Dear 29

I asked 28 to surprise me, challenge me, and scare me and I spent many days of the past year asking myself why the heck did you do that? This past year absolutely scared me. I had days of feeling loneliness in such a deep and scary way. I also experienced the deep and beautiful feeling of community and family and the way we can love each other into wholeness. 28 definitely also challenged me and surprised me. I grew in ways I could not have foreseen, and have been pleasantly and not-so pleasantly surprised by the events of the year.

So to 28, I say “BOY BYEEE!” But really I will look back at you with gratitude for all the hard lessons and big growth. I will not look back for long because I am walking forward into new days, one day at a time — one step at a time. Walking forward with confidence in who God is, leaning fully on His consistent character, His overwhelming grace, and His perfect peace.

So 29, I promise to let you be exactly what you are supposed to be. As the last year of my twenties, it will be tempting to make you what I think you are supposed to be; to make things happen quickly, to figure things out, to get all my young adult ducks in a row. But I am going to take you one.dang.day at a time, letting life continue to surprise me, and maybe in that offering freedom to people coming behind me.

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The Darkness and the Wildflowers

I woke up one morning and it suddenly felt like spring in my heart and soul. If you’ve been reading along this year, you’ll know it has felt like a hard, deep winter. The reality is that spring does always come, which is such a sweet promise. There is also the reality that after every winter new and different flowers may grow and bloom, and some that were there last spring may not be there this year.

And yet. The wildflower garden of life is full of beauty. Filled to the brim with the loveliest of people and experiences. As I wade through it slowly, palms stretched open, running my fingers through each petal, each branch, I experience the beauty through every sense. The sun hits it in that way that makes everything shine and as the wind blows through it shimmers and looks like the branches are doing the wave. I breathe in the scent and breathe out contentment. It is there that Jesus meets me, in my Mary Magdalene moment, where He reminds me that He is in fact so alive and He is the Creator and Author of all this beauty. And in the wildflower garden of life, space sometimes has to be made so new things can grow. And maybe this season one flower looks best paired with another type, different than what bloomed fragrant last year. There is so much grace and peace in the midst of the wildflowers.

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Grave-Sitting and Ugly Crying (and also JOY)

I decided to give up distraction for Lent. (Queue laughter). I had just started to notice how often I was distracting myself with social media, TV, food, or anything else to keep from engaging in how I was actually feeling. I came home one day and said basically out loud to myself, “I just need something mindless.” I caught myself mid-remote and thought, this cannot be helpful.

So I am trying to give up distraction. This is in no way measurable or practical, but it is real. When I sense myself going to something because I want to tune out, I choose not to do that thing. This looks like sitting in silence doing “nothing” a lot of the time. It means choosing to do something productive over doing something lazy. You know me, I’m all about self-care, but sometimes binge watching a show you’ve already seen all the way through three times is not actually caring for yourself at all.

Instead I’m eating breakfast. Without my phone. And I am cleaning my kitchen while listening to worship music instead of being a couch potato. I am looking out the car window instead of scrolling social media.

Here is what I am learning. When we choose not to be numb, we feel a whole lot more. (DUH.) But really. When I deliberately choose to feel whatever I am feeling rather than stuff it down and pretend to be fine while eating a whole bag of M&M’s (ok fine I still ate the M&M’s), I realize how much I actually feel. So yes, this Lent practice is actually quite hard and sometimes painful.

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More or Less

So yes, last week I told you that while New Years resolutions are so good and so helpful, we don’t need a new year in order to make them. What if we sat down in the middle of September and asked ourselves, what needs some tweaking? But here we are, at the “beginning” of our year and so we do, out of habit mostly, ask ourselves what we could change or quit or improve.

I had a conversation with a friend before the holidays that sparked some inspiration for me in this area. We talked about framing our lives and needs and goals in the context of “more or less.” My students had a speaker this fall talk to them similarly about the idea of “adding and subtracting.” I’m practicing asking myself each morning, What do I need more/less of today?

This is good for several reasons. One, when we start goal setting we typically are just saying “more!!” We want to do more, see more, talk more, invest more, on and on and on. The only way we usually say “less” is if we want to quit something entirely, which, let’s be real, is rarely successful. Less cigarettes! Less alcohol! Less Netflix! And then we inevitably binge on any of these things.

Just as there is a no for every yes, there is a less for every more. You don’t want one without the other. It is similar to how we as Christians often approach Lent. We remove something, but we are supposed to fill that “gap” with a more dedicated seeking of relationship with Christ. If all we are concerned with is “less chocolate,” we are wasting our time.

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My Fixer Upper Heart

Everybody loves a good fixer upper story. The cultural obsession with Chip and Joanna shows us how much we love a successful renovation. We love to see the before and after, the way old can be renewed. Homes, rooms, hearts, all need a renovation every once in a while.

I entered into this new season of a different job expecting a lot of changes, but unaware of the complete renovation my life would face. And we know, a renovation most of the time is not a bad thing – in fact, it is probably necessary. We see in interior design the way we can get stuck with old decorations, wall colors, furniture set-ups. We get comfortable with the way things are. But sometimes we need a shake-up! Which, of course, is very fun to watch when it is some random person’s home on HGTV. When it is our own lives and hearts, it is often more painful and uncomfortable than we would like.

Renovation in our lives isn’t just a benefit or unintended consequence of following Christ, it is an absolute guarantee. It is a necessity. If we are seeking Christlikeness in our lives, we really should not even be surprised by it. Of course we would need a complete overhaul.

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Dear Twenty-Seven,

Dear 27,

You were a rollercoaster! So much has happened and I am incredibly grateful for you. At the beginning I was not so sure; I told people it felt really old, maybe because it was more syllables than any age I’d been before (or will be, for another nine years). Or maybe it is that when you start inching closer to 30 something happens inside you. Like all of a sudden some of those life goals or hopes that you have kept stuffed in the back of your mind start pushing their way to the forefront, and things start to matter a little more than they used to. Each passing year makes me hold my days a little more tenderly, knowing there are (I know it is morbid) less and less left.

But the days were beautiful and full of surprises. When I rolled up to my 27th birthday party in that sassy romper and lipstick I had no idea that a year later I would be living in a different home, have a different job, and have traveled practically around the world.

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I Love Instagram More than Jesus

I’ve realized I love Instagram more than Jesus.

I journaled this prayer a few weeks ago:
How do we retrain our brains to not be satisfied and fed by red notifications, but by the Presence of God?
To not hunger for the sound of a text message but for the sound of His Voice?
To not seek the approval of people but to know that we are His Beloved?
To dive into the Scriptures rather than swiping when we have a free moment?

We can look back and see – when have there ever been enough likes to make us feel loved? When have we heard from enough people to solidify our worth? When has a person’s approval ever made us feel wholly, fully good enough? When has scrolling ever made our hearts rest easy? Never.

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You are Capable of More Than You Know (Uganda Stories: Part III)

You are capable of so much more than you know: Another life lesson learned in Uganda.

Throughout my entire life I have struggled with fear. I have always known fear, a close companion that turns out was actually a really crappy friend. But only in the past few years have I really become close friends with Courage. As we know, we cannot focus on the things we don’t want to become (i.e. if you spend your life saying “I don’t want to be like my mom,” you most likely will be just like your mom. It is all you have thought about or pictured.), so we choose courage instead.

Courage has become a constant for me; a discipline, a habit, an everyday teacher. While I was in Uganda, I started keeping a “courage list” because I was conquering so many things, both little and large, that scared me. This list included (but was not limited to):

Traveling to Africa (I’m kind of a nervous flyer…)
Riding a boda (a Ugandan motorcycle taxi type thing)
White water rafting the Nile
Preaching in a Ugandan prison
And each time, I survived. And was stronger and braver for it.

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I’ve Been Meaning To (Uganda Stories: Part II)

I’ve caught myself multiple times since returning from Uganda saying, “I’ve been meaning to…”

This isn’t new, I know I’ve said it a lot before I went on this trip. But it just wasn’t something we ever really heard when we were there, and so I started to notice it in myself when I came home. Saying, “I’ve been meaning to…” could mean one of two things: You’ve either forgotten, or you’re hesitant to do something.

In my case recently I have found myself in the first camp, although I certainly am queen of the latter. The times recently where I have caught myself have been something along the lines of: “I’ve been meaning to text you/see you/catch up with you” and as nice as that seems it actually implies, “I had a fleeting thought about you and then went on with my day.” Harsh, I know, but we’re here to grow, right? I want to be better.

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God Knows Exactly What He is Doing (Uganda Stories, Part I)

As I sat in the school office, I did a double take. Did that sign really say those words? 

Rewinding back to around three months before we were supposed to leave for our trip to Uganda: we found out that the organization we had planned to work with was cancelling all their summer trips. It was scary and overwhelming and heartbreaking. Not just for our team, but for everyone involved with this organization. They put loads of time and energy into that decision, and we knew they had not made it lightly.  We had no choice but to trust that God still had a plan for us. 

We felt confident that the Lord had invited us to go to Uganda, and we knew that this change of plans was not a surprise to Him. I sat down one day to pray about the situation, and the only words that I could utter were these: You know exactly what You are doing.

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