Sunday, April 26, 2015

Circling the Wagons

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles of where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. If he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly so that his place should never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat

This morning I stayed home from church, curled up in the corner chair with my tea and my journal, and listened to a podcast by Shauna Niequist.
Something about her words hit me, and I ended up crying and scribbling down notes in my journal, pausing and replaying different sections of the message because something about it hit me.
It took me until this morning to admit that this past week has been hard.
It's the first week away from PRBI, and I'm trying to adjust to a new normal. My home team has now been dispersed all around the country, I'm now committed to making my relationship work long distance, and my life has entered a season of turbulent uncertainty. And I kept buying into the belief that I should be stronger and I should be handling this better and things should be easier.
And then this morning I had a revelation.
It's allowed to be hard
For the past week, and probably even before that, I've been pushing and trying to make the whole transition season go away and get back to the happy season.
I've been wanting my old life back, the one where I had learned to become happy and safe and comfortable, not wanting to have to trust God. I fell into the lie of believing that I did my hard time, now life should be easy. My life still is very beautiful, and I am richly blessed. But under the desire to grow was a layer of fear, and selfishness, and faithlessness, and an unwillingness to let myself be changed.
It took a lot of guts to actually admit that these past few weeks have been hard. My life is beautiful and great and how can it be hard?
But it is hard. Its new and its different and its challenging me in new ways and the stretching is uncomfortable.
I've been telling the story recently of how hard it is. Ask my mother, ask my boyfriend, ask my close friends. But that's not the whole story. If I'm being honest the story includes the part where I'm failing to live with courage and hope and have instead chosen to live in a place of whining, of fear, of closing my eyes and just waiting for things to get easy again instead of letting myself be changed by the hard place.
That's not the story I want to be telling.
I was writing a blog post today for teen girls about failure, and as I was writing to them I also felt like I was writing to me. I know a lot about failure. Unfortunately I don't know a lot about coming through failure and being stronger for it. The main thing I said to them, and to me, is to remember who God says you are.
Easier said than done. Because right now the world is screaming at me that I should be better and I should know what I'm doing and I should have it all under control. Bottom line is I don't.
I want to scream back at this world "Its allowed to be hard! I'm allowed to not know!"
I keep forgetting to plug back in to the one voice that truly matters: the one that says I am still loved, that I am valued for who I am not what I do, that I am enough, I have enough, I do enough, period.

When the criticism starts you need a group of people around you with their hands up, keeping you safe and reminding you to 'do your thing'

I need people around me reminding me to do my thing. My people are scattered all around the country, and I could sit and be miserable until I get back to what I know or I could reach out. I could reach out and say "This is hard, and I don't know how to do my thing anymore, and I need you to help me."
I need people to circle the wagons, to create a circle around me of warmth and safety.
I'm not really sure how that's going to look right now, but I also know that one of the things I've been craving madly this week is community.
Life is hard, and new things are hard, and I need my people. I need the ones holding their hands up and keeping me safe and encouraging me to do my thing.
If you're out there, and want to circle up around me, let me know.

This morning I realized how much I need to lean in. If I try to stand and face this, I have no doubt it will smash me to bits. But if I let it change me, let it carry me, let it transform me, I believe beautiful things will come of it.
I want to unclench my fists and let the beautiful right now happen to me, trusting that there is something to be gained from this hard place.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


He's told my every day for the past multiple weeks, watching me with that crooked smile and when I ask him what he's thinking I already know.
You're beautiful, He says.
He says he'll keep telling me until I believe him and I think I'm starting to believe him.
I know it’s hard to accept compliments as anything other than lies. but when somebody blurts, “you’re beautiful,” take a breath. think of your dog, panting happily and covered in mud. think of your mother in her bathrobe with her hair in tinfoil while the dye sets. think of your best friend with her face streaked with tears and makeup. think of your little brother when he was sick and his face was a red puffy mess. think of how, even then, your heart swelled up with love of them. this is I think where compliments come from: when they look at you, no matter what, they see somebody beautiful, not some body, beautiful.
My friend sat across from me today telling me about her breakup. Tears filled her eyes and I wrapped her in my arms and held her as tight as I could and told her she did the right thing. Sometimes leaving, however hard and seemingly impossible it is, is the right thing.
And I feel that way as the final days at PRBI roll into one another and I'm forced to pack up this room I spent 8 months living in and say goodbye to the people I never expected to find myself loving and enter into the great uncertainty which is the next 4 months.
I am afraid of the future, of the unknown, of separation and saying goodbye.
As my friend and I sat together, crying and accepting the inevitable as it washed over us in waves, I decided that sometimes this kind of bravery is beautiful.
I think you become beautiful when someone loves you. At least that's how it was for me. Or maybe I was beautiful before but I never began to understand the words until recently.
I'm not beautiful when I have it all together. The hair and the makeup and the clothes don't make me beautiful.
I've been thinking for a while now of the moments when I feel most beautiful, when I feel the happiest.
I feel the most beautiful when I make him smile, or when he watches me like I'm magic
I feel the most beautiful when I'm sitting in care groups with these amazing girls reflecting back to me all the beauty and honesty and love
I feel most beautiful when I'm feeling authentically and living boldly and going on brave, new adventures
I feel most beautiful when I'm laughing, or taking time to be grateful, or when I'm creating something I'm proud of
Dove has a new campaign called choosing beautiful.
In the video, women are forced to choose whether they want to walk through a door labeled beautiful or one labeled average
I was thinking about which door I would pick.
A while ago I would have walked through the door called average without hesitation. I'm nothing special.
But now... now I see the doors and I think of all the people who love me, and the moments that make me feel most fully alive, and how all of these things make me beautiful
And I think the door I would choose has changed

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

things I don't do (& the things I want my life to be about)

I want more adventure: the kind that both thrills and terrifies me, the kind that takes my breath away. I want the kind of adventure where I spend the whole time white knuckling it but look back and can only whisper "If that wasn't beautiful, I don't know what is"
I want more love: the kind that makes me forget how to breathe. I want more hand holding and being held close, more family dinners and times spent laughing with friends
I want more joy: more things that make me throw my head back in laughter, more surprises and moments bursting with happiness where all I can do is stand back and wonder how I was blessed with all this, more late summer nights and watching the sunrise and stars and poetry
I want grace: more and more grace, the kind that never runs out. I want to always be aware of that which I do not deserve but am so grateful for.
I want strength and bravery, courage and humility, equal amounts of softness and loudness
I want more people, more road trips where we drive too fast and take turns picking music, more nights staring up at the stars, more flowers in vases, more walks through the woods, more sunshine and coffee and poetry
I was thinking recently about what I want my life to be about. School is in it's final days, and I'm left to contemplate on all I've received here.
I was sitting in the sunshine earlier this afternoon, thinking about how I've been changed here. There are the obvious: the things I've learned about God, and grace, and trust, and love. The new relationships, the head knowledge, the heart knowledge. I learned how to forgive and let go and say yes and embrace. I learned how to be softer, gentler, louder, stronger.
At the beginning of the year I said I wanted this year to be about love. I wanted to know for certain what I believed and I wanted to love better.
Both of these things have happened, as I've learned what kind of God I believe in (a magnificent God) and I've been given ample opportunities to love until there is so much inside me it threatens to break my heart wide open.
And now, as I go into the summer, I'm thinking about what I want. And not just for this summer but for my life.
I want adventures and love and grace and strength. I want to not lose my fire, but to also allow myself to be soft sometimes. I want wildness and to forever be becoming something.
I heard it said once that a definition excludes all potential for change so I decided I don't want to be defined by anything. I want to always be changing, growing, becoming more of who I am.
I read an article by Shauna Niequist in which she was saying everything she was not. She's not a gardener, or do major home renovations. She doesn't make the bed in the morning or change clothes because simply because she's leaving the house, blow-dry her hair on a regular basis or bake. This is a list of things she was willing to not be in order to be and do what she really wanted.
I think of the things I'm willing to not be in order to be who I really want to be
I want to be full of love, so at some point during this year I realized that pain and love aren't the same thing, and therefore I had the choice not to surround myself with people who just stole my energy and light. I realized that not everyone is going to like me, but I've found the ones that do and am so grateful to them for that.
I want to go on crazy adventures, so I say no to the things I don't want to do and yes to the things I do, even if the things I say yes to scare me. I'm surrounding myself with people and things that make me brave, and push me.
I want joy so I'm counting my blessings and not my complaints
I'm not superwoman. I'm not the honor roll student, or the social butterfly. I've cut back on wearing makeup simply because I like sleep in the mornings, I don't routinely spend time with people who steal my energy so I have more time to spend with people who fill me up, I don't spend hours working on homework because I think the education I get from living is more important than the one I get from books.
I'm willing to not be things in order to be who I really want to be, and do the things that are important to me, and to spend time with the people I truly care about.
For a moment there was absolute panic over not being everything to everybody. Sometimes there still is.
But I think there's also something freeing about it. There is work here that is only mine to do, which includes loving my family and friends, building into these relationships and telling the stories that are mine to tell.
I guess what I want from life is to live my story well. I want this story - which is constantly being written and rewritten by God's very hand - to reflect how I used what I had to love well, to live fully, to laugh often and to enjoy this beautiful life I was given.

It's not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What's hard is figuring out what you're willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.