Lean In

As I sit here before a crackling fire on this very first January evening reflecting on the close of yet another year, I sense a severe case of déjà vu coming on. It seems I was just here reflecting on 2012 and all the drama it brought with it. In fact, to say that it had been a dramatic year would be a severe understatement. And yet, while it was certainly a challenging year, it didn’t come without its small victories, namely the acknowledgment and resurgence of passions and dreams that had lain dormant for the better part of my adult life. Having collected dust at the expense of mere clutter and the daily rhythms we call “busyness,” I vowed 2013 would be different. I don’t typically make formal resolutions, but 2013 was to be the year I’d cut myself a little slack, embrace the discomfort, and pursue the things that make me come alive. I recorded all of this in a post [see A New Year: A Neglected Need] at the start of this year; the last sentence of that entry says this:

My prayer is that at the close of 2013, as I reflect back on yet another year that’s flown by, I’ll see the bittersweetness of this season in all its rich context and the fruit of the tears that brought me to this vulnerable and healing place.

Truth be known, the majority of 2013 didn’t exactly pan out the way my hopeful imagination had projected. After quitting my job on a Monday followed by a nervous breakdown on a Sunday, I took more than a $15,000 annual pay cut and started a new job, albeit a more creative one and booked my first counseling session. I struggled through the process of learning to grow roots in foreign soil, spent far too few hours with family for whom I’d returned “home” in the first place, and spent the latter half of the year in what you might call a “post-fall rehabilitative state” combing clumsily through the pieces of love lost. For all my noble intentions, the noose seemed to only be tightening, while discomfort opened its gaping jaw to swallow me whole rather than reveling in the surrender of my open arms, and empty hours spent grasping at straw was all it seemed I had to show for all my life-giving endeavors.

It was a most unpredictable season.

I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that January is here again. The close of the year looked much the way Decembers generally do, lights twinkling on trees, frost coating a desolate landscape, excessive amounts of sweets taunting passersby at every turn, glitter awkwardly finding its way into every orifice of your body, you know- the usual sorts of things. And yet, absolutely nothing felt the same. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, life felt more like a war-zone this past year, and yet, as I watched the final days of 2013 slip thoughtlessly away like bits of sand through the narrow passage of an hour glass, I’ve been moved to consider the significance of it all. As my toes thaw by the warmth of another roaring fire on this bitter-cold new years night, for a reason I cannot rationally defend, I can’t help but feel thankful for the whole lot of it. Perhaps it has something to do with the timing of things, having just passed through the Season of Thanks, a bit of nostalgia sets in the way it does. Or maybe it’s the second wind I’ve felt myself catching the past month or so. Whatever the reason, I’m a big believer in seasons, and well- it’s the season for reflection, so here we go.

Last year started off with so much promise. New job, speedy promotion, fresh and exciting relationships, I turned 26, hey-o! But as they say, what goes up, must eventually come down, and so it did. The pendulum swings the way it does, and just when I thought I was making my way out of rocky waves to the calm of the shore, I bore the brunt of a sneaker wave that unapologetically plundered my momentary stability.

And it’s moments [or seasons rather] such as these when I’m confronted with my own instinctive impulse to flee. When things get hard? Quit. When things get scary? Run. When things get awkward? Hide. When faced with the polarity of fight or flight, the latter usually looks more appealing in the moment. I can feel the anxiety sweep through my entire body to the very tips of my extremities: run, run, RUN. And sometimes, sometimes this instinct is right. Sometimes it’s important to walk away from something that’s hard, because it wasn’t meant to be so. But I would argue that more often than not, the more difficult and rewarding option comes when we lean in. Lean into the pain, into the dissonance and discomfort. I once heard grief likened to yoga, breathing and stretching into the hard places, into the pain.

This is a way through grief: the willingness to stretch into a place you do not want to be, and to be fully there.” Emily Maynard

Only once we lean in to the pain, sit there a while, then lean in deeper still, do we uncover our resilience; our strength. Because if we can find the courage to lean into it, we will certainly find the strength to move through it and then, eventually, beyond it.

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There was a specific stretch of time this past year that was particularly challenging. I felt completely disoriented. I told my therapist I felt like a piece of cloth that was frayed at every edge; no clear-cut lines, everything a blur and tattered. It was in this particular season the idea of getting well felt overwhelming, like an insurmountable feat. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around how much work would need to be done to recover even a basic sense of normalcy. For mere sanity’s sake I took up the mantra, “one healthy decision at a time” because anything else, anything more than this, was simply too much. So I started approaching wellness in this manner. Anytime I felt overwhelmed, I would take a step back and determine the single decision that stood before me, and I would look at it as though it were the only decision that needed to be made. It needn’t be monumental, merely attainable for the moment. One foot in front of the other. And believe it or not, this was probably one of the most significant accomplishments I made over the course of the year. Because eventually, healthy decisions begin to build upon themselves ushering us forward into spaces that – strangely enough – are, well, much healthier.

And because I believe in celebrating the little victories, let’s go ahead and be clear that despite all the road bumps along the way, 2013 absolutely bore its exceedingly bright moments. Sure, not every relationship worked out the way I had originally anticipated, but it should not be overlooked that other relationships were mended along the way, in massive and miraculous ways. In fact, there were a number of moments in 2013 that quite plainly floored me; and as I picked my jaw up off the floor, I was forced to take inventory and acknowledge that I had just lived through a moment I’d honestly been waiting for my whole life. Moments I feared I might never live to actually see come to fruition. So I take that back, that is no small victory… that is huge, and I will celebrate it as such.

And as much as it’s felt slow-going, one of my biggest goals for 2013 was to write more. To develop some amount of consistency with my blog. And you know what? While I still have room to grow in this regard, I gained significant ground over the course of the year, and I’m proud of that accomplishment, because it takes a lot to actually sit down and write, no matter how much I love it, no matter how much I want it. It takes a ton of willpower to resist resistance and do the thing you know you’re built to do.

Additionally, this past summer, in the midst of incredible discord of spirit, the Lord met me at The Window Seat. It was here, over the course of consistent and intentional quiet time in the early morning hours I discovered an entirely new level of intimacy with my creator. I suppose it’s not surprising that the moments in which the Lord’s Peace is the most restorative is when it finds us in the thick of the most difficult and tumultuous spaces, and yet it does always come as the biggest surprise. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.

At the close of this past year I started a small business with my dear friend. Yeah, that’s a thing that actually happened, I can hardly believe it either. It’s still in the developmental stages, but I have a business partner, we own our name, domain and will be launching our webpage soon. We even have clients booked… it’s insane to even think about. More on this in the coming weeks…

I largely learned how to speak up, own my voice and be proud of who I am and what it is I have to say with *less fear [because we are all a work in progress] of the critique of others. There are a number of layers to this, but it’s been incredibly freeing and I’m thankful for this step forward to embracing a new level of comfort in my own skin.

And now, as I sit here looking back at the closed chapter of another challenging year, I can feel the reviving winds of change filling up my lungs. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I can sense it, and I’m not usually wrong about these things. If 2012 was a year of remembering passions and dreams, 2013 was the year I began – for the first time – to really step into them, and in an appropriate progression, 2014 will be about refinement.

It’s fascinating now to consider the weight of those final words I wrote to close out 2012 as I ushered in 2013. For surely I had no way of knowing exactly what they would come to mean when I wrote them, and yet it’s almost startling to realize how prophetic they’ve been. As I sit here reflecting on this year that has most certainly flown by, the richest lessons are a direct byproduct of the bittersweet. We are not refined without walking through the refining fire. And as I continue to lean in, trembling though I may while I hold my warrior pose and press in deeper still, I can honestly say it’s right here in the discomfort that I’m discovering my own strength and resilience, and it is a vulnerable and healing place indeed.

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The Trouble With Writers

We think… a lot.

And then there’s the obsession with words. Words mean things… we love that. On a good day, we can reach up into the mess swarming inside our heads and wrestle and wrangle bits and pieces of it into a few choice words and phrases that bring the chaos into some degree of order. And then we like to put those words in print, and publish them before the entire world. And for some reason, we truly believe they matter. We want to be heard. Granted, I think this is true of most people. We all long to be heard, truly known and deeply loved. But the trouble with writers is that at the end of the day, we are open books, and whether or not our words are understood, they are out there. And then aren’t ever not out there again. And once we are heard, we cannot be unheard.

At least for me, words always take their casualties.

As a writer, and someone who “blogs” it is particularly complicated, because as I attempt to share my perspectives and heart, it simultaneously invites the world into the conversation. At large, this is fantastic, ideal even. In fact, this is precisely what us writers long for, to engage others with our words and stories that they might enter into the dialogue along side us. But, there is also always the chance that we will be misunderstood. And as a non-fiction writer, someone who writes as a response to everyday life and circumstance, the likelihood that my work will be misinterpreted is greatly heightened.

large_writing_problemsWords have always played a particularly significant role in my life. During those Who-The-Hell-Am-I years [namely junior high and high school], I quite literally depended on words to help get me through it all. But words are peculiar and fickle friends; they mean things, and yet they are not bound by the strict confines of objectivity. Because we assign meaning to words based on our experiences, I can say one thing, and what my audience hears and the images conjured up, while they may be related, ultimately differ from my own. This is every writer’s dilemma. Words are a fantastic instrument and hindrance in the same sweeping stroke.

The trouble with writers is that we write. We write what we feel: our deep convictions, our questions, our conclusions when they come, and then our doubts about said conclusions. We write when we’re sad, and sometimes when we’re happy. We write when we’re frustrated, and sometime when we’re content. We write when we’re disappointed, and sometimes when our expectations are exceeded. But as a general rule, we write from the spaces of dissonance because it helps us process and make sense of our junk. And as we attempt to draw meaning out of the contention, we tell stories. Stories that involve people we love. And well, that’s complicated territory no matter who you are.

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I once heard it said that if you didn’t want to be the subject of a top charts country song, you shouldn’t have dated Taylor Swift. That’s a fair statement, and as a fellow writer, I can relate.

If you don’t want to be featured in my writing, then you probably shouldn’t be a part of my life. If you’re a big enough presence, at some point, you will influence my work and people will probably read about it. Now chances are, this will not be something you regret. Likely, it will be because you inspired or sharpened me. But chances are, it will be nuanced, because life is nuanced, and well, I learn lessons the hard way.

And yet, at the end of the day, chances are, the most significant audience this will affect will be my family and dearest friends; those I love the most. This is a difficult tension for me to contend with. Take my family for example: they are the most incredible gift I have ever been given. In a million years I couldn’t reason with you why I should deserve to be on set with such an outstanding cast of characters. Through the good, bad and the ugly, they have been there beside me and taught me innumerable, invaluable lessons I wouldn’t take back in a million lifetimes. And because they are such an integral part of my story, they often assume significant platforms within my writing. The same goes for my closet friends. But as a writer, many of these lessons: good, bad and ugly alike, become available at some point for public consumption. I am not suggesting that this is always right, but I am saying that it’s real.

This issue is a compelling one for me lately because the more I write, the more I find myself hyper aware of every single word, constantly editing and censoring. But the more I censor, the less honest and authentic I can be.

And it’s exhausting. I will never write/publish anything out of a place of anger or hatred. That is never where my heart is. However, if you walk with me through challenging waters, it will take challenging and real words to describe those experiences. And so I wrestle with my desire to honor the privacy of those who don’t choose to publish their diaries before the world wide web, and the need that exists in my innermost being to put into words what I am experiencing, because 99.99% of the time, the richest lessons I learn unfold for me while I write. I think a lot of writers can relate to this phenomenon.

So what’s the point exactly?

The point is this: as a writer, I write. I will always write. And if I’m not writing in one form or another, it’s safe to assume I’m not well. I can’t not be who I am. Furthermore, part of knowing who you are, is knowing who you are not, and [as I stated previously] I am not a fiction writer. I write based off life experience, and as such, I am going to write about things that are real. The real good stuff, the real hard stuff, and everything in between, because it’s worth being written. And writing is never conveyed as powerfully as when painted with precise examples and stories; such is the place from which the greatest connections are made with ones audience.

Life is chalk full of all sorts of beauty and disappointment. And I would argue we would never be able to appreciate or take notice of the beauty before us if we didn’t simultaneously know disappointment. Generally, in my humble experience, it is the marriage of the two that makes it all so rich and worth it. And there is a tremendous amount to celebrate in all of it. So if I write about the hard stuff, you can bet that there is deep, rich beauty brimming beneath the surface of it all, and good things are certain to be unearthed in the process. If I write a post, or a book someday, and you find yourself a key character, know that I’m deeply thankful for your inspiration and the fruit of the lessons therein. Even if you were a difficult chapter, you were [and are] absolutely loved and worth it.

And if one day you are reading as an outside observer, and you happen upon a passage that grants you a particularly vulnerable peek into my world or my family life, and you are tempted to assume you have seen the big picture, please, remember that a single chapter is not representative of the entire story. It is simply a chapter, doing its work to refine the characters.

Fierce & Feminine

Despite widespread perception, deeply embedded associations and centuries of conditioning, these two words are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they are but two sides of the same coin.

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Fierce: bold, ardent, passionate, powerful, relentless, strong.

A force to be reckoned with.

When I think of the women I know, those who walk through life with me, side-by-side, heart-to-heart, this is the most prominent descriptor that comes to mind. Loving, loyal, caring, courageous, beautiful, thoughtful, articulate, immeasurably wise, gentle even, yes, certainly, they are all of these and more, but fierce is not least among them. In fact, put the adverb fiercely in front of any of the above adjectives, and it only serves to make the statement more accurately telling of their character.

I grew up in a loving, supportive Christian family, the oldest of four daughters. Make no mistake about it, I have always known I was deeply loved and valued. And still, our home was one structured around patriarchal thought, though as a child I was hardly aware there was any formal name for it.

But I can tell you this…

I have always felt it, felt the weight of it.

Growing up I was taught, both directly and peripherally, that a man is to be the “head of the household,” and as such, at the end of the day, the husband’s and/or father’s word was to be final, and ultimately should always be regarded as “right” and of the highest standard. A woman was to submit to this authority over her and such a posture should be honored in the home and church. But if I am to square with you, this arrangement has never set well with me. Something deep in my bones has always been distinctly at odds with this model. And yet, for a significant portion of my life, I couldn’t have told you why.

Rewind with me, if you will, roughly 10 years: I was a teenager when my well-meaning mother first tried to coax [or coerce rather], me into learning how to cook. She attempted [unsuccessfully I might add] to require I prepare dinner for the family at least once a week so that I might “hone this skill set necessary for a woman.” I can specifically recall her saying in exasperation, “how do you ever expect to find a husband if you can’t cook?” I resented her use of what I considered to be severely insensitive, ignorant words. Quick on the trigger, I wasted no time spewing back careless words of my own regarding my independence and rejection of the notion that I should “need a man to take care of me.” If my ability to slave away in the kitchen was a contingency for marriage, I would just soon never marry, or would simply find a man capable of feeding himself. Certainly such a one must exist.

I knew these words served as daggers in my poor mothers heart, and I regret that. I was not skilled in the art of arguing well at 15. And yet, at a very young age I knew that what I had to bring to the table as a woman, and someday as a wife in the context of marriage, greatly exceeded the simplistic assumption of what I might be capable of setting on one.

We laugh about it now, especially considering that today I love the art and process of cooking. However, I learned to love it of my own accord and volition, not by force or out of duty. All the better then.

Fast forward to college. I can still remember my father making the following statement upon having heard I’d started dating someone: “well good, at least we’re getting our money’s worth.” Now, I wholeheartedly acknowledge that this playful comment was never intended to be condescending or demeaning. I certainly don’t hold it against him. And yet, it’s important to acknowledge that the underlying message in statements such as these is this: the most productive, valuable thing to gain, as a woman, from a college education, is a husband. Someone to lift the burden of care from the shoulders of parents. As women, we are not inherently enough on our own, not complete without a man to “take care of us.”

And while in retrospect I can see the fingerprints of such perspectives smeared all about the surfaces of my life, because patriarchy is a very subtle creature in our western culture, it has really only been in the last few years that I have truly been able to wrap words around it, speak its effects into some degree of intelligibility and to identify the threads as they have woven themselves so slyly, albeit fastidiously, throughout the pages of my story. And as I begin to peel back the layers, I’m discovering a distinct framework that is helping me bring to light something I have always deeply known:

I am a woman.

I am not weak, not a commodity, and I am not to blame for human depravity.

I have a mind; it is critical thinking. I have a voice; it is worth hearing.

I was not created to fit a restrictive mold; I was created for Kingdom work.

I bear the mark of my Creator in my femininity, not in spite of it.

I am of no lesser value than any one of my brothers.

I, on my own, and by the power of the Spirit in me, am enough.

Now in an effort to derail any misconception that I might be attempting to shake a fist at men and their brute insensitivity, please hear me out when I assure you this is in fact not the case. Rather, one of the more profound and challenging realities this revelation has brought to light is this: while this same liberating truth is wholly worth celebrating, it simultaneously prohibits me from playing the blame game. I am responsible for my own actions, my attitude, my heart and my sin. It is my responsibility to take all of these things to the foot of the cross. No one stands as mediary between myself and the blood of Jesus. Period. Furthermore, this reality goes a step further by lifting the burden of responsibility from the shoulders of men. My husband [assuming I marry] will never be held accountable for the cultivation or current standing of my relationship with the Lord. He does not bear the burden to “lead” in this way as those fluent in Christianese [of which I am one] might compel you to believe.

I am already lead by the Spirit.

I don’t need another leader, I need a partner. This is both liberating and sobering.

Now, none of this ought to be extrapolated, for even a moment, to assume that we don’t need our brothers at all. On the contrary, we need them very, very much.

A few Sundays back, I sat, tears brimming, in the pews during service while one of our pastors seized a most unexpected, beautiful opportunity to speak out into the congregation words of acknowledgement for the indispensable nature of every woman in the crowd. He reminded us of the revolutionary actions Jesus took to bestow great dignity upon women in a culture committed to disparaging them. He thanked us for our contributions and our voices. He thanked us for our support and our leadership. And in that very moment, it was his voice that was so very needed. So incredibly valuable. You see, words have this funny habit of meaning things. They have the ability to breathe tremendous life into places and spaces where perhaps it had been lacking previously [and likewise can have the opposite effect]. And on this particular evening, it was the voice of my brother that broke chains and brought down walls.

The fact of the matter is this: we women are fighting fierce battles alongside our brothers on behalf of the Kingdom in our city and our world every.single.day. And it pains me that the voices of more than half the Church so often go unnoticed and unheard; they get forgotten about, silenced even, or not taken seriously while their oppression is casually dismissed as a “secondary or third-tier issue” within the body. This ought not be so! May we seriously contemplate the weight of Paul’s words as he addressed the churches in Galatia:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus [Galations 3:28] 

In a culture that boasts great freedoms, it’s easy to overlook and dismiss oppressive forces like patriarchy as non-issues, or at best, “second or third-tier issues.” But they aren’t second or third tier issues if you’re a woman. They aren’t second or third-tier issues to our Father who designed us in the Imago Dei. Neither should they be second or third-tier issues to those of us who are charged to be his hands and feet. We so desperately need to be equipping all the saints to bring Kingdom here on earth in a holistic manner, side-by-side, as a full representation of the body of Christ. Both sets of voices are equally necessary if we are to effectively push back the stifling confines of patriarchy.

A few weeks ago I was out to dinner with a group of friends. As the evening unfolded I got into a great conversation with one of my girlfriends who was sitting next to me. She is an incredibly bright, gifted and wildly vibrant woman. Spend five minutes in her company and her indubitable strengths are made self-evident: she is a born leader. I admire her strength, passion and lively spirit, and on this particular evening, I happened to tell her so.

Immediately her demeanor changed. Her shoulders slumped and the light in her eyes dimmed. She looked at me ashamed, “I know, I hate that about myself!”

“What?! What are you talking about? You’re amazing!”

“But women aren’t supposed to be like me, they are supposed to be soft and submissive. I need to be more like that…”

Soft

The kiss of death for a strong spirited woman.

Soft

Such are the concepts, along with all the implicit connotations therein, that are being communicated to the hearts of women, reinforced in the minds of men, and perpetuated throughout the church today. And this is what I mean when I say the grip of patriarchy is far reaching and elusive. It’s difficult to pin down, not nearly as obvious and forthright as we expect it to be. Rarely is the message of oppression communicated through candid words, black and white rules or blatant subjugation. No, more likely we learn its lessons passively, by way of a dangerous undercurrent, and in all that goes unsaid we are conditioned to buy into the lie, and eventually, if we’re not careful, become complicit in the crime of perpetuation.

Soft: often confused with feminine.

But we were not called to be soft, oh daughters. Au contraire… we are image bearers of the risen Lord called to bring about Kingdom in partnership with the Spirit, our brothers beside us. We are far from soft, we are fiercely feminine. And that is no small thing to celebrate.

Chasing Sunrise

Mornings like this one are necessary after yesterdays like that one.

I love Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong. In fact, I’ve long since determined it my favorite holiday. I know, I know… but Christmaaaaas!! Yeah, yeah. Christmas is all well and good, and I certainly enjoy the warm and fuzzy time of year. But for me, Thanksgiving is the one holiday that is really about what it’s about: Family. Food. Wine. More wine. Left-over grazing. Did I say wine? Insert food coma here. Can’t complain.

However, as has long since been my struggle, I allow expectation to rob me of the beauty and relevance of real.

Essentially, I love Thanksgiving [and any holiday really] all 364 days prior to the actual day, and then I mourn the unrealized image built up and amplified by sweeping sentimentalism in my mind. Sometimes reality is jarring.

But more disappointing still is the abundance of imperfect joy I forfeit at the expense of elusive perfectionism.

Thankfully, I snapped out of it and Thanksgiving transpired exactly as it ought: our family gathered around one table eating until we couldn’t, followed by silly games accompanied by delirious laughter and playful family banter. And just when I’d finally decided it couldn’t get much better, I proceeded to watch as my meager expectations for the evening were vastly exceeded. I spent the latter half of the evening in the company of my parents and sister -digesting- and discussing theology, justice and biblical exegesis. I may as well have died and gone to introvert heaven.

Four hours of sleep later, I got up before dawn to drive home and go to work. Yes, please do revel in your 4-day weekend, as you should, I’ll be here… carry on.

But I’ve digressed.

I was on the road when dawn illuminated sweeping strokes of pastels in a cotton-candy sky above a fog-laden winter landscape to my right and to my left. The beauty of that fleeting moment was profoundly exquisite.

1-24-13-sunrise-2Such are the moments I remember why I’m a sunrise girl. I serve a God who is actively, tirelessly making all things new. All things. This includes me. My attitude, expectations, brokenness, great sadness, all of it. It is the great delight of my Father to grant his children the restoration inherent in new sunrises and new days that we might have just one more opportunity to embrace abundant joy that is our inheritance. Sometimes I think God brings the sun up again in the morning just in case I missed it yesterday. Did you forget to notice me yesterday? Alright, lets try this again…

Thank you.

I do not say it enough. Thank you.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.
[
Lamentations 3:22-23]

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this passage keeps me getting up in the morning. When I am certain I have done all I can to tarnish this gracious gift of life, he brings a new day, and it comes to me untarnished, full of promise and potential for new beginnings and renewed mercy. I think this passage is self-evidently ripe with promise, and yet, the more I return to it, the more I am moved by the distinct beauty of its placement: making its home most comfortably in the thick of grief and lament. Dead center. In fact, I don’t know that there is another book in the Scriptures so simultaneously depressing and hope-filled in the same breath. And that is why this daughter of a King will forever be chasing the sunrises of her Father.

Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender.

So today, I surrender my expectations. My plans. My selfish script. And I will do it again tomorrow, and every day thereafter until the sun rises no more.

Breathless

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It wasn’t so very long ago that I stood right where you did

On that stage

Behind that podium

Fighting those nerves

Okay, that may be a stretch. It has been a good number of years by now. But sitting among the crowd this time around watching you address your classmates and walk across that stage and turn your tassel, somehow the last 8 years felt as close as skin. And yet, not at all. I know it doesn’t make any sense. One day it will.

Sitting there listening to all those eager seniors sing-songing about the best years of their lives and the lifelong friendships that no distance nor bond can ever break, and all the originally profound things that Mr. Webster has to say… I couldn’t help but consider all the things I wish I could have told my 18-year-old self knowing what I do now. The 18-year-old version of myself that stood there on that stage, terrified of the same future I spoke so boldly about, as though I had any idea what I was saying. Because as you probably know little sister, the title valedictorian does very little to make you feel prepared for what lies in wait for you once you exit stage left. Once you retrieve your hat from three rows back. Once the lights and confetti and fuss all grow dim and get swept up and swept away.

I think I knew better than to believe that high school would ever amount to the best years of my life, and thank goodness for that. But in light of certain recent & tragic events, the biting reminder of the sacred and fragile nature of life forces all of us to take a more critical look at how important every single moment, every single action really is. Because we never know when the dawning light of a new day will be the same one that carries us from this life into the next. And there simply is no way to prepare for that. There just isn’t.

So with the moments I am given, however long, remembering they are sacred and numbered, I am struck by an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the really outstanding opportunities and experiences I have been given that have shaped me. Gratitude for the really hard times that have forced me to grow, challenged me and cultivated character. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, my absolute favorite lessons in life have pretty much all come as the result of learning the hard way. And you’ll have to learn many lessons the same way I’m certain, and that’s okay. The following are just my two cents from my own journey. Many of them are things I wish someone would have said to me when I was your age. But know that as I reflect on the last 8 years of my own life, I am simultaneously dreaming with excitement and anticipation for all the ways you will live them [God willing] differently and boldly, courageously and beautifully, just the way you do.

Pursue the thing(s) you love.

It’s too late for me to look back now and wish I had chosen differently. But I wish someone would have given my heart permission to do this when I was your age. To have looked at me and spoken faith and courage into my terrified, green heart. Truth that who I was, the way God designed me with the talents & passions so deeply embedded in all the ways and places they were, that all of it was created right and good and at the end of the day, success or failure, that person was and is… enough. To know that you are enough. I hope and pray you know that you, sweet sister, are enough.

And even still, we both know that God works all things together for good, and so He most certainly has. I no longer regret nor resent the path I chose, but it’s taken me a long time to believe in myself. To believe I was capable of choosing my own way, blazing my own trail rather than just following in the safe patterns others had laid out before me. Fear is a crippling thing. It will never rest in its attempt to rob you of joy and passion and the unfathomable richness, beauty and fullness that comes out of an intimate, trusting relationship with your Maker. Fear will find you in this lifetime, no doubt, but know that it is never from the heart of God. So don’t let it paralyze or guide you. I wish I would have had someone in my corner rooting for me when I was your age, standing behind me, beside me, saying I believe in you. You are more than capable! Go for it! So if ever you need that voice, that little cheering squad, know I am here to be just that. Because I do believe in you. You are more than capable. And you should go for it!

I know the safe road looks so, well… safe. Our culture tells us that safe is good. Security, just a little more stability, just a little.bit.more…

But it’s a lie. There is no such thing. If you live under this pretense, you will never feel safe and you’ll never have enough. Safety doesn’t come from an income bracket or a security system on your home or the dollar amount that sits in your savings account, it’s found in Christ alone. Your relationship with Him is your only security blanket. And quite honestly, what you’ll find is that more often than not, the safe road is the most crippling. No where in Scripture are we told that safe is synonymous with good. God makes no promises that pain won’t be a part of the journey. In fact, he promises the opposite! Pursue instead the things that leave you breathless in this lifetime. Take some risks, step out, lean into faith, lean into the adventure. I’m not saying be a reckless adrenaline junkie, be wise and judicious. But life is too beautiful and too short to never wander off the beaten path. Embrace the adventure and don’t give fear permission to debilitate you.

Let me be clear, you won’t get it all right the first time. Know that you don’t have to! Give yourself permission to fail. In time you will figure out who you are and what you need, and you’ll fumble and cry your way through to some pretty outstanding revelations and unforeseen blessings. And just when you are certain you’re about to break, you’ll find you break through instead. And the destinations… oh, the destinations!

When you don’t remember or are uncertain of who you are, strive instead to remember whose you are. Sometimes a little perspective can make all the difference in the world. You are royalty dear sister. You are the daughter of a King.

Begin thinking early on about the kind of woman you want to become. Then begin taking active steps toward that vision before you. Do you want to be a woman of prayer? Then today… choose to pray. Even when you don’t know how, even when you don’t feel like it, you will learn and in time, that image will begin to sharpen as you become more fully the woman you were created to be. And don’t let your heart be discouraged when it doesn’t happen overnight. Rome isn’t built in a day, and yet, every decision, every action has a compounding effect. You will get there. But start thinking about this now. It’s definitely something I wish I would have started doing much sooner.

Define what it is you believe about love. What you believe it can and should look like in your life. Know your non-negotiables… and then don’t negotiate them. In the same breath I implore you to always love fully and deeply and well. Don’t ever hesitate to take a chance on love when a genuinely beautiful opportunity presents itself. I know it’s hard to see sometimes, but honestly, all the heartaches along the way, they are worth it. But go in with a strong sense of self if you can; a strong sense of what you want and need. Do not settle for less. The longer you compromise that vision, the more it hurts when the ties break. But regardless, you learn an enormous amount from love, in all shapes and sizes. And at the end of the day, choosing to love is always worth the risk involved. It is the one thing you can look back on in life and not regret. Don’t harden your heart against it in an effort to protect yourself; this is a great tragedy.

Give yourself some grace. Now give yourself a little more. Go on… keep going. One of my very favorite verses of all time: Lamentations 3:21-24. I pray it’s the lifeblood that pulses through your veins all the days God graces your lungs with sweet air:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed. For his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “the LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

The imagery this verse paints has captured my heart. No matter how difficult the day or season of life, no matter how far down the fall, new mercies wait in all their renewed fullness, grace and splendor with each new dawning of the day. I love this characteristic of God. This is what God is like. When this really sank in for me, it was like chains and weights fell off in an instant. This truth is one of the most liberating and redeeming lessons I’ve ever learned. This verse is the framework for how I view my relationship with Jesus. It’s not perfect because am not perfect, but by His grace, it is perfected. Each new day is bursting at the seams with restored and redeemed potential and possibility. Marinate yourself in this truth… rest in this truth, then live, dwell and thrive in this truth all the days of your life.

Community, genuine, authentic, transparent community… it will change you, break and humble you, then it will heal you, transform you, pick you up and rebuild you… if you let it. If you jump into it. Contribute to it, certainly. But also, be willing to receive from the community God puts around you. This part of the equation took me a long time to really learn, but it’s just as critical. And when it all comes together, it’s freaking awesome!

Jesus is your King. Live like it.

You’re in charge of bringing the Kingdom. Act like it.

Life is a broken, beautiful disaster. Embrace it.

And finally, disregard all of this and go boldly and bravely on your way. You were created to be you and no one else. You have the Scriptures and the Spirit of the Living God dwelling in you. You are already equipped with everything you need. Other than this, there is no road map, no golden nugget that can help prepare you for any of it. It’s an all-in, nose-dive, sink-or-swim, breathless kind of thing. That’s just life, and that’s okay. All lessons come in due time, and we cannot be refined without going through the refiner’s fire. There is no substitution for a few hard knocks in this life. But that’s the beauty of it all. Only when the pain threshold gets high enough do we ever really grow. So grow baby grow. It’s painful and it’s beautiful in the same breath. You are more than enough. Now go be the woman you already are.

Grace & peace

when words don’t work

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For someone who values words so much, I really hate it when they don’t work

when they fall short, flat and empty

when words do work, they have this profound ability to bring so much life and healing

except when they don’t, and they can’t

there is a language that exists that is not contained in letters and syllables

it is neither tethered nor encumbered by words

it goes unspoken and unheard

it is only felt

there are times in life when the ache runs so deep that there simply is no mélange of letters in existence that are at all worth uttering

and still there are moments when it’s difficult to know whether those same words that fall short, flat and empty are worth attempting nonetheless

i’m so sorry…

my heart hurts so much for you…

if ever there is anything at all I can do…

but when it all sounds so trite, is silence really golden?

if words don’t work, from whence does comfort come?

how is mourning shared if words can’t capture the petitions of the heart?

i know it can be done, i know it’s possible

because i have been on the receiving end

i have born witness to the impact of what it means to have someone sit in the ashes with me and just be

when words won’t work, even empathy is shortcoming

my pain does not negate nor even attenuate your own

i wish it could, i wish it did

i would gladly bear the burden on your behalf

but i know better

and when nothing can make the hurt stop

there is something about not sitting in the ashes [or sand, or wherever devestation finds you] alone that ever-so-subtly assuages the anguish

even when there is no comfort to be had and none to be found

i don’t know how to help you

and it’s a harrowing feeling

but i’m here

and i hurt with you

along side of you

and when words leave us wanting, when nothing can be done

you can go to the bank on the fact that you are blanketed in prayers
Storm-Clouds-over-Colorado

i pray to God you feel them and find some comfort there

early mornings, sacred moments

Before the sun makes its daily debut over the pristine Portland skyline, I make my way out from under the covers into the brisk Spring air and through the double-doors of one of my favorite coffee shops in the Pearl to meet a new friend for a good old fashioned cup of joe. If you know me, you probably know that I love mornings, most of the time. And then there are the other times when I have to set 5 alarms three minutes apart just to drag myself out of bed. But I do it, because once my feet hit the ground and the showerhead spits out those reviving waters, I wonder what all the fuss was about in the first place. And then, especially once that warm mug is firmly in my grip wafting the fine aroma of an even more reviving kind of liquid, you can bet I’m wondering why I don’t do this every morning. Sadly, I still don’t have a good answer to that question, I’ll have to get back to you on that…

Portland Sunrises…

Sundays are taking on a new shape for me as of late. I’ve always been especially fond of Sundays because for me the day is imprinted with images of early mornings, community, Scripture and sound teachings that re-center me and renew my perspectives for yet another week [God willing]. Emphasis on the early mornings portion…

I’ve always been a morning person, so it comes as little surprise that I have long since preferred the early services at church. Personally, it’s the time I feel most awake and aware and able to retain what I hear, and most able to then reflect on what I’ve heard, chew on it for awhile and then perhaps even do something about it. But since I’ve moved to Portland, I’ve found myself embracing a rhythm characterized around lazy Sunday mornings spent sleeping in succeeded by post-sunset services. This is in part due to the fact that evenings are the only time the downtown services meet. Furthermore, it’s the service everyone from our house church attends, and well, it just works. And I’ll admit I’ve grown to appreciate the routine here more than I’ve ever been able to before, but there is still something about the early a.m. hours that I feel like I’m missing out on. So I signed up for the Theology class that Solid Rock is offering downtown on Sunday mornings and I’m discovering a deep sense of gratitude welling up in me as a result. It reminds me how much I love being a student. How much I miss being steeped in deep, critical thought while the air is still crisp, the coffee is still hot and the skyline still hazzy with fog. And for all the petitions and arguments that attempt to keep me tucked firmly away beneath the covers come Sunday morning, I have learned that the getting up and the going are ultimately always worth it notwithstanding. And so I do. And it is. And I’m so thankful. The day is filled with so much promise when you don’t sleep through it.

Friday morning rituals

Friday morning rituals

Recently I had the pleasure of sharing my fondness for early mornings and Portland coffee and heart-to-hearts with a lovely girl who just keeps popping up in my life in the most random, unexpected and delightful ways. Take for example the time a friend and I were co-hosting [hostessing?] a little gathering of friends over wine and cheese and small treats. We had both invited friends of ours, some of which we knew mutually, and others we did not. When Abby walked through my door, my jaw dropped. I had no idea she would be there nor did she know that when she accepted the invite from my co-hostess, that invite would bring her across the threshold into my apartment. It was… perfect. Moments like these are precious to me because they make a really big, often cold and calloused world seem just a little bit smaller, warmer and brighter. So we took it as a sign and decidedly made our run-ins more deliberate and purposeful… bringing us to this particular morning.

It’s amazing how quickly two hours can fly by. The time spent in the company of this sweet girl made me wish I really did do this every day. There is just something about the hours surrounding sunrise that always feel more honest, more pure, and certainly more fruitful. And even though her own feelings toward this time of day are quite the antitheses of my own, she still met me there, resisted the urge to hit snooze and made her way into the chair across from me trusting the caffeine to come through and carry her the rest of the way. And I’m so thankful she did, because moments like these are sacred. While the rest of the city sleeps, these moments are gathered up like gemstones. More often than not they go entirely unnoticed and overlooked, slipping through our fingers before they’ve ever had the chance to be discovered, unearthed, and appreciated.

See exhibit A:

We found this gem tucked surreptitiously away in a drawer at our table.

We found this gem tucked surreptitiously away in a drawer at our table.

Now I understand that mornings are not for everyone. I’m a rarity in that I happen to be predispositioned with an ability that enables me to rise quickly, sprightly and cheerfully… most of the time. Some of my most cherished memories have been illuminated by dawns first light. And yet the very moments that feel most sacred to me resemble something more like being ripped through a knot-hole backwards for others. I get that. For me though, it seems that with each passing year as time becomes less abundant and simultaneously all the more precious, my appreciation for these hours grows exponentially with it. There is an insatiable craving in me to partake in the compounded potential that seems to reside in the suspended hours surrounding day break. Granted, it’s not always the easiest choice or practice, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t worth it every.single.time.

Anyone else out there have any thoughts on this topic? I’d love to hear them, no matter which side of sunrise you find yourself waking up on… :)

Grace & Peace

Daisy [{Love}]

I have never done this before [reblogged someone elses blog], but this morning, as I am moved to tears and heartache and rejoicing all in the same breath, I find myself compelled to further spread out the love that emenated from sweet Daisy Love during her fleeting yet intrepidly beautiful time spent this side of heaven. Now as she rejoices with angels, we mourn for and simultaneously rejoice in a precious life well lived. Daisy was only eight when she went to be with Jesus, and yet I find myself wanting to live more like her at 26.

May the road rise to meet youMay the wind be always at your back May the sun shine warm upon your face;  the rains fall soft upon your fields until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

I was tremendously moved by these words from her mother:

My final request to all who read this blog: love. Love your babies, your husbands, mothers, sisters. Love each day like it’s your last. All you mamas out there, you have been entrusted with the precious gift of a human life who depends on you. Enjoy your gift. Breathe in the scent of your child’s hair, breath. Let them cook with you and make a mess of the kitchen. Play hide and seek with them, build sand castles with them, take them on picnics, read to them!  Listen to them, value and respect them, never shame them.  Your words they will carry with them their whole life and you have the power to give them wings or stunt their growth. Motherhood can be tough but it’s worth it. It can be exhausting, boring, tedious, but never for long. You blink and they’re grown. It has been my honor and privilege to love Daisy these last 8 years. I’m thankful for every minute; the joyful and the terrible alike.

Please join me in praying for the Merrick family as they learn to navigate the every day without their sweet daughter’s smile to comfort them and laughter to brighten their hearts. If you knew Daisy or the Merrick family or are a part of the Reality Church family, the memorial will be streamed live. Click here to view their blog and find our more details.

Grace & Peace & Comfort from the One who dances with Daisy.

IT’S THE little THINGS

About 3 weeks ago I spent the weekend in Sunriver with 12 other friends; 13 people packed into one, 3 bedroom cabin. The intent behind the gathering being that we might gain an ever-so-brief reprieve from the noise, routine and distraction of city life. We would exchange all this instead for a weekend crammed together in tight quarters playing board games in PJ’s, savoring slow mornings sipping on excessive amounts of french-pressed coffee, strolling through freshly fallen snow in the afternoons, and reveling in the joys of home cooked meals… the kind that summon you from the far reaches of your own private corner of the world to sit down together and partake in one of the greatest marvels of this lifetime: the irresistible fusion of lives and stories that weave together effortlessly, magnetically, magnificently around the dinner table. It was a portrait of community at its finest. Not to mention it makes me stupidly giddy knowing that sleep overs are still acceptable at this stage in life… in our mid-twenties, single, dating, and married alike. Reunions such as these are really nothing more than glorified slumber parties, and I love that. Knowing that full-grown adults still carve out time to trade in our queen-sized, four-post-beds for sleeping bags on carpet, evenings typically spent working late for those filled with silly games that carry us well into the wee hours of the night on the wings of laughter and delirious tears, and routines that normally revolve around the monotonous balancing acts of adulthood, for a care-free weekend spent eating too much junk food, drinking too much beer, and sleeping in too late. I’m 25 and I’m delighted to say that slumber parties are alive and well and still as brilliant and magical as they ever were. In fact, I’d probably argue they’ve only gotten better.

It’s weekends like these, full of small, simple moments that help re-center me. When everything else is chaotic and overwhelming, pressing in on me from all sides, these are the moments I remember to breathe. These are the moments I find it in me to appreciate the ability to do so. Sometimes life gets so full of clutter, things that feel urgent and appear important because they so quickly pile up and encroach on our personal space, that we begin to lose sight of the fact that IT’S JUST CLUTTER. Period. While a deep clean is most likely necessary, a meltdown probably is not. And yet, this is often what it takes in order for us [me] to take a step back, take a breath, and remember what is true.

The week [okay, weeks] prior to quitting my job, I was living in a perpetual state of meltdown [just ask my poor boyfriend] much like the kind I just described above… you know, the ones that probably aren’t entirely necessary and yet are somehow inevitable. Anyway, there came a point when everything reached its apex and I felt fear begin to envelop me from every which angle. It was no longer just about my job. It was my job, and my bills, and my responsibilities, and my future, and my family, and my relationship, and my friendships, and ALL of it. And then it hit me one evening as I was sitting alone in my room: I had come to a place in life where EVERYTHING I saw was being filtered through a lens of fear. Things that ought not to have been a worry were burdening me with an unnatural weight. Every breath felt burdensome and I couldn’t see a way out. I vividly recall sitting there trembling, fearful of what was before me when I realized my eyes were shut tight like a vise. And then 2 Timothy 1:7 came to mind like a lifeline when you’ve come to the very end of yourself. And I heard this in the depths of my heart: I have not given you this spirit of fear. This is not from me. Open your eyes.

Please do not misunderstand. There was no booming voice from heaven. But in that moment, the Living Word rose up to meet me in my time of need in order to remind me of what was already deeply impressed upon my heart, but just forgotten amongst the clutter. And so for the first time in a long time, I began to open my eyes and my ears, and I listened. And I did something I don’t believe I have ever done before. I made out a physical list of things I knew to be true. And in order to get there, I had to start at the very, very beginning…

1) I am a child of the Most High God
2) He loves me
3) He does NOT give his children a spirit of fear but of power, love and sound judgment
4) He has never given me, nor is it in his character to do so, more than I can bear
5) He called & brought me to Portland [this isn’t up for debate… it’s just reality]
6) He would never bring me to a place simply to abandon me
7) I can trust Him

Not surprisingly, what I discovered as I began to spell out and dwell on these fundamental truths, was that there was very little room for fear to dwell among them. And the actions I took from that point forward, while still scary, were anchored by these realities at the end of the day. And when my mind would race as it often does, my heart was soothed and I slept in the safety of what I did know, even while what I didn’t remained.
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What was beautiful about this trip, among many things, was that it came at a very pronounced collision point in my life. I had been unemployed for 5 days at this point, very unsure of what was next or where I was going. But on that morning before we left, I had an interview. And on that same afternoon, while we were walking in the aisles of Safeway grabbing last-minute grocery items for the trip, I got a phone call offering me the job. I was to start on Wednesday, which, if my math is correct [and I really hope it is since I just spent the last 2+ years of my life as an accountant] I was to be unemployed for all of 7 days. SEVEN DAYS. Never mind the fact that this is the number of completion and fullness and perfection… that is SHORTER than the last vacation I took. That’s crazy. No. That’s a miracle. That’s the hand of God.

But God wasn’t finished. He didn’t just provide a great job in a frighteningly quick amount of time, He then proceeded to pour on additional gifts. Gifts I never even asked for. He sent me on a trip filled with out-standing community and faithful friends. He filled the time with bountiful laughter and simple joys. He provided space to breathe again. It felt as though He was throwing a party to celebrate His provision in my life. And it’s in moments like these, when I’ve taken the time to dispel the clutter for a moment and lean into the essentials of this life that I begin to see and feel and experience all over again what God is like. And this is what I find:

He is faithful
He is generous
He is communal
He is provider
He is a Father who desperately loves His children
And He celebrates the small, quiet moments with us
And He can be found among them also

Sadly, I am rarely found to be so faithful or generous or quick to recall and rest in the faithfulness of His character. And yet, I rejoice in another outstanding truth: that His grace is not dependent upon me. He is good and kind and all that He is simply because He is who He is. That is all. I don’t get it. I certainly don’t deserve it. But I’ll receive it with a glad heart and open hands. Because I need it. It’s that simple. It’s that straight-forward. That’s what makes it so epically beautiful. It’s the most redeeming, healing kind of beautiful. And it seems it can almost always be found right in the heart of the little things.

On Learning to Walk the Second Time

January 18, 2013

Today, precisely 817 days after walking for the first time into that intimidating, yet auspicious building which stands with self-importance on the corner of Wilshire and Barrington in Brentwood, CA, I walked out of the even more impressive Fox Tower here in Portland, OR for the last time as an employee of Moss Adams. For the last time as an accountant. For the last time as someone who had misplaced her dreams. And today, for the first time, I walked out of that building as someone on a mission to recover it.

New Day. New Mercies.In a bittersweet kind of way, this day will forever mark years of my life coming to a close; a long, expansive chapter all wrapped up and adorned with a nice, neat, shiny little bow. Okay, that’s a lie. There really isn’t anything tidy about this transition. It’s messy, and confusing, and peppered with anxiety. And yet, as I reflect back on those 817 days, a long and expansive chapter though it has been, there is no denying that it was a character building chapter. Sometimes, in literature and life alike, you need those long, enduring episodes. Generally, they are the ones that are the most painstainking to get through, the ones you read simply so you can get on to the good stuff. Yes, if you are any kind of seasoned reader at all, you know the kind: they’re the long, tedious ones usually near the beginning of a book that keep you flipping ahead just to see how many pages you have left to endure before you can finally turn out the lights and transition to much preferred sleep, not to mention more captivating content. They’re the chapters that are written because they’re necessary to lay the groundwork for the rest of the story. And they’re the chapters you read so you can gain context for what’s still to come. Consequently, they also happen to be the chapters that tend to shape and develop you the most, at least from a character standpoint. And this is precisely how I feel today, 817 days later; that’s a lot of pages…

I had a friend message me this morning to let me know she was excited for me and “impressed by [my] leap of faith.” I’ve been getting a lot of feedback like this lately as it turns out. And it’s incredibly humbling and encouraging and all the things I need to hear right now. But I find it so interesting that everyone seems to be able to see it… see the faith in it that is. The courage in it. Because to me, it felt something more like fear. It felt more like desperation than it did determined fortitude [if I’m being completely honest here]. But lately, I’m intruiged by this phrase, leap of faith, because what does it imply exactly? Perhaps in part, that you have no idea where you will land. Or how you will land even. Or how far you’ll have to fall before you land. And then, how many times and ways you’re going to have to learn how to walk again once you do.

I suppose what I’m saying is there is a distinct difference between using faith to leap from an already flimsy branch, and learning how to walk in that same faith once you’ve landed. One is propelled and fueled by adrenaline and a sense of urgency, while the latter comes softly. In the quiet. In the dependency. In the choosing. A leap is momentary, enabled by a sudden surge of reckless courage. Regardless of how much time is spent in the free fall, the actual plunge off the edge is but a mere moment. The landing though, well that is an entirely different sort of thing. It marks the beginning of a whole new season. And that is a much larger undertaking than any adrenaline-induced leap that may bring you to such a place. But no one ever talks about that part.

There’s a popular quote being pandered about the web, standing in as the credo for a number of tolerance-driven discussions and movements as of late. And while I prefer to refrain from cliché’s, it’s not difficult to understand why. It speaks something beautiful into the fear-burdened heart of man:

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” [attributed to French-born author Anaïs Nin].

There is something in this quote that speaks volumes to my own heart. Fear is a paralyzing thing. It burrows deep down in the hidden places of our being, sets up camp and then whispers lies which foster anxiety, eventually spawning paralyses. But this is exactly what fear desires, to keep us right where we are. To keep us from taking risks and branching out. To keep us from moving forward; from growing. And so we do an exhausting amount of work to protect our status-quo, and we remain in predictable waters [or tightly wound buds to keep with metaphor]. And if we’re not careful, what we’ll find is that slowly, so that we don’t notice, our dreams will begin to wither before they ever get the chance to bloom. I’m personally discovering how devastating this fate is for any man. But if we can quiet the fear for just a moment, and let go of what the world is insisting is the safe and proper way, we might just be able to remember what it is we longed to get out of this life in the first place. If we can find the courage to open ourselves up to all the possibilities that this great big, exciting world actually has to offer, we might just discover that the safe road is actually the most painful and compromising. The safe road can actually lead us to ruin.

Please do not misunderstand, this is not to say that there is not a time and purpose for each of these seasons. Certainly there is. And as I reflect back over the last 2-plus years, I thank God for each of those 817 days He led me through to bring me to this place. The blessings along the way were many and they were rich. The friendships deep. The lessons unrivaled. And as I reflect over those days, the ones I’m finally turning the page on, I realize now more than ever before that they were in fact doing their job: building the plot, developing the character. They were merely laying the foundation for all the bold and bountiful chapters before me still. And if I’m honest, this is something I still need reminding of daily, because in the minutiae of these seemingly never ending chapters, it’s really difficult to see the forest through the trees. So as I’m struggling to find my feet and regain my equilibrium, as I’m adjusting to life after the leap, what I find is that I’m having to choose faith every day. imageChoose every day to reject the lies and cling instead to the promises of my Maker. And every single day this is a challenge. And yet, every.single.day, new mercies wait for me, ready to meet me in my need, to fight on my behalf, to remind me that the story does not end with this chapter [see Lamentations 3:22-23].