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Archive for July, 2014

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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