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Hope for the Worst Week

the winds of change and circumstance blow in, and all around us… so we find a foothold that’s familiar, and bless the moments that we feel You nearer.
-Nicole Nordeman

I remember a distinct moment at the beginning of the worst week.  I was lying in my bed at my grandparents house, face in a pillow to keep my eyes from seeing that the walls and windows were naked, their contents having been boxed up and carried out to various cars and dumpsters that littered their yard, tears and snot flowing, heart in my throat, stomach in knots, wondering if life could possibly get any worse.

A day before I had rested my forehead on the cool metal frame of the funeral home door while they closed the lid of my Grandma’s casket, an attempt to keep both feet on the ground as the room spun around me.

A few days later I assumed the same position.  Face down on a bed in the Holiday Inn of Roswell, GA.  The floor around me looked like a crime scene in a Hobby Lobby…. scrapbooking supplies that moments before had been meticulously placed on perfectly designed pages thrown to the floor to make room for all the pain that needed a place to rest.  Time and place escaping me for a brief moment as I sobbed and screamed into my cell phone begging my best friend to make sense of the latest blow to my incredibly fragile heart.

I spent 24 hours in that hotel room, tossing and turning and waiting, before I drove down a highway in total silence for eight hours.  I arrived home highly caffeinated, devastatingly brokenhearted, and completely wrecked by the truth that in the span of one week the two things I held most dear had been ripped away from me in the most unexpected, brutally tragic ways.

I knew it that night as I drifted into a restless sleep in my own bed:  my heart would never be the same.

Last night I opened box after box full of memories.  I spent hours reading every note, every letter, every card.  My middle school yearbook signatures.  High school notes passed in Biology class.  Senior memory books full of well wishes and reminiscing.  Christmas cards, birthday cards, encouraging notes from camps and retreats as a student and as a leader.

And every so often my fingers would run across words from them.  Sweet encouragement from my precious Grandparents who breathed Life over me from my first day on this earth.  Tracing their handwriting with my finger wishing me happy birthdays and merry Christmases, writing of their pride in their granddaughter, and the great love Jesus has for me.

I unsealed sandwich bags to uncover paper that once smelled like you. Tear stained from all the nights I held them close, words scrawled across the page, the perfect blend of encouragement, laughter, and true love…. just like you were.  Words that whispered in my ear, then and now, “no fear, B… no fear”.  And I can’t help but smile and weep remembering all the years we spent “learning how to love”… each other, other people, the Lord….

These days I’m a few years removed from the worst week.  As I held the weight of those memories in my hands, I did two important things.

I cried. I needed to grieve the loss because I still feel it.  There are unanswered questions that may never resolve.  There is regret that may forever accompany those memories.  And there is great sadness because great love is hard to lose.

I laughed.  I laughed at my Grandpa’s illegible handwriting.  I laughed at the inside jokes that fit so effortlessly in the midst of sweet love notes.  I laughed at remembering the silly placement of the switch for the living room ceiling fan in their house, at the plays we put on in your basement as kids, at the picture engrained in my mind of you bundled up frying fish outside in the dead of winter.  I laughed at late night phone call silliness, morning texts, curly hair, cheesy pop songs and 90s references.

And when I was finished?

I folded them up.  Placed them gently back in their boxes.  And closed the lid.

Because life goes on.  God is doing new things.  I cherish what has been, but my hands are open to what will be.  It’s a beautiful, delicate balance, and I refuse to hold so tightly to the beautiful things God once graced my life with and thereby forfeit all the beauty that is still to be.

This season that’s coming?  It’s gonna be a good one.  And how sweet and good is He that He allowed the last season to shape me into exactly who I need to be in this moment so that i can fully embrace the next one?

Praying that each of us look forward to what’s next with the faith that comes from looking back and seeing His hand sustaining us, whether it be through the gut wrenching loss of our worst week, or the wide open spaces of our future.  He is good, y’all.  He is so, so good.

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I turned thirty a couple weeks ago & in the midst of celebrating and feeling so incredibly loved by my people, I’ve tried to be intentional in looking back and remembering all that the Lord has brought me through in my twenties.  There have been moments that I’ve looked back and laughed, accompanied by moments I’ve looked back and cried.  And it seems to me the best stories, the best moments, the things that stick with us no matter how much time has gone by, usually include a little bit of both.  The danger of writing a post like this is the temptation to compare.  I know I read every “in my 20s” post I stumbled upon and measured myself by their experiences and standards, usually ending up discouraged that I hadn’t learned their lessons or perused Paris with my best friend.  I hope if you’re a twenty something that stumbles upon this post you won’t compare yourself to it, but rather find some solidarity where / if it comes.  Our journeys are unique to us, and that’s what makes this decade of learning & growing and beginning to find the person we’re going to be so exciting.

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20.  Coffee is a good & faithful friend. 

19.  Every dime of college debt you acquire is worth it.  There is no price tag too high for education (a luxury many will never afford), both in the classroom and out.  The relationships you’ll make in those years are priceless.  The independence you’ll gain under the umbrella of your RA / professors / house mom / friend who mother’s you is more precious than gold.  The memories you’ll make when you stayed out too late and missed class that morning and dated that one guy that you look back on and wonder what on earth you were thinking, laughing with your roommates, living on next to nothing.. there will never be another time in your life that looks quite like this one.  Dave Ramsey can wait.  Take out the loans if you must, work your butt off in the meantime, but don’t miss out on the experience.

18.  Say yes when it’s safe.  In my early twenties my best friend and I lived in a small town and the mall we liked to shop at was a four hour drive away.  Multiple times we would leave our hometown mid-afternoon, shop for a couple hours, drive back home in the wee hours of the morning binging on gas station cappuccino, then get up and go to work the next morning on basically no sleep.  Was it dumb?  Sure!  But there will be no other time in my life I can pull that off.  We had money, freedom, and energy, and those memories of driving down a dark highway at 2am listening to Ashlee Simpson are ones I will never, ever forget.

17.  Read.  Even in college when it feels like the reading never ends.  Read something that gives you life and joy or makes you better even if its just for 5 minutes each day.

16.  “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”  Memorize it and repeat it to yourself each time you’re tempted to involve yourself in other people’s drama. Sometimes the right choice is to leave their crazy alone, and that’s perfectly okay.

15.  Get hooked on a popular TV show.  Have premier parties with your girlfriends when a new season begins.  Text your best friend about it each week while it airs.  Figure out who you love and who you hate and why.  (Is it obvious I’m referring to The Bachelor?) Let someone else’s drama entertain you for an hour or two each week to give you a break from your own.

14.  Practice saying No.  And do it sooner than later.  Let your early twenties be the time when you learn how to protect yourself from overcommitment & people pleasing.  You’ll thank yourself later, I promise.

13.  Do your thing and don’t apologize for it.  Your parents want an attorney but you’d rather be an event planner?  Give your parents a hug, reassure them of your love and respect, and do you.  Your friends want to go out & party every night but you’d rather stay home in your pajamas because Netflix?  Offer to buy everyone a round of ice cream and invite them to join you.  Bottom line?  Don’t get trapped in the pressure of living up to other people’s expectations of who you should be.  You may change your major 10 times or spend an entire month binge watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix every night, and that’s okay.

12.  Choose your people wisely, and listen to them.  On the flip side, sometimes we need people to shake us out of our Netflix induced stupor, or our booze binging college weekends.  Surround yourself with people who love you and are willing to tell you the truth when you need to hear it.  Choose to be around the people who encourage you and fill you up.  And don’t be afraid to let go of friends who consistently bring out the worst in you or treat you poorly.

11.  Do now what you won’t be able to do later.  When I was 22 I visited my girlfriends in Ohio in June.  I loved being with them so much that I went home, quit my job, packed my stuff, and moved there a month later.  I brought with me only what would fit in my car, shopped for furniture with my best friend at Goodwill, and oh sweet baby Jesus was it a growing experience.  I fell flat on my face as I learned how to live 10 hours away from my family and work multiple jobs and try to pay my own bills, etc.  But I grew up in that year and a half, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.  Also, go out for drinks at 10pm on a Monday now, because I swear to you in a few short years you’ll be in pajamas at that time wondering how you ever lived that life.

10.  Don’t neglect your most important people, and tell them often.  I lost three of the most important people in my life in my mid-late twenties.  I would give anything to go back and treasure conversations & moments more.  I would have visited more, argued less, and I certainly would have spoken out loud more that they were the people who made me who I am, that they were priceless people in my life, and that I loved them more than words could say.  I know they all knew I loved them, but now that they’re gone I know I couldn’t have said it enough.  Make time, treasure them, and tell them.  I promise you’ll never regret time spent with those you love, even if you have to sacrifice to get it.

9.  Educate yourself.  There comes a point in your twenties where people expect you to know how to order a good glass of wine or throw a dinner party that isn’t served on paper plates around the television.  Ask questions, pay attention to those who seem to have it figured out, invest in some real tableware, (full disclosure – the dollar tree has some really great plain white plates and bowls that look like they came from Pottery Barn for $1 each. No excuses, y’all), and invite your people over.  Figure out how to cook things people will eat.  Buy wine that compliments your meal.  Ask questions about how to invest your money even if you don’t have extra money yet to invest.  Go get your oil changed and learn how to say no to all the extras.  Empower yourself.  You’ve got this.

8.  Be okay with what’s in front of you.  I landed my dream job right out of college, and it ended up not being such a dream.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but it’s not all fun & games).  Some of my friends are still working for the same wages they made BEFORE college, because the jobs they want just aren’t available.  Either way, I promise you the real dream is making the most of what’s in front of you.  Even when you take the next step toward your goal, you’ll still struggle.  You won’t arrive, ever, and the sooner you practice embracing what’s in your hands today and letting that be enough the more content you’ll be.

7.  Choose joy.  Along those lines, you get to choose your demeanor and posture toward the highs & lows of this crazy life.  I see so many women running themselves ragged (I am one of them far too often) trying to accomplish more, be better, look nicer, keep up appearances, constantly comparing ourselves to the perfect girl on that one blog or our living room to that pinterest photo, etc.   It’s so easy to be discouraged when you compare your real life to someone else’s highlights.  Choose joy, anyway.  Don’t waste your twenties trying to measure up.  You have enough to do trying to figure out who YOU are, not how to be someone else.  Laugh at yourself, treasure the best moments, don’t squash your joy because your life doesn’t look like you expected or the life you’re comparing it to.

6.  Treat yo’self.  Buy yourself flowers.  Keep ice cream in your freezer.  Get a nice haircut regularly.  Save up for a vacation, even if it’s just a weekend getaway.

5.  GIVE GIVE GIVE.  You are paving the road for the type of adult you’ll be, and now is the time to start living sacrificially with your money and time.  Find a cause you believe in and throw yourself into supporting it.  Practice tithing to your church.  Buy your friend’s dinner every now and then.  Treat the person behind you at Starbucks to their coffee.  Learn well what it means to pour out your life to serve others.

4.  Stay connected.  I’ve spent the past 10 years working in full time student ministry, and it breaks my heart to hear the statistics of our generation leaving the church in droves.  I know that life after youth ministry takes some getting used to.  I know that the church is failing many of you by feeding you morality more than they feed you Jesus.  I know.  But I can promise you that this life is going to be less full without the protection, encouragement, and accountability of a local body of believers surrounding you.  Dig deep, push through, fight to hope for the Church when everything in you wants to throw up your hands.  Be the solution.  Give grace upon grace upon grace.  Speak words of life instead of complaining.  You are the future of this beautiful, God ordained entity, and this decade of your life is not without consequence.  Stay connected to the church, and to the people who have supported you in your youth.  I promise someday you’ll look back and be incredibly glad you did.

3.  Say thank you.  You didn’t get to your twenties as a well adjusted, intelligent, Jesus lover on your own.  Identify those people who supported you along the way and tell them thank you.  Teachers, youth pastors / leaders, mentors, friend’s parents, older siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, etc.  Write it down & send them a letter.  Pick up the phone & tell them.  Do something.  It will encourage them more than you will ever know, but it will also remind you of their wisdom, their love, and the truth that had it not been for their investment you wouldn’t be the person you are.  And somehow in that state of gratitude you’ll find them changing your life all over again.

2.  Be kinder than necessary.  To the waitress.  To your barista.  To the lady who lets you go first at the grocery store.  To your coworker, roommate, family, cable guy, best friend.  Nobody likes a grump.  Be nice.

1.  Love well.  I’ll write a whole blog on this someday, but your twenties are going to be largely defined by love.  You’ll be trying to find it, trying to keep it, trying to avoid it, or trying to heal from it at any given time.  Don’t be afraid to love when it’s time.  Don’t be afraid to grieve when it’s over.  Don’t be afraid to try again when you’re ready.  Don’t be afraid to say no when you’re not feeling it.  Your heart is the most valuable thing you have to give.  Be careful, be accountable to people who love you, and choose wisely.

 

PS.  You’re going to make it.  I promise.  Xoxo.

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He wins.

I can think of several occupations that I would deem too dangerous to ever consider for myself.

Police Officer.  Guns & criminals & dirty things?  No thanks.  Firefighter.  Have I mentioned I hate sweating?  Construction worker.  Terrified of heights.  And Nail guns.  And did I mention the sweating thing?  Doctor/Nurse. The sight of my own blood makes me dizzy, much less the blood & various body fluids of someone else.  I could go on, trust me, I’m a wimp.

Somewhere around 10 years ago, when I decided I’d give my life to serving God through the local church, I wouldn’t have put “church leadership” on my list of dangerous jobs.  Church people are all grace and love and warm fuzzies topped off with casseroles and encouragement.  Leading the church?  I knew it was serious because my Grandpa told me over and over I was doing “The Lord’s work”, and I was smart enough to know that something so serious was a weighty responsibility, one worthy of the utmost respect and diligence.  But dangerous?  One where I’d have to fear for or protect my life?  It never crossed my mind.

My physical life has never been threatened throughout these years of leading within the walls of a church, yet time and time again, experience after experience, complaint after complaint, misunderstanding after misunderstanding, lie after lie, committee after committee, transition after transition, my spiritual life is threatened, under attack, forcing me to fight for joy, for breath, for what feels like my very life.

Certainly there are seasons where the people are grace & love and the warm fuzzies are free flowing, but right now I’m not in that season and I want to be honest about the reality that so many church leaders find themselves in a season where it feels as though our lives are being threatened and we’re left battling to save ourselves from:

burnout. bitterness. anger.  exhaustion.  resentment.  deep grief.

Why?

Because we are in the trenches with a whole bunch of broken people.  Our every word free game to be scrutinized, judged, commented upon, talked about, or debated. We live in a fish bowl, our lives on display for everyone to see, every word we speak or decision we make up for interpretation by the masses.  We are crushed by the weight of people’s expectations.  We are slammed, over and over and over, against the rock of tradition, preference, and approval.  We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.  Our friendships are often shallow, because our friends are also church members, volunteers, parents of our students, therefore we aren’t free to share openly.  Instead, we are forced to walk the fine, tedious line between leader & friend so often that when given the choice we would just rather stay home & let Netflix numb our aching hearts.

The truth is, my life may not be physically threatened by bullet or flame, but on a daily basis I feel I am in the battlefield, in the midst of the fire.

Students who are self harming.  Broken home after broken home.  Staff relationships that are tense and awkward.  People making false accusations.  Negative feedback.  Sarcasm that is cutting.  Feeling misunderstood and disrespected and deeply hurt by those who feel free to talk about you rather than talk to you.  Numbers that are falling.  Priorities that don’t make sense.  A never ending to do list.  Work that follows you home.  Overwhelmed by so many hurting, dying, sick, brokenhearted people.  Working every day in a job that is often under appreciated.

Every morning my eyes open and I know I’m about to walk into another day where I have no idea which bomb might drop, what fire I might have to put out, or what guns may come blazing.

And every morning I have a choice.

Do I fight for my life?  For joy?  For delight in the tasks at hand?  To see the good in the beautiful people that surround me, more than I dwell on the bad?  To see the life change that comes as a result of completing that God-inspired to do list with excellence.  Or, even more importantly, the life change that comes when I toss the to do list in order to spend face to face moments with students and others who need love and acceptance?  Do I fight to give my coworkers the benefit of the doubt, believing the best about them?  Today, will I fight to find my identity in the finished work of Jesus rather than the number of students who attended my Wednesday night service?

This calling, this fight to the death, lay down your life, give til you cant give anymore, then give even more, calling…. It’s more about death than anyone told me. There is great danger, because the risks are high.  Life & death are at stake every single day, both the lives of those I’m called to serve and my own.

The good news?

Every moment that I struggle & fail, He is keeping His promises.  Every moment my heart feels overcome by anxiety or bitterness or anger, He is accomplishing His will in spite of me.  Every moment I feel like I am drowning under the weight of expectation or misunderstanding or accusation, He is moving in and around me, reminding me that He is so much greater than my weakness.

And this fight for my (your) life in the midst of all the chaos that comes along with this calling?
He’s already won. 

Daddy’s Girl

It wasn’t always pretty. 

The first several years of my life being a Daddy’s girl just came naturally to me.  I was the princess of the family (some things never change, am I right?) and my Dad was as important as oxygen.  Always there, every bedtime, every ball practice, every game, every loose tooth, every major sporting event on TV, etc. 

Idyllic?  Hardly.  Perfect?  Not even.
Parents who are on the fast track to divorce don’t make for a peaceful, perfect household.  But even in the midst of what I remember as a chaotic season of life, my Dad never let go of me.  Not when I talked back, not when I got in endless battles with my new step-mom, not when I wished my baby brother could go back to wherever he came from, not when I was selfish and sassy, not even when my sister & I screamed and hit and cried endlessly to the point that it had to be rage inducing to anyone within earshot. 

Was he perfect?  Nope.
But he was there.  I didn’t know then what I know now:  A lot of men at his age in his situation (early 30’s and newly divorced) would have used that as a chance to run.  Start over.  Be free.  An every other weekend commitment leaving 26 days a month to focus on yourself.  My Dad didn’t do that, and his decision to keep being my Daddy, not just my father, changed my life.

He kept working hard to help provide for everything we needed.  He drove me around on days where I was not his “legal” responsibility – to school, to practice, to a friends house, to church, appointments, and back home again.  He came up with money above his “legal” responsibility of child support whenever I needed it.  He worried about me… my grades, my friendships, my sicknesses and injuries, my relationships, even when my physical absence in his home could have let him zone out to his TV or be consumed by his new wife & baby boy. 

I became a teenager and my quick temper (a gift from my Dad) combined with my new found teenage hormones forced my family to live with an absolute crazy person.  Let’s just say two hot tempered people with similar personalities under the same roof is a recipe for near disaster.  I yelled, he yelled back.  He would get so made spit would be flying out of his mouth as he yelled, and instead of realizing I was pushing him over the edge I would scream into his face “YOU’RE SPITTING ON ME!” and he would scream back “I’M GOING TO DO MORE THAN SPIT IF YOU DON’T SETTLE DOWN!” and it wouldn’t phase me in the slightest.  I pushed him to his breaking point over, and over, and over.  I didn’t care how many times I got the belt, or yelled at, or raised his blood pressure.  I was the definition of spoiled brat and my poor Dad fought with me every time.  Maybe it’s crazy, but there’s a piece of me that looks back and laughs at so many of those tense, borderline unsafe moments, because what my Dad COULD HAVE done is ignore me in all my teenage angst.  He could have walked away, refused to engage, and created distance between us.  But he fought me time after time, and maybe fighting isn’t the best way to deal with an irrational teenager, but it did say to me something that has never left me:  I’d rather fight with you day after day than leave you.  You make me angry and I’d like to beat the teenager out of you sometimes, but you’re worth the fight. 

Thankfully I grew out of (most of) my irrational & angry teenage years, and adulthood has looked something like this:

College, round one – Dad packed me up & moved me in, then let me come back home a week later when I realized I just wasn’t ready to be on my own yet.

College, round two – Dad packed me up & paid for my car so I could go away to my dream school.  He drove 8 hours round trip to pick me up for Thanksgiving when my car needed work.  He also paid for the work on my car because I was a poor college student.

Big Move, round one – I moved to Ohio (10 hours away) on a whim.  Dad packed me up, loaded our cars, and followed me the whole way there.  Moved me in and drove away, letting me grow up even though his preference would be that I’d live in our hometown forever. 

New Adult Job, round one – Dad celebrating new opportunities with me, supporting me moving back to our home state, helping me grieve the loss of my Grandpa even as he grieved the loss of his Dad. 

New Adult Job, round two – Moving cross country this time, all the way to southwest Florida.  I left home at 2am and Dad watched me leave the driveway with my tiny little Ford Escort (the one he basically paid for, even though I swore I could afford it), totally loaded down with basically everything I owned.  I drove 20 hours straight to Florida, non-stop, all by myself, no cruise control, the only window I could see out of was my windshield and drivers window.  And my Dad?  He stayed awake the entire time from when I left til when I arrived safely, following me on a map the entire way, calling me every couple hours to check in.  

The common denominator?  My sweet Dad has participated in every significant life event.  He’s never been a spectator of my life, always an active part of it.  He’s there to pack me up or send me off.  He’s there to answer questions or pay my car payment when I was an irresponsible college student.  He’s the first person I call when my car does something strange or the Cardinals win or lose or I’m bored driving to or from work.  He’s the first and last face I see when I come home for visits and the one who knows my favorite meals and the one who makes the best breakfasts.  If I have a problem?  It isn’t just mine, my Dad enters into it with me to help me solve it.  If I call him?  He answers.  (To this day, I can only think of 3 reasons I’ve ever had a phone call go to voicemail – 1.  His phone is on silent or in the truck while he watches my brother play sports.  2.  He’s in the bathroom.  3. He didn’t hear it.  (bless his hard of hearing heart)) He even answers when he’s working or golfing or mid-meal or mid-tv show.  My Dad is generous with his time, and that’s probably my favorite thing about him.  I never have to wonder if he’s going to be available when I need him.  He always has been, and I have no reason to believe he won’t always be. 

The running joke in our family is that I’m Dad’s favorite.  I may or may not have started the rumor, but my siblings have picked it up and believe it, so that’s all that matters now.  Whether or not that’s true, (I choose to believe it is ;), the truth remains that my Dad is MY favorite, and I am so, so grateful for the strongest, bravest, smartest, most kind, generous, Dad in the whole world. 

I love you, Daddy!

**This is the first in a series about my family.  Somebody hold me accountable to that!  I have so many words about each family member that I need to get out so that they will forever know how much of a FAN I am of each of them!**

 

You can find me in the club

We’re taught from a young age that it is better to be “in” than “out”.  Accepted is better than rejected.  Chosen first better than chosen last.

If the cool kids had a club?  I wanted in on it.
If there was anything musical going on?  Let me at it.
If the neighbor kids were playing a game?  Please Lord don’t let me get picked last.
Running the dreaded “mile” in elementary school PE?  Identify the slowest girl & be faster than her.

As we grow up we begin to realize that there are still “clubs”, they just become a little less obvious.  There’s the “Thin Enough” club, where all you need to do to belong is wear less than a size 6 and talk about how fat you are so everyone still sees you as humble.  There’s the Mom club, God bless them, driving their mini-van like a badge of honor, keeping their babies safe & healthy and trying to salvage some sense of a social life in the midst of diapers and homework and soccer practices.  There’s the Married Club, where the men talk about how “smokin hot” their wife is and the women write Facebook statuses about their perfect little family.  It gets harder to remember once you’re part of this club how to be friends with people who aren’t in this club, so let’s just go ahead and call the Married Club the V.I.P lounge.

I realize there are a lot of other clubs that you may notice – the Star Hostess Club, the Beautiful Home club, the Perfectly Put Together Club, the Well Traveled Club, The Best Dressed Club, etc.  The list really could go on and on.  But those three?  They’re the ones that I find myself dying to be “in” when the truth is, I’m as “out” as it gets.

Single & childless at 29?  That’s a club I didn’t choose.  A constant struggle with body image and comparison?  Didn’t choose that one either.

So what do we do?  Where is God in the midst of seasons of life that are not what we expected them to be?  If God can do anything, why doesn’t he answer the years and years of prayers begging him for membership in the thin married momma club?

Sweet friends, from one who is “out” in areas she desperately wants to be “in”,  the sweetest thing I’ve learned is that these areas of vulnerability is that the Lord works most powerfully in me when I allow myself to be honest & transparent about the fact that they hurt. 

 It hurts every time a friend gets engaged.  It hurts so badly I literally use the HIDE button on Facebook so that I don’t have to look at all their happy updates & congratulations well wishes.  Their happiness is wonderful, but it is also a reminder that I am still “out”, and it’s painful.  It hurts watching my friends begin to have babies & post pregnancy updates & flood my social media feeds with their sweet little angels.  My heart could burst with happiness for them, but it’s bittersweet knowing that I’m 29, single, and staring the end of baby-making years in the face.  It’s bittersweet to be the honorary “aunt” & resident babysitter of my friends kids when my heart longs to be the Mommy who needs a break and a night out and a sweet friend who will come love my babies so I can get away.  Oh y’all, I get so much joy from loving those babies, but it simultaneously reminds me that I am “out”, and it breaks my heart.

It took me til 29 to be open & honest about these hurts.  (& I’ll be honest, writing a public blog about my deepest insecurities?  I’ll let you guess how my heart feels about that one.)  Yet in the midst of this season of brutal honesty, the Lord has been near.  I’ve yelled and asked him why he took away relationships that could have been the key to the future I had planned for myself.  Why He allowed my heart to be drug through the mud and broken so badly that it took years to begin to recognize life in it again.  Why He surrounded me by people who are all “in” the clubs I want to be “in”, and asked me to love them sacrificially.  It almost feels like a cruel joke.

Yet I am certain He hears me and is near to me as I am brokenhearted. (Ps. 34:18)
I am certain He is good, and has plans for my life that are greater than I could imagine.  (Jer. 29:11)
I am certain He honors those who wait in hope.  (Acts 11:13-16)
I am certain He is faithful when we find ourselves thrust into seasons we didn’t choose, because He orchestrated them in His goodness & faithfulness for the working out of HIS GLORY and MY GOOD.  Ruth didn’t choose to be a widow.  Joseph didn’t choose to be sold by his brothers.  Jonah didn’t choose to be swallowed by a whale.  Countless men & women didn’t choose leprosy, a disease that left them very much “out” in a way you & I will never understand.  And yet the Lord saw each and every one of them, He sees you, and He sees me.  He redeems the dirty, broken pieces of our lives that leave us insecure and hurting.  Maybe not in our timing, maybe not in our lifetime, but His promise is true, and we can hold tight to it when everything else seems to be falling apart.

“That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.” Romans 8:18-21 (MSG)

Hold on, friends.  Good times are coming.  Joyfully anticipate the day when “all that is sad will become untrue“. (Tolkien)

It’s coming.
Rescue.  Redemption. Nothing broken.
Nothing missing.
Completely whole.
Perfectly accepted.
Totally, completely, once and for all “IN”.

Begin again.

I started blogging in 2004.

A lot of life has happened since then, and much of it is documented on the internet.

It’s taken me awhile, but I think I’m finally beginning to realize the beauty in words that are left unsaid, and that led me here, to this place of starting over.  I’ve gone back through the past 9 years of blogs and made most of them private, cutting out a lot of noise and leaving only a few that might be of value in helping you get to know me a little better.

I hope to write here more often, and I hope you’ll visit more often, too.

If I have learned anything over the past couple years as I took a bit of an unintentional hiatus from writing it’s this:

Life is so much harder than I ever expected it to be,
and
I need people so much more than I ever thought I would. 

It’s my hope that we won’t run from what is hard here.  I’ll write honestly, because I need to give myself the freedom to do so.  In the meantime, if these words are an encouragement to any of you, that will be the icing on the cake.

Come back soon and let’s talk student ministry, singleness, heartbreak, death, and probably a little bit of pop culture because I just got cable and am unapologetically Keeping Up with the Kardashians now.

Thanks for sticking with me.

xoxo,

B

glitter & grief

This time last year I had no idea that in just a few short days my life was about to unravel.  The very best way I know how to sum up the past 358 days?

“what. the. hell.”

I didn’t know then how to deal with grief.  The kind of grief that leaves you sleepless and makes your bones ache and your jaw involuntarily clench.  I had no desire to learn how to grieve, but the Lord knows what we need and so I did.  I learned.  I failed.  I resisted.  I screamed and cried and have functioned with less sleep than I thought humanly possible for months.  I have begged and pleaded and worried and felt the ache of regret more deeply than I have ever known.

Although time moves on, grief remains.
It feels a lot like cleaning up glitter.

I love glitter.  Really, really love glitter.
But cleaning it up?  No thank you.

The funny thing about glitter is that you work so hard to confine it, yet somehow it ends up everywhere.  You find traces of it for days.  Maybe even weeks.  The slightest breeze has blown it all over your house and even when you’re doing something silly like dancing in your kitchen  you see it reflecting in the light on your stove and it hits you.  The glitter is still there.  In places you didn’t put it.  In places you didn’t want it.  In places you didn’t expect it.

So it is with grief.
In the unexpected moments of picking up your phone to text something funny then realizing you can’t.  In the drive through Georgia that all but rips your heart out while the tears sting your eyes at the sight of the Atlanta skyline.  In the quiet mornings with the Lord when the silence is deafening because everything is so, so different.  It’s there when you rearrange your bookshelves and come across that book that’s not supposed to be yours yet remains on your shelf.  In the phone numbers you pass by in your contact list that you can’t bring yourself to delete.  So many places and moments you don’t expect tears to show up.  Yet somehow the breeze has blown those people, those memories, those thoughts into these places and there it is.  Undeniable, breathtaking, heart racing grief.

Just like glitter, grief remains.
Also like glitter?
Grief shines.

It shines a light on “the idolatry of self reliance.” {Jesus Calling, May 10}
Each of these glittery reminders that sparkle grief in the most unlikely places remind me that I need Jesus. They remind me that there is a plan at work that is far greater than what I thought I deserved.  They remind me of His faithfulness.  They remind me of the fact that I feel deep grief because for a season of my life I had really great things that were hard to lose.  He is both the giver and the One who takes away.  And both are good.

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