A Note on Notes

I’ve been trying to be very intentional about writing notes and cards and letters. In fact, in the last month I’ve mailed seven. None for the sake of just sending a card – all because I wanted those seven people to know, “Hey. I’m thinking about you. This card is cute and so are you”. And there are certainly more to come. My personal goal is to send at least two a month, but the sky is the limit when it comes to something as important as postal love.

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 7.38.32 PM.pngI say all the time, AND IM NEVER JOKING WHEN I SAY IT, that my dream job would be to work in a stationary store. That’s it. Small dreams McGee over here. But I don’t know what I love if not letters. Timothy obviously, but besides him?! To me, letters are the best way of showing love. They’re how my mother showed love. When I first moved to Memphis and was so so lonely, my mother mailed me a card every single week. Sometimes nothing would be in it except a quick “love you!” sometimes it would be covered with her sweet handwriting hoping I’m okay. My stationary box (a yellow polkadot suitcase that Timothy gave me for our very first Christmas together – treasure holding treasure) very much resembles the secretary drawer that my mother had full of cards, all organized by occasion. For me it’s all of it: taking the time to pick out a particular card, to write a personalized letter with your own hand and pen, to tenderly add a stamp as you smile thinking of the cherished and loved person behind the name written across the front  – these things are so personal.

My hope is that when you, my friends, receive a card in the mail that you feel all my intention and love within that envelope. Adult friendships are so… weird, and I feel that there are so many people I am wild about – CRAZY EVEN – that I just so rarely see because life is so busy, and sometimes so hard. But when I write someone a card, when I think really hard about which stamp to use on the envelope, I feel connected to them. And that’s really all I ever want.

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Resurrection

“Well I don’t think there is a better time to struggle through something than tonight,” she said to me. “Life is hard, God is good. That’s all I know.”

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It was Maundy Thursday and I was very broken. So much so that I didn’t have the ability or strength or wherewithal to notice the beautiful irony of feeling so heavy on the day that Christ felt the ultimate heaviness. I yelled at God in the middle of my living room much like Christ yelled in the garden two thousand years before me, also on a particular Thursday.

I always pictured Christ kneeling very elegantly, in the way we often see in paintings when I read that scripture. Even though it says he “fell on his face”, I still paint a much more “holy” picture in my mind. An image of Christ saying a holy prayer in a holy and tragic garden. Fearful, but in control. Worried, but still peaceful.

But maybe He wasn’t. He probably wasn’t. Falling on one’s face doesn’t indicate peace. Maybe Christ looked more like how I looked last Thursday. Stomping and pacing with clenched fist and clenched teeth and stinging tears and worrying a little bit about people overhearing but not enough to stop from yelling. Maybe he had a headache from crying like I did. Maybe he also counted on God to understand cries when He couldn’t think of words. He threw himself on the ground and I yelled in my living room.

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She invited all of us from House Church to come to a Maundy Thursday service that night. She actually had invited us to come to services all throughout the Lent season but I never once gave the invitations a second thought, truth be told. I can always come up with excuses to not have to challenge myself.

When I sat back down at my desk, utterly defeated from yelling at God and hearing nothing in return, I saw her email and felt just broken enough to get out of my own way and attend a church I’ve never been to before. Really, I was hoping I would find Him there because He didn’t seem to be anywhere near me. I texted her that I was coming with a really bitter comment about feeling abandoned and broken and heavy. “Well I don’t think there is a better time to struggle through something than tonight,” she said to me. “Life is hard, God is good. That’s all I know.”

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On top of feeling so wildly crummy from that afternoon, I was late and I hate being late. The door creaked really loudly when I opened it and some people looked at me and I hate when strangers look at me. I was wearing my purple work polo and I hate looking like a golfer. I wasn’t at my best. I sat in the very last pew even though she had saved a seat for me. I didn’t want to have to walk by anybody. The speaker was finishing up when I sank into my seat and ended with the words, “the table is ready”.

I cried as I watched people I didn’t know take communion. God had stripped away parts of me that day. I realized I had believed lies about myself for years and years and years and it hurt, deeply, to lose them even though they needed to be removed. I hadn’t earned the grace that was poured out on that table.

She took communion with her family and while walking back to her seat she saw me and walked back to me with her hand out and asked if I was ready for communion. She walked with me, put her hand on my back as I took it and sweetly laughed when I didn’t know what to do with the little plastic cup that we don’t use at our home church. She came back to my seat with me but quickly got up when she noticed another person (I honestly don’t know if she even knew him or not) sitting alone. I watched her walk with him to the table too. She gently touched his shoulder when he wiped tears from his eyes. That’s who she is: she’ll walk up to the communion table three times if it means that no one has to do it alone.

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I’ve known this sweet woman for about 7 years, which is wild to think about. I met her very quickly after I started going to Watermark and she spoke truth and wisdom and beauty into my life in a way that no one except maybe my mother ever had. I loved her immediately. I loved the way she used her hands when she talked and the bold lipstick she wore and the way she talked about God.

When I look back honestly, I think I put her on a pedestal. To me she was perfect, and that’s always a dangerous way to feel about someone. Because she wasn’t, none of us are. Things broke a couple years into our friendship and because of how infallible I thought her, I handled it poorly. I was scared and honestly angry because it felt like my foundation cracked a little. Our foundation isn’t supposed to be built on other people, we know that we know that we know that, but sometimes we build it anyway. We expect mere humans to be Christ. That is simply always asking for trouble.

About a year after the break I moved to Memphis. I didn’t reach out to her when I was in town and her address was never one I wrote on letters back home (my heart weeps at the thought in hindsight). After I moved back I was too consumed with my own transitions and goings on to notice that weeks and months and then a year passed before I saw her on a Sunday morning. She was sitting two rows ahead of me and my heart stopped for a second when I saw her–I didn’t know why. I wasn’t afraid of her or angry at her. She had just become a sort of stranger to me. And maybe on some level I knew that I had been a terrible sister to her.

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But there we were, sitting in a church I had never been in before on Maundy Thursday. I wept and spilled my soul to her. I told her about the lies I had accepted as truth for years and how awful it felt to realize that. And I told her about the parts inside of me (like my fear of not being capable or smart or passionate) that probably are lies, I’m told they’re lies, but feel completely like the truth. I told her about not hearing from God and I told her about being really angry. I counted on her to understand my cries when I couldn’t think of words.

This friend that I realized I had missed terribly prayed with me, for the first time in years. She again spoke truth and wisdom and beauty into me. She told me I could lean on her faith and that we’re bounded together in Christ. We apologized to each other and said “I love you” about 17 times and really really meant it. We stepped over the broken bits and were alive again.

I believe in resurrection because I believe that God brings things back from the dead every day. I believe He raised His son after three days in the tomb and has been raising things back from the dead ever since.

The Church & Books.

The church I attend every Sunday is called Watermark. It is the home of many young souls wild about Christ and old pews and lots of coffee. Our pastor teaches us about the incredible symbolism and intentionally of God in scripture and we sing songs about love and grace and trials.  After service, children run through the aisles as parents gather together. Our building once held ugly carpet and a 1960’s baptismal and many loyal Baptists who sold their building to us for far less than it was worth.  We said we wanted to raise our children in that building and learn about God together and though our offer was about half of those who wanted to knock the church over and build apartments, they picked us to fill the rooms.

I’ve attended this church for about 5 years and it’s precious to my heart. It is not, however, the only church I attend.

My other church is sometimes at the kitchen table, sometimes outside on a picnic blanket, sometimes in other states. Most recently, that church was gathered in my living room in the form of book club. Six of us, holding “Cold Tangerines” in our laps, talking about the ways that Shauna Niequist seemingly stole pages from our diaries and wrote the words of our heart. We remarked how relatable her words on celebration were and how jealous we were of her travels and how we need to stop living like we’re waiting. Life is here! It’s now! It’s exploding out of every clap of laughter!

Candle light bounced off our wine glasses and we ate more baked brie than our diets would have permitted.  We unapologetically followed every rabbit trail that came up in conversation and somehow turned Shauna’s words on joy into sharing stories of embarrassing haircuts and outfits in middle school (think wayyy too short bangs and neon green overalls). We laughed so hard that we cried. We sat that day’s busyness and bothers at the door and were present for one another.

We didn’t talk all that much about God but I think that when His people are gathered together in friendship and joy and lightness, it’s still church. It’s still life giving and gorgeous.

Book club. Church. Praise God.

Lesson Learned: Celebrate Everything

Some time ago I sat down in Oxford Exchange and began writing a book. A book about the things that I have learned from the beautiful men and women I have rubbed shoulders with and embraced over the years. This task will take ages but I am not letting myself be flustered by that. The truth is, I do work full time at a non profit that takes an emotional toll sometimes, and I am planning a wedding and trying to cling to God as my life is about to change. The writing is slow. It’s slow, but it’s good. To my soul, I mean. I was revisiting some of the first essays I wrote out – still very rough, just like me – and I decided to share one. This last week brought along a rockslide. Fear and the slamming of doors. Now more than ever, I need to remember the importance of celebration. 

This particular lesson was taught to me by a beautiful blonde, who, states away, is still celebrating with me.

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celebrate

I guess the real first thing she ever taught me was to cook dinner for people you love. Get yourself a round table* and sit at it with new faces and old faces and beloved faces. The first time she invited me over for dinner at her round table she made a light and fresh and healthy homemade meal. It was delicious and made more so by being followed with giant bowls of ice cream. We sat crisscross, knee to knee, with our mountain sized bowls of delicious frozen calories in our laps. We chatted and laughed on a day bed she had in her living room, which was being used as a couch until a cheap one could be acquired. Some time later I would sleep on that very bed while temporarily living with her after returning to Tampa from a year in Memphis, TN with no home. But I’m jumping ahead.

That evening was the first of many times I was impressed with her. Her eyes sparkled when she spoke about the friends she had moved away from and the city that was engraved in her heart. She told me about the life celebrations her community would have back home. They celebrated everything together. “Why should only people who are getting married and having babies get presents and parties in their honor?!” they questioned, and so new jobs and new homes and new attitudes and all exciting moments received acknowledgement. How beautiful.

I think that’s the way it should be: everything should be celebrated. Everyone should receive photo books and love letters. Everyone should have his or her name on a banner every now and then – especially if it’s homemade bunting. While the old saying ‘too much of a good thing is a bad thing’ can be true in certain circumstances (I’m looking at you, Target), I do not believe it applies to celebrations. Or dessert. Yes, I am quite certain that the authenticity of lifting one another up will never grow out-of-date.

And the why of it is very simple: there are plenty of things in every one of our lives that are heavy. There is no shortage of worry and stress and heartache and fear in my life or in yours. If the weights on our shoulders were literal and not metaphorical, chiropractors would be the busiest people in the world. We’ve all got really heavy things. We’ve all cried ourselves to sleep, snapped at our loved ones because of stress, wandered away from God through the misconception that we have to handle things ourselves. With heaviness often comes loneliness and the feeling that we’re the only ones who have experienced such garbage.

I’ve felt this way a million times: right now as work has thrown for a scary loop, when I was feeling the weight of the seventy thousand emotions that came with moving to a new state alone, I believed that no one on earth could have possibly felt the turmoil that I was feeling. I was wrong, of course. As we always tend to be when we think we’re the only ones.

This is a really basic example, but some months ago I met up with an acquaintance from high school for drinks. She was the one who asked me about meeting up because I wouldn’t have asked her if my life depended on it. Suffice it to say, we weren’t in the same social group back in high school. And by that I mean she was IN a social group and I spent my Friday nights eating Chinese food with my parents and watching “My Best Friends Wedding” every single week (no regrets – Rupert Everett is a peach, plus I can probably lip sync “I Say a Little Prayer for You” better than most as a result of so many rewatchings of that film).

She was beautiful when everyone else was an awkward teenager, and she was confident in a way I could have only ever dreamed of being. She was always very kind, but her friends tended to be… well, not so nice. They weren’t outrageously impressed with the tall gangly girl who wore a lot of band t-shirts and skinny jeans and stammered every time she talked. And they were not subtle about it (y’all, be nice to every single person you have the chance to be nice to. Even if it kills you… which it won’t, because being nice isn’t that difficult. Don’t be the mean person that quiet people like me grow up to write about).

Essentially, she was out of my friend league. Imagine my surprise when six years later we both found ourselves living in Tampa and she asks me for drinks. I tried on three different outfits and ventured downtown to see her. My, was it a lovely evening. We talked about traveling and flirtatious elderly Italian men, had cocktails I couldn’t really afford, and laughed about high school. In talking with her I learned something very important, something everyone in high school needs to understand: the people who seem to have it all together and also crushed when someone doesn’t like them back, also feel weird in their skin, and are figuring it all out as they go, just like you.

I’m finding the same concept to be true in adulthood as well. Every time I shake my fist at the air and yell “I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING AND EVERYONE ELSE IS GOING TO MEDICAL SCHOOL AND MOVING TO LONDON AND RUNNING THEIR OWN BUSINESSES AND I’M MAD ABOUT IT”, I very quickly come across a friend who shares the same sentiment. Turns out most adults don’t know what they’re doing. Who knew? I am stumbling through life as I go, reaching for God spastically like a cat that just fell in water, half listening to His instruction but also kind of panicking. And so is everyone else, at least for a season. That, my dear reader, is the most concise definition of adulthood I can muster.

Therefore, because everyone feels weird and life is hard and sometimes we feel so terrifyingly alone, and because we’re all submerged cats panicking (is this the best metaphor I could use? Probably not), those moments of getting on dry land, temporary as it will certainly be, need to be acknowledged. More than that, they need to be celebrated. In celebrating together, we will be lifting one another up in beautiful community that will refresh our own souls as well as whoever’s name is on the banner.

So what I would like you and I to do next time someone finds himself on dry land is to not just send a text about it or leave an encouraging emoji filled comment on their instagram. Make them a banner, invite just a few lovely souls over, pour some wine, and celebrate. No matter how busy you are, no matter how underwater you yourself are feeling at the moment, praise Jesus when someone else has come out of the waves.

If life is going to be hard and heavy anyway (and it will be), we might as well walk through it hand in hand and really celebrate the heck out of anything and everything we’re able. 

* A note about tables: I’m no craftsman or designer, but I am here to say that there is a reason King Arthur’s knights sat at a round table. When you get your own home or apartment, get a nice set of white dishes (they’ll match every cool and colorful and eclectic thing you bring home from a thrift store) and a sturdy round table. Here’s why: it is much more conducive to seeing the candlelight dance in everyone’s eyes when you’re in a circle, the support is in the middle so there isn’t any awkward banging of knees as you sit hip to hip (I’m 5’10 and nearly all leg so I feel I have the authority to say that wrestling with a leg on every table corner is unacceptable), and it’s easier to cram a whole gaggle of loved ones in a circle than a square. Seriously, get yourself a round table. Go to thrift stores, go to garage sales, go wherever you need to go that fits into your budget, but get one.

That’s an order. **

            ** A note about my note: my handsome fiancé read this while I was writing and he said, “Well, you know there really WAS a significant reason that the knights sat in a circle. And it had nothing to do with dancing candlelight”. So, okay, sure: if you’re going to be a history snob about it, the candlelight probably had nothing to do with King Arthur’s design intentions. But it should have.

Steam & Shadows

Steam rises from our tea cups placed on the table and the lit candle casts shadows on the wall but there is something in that room far more consuming. It is the only thing that has captured my attention. It is her voice as she tells me the story of what happened while I was in Memphis. The terrible, heavy, heartbreaking thing that happened while I was away.

steam and shadows

“I know the only reason you’re able to tell me all this so matter-of-factly is because God has already begun healing and carrying you . You’ve already had several months to deal with it,” I managed to say before my eyes began welling with tears and my voice started to crack, “but I haven’t. My heart is broken. I am so, so sorry.”

Love can look like so many things, but it’s perhaps never as beautiful and raw and fragile and important as when it shows itself through two friends hugging each other with sorrowful eyes. Songs and poems and stories have been written about love, but I wonder if all the words in all the books could compare with the passion that is found in the three simple words, “I’m so sorry” being whispered again and again into the ear of a broken sister. 

I held her hand and I cried. I told her how beautiful she is, how wildly thankful to God I am that He has pulled her back to Himself so quickly, how I couldn’t believe I was so far away when this had happened, how “I’m sorry if it’s weird but I just want to keep holding your hand for a while longer”.

There are many things to be felt when someone trusts you enough to allow you to carry their heavy things. As I was sitting on that couch, ignoring the steam and dancing shadows, I first felt sadness. And fear. And anger. My heart danced between feelings like a nervous ballerina.

But as I experienced a hundred different emotions, there was one that sat constant in the background.

Have you ever played apples to apples, or some kind of card game where you have cards rotating through your hand? There’s always one card that you can’t get rid of. In apples to apples, the other six cards are always rotating – they get drawn, discarded, and are then replaced with a new card. But there’s that one tricky card that never leaves your hand. That’s how this one feeling was for me. Only, the reason it never left was because it was good and beautiful – not because it was a stupid noun that didn’t fit any of the green cards.

All the while I felt overwhelmed with a sense of honor and privilege. Not just because she felt safe enough with me to share a gigantic burden, but because in that moment I was given an opportunity to participate actively in the gospel. I was being the love that Christ insisted was to exist in our communities. By the grace of God I was given a chance to tell someone that because they are in Christ they are a new creation.

“You are not what has happened to you. You are God’s and you are still whole.”

It is humbling and an honor like I have never experienced to get to look into someone’s eyes and speak to them on God’s behalf. And it is humbling and an honor to have others who have done the same for me.

Time doesn’t heal wounds. God heals our wounds. Sometimes by using others, sometimes by just showing up on His own. The times we get to be used as part of His healing is wondrous. And it isn’t because we are word-smiths or fantastically empathetic or incredible christians that God provides us these almost magical opportunities to love, but because this is how we get to be part of the gospel. Even with our filth, we get to love other people because we have been loved by God. He has poured us tea and held our hands a million lonely nights, saying “I will turn the darkness into light before you and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them”. Like a child copying his parents, every act of love we ever make is only mimicking the love that we have seen from Him.

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Sometimes being part of the gospel means sharing the name of Jesus to souls who have never heard of their savior. It can mean moving across the world for some, it should mean tending to the sick and the homeless for us all. There are also times, I have discovered, where it looks like not having anything to say except “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry”. It looks like showing up and holding hands because nothing else seems right. It looks like allowing your heart to break simply because other hearts are broken. 

Pay Attention to Who is in Your Midst.

The thing I loved most about the house in which I use to live was obviously that beautiful, big, bodacious doberman.

(I couldn't help myself)
(I couldn’t help myself)

But the women that I lived with were definitely a close second. And the corner of the countertop that was always filled with baked goods and snickity snacks to share was a strong third.

The women that occupied that space alongside me taught me so many lessons. Lessons about loving God, loving neighbors, loving each other. They are exceptional individuals and frankly, I can’t wait to live near them again soon. The year that I spent with them was a very… tricky year in my life. And looking back I’m so thankful that God put them next to me during those trials so that I would have friends to cry with and laugh with and eat ice cream with. We entered into that house together because we all happened to need a place to live, but we entered into each others lives because God creates beautiful things.

Because what’s even more lovely is the fact that I really wasn’t active friends with these ladies before living together. I had met some of them almost immediately after moving to Tampa back in college, but I was too distracted by other friendships and school and trying to figure out how to be funny to pay them much attention. I was very selfish with my time and did not invest in others well. I was too preoccupied with myself to get to know girls who would one day become some of my closest friends. One girl in fact I actively disliked, and man – did she dislike me too. This disdain for one another was based off of nothing. Misunderstanding the other. Jumping to conclusions. Thinking, “Well she doesn’t like me, so fine. I don’t like her either”. And I’m here to say, that kind of thinking is nonsense and there isn’t room in the Kingdom for it. I adore her now. Seeing God redeem our relationship was so so beautiful.

midst

And that’s the thing – I wouldn’t have picked any of those women to live with on my own. I would have never felt up to the task of living with a girl I knew didn’t like me and I didn’t like either. But God is so much bigger than we are. He knew how much my life would be touched by that group of women. He made me go with my tail in-between my legs and learn that I was, in fact, very wrong in my judgements.  Praise God.

Now, as I’m getting ready to move back to Tampa, I am going to be living with a new group of ladies. Ladies who I, again, don’t know very well. Ladies who, once again, have been in my church and life and friend group for quite some time but I have never taken the time to know well. I feel really blessed to be given another chance to rub shoulders with daughters of God who I have, by my own admission, never made it a point to know. I’m anxious for the lessons they have for me – to see God in them. I’m thankful that I worship an intentional God  who doesn’t just provide a house and roommates to help with rent, but stitches lives and souls and paths together to unite the Kingdom.

He is doing this always. I’ve learned and am learning that the people in our midsts – our roommates, our classmates, our peers at work, our next door neighbors – are placed in our lives by our Father who desires to see relationships and love and care. We need to pay attention to the people next to us, and we need to love them. And moreover, we need to ditch the bad attitudes. Like I said earlier, God showed me that there isn’t room in His Kingdom for cattiness and biting remarks and tossing others aside. There is too much to do for us to waste our time disapproving of others. I wish with my entire being that I had spent my years in college with those girls I eventually came to love. I would have been so enriched by their friendship much earlier on. Don’t miss the opportunity to be blessed and bless those currently in your midst.

I’d Rather You be Whole Than Happy.

My soul and my brain are currently sitting together in a waiting room: twiddling thumbs, reading old magazine articles about celebrities I don’t care about, watching crappy day time TV on an old television set hanging in the corner. My body, however, is still going to work, doing errands, having small talk, writing things like this blog post, and going about the day as if I wasn’t waiting on news. As if I wasn’t waiting to find out if the months that follow will be filled with fervent prayer, or fervent rejoicing.

That’s just the way of things, really. The world goes about errands and small talk but all of us are holding really big things on our shoulders. Big concerns, big hurt, big heartache. And it’s interesting to me how our culture worships the idea of happiness as if permeant happiness is an achievable goal. But it isn’t. Not here, not in our fallen world. Not when children pass away. Not when cancer runs rampant.

One of the most beautiful acts of friendships that I’ve experienced was being given the freedom to fully feel. When I was sad, she let me be sad. When I was scared, she let me be scared. When life was hard, she remarked “You know what, this is hard.” Because cheering people up is great and all, and sometimes absolute necessary, but I think before we worry about the cheering up part we should instead validate one another. We should call a spade a spade and acknowledge that growth comes from the painful things almost always. Did you just have a romantic relationship end? You know what, that really sucks and I’m sorry that when you allowed yourself to be vulnerable you were hurt instead. Did you lose one of your parents or siblings or best friends? I can’t begin to fathom the pain that you’re carrying. You’re really, truly, brave. Are you lonely? My friend, I am so so sorry that you are. Did you find a closed door from God when you were expecting an open one? God loves us enough to leave some doors shut, but that doesn’t mean running into them isn’t really arduous. I myself have broken all my fingers trying to claw open locked doors in the past and while I learned about God’s goodness after the fact, first I screamed in pain.

I am giving you my permission to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling. Because I think God gives you His permission to fully feel whatever you’re feeling.

God knows that things are hard. I believe the fact that He gives us the most extraordinary gift of community is proof of this. You aren’t being a disobedient child for being sad or angry or hurt. These feelings aren’t the antithesis of trusting God. Trusting Him doesn’t mean being indifferent to hard things. Walking with my Father doesn’t mean that when a man breaks my heart it won’t hurt. It means that I am allowed to be hurt and sad and confused as to why I had to experience something so crappy. And then, I’m allowed to be hopeful and joyful because I’m the child of a King who works all things out for good. We don’t have to mourn as if we have no hope — but we don’t have to pretend we’re above mourning, either.

Hugh Mackay wrote some of my favorite words on this subject:

“I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that – I don’t mind people being happy – but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down 3 things that made you happy today before you go to sleep”, and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position – it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness”. Ask yourself “is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.”

Sometimes loving well means picking our loved ones up off the ground and taking them out to lunch or to Oxford Exchange to get a warm salted caramel vanilla latte (I’m having withdrawals from my Oxford, ya’ll). With everything, sadness is best in moderation. I’m not suggesting a complete surrender to despair and sadness. Or not allowing ourselves to focus on anything other than the miserable. God is a God of resurrection and therefore we don’t get to surrender to despair. Sunday came and that tomb was empty and that changed everything.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re not allowed to feel the emotions on the opposite end of the spectrum as happiness. Don’t think that those feelings are reserved for the pessimists or grumps or unbelievers. Don’t make the mistake of going out to lunch with a bazillion people after church on Sunday when you instead need to go home and weep to your Father. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that your role as a friend or brother or sister is only to be a cheerleader — to see how quickly you can move them away from sadness to happiness. That part will come. First be part of their growth, their morphing into wholeness.

Not So Secret Love Letter [6]

“I am going to write love letters to my friends & family members & who knows, maybe chocolate chip cookies, just because I think they are all each really wonderful and worthy of love letters sent to them every minute, every hour. I won’t use their names because some aspect of this tryst should be private, but even if you – the reader – don’t know who I am specifically writing about, I want you to still know that these incredible people exist.”

This one is going to be a giveaway. Not only because I mention that today is your birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY YO) but also because the compliments I am about to bestow upon you, much to your chagrin, aren’t only my opinion. Everyone who knows you and reads this will think “Huh, this must be about –“.

Ready to turn bright red?

I really, really really, can’t adequately explain to you the impact your friendship has had on me. And I don’t mean that flippantly – don’t read that in the same tone as you’d read a card someone halfheartedly wrote with “I love you more than you know!” scribbled at the end of it. You have been one of my most precious friends. 

What you have been to me is really beautiful for a million and two reasons, but I think the loveliest perhaps is that the relationship happened on accident. Actually, it kind of appeared out of thin air. Because how long did I know you before I knew you? How many parties did we both attend without speaking to one another? How long did we not understand each others humor? A while dude. And then God did some arranging. You needed a place to live, I needed a place to live, another beautiful friend of ours needed a place to live. How convenient that a mutual precious friend of ours had a home to invite all of us into. Those first couple weeks were spent tip toeing. And now I’m pleased that our time together is spent hugging.

I am blessed to have been your roommate. Not because you’re wonderful and funny and beautiful, even though that’s all true. I’m blessed because getting to be so up close and personal with someone so wildly in love with the Lord is rare. It’s rare and it’s not something to take for granted. You have ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY NO IDEA how incredibly beautifully Christ shines through you. You love so well. You love so many so well. 

We’ve laughed many times about how insanely different you and I are. I get hot, you freeze. I cry over everything that moves me even in the slightest, you reserve your tears for important matters. I text you in ALL CAPS WHEN I AM EXCITED OR MAD OR ANYTHING and you respond very soberly. I get quiet, you get personal. We both love all things frugal / cheap / thrifty / free, the Lord, and handwritten letters.. but that may be it. But I’m okay with that, because your level headedness has been one of the qualities I’ve loved the most about you. We shared a room in one of the hardest years of my life. In that room I wept when God wanted to yank me away from everyone and everything I knew and loved. You sat on your bed and watched me cry as I packed up my things and you told me how good God is.

People often mistake real love and real friendship for a support system. Which sure, yeah, okay, is part of it. But it’s common to hear phrases like, “if you really cared about me / if you really loved me you’d support me in this”. As if love meant just having someones back no matter what. But it doesn’t. At all. In any kind of relationship dynamic real love cares about the thriving of the other. And that means sometimes disagreeing. That can mean correcting, encouraging, calling the other out on nonsense. You’ve done this for me. When I sat on my bed heavy with frustrations or fears you didn’t just “back me up”. You really considered the things that I said and then you responded with wisdom. And scripture. And earnestness. Which I needed because I err on the side of the dramatics. Once, you called me to kindly tell me something that would have hurt my feelings had I heard it through the grape vine. It wasn’t news that I was necessarily excited about and where other friends would have been tempted to be “on my side” and remark how lame it was, you told me the tid-bit then calmly said “Okay, now here’s why I think it’s a good thing..”

I love you so much for that. For your levelheadedness. For your wisdom. You’ve been so diligent in reaching out to me since I moved. No one has called me as much as you have. Few have sent me sweet mail like you have. I think you understand how fragile I was once I moved (and still am sometimes). I didn’t feel like I was in another state – I felt like I was in another country and that it was of little consequence to most. But you reached out your sweet hand to show me that even if I wasn’t in your room, I was still in your life. You skyped with me while I was getting ready for my first date up here in Memphis. EVERYONE! LISTEN TO HOW SWEET THIS IS. I had no one to get ready with and giggle with and steal clothes from (which is obviously the most fun part of a first date) so you skyped with me and helped me pick out shoes all the way from Tampa. It’s things like that. It’s that you wanted to share in my excitement. You cared about me enough to want to share my excitement in a small way. Those small ways add up to such huge, gigantic things.

You are incredible. You are a forced to be reckoned with in the most beautiful of ways.

Happy birthday, sweets. I love you dearly.

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Not So Secret Love Letter [5]

“I am going to write love letters to my friends & family members & who knows, maybe chocolate chip cookies, just because I think they are all each really wonderful and worthy of love letters sent to them every minute, every hour. I won’t use their names because some aspect of this tryst should be private, but even if you – the reader – don’t know who I am specifically writing about, I want you to still know that these incredible people exist.”

You. You were one of the handful of friends I was thinking about when I came up with the idea to write about people who I think are amazing. That may surprise you since we aren’t technically the closest of friends — we’ve never shared our deepest secrets with one another, but we have shared bits of our souls. It didn’t surprise me at all to think of you first because I really really (really really) admire you a lot. And think incredibly highly of you. And I think you’re great and I want to write about that.

John 13:35 says “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” You have, unknowingly and accidentally, taught me that this verse is true. Because you love incredibly well. And I can see Christ in you as you do. Honestly, my friend, I don’t think I have ever met someone who loves as much as you do. You are intentional and interested and you remember things people say and you help do the dishes at parties and you invite people to lunch. And you don’t get offensive or rude when people disagree with you. You embrace. I think you love like Christ. You’re the first person to not make me feel like a heathen or a moron when I said I wasn’t able to label myself a calvinist. And when I dared to share that I didn’t feel like such things mattered, you didn’t throw John Piper references at me. You didn’t tell me I was wrong. And it wasn’t just because you agreed with me — I’ve seen you treat people with polar opposite values as you with the same consideration. You let me feel safe enough to have an opinion.

I do appreciate how many of our opinions match up, however. Honestly, I love you for the way you love women. Not… like, pervertedly. That’s the opposite of what I mean. You care about the rights of women, the role of women in the church, and the importance of shifting the way women are viewed. As a woman, I thank you for not prescribing to the concept of “masculine christianity”. Seriously. Seriously thank you for seeing how that type of thinking is destructive. This is a product of truly loving.

You’re also really talented. True, I don’t believe that someone’s worth depends on their level of talent and what they can give the world, but if I did you’d still be golden. You’re talented and you’re ambitious and you work really hard. You make things that matter. You create and you encourage others to create and I love seeing you, specifically, and christians in general create in the likeness of their Creator. Thank you for letting me be part of your work in the past. Thank you for your honesty and for being willing to spill your soul when you sit down at the keyboard or with your pen and paper.

I just think you’re a person worth knowing, basically. I want everyone to experience the joy of being loved well. Of being treated like they have value and are interesting and are worthy of being loved. Thank you, and I can speak for everyone you encounter, for reflecting Christ in a world that desperately needs it. You’re great.

Not So Secret Love Letter [4]

“I am going to write love letters to my friends & family members & who knows, maybe chocolate chip cookies, just because I think they are all each really wonderful and worthy of love letters sent to them every minute, every hour. I won’t use their names because some aspect of this tryst should be private, but even if you – the reader – don’t know who I am specifically writing about, I want you to still know that these incredible people exist.”

Today is your birthday. It’s a special birthday because it’s the last one you’ll have with your current last name. Wouldn’t you know it, some lucky dude has finally snagged you up. Albeit not the same lad we thought for sure you would marry back when we were in 4th grade, but that’s all right – I can be wrong once. This upcoming year holds some of the biggest life changes to date for you, but when I think of you and your friendship I’m reminded of something that has never changed. Our friendship has ebb’d and flowed but it’s always been present. Since first grade it’s always been present. You take up most of my memories when I think of my life as a whole. Even though it’s been years since we’ve lived in the same town and spent any real time with one another, I still would bet money that you know me better than anyone I have ever met. You were by my side in such formative years —  you saw me at all of my awkward stages. Kudos for sticking around through my awful 7th grade hair style. Slick parted down the middle? I could die. Together we sold girl scout cookies, bought trunk loads of cheap crap from Claire’s, had major crushes on total hotties, sang NSync, Britney Spears, & Blink 182 really loudly, visited the emergency room (again, kudos for helping me pee after I passed out and bashed my head), and went through a pseudo punk phase which mostly consisted of buying shirts from Hot Topic (I don’t.. whatever). Your house was the first place I drove when I got my very first car. You were always who I called when I lost grandparents, pets, or just my mind. I think that we could not speak for 15 years and you’d still be the first person I’d call when I was devastated or got engaged. Note – my fingers are turning white they’re crossed so hard in hopes that it doesn’t take me 15 years to get engaged. There were seasons in our friendship that I know I wasn’t fully present — I was flighty at times, and I apologize for that. Hindsight is 20/20 and I see you’re the friend that never once let me down. I’m sorry I wavered and gave more attention to relationships which have proved less dependable.

I remember when you first told me you wanted to be a nurse. Well, I don’t remember the specific instance, but I remember you knew all the way back in elementary school. And now here you are. You worked hard and you did it. And we talked about weddings and getting married, and now you’re getting ready to do that too. How honored am I to get to stand beside you. I realize I was growing up right alongside you all these years, but I’m so proud of you and the woman you’ve grown into.

We have been friends for approximately 18 years.  This is the 18th year in a row I’ve gotten to tell you “happy birthday”. 18 birthday cards we’ve exchanged. 18 years of being your friend. What an incredibly huge honor — to have known you for 18 years and to look ahead and see the promise of so many more.

I love you.

[So, I mailed you a card obviously forever ago but I wrote the address wrong like a nincompoop and now you’re going to get it late. But I can’t stand the thought of you imagining that I forgot your birthday and mailed it last minute and that’s why it’s arriving late. I’m far too type A for such nonsense. Plus I adore you and would never forget your birthday]

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Not So Secret Love Letter [2]

“I am going to write love letters to my friends & family members & who knows, maybe chocolate chip cookies, just because I think they are all each really wonderful and worthy of love letters sent to them every minute, every hour. I won’t use their names because some aspect of this tryst should be private, but even if you – the reader – don’t know who I am specifically writing about, I want you to still know that these incredible people exist.”

While I love all of the many things that make the two of  you different (and remind me of myself), I’m going lump you together right quick and write this letter for the two loveliest sisters I know.

Our relationship is incredibly unique. Actually, “unique” may be trying too hard. Our relationship is weird. We’re stitched together in such a strange way that there isn’t even a word to describe it so we’ve had to make up our own.  It’s weird.. but it’s beautiful. I feel that God was very intentional in stitching us together — that He had to be creative to do so and so here we are! In this messy, lovely, confusing relationship. The older I get the more interested I am in our dynamic. I think of how crazy it must have been for you when you were first told about me. What were some of the things you thought about? Did you wonder if the three of us would be close at all? Did you wonder if I would look like you? Did you wonder if your mother was nuts? She kind of is. But, anyway. Now that I’m older I appreciate and recognize the way you tenderly handled our bizarre relationship – how you were careful to not push too hard, but instead allowed me figure out who I was and how I related to our family. All while still loving me really well. Now after nearly 24 years of being able to find my little niche I see that it’s right there next to the two of you. I’d say “standing shoulder to shoulder” but honestly my shoulders are at y’alls ears. That Yaklin height will win out every time.

You two are two of the many strong women God has put into my life. I’ve never seen a family with so many capable and brilliant and.. bossy women. You have both sailed your ships through hard waters — the waves have made you very skilled sailors and now I see two women who aren’t so stoic they don’t have room for love, but instead are strong and love strongly. Two women who can laugh at the silliest nonsense but aren’t silly women.

I see myself in the two of you so incredibly easily. Maybe that’s why I love you both so much. Maybe this whole thing is just a big ol’ box of narcissism. I think you’re really witty and charming.. because I think I’M so witty and charming. Hmm. There may be something to that.

But I digress. The fun that I have with you two can not be matched. I dare someone to try. You know how certain people make you funnier? Like, their humor lines up with yours and together you’re just ON FIRE? That’s how I feel I am with you two – I am easily at the top of my game with you. I am the funniest I get when I am with you. And the beauty of our relationship is that it doesn’t stop at humor. You’re not just the fun friends I go hang out with when I want to be distracted from deeper things. You want my deeper things too. Those conversations about God around the bonfire at Thanksgiving mean more to me than any mad house Black Friday shopping experience. Sharing embarrassingly large desserts are only sweet when we’re having “real talk” alongside them. You two make me feel comfortable to grow, and I think that’s the most amazing feeling anyone can give you. I feel secure knowing you’re rooting for me and knowing your arms are near should I lose my balance and waver a little.

I didn’t grow up with close siblings and if I’m honest, I’m not sure I have the personality that would thrive in that dynamic. Siblings fight a lot and frankly I’m a little bossy and I hate loud noises. But I did always wish someone was with me saturday mornings watching cartoons and in long car rides up to West Virginia. I’ve seen many movie representations of sisters and brothers who grew up together and there’s this tight connection that I never had with someone growing up. I finally feel like I’m getting that. Twenty years a little late, but in this one instance I won’t be type-A about being on time. I finally feel connected – I finally feel related.  And I love you both so much that it doesn’t matter how much or how little we are technically related to each other. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t grow up together and have had completely different childhood experiences. Honestly, mine was probably better because it had you two in it. Because I had you two sitting there, patiently waiting to see what the three of us would be.

You’re both so beautiful and I love you endlessly always.

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Not So Secret Love Letters [1]

I have decided to embark on a very public tryst.

I am going to write love letters to my friends & family members & who knows, maybe chocolate chip cookies, just because I think they are all each really wonderful and worthy of love letters sent to them every minute, every hour. And it’s true I have a drawer full of stationary sets and I love hand written notes more than anything — but for these, this blog will be the platform. I won’t use their names because some aspect of this tryst should be private, but even if you – the reader – don’t know who I am specifically writing about, I want you to still know that these incredible people exist. 

And so, here is the first Not So Secret Love Letter :

My sweet, sweet most precious friend — I’ll never understand how there can be so many states in between us. How I can be “here”, and you can be “there”. Yours are the arms I most like to link mine with. You are the soul that makes mine feel at home. You’re also a total bombshell, but that’s besides the point. I think you are one of the most sophisticated women I know. Even the quirky things about you are sophisticated. Even the way your hair poofs up in the morning is sophisticated. You taught me more about kindness than anyone has before you or since you. I can remember specific instances where I asked you why you were wasting your time helping someone in a way that I felt was useless, and you shrugged and said “It’s just an opportunity to serve”. And you didn’t say it in a “Jesus Juke” type of way. You weren’t trying to make me impressed with how holy or spiritual or nice you were, you were being authentic and your authentic self just happens to be loving and beautiful. You have some heaviness in your life – you have burdens that must make your shoulders tired. I imagine people would be surprised to hear some of the onerous parts of your life because your smile has a way of making the world believe in beauty and goodness and that everything will get better. I’m guilty of not bearing the weight of your burdens well because of that. Because you’re you – you’re the joy of my heart and you listen to all my messes. I’m sorry that I don’t tend to your messes well in return. I never want anything to ever make your heart heavy. At a big season in your life I remember saying to a friend of ours, “If I would want anything good to happen to anyone in the world.. it would be her.” And that’s still true. You know that line in Wuthering Heights, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”? Well, besides the fact that you’re not a man and I am not romantically attracted to you (sorry not sorry), I feel that exact way for you. Do you remember that Sunday at church when this conversation took place:

You: Hi! How are you?

Me: Good! How’s it going?

You: Good

*Pause*

*We both suddenly start crying*

You: I miss you so much

Me: I MISS YOU TOO. I LIED, I’M NOT GOOD I’M MISERABLE.

And this was only after not seeing each other for like.. three weeks. Now we have much bigger gaps in-between seeing each other. I hope you know that every time you ask me about Memphis and life and I say “Good!”, know that at any given moment I could cry thinking of how much I miss you. It doesn’t matter if weeks slip by somehow in between our conversations. You are still the friend that I adore. You are still my person. And it’s not just because you’re the only person in the world I’ve ever been able to borrow jeans from — it’s because you’re the most precious and lovely person I have ever had the pleasure of randomly sitting next to one night at USF four years ago. I love you so.

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