personal blog

We can do better.

“It’s sadly the most unoriginal hurt.” That quote was the one that stung me the most this week, when I watched an interview of a woman talking about her rape when she was a teenager. And I’ve continually heard the quote: “We can do better.”

And I’ve mostly heard that quote in relation to having Brett Kavanaugh sworn in, but I don’t believe it in relation to that. He’s in the Supreme Court, and that’s happened. I say, we can do better with the way we put light in these dark places. We can do better at supporting men and women who come forward with their stories of sexual assault. And when the man holding the highest position in all the land can stand before everyone, literally everyone in this nation because it was broadcast everywhere, and mock a sexual assault survivor, regardless of whether or not the man who assaulted her was who she claimed it to be, that is a hell of a shame. I wish I had a stronger word for that. It’s bullshit. It’s absolute bullshit.

You can disagree with me. That’s welcomed here. But I’d venture to say we live in a culture where it’s more normal to raise your voice and assert your self-righteousness than it is to actually do what’s right.

I think we need to step back and see both sides. Can you imagine, just for a second if there was a man in your life falsely accused of sexual assault? The hurt that would affect not just him, but would cause an earthquake in his life, affecting every person around him? I had a very humbling moment this past week where God gently but firmly reminded me that my idea of justice may not be God’s definition of justice, just like so often my definition of good is not God’s pure definition of good. I do believe in times like this, I think of two verses most, and I’m tearing up as I sit here and write this from bravery and from the pain this past week in the news has dredged up.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” Genesis 50:20

and

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” Joel 2:25

Let’s chat about this Genesis passage. It was really easy for me to sit through those hours of hearings and within the first few hours be filled with so so so much anger, what felt like righteous anger, when I listened to Dr. Ford testify. Someone has wronged her. Someone has traumatized her for the rest of her life. And that is heartbreaking. And it’s heartbreaking that we just throw around words like “trauma.” That is a pain I know very well. The anger also came when I found myself on Twitter, looking at the feed of the man who took advantage of me, seeing he stood in firm defense of Dr. Ford. Where the hell was that when I was being taken advantage of in high school?

And then I listened to Kavanaugh’s testimony, over and over again. If this isn’t the man that has assaulted her, his life is ruined. And yes, he was sworn in to sit on one of the most prestigious seats in the nation, but his family, the view his wife and his daughters and his parents and his cousins and his aunts and uncles have toward him, they are forever changed. So professionally, obviously his life isn’t ruined, but this may have ruined so many relationships for him. And relationships are our most valuable and safe space. And that breaks my heart.

I don’t blog about this as someone who has all it all together and knows exactly what they’re talking about when it comes to politics because I don’t. Take that in first, I don’t like politics. I don’t like the division and the hostility and the pain it causes during this season in our country. I don’t like the hatred it sows among us. I don’t come here to talk politics. I write because this has struck something in me. Maybe a hunger for justice and goodness, but mostly to tell a story of restoration that came from pain.

God’s heart might not be breaking because Brett Kavanaugh was sworn in this week, but it is breaking because of the hatred this has invoked for so many. What makes me really sad is people’s apathy when they assume they can’t do anything but this might be news to you, prayer works. It changes our hearts when we decide to choose love and communicate with God before we freak out and yell our political beliefs at people. Also, on another note, you have a voice, and it’s my prayer that you would use it for good. So please, freakin vote.

So right now in our current political climate, it doesn’t look good.

I’m choosing to believe that there are still things that God’s heart is breaking for, but what man meant for evil, God meant it for good, that there would be restoration and freedom for every sexual assault survivor who needed a voice. Men and women everywhere would be able to stand in solidarity and speak into the night that they too have been pained and mistreated in a way no person should ever have to endure. God’s voice is louder. His love is louder.

If you have an ounce of empathy running through your veins, you understand Dr. Ford. But you also understand Judge Kavanaugh. There is pain on both ends, whether from a false accusation or from a reckoning, I don’t know. And you don’t know either, let that humble you. But there is obviously pain.

So yes, I have to imagine how she felt when she ran from the room and locked the bathroom. While I might not have felt that panic after physical encounters with a man I thought cared for me, I can assure you that’s what I felt the day he turned and everything came undone.

I wasn’t prepared to think about it, though I knew I wanted to watch the hearings. I never thought I’d think about my past when listening to Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh speak on the alleged assault.

I want to challenge you with something though: take those verses and remember them as you navigate this week. You don’t know the aftermath this has caused for some people. You don’t know the pain. You don’t know the depth of the hurt. But you can choose to be kind and love the people in your sphere well and remember that you have the ability to use your voice for good.

And I have these two questions I had to sit back and ask myself, to humble myself when self-righteousness and “I know what’s best in this situation” crept in:

Why does this hurt me?

Why should it hurt you?

So when it comes to the phrase, “We can do better.” Yes, we can do better. Support the people around you with stories of sexual assault because we appear to live in a divided society when it comes to support. You can come out to find the love and support of family and friends, or you can come out to be told you’re not believed and should be silenced.

The choice isn’t whether or not you should come forward; you should. The choice is which person you will be when someone comes to you. And we get to say in this respect, we can do better.

Stop trying to yell louder, that your political opinions may be heard in anger. But instead, let us strive to shine light into dark places and show people their voices are heard. Let’s choose kindess instead of hate, and I don’t say that in some sort of happy-go-lucky way.

If I could speak to the man who took advantage of me in this moment right now, I would hope to speak forgiveness and kindness. It’s awkward to talk about. I still am not clear with the wrong, though I’ve heard the word victim spoken over me in those years. I wasn’t raped. I was taken advantage of. I was being used by a man twice my age and in authority over me to meet his physical and emotional demands, and I called it a relationship. Did he choose actions that ruined his life? Yes. Did he ask me to claim that responsibility? Yes. And did I for many years? Yes. And he gets to live with the ruin he’s caused. It’s not my job to bear his burden anymore.

And I don’t want to compare this situation to Dr. Ford’s but the reality is that our political climate forces many people to relive traumatic instances in their stories. And their stories are important. You can’t tell me they’re not. Our stories form the way we live our lives. My story has shaped the way I receive love, trust people, and receive physical affection. I know that for certain. And many people have learned other “for certain”s from their own stories, and you have no right to disregard those.

You can control your actions. You can vote. You can speak. You can love. You can sow kindness where there is hatred. You can do better.

We can do better.

I shoved the I-could-never’s away.

I stopped using the phrase, “I could never do that.”

And I’ve spent these past few weeks reflecting back on seasons of intense change, without even realizing it, because I happen to be in one right now. I’ll start with this “I could never do that,” though it was more of a whispered one to myself. I could never run that far. Each day, I’ve bumped up my mileage, the most recent being a 7.3 mile run and a 15.04 mile bike ride. I shoved the I-could-never’s away.

It’s therapy. And therapy looks different for everyone; hang that as a banner over this post. Some people need to sit on a couch and verbally process everything, and I’ve had seasons where that was true for me, but I’m not sitting in the center of that season anymore. Now, all it takes is a phone call to a person who knows me deeply, a very long run with a Dear Sugars podcast, and establishing a routine in these past few weeks of making coffee like a ritual and watching the Today Show from start to finish. Will that change in a couple weeks when I’m waking up at 5AM? Oh, for sure. But routine has been my grounded space.

And now I’m searching for the consistency in my relationship with God. I find Him in that morning coffee ritual and in the long runs and in spending intentional time with family. I find Him less by sitting and having quiet time for 2 hours every morning. I find Him in continuing to trust Him in a season of intense change, praying for wisdom and knowledge, not just relying on my own steps. It’s been made very clear to me that ultimately I do not have control over my future, which has been the scariest and most humbling thing. I stopped saying, “I could never do that,” after the Lord uprooted me and stuck me in Costa Rica for the summer.

I stopped saying I would never try ministry abroad again. I stopped thinking I would never go back into ministry. I stopped saying I would never move home. I stopped saying I would never run long distances again. I stopped searching. I stopped longing. I stopped trying to control. I decided to fix my eyes on Jesus. I focused on the things I did know to be true about this very moment I’m sitting in: I am who God calls me. I am going where He calls me. I am open to being used by Him. His love is proud to be seen with me. He is steadfast. He is light. He exposes darkness. He is secure. He is my bravery. He is my most important relationship.

Truth be told, I recently came out of a relationship that was very difficult. I’ll lay that out, plain and simple. I learned a lot about me, and I learned a lot about this other person that was hard to grapple with. And stepping into this season, instead of saying, “I could never do that,” when it comes to dating, I’ve felt God pushing my desires in a different direction, to dream and plan and explore on my own. I’m not going to sit here and saying, “Oh God no, I’ll never do that again because it was a terrible thing that broke little pieces of me,” but I will say, “Hey God, I don’t know what You’re doing, and I don’t know why the heck You allowed that to happen, but I’m going to trust You despite all of it.”

I do not feel a call to date or put myself in a position to learn and trust another person, and I do think this comes from that last little phrase. He is my most important relationship. Am I going to write it off completely? Of course not. But am I going to steer clear until I see a reason not to do that anymore? Absolutely. And some of that may be charged with fear, seeing relationships around me filled with darkness and hurt, but the other part of that truly does feel like a change in desire. In this season, I feel called to lean more deeply into God and keeping my eyes fixed on Him, praying that one day He’s going to bring me someone who I can walk alongside and continue to follow Him.

I think back to last summer when I was working at a camp in Mount Berry, GA, and there was a group of girls who would go out on the trails for one week of a two week session, and they would lead high school girls through the woods, teaching them the truth of God. And I remember multiple conversations with leaders in that group that ended with me saying, “Oh gosh, I just could never do that,” and they would always tell me, “Of course you can!” And when I think about the phrase I so often use (“I could never do that”), I think of those stories for some reason. I don’t believe that the reason I’m remembering that is because God wants me to pack up my belongings and head out to live in the woods for a while, but I do have reason to believe He’s calling me into a wilderness of learning what it looks like to trust Him when I can no longer be in control.

I got to talk with a sweet friend this week that I recently had the opportunity to reconnect with, and she said the more she thought about it, it was like I decided to take one step in faith and God unfolded the rest in front of me. And I started thinking about that one step and what it was, and I remembered. I quit a job that wasn’t going to allow me to go to my brother’s high school graduation, and I knew that honoring my family was the most important thing, and God honored that. Because I quit that job, I had the opportunity to go to Costa Rica and because I went to Costa Rica, I moved out of Rome and got a job in Atlanta, which then led to more opportunities than I could’ve ever imagined. I keep thinking about how God gives abundantly, even when our eyes are wandering all over the place. I kept looking and seeking and longing for all of these different things, but each time, a small whisper of God saying, “Hey, eyes right here,” and that focus changes everything. All of these opportunities and all of these plans unfolding right in front of my eyes are all Jesus, every single one of them.

So I’ll stop using phrases like, “I could never do that,” and words like, “Never.” Those are strict and limiting, and that’s just not who God is. And it may seem like a simple thing, just to change the words you use, but I believe it’s profound. If I would’ve let fear dictate this past season, I wouldn’t be able to sit here and write stories of God’s faithfulness in another country or in a season of intense change or in learning when to say enough or I deserve better. It’s good and sweet and rich, and I just wanted to place a mile marker down to say, “This moment. It’s a good one.”

I miss my name tag.

I’ve got a lot of words for the last two months, but none that will do them justice. God is big and I am not and that is the most beautiful thing, so we can start there, like a first foot to the pavement on a long run where you want to pace yourself but also may want to run some sprints here and there but also walk a little bit to get your heart rate back to normal.

I miss the rhythms. I miss putting my name tag on every morning, the moments our teammates got to serve one another by getting the coffee or filling up water bottles, the small things. I miss setting up production, offloading pictures and videos, making each other laugh, singing a lot of old songs, getting excited for chicken lasagna, all of it. Do I also miss the moments where God was kind enough to clearly show us His presence and show us the impact the Gospel was having on these communities? Oh man, yes. I’d give everything to have it all back. I miss the simplicity and the deep, belly laughs.

And God’s been really cool to show me that’s not just a Costa Rica thing, and how naive of me it was to compartmentalize that part of God’s character to just camp or a foreign country. I actually get to make the choice to serve the people around me that same way literally every single day. Thanks, God.

These past few days have been a lot of, “Wake up, kid. You’ve got a lot of dreams that aren’t just going to happen unless you do something,” moments. Do I need some time to rest? Gosh, yes, and my biggest mistake is usually not letting myself do that, so I’m trying to be careful. But I’m also trying not to forget that hands-on-a-live-wire feeling. I felt alive every single day we were in Costa Rica, and I don’t know what made it happen, but I’m trying to not forget the rhythms and the abiding and the serving.

Culture shock has been weird, and it’s one of those things that feels stupid for experiencing, so I haven’t had a lot of grace for myself in experiencing it. It’ll just hit when I’m trying to explain a story to someone or I’m missing hearing Spanish all around me or I’m driving through Atlanta or I’m looking at a sushi menu with so. many. options. It’s a lot, and it’s weird to walk through.

So I started processing it piece by piece. That leads me to a little bit I wrote closer to the beginning of this summer.

“Why does Christ want to enter into every part of your life? To judge you? Condemn you? Take from you? No, Paul says the more you’re comfortable with Jesus meeting you in every quiet place, the more by faith he’ll begin to convince you how deeply loved you are.”

I had the chance to sit and listen to a beautiful sermon where Ben Stuart made the comparison of Christ dwelling in us to a friend knowing the comfort of coming into your house and feeling at home. We ought to be able to see Jesus be able to do the same, come in, take his shoes off, check the fridge even though he already knows what’s there. When we leave all of our rooms open for God, darkness doesn’t have the ability to take over parts of the house, of us.

That was a beautiful metaphor I think God knew I needed in this current phase of life. I think about the beauty of gathering and hospitality and the way that we ought to be able to let God dwell in us.

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

FULLNESS. That’s what God’s inviting us into when we’re offered a seat at the table. And I know my whole life I’ve tried to muster up my own fullness in my own words and relationships and moments that made me stronger. I think that’s why I can confidently sit here and write to you that I truly only trust myself, and that was not something I was able to reckon with until, well, these past couple weeks. The Lord has made me come undone with these ideas of Truth and Trust. I think subconsciously I held a lot of pride in accepting this job in Costa Rica. I thought, “Of course I trust the Lord. I quit my job, hopped on a plane, and came to a country I’ve never been to in order to do ministry. Now that’s trusting the Lord.

But if I want to sit here and get really honest with myself, I don’t fully trust anyone but myself. It’s sort of liberating to write that and it’s been even more freeing to say out loud in conversation. I got on that plane because it was more of a, “Well, I don’t truly know what comes next so I’m willing to step out on this ledge because a lot of details came together and I think this is what God has for me so let’s go.” I trust me until I don’t have the information I need to provide answers for myself. And that’s really sobering to admit. That’s not trusting God at all. That’s leaving His will as my last resort. I know that all sounds harsh, so I think you can imagine the processing I’ve gotten to do for the past couple weeks. It’s been thrilling.

I have been trusting God with different parts, for sure, but definitely not the whole thing, which is not what He asks of us. Trusting Him means full surrender, and I’m not in a place where I can say I am truly doing that. I’m a big fan of control, a big supporter of championing your own story and your own healing in your own timing. But how fitting that God would take that to show me more of Himself in my humbling and submitting to Him as I begin to process shame and moments not soaked in grace I didn’t even know were there.

When I envisioned getting on that plane and coming here on my 22nd birthday, I imagined my days would be filled with sharing the gospel and watching beautiful sunsets and a lot of dancing and singing and drinking really dang good coffee. And yeah, God’s been really kind in presenting those kinds of moments. But if I had been in charge of writing the story, it wouldn’t have included days where I couldn’t show myself enough grace or days when anxiety seemed to flood every surface I walked upon or that I would be doing a 180 with my post-grad plans. But how grateful am I that I’m not the one writing my own story.

And that metaphor about Jesus coming into your home to dwell in a place you’ve set out for Him? That requires trust. You don’t just allow strangers to come on in and take their shoes off and open your fridge to check out what ya got going on in there.

So here we are, 6 weeks later, 7 if I think about the fact that we’ve been home for a week now, and it still sucks to wake up not in the same place as our team. I think one of the coolest things God keeps pushing to the front of my mind has been that the same God who walked me through every single day in Costa Rica is the same God who is still going to use me regardless of the location and He’s the same Holy Spirit dwelling in me that He was in all of this past season.

He is with me in the hard conversations and the messy confrontations and the mornings I don’t want to get myself out of bed. He is also with me at the end of really hard but good runs and on long drives and in really sweet dinner conversations and in sending texts and in making coffee every morning to establish routine and normal rhythms. He is with me in the people I’m getting to reconnect with and the excitement of dreams coming into fruition and getting to be on the same soil as my family. He is in it all.

And on the really difficult mornings where I feel a little heavier than normal and my heart hurts at the idea of not being in the same space as our team, I take extra time to make a good cup of coffee and read these words:

23 (1) El Señor es mi pastor;
nada me falta.
En verdes praderas me hace descansar,
a las aguas tranquilas me conduce,
me da nuevas fuerzas
y me lleva por caminos rectos,
haciendo honor a su nombre.

Aunque pase por el más oscuro de los valles,
no temeré peligro alguno,
porque tú, Señor, estás conmigo;
tu vara y tu bastón me inspiran confianza.

Me has preparado un banquete
ante los ojos de mis enemigos;
has vertido perfume en mi cabeza,
y has llenado mi copa a rebosar.
Tu bondad y tu amor me acompañan
a lo largo de mis días,
y en tu casa, oh Señor, por siempre viviré.

In my Father’s house, there’s a place for me.

In my Father’s house, there’s a place for me. I heard those words sung a couple nights ago during an all staff worship with WinShape Camps. In my mind, they’re also paired with the words: “I serve a King with good intentions. God, You will never turn Your back on me.” Also, yes. You read that right. I was sitting in worship with the summer staff for camps, and I’m currently writing this with rain beating down on the roof of the hotel we’re staying in because it’s rainy season in Costa Rica. God’s plans cannot be wrecked, but He does have a tendency to come in and wreck ours. I stand in complete awe and peace from these past few days.

I’ve learned more about honesty and beauty and trust and mercy and steadfastness in these past few days than I maybe ever have. My plans were turned upside down in so many different aspects of my life: relationships, living situation, and job. Everything, flipped. And I have never felt so at rest in the Lord.

A couple months ago, I wrote the words on here: So maybe I’m not going back to a place I had put all my hopes and dreams and plans inside of and maybe I’m learning what it looks like to stand up for what’s right and maybe I’m learning that doing what is right still has consequences because this world is so broken and maybe I’m about to pick up and move to a new city in three months and maybe that scares the absolute crap out of me, but there is nothing like it. And that was true. I was not going to be working for one of my favorite organizations because of scheduling conflicts and different plans the Lord had for me, though I couldn’t see it then. I was devastated and hurting and so confused that God would use a place to teach me so much about His goodness and then take it away. So I honored my family and stuck it out, and that new city I referenced? It was Nashville. And then that turned to Rome. And now I’m sitting in a bed in San José.

And the world is still broken, that hasn’t changed. I’ve experienced some hurt and confusion in these past few days, but the Lord has been so kind and merciful in answering literally every question that ran so deep and giving me clarity and peace of mind in leaving the country for an extended period of time. I truly understand that feeling of freedom we ought to understand when the author of Hebrews writes: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  I used to think that was a cheesy Bible verse that cross country runners got on those cool t-shirts we bought at the end of invitationals, so I was never able to take those words seriously in a way. But other translations use phrases like “let us strip off every weight” or “let us lay aside” or “we must get rid of everything that slows us down,” and those are all beautiful and rich and real, but there was something that beat into the darkened parts of my heart when I saw the word RUN. It cleared out the cobwebs, and I heard, “Talitha koum,” which comes from Mark 5 when Jesus says to the little girl, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” and she arises from her sleep and comes back to life. Everyone thought she was broken and out of reach from coming back to life, but this is what Jesus does: he comes and makes us come alive. And my favorite thing about that is that is a story he invites us to take part in, and on the really really really good days, we also get to watch dead things come alive.

I put away the things that held me down and have remembered the things that make me come more alive in Jesus. And you also deserve that: to dig deep into the things that make you come more alive and surround yourself with the people who push you to become more alive and more like Jesus. I didn’t always have that, and it varies in seasons, but I am so grateful that the Lord has me in a place now with the best support system I’ve ever known, and he’s allowing me to run headfirst into the unknown. The only thing I am sure of is that Jesus writes the best stories and he is with me, which is so fitting because our theme at camp for the summer comes from Psalm 23.

23 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

I am grateful for the ability to say yes and the space to dive deep. In moments like these, I’m pushed back to the psalm that says, “He brought me out into a wide open place; he delivered me because he was pleased with me.” I feel like the Lord has intentionally created margin in my own life, picking me up and changing my plans to fit His better, and being in this space with essentially no strings attached to me, He’s allowed me to dream again.

I constantly feel desires He has placed in me welling up and forcing me to evaluate what it is I want to do; not to settle for a job because it’s smartest, not to stay in one place because of a relationship, and not jumping because I was too afraid to just move. I love this season because there is nothing I would look back on and regret. Each relationship, each move, each moment to slow down has been exactly what I’ve needed to calm an anxious heart. Sure, there have been many moments where I freeze in one place and feel overstimulated and so confused. But sifting through these past few weeks, I’ve had more questions answered, more doors opened, and more unexplainable peace than I have ever experienced.

Here’s to experiencing God in ways I never have before and understanding more about foretastes of the Kingdom of Heaven in answered questions, words I’m finally able to write, and love I cannot begin to explain. One thing that recently stuck out to me in a conversation is that God honors big prayers. He may not answer them in ways we want, like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum to its father, but we ought to be able to trust Him enough to ask Him for the big things. I see this in a lot of specific prayers. I didn’t have the courage to ask God to change His mind when the first door with camp shut, but here I am, still working for this organization I am constantly cheering on.

My views of God lately have been those of a Father who draws near, stands in the corner with birthday hats and confetti and balloons, and cheers for us: I am with you and I am for you!!! I want to challenge you to see God like that too. He’s a God who knows every single one of our weaknesses and never falters. He always cheers us on, walks alongside us, and paves the way ahead. And I’m very grateful for the people He has put around me who function as literally the hands and feet of Jesus, continually pursuing me and cheering me on no matter the season and no matter the wide spaces I run headfirst into.

P.S. If you keep a prayer list, I’d love to encourage you to pray for our teams as we begin camps this week!!

For when I am weak.

Weak is one of those words I used to hate, but now it feels like a sort of peace offering. Using that word feels like some sort of Ebenezer in desperate moments where I can look back and say, “This. This is exactly where God showed up when I thought He never would even though He always does.” I can look down at where my feet are and who I’m talking to and what I’m holding in my hands and what emotions are running wild and remember where God has come through and reminded me of His steadfastness.


I’ve had to step away from this space for a while. I didn’t feel like the words coming out of me were genuine or deep or real, so I decided to press pause and come back when I felt ready. Every time I sat down to punch out some words, they were just really dry and, honestly, I hated them a lot. An author we had at Berry a year ago said that when you write your first book, you should put it in a drawer and never let anyone see it, and then publish the second book. That’s how I’ve been feeling about these posts. It was a bit of a mess for a while there, so I stepped back into journaling and forced myself to write and write and write until I didn’t have anything left, and that’s when it got better.

I realized I had to write a lot a lot a lot of crap to get at what was just sitting in a deep well of stale grief, moments I tried to take captive, and pieces of inexpressible joy that God wasn’t calling me to write words about but was helping me to just sit and experience without having to explain. I constantly got these little whispers of, “You don’t have to write this down. You don’t have to have the words for this moment. I just want you to be here and feel it all.” And if you know me, you know that feeling has never been a problem for me. Never, in bright, bold, neon, all caps letters, never. I’m a feeler, and I think it’s been such a gift that God has allowed me to sit in that part of myself for a bit.

I’ve pulled this tab open multiple times in the past couple months and haven’t had anything good to say. But these past few weeks, man, they’ve been ones filled with some really hard days and some days that were just filled to the brim with things to celebrate, and I need a mile marker now.

Life is full right now, like really full. In so many good ways, draining ways, and ways I’m having to learn more about. Every day, I wake up and I am inspired out of my mind, and I see God in so much. (Also, don’t read that as every day because there have certainly been days when I force myself into an early morning filled with darkness and not enough grace and honestly just waking up on the wrong side of the bed, but I’ve still been doing it, nonetheless). This is a new place for me because usually when things pick up and life gets a little too busy, I just miss Him. I miss all of these sweet moments because I like the rush of my brain and my body moving at a million miles an hour more than intimacy with God. I’m well acquainted with moving fast and less familiar with slowing down, and I know I’m not unique in saying that. But really cool things happen when we stop and invite God into the things we’re doing.

“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” // Hosea 6:3 ESV

But I will say this isn’t a season I’m familiar with. It’s not so much a transition as it is a season of learning how to be where I’m at when I know one of the biggest transitions of my life is sitting right in front of me. But I guess it’s wise to also not try and label this season like I do with every other one because God’s going to do whatever He’s going to do, and I want to be here for it. The moments are more valuable than any words I try to place on it, like I’ve gone over God’s head and can see perfectly what He’s doing. First admission: I can’t. I don’t know what He’s doing. And it’s sort of exhilarating. Trusting and waiting has never been fun for me, not a day in my life, but here we are, and I think I enjoy it.

I’ve seen God in a lot of the hard stuff, like a lot. I thought grieving was difficult, but nobody ever tells you what comes after the intense pain and shock. It’s a hell of a ride, and it’s months of having to sort out the things you thought were important and finding out they never were and how you should’ve just believed that God was good all along because it would’ve saved you from a lot of hurting. I’ve felt the Holy Spirit in the midst of fears I forgot existed. I’ve noticed Him in long, difficult walks of silence. I’ve seen Him in conflict and moments of frustration. And I’ve seen Him in all of these moments because I was so weak and so spent.

And I’ve seen Him in not knowing what I’m doing with my future, but I know who I’m going with, and that may be the cheesiest thing I’ve written in a long time, but my God, it is also the most true. I know who is walking before me and knows my fears but knows my days, and there is nothing better than knowing I get to do my days with Jesus. He is acquainted with all of my ways, and that is so reassuring when I don’t have anything else to be sure about. I get to meet him and splay out my fear on the dinner table in front of Him while I come back to my seat at the table because God isn’t afraid of our fears and asks us to come closer, especially in our moments of deep brokenness when we feel like we have absolutely nothing to offer.

So maybe I’m not going back to a place I had put all my hopes and dreams and plans inside of and maybe I’m learning what it looks like to stand up for what’s right and maybe I’m learning that doing what is right still has consequences because this world is so broken and maybe I’m about to pick up and move to a new city in three months and maybe that scares the absolute crap out of me, but there is nothing like it. There is nothing like stepping into a peace and confidence only the Lord can provide. That’s not something I found in between the pages of my journal, even though that’s where I desperately looked for it, like I had the words inside of me and somehow they were going to put everything back together again. That was never promised to me. And when I write that, I remember the Scripture that says, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” I am held together by a God who stands firm, and there is so much peace to be found in that one small statement.

This season of waiting is difficult, really waiting on the Lord to reveal pieces of future plans to me, and most days I’ve been able to accept that and rest in God, which is not a place I am familiar with. However, these days have also fallen to a lot of weaknesses I recognize in myself. I am very impatient with others. I often cannot muster up enough grace for myself. I work until I burn out. I put expectations on people they will never meet. I speak very quickly when I ought to listen. I put off hard conversations. I look at people through distorted lenses. I could make this list so so long, and I’m sure as I’m listing these faults in myself, some of these are identifying with you or you’re thinking of some of your own weaknesses too. And I am so weak, but I keep being reminded that I am giving all I have to offer to God.

Recognizing that all that I am is all I have to offer and that’s pleasing to God has been a really beautiful thing. That doesn’t mean I’m not still growing or looking to surround myself with people who will push me to be more of who the Lord created me to be, but it’s offered a new sort of acceptance of who I am and the ways God created me to operate.

And I think that time has certainly offered up moments for me to recognize my weaknesses and intentionally lay them before God. I find myself saying, “God, I cannot do this,” a lot these days, and I feel like He sort of laughs to Himself when those words leave my mouth or get lifted up in prayer. It’s as if He says, “Of course you can’t,” and that’s when I get to settle back into my weaknesses and look to Him who perfects everything. Because when I am weak.

then. Then I am strong in the One who has saved my seat at the table.

Big, fat, dreamy dreams.

I’ve spent more time inspired in the past week than I have in an awful long time. I had time to lay in bed longer than usual, restructure this website, flex some creative muscles that haven’t been used in quite some time, flex some real muscles that needed some toning, and dream and love a little louder. I rolled over on a Friday morning, eyes fuzzy without glasses, and just saw white: the unexpected snow to wash everything clean. I walked in it to my last final of the semester: a breakfast party with all of our handmade pottery and beautiful flowers to put in our vases and a dog running around the studio, a sacred space that connected all of us in some strange way. This was fellowship, one of my sweetest classes of college by far. Inches and inches of snow, and a snowball fight on the roof, and some of the best people I’ve ever known in my entire life to watch me cry with joy because this day was the best. And it ended with some of my best friends and a dinner at 4 in the afternoon and sweet potato soufflé and hot tea and The Newsroom. So many days in the last week have felt like my best days, days when God’s abundance was so tangible.

And then there was this morning when I had the absolute privilege of baptizing my 12-year-old brother. Everything was a blur in those few moments and I was a blubbering baby but I was getting to watch him be washed by the water and commit to walk in a new way, free of sin and shame, understanding that there is a God who loves him so deeply and fully and abundantly. That proclamation, that statement of faith, is one that makes you want to have a Breakfast Club moment, fist in the air, and singing, “Death could not hold You, the veil tore before You, You silenced the boast of sin and grave. The Heavens are roaring the praise of Your glory, for You are raised to life again,” with no doubt in the world that is the Truth. It was surreal, like a moment I never deserved to live in but got to walk in this dream-like state for the remainder of the day.

I’ve also been on the road a lot in the last week, and those car rides have lent themselves to brainstorming and processing and dreaming and scream-singing Christmas music and show tunes. And I spent the last week in the office wrapping up final semester things and starting some planning and brainstorming for the spring, and one phrase kept coming into my mind:

LEAVE IT ALL ON THE FIELD.

Now, I don’t play sports. If you know me, you know. But I had this phrase seeping into everything I was doing. Leave it all on the field. Leave it all in the classroom. Leave it all in every project. Leave it all on the floor. Leave it all.

I put every bit of myself into everything I do, and that is something I’ve learned about myself in the past year. Sometimes it leaves me exhausted and completely at the end of myself, but that’s usually where the best stuff comes out. I vow to put all of myself into every last thing I finish out in this coming semester. I don’t want to leave wishing I had tried harder or done more or been more generous or invested more. I want to leave it all every place I go and in everything I do. And I realized I don’t just want this to carry through the end of my undergrad career, but I want this to be every single day of this life I get to live.

I sat at my desk on a morning this past week and cried over an Anne Lamott TED Talk. She said, “The two most important things about writing are: bird by bird and real god-awful first drafts. If you don’t know where to start, remember that every single thing that happened to you is yours, and you get to tell it. If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better. You’re going to feel like hell if you wake up someday and you never wrote the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart: your stories, memories, visions, and songs — your truth, your version of things — in your own voice. That’s really all you have to offer us, and that’s also why you were born.”

I’ve written a lot of unpublishable things lately, and that’s a place I hadn’t put myself in for quite some time just because it was uncomfortable. Before that, my writing had been dry and bland and felt like a bunch of dust particles that didn’t actually have any flavor or the ability to form into anything that means anything. It’s a painful feeling but a startling realization that you’ve spent entirely too long not challenging and trying to make anything that matters at all. I always strived to write things to post, and I forgot what it was like to write the deep, dark stuff just for me. That’s why I’ve disappeared from this space for a while, and it was good for me, so good. I took a lot of time, time I’m still taking, to push myself into the deep, dark corners and inspect, look around at the museum of things I left untouched for fear of what they would make me feel.

And I’ve felt a lot of different things lately: awe, fear, infatuation, joy, sorrow, desperation, need, want, all of it. I haven’t been able to write the real, honest stuff because the real honest stuff involves feelings I’ve never felt before and harsh realities about standing in the darkest corners and refusing to come out. I plopped myself down in a coffee shop in another town on an afternoon before an eventful night and tried to make myself write the real honest stuff. And I came undone in a way, writing about people and places and feelings I’d never stood still long enough to inspect and not feel shame for. It was amazing. And my friend appearing was like a stopwatch going off, a time to drain the rest of the black coffee in the mint green mug and shut the laptop and turn off that part of my brain. Compartmentalizing has become refreshing, and not something I feel guilt over anymore.

On the darker, more anxious days, the world seems so small. But on the freer days, the ones where I remember my identity, I get to dream big, fat, dreamy dreams where I can be anyone and do anything and feel everything. These are the days I want more of, and this is what happens when we invite God into what we’re doing, what He was already doing in the first place. What a humbling place to stand in: a place where we can hold our brokenness in one hand and our humility in the other in order to live freer than we’ve ever lived before. That’s the place I want to stand for days and weeks and months and years to come. This is the place where the big, fat, dreamy dreams are born.

There’s this passage in Isaiah 55 I have kept coming back to in the past few weeks, and it reads:

let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

God’s promises will not return void. And when I find myself in darkness, in a season of writing the unpublishable and pulling things off of shelves I long forgot existed, I remember that God’s will is accomplished and that He is a God who gives out of abundance. His thoughts are higher than mine, thankfully. It reminds me of a moment in Mona Lisa Smile where the girls are staring at this Jackson Pollock painting and Julia Roberts says, “Do yourselves a favor. Stop talking and look.” I feel God nudging me with that lately, and yes, I did just have God assume the position of Julia Roberts and that may be a bit heretical, but go with me. He’s gotten me silent lately. He’s gotten me sitting in awe and seeing His promises and provision in a land I thought was a barren wasteland. It has turned out to be this place of abundance, this growing, nourishing season of abundance. His promises will not return void.

So the past few weeks have looked like this: big, fat, dreamy dreams, late nights of finishing research, fun design projects, writing all the deep things, shoving poetry into composition notebooks and pieces of paper in my wallet, a concert that was basically a religious experience in itself, sweet fig pizza that was also a religious experience, texts about leaving room, the word “abundance,” final pottery projects, late movie nights, the-good-kinda-sore muscles, and remembering my freshman self in so many moments.

And if I could’ve told my freshman self anything, it would be this:

Develop self-awareness early on. Don’t ever be afraid of conflict. It probably isn’t wise to drink 7 to 8 cups of coffee a day. Fill up more journals than you know what to do with. Don’t be afraid to write the dark stuff down, nobody will try to read it. Write more thank you notes. Be more generous with your time. Don’t get caught up in the money, but don’t be stupid with it. Recognize “no” as a sacred word. Do the same with “yes.” They were right: you will grow to love your siblings and even miss them from time to time. Keep taking videos. Keep with the photography business. Keep reading for fun. And don’t make excuses for not reading for fun. Recognize God’s abundance and provision in every single second. Be where your feet are. You’re going to be okay. And I wish there were a less cheesy and less cliche way to tie the loose ends on this advice column I’ve written for you, but there just isn’t and I think that speaks for itself.

So I’ll go back to Anne Lamott because that’s always a good place to go back to. I’m not going to wake up one day and feel like hell because I didn’t write the stuff I shoved down into my heart. I’m going to write everything I need to write. And it might not all end up here. It might end up in a book or in journals I pack into boxes when I move my whole life around for the next few years. I’m going to hang up my dreams like Christmas lights on display to give life a little more of a pop. I’m going to sip everything a little slower, the coffee with the peppermint mocha creamer and the moments like an unplugged song at a concert or hand holding or the way it feels to hear people read a book out loud.

So here’s to leaving a little more room for the big, fat, dreamy dreams and the space to learn what God’s abundance looks and feels and tastes like. Here’s to leaving room to breathe and to write the dark stuff I sought to avoid for so long. Here’s to the joy and the grief and the darkest corners I tucked my journals into. Here’s to recognizing it isn’t a wasteland just because I labeled it one for so long. Here’s to seeing the new things growing.

It would make me want to sit next to you at the dinner table.

A grocery list of prayers in the midst of disorienting grief. I’m intentional not to use the word “debilitating” there. It feels like it’s not grief that I own, but grief that has sort of entered into the picture and slowly filled up the space, like a really foggy morning drive across campus. It’s not my grief to claim, but it’s mine to process, which is why I’ve chosen “disorienting.” I’ve spent a lot of time assessing the people in my corner, the ones who know the grief and know my mess and celebrate me and serve me well and love me better than any people I’ve ever known, especially in the midst of the fog. I’ve sat in passenger seats while my mind runs wild and I have to process, “How do I tell this person to love me better? Is that selfish? Am I allowed to ask that?” I think the answer is yes, by the way, you are allowed to ask that. These are my real words, the ones I want to say. I have an entire other post written that are not my real words, the ones that lay nicely over the grief like a blanket.

A lot of my writing lately has reminded me of when I was younger, and my mom would ask me to go clean my room. I would begin the process of dumping every drawer, every toy chest, everything from my closet, and everything from under my bed into the center of the room. I kid you not, I thought this was the best idea in the entire world. I could assess the mess and all the things that made up my life when I created the chaos and could see everything. Piece by piece, and with a bit of panic from my mom, I would start to reorganize and “clean.” This would almost always end with me getting frustrated and shoving literally everything back into every place it was never supposed to belong and shoving the closet door and the drawers tightly enough to make it seem like everything was clean on the outside. That’s what the writing has looked like, and that’s what my mind has been.

I get that convicting little whisper: I never promised you understanding. I wanted everything clean on the outside, to be able to say that I’ve pulled everything out, sorted through the mess, and now God’s given me the words to understand the mess in my life. He promised to be with us. That’s what I keep getting pulled back to.

I wrote a poem a few weeks ago that used the phrases, “emotional currency” and “mental real estate”, and I feel like God has ripped those words from my writing to pull me into something deeper with Him. What am I spending my emotional currency on? What am I allowing to take up my mental real estate? Something I’ve had a strong desire to understand is intimacy with God, and He is certainly using those things to show me what it looks like. There is intimacy in the here and now. There is intimacy in being present. There is intimacy in asking God what is pleasing to Him.


I’m also getting nostalgic for a place I haven’t even left yet, and I don’t want to get to the end of this year and wish I had more time so I could actually learn to spend it well. I don’t want my emotional currency and my mental real estate to be spent and taken up by all the wrong things, so I’m finding myself in a place of reorganizing my priorities and reorienting my thoughts, while still trying to navigate those foggy mornings of grief. Sometimes the coffee tastes like guilt and shame, and sometimes the prayers don’t come as fluidly, but for some reason there’s still so much hope soaked into these moments. Sometimes the words get stuck in my throat, and I force them back down. Sometimes I feel the reassurance of, These are the people you need with you right now. Sometimes I feel an overwhelming peace when I’ve walked out of a mess. Sometimes it feels good to wake up slowly and watch the run rise through imperfect vision. And it’s also okay to accept that I feel all of these things very very deeply, all of the guilt and all of the love and all of the sorrow that sinks into every day, it’s okay to feel it all this deeply.

There has been a lot of aching and sadness and pain and desperation, and for the first time with a strength I haven’t known before in not allowing it all to control or dictate my days. It’s been overwhelming in moments, of course, but it hasn’t been something I’ve allowed to seep into the deep parts of my identity. I’m learning how to fall back in love with pieces of myself I fell out of love with in order to satisfy another person. And that’s a statement I wish I never would have had to write, but there’s more freedom in admitting that than trying to hold a Jenga tower full of pieces of shame and guilt and self-deception together. There have been a lot of unspoken words and whispers to God where I admit that I cannot do this on my own, if at all. God and I have a lot more of an open dialogue now, not just moments of deep need when I’m on my knees, though those have still come quite often. I wouldn’t say it’s as many intentional prayers as it is moments of desperation walking to class or standing in the back of the chapel or sitting in the passenger seat.

The honest prayers are starting to rise to the surface, above the mess and the what-ifs and the noise of everyone else’s voices, but I might not like the answers so I muster up all the strength I can on my own to shove them down. I want to ask, “God, what do You have for me in this next year?” but I’m terrified He might say something I’m not entirely sure about. I want to ask, “God, is this relationship life-giving or should I do away with it?” but I’m afraid His answer will be, “No and yes.” I want to ask, “God is how I’m living every single part of my life in a way that is glorifying to You?” but I feel the deep conviction of, “No.”

And that honesty is what draws us deeper into a relationship with Him and begins to change our hearts. I don’t get to experience that freedom and intimacy when I hold Him at arms length and pretend to ask Him what He wants for my life as if I’m going to be obedient to it in moments where I want to have full control everything to create a false sense of comfort. This is the part where the blanket is torn off of us and we’re met with the freezing atmosphere of the morning. This is our moment of bargaining with God when it was never our place to bargain. This is the reckoning.

My belief is that when you’re telling the truth, you’re close to God. If you say to God, ‘I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don’t like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You,’ that might be the most honest thing you’ve ever said. If you told me you had said to God, ‘It is all hopeless, and I don’t have a clue if You exist, but I could use a hand,’ it would almost bring tears to my eyes, tears of pride in you, for the courage it takes to get real-really real. It would make me want to sit next to you at the dinner table.
 
So prayer is our sometimes real selves trying to communicate with the Real, with Truth, with the Light. It is us reaching out to be heard, hoping to be found by a light and warmth in the world, instead of darkness and cold. Even mushrooms respond to light – I suppose they blink their mushroomy eyes, like the rest of us.
 
Light reveals us to ourselves, which is not always so great if you find yourself in a big disgusting mess, possibly of your own creation. But like sunflowers we turn toward light. Light warms, and in most cases it draws us to itself. And in this light, we can see beyond our modest receptors, to what is way beyond us, and deep inside.” // Anne Lamott

There is joy in the humility and submission where my only prayer can simply be, “Help,” which is a lot of what it’s been lately. Help is the submission and the freedom of misunderstanding and mess. My priorities have not been here, and how can we expect miraculous things to happen if we can’t keep our head where our feet are? The enemy is working, and some days I can proclaim that more confidently than I can proclaim the name of the Lord. The enemy is twisting promises and creating noise that I’m being overwhelmed by. God gives me these people who I trust and who I hand my stories over to and the enemy deceives and puts blinders on, gives us the pedestal to place our idols on. However, there is boldness in abiding and crying out for help when we need our Father who holds our days in the palms of His hands, who does not deceive, and who remembers that we are dust. Literally, every single morning I can wake up hearing that He speaks victory and goodness and kindness and gentleness and humility over my life. That is something to celebrate and walk boldly in, even in moments where we want to cave and sip the guilt slowly and push down the words where we stand up for ourselves and demand respect and love.


Surround yourself with people who love you well and celebrate the small things and encourage you well and who will never stop reminding you that they are in your corner. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to desire to weed out the ones who drain you more than they build you up, and sometimes it’s a process, one I still struggle with every day. There is healing to be found in learning when to say enough is enough and there is beauty in the brokenness of hard relationships. God is in the business of making all things new. I find myself walking this part of my journey, the one of boundaries and asking guilt to leave, especially close to God, continually asking Him what His will is in these days and the mess and the aching.

There is healing in these words. There is healing in recognizing the mess of it all. There is freedom in the healing. And it’s the most miraculous part of Jesus I’ve ever known.

In learning all of these little things, I keep going back to that image of God rejoicing over us.  For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs. When I let myself sink into that, I tap into a part of my identity that is powerful and that reminds me of the banner of victory already strung over me. Reading these words shoves out the guilt, makes the shame pack up and leave, and it frees up some of that mental real estate. It pulls me back to my seat at the Table and invites others to do the same.