are meant for a big, wide, bold, round world. And your own world—that box of the things you know and the things you think—is too small for you.

You’re allowed to contradict yourself. You’re allowed to be brand new as the years, days, minutes pass.

You don’t have to fit in the boxes that were built for you.

You might still be figuring out who you are.
But for today, that is enough. 

easy and hard.

There are things that are easy to say, like: I want something new or I need an adventure. We all crave that break from the monotony of our daily lives. But there are some things that are harder to say, like: How in the world can I put into words how much you mean to me?

Because we don’t even know it until we see the snapshots of worth later flashing into our brain: a blue sweater and fuzzy socks, you laughing trying to find something in the mess of our house, a dog that rips up receipts into piles all over the house. And you. Always you.

We live incredible moments. We have incredible conversations. But never will we stop in the midst of what feels like a heavy fight to say: we are breaking ground here. We are refining each other and becoming better and wow, it is incredible.

Thank heavens for the snapshots. We see our moments from minutes to years ago and we cherish them. We say, “incredible”.

There are some things that are easy to say, like: there has to be more. But there are some things that are harder to say, like: this is enough; you are enough.

But isn’t that what those struck by tragedy are always telling us-- appreciate what is around you. You’ll want to when it’s gone. Even you, pulling out of the drive-way, I think- wait. That moment, in the kitchen, where all you did was pull your arms around me and kiss me goodbye, the usual-- incredible. And all at once I want it back. And there it is, the snapshot.

There are some things that are easy to say like: hello. It’s easy to say “bring it on” to the new jobs and new cities and new friends. And there are things that are harder, like: goodbye. I remember once in college, driving away from the pre-school that I worked at-- saying goodbye-- “this is it” to three year olds who didn’t understand that and I got in my car and just wept. This was some magic and now it’s over- and still- I still remember that moment and it makes me sad. The goodbyes since have followed: tears driving down a highway onto a new hello, but tarnished because of one word that can make your heart sick.

We are weighed down by the goodbyes and the heartbreaks that belong to us.Even as we move on, there is an uncharted weight that the words accompanied with new changes bring: goodbye.

There are some things that are easy to say, like: sorry. I forgot to realize how great you are until this moment. But there are some things that are harder to say, like: I forgive you.

We’ll live between the snapshots of a good, sweet, and wonderful life that holds those adjectives because it’s the only one I’ve got and it is my own. We’ll continue to live in the massive space between adventure and monotony, between more and enough, between hello and goodbye, between sorry and  I forgive you. It’s an awful big space with no rules except for that you won’t survive without grace and your heart will ache and swell in all the right ways and all the wrong ways. And we’ll keep trying to figure out how to put life into words and somewhere in the midst of that, we’ll remember to just enjoy it. And for now, that’s enough.

your miracles are not my miracles.

Your miracles are not my miracles.

But I need to remind myself of this daily, otherwise I’ll lose my mind in the crazy competition that is jealousy and “goals” and self-absorption. It’s easy to forget when you’re on your knees praying for your own miracle to stop looking to the side gawking at what the someone next to you is rejoicing in. Sometimes we smile and sometimes we’re downright bratty.

When I was a senior in high school, I had chronic shin pain that kept me from racing and absolutely made me crazy. I had begged and begged each night to wake up and feel nothing pulling on the tendons and muscles and had friend after friend lay hands on me and pray for them (includinga super cute boy who I didn’t know I loved yet, but who was already interceding on my behalf). One weekend, the mom of one of my closest friends took me along with her to a radical healing conference. I was prayed over (even in the midst of this being such a little thing looking back) and surrounded, as miracle after miracle happened around me.

And yet—I walked away the same. Nothing happened. Absolutely nothing.

I left that night defeated and running around with excuses for why I wasn’t supposed to be healed. I wept and yelled. And what I never recognized until eight years later—was to notice the magnitude of the miracles around me.

There was a man called out of a wheelchair. There was gold dust and a gold tooth and several other illnesses and aches called out and healed right then and there. Miracles- and yet I didn’t even stop in wonder because of the obsession with my own damn miracle. I was witnessing God’s glory in a way many never do—and I didn’t even care that another human received a great gift all because I wasn’t the one who got it.

I have been reading through Genesis and what continues to standing out to me is the differences in blessings—Hagar does what she is asked and then Sarah throws her out- and yet God still blesses Ishmael and promises protection. But it’s not the same miracle that Isaac was. And then Esau and Jacob—why was one favored over the other—why did one receive what the other didn’t.

Maybe I’ll never understand—but I do know that Jesus broke that pattern and became the miracle for every single person.

And yet—my miracles are not your miracles. My miracles are Sunday mornings waking up to the product of a high school love story or a student who has been a royal pain asking for forgiveness and a fresh start. Your miracles may be a finance breakthrough or a trip to Paris or a cross-country job. And I’m tempted to claim that my miracles aren’t good enough. And at the same time, my miracles are not finally making it to a country without war. My miracles are not seeing my family for the first time in years—but those are the miracles of those who would question why my heart is so selfish in the first place.

So that’s it—I refuse to live in a way where it takes me eight years to stop and think—“I saw someone else receive a marvelous gift from the Lord—and instead of being amazed at the wonder—I wanted my own”. I want you to receive better and miraculous miracles than ever before, because God is still writing on the walls even if it looks a little different to each person.

Your miracles are not my miracles.
And over and over—I’ll be reminded of this daily.  

hold on, we're going home.

Here I’ve been making lavish goals for the year when what my soul needs the most is to seek. So that’s where I’ve been: a lot of sitting and reading and writing and seeking in the only way I know how. Yesterday as I was reading through Genesis, I learned that when the Lord confused the languages of the people at the Tower of Babel—it wasn’t simply a punishment for their act of pride—it was an act of deep mercy, the ones the Lord frames everything in the Bible with. As the Lord took away their hometowns, the people’s feet soon had nowhere to land. Their hometown had to become the Lord—something we’re still fighting against today.

For the past three years of “adult life”, I’ve been looking for the place where my feet should land. What city am I called to? Surely you don’t want me to stay in Atlanta forever, Lord? Surely you have a place for me? And the Lord says yes- I have prepared a place for you to find refuge. But it’s not what you think—it’s me. And you might think that’s frustrating—but that’s only because you can’t see that this is the best and only place for your feet to land—that it is an act of my deepest and truest mercy to give you a longing for a home and have the only real answer be me, the Lord tells me.

My senior year of college, I moved into a sweet brick house with a wide white porch wrapped around the front in Rome, GA. I lived there by myself for the second semester of my senior year. And in that house, I wrestled. I wrestled with who I was and who I wanted to be. I wrestled with the circumstances around me and whether or not I was as alone as I felt. I wrestled with future careers and future cities and a future marriage. That house was my wrestling ring and it's sweetness held me when all I wanted to do was escape. I think about that now-- just a house-- but how it held so astutely all the battles that took place within. It was a temporary home that covered and stood when all I did was curse that this wasn't where I was supposed to be. 

I don't want to do that again. And maybe you don't either. I don't want to have a home and spend my time complaining that these are not the walls in which I am meant to be confined. Especially if where I'm sitting keeps drawing me to the feet of Jesus.

Jesus draws a map over and over to the place where I belong and I choose to throw tantrums that I can’t find the way on my own.

Find my own way home—when I’ve been sitting on a goldmine of “home” all along—if I’ll just sit right where I am and seek. 

shake the feathers.

This was the year that I ate pizza again. And cheese.  Small things, small things—but somehow it matters. For years and years I have scrutinized everything I have eaten and held fast to the lie that “it’s just me”—you can’t shake who you are. But this is the year the feathers started to shed.

Maybe you’re caught in the trap of your own mind—I sure have been there for years—and it’s not that you can’t live caught up. You can.

I want to feel like a poem. I want to feel fluid. And yet thoughts and fears and anxieties are jagged.  They leave me rough around the edges, with this whole lie that I can’t flatten them out as I fall—that the edges are permanent.

I fully believe in living a healthy life. But you are living your own story of what healthy looks like. Maybe a detox of kale juice is what you need—but maybe you need to eat a slice of pizza and feel free for the first time in years because for once—you’re not panicking about the calories. You’re alive.

And being alive, really truly alive, is healthy. The time I’ve spent trapped and refusing to go to events and dinners because I needed to maintain the same façade have tired me out—and I’m not 16 anymore. Almost ten years later and the peacock feathers of a constructed personality are floating away in the wind that comes with simply growing up.

There are still days when I look in the mirror and wish I looked like anybody else. And it’s easy to tell younger girls to love themselves—it always has been. But to face yourself and really behold yourself as beautiful- well, maybe you’ve been doing it for years.

But not everyone has. I sure haven’t. So let people live their stories and take first steps and be their own version of healthy. I’m not drinking this kale juice because I’m hateful—I just like it. But don’t worry—because this year, I wasn’t afraid to eat the pizza. And to me, that means a world of possibility is out there—more feathers to shake and facades to crack and life to live. 

two narratives.

We live in the midst of two narratives. The first, a narrative of hate that history of retold over and over. The second, a narrative of hope that was unleashed in full force that very first Christmas. This is the season of the second narrative- the one where we celebrate hope that entered in the midst of hate- wars, slavery, and a king who then went out and killed every baby boy as Jesus own family fled for two years. Our world is still living out its own narrative of hate-- but at the threshold of this Christmas season, we cannot forget how merry and bright that narrative of hope we have been woven into really is.

 

Your kingdom come quickly" we pray. And yet, in our minds- "Your kingdom" - only means what we want it to mean: goodness and joy in our own safety. And yet Jesus came and exposed himself to the leper and the enemies of His people. As C.S. Lewis described Aslan- "Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe- but he is good". So be all means- "Your kingdom come quickly", but be ready for His kingdom to be our greatest challenge when we come face to face in what a divine invitation (to all people) really looks like.

 

We live in the midst of two narratives, in a dangerous world. And we are not promised safety and comfort in the lives we live. But we are promised redemption and protection and we are told not to worry or be anxious. So let our narrative be the one where we believe in the baby, who actually came, to save our world- who wasn't plan b, who was always going to come and would inspire even some of the most hate filled people to turn to a narrative of love. 

There is a narrative of hate being lived out: it's not new. But either is the narrative that brings hope and deliverance and redemption. And it's not going anywhere either.