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.”