Monday, January 8, 2018

Top 17 of 2017

1. I built a life in a new town, a new house and with a new job.
This year has been full! I’ve officially lived in my house for one entire year and it has been everything I could have ever dreamt of. I’m wildly grateful, and even though I’ll begin packing boxes just a couple months after I’ve finally hung all my pictures, it has been such a sweet season of independence, strength, and resilience. I still love my precious little town and I can’t imagine working anywhere else. Teaching is every bit as exhausting and rewarding as expected, but I survived the hardest year of teaching I could have imagined. I’m learning to find my groove. I don’t leave at dark anymore and more often than not, I’m able to step back and truly enjoy watching the magic that takes place each day! I was made for this.

2. I did spoken word to share my story.
About two years ago, I shared my story online for the first time. It ended up being a contributor post for Huffington Post and got a good bit of traction. It was terrifying. And yet somehow, while I knew everyone close to me could read it, it was easier knowing that I didn’t have to look them in the eyes while they read it. And then, in April, the nonprofit ministry I help run hosted a talk on sexual abuse. I knew from the moment I saw it on the list of topics that God was calling me to share my story publicly for the first time, but it took me a few more weeks to admit it. Most people don’t know this, but I have a minor lisp. I can assure you that nothing about it felt minor as I prepared to do spoken word about my story in front of the people I see every day. The month leading up to sharing my story was wildly hard. I noticed my lisp everyday. A few weeks prior, a relationship came to an end. I considered backing out. The week of, I wrote scriptures all over my hands to remind myself of the truth. And the night of, I showed up and did it. While I felt completely drained afterwards, the conversations that followed brought freedom and I’m so glad I did it. As Oprah said last night at the Golden Globes "What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have."

3. I launched a book and explored Texas with my favorite friends a second time.
Two years ago, in a late night email, I found out I was chosen to be on the launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s For the Love. Then, a few months later, I found out my endorsement was published in the front of her now New York Times bestseller. The season of excitement culminated in a huge party where Jen invited her 500 internet friends to her backyard. We all credited it to an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience. And then she did it again- she wrote another book and threw another party in her backyard. But this time #the500 had walked through nearly 2 years of life together and we were ready.  We filled three plus days with backyard barbecues, food, and fun. These women love Jesus and love each other well. So many of them have become real-life friends and I’m so grateful for this tribe. The Texas trip was a highlight of my summer, especially since one of my very best friends Jenn came along and we made it an adventure through Waco, San Antonio and Austin. The trip was so good for my soul.

4. We closed our church doors.
This is a tough one. I wrote about it a bit this year, you can read my words here or the lovely guest post from a dear friend here. I’ll tell you this. I’m still grieving. I’m not always sure when or how, grief is tricky like that. Like this morning for instance, when a pastor’s wife asked me “So what brought you here? Do you have a background in church?” and I burst into tears as I tried to answer. Oh yes, I have a background in church….
For now, I’ll leave you with the words I spoke on our last Sunday.
Anchor Baptist church has raised me. I've spent more hours collectively within church walls than nearly anywhere else in my life. I've been here for birthdays and Christmas and nearly every season of my life has been marked by this church. I can't look back on memories or pictures without finding your faces. You've taught me to love Jesus well. I've learned to love people well by watching you love each other, by watching you love your spouses and your kids. You made space for me in the years where I wasn't chasing Jesus and you cheered me on when I was. There are no words for the roots this church has given me. I found Jesus here. Not within these four physical walls, but within the loving arms of fellow believers. For that, I will be forever changed and forever grateful.

5. I visited churches for the first time ever.
Oddly enough, though I’ve been in church my entire life, most of my experience has been in two churches. So, when we felt God calling us to walk away from the life we knew, I did the only thing I knew how- I kept going to church. In fact, over the last 6 months, I’ve been to a lot of churches. Getting to see how God is at work all over our city has been an incredible gift. I needed time to sit and show up where no one knew my name. I’ve been able to do that. I needed to fill my journals with sermon notes and scripture and truth that would remind me that God is good and His promises are true. And I did.
I recently wrote this about what I’ve realized these last several months.
“You’re never gonna let,
Never gonna let me down.
You are good, good, oh”

These are the words I stood and sang in church this morning with tears in my eyes. You see, over the course of the last year, I’ve battled with words like these. I so often wondered if I even theologically agree with them. Can I honestly proclaim that God will never let me down? Do I truly believe that
I sat down a few weeks ago and looked over this journal. It’s tear-stained and falling apart. I’ve written desperate, breathless prayers on my bathroom floor on its tattered pages. And I’ve prayed for good and holy things through these pages. I’ve begged God to do gospel work in relationships that ended up dying. I’ve longed for and dreamt of revival and interceded for a church that closed its doors. And if I’m honest, I’ve harbored some anger, some bitterness over what felt like silence from God. Then I turned to this page. Nearly a year ago, I began praying this prayer. All of you Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. It may be the only answered prayer in this journal. But it’s enough. If the only answer I ever get from my prayers is more of Jesus, it will be worth wearing out my knees and warring for that truth day and night. Because today, today I could sing with joy that the God who felt silent never truly lets me down.

6. I went to some amazing concerts.
James Arthur, OneRepublic, Johnnyswim, and getting to see my best friend in her element was icing on the cake!

7. I started writing a book.
I feel crazy even saying this out loud. I have no idea where this will go, but I’m writing. I’m prioritizing and writing and praying.

8. I got certified as a foster parent.
One of the more difficult parts of my job involves handling cases of students who are, for one reason or another, not safe or cared for at home. The issue is complex and there are no easy answers, but one solution on a larger scale is quality foster homes. The statistics on foster care are staggering. I can’t help believe that Jesus actually meant it when he told us to care for the orphan. That’s why I spent 3 hours every Sunday for ten weeks learning about the system, kids in trauma, and parenting. I had an amazing instructor and I just found out last week that I’m officially certified. I’ve got a crib, an open home, and an open heart.

Interested in foster care? Check out HopeTree Family Services.

9. I found forgiveness.
Last year, I wrote the word forgiveness on this stone. It was a tangible reminder of a spiritual goal for the year. Forgiveness is still a daily choice, but it’s one I’m committed to making over and over again.

10. I made it on the video board in Times Square.
I’m not sure that this was on my bucket list, but it totally should have been!

11. I started CrossFit.
Y’all. CrossFit is hard. I’ll never forget my first night. I ate leftover pizza 10 minutes beforehand (because obviously I was very dedicated) and I thought I might vomit on the mat all night. Earlier this week we were doing one of the workouts that I could barely even complete the first night and I realized how much stronger I am after 2 months. That’s my goal- stronger. I’ll never be a size 2 but I want to be healthy and strong and CrossFit pushes me to do that!

12. I chopped off all my hair
New cut, new color, same me. I LOVED the short hair life. I’m growing it out for the wedding but I’ll probably do another big chop right after!

13. I set healthy boundaries.
In theory, I’m amazing with boundaries. I’ve read all the books. I could coach people on healthy boundaries. In practice? My palms get sweaty when I think of hurting someone’s feelings. But this year I started. I chose healthy, even when it didn’t make everyone happy. I stood my ground and I didn’t run when things got uncomfortable. Just a few weeks ago I was having a conversation with someone close to me and they said I just feel like I let you down. A year ago, the news they’d just shared would have put me in a full-on panic attack, but this year I simply said this You can’t let me down when you’re not the thing holding me up. I want more for you than this, but you have to want it too. The best part? I meant it.

14. I chased a whole lot of sunsets.
I’m not 100% sure on this but I think Jesus put something in me that enjoys sunsets, sunrises, and starry nights a little bit more than the average human. And y’all… we chased them all this year. So good for my soul.

15. I dated (for good and for bad).
I went on more first dates this year than I have in any other year of my life. In fact, I went on some second dates. Not every relationship had a perfect ending, but I learned so much about myself in the process. Also, if you check out #16 and 17 on my list here, you’ll see that I’m finally taking the advice every youth group kid got in the 90’s and I’m “kissing dating goodbye” because……..

16. I met the one.
Last week, my future sister-in-law asked when I knew her brother was “the one”.  I think it’s a tricky concept really. I don’t believe there is one person for each of us. I don’t believe that one wrong misstep could have my “one” married off to the wrong person and me left single forever. But I do believe God puts certain things in us that mesh well with certain other people. I do believe marriage is easier when we prioritize certain attributes and character traits in our dating. And just like I believe we choose to love rather than fall in love, I believe we choose to make someone our “one” rather than finding “the one”.

For me, I got to see so many of those attributes I’d prioritized and prayed for come to life in Will as we dated. On our second date in particular, we accidentally ended up in an eerily similar situation to a previous date with a previous guy that had ended in mounting frustration and yelling. When Will handled the same situation with patience and grace, I teared up in his pickup truck. God gave me eyes to see so many of those moments that were literal answers to prayer over these last seven months and I am so grateful.
17. I got engaged.

You could say my year ended on a pretty high note. Will’s proposal was magical, thoughtful, and special. I’ll share the full story in the next couple of weeks, but for now, here’s to changing my name in 2018!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Let it Matter

The best way over’s through…
Johnnyswim//Let it Matter
This line from a favorite song seemed to be on repeat in my mind last Sunday. While it primarily references the heartbreak and grief that come in loss of a relationship, it seems applicable. Because honestly, grief is grief. And, unfortunately, the only way over is through.
I laughed when I looked  up the rest of the rest of the lyrics--
Escape is a waste ain't no use in hiding you know the best way over's through If it matters let it matter If your heart's breaking let it ache Catch those pieces as they scatter Know your hurt is not in vain Don't hide yourself from the horror Hurt today here tomorrow If it's fragile and it shatters Let it matter, let it matter

The irony of these lyrics paired with my day was not lost on me. You see, I spent the morning hiding in a church bathroom.
Because my heart is breaking.
Today was the first Sunday after our church’s final service. If you know me, you know that I’m a church girl through and through. So, I promised myself and Jesus that I’d be in a back pew somewhere this Sunday. I promised to show up through the pain. And I did.
But y’all. It was not easy.
A little vulnerability here-- I was one traffic light away from the church about 15 minutes before service was going to start. I had high hopes of sneaking in and out of service unseen, unknown. I should have know what a lofty goal this was. First off, I’m a pastor’s kid. I don’t know how to be late for church. Unless, of course I am late, in which case I skip and go to the next service altogether because ain’t nobody got patience for the pastor’s daughter who can’t get to church on time. So, while 15 minutes early seemed late to me (surely chairs need to be set up and tech will need’s a hard habit to break y’all), this is in fact early, not late. Upon this realization, I naturally pulled in to the nearest parking lot and sat aimlessly for 12 minutes because every good church girl knows there is no such thing as sitting unseen in a church parking lot in the South. Nice try, honey… I naively assumed that leaving myself only 2 minutes before service would allow me to walk in through an empty hallway because clearly everyone would be seated. Bless. I made it to the church steps before the first person greeted me by name. By the time I had escaped to hide in a corner of the bathroom stall, I had been greeted exactly three times by name. Let me insert something here-- this is exactly what church should be like. People should be all kinds of precious and hug and greet one another, remembering names and faces. In any other scenario, it would have been perfect. However, I was dead set on hiding, on remaining unseen. I didn’t think I could answer one more question about church and family and life. The small town encounters over lunch and in grocery store aisles that unintentionally forced me to explain our situation had drained my very last ounce of desire for conversation. So there I stood, hiding in the bathroom. Unfortunately, there is a limited time frame for which you can hide in a bathroom without incurring judgment. Especially if you happen to love shiny, easily identifiable, sparkly flip flops. Bathroom stall judgments are easily made when your shoes rat you out and I couldn’t have the woman next to me in service connecting those shoes with my face. While I didn’t want to face people, I also knew I’d reached my maximum safe time. So I stepped out, killed a few extra minutes by carefully applying chapstick in the mirror, and snuck into service.
I’m pretty aware that I haven’t grieved the loss of our church yet. The funny thing about grief is that we get absolutely zero control over the timetable. That’s why the tears streaming down my face during worship this morning caught me off guard. I wasn’t expecting them, but I couldn’t escape them as we sang words like “when there’s pain in the offering, blessed be your name.” Sometimes the offering, the showing up, it hurts like hell. But we show up anyways, even if it means we hide in the bathroom first.
I’ve grieved a lot of things in my short 23 years. Loss has sought to write its legacy all over my life, but Jesus has won. At times I’ve grieved well and at times my grief has looked like empty tequila bottles and razor blades to my wrist. So you could say, maybe, that I have a bit of street cred when it comes to grief. Here’s what I know to be true though. Johnnyswim was onto something... The only way over is through. So when the tears come, we push through. When we feel worn, we show up. When we’re not enough, the only one who ever could be comes through on our behalf.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

When God Seems Silent

Every now and then I like to hand over the pen and feature a guest writer. Today's post is written by a sweet, sweet college friend. She knows how deeply important words are to me and understood that in the trenches of grief, they might not be easy for me to write. The way she speaks both to and seemingly from my heart is a gift. These are the words that have been tumbling around in my heart and brain. Em puts them so beautifully on paper in a way that cherishes my story and warms my heart. Friends who can listen to Jesus and then write like this on your behalf are a wild, precious treasure. 

What happens when it all falls apart? What then?
Most of us wouldn’t admit that we believe faithfulness produces prosperity.
But I think we do.
Somewhere deep in our hidden theology, the presuppositions we can’t articulate, we believe that if we do our part, God will do His. God will be faithful to bless and grow and flourish whatever it is that we are working for this side of heaven. That could be a job. A ministry. A marriage. A friendship.

If we do our best, God will do His best. Right?

My sweet friend Hannah is the epitome of a church girl. Church is her jam. God has given her an incredible ability to handle large amounts of responsibility while being able to be passionate and intentional in each area of ministry she invests in. One of my favorite times in our friendship is when I get to watch her love people because of her love for Jesus. I love to watch her host brunches and serve families by loving their children. I love to see her organize events and work endless hours to ensure that the environment is cultivated in such a way that it will invite women in to worship. I love watching her talk with people, pursue people, mentor people. I love watching her worship. I love watching her pray her heart out for the people God has placed in her life.

My friend and I met on my first day at college. She helped me move in and she has been helping me lift the hard stuff in life ever since. My friend is just that kind of woman.

This past year I’ve seen my friend go through the unimaginable. The heart wrenching. The hurt.
But I’ve also seen her rise again. I’ve seen her run to Jesus and not away. I’ve seen her heal. And I’ve seen her use it as fuel to press through the hard parts of the race.

There are few things my friend loves more than her church.
She has spent thousands of hours within its walls. Almost her entire life, she has been a part of her God’s work within her family building that church.

And today, she announced that her church has made the painful decision to close its doors.

My friend did her part.
Did God do His?

I’m no stranger to loss. And when I’ve been on that side of things I am tempted to ask this question.

If you’re not familiar with Job’s story, it is one of my favorites. Job was a faithful man of God. He was loved by the Lord and everything Job touched seemed to prosper..
And then one day, he lost everything.
Job lost his family. His home. His career. His health. And His security in the goodness of God.
In Job 10 (MSG), Job has so many questions for God. He did his part. He was faithful! At this point in the story he had reached his end.

“I can’t stand my life- I hate it! I’m putting it all out on the table, all the bitterness of my life- I’m holding back nothing.” Job prayed, “Here’s what I want to say: Don’t, God, bring in a verdict of guilty without letting me know the changes you are bringing. How does this fit into what you call good?”
Later on in chapter 10 Job says, 

“You gave me life itself and incredible love. You watched and guarded every breath I took. But you never told me about this part. I should have known that there was more to it.”

Now depending on your view of God, you may have never had a conversation with Him quite like this one. But I’m willing to bet you’ve had these feelings at some point. I bet you’ve wondered how your broken dream, failed marriage, and biggest heartbreak fits into His goodness.

So, if you don’t know the end of the story, I would love to share it with you. God speaks to Job finally after much time passes and he asks Job a series of questions. Questions like,
Where were you when I created the earth?
Where were you when I decided on it’s size?
Who created the ocean and told the waves where they must stop?
Who brings water to unvisited fields, deserts no one ever lays eyes on?
Was it through your know how that the hawk learned to fly, soaring effortlessly on thermal updrafts?

The list goes on and on. Job and God have this back and forth conversation about the glory of God and the omniscience of His presence. Through this conversation, God in His fullness and His goodness and His sovereignty, is revealed to Job fully, unlike He has ever experienced before.

And this was Job’s response,
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talks about wonders way over my head…..I admit I once lived by rumors of you; but now I have it all firsthand- from my own eyes and ears! I’m sorry- forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise! I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.

During Job’s loss, God seemed quiet. And Job didn’t understand. 
But the prize, the blessing, was that through his loss, Job knew God fully. And that is always the prize. God isn’t after our happiness. He is after what is best for us. What is best for us is always to know God and be known by Him, fully.

This story ends with God redeeming what had been lost. The way He always does. In fact, scripture says that God blessed Job’s later life even more than His earlier life. It says that Job died an old man, with a full life.

Faithfulness doesn’t always equal prosperity in the way we would like it to, but faithfulness always breeds intimacy with Jesus. It is the lens through which we are able to see God’s goodness, sovereignty, and faithfulness, unlike we’ve ever known it before.

One of my favorite worship songs is “Pieces”, in it she says, “You don’t give yourself in pieces. And you don’t hide yourself to tease us.”

And friend, that is true.
That is who our God is. If he is quiet, it’s for our good. He’s not a God of deception. He is not a good of trickery. He is not a God of lies.
If you are feeling tricked. If you are feeling like you did your part of the deal and God didn’t do His. If you want to know where this fits in God’s goodness. I encourage you to take heart. If you let God work, redemption is coming. You live now on rumors of who God is, but soon friend, you will see His face.
God is too good of a God to let us live on crumbs.

Don’t give up now. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

She Matters: Kaylyn's Story

**This post is a part of She Matters: The Mended Heart Project, a project to bring awareness to stories of overcoming sexual abuse through grace and redemption and an attempt to give survivors a voice. To check out more on this project, see the original post here.

Let me introduce you to Kaylyn. Many of the stories I've been blessed to share on this platform come from women I barely know or have met a handful of times. This story is different. Kaylyn is one of my closest friends. Watching God transform her heart and her story has been a real-life journey, one I feel privileged to share in. Kaylyn is wise, beautiful, compassionate, and bold. Check out how she uses her voice on her YouTube channel here

To my abusers,

I don’t know how to begin this.
I spent years telling myself that I forgave you, but the person that really needed forgiveness was me.  I beat myself silent with the “I could haves” and “I should haves,” because I knew that would be everyone’s response if I told them what happened.  So I lived with the shame.
 Someone looked me in the eyes and told me that the fault was all yours. Still, I continued to cling to the fact that I had already made peace with the idea that it was my fault.  If I’m being honest, I think I used that as an excuse to hide behind and avoid dealing with what you did to me.  It was easier to just forgive you than to come to terms with what it meant to be sexually abused. In that “forgiveness,” however, I never mourned what I lost because of you.
I lost my trust and belief that a man can be good, respectful, have integrity, or think of me as their equal.  I became bitter.
I lost my belief in most people and their desire to stand up for those who are abused.  I have encountered only a select few who have felt righteous anger on my behalf. I’ve had to mourn the reactions of disbelief from those I love.
I lost the innocence of being able to fall in love with someone because I automatically believe the worst in them. I believe that men see me as an object of pleasure rather than a human being worthy of respect. Because of this, there is a constant uneasiness when I am around any man, especially if there is no one else around.
I’ve lost any peace of mind when it comes to being physical with my future husband. I get anxiety when I think about having sex. I’m mad that I have to tell him why I’m scared and why I can’t just enjoy something that was designed to be good. I’m frustrated for him, that he’s going to have to continuously fight to help take down my walls.  
I struggle with the idea that there is someone of character out there for me, and if there is, that I will push him away because my walls are too high and too difficult to break down.
 I come with baggage and I’m not apologetic for that, but you should be.

Despite all of that, however, God has brought beauty from my ashes. He has made a beautiful whole, picture out of my broken pieces.
He has shown me my worth.
 I know that I am valued beyond measure and deserve respect. Because of this, I have learned to fight intensely for myself because I refuse to be considered someone’s inferior, an object they can use. I have become strong, stronger than I’ve ever felt. God is good and it’s his goodness, overwhelming grace, and relentless pursuit of me that fuels me to stand taller and to not back down when fighting for what I believe in. 
He makes me brave.
Brave enough to forgive you.

What you did was traumatic and in no way okay, but my peace and healing doesn’t depend on you recognizing that.  I forgive you, because He has begun a new healing me and showing me more of His goodness that only came from mourning what I have lost. He is restoring and will continue to restore what I have lost.   

Monday, January 9, 2017

Top 16 of 2016

2016 was quite a year y’all. To be completely honest, it broke me. But in the rebuilding, I found myself again, stronger. I don’t have the words yet for all that this year was, but I can’t help but share some of it in the meantime. So here it goes, albeit a couple of weeks late, a 2016 recap in no particular order….

1. I bought a house and I filled it with people and things I love.

This is perhaps the biggest thing that happened in 2016. It was my rising from the ashes, my rebuilding. God graciously provided a way for me to buy an adorable townhouse just in time for the holidays. I closed right before Thanksgiving and have been blessed to host dozens of my sweet friends and family. There is nothing I have loved more than watching my house fill with laughter, food, family, and friends. It is a gift, and one I do not take lightly.

2. I tiptoed back into the dating world.

And we’ll just leave this one alone. Dating is scary and hard and sometimes I remember why I stopped. But then other times it’s fun and exciting. May 2017 be the year of more second dates that I don’t cancel.

3. I agreed to blog for too many sources and learned how to step back gracefully from over-commitment.

This one was hard for me. I dove in head first into some neat writing opportunities and found myself spread desperately thin and cranking out posts at 11:59 every Friday night. It wasn’t healthy and it wasn’t helping. So I did something I’m not great at- I said no. At first, I felt like a failure, but then I learned how to graciously say, “I can’t do this and it’s not fair to me or to your organization for me to keep trying.” I nearly stopped writing for my own blog altogether in 2016 and I had to re-evaluate why I write. I had to remind myself that my posts don’t have to be attached to a well-known URL to be worthwhile. And honestly? I’m looking forward to a much slimmer load this year and hopefully a much larger presence over here on my personal blog and just a few others.

4. I got a job that is the hardest and best thing.

I got my dream job, truly. I teach second grade 1.5 miles from my house. It is the best thing I could ever do with my days and also the hardest. Already, I have learned so much. Every day I feel like I am not enough. Then, out of the blue, a kiddo who barely accepted hugs at the beginning of the year hugs me for five minutes before he gets on the bus one day. And I lose it. My classroom is my biggest ministry. Every day, I offer up a little bit of my broken self and Jesus makes it enough for 21 little people. They drive me crazy, and then they lavish me with flowers, and handwritten letters, and chocolate they saved from trick-or-treating because they knew it was my favorite, and they remind me all over again why I spend my whole heart on them.

While that would be enough in itself, I work for and with the best community. My principal leaves me sweet notes and hugs me and checks in. My AP carries my bags to my car at least once a month. They support their staff 100% and it is a gift like I’ve never known. The other teachers and staff in the building are fabulous, precious colleagues who are becoming friends and I feel honored to work with them.

5. I went back to counseling.

Counseling has such a stigma. Frankly, I don’t get it. In fact, this is how I feel about it….

In all honesty, every hard and healing season of my life has been marked by counseling. It keeps me sane. It took me a while to find a good fit this time around, but I’m so grateful I did and I stuck with it. People ask me a lot what’s different about my perspective, how I can handle so much, etc. I don’t love the superwoman complex, but frankly, how I can handle so much is coping skills. Coping skills and godly wisdom from several fabulous counselors have walked me through the hardest days of my life. Getting healthy has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself and it is a process that I will never stop or be ashamed of.

6. I drank far too much coffee.

I actually counted this morning. I’ve lived in my house about 6 weeks and have served right at 250 cups of coffee. I have zero shame about this. I figure if I’m going to be addicted to something in this life, it could certainly be worse than coffee. Also, coffee is my love language; it brews conversation and community so I serve it to all the people, all the time. Here’s to a 2017 full of hot, caffeinated love!

7. I said goodbye to my first car and bought another with a story.

I have a thing for cars and stories. I bought my first car as a junior in high school with every penny of babysitting money I had ever made. And while it was essentially a disaster and death trap later in its life, it lasted me through six wonderful years. I did a lot of life in that car and it marked some wonderful and difficult seasons. So, when the mechanic called me and told me there was no way it was worth fixing, I was super disappointed. He told me that I was actually lucky to be alive, however, if I’d still been driving it. Among other things, my front two wheels were essentially detached from the car. He told me I must have a pretty great guardian angel and I told him I’ve heard that a time or two. Thank you Jesus, truly.

So I started the nightmare that is car shopping. I found some gems like this one (dog included!)

Then, a couple weeks later, I found this answer to prayer.

Meet Lorelai, my “new” 1997 Toyota Corolla, with… drumroll please… remote start!!!! I will never get over people’s reactions in parking lots when the ’97 starts up remotely. She was almost half my budget and has a fabulous story. Nathan has even texted me to check in several times since J

8. I gained a seester.

My brother is easily my best friend, so him getting married was a big deal. I was a tad bit worried it would feel like losing him, but let me tell you- having a sister is pretty grand. Heather is a gem, and I’m so grateful for her. He picked a good one!

9. I stopped running and got healthy.

This sounds backwards, but it’s deeply true.  Check out my post on it later this month, but for now, suffice it to say it is possible to do all the right things for all the wrong reasons. Here’s to staying healthy and running again in 2017!

10. I finally watched Gilmore Girls and found my soul sister in Lorelai.

Seriously though—why did I not know about this sooner? Snark, sass, and coffee with two strong female leads. Also, Ashland is pretty much Stars Hollow. So much goodness.

11. I poured into relationships that matter.

I had to fight my Type A personality this year and remind myself that relationships are the real work, that quality time should trump every to-do list. Tears, laughter, and real conversation have been the true rewards of this choice and I’m so, so grateful.

12. I read a lot of great books.

I’ll share a list soon, but gracious I love books. I live a mile from a Goodwill that has a great selection. I got to help launch and endorse some great books this year and even had a friend or two publish their first book. So fun to know such incredible writers!

13. I decided on a tattoo.

Shhhh. It’s a secret. You’ll find out when it’s official.

14. I graduated from college!

Graduation was somewhat anti-climactic since I walked in May, but it’s still something huge!

15. I fell in love with a new town.

One of my favorite parts of my new home and new job is that they come with the most adorable town. I’m in love. Festivals, parades, coffee shops, bed and breakfasts, all within walking distance. I may never get tired of this place.

16. I researched foster care, found an organization I love, and now have a house with the room.

More details to follow, but if you’re interested in working with foster care in any capacity, I highly recommend HopeTree Family Services!

Monday, April 4, 2016

They Will Know Us by Our Love: A Prayer for the Church

The church has long held a special place in my heart. It's never been because of her perfection, but perhaps, quite the opposite. At her best, church is simply a messy group of sinners striving to love a broken world. However, it is in her imperfect striving together that she radiates the love of Christ.

Love. That's our real message. Let's own it well. 

John 13:35 says in reference to the church, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

The Message translation puts it this way:
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

The premise is simple-- the world will recognize God's people by their radical love, both for each other and a hurting world around them.

I pray for a church known for our radical, selfless love. Let it be said of us... 

(adapted from 1 Corinthians 13)

May the church be known for her patience, for her kindness.
May we neither envy, nor boast; may our contentment preach to a hurting world.
God, let your church be known for her humility, rather than her pride.
May she be neither arrogant, nor rude.
Let your church not insist on her own way.
Let us reflect you well with neither irritability, nor resentment.
Rather, may we love the bride for which you laid down your life.
May we never rejoice over wrongdoing. 
Teach us to weep not just at the sins of our neighbors, but first at our own. 
God, teach us to rejoice in your truth. May we never take for granted its supreme value. 
May we bear all things in love, gladly bearing the burdens of our cities.
Together, let us come to believe your truths, find hope in all things, and endure all things in unity.

Our cities will know we were here. Our neighbors will feel our impact. 

What image of the church will be ingrained in their minds?

I pray that our communities would see a people in passionate pursuit of justice, radiating perfect love, and unfailing hope. 

Let them know us by our love.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

To the One Who Needs Resurrection

The winter has been long my dear, but you have made it.

Perhaps the weather outside was an all too vibrant reminder of the weather in your heart this season. 

Perhaps your own winter saw its share of death.

The end of a relationship...
A difficult illness...
The death of a dream...
A hurting marriage...
Tremendous loss...
A confusing season...

Amidst the winter, it seemed that spring would never come. Would you ever see the light?

And yet, faithfully, the seasons remain steadfast. The sun breaks through. 

With the first taste of spring comes a beautiful reality. After months of darkness, cold, and death, spring ushers in new life and new light. 

Spring brings with it a joyous reminder of new life in the form of Easter. Many people mark their goals, plans, etc. by the start of a new year, I find my "newness" in this gentle reminder of resurrection.

The resurrection serves as a promise to my soul.

That loss you have mourned, that shame you have hidden-- it is covered in the shadow of the cross my friend.

Good Friday was only good because of the hope that was to come. Every fear, every doubt, every tear, every pain is swallowed up in the promise of a perfect Savior who hung on the cross so I would not have to. So you would not have to. And that is good. Good for my soul and for yours as well.

The beauty of the resurrection is that our Savior is alive. He conquered death and stole the keys to hell. 

He wants more than this weary life for you. He wants to resurrect that thing you've been holding friend. It seems safe tightly in your grip, but the moment you release it, He will faithfully mold it into beauty beyond your imagination. The winter is over, you have seen your share of death. It's time. Let the newness creep in; let it swallow your fears and your dreams and watch what blooms. 

The resurrection has always been an invitation. Just as Jesus invited the women at the empty tomb to "come and see," He beckons you and me today. Come. Taste and see that He is good. (Psalm 34:8)

Our God is steadfast and He's in the business of bringing dead things to life. Will you let Him?