Mothers, Scary Teachers, and Beyonce

Two weeks ago a friend asked me to write a few sentences about a moment that affected my life for part of an art project that she’s working on.

First, I sent her much more than a few sentences

Second, I was surprised at the moment that flooded to my memory.

I could have thought about my tales of unrequited love: the heartbreak, the listening to sad Avett Brothers songs on repeat, the walking around Paris on a semester abroad in tears over a boy  4,000 miles away.

I could have thought about meeting Tim, the moment that has come to be known as the-first-time-love-was-requited -and-thank-goodness-it-had-never-been-before-because-THIS-guy-was-worth-the-wait. Our wedding day, too, was certainly a life altering, things will never be the same again, type day.

Maybe even the day I realized how much of a happy feminist I am, because that certainly changed a lot about my life.

Instead, immediately upon reading her question, I thought about something kind my mother did for me in 4th grade.

_____________

In 4th grade I had a teachermiss_nelsonr that books like Miss Viola Swamp are written about: mean ones who seem to hate children. She was short, had long nails that were often painted blue, yelled a lot, and on several scaring occasions snapped at me in front of the class to stop being so shy. This, by the way, is a terrible tactic and I feel confident in saying that it has never once worked on any shy student. If anything, it made the butterflies that fluttered around my stomach everytime I had to speak in front of the class turn into pterodactyls.

(this is the first time I have ever written out the word “pterodactyl”. It took a while and involved googling because my entire life I had been one thousand percent sure that it started with a “T”) 

I can remember two days when I pretended to be sick so that I wouldn’t have to go to school.. and both times it worked. I figured that I was a pretty stellar actress, though it didn’t occur to me that maybe this wasn’t the case, considering that my mom never fell for my lies any other time, ever. Many days I simply cried over going.

During Christmas break my mom told me that when school started back up I would no longer be in the same class. There was a switch, she said, and I would be going to Ms. C’s class instead. Life was good for 4th grade me after that: I never pretended to be sick to get out of school and even though passing my previous teacher in the hall was a nightmare and I would very nervously look at my feet while doing so, I was thrilled over the magical switch that had taken place.

The reason for this change in classrooms, of course, didn’t occur to me for quite some time. Truthfully I was just happy it happened: I didn’t care what prompted it. I didn’t realize that this convenient arrangement came by way of many meetings with the principal, paperwork, a hard conversation with my former teacher, and a lot of love.

My mother knew I wasn’t sick (after all, I was her 5th child: she’d seen her fair share of genuine sickness, and “nice try” sickness by the time I came along), and she also knew there was something wrong with her daughter dreading school so much – for the first time ever. Lots of kids don’t like going to school, but there’s a line between just not liking it and being terrified of it. My mother had been a volunteer in my classroom and she knew my teacher well. She liked her on certain levels, largely because my mother loves people in a way that I one day hope to, but she too wondered how a woman who seemed so unhappy teaching kids ended up teaching kids.

I know now that on the last day of school before Christmas break, while I was gathering up my christmas crafts to bring home, my mother nervously pulled my teacher aside and did something she didn’t want to do. My mother is the text book example of what it means to be loving. She loves the unloveable (which sometimes means me) and wishes nothing ill on anyone – even those others might say deserve it. She is always so careful to not offend or belittle other people, not because she’s passive (you obviously haven’t met my mother) but because she cares so deeply for the feelings of others. And yet, being this way and caring so much, even knowing that it would likely cause hurt, my mother told my teacher privately: “I am truly sorry if this hurts your feelings, and I will still help in your classroom if you need, but my most important job is protecting my daughter. She is going to be starting back in a new class after the break.”

This isn’t the kindest thing my parents have done for me. As a matter of fact, there are thousands of stories of love in my childhood and for that I am more grateful than I can say. Yet this is the one that came to my mind at the question: describe a moment that affected your life.

Why?

I think learning the truth of this simple story -the way my mother had basically fought for me – was the first time I had a taste of the weight of motherhood and the incredible, beautiful, and welcomed burden of protecting your child’s whole self. The business of parenting deals with all the facets: making sure your child has enough to eat, but also making sure their spirit doesn’t feel stepped on. Teaching your child to feel brave enough to speak what’s on her mind, but not allowing others to shame her shyness. And it means protecting all these facets even when it is wildly uncomfortable to do so.

__________

If you’re wondering, my teacher didn’t take the news very well. She was offended and she was upset and she wasn’t at all blamed for feeling as such. Some time later she ended up moving into our neighborhood and wouldn’t you know it, she and my mom were able to kind of sort of be friends. My mom has used this as a life lesson before: always be kind and gracious even when it’s difficult. You never know who is going to move to your street.

This is similar to Beyonce’s advice of “always be gracious, best revenge is your paper“, but it’s way better because the best revenge is being nice to people who don’t warrant your niceness.

Timothy, my husband.

Untitled

It feels like a crime – like I’m fighting against all that is right and good and natural – pulling away from the curve of your neck. That space where I rest my head. My forehead and nose cradle the line that rises from your shoulder to your beautiful jaw; that space where I fit. They say home is where you lay your heart – I think home is being nestled against you like two perfect puzzle pieces. Where I feel the warmth of your skin pressed against my face. Where your beard faintly rubs against my hair line as you speak. There’s never a good enough reason to leave this spot. No appointment so important or hour too late. For when we separate, my face feels cold away from your skin and my eyelashes beg to dance on your neck.

__________

Sometimes when I flutter awake in the middle of night I reach out and rest my hand on your back or your shoulder or your arm. Because you’re there: taking up space in the most private of spaces. Because I have you to reach out and touch. I reach for you because you’re mine, and I’m yours and we have vowed to always rest next to one another. I reach out for you while you’re so deep in your own sleep because I want to redeem all the nights I fell asleep so lonely. I think of those nights and my heart aches for my younger self, wishing she knew that you were coming. I think of the nights I cried myself to sleep, then I think of nights when we first met and I fell asleep thinking of you. Now you don’t just fill my thoughts, you fill my space. You’re there. I listen to you breathe, to your heart, and I thank God for your dependable lungs and heart and body. I ask Him to keep them working so hard and so long so that you and I have no shortage of these moments in our life together. I keep my hand on your back as I fall back asleep because you’re there, and I can.

___________

We often say to each other as we’re half out the door, “hey! you’re my best friend!” and you are. Wholly and truly, my best friend. You’re my safe space and home base and my true love. My heart was fragmented when I met you; tired and delicate, worn and used. I’ve seen you tenderly love so many people since I met you, and the first one I witnessed was me. You loved me like I had never been loved from the very start. You felt safe immediately, even when we introduced ourselves and laughed and told stories that very first night when you filled the only empty seat at your favorite Mexican restaurant, which happened to be next to me.

My heart rejoices at the thought of that empty seat next to me being filled by the man who would redeem every heartache. The curve of your neck is my safe space, your place next to me in bed is home, and you, undoubtedly, are my best friend.

 

The photo above is from a shoot we did with our super talented friends, Jake & Katie for Jordandene

 

 

 

.

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.”

image
________

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.

_________

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.”

__________

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.

__________

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.

__________

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 Most Important Thing We Do.

I have decided that I will never ever again ask someone, “so how’s married life?!”

It isn’t a good question. It’s surface level and always asked in passing. It’s a feeler’s and introvert’s nightmare. Because what I want to say… is that it’s really good and so hard sometimes because you have to apologize a lot and often for things you have never had to apologize for in the past because you’ve never been married before and you were always able to make your own decisions and do things the moment you thought of them (that’s me to a T – I have to do everything the moment I think of it. My new husband, it turns out, does not share this crippling desire) and you always were able to watch whatever you wanted in the evenings and you never had to share your popcorn. But it’s all still really okay because now you have someone to help you wash the dishes and you get to lay down next to each other at the end of the day when the phones are put away and the blankets are pulled up to your chin and you talk about the silly bits of the day that had passed and those moments easily make up for every blunder.

Instead, though, I just respond with “Great!”

But it’s so much more layered than “Great”! It’s so much greater than that word does justice and it’s so much trickier than you expect! It’s allowing a colorful Star Wars pillow case to be on your all cream colored bed because your husband loved it, and it’s being the person who bought it for him in the first place – knowing that it would clash in every way- because life is more than keeping your home white on white on white (no matter what instagram says). It’s watching movies you don’t really care to watch (two weeks ago we watched both Braveheart and You Drive Me Crazy) (how good is Drive Me Crazy?) but who cares because you’re hanging out with your very best friend.

image

One of the best parts, to me, has been praying together. Sometimes we both pray, sometimes one of us prays the entire time if the other is feeling heavy. Sometimes it’s entirely about others and sometimes it’s entirely about our relationship. Every time, though, it’s good.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 10.41.54 AM

Last night, after devouring a sleeve of Saltine Crackers for dinner, we pulled two of our wobbly dining room chairs together. One of us was about to make a phone call to a family member and we weren’t excited about it because truth needed to be spoken and love needed to be given and Christ needed to be reflected. And that’s really intimidating sometimes. We knew that it had to be God speaking – that He had words to share with his beloved and our mouths were just going to be the vehicle that he would use. We asked God to get ourselves out of the way. We asked him to prepare the heart and the ears that were going to receive our phone call and to be oh so present.

Sometimes when I pray, particularly out loud, I start to realize things only as I am saying them. It’s the same as when I write – I don’t have the words ahead of time, God tosses them to me as we go and they usually are ones that I needed myself. Last night as we were praying, I heard myself say “God, let us remember that loving other people is the most important thing that we do. We get distracted with our hobbies and friends and the people we wish were our friends and our list of tasks, but all of that pales in comparison to the importance of loving other people.”

____________

And now, an overheard conversation between Katie and her incredibly patient Heavenly Father:

“Hey, Katie. God here. Loving others is the most important thing you do. I noticed you were spending a lot of time doing the opposite of that.. so I just thought I would remind you. ”

“So true. Could you come back in like a second? I have to post on @choosetampa and like all the tagged pictures, it’s a whole big thing..”

“That’s not even importan- no. Listen, your time could be wiser spent. Loving others is the most important thing you do.”

“That makes so much sense, God, but I’ve only watched the entire series of Gilmore Girls seven times and I know I can make it eight*. Hey, while I have you, go ahead and bless Amy Sherman- Palladino because this show is just..”

“What? Just- Katie, for once in your life be cool. I’m telling you to do one thing. One thing. Love others. Write letters and cook a meal and help people move even though it’s hot (I hear you complain – I KNOW it’s hot) and make difficult phone calls and use your money for wiser things and, seriously, pay attention to the things that people are carrying because as my daughter and my love, I expect you help carry that weight right off their shoulders.”

*I have watched the entire series of Gilmore Girls WAY more than eight times. Way more. Embarrassingly more. Team Jess till the day I die. 

_____________

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Loving others it the most important thing that we do. It’s the best use of our time and money and hearts. Friends, I’m going to try to love you so much better. Timothy, I will spend my whole life learning how to love you like Christ. 

Where I Was Five Years Ago

I believe Time Hop is one of the most incredible iPhone apps of all time because it is a marriage between three of my very favorite things: sentimentalism, nostalgia, and memories of myself. If you aren’t familiar, each day time hop will show you pictures you saved on your phone and posts you made on facebook and Instagram years passed on that same day. So today is January 17th, 2015: on time hop I see what I posted on January 17th, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010. Every day is a new walk down memory lane. I have remembered beautiful things that I have slipped my mind, I have seen Instagram posts long forgotten that now sting a little with painful memories, and I have looked upon my words and photos and the people in the photos with some serious hindsight. I’ve become fully aware of how little I knew in the years passed.

five years ago

This morning was a glorious Saturday because no alarm was set. No errands or obligations awaited me this morning as I watched the shadows dance on my wall while the sun delicately covered my room. I picked up my phone from the nightstand, scrolled through instagram quickly, and clicked on Time Hop.

One year ago today I shared a precious painting the little I had been a nanny for created. Two years ago I kindly shared a buzz feed article ranking Mary Kate and Ashely movies – you’re welcome, all. I was reminded that four years ago I spent a Sunday afternoon with sweet friends making homemade burritos. In the photo are three friends: two of those faces are married today (and one is pregnant!) and the third friend is engaged to marry someone he had no idea he loved four years ago.

Five years ago flooded me with memories:

IMG_3103Five years ago today I was standing in a brand new dorm room. I had just transferred to USF and it felt like the first real thing I had ever done. The first step towards something. The first bloom of a magnolia tree. That day was so full of promise and mystery and excitement and loneliness. I didn’t know that my love for photography would wane – that this degree I was working on so diligently would one day just be a line on my resume and not the passion of my heart. You can never know such things ahead of time. Instead, I stood there in that dorm room dreaming of all that I would be. I put up my polaroids, bought myself some flowers, and went to a dorm meeting that proved to be a waste of time.

Five years ago today I was standing in a brand new dorm room, smitten with a boy from home with whom I had spent many late nights at IHOP. Nights filled with pancakes and life stories and butterflies fluttering around my heart. Our friendship was true and deep – void of any shallowness. His authenticity got me in a moment. I moved to USF before finding out if those pesky butterflies were mutual: if there was any hidden agenda behind our long and easy conversations. I worried the two hours between our new respective schools would feel more like the atlantic ocean than a manageable drive. About a month into my time at USF he and I were not messaging and laughing nearly as much as we had prior, but still he and a mutual friend of ours visited Tampa for a show at my favorite used book store. There was a lot of weight on this visit as we shuffled through the rows and rows of books. We pulled out books from the shelves, remarking how great of a read this book was and how too self-aware that one was, flipping through pages and allowing that that unequivocal smell of old paper to fill the air. All the while I knew we were ebbing away from one another. I changed clothes four times before meeting them and ultimately I regretted the outfit I chose. It included a waist belt with a bow that I was fiddling with the moment he mentioned this cool girl he was working on a paper with. A few weeks later he started dating her and I ate a lot of ben and jerry’s in my dorm room while I watched Modern Family. 

Five years ago today I was standing in a brand new dorm room of a school at which I had one friend. A friend who I felt understood my soul. A friend I thought would be mine for ever and ever. Nights without studying were spent in one another’s rooms watching Will and Grace and When Harry Met Sally and speaking in dramatics. We talked about love with an authority we did not possess – so sure we understood this vast, impossible idea. We would decide, “We should play tennis. We would probably be really good at tennis if we tried” only to play once and spend most of the match standing at the net talking about the crazy stories people wrote in her creative writing class. Then we would decide, “We should start running. We would probably be really good at it” and then we would run a few times, sign up for some 5k’s, and then eat pancakes at home instead of going to the race. We were very much in our own bubble, a characteristic of our friendship I now know was not beneficial. I relied too heavily on her for all of my community needs. Plus, when you’re in your own bubble you tend to be far too harsh on those not part of it. We spoke very bitterly of others and it was poison to our hearts – the exact opposite of how God calls us to handle other people. Our friendship began five years ago and only lasted for three despite how strong I believed it to be. There is a wedding coming up in a few months for some mutual friends of ours and she may be there. I imagine us seeing each other through a crowd of well dressed wedding goers, and if that truly happens it will be the first time seeing each other in over two years. I shared homes with this friend and all of my heart, and now we tend to only text each other when a new David Beckham commercial comes on during the Super Bowl. I believe there are 83 reasons why our friendship didn’t endure, but each one of them makes me heavy hearted.

Five years ago today, as I stood in that brand new dorm room, I had no idea of what would await me. I didn’t know the next five years would include finding a church that would help me fall more and more and more in love with Christ. The Kathryn in that picture didn’t know the fullness of her God. I didn’t know my value was from Him and not from my weight or degree or how artistic I could be. I didn’t know my heart would be crushed so many times in the years to come, by friends and by guys. I didn’t know the sins I would fall into, the sicknesses that would disrupt my family, or the way God would resurrect all of that. I didn’t know the books that would come to change my life, the art that I would create, the way writing would speak to my soul. I didn’t know I would move to Memphis for a year and I didn’t know that there I would fall in love with a man who is shorter than me (the Kathryn in that picture was far too insecure about being 5’10”) and my very very best friend.

Maybe on January 17th, 2020 I’ll click on time hop and remember the words that I’ve written today. I’ll smile and lovingly shake my head as I remember everything that I am feeling this Saturday morning. Everything that today feels big and important will feel as small as the crush I had back in 2010. I will have endured more pains and hardships and love and light and I will think how 2015 Kathryn had no idea what was coming for her.

When You’re Lying Awake at Night:

There is something so incredibly human and so wondrously raw about lying awake at night. About being heavy, about worrying.  I can’t decide if it makes my heart light to know I’m not alone, or heavy because the thought of others so burdened is heartbreaking. We think and we analyze and we panic so thoroughly that even sleep can’t always give pause to our rampant minds. This is exhausting. This is weariness. This has been my week.

IMG_2891

And all I can say is, when you’re awake at two in the morning, with tears in your tired eyes and heaviness in your heart, remember to whom you belong.

You belong to the One who was and is and will be. You belong to the creator and master. To Love itself. You belong to peace and grace and joy incarnate. You have been seen. In a world of chaos, in a world of mass communication and sounds and messes of people, you have been seen. You have been picked out and adored. You have been known fully, for better or for worse. And yet you have still been loved. Your darkness hasn’t scared away your Father. Your shortcomings haven’t elicited God to throw up His holy hands and be done with you. As you are lying there, staring at the ceiling fan and wondering if you have made the right choices, remember. I have drowned myself in second guessing and what ifs. I have imagined the paths I did not take, with outcomes far more lovely than my current lot. I am the queen of wondering and worrying, but I am surrendering my crown and remembering.

6889682885_134a0daed6_b

Remembering that God’s timing isn’t ours: it’s deliberate and wise and right. And sometimes it seems slow, but He says to wait for it: It hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay. His movements, His stirrings, are intentional. Every gift He’s given me, every freckle on my face is intentional. Because our God isn’t distant. Even at two in the morning. Especially at two in the morning. Like Joel and Clementine lying side by side on the frozen Charles, staring at the night sky, our God lies next to us and after every time we mutter, “Lord I can’t handle any of this”, He softly answers, “I can“.

Remember that no matter the number of things that are unclear, no matter how many doors you are waiting on, no matter how many things feel “paused” or in limbo, there is never down time for Christians. We are never useless. We are never sitting on the sidelines. I wasn’t picked for a single sports team in high school (for wildly good reasons), but God hasn’t benched me once. There are still people to love. There are still songs to write to God. You have things to do. You have many things to do. I do too. We need to be love to our roommates, you need to encourage your spouse, you need to tell your children about Jesus. These are the things that count. These are the things that are gold. You, my friend, are astonishing and wondrous, but you are not big enough to ruin God’s plans. Be still. Put those heavy things down and remember. Remember you aren’t of this earthy kingdom. It’s regulations and measuring sticks and ways of distributing worth do not apply to you. It’s apples and oranges: our jobs and salaries and instagram feeds mean nothing in the kingdom to which we belong.

Praise God.

Praise God that my Heavenly Father is awake every night with me. As my heart is tempted to collapse under the weight of worry and wonder, He holds it with a strength unattainable by man and a love that no romantic could imagine.

To The Mothers.

Yesterday on Instagram I shared a nomination for Darling Magazine‘s “#12DaysofDarling”. The question was simple: Who would you nominate as someone who’s made an impressionable influence on you?

There truly is a long list of men and women alike who have made impressionable influences on my life. Sisters, friends, pastors, mentors, so many. I am thankful to every person who has made that list so very long. However, the person who always makes their way to the forefront of my mind when I am thinking of impact and love and lessons, is my mother. Mothers are always making big impacts, even if sometimes negatively so. Mother’s (and fathers as well, but this is about the moms) take up a lot of space in our lives; they’re our example and our teachers. Even when it’s unintentional.

My nomination was simple (well, as simple as I could make it – they asked for a few lines and I most definitely gave them a paragraph because my mother can not be contained in a few lines):  I am not my mother’s daughter by birth. She never felt me flutter in her body and she was not the first person to hold me as I breathed in life for those first cherished moments. But I am most certainly my mother’s daughter by love. She didn’t feel me flutter, but she felt a thousand butterflies as she waited for me – as she planned for me and wanted me. As she stood in the hospital watching and praying. She did not give me life, but she has given me love ceaselessly for 24 years. Love and light and goodness. She has taught me about Christ. She has taught me how to make my grandmother’s special pumpkin pie. She has held me in her arms over and over and over again. As a child with hurt feelings, she would whisper the song “I’ll Be Loving You Always” into my ear. As a teenager with a broken heart, she danced her fingers through my hair and listened, knowing all the while that I would most assuredly heal. As an adult so terrified of being an adult, she has sweetly said “I know, baby” and kissed the tears on my cheeks, never making me feel ashamed. In her arms I have learned that the way to love others is to be there: arms open, harshness set aside.

That is, truly, the very very least that I could say about my mother and the way that she has loved me well. She is my safe house. She is my protector. She is my best friend, my role model, my person. Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 6.13.09 PM

____________

Writing that short post prompted me to sit and think about motherhood. How beautiful it is. How spiritual it is. How amazing that God would allow us the honor of being mothers (and fathers). I began thinking about all the mother’s that I know – women in my family, women from church, my friends who are going to be mother’s so soon – and my heart became so full. I don’t know about you, but when my heart is full I can’t think of a single better thing to do than to write a letter. So this is a letter to the mother’s that are knee deep in nurturing. The mother’s that have inspired me. It’s a letter for you to share with the women in your life who are also taking on the gigantic and lovely role of motherhood.

Untitled-1 I do not write to you with any sort of credentials beyond having had an incredible mother. To be sure, I don’t know all that much about children, I certainly have never been a mother myself, and sometimes just the notion of being a mom somewhere down the road is enough to make me anxious and panicky. We are who we are.

I don’t know all of you well. I don’t know your stories or your tastes or what makes you laugh the hardest. But I’ve seen you love your children, and that says a great deal. Certainly more than what you’re favorite movie or color is. I’ve seen you invest long hours in dance classes and music classes and cooking classes. I’ve seen you sing silly songs and speak in funny accents (or was that just me and my beautiful mom?). I’ve seen the tutu’s and cowboy boots and rain boots that you allow your children to wear because of the joy it brings them. Truly, I don’t know all of you, but I love you for the mother’s you are.

Some of you may have never intended to be mothers – others may have tried and tried and tried. Women come into motherhood in so many different ways, with so many different feelings and so many different fears. And I want to commend you, the mothers that I know, because no matter how you came to be a mother – if it came with tears of joy or tears of fear -, here you are: embracing this God-ordained role. Not without blunders, I’m sure, and perhaps not without glasses of wine after your littles have gone to bed, but you’re doing it. You’re shaping human beings. This fact literally blows my mind. Through you, God has created a person and He has asked you to dance with His daughters in your living room and kiss His sons when their knees get scraped. Because to be sure, those are not fully your children. They are His. Isn’t that insane? Mothers, don’t you just get chills thinking about that? My mother, perhaps partly because of how she came to be my mother, was always so acutely aware of the fact that I was first God’s daughter. When I left on a few different trips to Haiti and Nicaragua, she would say (albeit with tears in her eyes) “Even though I’m scared, I can let you go because I know that you are God’s”.

I’ve seen you laugh with your children. I’ve seen you play together and climb together and create together. I’ve seen you dedicate your babies to God, and I cry every single time. I’ve seen your children cry and yearn for you when you’ve gone to church or out to dinner and when you finally came back to them, I’ve seen them cling to you with every fiber of their tiny beings. You are their love of loves. And in a world where so many parents aren’t whole enough to be there for their children, my heart rejoices for your diligence and patience and willingness to sit on the floor and let your babies cry into your shoulder.

So many of you are creatives: building teepees and weaving and sewing and painting and photographing. Creatives and hard workers and doers. Truly the women that my path has crossed with are impressive. You may be a mother through and through, but you are still reaching for dreams and using the passions and talents that God has given you. Your dreams don’t need to be sidelined because you’re a mother. I promise, when your children see you working / creating / doing, you are teaching them something wildly important. And on the other side of that, even though you are a woman filled with abilities and dreams and ideas, you still allow yourself to first be a mother. Projects are sidelined, work deadlines are pushed back, because you have a job to do. You have boo boo’s to kiss and laughter to share. You ladies are a beautiful balance – a yin and yang – of being your own unique & lovely person, and being your child’s person.Your selflessness shines like a prism. You’re radiant in your love.

Children don’t know how to always thank their mother’s for the love that is invested (that is until they become older and write long winded blog posts), and those late nights of colds and fears and excitement may feel unnoticed. So, because you’re children may not yet know to say it, I will. Thank you. Thank you for loving your children well. Thank you for teaching them about Jesus, for protecting them, and for showing them that they are lovable. It’s noticeable. And it’s beautiful.

A Letter to My Little Orange Seed.

Last weekend I took some quick photos for friends who are as near to my heart as humanly possibly. The pictures were for a special announcement: a little girl is on the way. This is the first time someone I love so dearly is having a baby. This is the first time my heart has broken in the most beautiful way over a child. This calls for a letter.

IMG_2369

My darling little orange seed,

I love you already. I have loved you, “wholly and completely”, since the moment I first learned of you. I had barely made it in the door when your mother yelled, “Guess what!” and I knew. She told me you were the size of an orange seed – so small and dainty. I hugged your momma tightly and I fell in love with you in one fell swoop.

You are tangled into every prayer that I say. I ask our Father to keep you safe; to hold you and your beautiful mother in the palms of His hands. For He loves you even more than I ever will be able to – even more than your sweet mother & father are capable of. He already knows you. I already love you, but he already knows you. He knows the sound of your laugh, He knows the things that will scare you, He knows the songs that will get stuck in your head. Sweet girl, you are already adored by the creator of the Universe. And I am begging Him to keep you safe so that I can also have the pleasure and honor of hearing your laugh.

My heart flutters when I think of the joy you are bringing to your parents. You are going to have it better than you could ever know. Your mother is beautiful and the most loving vessel I have ever met. She is going to teach you how to serve others and how to bake pies. And your father is going to keep you so, so safe. He is going to be an excellent earthly father who points you back to your Heavenly Father.

Last week I was at a party filled with people who are going to go crazy over you, and I watched your parents across the room. Your father was resting his hand on your mother’s stomach, hoping to feel his daughter dance. And when she wasn’t watching, your father would look at your mother and smile. So content. So peaceful. So thankful for the woman who is giving him the greatest joy: you.

IMG_2421 copy
Our friend Kelly made this print for little orange seed – click the picture to head over to her etsy shop!

Oh my sweet little orange seed, I have already imagined what it will feel like to hold your tiny body in my arms. I have already grinned ear to ear over the thought! I can’t wait to tickle your neck and steal every single one of your kisses. You’re going to have so many aunts and uncles – some by blood, and many by love. I pray that you’ll save up all the love you are going to receive and then, when you find people in your path who have not known love like you have, you’ll give them yours freely. I pray that you know that this is what your Creator desires of you. You are invaluable in His eyes. Even now, while still just a fluttery bump inside of your mother, you are invaluable to God. You will never have to work or strive or fret for worth. You have it, so don’t worry your beautiful little head about that. Instead, spend your time loving. Walk closely with your heavenly Father and love.

I promise to do my best to always reflect Christ to you, little orange seed. I promise to encourage your sweet parents, to pray for them and you, and to sing hymns into your ear. You’re going to be a force to be reckoned with, my darling. A force of good and a serious force of beauty. You’re going to move mountains and if you’re anything like your mother, you’re going to have quite the affinity for cats. I can’t wait to meet you because, after all, I already love you.

— always and always yours.

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.

______________________________

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. 

That Time Eugene Cho Read My Diary: A Review of “Overrated”

I was asked to review this book to join in a conversation about changing the world and social justice and to assist in promoting the book by sharing my thoughts and what have you. That’s the reason I was asked. However, that wasn’t actually the reason I was given this book. Fly By Productions thought it was, but it wasn’t. Turns out, it has nothing to do with them, with Eugene Cho (sorry, man) or anyone else who had a part in the book. It had only to do with me. God put this book in my hands because I needed to read it. God put this book in my hands because it’s about the same exact subject matter that I have been conflicted by for months. Out of all the blogs on the internet (literally a trillion million), mine was one of the few that received a comment asking if I’d take the time to read this book? Reeeeeeal subtle, God. I am of course still going to share my thoughts and participate in this conversation as I was asked to do, but you should know that wasn’t actually why God wanted me to read this book.

BookCover-2D

Eugene Cho’s “Overrated: Are We More in Love With the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?” is perhaps one of the most pleasant books that has ever made me feel like I had been slapped in the face. The slap was so subtle through his gentle language that I barely noticed it until my heart was massively heavy over the things that I had read. A ‘ninja slap’, if you will.

He writes boldly and bravely about one of the truths we don’t like to listen to. Seriously, tell me how much God loves me all day long and I won’t stop you once, but start talking about the poverty in other parts of the world (and our part) and how indifference to such things can not coexist with gospel and I’ll squirm nervously in my seat and pretend to have to go to the bathroom.

The issue of social justice is hard. It just is. It’s hard because it demands so so much of us. It demands action – putting your money where you mouth is, walking the walk instead of just talking the talk… on instagram and facebook and every other soap box we clamber on top of to shout about trendy movements. Social justice screws up our selfishness. And in our culture that is maddening. The only reason, I feel, that Eugene Cho is qualified to write such a book is because of his honest confrontation with selfishness. Praise the Lord for an author who includes so much of his heart and honesty in the pages. He shares moments when saying no to others would have been easier than saying yes. Stories of feeling heavy and angry and pulled.

I wrote earlier that this subject is one I have been wrestling a lot in the last few months, and I truly meant that. I have been trying to get myself out of my own way and allow God to teach me how to love, with little success. I have been searching my heart and horrified, often, at what I have found. To receive this book was not a coincidence, it was an act of my heavenly Father who isn’t giving up on me yet. Even though he has never met me, there were parts of this book that felt like Eugene was writing about me. Like he had gotten a hold of my diary and was addressing all the sins and struggles that needed addressing, ninja-slap style.

When I was in college I went on several different trips to several different poor countries and the way I viewed them then, vs. the way I view them now, is incredibly different. I was asked to go on several of these trips so that I could photograph the work that was being done by different organizations. I felt amazing. I was getting to play with beautiful children, I was taking photographs of said beautiful kids, and I was making a difference. But I wasn’t, really. I wasn’t at all. Those trips didn’t benefit the children and people that I was meeting. They benefited me and my ego, but nobody else. I shake my head when I think about the facebook posts I made about these trips and the talks that I was asked to give at church about the importance of loving others. I didn’t know anything about loving others – I knew only that these trips would make me look interesting on facebook. What I was practicing is what Eugene would call doing unjust justice. In chapter 9 he writes,

“I don’t want to question somebody’s motivation, or the heart behind why he or she wants to act. But having a good heart is not enough. It’s not enough when our actions affect the lives of others… especially people who are already vulnerable. At times we choose to help others in a way that makes us feel as good as possible. When I say “we”, I’m including you and me. Perhaps we help others so that we can have a good experience, get good photos, or tell good stories later. This is not enough.”

*gulp* I haven’t done enough. And you may not have either. But praise Jesus, our Father hasn’t given up on us. He hasn’t been too disgusted by our pride and selfishness and laziness to call us into His kingdom and to participate in furthering justice. We are called, and “Overrated” affirms that on every page. This book is both empowering and humbling. It is Eugene’s confession of favoring the idea of changing the world more so than actually changing it so that we can, in turn, confess the same thing. We were not called to hashtag, we were called to help and love and move. But we are called to help and love and move wisely and intentionally. If you feel stirred to help wisely and intentionally, I highly recommend this book. Even if you don’t feel that stirring yet, I highly recommend this book. Essentially, if you are a believer in Christ, I highly recommend this book. But a fair warning: you’re going to get ninja-slapped. 

“When we are faithful to what God wants us to do, beautiful things happen. No, I am not suggesting that everything we will do must appear successful by the world’s standards of success. Our work may not be huge. It may not grow to a massive size and scale. It may not garner the attention and affection of media. It doesn’t have to be about those things. It will likely not be easy… but it will be beautiful nevertheless because we will have been faithful to the Lord’s call.”

To make it even easier for you to read his book, I’m having a giveaway! I really loved what Eugene Cho had to share and I truly want others to be able to read his thoughts as well. All you need to do is comment on this post by Saturday October 11th to be entered in the giveaway! I will pick a comment at random on Sunday the 12th.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 225: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choise of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 2.32.17 PM

 

Sweet bug,

I had no idea how long we would be together the day we first met. I didn’t know I would move to a new state to take care of you, that I would be at your 1st birthday party and then your 2nd. I didn’t have a clue that babysitting you once would turn into a nearly two year long friendship. You were supposed to be a temporary arrangement while I worked on other artistic endeavors. Be a nanny for a second while everything else got worked out. And ultimately that is why we’re parting ways now, as much as I adore you I need to explore other things, but my plan was never to spend two years going to parks and swim lessons and play dates and bookstores.

Even though that wasn’t my plan, I have loved it.

I have loved watching you grow; grow taller, grow more curious, grow smarter, grow funnier. When we first met you were just learning to sit up by yourself, now we chase each other through water parks. You have grown so incredibly handsome and so incredibly cuddly. You are busy, inquisitive, serious, and an incredible dancer. You are cautious, but you are also the perfect amount of brave. I love watching you carefully approach slides and ladders and puddles – unsure at first, skeptical at first, but then courageously taking that first step.

You’re ornery, too. You may be cute and you may be sweet, but you are ornery. You have challenged me so many times, and even defeated me a few of those times. You are learning how to be, how to act, how to accept the answer “no”. You are testing the waters. “Do I really have to walk by myself? Maybe I can get her to carry me. Let’s see.”

These lessons have been hard, but for every tough day of constantly repeating “don’t throw your cars” , “say please instead of shouting at me”, “stop drinking the bath water”, there have been even more tender moments. Dancing in the living room, rubbing noses during nap time, tickle fights, wet kisses. These moments are more than I can stand. You are so sweet, so precious. The way your body weighed down on mine when you finally submitted to sleep after (what felt like) hours of rocking. The way you laughed when I tickled your legs. My heart melts at the thought! 

You and me, we’ll still see each other. I will still make sure to meet up with you on play dates, trips to the park, birthday parties. Because you, my silly goose, are embedded in my heart.

I hope you grow up so full with love that you pour it into everyone you meet. I pray you defend the weak, stand up for right, and know that success isn’t something monetary. I pray that you know that you were not just created by a God who is distant and cold, but instead are actively loved by a God who died for you. I pray that you know true hope and love and grace, because you know it in your heavenly Father.

It’s been a joy dancing with you ♡ I love you, sweets.

 

 

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.

New Space.

They say that moving to a new place is the second biggest cause of stress, second only to losing a loved one. And when I say “they”, I mostly mean my mother because she’s the only one I’ve ever heard say this and I couldn’t find anything on the internet to support such a claim. But that woman was dead right when she told me one day I would care about coupon clipping, or that when I got older I would be happy I hadn’t been allowed to get my eyebrow pierced, so I have no reason to doubt her now. Plus, having made a big solo move, I can attest that IT IS SO STRESSFUL AND HARD AND AGH.

Last year I moved to Memphis, TN and I didn’t… I didn’t handle it very well a lot of the time. Let’s just say, I discovered that I am a massive homebody.  I love Memphis – truly. It is a way cool city. But even way cool cities are hard when they’re new. Or when they don’t hold familiar faces. Or grocery stores you love like mad (ahem, Publix).  I remember my first weeks of Memphis being very lonely ones. I moved to be a nanny so I wasn’t working in an environment where I was meeting lots of new people. No one that I worked with said “Hey! You’re new here! Let’s go get drinks and get to know each other!” because I was caring for a 2 year old and that would be wildly inappropriate. Though quite impressive if he had articulated such a sentence.

I spent a lot of time wandering around Target (OH, the money that I spent at Target when I had nothing else to do in Memphis) (OH, the money I spend at Target anyway…) just to be around other people and be busy. I was nervous speaking to people because I felt like I wasn’t invited to Memphis yet. I was half expecting the people I approached to jerk their heads in my direction and shriek “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US” Gretchen Wieners style. My biggest source of comfort was a dear friend who I had only met a few months earlier. She had moved to Tampa from a city that she loved deeply and because of this, she was able to show me love really well. Care packages, pieces of home, asking me the right questions. Because I discovered that moving is a unique kind of hard. It takes specific questions — it requires validation. I know that this isn’t always the case; sometimes when people move it’s for new jobs or marriages or exciting things. Maybe home was never amazing so a new space is the most enchanting idea of all. For people in those “happy to be moving” situations, congrats. I can not relate to you at all.

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 2.17.42 PM


Because in my experience, new space is hard. Feeling like you’ve been broken up with by your home and church and familiar streets is the worst. Feeling like life and God picked up and went ahead without you is dreadful. Are there really lovely fruits from following Christ and meeting new people and eating new foods (Memphis BBQ though..)? Duh. But that doesn’t make Mother’s Day less hard when your mother is 1,000 miles away from you.

And now, I’m about to enter new space again. A space that I have occupied before – a space that does include friends that I’ve known for years and a church that I adore. But it’s still a new chapter, a new space, and it will still be hard. I will yet again have to find where I fit. I’ve had to be really purposeful in keeping myself from thinking that I am just moving back to continue where I left off. Things just don’t work that way. Instead, I must treat this season with tenderness and care and patience. I must be kind to myself as I begin occupying this new, familiar and wonderful but still challenging, space.

So, as someone who has been “new” – as someone who has sat alone in 5 different church services till someone said ‘hello”, I have some advice:

WHEN YOU MEET SOMEONE WHO JUST ENTERED “NEW SPACE”:

  • Don’t make them approach you. If you notice someone new in your familiar stomping grounds, don’t assume that they’ll be bold enough to introduce themselves to you. More over, even if they are comfortable with such things, don’t make them need to. I can tell you that when I moved to Memphis and no one came up to me at the different churches I tried, I just left. I didn’t start the ball rolling myself. I was already so worn emotionally that the thought of having to be the instigator was too much.
  • Ask them about the space that they left. I believe I lit up every time someone asked me about Tampa and the friends I left behind. It was my joy to bring pieces of my old space into my new one — always provide the opportunity for that to happen.
  • Don’t promise hang outs and coffee dates and over dinner conversations if you aren’t going to deliver. I have so many numbers in my phone from people who insisted they would text me soon that I never ever heard from. Again, could I have texted them myself? Yes, but as the new person handling what felt like a life crisis… it wasn’t my job.
  • If the person is a member of the opposite sex, HEAVEN ALMIGHTY, don’t try to date them the minute they walk in the door. Seriously give them a minute. I think it is a mighty and terrible disservice, especially in the church, to not allow someone the opportunity to be known individually before being known as part of a couple. Maybe God didn’t send them to your job so you could pursue them like crazy. I know that christians love dating and loveeeee marriage, but calm down. Let them breathe. Let them make friends. Sheesh. (Case in point: I met my boyfriend very soon after moving to Memphis, but he didn’t ask me on a date till more than four months later. He purposefully gave me space because of my situation. And that’s just one of the wonderful things about him)
  • Show them what makes their new space great. Show them the parts of your city that are awesome. Feed them good food, show them good sunsets.

I’m beyond thankful for the Memphians that did these things for me. Without realizing it, they were lifting gigantic loads off my shoulders. Because of this, I want to try my hardest to do all of these things for fragile people in new spaces. I pray that you and I will both be brave enough to love new people well.

 

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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 7.41.41 PM

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]

Image

Not So Secret Love Letter [3]

You are beautiful. You are tall and proud and stately. You are loving, you are warm, you are welcoming. I love you for the way you are quirky and pleasantly awkward and gorgeously imperfect. With you we had the most glorious of dance parties (I think you’re quite the fan of Daft Punk, Passion Pit, MGMT, and The Wobble) and the most bitter sweet of pity parties (thank you for always being well stocked with ice cream). You witnessed exciting conversations and heart breaking conversations and you never once butted in and told us to grow up and stop crying. You kept your door wide open to neighbors and friends and all the dogs and I love you for your hospitality and that your arms are big enough to hug all of them at once. Remember last Easter and how we crammed 40+ people and 4 dogs into one big beautiful messy group? It was crowded and lovely and full of laughter and delicious food and you never once complained that there were too many people. You just kept your arms open.

You are the home that I love.

You are still doing all of those things even though your residents have switched around a little bit. Your porch still stands strong, for the most part, and it is still the most wonderful place to sit during a rainy afternoon. Your tree branches are still begging for a swing to be tied to them and who knows, maybe this year will be the year. Your wood floors still carry the echo of the barks and whimpers from the most beautiful dog to ever exist as well as the laughter from some of the most beautiful women to ever exist. Your kitchen still cooks pancakes and cookies and your refrigerator is still displaying funny baby pictures of all who reside within your walls. Thanks for keeping mine up there even though I’m 700 miles away from you. You make me still feel like I’m as much a part of the house as the wood and nails it took to build you.

Image
If you can’t tell, my shirt says “Sweetest Angel”. Which is still true.

You were just what we were looking for and you became ours right when we needed you.We made a list of things we HAD to have in a home (wood floors made the list but for some reason having more than 1 bathroom didn’t) and you were our perfect fit. We knew it from the moment we first drove down Louisiana Ave and saw you for the first time. We peeked through windows and imagined kickball games in the backyard and figured out how we could get so many cars in your teeny driveway all before the landlord came to show you to us.

“What should we call it?”

“How about The Louisiana Purchase?”

Image

When I think of Tampa, I think of you. You and the most wonderful friends that still live in your embracing arms. You hold my fondest and heaviest memories and a big goofy doberman that I’m crazy about.