Life is a Gift

It is Friday! We have almost made it through another week of whatever this season has looked like for you – working from home, homeschooling, online class, still going to work…

I imagine soon, if it hasn’t happened already, the days will start to blend together and the weeks might feel slower and slower. Separated from our typical activities and relationships, the mundane might feel overwhelming in this season. The mess certainly feels overwhelming. And that leaves the miraculous – where do we find that in this season?

The miraculous right now for me is that I have almost never “needed” the Lord so desperately. The quotations are necessary because these circumstances have torn away the facade, the illusion, of our comfort and control. Of course, I have always needed the Lord just as desperately as right now. Of course, I have never had any real kind of control over life, I just feel it more right now. Our comforts have maybe never been threatened in this way — honestly it throws our privilege right in our faces.

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Tangible Hope (some suggestions for this season)

Happy Friday, everyone. It feels weird to write about anything other than what is happening in our world right now, and also I am so conscious of the noise that we add to an already overloaded world. So I am going to simply share some hope and encouragement and some practical things for our next few weeks (or likely longer) of whatever this season looks like for each of you.

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The Practice of Praise

So I was sort of dark and twisty last week, and I am now reveling in the Colorado sunshine and the resolution of hard situations. I am looking with anticipation towards Easter and springtime and new life. We are going through a devotional currently about God’s goodness, and one day included reflecting on Psalm 145. I was so struck by the rich truths and wisdom within this passage, so inspired by what it has to teach us. (To balance out how holy I sound right now, I just need you to know that I am listening to the Jonas Brothers while I write this.)

If I was writing a Bible study, this is where I would make you go and read through this chapter and write out all the qualities this chapter attributes to God. (If you’re a student of mine, there is a good chance I will make you do this at some point.) Since you have landed here, I will do you the delight of just telling you the answer. This chapter speaks of God’s greatness, abundant goodness, righteousness, graciousness, and compassion (on all He has made!). It describes Him as being slow to anger, rich in love, good to all, and faithful. He has a glorious Kingdom, an enduring dominion, and upholds all who fall and lifts up those who are bowed down. He satisfies our desires, hears our cries, watches over us. Basically, if you need a description of who God is and what He does, this chapter is where to go.

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The Father Turned His Face Away

I have always struggled with that verse, and that line of the hymn, that God turned His face away in Jesus’ moment of greatest despair. That has never felt entirely fair or loving. It is finally landing with me, and giving me a new understanding of the Father’s heart.

In my job, and I know many others are in the same boat, I sometimes come face to face with the darkest of situations. We get the privilege often to step into people’s heaviest, hardest moments. That is a privilege, and a weighty one. Sometimes it means sitting across from someone who has wronged another person in any number of egregious ways. I have come to know my justice-driven heart much better through the last few years. I am protective and incredibly loyal to my people, and I am angered when someone, anyone, negatively influences the community of which I am in charge. I am consistently bringing to mind the Mr. Rogers phrase: “What do you do with the mad that you feel?” And if I am honest, I have not yet found the answer.

This week I came face to face with the heaviness of the broken reality of humanity — and that concept finally made sense. I wanted to turn my face away. It hurts to look right at it. I experienced a kindness in realizing that even God was unwilling to look at it straight on. His heart was so broken, and so mine can be too. And it is okay if I do not know what to do with that.

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Living with a Generosity Mindset

As we drove to the airport a few weeks ago, a friend reminded me of Brené Brown’s important theory that maybe, just maybe, people are doing the best they can. It came up in regards to road rage, but we talked about it in relation to working moms (Brené’s example), our students, and more. So often we believe that people could be doing better (and they probably could be), but the point is that in that moment, on that day, in the midst of their circumstances, they are truly doing the best they can.

In another conversation with a different friend, we talked about the idea of thinking generously about people. Similar concepts, both that stuck with me. For example, when I am not invited to something, I can assume that they did it maliciously or intentionally, or I can make a generous assumption and creatively come up with a different idea: maybe they assumed I was also busy, maybe I had communicated that I wasn’t available or interested, maybe it was a spontaneous situation that I was not there for. One of these choices creates jealousy and anger, one invites grace.

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Cheers to Thirty Years

I just recently turned the big 3-0. It doesn’t feel old, I don’t feel old, but it does feel significant. Maybe it is because I am still living on just-married cloud nine (see featured photo). Maybe it is because my sweet Mama has always spoken so kindly of her thirties; she often describes it as her favorite decade. This has helped me always have more of a positive view of turning 30. So I don’t feel like my life is over, like my best years are behind me; I never really want to approach life that way. So in order to continue being intentional and thoughtful in living, here are my commitments to my 30 year old self:

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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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