Wednesday, December 31, 2014


I sat down to write this post, tucked into a strange bed in a strange city, with the noise of boyish voices floating in from down the stairs, and I realized that this year has been so full, so heavy, so pregnant with blessings and beautiful brokenness that it's taken my breath away.
And they always say that it's darkest before the dawn
2013 was a year of hard, and heavy. I didn't think I would survive it. I didn't know if I wanted to.
That's something no one talks about, right? How sometimes the night is so black and the air so thick and everything so heavy that there is this moment, or these string of days, when you don't even want to survive.
But if I learned anything in 2014 it's the value of honesty, and how hiding from my own story, even the messy parts that make me cringe, only makes things worse.
2014 was the year of brutal honesty.
There were moments when I stood face to face with the girl in the mirror, with the ghosts of my past. What I saw there shook me to the core.
I learned to speak the truth. About my past, about who I am now, about my family, what I believe.
I learned that sometimes it's ok to walk away, and how sometimes you have to.
My friend asked me the question of what dates in 2014 will remain etched in my memory. And some days I remember, like graduation day, and my first day of college.
But others are more subtle, moments that have sunken deep into my mind. Moments like that weekend I spent alone with my brother camping, or those final moments after my last exam in high school when I knew I would be walking out of those doors for the last time. Lunch dates at coffee shops where everything changed, and I went to learn about college but for the first time I remember feeling unconditionally loved. I remember meeting this guy in a mall and we talked about writing and one comment he said still rings in my ears. And the wedding of my oldest cousin, my for longest best friend, when I cried only happy tears and just a little. I remember the trembling nervousness on that first day of college. Water/mud fights with buckets and shrieking and how after we all dried off we went for coffee. That moment when the past seems to repeat itself, when the boy from the poems becomes the boy who built glass castles inside of rib cages, and how in the split second of him walking away the glass castle crumpled and the aftermath is every truth I've spent my whole life running away from. How I spent my 18th birthday with Emily eating ice cream and laughing and bowling with oranges and salt shakers. Late nights and letting people in and playing cards and learning how to play pool and moments where my heart felt so full it nearly burst.
2014 was a good year, a hard year, a year of being put back together and my heart swelling.
I'm always a bit nostalgic about endings, even though I know that this isn't really an end. It's a fresh start, and God knows I need one. It's a chance to begin again, and again and again.

I won't run when bullets chase me,
I won't rest where arms embrace me,
I will love when people hate me, I won't hush, no you can't make me,
send the dark but it won't break me, 
you can try but you won't change me,
Take my life they will replace me,
I won't hush, no you can't make me, I won't hush, no we will sing
Where are we going? Oh I don't know, but still I've got to go. What will become of us? Oh I don't care, all I know is I'll go anywhere.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Here Be Dragons

I sat across from a girl who told me her story
With wide eyes, a face weathered by wars unspoken, exhausted and weary she sat before me, unfolding her life's story like a road map
Her hands, they told a story as they skimmed over the map, pointing out the roads she's traveled, the diners and run down motels she went into looking for a night's rest and refuge but only finding more monsters.
She said she was tired , and I could tell by the look on her face that she meant it. She looked hesitant still, hesitant to unload her baggage and her crumpled, torn road map and allow me to look over the outlines of highways and river banks.
She told me about the storm.
How this area here, the pale icy blue blob in the corner was where it began. When you're small, you do the best you can and this stain in the corner is where her hands shook and if you look closely you can see where she tried to paint the blue into an ocean, a lake, something, anything worth looking at but in the end it's only a stain.
Everyone told her the stain wasn't her fault, that just because the corner was ruined didn't mean the roadmap was useless, and she tried to believe them. But as she drove from one ghost town to the next the blob seemed to get larger and she couldn't escape it's looming permanency. She knew that her own crooked hands had been wrapped around the paintbrush, and even if the spill didn't drip from her fingertips she had tried to paint it away.
The rest of the roads, curvy and winding, seemed to be dictated by this stain.
She showed me the small towns and truck stops she'd sought as she ran away from the stain, in each one searching for love and refuge, in each one finding only more rain.
And the water began to fill her lungs, and the whole thing felt like a rainy Seattle sky and she believed them when they said the sun never shines in Seattle.
She showed me where she tried to make her own sun, roads marked brown and faded burnt orange, close but never shining vibrant. Twisting, shrinking, running, extracting, taking in, covering, revealing.
The roads, she said, never shone promised golden sunbeams.
She showed me the trees, the forest, the night. She referred to it as the moment when her body gave in, when the sickness riddled her bones, when pain became an every day fight.
Her stomach clenches tight as she tells this part, how she became another anomaly, another unexpected detour.
Her fingers trace the rough edges of the darkest days, the unmarked path traced in black ink. There are ink dots, each one representing a marker.
the day he fell, the day she cried, the day he left, the day she finally admitted she had wandered off the map into uncharted territory and there be dragons.
There be dragons
She said it's what they say when they've reached territory the map hasn't yet covered, because who knows what could be out there.
And the dragons that lurked in the unknown, they prowled at night. Some were friendlier than others. Some she learned to see behind their glistening eyes and treat kindly, others reared their ugly heads whenever the occasion presented itself.
And she, she tells me about the time when she learned to live with dragons. How everyone was afraid of this. How sometimes she was afraid of the dragons too.
How the dragons represented the storm, and all that followed.
I watch her, this dragon warrior.
She points to a spot on the map, painted a green blue with flecks of reddish gold and I ask her what it means.
She says this is now. Now, still marked by the blue paint that once stained the map, but now there are other colors too. The green is the grassy fields, the semblance of peace returning to the dark lines of the map. The reddish gold are flecks of sunbeam, of learning to be joyful.
Abuse, addiction, illness, pain, searching, empty promises, heartache, lost, darkness, dragons.
She doesn't quiver when she tells these parts of the story anymore. She used to, she says.
Now her eyes show fatigue, show pain as she runs her fingers over map lines, but there is something else too.
the knowledge that here be dragons, but this is not the end of the map. There is more map, more space, more road untraveled.
The stain at the beginning, the forest in the middle, the dragons that emerge from the shadows, they are not the end.
I get up from the mirror and walk away

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The stories I tell myself in the dark (and the light of love)

There are stories. Lots of them. Stories I've clung to long after their expiration dates because when they fall they sound like broken plates and I've never liked broken glass.
Stories: like the world is not safe, that love is a small, dark cage, like I am not deserving of the love they put on a shelf and label healthy and good.
I live from these stories, from the one main idea that love is not safe and good. I live them out, carry them into every relationship. I wield my fears like a battle axe, locking myself away like a princess in the tower because I am so deathly afraid of being free.
What would happen if I believed love was good and safe? What would happen if I lived from a place of unconditional love rather than unconditional fear, regret and shame? What if the story I marched into every relationship, every moment, was one of love rather than one of being afraid?
My head spins with possibilities of being hurt, being left, being abandoned. This is all I know of love, and the idea of this love being the story I tell and live out feels unsafe, dangerous.
But what would happen if I stepped out on a limb and believed there is a love greater than what I've been shown?
Recently God has been bringing to mind over and over the story of Hosea. It's one of my favorites. The lover never stops pursuing the one He loves. Wild, relentless, strong, unconditional.
For a while I saw myself as Gomer, Hosea's wife, the one who flees over and over.
I am the one with the scarlet letter, with the dirty hands and multitude of scars.
But when I look at the story this way, I miss a big part of the story.
When I look at it through my lenses I see a story of Gomer fleeing over and over, and Hosea, exhausted and fed up, going once again to win her back. I look at it the same way I look at all my relationships, all my circumstances. I've messed up too much, love is an obligation.
But the story isn't about what I know of love. It isn't about Gomer's failing, or even Hosea's pursuit of her. It is a love letter between God and the people He loves.
It is God's love letter for me. And it encourages me to drop my stories, set down my lenses and see what's really there.
Not a man fed up and exhausted by the fleeing of his lover but of a man so consumed with love for this individual that nothing can tear them apart.
An unconditional love, a love that never runs out, a love where there is always more, a love that is kind and deep and wide and forever.
This is the love I am challenged to believe in. Not a love that fails but a love that frees. Not a love that hurts and scars and ends when I mess up but a love where there is always more, where it becomes a happily ever after and after and after and after and there is no way to reach the limit. A love that pursues, that yearns for, that desires, that doesn't care how much you've failed because love is bigger than all of that. Love covers and wipes clean and says "I want you, right now, just as you are."
This is the love I am asked to believe in. Instead of letting my stories of what love is define me and hold me captive, I am asked to make room for the stories of a love that frees.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Jesus never fails (Joy)

As I sat down to write this Monday morning, I felt as though I was emerging from some sort of fog. I've spent the last four months in school, busy with budding relationships and homework and self discovery. I realized today as I sat in a still house that in all of this rushing around, the good busyness that has been filling my life, I've forgotten to just sit with myself.
When I sat down to begin analyzing my thoughts on joy, the only thing I could think was that I didn't feel joyful. If anything, I feel quite the opposite. I feel exhausted, both physically and emotionally. I got to this point, as I began to learn to once again exist without the constant buzz of activity, where I had to ask myself what I'm doing.
For the past week I've felt some form of discontentment. My plan was just to power through it, to get through the exams and get to break and then everything would be ok. All I needed was a few good nights sleep, some serious Netflix binging, some free time and I would be fine.
But as I pushed through, I watched my relationships with others and myself begin to suffer.
I watched as I began to put my identity in others, only to be disappointed and wounded when they didn't react the way I wanted them to. I began to get irritated with small things, and the bitterness began to grow. I felt underappreciated, and suffered from a sense of inadequacy. The gratitude list I've been keeping for a few months now suddenly ceased being added to. I turned to myself to try and fill the gap I felt, but only ended up more disappointed and feeling like a failure than I had before. And joy, joy had somehow vanished when I wasn't looking, too busy pressing on.
I'm not saying the things I was using to fill my time were bad. But I am saying that when the homework, the relationships and the internal and external noise begin to take the place of that internal balance and connection I have with God, something's wrong.
I also am speaking about this all in past tense, but I haven't crossed that goal line. I haven't figured it all out. I'm still learning how to deal with this, and I think it's a constant battle, something you always have to learn.
Because the pressures of life sometimes get too big, and the noise gets too loud, and it's easy to miss the joy when you're not looking for it.
If you don't stop to count all the gifts He gives, are you not also rushing right past the opportunity to fully participate in joyful living?
As I sat this morning in the big chair in the living room, all wrapped up in a blanket and sitting in my discontentment wondering what went wrong, I slowly began to trace back to the moment where I felt the shift, where I seemingly lost my balance.
It was there, there when I assigned my value to another person and was let down. There, which reminded me of all the times before when I was disappointed. There, where I came to the conclusion that I must not be good enough, that this which I have been given must not be good enough.
But when I take all that God has given and call it not good, I am closing myself off to the possibility of joy.
I am stubbornly holding on to all I have, claiming it for my own, and in the process snuffing out my joy candle.
My Philippians teacher used to sing this song which I find myself singing more and more often these days which says "(your friends, family, truck...) might let you down, but Jesus never fails."
Jesus, because that is the answer. Because that is the Ultimate gift. Because that takes what I have and turns it into enough.
And every moment in which I am thankful for these gifts, for His grace, I am discovering my joy. My joy is being made complete.
"I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be made complete" John 15:11
Every moment I take what I have and call it not enough, I am closing myself off. I am hiding myself away, stubbornly holding on to all I have and all I am and saying that what God has given is not good enough. Who God is and what He has promised is not good enough.
But when I open myself up and with an open, humble hand receive ALL that He will give, my joy can be made complete.
Because my friends might let me down, and my physical body might let me down, and my ambitions might let me down but Jesus never fails

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Shalom (Peace like Manna)

You could barely see the stars through the clouds, but every once in a while you would catch a glimpse of a constellation. We lay there in the snow, the weight of our bodies making imprints in the fluffy white powder. Her head was next to mine but our limbs were flung out in different angles, making snow angels on the ground.
"Lying here is so peaceful," I told her, "It's like nothing else matters. The world just stops."
The exam stress, the worries of family, when she says words that sting and he doesn't answer the one question that matters and peace is as illusive as the stars above. Every once in a while you would catch a glimpse, but never long enough to curl your fingers around it, never long enough to claim it.
In studying for my final exam, I've been reading of how the Israelites wandered in the desert, how they questioned and grumbled and searched, how God provided manna.
Manna, He provided, but they learned only enough for today. When they tried to store up, to create a safety net for themselves, there wasn't enough.
And maybe it's like this with my illusive peace, that when I try to hoard it crumbles apart in my hands but when I wait He will provide me with all I need for this day.
I am learning that God will not let His people go without that which they need. His manna, His mercies, are new every morning.
Peace, in the middle of the busyness of exams and in light of disappointments and when your arms are wrapped around her sobbing shoulders, in the face of unknowns when he won't answer your questions and in the presence of stinging words, and exhaustion
Shalom: Meaning peace but also to restore, to provide what is needed in order to make something complete. Completeness, wholeness, health, safety, tranquility, prosperity, rest, absence of agitation
Peace, Shalom, not because of my own faltering heart that is too tired to be kind, too hurt to be forgiving, too weak to be of comfort. Peace, because in the resounding echo of my heartbeat is the strong, sturdy echo of God's son.
And didn't He promise to always provide what we need?
He promised pain, but He also promised rescue
He promised hardship, but He also promised relief
He promised discord, but He also promised harmony
He promised night, but He also promised morning
My heart limps under the weight of all this non-peace, this agitation and frustration that surrounds this season. It's easier to fight against this which I cannot control, easier to stay angry and unforgiving and harsh instead of gently searching my heart to find this root of bitterness and pull it out with my bare hands. It is easier to stand in the way of my own peace, then rant to God about my lack of it. I've always been more of a fighter, more willing to pick up arms than lay them down.
But when I choose un-forgiveness, choose to remain frustrated and stressed, nothing gets done. It is when I lay down my own heart, allowing His heartbeat to pulsate through my body, that I find the peace that is promised me.
My own selfish heart can't find peace in this hectic pace, can't forgive when I've been hurt, can't offer love when all I feel is exhaustion. But His heart beating in me forgives, and loves, and surrounds me with peace.
In the middle, in the heaviness, when the stars are hidden behind their cloudy veil, He has promised peace. Peace, like Manna, what I need for today and no more and no less. Peace, because it is His heart working that allows my body to breathe out life and love and forgiveness, gentleness and rest. Peace, because when I first find my rest in Him then all else lines up, the weapons are laid down, and there is shalom.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Stretching Wide (A look back at how far I've come)

The first semester of college is almost over. The final assignments before Christmas are being handed in, the year end exams are almost underway, and the advice to "finish well" is ringing fresh in the mind of students.
This morning one of my professors asked the question of, if we were to reflect over our first semester on PRBI, how far we would say we had come.
As I was walking to my dorm after chapel later in the morning, I sighed and realized it was a sigh of contentment.
Contentment, that's what being at PRBI has taught me this semester. As Paul would say, I have learned the secret of being content in all circumstances.
Yes, I'm learning to be content, setting my mind on things above instead of on earthly things because to focus on the carnal is death but to focus on the eternal is life and peace (Thanks to my Philippians teacher for teaching me this wonderful nugget of truth, and reminding me of it every chance he got)
But I'm also learning grace. I'm learning that God did not abandon me, but instead brought me to a place where I would run out of myself, and discover more of Him.
I am being broken down at the strongest point of myself.
I have moments when I look at myself and wonder how I got here
I was reflecting on this question with my friend this morning, and I told her it feels like I've been running around in circles this semester, going back over the same old thing.
And I have. When I look back over the semester, there are a few moments that stand out as being significant, and mostly they are the moments when something broke me, hit a nerve and the walls I've put up for so long began to crumble.
And I'm the same in so many ways but there are so many ways in which I've changed, and grown.
I'm a different person now than I was in September.
The relationships I've built, the memories made, the laughter and the tears, they all line the road of my last few months.
It's been a journey, a process, and I'm (thankfully) still learning and growing, and while this semester is over this year, this journey, this lifetime is not. And I press on, because every moment I have breath is another moment that there is still work to be done.
And this journey I'm on, it's not about becoming better and progressing like climbing a ladder, but it's stretched out wide.
I said to my friend that I don't want to end this semester feeling like I haven't accomplished or gained anything, haven't arrived, but I think you don't ever fully arrive. It's not a ladder, not stretching up but stretching wide.
This first semester at PRBI, I have learned grace. I have held onto friends and learned love, let go of relationships and learned grace, cried and learned honesty and laughed and learned joy. I have come so far not by reaching one of these goals, but by existing in each precious moment I have been given, and calling it enough.
His promises, His manna, was enough for one day, no more and no less, and I have learned this.

"I am not saying this because I am in need, because I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


It's the second day of the first week of advent - the week of hope. Advent is one of my favorite times of year, when everything feels still and quiet. Advent is also a season of waiting.
This past week has been full. I taught Sunday School, and watched little eyes fill up with happiness as we made stars for our Christmas trees. I set plates in front of men and women and babies who may not know where their next meal is coming from, and the sheer gratitude in their eyes was enough to melt my heart. I celebrated my 18th birthday surrounded by friends, and so much laughter.
In all of it, I saw hope. Glistening, shining, shimmering hope that beamed radiantly into the darkness.
All of these sacred little moments, these tiny glimpses of what I imagine heaven to be like, I stored them up, treasuring them.
My heart felt spread open, and I remember standing on the edges of the banquet that night, watching people file into their seats while the band played and the table I was assigned to serve getting more and more full, and all I could think of was "I don't know how to do this."
I don't know how to keep loving when my heart is so full of the heartache of others.
Sometimes I don't know how to keep reaching for hope and finding the sacred when my own heart has been wounded so profoundly
For one of my classes, I participated in a 10 day spiritual practice, one where I spent time with God in a way that was easiest for me and one way that was hardest for me, each for 5 days. My journey circled a lot around the idea of guilt. Often there were nights when I would go to bed exhausted physically and emotionally, where I would sleep for 10 hours just to wake up and go back to bed 2 hours later.
Hope? Really?
Hope when I feel empty
Hope when I stand there and watch him walk away and something inside of me snaps
Hope when I am asked to give and give even when I have nothing left to offer
Hope when it all seems too heavy and hard
On Sunday in our church there were a few people who came to speak about Hope, one of them being my dad. And as he talked about hope, and friends gathered around me, reaching for my hands, I reflected on the hard plains that my family has toiled, and the strong legacy of the people that have come before me.
I feel blessed to come from such a strong line of men and women, people who were weak and human but strong and brave when it mattered
"She did put one foot in front of the other. This can be the biggest brave"
This Advent season, a season of waiting, a week of expectant hope, my heart is full: of the sacred and the substantial, of anticipation and the ache.
I am attempting to stay open, to stay spread out, because this is how hope begins to bloom
From the roots, from the soil, from the aching and laboring and loving and living and believing
I watched the sun rise this morning, delicate wisps of gold across the sky. I wonder if it always hurts to become, if the moment before the colors sweep across the sky the sun holds his breath in expectation, in hope, of all that is going to burst forth into the darkness.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What I learned about communication from Unicorn books (or the process of softening my heart)

I'm softer these days, I think
Like a fruit, easily bruised, needing to be handled with care
I need warm hugs and kind words and not too much time spent locked away in my own mind
Words meant in jest come off too harsh, and someone slides into a place I thought was mine and I make (another) wee mistake, or a big one, and my heart aches
As part of a homework assignment I've started a 5 day spiritual practice of setting aside a certain amount of time to talk to God, to worship and reflect and communicate.
It has felt like a pouring out of my soul to the Lord. I've made new discoveries, felt God's presence, and then tonight, as I was sitting in stillness waiting for His voice, it felt like I had hit a wall.
All day I was struggling, wrestling with myself. Writing didn't come easy to me and certain comments stung and I felt this barrier.
I fought against myself, crying out and asking God what was standing in my way, what was making this day seem so hard when before it had come a string of grace days.
"It's my own face that obscures the face of God"
It's a conclusion I've been coming to a lot lately, as God is working with soft hands to prune my heart, to create in me an eternal mindset.
In the middle of this teaching, as my heart is becoming softer, I've noticed more of the unexpected blessings.
Like heart to heart chats with the girl who is my kindred spirit, who gets my heart in ways that not many people do
Like being covered with a blanket as I lay sprawled out on one of the couches in the student lounge
Like being handed a coffee as I stumble into class and my sweet cleaning partner giving me the night off and laughter and story time
my heart is a little softer, and most days I feel the need to carry around a "handle with care" sign.
But I love what He's doing in me, and around me
I am convinced that the God I love will not leave me to stumble around in my own brokenness, that even in the wilderness as I wander nothing will separate us.
Even in these tender days, He's holding my heart

Sunday, November 16, 2014

In the Wilderness (He showed up)

I've been quieter than usual lately. People have noticed.
I'm not sad or upset or stressed, just quiet.
I've been writing some, a personal little project about coffee cups and love and relationships, about getting your heart broken and the people who fix it.
I was talking with a friend tonight about this space, and how it kind of feels like I'm in the wilderness. I'm a little disoriented, stumbling around. There's nothing solid to hold on to.
I'm just out here, standing, waiting.
It gets tiring sometimes, waiting for something you can't even name. Waiting to feel loved, to feel joyful and content, to feel as though you've reached this goal. Waiting to stop feeling like the weak one, the one who can never quite get it right, the needy one who isn't sure what she wants.
And all of it, all this waiting, it's necessary and a space I need to be in for a while, but it's tiring. It's making me a little quieter, taking a little more time for personal reflection.
I was talking tonight to my friend about when God shows up.
God's been teaching me some pretty crazy stuff lately. He's been asking me to trust Him in my relationships (as some of the ones I thought as stable begin to crumble), with my family (as I'm asked to reflect on the relationships I have with those I love the most), to love His people even when I feel weak. Most recently, He's been asking me to trust that when He says He'll show up, He will.
I told H. how I've been going to the church on Fridays, to pray. And how I've been going even when it's cold, and I'm upset, and I'd much rather stay inside and get homework done. And how every time I go, God's met me there.
Who am I that the God of the Universe meets me in such a place?
I go to pray for relationships, for community, for my little town and the people I love.
And it is I who walks away changed
I told her that I've been reading through a Psalm a day as part of a homework assignment, and it is in this regular practice that God has met me.
He's showed up
He has whispered my name in this wilderness and called me Beloved
He holds out His hand and asks for my heart
He calls me blessed, chosen, His
Who am I that the living God of Israel looks on me with love and calls me His?
It doesn't always feel like a gift
This wilderness, where my heart is being gently attuned to the sound of God's voice, it isn't easy.
Relationships fall apart, addictions stay, nothing makes sense and in all of it I have asked "God, where are you?"
His response is the same, "Right here."
Right here, in the wilderness. Right here, beside me. Right here, offering me parts of Himself if only I'll look, and listen, and wait.

"Therefore I will allure her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her." Hosea 2:14

Friday, October 31, 2014

15 on Friday

Over the past few weeks, God's been growing me.
I've been stretched, pushed and pulled and spread out. I feel all this space surrounding me, all this uncertainty and wondering and openness. The whole thing just feels too expansive, too much for my small hands to hold.
I remember a few weeks ago a friend saying that it feels like there is such a heaviness over this place, like we're engaged in this battle.
Yeah, I thought, I feel that
I feel the heaviness of fighting against myself. I feel the space when I am walking through those times where I feel out on my own. I feel the tenderness of my heart as it feels like it is being rubbed raw.
I'm questioning, flailing, stumbling, trying to navigate my way through this expansive wilderness.
Over and over I seem to echo a similar cry: Dear God, I want to hear your heartbeat
And gently He's been teaching me
One thing He's been showing me about His heart is His love for people
And I've never been a strong one, one good at walking into battle, but in this growing time I've become more open to hearing His voice and I can't ignore it when He whispers These are my people
This afternoon I bundled up in boots and a sweater and began walking. I walked my usual loop around the city, and then I came upon the church.
The church step was the only sitting place without snow, and so I sat. And though I am not strong I began to pray, my voice shaking, for His church.
For myself and for my friends, for church members and the community in which I live, I prayed without knowing words, feeling empty within myself, lacking eloquence.
And something changed.
I stayed on the church steps for 15 minutes, interceding on behalf of this community and His church, begging for His hand of provision over us, His mercies to fall, His grace to overwhelm. I uncurled my clenched fists and asked to be held. Tears gathered in the corners of my eyes and as I walked away 15 minutes later I knew I'd heard the sound of His heartbeat.
His heart beats for these people, too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


For one of our classes we're working our way through this book, meeting each week with another to discuss these tiny gems we draw from our weekly readings.
Most weeks I take tiny slivers of something to hold up to the light as the week passes, then promptly move on to the next virtue. But this, this one stuck out to me a little extra, shone a little brighter.
We made a challenge, for one whole day in the next week to notice every single time we said thank you and stop to ask why we were thankful.
And for a whole day I walked around being truly thankful for doors being held open and salt shakers being passed at dinner.
It reminded me of 1000 gifts, and how months ago I filled a little blue notebook with things I was grateful for, and how life got busy and the gratitude list became just another thing on my bigger to-do list and I stuck the little blue book on the shelf.
1. The patience of friends
2. Laughing voices coming from down the hallway
3. Big hugs as we say goodbye
4. Starry nights
One by one I create another list, naming the things in which I am grateful.
I'm nearing 100 now, 100 little gifts reminding me that all is grace.
I'm writing again, wild and rambling prose about people and love and coffee stains.
About this place in which I currently find myself, full of soft hands taking hold of mine and the space I've been feeling that surrounds my heart and the mystery of the unknown.
21. Physical closeness
22. Strong Brewed Coffee
23. Long walks down winding roads
24. Tiny eyes, wide and bright
I'm learning what it means to be loved. Sometimes I forget, and it takes the gentle reminder from a friend to bring my mind back to this. I'm learning it's ok to make mistakes and sometimes it's ok to let go. I'm learning that sometimes it takes being brought to the same place over and over again to finally learn, and sometimes when you think you know it all there comes the realization that there is (always) more left to learn.
47. Snowflakes falling on a Sunday
48. Her head tucked against my shoulder
49. Color coordination at the breakfast table
I'm being challenged to be honest, to be willing to get vulnerable and exposed, to spread open the parts of me I am most ashamed of and sit with them. I am being challenged not to stay here, where my own shortcomings, failures and humanness seem to be illuminated, but to rise.
Challenged to truly exist in this moment and make memories and keep living and loving with a heart flung wide open and to recognize that all this is grace
Elizabeth Gilbert says "Whatever comes and lifts your face out of the dirt and says 'rise, rise, rise' that is grace."
72. Words
73. Impromptu dance parties
I am falling in love with the world more and more each day. With strong hands and soft eyes and small gestures and words and sounds and people, always people. Sometimes all this loving makes me feel as though my heart is going to fracture under the weight of it all. I love too fiercely, too deeply, too quickly and passionately and wildly, and sometimes this causes bruises and cuts and I lay on the carpet wondering why I have loved at all. The challenge in these moments is to remain open, to keep on loving and letting myself be loved in different forms.
83. The silence of early morning
84. Clay under my fingers
85. Opportunity
Someone asked me once what I wanted my legacy to be, and I'll always remember what I said. I stole the phrase from Jennifer Pastiloff, and it is still one of the truest things I know.
"When I get to the end of my life and ask one final 'What have I done?' let my answer be 'I have done love.''
I want to have done love. I want to have loved well, but I also want to have loved badly and fully and passionately and messy and like crazy and the right people at the wrong time and the wrong people at the right time and myself.
I want to always experience love so completely it almost breaks my heart.
At the end of this day, when the clock has already ticked on to morning and exhaustion is in my bones from all the messy loving I did today, when I am vaguely aware of the still broken pieces of myself being made whole, I add one more thing to my list in delicate black ink script
91. Love
I am grateful for love

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about where I come from. I used to think I never wanted to leave home. But here I am, almost all grown up and on my own for the first time, and I am reflecting on the foundation you and Dad laid for me during the first years of my life.
I was your first baby, and no one gave you the manual on how to be the best parent. I wasn’t the easiest child to raise, and I know you did the very best you could. You made mistakes, made up your own rules along the way, made memories that have lasted me a life time. Like they say there isn’t one way to be the best parent, but there are a hundred ways to be a good one.
People here have been pointing out things about me, and sometimes all I can think is Yeah, I got that from my mom. My smile, the way I care so deeply about people, the way I’m honest. I am the person I am today because of how you and Dad raised me.
I know I don’t always appreciate you enough, probably because I’m growing up and like to think I know everything. But the truth is I don’t know anything. As much as I like to think I can figure everything out on my own, I still need you sometimes. And sometimes I can figure things out on my own, because you taught me to be independent, to be smart and make good choices.
I am so grateful for all you’ve shown me, for all you’ve taught me. And as I walk through my life I want to always remember and appreciate the fact that I am who I am because of you.
I love you, Mom
From your daughter

Sunday, October 19, 2014

I woke up this morning feeling hopeful.
The night before had been so thick and heavy, carrying with it a hint of despair. Wandering around the dorms felt like walking through fog, and it was easy to slip into the feeling that all was not well.
I stumbled around in my own exhaustion, my own shortcomings and failures.
I made the decision last night that this morning would be for spending time alone to reflect, to pray, to sit in the presence of God.
I awoke this morning and watched as others got dressed and went on their way to Sunday services.
I cracked open my Bible, desiring truth and comfort, God's promises made real.
I read and wrote in my journal and all the while I felt myself being lifted.
I turned on a podcast, pulled a hoodie over my pajamas and began to walk until I was out of town
This afternoon the homework party happened in my room, and as I looked over the beautiful girls all bent over their work, spread out on the beds and onto the floor, I couldn't help but feel grateful
I whispered a silent thank you before returning to the assignment spread out before me
Lately my heart has been nudged towards gratitude
What am I grateful for? I ask myself
for His grace, which is sufficient in my weakness
for long walks with friends
for each and every one of the girls in my care group
for late night hockey games
and water fights while doing dishes
for card games and coffee
for music
and conversation
for lunch time laughter and stories around the supper table
for honesty, given and received
for where I come from and where I'm headed, and for everything in between
the guys in our brother care group who care for me in ways that makes all the difference
for yellow leaves and friends to cover
being held and giving without needing anything in return
For grace
and grace
and more grace

Friday, October 17, 2014

Great is Thy Faithfulness

I woke up early, still exhausted after only a few hours of sleep, and got ready in the dark.
The sun had barely begun to peek through the trees when I stumbled to the 8 a.m. session on the first full day of Global Ministries conference.
This past week has been one of those weeks. Assignments are piling up, I am being brought to the wrestling ring time and time again, and I am constantly being asked to open up my room, my school, and my life to those visitors, missionaries and friends who are here for the conference this weekend.
And to be honest, I haven't been that welcoming, that kind.
I don't feel like being welcoming this week. I feel exhausted and stressed.
I've walked away from situations where I've been less than hospitable only to find myself immediately thinking of all the ways I could have been better, should have been better.
And all of it makes me feel like I'm failing.
My care group went on a mini missions trip this afternoon, and for the first little while when we were there all I could do was think how I didn't want to be here. I felt like I had nothing to give these people. They were just there, requiring more of my time and patience and kindness, and I had none left to give.
Looking back over this week, I see where I failed.
But I also see where He provided
This past week I was blessed with time where I was able to connect with a few good friends.
I was given small moments of rest
I received a verse, a lesson in class, a word from a friend at the times when it felt like I couldn't possibly give anything more that encouraged me to press on
His grace is sufficient
His strength is enough, even when mine is failing
And none of this is about me. All of it points back to Him
Like a friend reminded me, God is bigger than my failings, my shortcomings. He isn't hindered by the things I did or didn't do.
He gives me what I need for each day, no more and no less
I am reminded of the chorus of the song we sang on our missions trip today, the one I sang with the intent of offering it up to others only to be reminded that it is perhaps I who needed to be reminded of it the most
Great is Thy Faithfulness
Great is Thy Faithfulness
There is no shadow of turning with Thee
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord unto me

Monday, October 13, 2014

Thanksgiving (What I'm grateful for 2014)

Thanksgiving Weekend is coming to a close and I have yet to sit down and write the annual Thanksgiving post. You know, the one where I sit down and write about everything I'm grateful for.
Every time I sit down and try to write this, I end up at a loss for words. Not because I am struggling to find something that I'm grateful for, but because I am trying to find the words to convey the vast amount of gratitude that has filled me.
I remember years when thanksgiving would roll around and I would search for something, anything, to feel truly grateful for.
Life felt like loss, and I wondered if there would ever come a time when I would be truly happy again.
I am grateful
for the family I have just left at home: my dad who makes stupid jokes and sits on my feet when it's cold and I'm too lazy to get socks, my mom who takes the day off to go on crazy adventures with me, my beautiful sister who is filled with more light than most people I know, my brothers who amaze me every single day with new tricks and stories
for this place, the one I never thought I'd be in. Because I was never going to be the girl who went off to Bible School. But sometimes you hit a wall, and your second chance looks like an exit strategy.
and the people I've met in this place take my breath away with how beautiful and wonderful and loving they are.
I am grateful for late night conversations and homework parties and going on crazy spontaneous adventures. I am grateful for these people who enter into the trenches with me, who challenge me and push me and wake me up to things I didn't realize before. I am grateful for those who have seen me at my worst, my most broken, only to say I love you. And I am grateful for the ones who have taught me to be loving, to be gracious and kind. I am grateful for the ones who have taught me what it means to be loved.
I am grateful for my old friends, for those people that first reached into my night and loved me anyway, the ones that taught me it's ok to be honest, to have fun, to laugh and love and make messes.
I look at them now and I couldn't be more proud
I'm grateful for the losses, the really hard ones that knocked me to my knees and left me wondering if I would ever recover. I never did, but I have grown stronger in the broken places. I have grown kinder, softer, gentler, more loving and gracious. I am grateful for the memories, even if remembering sometimes hurts.
I am grateful that I am alive in this moment, that I am here and against all odds I made it
I made it here and I get to experience every single day what it means to be human
I am grateful for this
And you, I am grateful for you
Because you made it possible for me to be here. Your love and support and kindness and encouragement and refusal to give up on me made it possible for me to sit here and write this thanksgiving list.
And while the word itself will never feel like enough, I will say it anyway because it is the only one I have:
Thank you

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Yesterday I sat cross legged on the floor in the gym, surrounded by people yet in that small space entirely alone. We were given five minutes, time carved out to pray. And as I sat there, the first words out of my mouth were Well here I am, God, in the wrestling ring again
October has come to me quietly, much like the changing of the seasons. It is testing my relationships, taking hold of my human characteristics and pointing out the flaws in my selfish desires.
This process of examining my beliefs, my thoughts, my relationships is bittersweet.
I have a longing for hours spent curled up in front of the window, basking in the sunlight, for closeness and poetry.
But life slows down for nothing, and in this place I feel like everything is always moving at rapid speed. The last few nights I have been sneaking off to bed early, crawling beneath the covers, emotionally exhausted.
I feel a strange mix of look how far I've come and yet still look how far I have to go.
The struggle is never ending, there is always more, and nothing is quiet what I thought it would be.
Living in community often leaves me feeling vulnerable, like one wrong move will leave me shattered. And when something comes up, an internal struggle that turns into an external conflict, my instinctive reaction is to pull back and draw within myself.
When I am exhausted, when I am overwhelmed with everything I am learning, when life doesn't happen the way I think it should the first thing I want to do is pull back.
I want to stubbornly hold myself away from the body. The hardest thing to do is to keep being honest, keep loving and extending grace and offering up parts of myself.
One of the main themes I've heard discussed in all my classes this month has been unity, and the body of Christ.
This morning I sat in one of my classes while my teacher spoke on this very topic, emphasizing that none of us are individuals. My failure to grow and dream and love and be the person God intended for me to be doesn't just affect me, it affects everyone else within the body. My struggles, questioning, wrestling doesn't just affect me, but everyone around me. I am not an island.
And maybe I used to think I was. Almost exactly a year ago I wrote for about a month on the idea of being an island, separate.
But I'm not an island. I'm part of this body, this community. And while the easiest thing to do when I'm wrestling out what I believe would be to withdraw, my job is to be here and show up and keep working towards extending that grace and love. I don't get to be off by myself because that's not where I'm put.
The strength of the wolf is the pack and the strength of the pack is the wolf
In these tender moments of wrestling out what I believe, I have been so blessed by the people who have come around me.
Things like going on an adventure only to end up changing a flat tire in the dark,  long walks with good friends, a sweet encouraging note from the girls in my care group, it all reminds me that I am not alone.
Being in community means there are people here, to make me laugh and share in those good moments with and also just to come alongside me and walk with me.
And it means that I get the privilege of coming alongside them as well, sharing in the moments in which they burn the brightest but also stepping into their darkness.
Not one of us is an island.
It is in these hard moments that I begin to truly understand what community is.
It means being here, for the good and the hard. It means standing by your people, and letting them stand by you. It means sometimes getting over yourself to realize you are a part of something bigger.
It means choosing grace and love and to be honest even when your heart is aching.
What I do doesn't just belong to me, but every other person in this community, in this body.
Together we stand, divided we fall

“We don't learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right, when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you.”  

Sunday, September 28, 2014


The moments are fleeting, each one running into the next.
I barely have time to run them over in my hands until they disappear, vanishing into the past as softly and silently as they had become my present.
I can't believe September is almost over.
It feels like only days ago that I packed my bags for college, setting out on a new adventure
With such clarity I remember the homesickness that shook me to my core. I was convinced I would never grow to love this place.
Now, as my first month here comes to a close, I am left with a heart full of memories and new excitements waiting on the horizon
September has consisted of board games and water fights, spontaneous coffee runs and staying up late, hours spent pouring over homework and more hours spent avoiding it.
It's been bearing my soul, giving birth to this story that is inside of me, listening, learning, laughing, loving.
September was making new friends, making memories, and learning what it means to be fearless.
It's being broken open, and growing strong in the broken places.
September carries change, the winds of new possibilities, and if your lucky she also carries with her a measure of hope, and courage. She'll make you brave, if you let her.
September has taught me to become, to have fun and let people in and live in the moment.
September, you've been good to me.
Let's do this again sometime.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Today Means Amen

Dear you, whoever you are, however you got here, this is exactly where you are supposed to be

There are the days that empty, and the days that fill. There are days when it feels like my heart is going to explode, when I take in and absorb and receive so much I feel nothing but nourished and fed, taken care of and held.

This moment has waited it's whole life for you. This moment is the lover and you are the solider, Come home, baby, it's over. You don't need to suffer anymore

Today is the day when I sat cross legged in the middle of the room in my 8am class and felt like a little kid again.
Today is the day when I took a walk with people I barely know and listened to them talk about their days and why they are here and all the little things in life
Today is the day when an amazing friend comes in, takes my hand, listens to my story, prays over me some of the most beautiful words I've ever heard, and then we have coffee
Today is the day where I ate lunch with some incredible people, sharing stories and laughter and making memories
Today is the day when I laid on the floor of my dorm room in a patch of sunshine and listened to spoken word poetry
Today is the day when I played a board game for 2 hours, then watched a movie and smiled until my face hurt

The word today means amen in every language. Today we made it, today I'm going to love you, today

Today I can only sit back and look at these people, this life I never thought I wanted, all the experiences that brought me to this place and feel thankful. The healing is hard, but it's the beginning of something beautiful.

Dear you, and I have always meant you, nothing would be the same if you did not exist
This moment is a Hallelujah, this moment is your permission slip to finally open the love letter you've been hiding from yourself
You made it. You made it

Quotes taken from Today Means Amen by Sierra Demulder

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Five Minute Friday ~ Held

This is my first five minute Friday since arriving at college, and when I saw the word for this week I knew I had to write. Because in the midst of working my way through some pretty tough issues these past few weeks, I've also seen so many ways in which I am being held.
There are no words big enough to say how thankful I am at this time for the small ways in which I am being held, by my family at home, my new PRBI family and all the amazing connections I've made in my few weeks here. I am so grateful for each and every one of you, and the ways you hold me.

Because sometimes you can feel like an island

The past few days have been a struggle. Constantly I am being convicted, pushed to grow, forced to move outside of my comfort zone. All of it can feel like trying to navigate my way through a snow storm. I can barely see two feet in front of me, and everything is vague and obscure as I stumble through the nothingness, hopefully towards something.

 And then something happens. There is a hand, reaching into your storm. There are strong fingers that wrap around yours when everything feels like too much. They pull you to your feet, and nod, because they’ve been there too. And something about that moment, the act of being held, however briefly, matters. It is enough to shed some light on what is ahead. It’s not just me, standing alone in the storm, but now there is a sense of togetherness.

 And that connection, it’s an anchor. It steadies me, reminds me that I can stand on my own two feet, that sometimes the only way beyond is through. It points me back to the One who is always standing there, reaching out His hand, waiting to pull me to my feet.

 Sometimes when you are fighting your way through the hard stuff in life, when you can’t even see the next step, it’s a beautiful thing to just be held.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014



My heart is full.

 These last few weeks have been the beginning of an incredible journey, one I never wanted to take but am finding myself being grateful for.  So many times I have sat down to write the beginnings of this post, but so many times I have erased all the words I have written, instead choosing to ponder these things in my heart.

 I don’t know yet how to write about this delicate balance, this place where I find myself. It is the midst of immense questioning and wrestling with God, and also the place where I feel so incredibly blessed, and overwhelmed with grace. I am overwhelmed with the necessary adjustments as I switch into college life, with the things I spent so long running from but now can’t seem to avoid, and by the kindness and love I’ve already experienced from the incredible people.

 I say I didn’t want to be here, and it’s true. Because already it is shaping up to be one of the most challenging places I’ve been. Already it is becoming the wrestling ring in which I am staring down myself, my past, what I believe and why. I am being pushed, in many ways, and growing, in good ways I hope. And while this growing, this continual sense of being overwhelmed and exhausted, is not fun, I know this is the place where I need to be.

 I write about how hard it is to be here, and it’s true. But being here is also filling me. Conversations with new friends, singing around a campfire, taking a spontaneous trip to the pool, all of it feels like things I do not deserve. I get the feeling that I am more than myself, more than my story.

 As I sit here writing this I am full. Full of hope, full of confusion, full of longing, full of the realization that I am nothing more than a broken person, which I already knew but feel the reality of much more deeply in my days here. I am on my own for the first time, which is both a rewarding and incredibly scary experience. I am learning new things every day, both in and out of the classroom. I am becoming. 

 There is no other way to say this except that my heart is full. Full of things I don’t understand, and things I do, things I’ve spent my whole life running away from and new possibilities that I’m embracing.

 When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank you and grow

Sunday, August 31, 2014

this is the part where life keeps moving and so must i

Things have come to an inevitable end.
I was planning on writing today about how this is the last night. It's the last night in this house, in this bed, with these people. At least for a little while. And in a way that seems sad.
I remember when we would always move houses when I was growing up, and during one move about three houses ago I sat in my room and wrote about how the walls were becoming too small for me. They had already held my secrets, my tears, my joy. I had already existed so fully in this space. And now I had to move. I had to move forward because somewhere out there was a new space big enough to hold the person I was now, and because someone else somewhere needed to be in this space to further their evolution.
A few months ago, I was watching an interview with some teacher who said that the more resistance we encounter, the more important the event is for our soul's journey. And at the time, I thought it was fitting as on this journey, the one in which I transition from high school to college, from being a kid to being an adult, I've encountered a lot of resistance.
It often feels like running into a brick wall, and I wonder if there isn't a reason why I should turn back. I think that's the way it is, though. Staying always feels safer than going.
But I think moving needs to happen. It needs to happen to keep things from sticking and settling and to keep things shaken up and so you keep growing and evolving and changing and learning.
Just as much as I needed to take those first steps into first grade, I need to take these first steps.
And yeah, it's going to be scary. Those trembling first steps of something new demand that the person taking them be a little scared.
Just like dorm rooms demand to be lived in and some relationships demand an expiry date and the Universe demands to be noticed.
And I think everyone is scared to some degree because creating your own life is scary and moving into new spaces is scary and being someone who actually matters and does things in the world is scary.
Being a person is scary. Which lends itself to the idea that everyone is scared.
Everyone is terrified of something. Life has a crazy way of shaking things up and demanding to be noticed and acknowledged and experienced and felt.
And if everyone is terrified of something, it means that not one person is alone.
I am not the only one standing on this platform between what was and what is, holding up this beautiful thing I created which is my life and myself and letting the world make of it what it will. I am not the first, nor will I be the last.
And if life demands to be noticed and experienced and new spaces demand to be moved into, then it means that every ending is also a new beginning.
Or maybe there isn't a distinct line between endings and beginnings, just a bunch of lines blurring together until they make a life. Where one thing ends another seamlessly picks up its place, even if that thing is not totally recognizable to the human eye.
Maybe there is no answer on how to do this. You do it as loudly or quietly or spiritually or mentally or fast as you can but in the end you do it the best way you know how and I think we as people need to learn to look at the other people around us and see that they are doing the best they can too.
And nobody has any of the answers. And everyone is terrified.
But the fear doesn't mean we should stop experiencing life or love or moving into new spaces. Fear and resistance just means this is a big deal and its important and it matters so pay attention.
Fear and pain demand to be noticed in the same way that life demands to be experienced and great love demands to be a little crazy and great happiness demands great risk.
If every ending demands a new beginning, however soft and small, then this will be the beginning of something wonderful.
And despite all the reasons to turn back there are more reasons to keep going. Because everyone is scared and maybe this part demands a little bit of fear and the fear demands to be felt.
And it is only by feeling this that I will continue to grow, and evolve and create and live.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Cornstarch Challenge

This week is Glycogen Storage Disease awareness week.
Glycogen Storage Disease is a condition where you are missing the enzyme needed to turn glycogen into glucose. It is rare, invisible and as of right now there is no cure.
I am one of the people affected by Glycogen Storage Disease.
Living with GSD means my body can store glucose as glycogen in my body, but can't retrieve it. When I am without glucose, my blood sugars will drop which can result in a seizure, coma or even death. To maintain my blood sugar levels throughout the day, I have to eat every few hours, and must drink a mixture of cornstarch and water. It sounds crazy, but cornstarch is a slow releasing starch, making it possible for my blood sugars to stay stable.
Having GSD means I live my life by the clock. I'm always having to check in with myself, make sure my blood sugars are stable, and have access to food and my cornstarch.
I'm occasionally late, have to leave events early, and I tend to leave a little trail of white powder on counters and the front of my shirt.
It's not a glamorous life, but it's my life.
Something I want to bring awareness to this week is called the Cornstarch Challenge.
You've probably heard of the ALS ice bucket challenge, and this is similar.
The challenge is simple: make a video of yourself drinking two tablespoons cornstarch in water. That's it! It's such a small thing to do, and it gives people the chance to see what I do on a daily basis.
When I linked up the challenge on my facebook wall, I nominated a few family members but wasn't anticipating huge results. The ice bucket challenge is still continuing to be a huge thing, and I didn't think there was room for another challenge for people to care about, participate in and donate to. I kept my hopes small, as to not be disappointed.
To say the results have greatly exceeded my expectations would be an understatement.
Currently there are people from all over the world participating in the challenge. Many family and friends of mine have shared the message, have taken the challenge themselves and have donated to try and help find a cure.
There are people I haven't even met but who are somehow connected to me that are participating in this challenge, and showing their support for me and for all the others out there with this disease.
I am amazed by the outpouring of love and support.
While this challenge is about raising awareness and finding a cure for GSD, it's more then that for me.
It's about seeing friends and family stand by me. Having an illness is lonely, and you often feel like you are walking this journey in isolation. I have often felt like I'm living in a whole different world. No one quite understands the daily struggles of a patient with GSD and his/her family. Things are the same in so many ways and yet they are so different.
This challenge, for me, is about seeing everyone who has raised their glasses and chosen to stand with me in my fight. I am brought to tears by the number of people who have stepped in and said "You are not alone."
I was told by my aunt not long before I sent out the link to the cornstarch challenge that one person can make a difference. And while my passion is bringing awareness to GSD and other illnesses like it, and letting others know they are not alone, I didn't set out wanting to change the world. What I found out during the few days since I've sent out the link was that yes, one person can make a difference, but also that when we stand together amazing things happen.
Light can break through darkness. Hope can penetrate despair.
I want to personally say a huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this challenge. Your support means the world to me, and I cannot express how grateful I am. You all make me feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Because of you, I have the strength to keep fighting.
And I would also like to encourage anyone out there who hasn't yet done the challenge to do so. I nominate you! If you can donate to help find a cure, great, and if not just seeing your videos and knowing I have your support means so much to me.
I've included some information about GSD and the Cornstarch Challenge, if anyone wants some more information.
I believe that when we stand together, we can make a difference. Who's with me?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

In which I get real (and rant about Christianity in America, the church and my own brokenness)


I’ve always had issues with the church, some of which I’ve discussed publically before. There are crazy statistics about the number of youth that leave the church, and to be honest I always thought I would be one of them. It’s not that I don’t love Jesus, but the idea of organized church services never seemed to fit me. I didn’t understand in a real way what the church was supposed to look like, and despite growing up in it I had all these misconceived notions about what the church was.

I was terrified about being judged for my mistakes by the Christians who sat in church every Sunday. I grew up with this image in my head of having to get ready for church. You got dressed up, put on your I’m a Christian and I’ve got it all together face and you went to church.

My view of church has changed in the past year or so, thanks to some wonderful people who pushed me to be real. But I still tend to see the flaws in the church. I see that we’re a body of people gathering together trying to follow God but I also see so clearly the fact that we are a bunch of broken people.

 I think the church would be so much better if people lived this way. If, on Sunday morning or whenever, people got together and said, “You know, this week I’m really struggling with this…” or “This is one of the worst things I ever did and God is still working through me on this.”

I know I’m not totally innocent. I am still a part of the problem. While there are many issues I’ve been open on with my close group of friends or those I’m involved with in different areas inside the church, its so much easier to put on that paper doll face and pretend everything’s fine. It saves me from being confronted with things I don’t want to face, or bringing up things that would be painful for me to deal with.

I rarely write on my blog about my faith directly, not because it’s not important but because it exists separately from my art.  Often what I believe influences what I write about, but what I write about is not limited to my faith and what I believe. I also find it hard to try and capture the essence of what I believe or face big issues in my writing without taking away from the issue and the importance of it, so I often tend to stay away from writing about the topic directly all together. It’s one of the big problems I have in Christian music, or any form of art. The idea of God and his grace and love and power is so big and mighty that when it’s confined to a catchy pop song and made to be entertaining, I often find it’s taking away from the bigger picture.

 This morning in church one of the things that was brought to my attention was the idea of being real. Yes, it’s one of my big issues within the church, but aren’t I part of the problem? I do try to be real and talk about my struggles within the areas of the church I am involved in, but I need to have that constant desire to stay real, and not retreat into myself when life gets hard.

Lately I’ve been struggling with the idea of not being enough. I often feel like I’ve exhausted grace. I am so aware of my faults and shortcomings. Things I’ve dealt with in the past keep coming up, and while it’s been amazing dealing with all of this and experiencing radical grace, it often leaves me feeling undeserving. I’ve been struggling in different areas of my life, and while I’m trying to get better it feels like I keep falling on my face. There are often times I doubt what I’m doing, or the strength of my faith. And while I want to not struggle and not doubt and be confident all the time, I know I probably will never be that person. I will always be the person who is wrestling with my faith and what I believe and the big issues. Odds are I will walk away, and come back, more times than I can count.

 I’m scared about the future, and the big steps that are going to be happening over the next few weeks. And while I know it’s what I’m being called to do, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it will be hard work. It’s not something I’m excited to do. It’s not exciting to shown truth and faults, but the amazing grace that I know is coming, and the grace I have already experienced in such a huge way has been amazing, and exciting.

There is a lot I don’t understand. I am an absolute mess, and if anyone is the least deserving of God’s grace I’m probably at the top of the list. Today it was mentioned in church that if you’re looking for the worst sinner, I’m it. We’re all it. And I definitely feel that. I feel so flawed, and so imperfect and undeserving. I feel like I can never get it right and that the weight of the mistakes I’ve made sit on my shoulders ready to crush me.

 I feel weak, and small. I feel like nothing compared to the giant that is my past and my mistakes that is staring me down. And I struggle with accepting grace.

 I’ve always tried not to be that cliché Christian who finishes a long rant with “But by the grace of God…” but I don’t think there’s any other way. Because I am an absolute mess. I am a dirty, broken sinner who has made so many mistakes and bad choices. I am the worst of the worst. I am weak and small and nothing, and I absolutely feel it. I’m a bad Christian, if there is ever such a thing.

 The only thing that I have going for me is that I have a great Savior. I won’t even try to fully understand it, because I know I will never understand how someone could look at me and everything I’ve done and still call it worth loving. Some days I can’t even accept this because I feel so shameful and guilty. But I have encountered grace in a real way, and while I doubt it at times I know I can never escape this radical grace that has been offered to me. I don’t deserve it, I wish I didn’t need it, but I do.

 I’m just one person, but frankly I think the church and Christianity would be a lot better off if more people were more real. Maybe they are and I just haven’t met them. To all the people who have modeled this in my life, I thank you.

 There is a lot I don’t understand about Christianity and God, and a lot I have to and am currently wrestling through. But none of it matters. What matters is this: I am an undeserving, broken, sinful, awful person who has been saved by grace. For some reasons which I won’t pretend to understand, I am loved by a great Savior.

 And despite the feelings of inadequacy and failure, in this moment all I can be is grateful.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dear August

Dear August,
A few months ago a writer friend of mine spoke words I found to be more true than most. He said that over the past little while, his writing and creating had turned from a more personal state to pleasing an audience. He said while he planned to continue writing, he would not be sharing on such a public platform. And while I was sad to see him go, at least for a little while, from an artistic standpoint I understood.
You've been this way to me. My journal is filled with musings, words written in delicate penciled letters. It is in these pages that my heart has been cracked open and all the messy insides have been revealed. I wrote some of the truest sentences I know, pondered life's big questions and sat face to face with the self defeating critic who is also myself.
We bonded over lazy days and stormy nights. We spent countless hours pouring back over the past, and trying to make sense of this thing called the future.
I tried to make amends where possible, tried to sort through the pieces of myself I'd thrown away if only trying to create a bigger, more full picture of the present.
A few years ago I wrote a poem (though I was not in the business of calling what I was writing poetry) about how certain months were meant for living.
August, to me you were this way. You were full of firsts, beginnings and endings tangled together so tightly I could barely tell which one was which and sometimes I think it was both in the same moment. You were the truth coming to me softly, wearing disguises but always the same. You were full of hope so carefully hidden that in some moments I had to blink twice to see that it was still there.
You brought to me a gift, sometimes unexpected. You were personal, revealing layers of myself I didn't know how to process much less turn into art.
And so I stopped writing regularly in this little place. I began writing for myself, on a much more personal level.
I stand by what I said, how some months are meant for living. This month was meant to be bursting and alive, unable to be captured on paper. It is full of tiny treasures I tucked close to my heart and pondered.
Dear August.
Thank you. Thank you for so tenderly holding my little discoveries, and for being gentle with me. Thank you for being my safe place, my refuge, and for preparing me for what is ahead. I feel ready now.
I wish I could hold on to these last few fleeting days forever, but if you've taught me anything it's that we must boldly march forward into the life that is waiting for us, whatever that may bring. There is always more: more goodbyes but also more hellos, more endings but eventually just as many new beginnings. There is always more hope, more peace, more truth, more discovery, more love.
The past few weeks have been a gift, wild and unexplainable.
Dear August, you've always been one of my favorites (don't tell the others.)
The journey lies before me, stretched out and waiting. It is in you I have learned the vibrant enoughness of my own being
Thank you

~ A

Thursday, July 31, 2014

5 minute Friday - Begin (Again)


Beginnings are usually scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s in the middle that counts. So when you find yourself at the beginning, just give hope a chance to float up. And it will.

This season is the beginning of a lot of things in my life. It’s the ending of a lot of things too, but someone I love always taught me that the ending of something is always just a new beginning.

 And I’ve never been good at beginnings. Whenever I open a new journal, I always stare at the first page for a long time and wonder where all these pages will take me. What will happen mid-way through? What will have changed by the time I reach the end? I’m always so afraid to begin writing, to leave my mark on this previously untouched page.

 Beginnings sometimes come softly, creeping up on you and before you know it it’s there and it’s begun and the hard part – the part where you actually begin – is over. And other times beginnings come loudly, with gongs and symbols. And the idea of beginning is scarier then the actual beginning itself.

 I’m there right now, where the idea of the beginning is much scarier then I know the actual beginning will be. Because it’s new and it’s untouched and it’s all just waiting there for me to put my mark on it. To grow here and touch here and love here, yes, but also to mess up here and make mistakes and fall flat on my face again, and again.

 I think beginnings are always necessary. They bring promise, and hope. Even if you mess up in this one, there’s always a new beginning. There’s always a new day, a new hour, a new week, a new month, a new year. People tend to be really romantic about new beginnings, but I guess I tend to see them for what they really are.

 We carry our old selves into new beginnings. We just add new layers, change and shape what already exists. The change that comes, that’s the hard part. Beginnings leave so much room for error, but so much room for the sweet things too. And I think I need to remember that.

 I need to remember that it’s time to begin, and that they aren’t nearly as scary as I make them out to be.

 It’s time to begin reaching out and reaching in and making decisions.

 It’s time to begin being honest because it’s in this honesty where the healing can begin.

 It’s time to begin making room in my heart for the new things, and letting the old things be changed without fearing what’s coming next.

 It’s time to let go and watch my life begin again, and wait for hope to rise up. Because it will. It always does.

 Beginnings make room for all this hope to rise. And let me tell you, that’s the best part.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

No man is an island unto himself (and sometimes i forget)

I so often forget that I need people.
This afternoon I had an appointment with my massage therapist. And as I was lying there she began telling me her life story. Maybe she was telling me because she needed someone to listen and I was there. I don't know what made her trust me with her story, but in her telling of it I knew it was something precious. I wanted to leap up off the table and give her a hug. I wanted to go sit by a river with her early self and listen to her and toss rocks into the water.
Later my mom and I went for supper. We got on the topic of friendship, and I realized just how distant things have become. Summer changes people, and I know this. Graduating high school and moving on to college and working and planning for a future changes people. I know it's changed me.
But I was thinking the other night how sad it is that in this season of life I'm feeling very untethered.
I know it's partly my fault. I get into these seasons where I am writing and thinking and processing and go very inward and I forget that I still need people.
I become very self reliant. I get so busy in the process of becoming that I forget. I forget that I need people, that I am not an island.
I think at times it gets lonely being by myself. For a while it's satisfying, and I'm creating and discovering and it's exciting and I love it. I love this time to dive deeper into myself and make art and make messes and make changes and discoveries. And then I seem to hit a wall. And it's not that I'm no longer enjoying the solitary process of creating and self discovery, but it's that when the creating process stops, or when I have this big discovery that I just have to share, or when something unplanned happens, life has already gone on without me.
And I know it's not true, and that the people I love are still out there waiting for me to catch up, but it feels like since they are not exactly where I left them when I wandered off into myself that it's harder to find them.
It's hard for me to look at myself in the mirror and admit that I need people. Maybe it's a pride thing. Maybe it's because despite everything I still like to think I'm invincible and don't need anyone or anything.
I feel like maybe I missed that day in school where they taught you how to be a good friend. I'm fiercely loyal to the people that I love. But I go into these places where I forget I need people. And I go into these places where all I need is people and I feel like I exhaust those I love. It seems like there's never this state of evenness, this state of the right amount of give and take.
I think everybody just wants somebody to listen. Everybody wants somebody to step in and let them know that they're not alone. If I'm being totally honest I wish that friendship was easy and I never had to work at being a good friend and that I naturally loved being around people all the time.
But I don't.
I don't because I go into these periods of time when I'm a solitary creature and I'm very self reliant and I forget that sometimes I need people to take care of me. And then I'm too proud to admit that I need people so instead I stubbornly hold myself away and wish for someone to break through the wall they probably didn't even know I had.
I forget that I need people. But I think everyone does. I think everyone who has ever existed and will ever exist needs somebody, even if they say they don't.
I think we need people in our lives to talk to and listen to and keep us accountable and teach us about life. We need people so we can feel connected, and be reminded that no one is an island unto himself. Everyone is a part of something so much bigger than themselves. And maybe I forget this.
I forget that I need my people, to stand with me in the good, the bad and the ugly, and to love and to grow with.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Music, Magic and Opportunities

I've written before about my involvement with the Melodic Caring Project, and how amazed I am by what they do.
It's almost like every time I watch one of their concerts, I get to experience the magic all over again. I get to experience the awe that comes with hearing someone you've only heard on CD or in an ITunes playlist mention you by name, the wonder that comes with hearing the crowd cheer for you.
But as I sat in a concert last night, I experienced something else, something besides the magic of it all.
I experienced the connection.
Music brings people together. For a few hours during a concert, there is no separation. There is only a group of people singing the same song, shouting back the lyrics, and being reminded of the memories that come attached to each one.
During a Melodic Caring Project concert the connection comes from knowing that there are these people out there who see your fight, and call it worth while.
I am so blessed to have experienced this sense of community, and to be involved with such an amazing organization.
The people who run MCP are wonderful, and it's hard to believe that humans can be this selfless and caring. They have opened up so many doors for me, not only to see these concerts and experience the magic for myself time and time again, but also inviting me to contribute to their blog.
They believe in me, and I'm honored to get to write posts about what they do, what music does, and offer insight into the life of someone journeying with a chronic illness.
It's not hard, as all the magic happens from their end and I'm only a witness, but I'm honored to be a part of it.

This is a post I recently wrote for MCP about the power of music, connection and what it all means. I'd be so grateful if you guys went and checked it out, and checked out this beautiful organization and the work that they do.

Friday, July 18, 2014

a Q&A on Writing

 The past few nights have been filled with writer's passion, the kind of nights where I stay up until some insane hour sketching out a story, or trying to get down ideas for a poem.
I find this kind of fueled frenzy much more wonderful than the kind where I write nothing. While I have no novel in the works, no one story that I'm working on, I always find that wordiness is better than none.
My friend Hannah posted these questions to her blog on writing, so I figured I'd answer a few of them.

* When did you first start writing?
- I've been writing for as long as I can remember, which I know is the cliché writerly thing to say. I remember writing my first actual story in 2nd grade. It was called little Meerkat's big adventure, and was complete with a construction paper cover and badly drawn illustrations. I still have it somewhere, I think. As crazy as it sounds, little Meerkat was the first 'person' who made me believe I could be a writer

* What was your favorite book growing up?
- When I was growing up, I devoured the Little House on the Prairie series. I shared it with my cousin, and my best friend at the time. I made up pretend games which I literally called the Little House game. My Halloween costume one year was Laura Ingalls. She was, and still is, a huge inspiration to me.

* Are you an avid reader?
- Yes! I read, and own, many books. I don't read as much as I used to, but I still try to read when I can. And there are some books that I can still devour in a day

* Have you ever thrown a book across the room?
- Yes, though I can't remember which book it is and I'm sure it was more for the drama and being able to say I did it

* Have you ever been a part of a critique group?
- Yes and no. I have an amazing community of writers over on tumblr. They are amazingly supportive, and wonderful. I've been a part of a few things were people strictly comment on each other's work, but I never really liked the idea of it. I always felt people were judging me for writing wrong. Maybe I just went to the wrong groups. I'd be willing to try a critique group again in the future, as I love feedback on my work, but for now I like my little online group just fine

* What's your favorite book cover?
- I like John Green's covers, a lot. Also Jodi Picoult's covers. I like things that aren't faces, usually.

* Who is your favorite author?
- The two people I mentioned above. Also love Sarah Dessen, Lisa Genova, Nancy Rue, Ann Brashares

* What's your favorite writing quote?
- Write with blood is always one that's stuck out to me. Also the one about sitting down at the type writer and bleeding.

*What would you say has inspired you the most?
-  The world around me definitely inspires me a lot. the things I'm feeling is a huge, and vital, part of all my work. Even if not directly, almost every single piece is addressed to a person or a situation. And other writers definitely inspire me.

*Would you like your books to be turned into TV shows, movies, video games or none?
- I always said I would love a movie to be made out of a few of the things I've written. I still love the idea, but I think I would be way too much of a control freak to actually let them make a good movie

* How do you feel about love triangles/
- In books or real life? I like the idea of love triangles, but I've seen them quite often in books recently, so I'm getting kind of done with them. The same applies to real life

*Do you outline?
- No. And I've been told I should. It has driven teachers crazy that I don't. Sometimes I wish I did. but I can't, for the life of me, sit down and write an outline. I have an idea in my head of how the story's going to go, and it all goes from there.

*Do you start with characters or plot?
-Usually plot. Sometimes a really good character comes to me and won't leave me alone until I put him/her in a story, but usually I start with a plot and then get character ideas.

*Favorite and least favorite part of making characters?
- I love getting to explore personalities, and how usually they are, in some degree, a reflection of myself and the people around me. I love the research that goes into creating a character, and the time spent searching for the perfect name. I hate having to try and make my characters diverse.

* Favorite and least favorite part of plotting?
- I love it when new ideas come, and they are still undiscovered and great and I see something and go "That should be in a story! Someone should write about that!" And I hate trying to figure out where the plot should go when I'm stuck, and when I'm getting really impatient so I throw in these really awful plot twists.

*Advice to young writers?
- Write your truth. Write because you have something to say. Write bad things (something that took me forever to learn!) and then write good things. Get excited about your work. Ask lots of questions. Read books. Contact other writers, as they will become your best friends on those late nights when you're trying to get an idea out on paper. But mostly I think be honest. As they say, write drunk and edit sober. Or write for yourself and then edit and make it pretty

*What is your favorite genre to write?
- I love writing things that could happen in real life, and exposing issues, and talking about things people don't usually talk about. I also really like writing YA, which is usually pretty much the same thing as when my characters are adults instead of teenagers. Usually I just begin writing what I need to write and the genre kind of unfolds from there. Also, I found out I love writing poetry, and prose. Those are definitely some of my favorites

*Which do you find the hardest: beginning, middle or end?
- Definitely beginning. I think each section has it's challenges. But I find getting started the hardest

*Which do you find the easiest, writing or editing?
- writing, for sure. I hate editing

* Have you ever been published?
- Yes! A few of my short stories, actually. Never a novel, but I'm working on that

*How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?
- For the most part I don't mind it. I appreciate their support, definitely. But I find I can be more honest when I'm writing and I know that no one I know will read it. I think there's always that fear of writing something and putting it out there and then the person it's about finding out. I think it's always scary to be vulnerable like that, especially if it's with people you see every day. But I do appreciate all the support and kind words I've gotten from people who read my blog or just stuff I've written. I love hearing from people that something I wrote impacted them.

*Describe your writing space?
- I am not one of those people who has a neat little writing spot. My writing space is on my bed. I think every single story I've ever written has been writing on this bed, so I guess in that sense it does hold some kind of magic for me.

*What's your favorite time of the day for writing?
- At night, usually when everyone else is asleep. Or when I have the house to myself. I feel more free to write and think and experiment when I feel alone in the world.

*Do you listen to music while you write?
- No. I do listen to music while I'm in the process of writing a novel or something, and have certain songs that hold meaning to me as I write the story, but I never actually listen to music and write at the same time

* What's your oldest work in progress?
- I've started a lot of projects and not finished them. I have no idea what my oldest work in progress would be. I know I have a novel that I started last summer and am still kind of working on. I have an ambitious plan to finish that one day.

* What's your current work in progress?
- I have a couple of poems that are still works in progress. Since I'm going through that phase of writing what I'm thinking and not really filtering, I have a few poems in my notebook about heartbreak and loss that are still very much in progress. And then a few love poems, and a poem about stars. I'm also working on this kind of personal collection of essays thing, which I've been wanting to do for a long time and only have the first little bit done. So I'd love to finish that

*Weirdest story idea you've ever had?
- I wrote this one story a few years back about a girl who went to work on a sheep farm and ended up finding out she had Schizophrenia and driving her car off a bridge. It was, and is, the strangest story I have written to date. Mostly I was just impatient, I think. It was definitely crazy

* Which is your favorite original character and why?
- I have a few! The first short story I got published featured 2 people named Caleb and Ashley. That story, before the editing, was one of my absolute favorites. The first collection of novels I wrote when I was in elementary school featured a guy named Shane. They were totally lame books, but I've always loved his character and wondered how I could bring him back and make him better. Sophie was the main character in my first Nano novel, so she definitely has to be included. At the time of writing, I was very attached to her and always have wanted to revisit her story as well.

*What do you do if your characters aren't following the outline?
- Follow them.

*Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?
- This is going to sound awful, but yes. I love the complexity of the story when my characters suffer in some sort of way.

*Have you ever killed a main character?
- A few actually. I wrote one novel a while ago that was based around my main character's death.

*If you could steal one character from another author and make it yours, who would it be and why?
- I would love to steal Alaska from John Green's Looking for Alaska. I love the different layers of her character, and how complex she is. Also I'd love to steal my Hazel Grace, and Charlotte O' Keefe from Handle with Care.

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