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.