Like Coming Home

 

redding

This past weekend I had the great privilege of traveling to Northern California to stand beside my best friend from college as she pledged her life and devotion to a truly wonderful man. Their vows made everyone cry, I assure you. The whole affair was nothing short of steal-your-breath-away. The venue, a gorgeous vineyard in Redding, California, provided one of the most stunning backdrops I’ve seen thus far, and for a moment, standing in the warmth of the afternoon sun, wrapped in its unseasonable glow, I recalled the rain I’d left behind in Portland and wondered, in a weak moment, if I had in fact made a terrible mistake.

From the time I was a young girl I’ve been thoroughly enchanted with the idea of travel; by the sheer expansiveness of a world that lay in wait for me- by the great unknown, surely begging to be known. Adventure- I could hear her beckoning me from the four corners of the globe to come and turn over her rocks, exposing the earth’s rich history in all its untamable, boundless beauty; inviting me to breathe it in like air, and breathe it out like a blessing.

And eventually, I would.

sunriseEventually I would board planes, chasing the sun till my feet met the cobblestone streets of Europe; I’d head underground and hop on subways in search of the secrets told by a city that never sleeps. I’d take buses and cabs and boats and I’d tread by foot the same soil traveled by countless others who’ve come before me. Sometimes those travels would leave me standing in awe of the relic beauty and robust hisotry present in the ancient, Gothic architecture of France. Other times it would have me caked in the dust of poverty, arms intertwined with the fragile limbs and bodies of orphan babies as I rocked and sang them to sleep in the sticky, marshy African air, praising God for his Common Graces- faint breezes like a whisper, evening rainstorms as a reprieve from stale heat, the reviving nature of human touch- which He generously bestows to all without partiality; all of which I so thoroughly overlook in the midst of my Western comfort.

And still, there is no denying I’ve only begun to skim the surface of all that is to be explored in the vast expanse of creation. Many have seen much more than I, and could speak with far greater authority to the world’s many wonders. God willing, my journeys are far from over; there is certainly so much more I pray my eyes bear witness to before my lips breathe their final hallelujah. There’s something inherently stretching involved with traveling to new places: a palpable reminder that the world is far bigger than my daily perimeters extend; that it does not revolve around me and my trivial, selfish agendas. It helps ground me in the hope that there is still much to learn and discover in life. It’s humbling in so many ways, and this is good. I need humbling.

But even so, I often find that these same experiences tend to breed something of another nature within me as well, that is, a spirit of discontentment. I would argue that our exceptionally mobile and digital age has contributed to a fear of commitment that largely exceeds the generations before us. As our options for travel and consumption have vastly expanded, there is tremendous temptation to flea or escape when life gets hard, or a little scary, or even just too routine. We begin to ask ourselves what else is out there.

What exactly is behind door number 2 anyway? 

As our journeys expose us to far away, exotic places, there creeps in a gnawing thought that haunts us: perhaps we have been cheated in some way; perhaps life is keeping some grand secret from us, for surely we were born in the wrong city, state, country, era, body and so on and so forth. We’d rather envy the greener grass in another’s yard than cultivate our own. And we begin to believe the lie that what we have is not enough.

It’s an age-old story really, and I regret to say how often I feel this way.

But on Saturday, when I landed in Portland, something instantly felt different. I pondered what it could be as I slowly made my way up the steps and through my front door. I trudged my belongings upstairs, exchanged my California garb for a more appropriate fall sweater, then immediately headed back down to the kitchen to make myself the first good cup of coffee since my departure three days earlier. Then, in an effort to unwind from a busy weekend, I grabbed my mug and journal and made my way to the front porch. And as I sat there, breathing in the cool, fall air, watching the clouds drift lazily across a sky of vibrant blue, something strange began to happen: it was as though I began to unfold in that moment.

If you know me, you know I am not exactly a details person. Generally speaking, I’m so often in my head, distracted by my own thoughts, that my external surroundings just sort of pass me by in a blur. But on this particular afternoon, it was as though all my senses were heightened: I noticed the way the sunlight streamed through my kitchen window as I made my coffee, reflecting off the water in my aero press, casting its light onto the countertop in a lovely dance; I couldn’t help but smile. I wondered if the trees had overnight decided to light their tops ablaze, exposing their autumn hues, or if I’d simply missed it until now. It was something like making the switch from cable to HDTV. Everything came into precise focus. Everything, and I mean everything was beautiful. I felt almost as though I’d put my skin on again- the skin that’s mine, and mine alone to wear- the skin that’s comfortable and at ease. And it hit me as I sat there sipping my coffee, that this thing I was feeling, this peace and alertness to all the beauty around me, it was the feeling of coming home. And I had to give pause to the moment and thank God, but for his perfect wisdom and goodness, I’d still be searching for such a place.

For surely, of all the roads we travel in life, few are as satisfying as the roads that leads us home.

 

 

The Heart of a City in the Heart of Girl

They say you ought to be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. Along the same vein, I’ve found that you also ought to be careful the deals you make with God, because one day, he just might ask you to pay up. No, he definitely will.

Eight years ago I packed my belongings into a couple of suitcases, cut off my long locks, bleached them blonde and boarded a plane. I was off to find some adventure and sunshine. I was off to create a new identity. One that did not involve single stop-light towns, cows or cornfields. Determined to leave small town life behind me forever, I informed God that I was never moving back. Or actually, I told him I never wanted to move back. Knowing at some level that with everything you ask the Big Man, you’re supposed to tag “but your will be done” to the end of it, just for good measure, I made a deal with God. I told him that if it were up to me solely, I never wanted to go back and I never would. I had found my home and Oregon was not it. But… if for some outrageous, unforeseeable reason that I could not yet comprehend, HE ever wanted me to go back, I told him I would go, but on one condition: he would first have to change my heart. I’m talking heart-transplant-status, because I am stubborn and I want what I want, and if left up to me, I would always find a reason to be anywhere but back where I started.

But I hadn’t just left a small town behind, I left the house that built me, three younger sisters, who were actually little at the time… I left a history that I thought didn’t matter. But history matters. Good or bad, it always matters. And it always comes full circle.

portland skyline

June 26th marked one year since I spread my city of angel wings and landed among the roses here in Portland.

I hadn’t seen that one coming…

And now, as I eat my own words, I’m finding what I expected to be bitter and contentious has turned sweet and fulfilling on my tongue. I don’t know how or when he did it… but it hit me like a wave the other evening as I was walking through the charming neighborhood of John’s Landing, overlooking the stunning city scape nestled so cozily among the green, bordered by the glint of a deep blue harbor, I love this city. I mean deep, invested love. And just as immediately as this dawned on me I found myself wondering out loud in amazement at how in the world he accomplished it… and when? Because he certainly didn’t do it all at once. It must have happened softly, gently, in the quiet moments. In the moments I didn’t expect to be significant.

My sweet mother came up to visit me last weekend. We went for a walk after dinner, and as we were walking through aforementioned charming neighborhood, my country-loving mother admitted that she really adored this part of town. That she didn’t even know places like this existed in Portland. She even said she could see the charm, why people would want to “live like this.”

Now let’s be clear, my family has never understood me. I am quite literally the only city-lover in my entire extended family [with the exception of one uncle]. So for these words to leave my mother’s mouth was history in the making.

But quite honestly, while I resisted the urge to say I told you so, I understood what she was saying. People who don’t live in Portland, or Los Angeles, or New York, or wherever, don’t know the first thing about the heart of the city. They don’t know the subtle charm, the community, the local hole-in-the-wall market that sits at the corner of Corbett & Curry with their Thursday evening Craft Nights. People who don’t live daily life here don’t know about that adorable coffee shop tucked surreptitiously away in that neighborhood on the East Side among the craftsmen-style houses and abundant foliage that’s so ubiquitous in Portland. They don’t know about the phenomenal meal you can get for 5 bucks at that long-standing, community favorite food cart that’ll feed you for a week straight. They don’t know about the body of believers that thrive there, the people who are dedicated to living life missionally; who will forego sleep night after night to stay up dreaming and praying with you about a shared passion to love a city well in fresh and creative ways.

Rather it seems that people who are unfamiliar with Portland come to visit with “downtown” as their only frame-of-reference, similar to the way foreigners intrinsically link “Time Square” with New York City as though they are one and the same. But ask any native New Yorker and they’ll tell you they avoid Time Square at all costs. Because despite popular belief, the heart of that city isn’t found in iconic streets lined by lights, billboards and tourists, but rather just left of center in that quaint little brunch shop in SoHo that only the locals know about. Stick around long enough and you’ll start to pick up on a subtle hum, an undercurrent to the deafening ruckus of this enormous, sleep-deprived city. There’s a pulse that beats just below the surface, filling the million little nuanced crevices with the genuine lifeblood of investedness.

Similarly, downtown Portland is the business district of the city, complete with high-rises, confusing one-way streets, innumerable, sprawling bridges and shopping malls. All things that can be had elsewhere with far less stress and free-parking. I get it. It’s not always glamorous, especially if you’re not used to crowds and traffic. If that’s all a city was, I wouldn’t like them very much either. But this, this is a far cry from the heart of any city. The face of the city, perhaps. It’s certainly the first thing you see. But just like getting to know a new friend, you have to sit in the chair across from them for some time, day after day, before you really get to know the heartbeat and soul brimming behind the eyes. There are layers and layers to be discovered. And if you are willing to invest the time and get your hands dirty, so-to-speak, you’ll certainly find more than just a face sitting before you, pretty or haggard as it may appear, you’ll start to uncover a story. As you peel back layers, you begin to learn the history that forged this person; where they’ve been and where they are going. You’ll learn their subtleties, what it is that makes them tick and come alive, what distinguishes them from a sea of faces in a crowd. There are caveats and sacred spaces that only the invested will ever earn the privilege of knowing.

The same is true for a city. There is an immense amount of character that exists beyond the superficial layers of traffic, brazen pedestrians/cyclists who pay your thousand-pound-hunk-of-metal little, to no mind, impossible parking, and countless coffee shops. I mean, how much coffee can one person really consume in a day anyway? You’d be surprised…

A dear friend of mine was keeping me company the other day. This specific friend moved up to Portland from Southern California the same exact time that I did just over a year ago. We share a kind of kindred-spirit in this regard as we both settle, in our own little ways, into the rhythms [and layers] of daily life in this beautiful corner of the world. She posed a great question: Okay, one whole year later and we both love this city. So what’s your favorite thing about Portland?

I actually had to stop for a moment to sort through a list of things I love… favorite?

[Pause:] I simply must note: I count it a crazy-cool blessing that this was not an easy question to answer due to an abundance of possible conclusions.

[Resume:] Truthfully, I love all the little things. The freckles that pepper the face of this city. At first glimpse, easily overlooked, known only by those who get close enough to really see. But at the end of the day, I have to land the plane on this: size. Portland is a small “big city,” naturally giving way to genuine and intentional community. Since I moved here, I have bumped into innumerable friends from all stages and walks of life. I have a number of friends I went to school with in California who are now scattered all throughout the city, and I run into them at coffee shops and food carts and intersections and church… all of the time.

One of my favorite instances of this happening occurred when I was leaving Fox Tower one afternoon in late January. I turned the corner when BAM: I nearly plowed over a dear-old friend from college standing on the corner stuffing his face with authentic Portland, food-cart cuisine. The craziest part? This particular friend lives in Vietnam. In fact, he has lived there for the last 5 years. He was in Portland for one day. One day! What are the chances? I mean seriously…

But it doesn’t take long to realize that this is not an uncommon scenario for seasoned “Portlandians.”

Worlds collide here in Portland.

The community is tight-knit. I know full well that I can’t walk around this city by foot without bumping into someone I know. That’s just Portland, and that’s just the way I like it.

Portland often gets a bad rap. The street corners and bridges are regularly thronged by a young homeless population, “weird” free-spirited hippies and weed. But again, this is a first-glimpse kind of take-away. What you just missed was the story playing out behind the scenes. You missed the kind-hearted coffee cart owner who just pulled a hopeless looking young man back behind his cart to hand him a hot cup of coffee “on the house” before proceeding to speak truth into his heart, breathing life [quite literally] back into this young man’s vacant and void expression as evidenced by the welling moisture that eventually breaks the brittle dam, carving out a fresh trail down burdened cheeks. You just missed the broke med student who stopped to shake the hand and look into the eyes of a man who is used to being ignored and treated as sub-human. You missed him handing him the last few dollars in his pocket… dollars he is accruing interest on. Sure, you saw that group of runners on their early a.m. jog as you drove to work this morning, but what you didn’t know is that they were praying for you as they tread the landscape of the city they love, covering it with so much more than their footsteps.

Okay, I recognize that these stories are not strictly Portland-specific. Kindness and the nuances of a community are found in every city. In fact, they aren’t limited to “cities” at all. Even single stop-light towns, like the one I come from, possess stories all their own. Because at the end of the day, the true heartbeat of a city isn’t found in any particular place per-say, but rather intimately bound and fashioned to the hearts of the people, the community that inhabit it. And only once you dig deep into the heart of a human will you uncover the true heart of a city. And then one day, like me, the realization will likely hit you like a freight train as you sit back in wonder and awe while it all comes to life around you, unfolding right before your eyes, burrowing itself deep within the sacred-most spaces of your heart. There’s no question, we will certainly have to brave a little traffic and congestion from time-to-time, walk the dark and lonely streets and enter into the stories of others in any given city before we will ever earn the right to bear witness to its truest beauty. And the most pronounced miracle of all? The transformation of your own heart in the process.

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

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].