20 Things I Learned in 2018

Number One. Hurricanes suck. And not just because the drive-thru Starbucks closes indefinitely so you have to go inside places and risk ~seeing people~ if you want that good good burnt espresso. That’s just one con. It sucks to see a place that used to be so firm in your memory turn into a ghost town. It sucks that you don’t hear from your dad for days. It sucks that he has to stay in your house virtually blocked in by debris for a week with no light or noise. Just desert-like loneliness. Minus the cool nights. It sucks that for a little while it seems like everyone is helping except you. It sucks that you thought your house was okay and then you don’t have a backyard and your sisters’ room looks like a prison cell because it’s nothing but cement block. It sucks that your mom has to box up everything precious at a moment’s notice because -whoopsie- the whole ceiling has to come out today- yes right now, so get moving. It sucks that you can see every one of your neighbors’ “houses” for a few blocks because every tree and bit of buffer or green is gone. It sucks to see your landscape of memories clotheslined by 155mph wind. It sucks to see the world move on outside even if it needs to. And it sucks to hear people say “it could’ve been worse” or “we’re so blessed.” Because it is worse for a lot of people that I love very deeply and I can’t do anything for them. It sucks that – at least for now – this world is my home, but I don’t know how to fix roofs when they get ripped off.

Number Two. I am not meant to be a pinball. 2018 bounced me between and against what felt like a million opinions. I’ve always tried to surround myself with people whose thoughts mattered to me. However, it can be unbearable when the voices around you weigh so much on your heart that you realize you can’t please everyone. Soon you’ll realize those voices are only trying to tell you how much they love you, and it’s your turn to speak.

Number Three. Prayer is hard. Really really hard. It feels like a chore, which is hard to admit.

Number Four. Betrayal stings. It stings the first time and the second and the twelfth. It stings directly, like when you cut your nail to the quick. And indirectly, like seeing someone stub their toe.

Number Five. Your happiness can’t be for anyone else. Neither does it belong to anyone else. You don’t put it on like a hat. It grows, but only as you tend to it. It is so good to give, but it’s hard to give from a place of weariness or lack. The best kind of giving starts right at your core and spills over. That’s joy.

Number Six. Ignoring is not healing. You have to look your pain in the eyes and see the lies for yourself. You gotta talk it out, scream, whatever it takes but it does have to come out.

Number Seven. You can’t always do what you want to do or go where you want to go, but you can always always be the kind of person you want to be. That’s power.

Number Eight. Writing poetry is really hard. It takes discipline and massive amounts of humility to reach out and in to that part of yourself. Poets have every ounce of my respect and admiration. I want to be like you guys.

Number Nine. Learning about the enneagram is such a rewarding process. (I’m a 2.) It shows you how you should grow. It helps you to see people for their motivation, not their environment or their personality flaws. It taught me to recognize my pride when it pushes to the forefront and to allow myself to take up space. Without apologizing.

Number Ten. Sometimes, you just have to wait. On people, on opportunities, on inspiration, on yourself.

Number Eleven. Nobody’s ahead of you. Nobody’s behind you. Nobody’s you. Your pace is your pace.

Number Twelve. Friends will stay friends even far away. Nothing makes me tear up faster than thinking of the patience people have had for me this year. It’s so crazy when people stay with you. That’s a linkage of souls I think. A certain meant-to-be-ness. I could go on and on.

Number Thirteen. Emily Blunt is a powerhouse. Why it took me over 20 years to watch her movies I’ll never know.

Number Fourteen. I can be the strong one sometimes. Granted, not for very long. And maybe not with as much grace as I’d like, but that takes time.

Number Fifteen. I’m actually very stubborn. Tell me what to do and watch me not do it ever. Even if I want to.

Number Sixteen. The West Wing is the greatest television program to ever exist. It’s the show I didn’t know I needed. Also enjoyed: Call the Midwife, Great British Baking Show, and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Number Seventeen. I’m not a great multi-tasker. It seems like I’ve always known people who are really good at it – like expert multi-taskers. They’re my best friends, relatives, mentors. But I tell ya, it is not in my wiring. And that’s okay. I do my best work one step at a time.

Number Eighteen. It’s good for me to have plants around. And to name them. After characters from The West Wing.

Number Nineteen. I can send letters. I can pick out a card, sit with my thoughts about one person, and write words to them they deserve to hear. It’s something I love and something I’m good at.

Number Twenty. When you love people as if they are not hard to love, you will get it all back in abundance. It’s this beautiful unfolding of the human soul and all its layers. The hiding falls away, and it’s such a privilege to see the spirit of someone you love crystal clear and without apology. To love is to give permission. Like the free space in bingo.


At the end of my list and the beginning of this new year I wonder why I’ve been living like Christmas didn’t come. Like God didn’t say, I have been your pillar of fire in wasteland, but it wasn’t enough. So now – now I will send you my own hands to hold. With fingerprints different, just like yours. Hands to grow among you, work among you, heal among you, hurt with you, guide you, and lift your head. I was once a voice in the sky, an olive branch in a beak, a flame in a bush, a path through seas, an eastern star. But now– now I will be warm blood in a body beside you. Surely I am with you always. With you with you with you… Immanuel. Christmas came. And I have a lot left to learn.

Thoughts from my pew

I have sat behind a lot of plaid collars in my life. How long does it take to find a button up that covers enough of your chest? How many stores do you visit before the khakis are not too tight on your butt? I have sat behind you so many Sundays. And Wednesdays. I watch you. I am supposed to look to you. For guidance, for an example, for protection. I have listened to a lot of blazers and sport-coats and ties tell me the word. Their word. I have taken notes – messy ones without doodles – on things I do not understand but surely you do. I have been told since I was a child that you pray for me, care for me, shepherd me. As I have watched so many stories derail and unravel, I wonder. My own memories have become marbled with unearned shame running rampant rivers through my history, and I wonder. Do you know me? Because as far as I know, my story will never touch your ears. My frequencies ever too delicate or maybe too shrill. I cannot be sure because no I have never asked. I am afraid to ask. I dare not question what God has chosen. He is a just God. He is a jealous God. Am I too much for Him? Am I not enough for Him?

If you are to protect me, then do it. Protect me from your friends. Protect my sisters from those who would rather excuse themselves as visual creatures than to actually see another person as whole and soul, not just shell to be broken and flesh to consume. Protect my mother from her own discredit. Exalt her before she quiets her own undeniable power. If you are to lead me, then do it. Stop looking at us like boxes to check and house and rename and yourselves as the checks and balances to keep us tame. Lead us onto stages and sit down to listen while we tell you why we stay. More so, stop calling us sisters and mothers and wives and behind-the-scenes-helpers. Call us the ones you call, the ones you run to, the ones you ask. Call us heirs to the kingdom. A kingdom which has never been bound to anatomy in the first place, if what you told me is true. Please stop acting like it’s a political stance to be kind to people who are different from you. Stop acting like that is not the gospel. Understand that much of the time, when we guard our hearts, we must guard them from you. You who are born with authority between your legs.

List women among your role models. Say out loud that you are proud of us. That you believe in us and want to be like us. In front of other men. That you’d like to talk to us even if we don’t want to marry you. That you care what we think of God even if we are not carrying your children. Tell us that you care whether or not we feel fulfilled, valued, seen. Say it even if meaning it comes later.

Tonight

When I was little, I would tell my mom and dad goodnight and walk back through our living room to bed. I remember seeing Jay Leno on the tonight show or other late night talk shows. That looked so peaceful to me. The Manhattan skyline behind someone being funny for a living. My dad sitting down at the end of a work day, flicking channels between jokes. I decided that was one of those grown up things I would enjoy someday. The whole couch to myself and the Tonight Show.Now I’m watching Jimmy Fallon on YouTube and realizing it’s not quite the same. I like that I could pause it to write this down, but there’s something more exciting about not being in control. The few seconds of black right before the rating pops up in the corner of the screen. That first blare of horn. Tuck your feet up under you. And just laugh for a second. At the end of my day, even as a grown up, I’m gonna laugh. Alone or not, tired or restless, home or away, laughing will be my grown up thing. One day, I might let my kids stay up a few extra minutes to taste it with me. A crowded couch would be okay too I guess.

The Color of Smoke

My heart broke for you before I knew you.

I could not eat.

I forgot how to sleep.

I breathed the hope of you. In and out. In

And out

Moments between you were waste

Pointless and forever

Boring and unnecessary

Your smile

was different tonight.

Where are the lights

Bring them back

Or mine will go too

Flame

To flicker

To smoke

 

Take the pictures off the wall

Paint with

With what

What color is now

 

I don’t want to be scared anymore

I want to roll down my window and not care that there’s no tint

Between me and the rest

Because now the breeze brushes my hair against my nose

And it smells like today

Right here

I am in it

I want to go outside and not be mad when the sun is out because I might get hot

A drop of salt might roll down my forehead

Dew of living

Remind me

I want to spread my arms

Close my eyes

And glow

Like we’re the same

The sun and me up there

Living in a state of clear blue

Reaching out and down and around

All around

 

Through windows of people who loved

And lost

And kept the secret

The secret we all keep cinched behind a grin

If we just leaned in

And listened

My heart swells for you and I don’t even know you yet.

I will eat a little bit.

I will rest.

I breathe up and down. Down

And Up

My undulations vital

Ebb and flow

Step and go

Stay

Here I am

Is me

Purpose and infinity

Vast and essence of belonging

The Helm

Something quakes within me. Something shifts. And begins.

Much has ended. Still we jump. Up and out. And down.

My core is split. Function cannot follow.

Feeling is a tidal wave. Push and pull. Push and pull. Break and sweep. Crash and roar.

We are in line. It is our turn.

We are sitting on the hearth of hope, pens in hand, but do not yet feel the flame’s warmth.

Soon it will be over and I will come home to myself. But for now the smoke stings my eyes.

 

“Hear this, young men and women everywhere, and proclaim it far and wide. The earth is yours and the fullness thereof. Be kind but be fierce. You are needed now more than ever before. Take up the mantle of change for this is your time.” // Winston Churchill, as portrayed in The Crown

Like Violins

I wrote this piece for the Delight Ministries blog and wanted to share it here on my personal blog as well. I’m so very happy to be a monthly contributor for such a great mission I believe in. Check out the Delight blog here: delightministries.com/blog

“And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.’” Luke 8:47-48

I used to think that healing was this beautiful magic. It fixed things in an instant.

I used to want to write about beautiful things. Things I could make sense of. But the more I write, the more I live, I realize beauty is not what I thought it was. With every morning I slide out of bed in a fog, I am plagued and led by all the things I want to say. Hard things. About days that drag, skin that is not perfect, hands that can’t decide when to pick up and when to let go.

Healing, my friend, is not pretty. It is ugly. It’s broken shards shoved back together wrong the first time. And the next. And on. Then you discover where one piece fits.

Just like every story, there are good parts and bad parts. There’s screaming in your car parts. And you don’t know where it came from because it does not sound like you. There’s crying in the floor of the shower parts. It’s not knowing if you’ll ever be the same. It’s not really remembering what the same is. It’s wanting to go back. It is feeling forgotten and left behind by anything good.

But dispersed throughout, there are commas of hope. God breathes His goodness into these moments when you want to press pause. It’s eating too much spaghetti Bolognese with your mom on a Tuesday night. You find new places with her just because. It’s talking to a friend miles away who you miss. You talk about being vulnerable and you wonder how someone you know is so worthy can feel so not enough too. It’s sunny and 70 and a breeze that’s actually cool for once. It’s having to take a long night drive because some eyes are just too brown and make you think too much. It’s your bible falling open to a psalm that cries out what you feel. It’s strands of emails which cannot be broken, thousands of words exchanged with someone who knows you. It’s a letter written neatly and intentionally by someone who thought about you. On purpose.

This is healing. Not a cute little word that people use to explain what’s happening. It is when light reaches down and meets darkness to smite its boastful reign. The false is made known. No, this is not the best version of me. This isn’t even the whole of me. I am pieces of me. The healing is slow and sweet and sad. Like violins. It’s the music of it that makes sense.

So listen to this now: It is not too late. There is room for you to begin here. Right here. Where it hurts. Where it’s dark. Where you’ve let the word hope slip from your vocabulary.

You and I need restoration.

We need revival.

We need to be renewed.

Something fresh. Some beautiful, unexpected, light-filled presence. May it be visible. May it be our new oxygen. May we touch his cloak daily and live out the healing.

Flame

I find myself putting on rubber boots and gloves. I am ready to scrape the bottom of the barrel. I want to pour myself out. I want to give everything I have.

Someone told me once in high school that I “wasn’t really a go-getter.”

I will never forget that.

It’s not that I was shocked by her perceptive assessment. Are you ever shocked to hear what plays in your own head like a broken record? I know better than anyone that my life approach doesn’t always lend itself to ladder-climbing. Maybe I was just disappointed that someone saw me that way. Someone I was close to. Someone who confided in me. I’m sorry I couldn’t go and get what she needed.

I and contentment have warred for longer than I’d like to admit. Even though I try to arm myself every morning with peace, I’m afraid it comes across all wrong. I don’t do enough. I don’t live up to my potential. I don’t take charge. I don’t say yes to much because commitments that aren’t made can’t be broken. That way I can’t disappoint anyone.

I take small pieces in my always shaky hands. I do small, solid work that has to be done. It has never looked big, but it has always felt heavy. To me.

So I find myself pulling tall rubber boots over my size seven and a half feet. It’s time.

I don’t realize how weak the flame is until someone blows it out with one swish of their evaluative hand. And I thought it was a fire. A roaring wall of strength around me. That is what I thought they would see. Then someone says theirs is taller, hotter.

I wish the need to justify wasn’t so loud that we have to yell at everyone how happy we are. How great and big and involved. Look. See.

I am so familiar with that story. I have lived locked between its pages for too long. And so have you.

I want to support people wholly, almost blind with love, even when they don’t do what I would do. I want to be okay with everything all the time like the people that everyone loves. But I am tired of being terrified to tell the truth. I don’t want to water down what I say anymore. I wish I didn’t let my own voice drown in the fear of misunderstanding. I want to tell people how much they deserve. Oceans of love they don’t allow in. Peace that does not shout about credentials or what we earn. Relationships that actually make them better. That build them and envelop them in hope. I want to speak undiluted, concentrated, gracious truth.

I want to breathe fire, but I just blow smoke. I am missing something. Something about me is so far from enough that even my most powerful intentions have no momentum at all. I’d like to believe I am one of those unlikely heroines I’ve read about, but this in-between part is everlasting.

Who do you want to be? I haven’t even asked me. I’ve watched other people ask themselves. People I love. People I just met. People I don’t know how to talk to but I wish I could. I want to ask them how they fought for that person. How they won. How they lost.

But who do I want to be? … Maybe it is simpler than I thought.

I want to be good.

I want to appear strong and able.

I want people to trust me.

I want to be heard.

I want to write. Write more. Write well.

I want to be happy.

I want to allow myself to deserve beautiful things.

I don’t want to need people or their approval or promotion or attention. I so badly don’t want to need anyone at all.

But I know me. And I do. I need to feel validated and justified. Worthy and good. I need someone outside to tell me. Not so I can shout it from the rooftops. So I can keep it here just with me for a little while, then put on my rubber boots and pour out the effects. This is my work. This is my ambition: I want to pour me out. But “you can’t serve from an empty vessel.”

I can sit here and write metaphors that drip. Sometimes it is the most I can do. But I cannot possibly put enough small good out there to account for all the hurt I see. Big hurt. All around me. Sitting next to me. Walking in front of me. Checking her mail. Ordering his coffee. Lashing out at me. Teaching my classes. Speaking in chapel. We feel so empty and alone together.

Vulnerably, I disclose: I need you.

Just be with me. Remind me I am good. So I can be bold. And give it back to you.

I will give it all back.

 

“You know what truly aches all that you are? Having so much inside you and not having the slightest clue of how to pour it out.” // Christopher Poindexter

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay…” // Second Corinthians Four Verse Seven