Tuesday Victories | 6.6

Tuesdays are hard. They’re the sophomores of the week- you’re fully invested but not close to the end yet. Instead of feeling drained and irritated (ask any of my students- Tuesdays are the worst for me..whoops!), here are a few small victories– words, things, and moments– getting me through the week:

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1. The new She Reads Truth Romans study– I love everything She Reads Truth produces. Each plan is simply scripture with a short devotion and this summer we’re walking through Romans- one of my favorite books of the Bible, especially after having to do an intensive study over it for a Bible class in college. I’m so, so excited to be digging into this book once again! We just started yesterday, so it’s not too late to join! Check it out here

2. Fresh squeezed orange juice- we have a local market here in Indy that sells fresh squeezed orange juice (with just oranges! No sugar! Praises.) and it’s my current summer favorite. Yes please!

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3. This pun book– because it’s adorable and it’s sitting on my coffee table which is in front of the sofa I’m always sitting on now because summer as a teacher. Right on Thyme? Find Your Porpoise? Honey Bee Yourself? And those illustrations?! Goodness I love puns. The best. Thanks to my friend Katy for this gem!

4. Amazon family accounts- because this means I have access to my husband’s massive Kindle library and this was the best discovery. Nerdy kid in a candy store right here.

5. Struck by Russ Ramsey– A quick, but impactful read of a man’s reflections on life as he closely encountered death through a random virus in his heart. I sat at the pool late last week tearing up behind my sunglasses as I inhaled Ramsey’s words. Beautiful and brutally honest reflections about Jesus, marriage, relationships, and death. And as a newlywed, the tears kept coming until the last page with this one.

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6. These running shoes- I just started routinely running again because I realized I need the therapeutic qualities pounding my feet on pavement over and over quickly provides me. And without good shoes, this would be an even more painful endeavor than running (and working through all the things in my head) already is. And also, this is probably the fifth pair of these shoes that I’ve owned. They’ve been my loyal road companions for the last six years and it’s been nice to be reacquainted with them recently.

7. McAlisters– I meet with women from my church- women who have become some of my dearest friends in Indy- here every Tuesday to talk about Jesus and life and all the random things in-between. I order a grilled chicken salad and grilled chicken spud every time and now we get to sit outside because it’s warm and I just love it.

Happy Tuesday, friends! Enjoy the sunshine and the fact that it’s summer YAY!

Our Wedding Day [Photos]

Our wedding day was perfect. It was cool outside and it drizzled a little bit, but inside the red brick historic courthouse that I grew up down the street from I married my favorite person. We cried and we giggled and we vowed to be each others’ forever. We took communion and we prayed for the Lord to make us more like Him through this new thing. And then we kissed and we danced and we celebrated with our closest people and we soaked it all in. Our wedding day was my favorite day and today I’m so, so excited to share our pictures with you!

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Photographer: Christi Lee Photography
Venue: Historic Crown Point Courthouse
Catering: Noka’s Cafe and Catering 
Hair: Thomas William Salon/Amber Cooper
Makeup: Britt Wilt Emery
Bridal Gown: Something Blue Bridal
DJ: Reeb Entertainment
Flowers: Rosemary’s Heritage Florist
Ceremony Music/First Dance Song: Justin Duenne
Bridesmaids Dresses: Union Station

Crooked Roads and Doubting Faith

I worked in Montana for a summer at a camp in the mountains. My high school band director used to tell stories about his time working there and I was intrigued by his tales of camping and backpacking and working with students, so during my freshman year of college, I learned more about the camp, applied, and was accepted to work there that summer.

My struggles began on the drive out west. My brother and his best friend were my travel companions for the two day trek. I was scared and put great effort in trying not to cry during random hours in the car and in the hotel that first night because I didn’t want them to know I was struggling. I tried to rationalize my fears by reminding myself that I was going to work at a Christian camp and although I had every expectation of this community looking like the ones I had always been a part of, I couldn’t shake the impulse to cry at random moments.

That summer was hard. My initial feelings of fear and anxiety never let go of me as I entered into this unfamiliar space and culture. Although this camp was a Christian community, it operated differently than any place I had been a part of before. I was closely surrounded by people who viewed faith much differently than I did. They let themselves doubt and question and do things I didn’t think Christians were supposed to do. My 19-year-old self didn’t quite know how to handle this, so I spent a majority of my time arguing and fighting for what I had always known to be true about Christian faith and community. But, in the midst of my fight against unfamiliar practices, I found myself sitting and listening and wondering about the doubts and questions my co-workers expressed.

If you’ve grown up in the church, I’m sure you have one of these places. A place that made you redefine your faith, that made you question and doubt and wonder about what you grew up with. Is it stable? Can it be challenged? Are people who view faith and Jesus and doctrine differently than I do still Christians? Montana was my place of discovery and wonder, a place that has had me asking questions ever since the moment I left, even five years later.

I was brought back to my moments of difficulty and doubt and rediscovery as I dove into Andrea Lucado’s new book English Lessons: The Crooked Little Grace-Filled Path of Growing Up. Lucado reflects on her time studying for her Masters degree in English Literature at Oxford-Brookes where she encountered people who lived and viewed faith much differently than those she grew up with, most not believing in Jesus at all. She found herself envying their supposed free spirits, wondering how they could seem so at peace if they had never been touched by true grace, and asking important questions about people who had once experienced Jesus and later rejected him.

What I loved most about this book was Lucado’s raw honesty about her struggle living and interacting closely with people who did not share her same beliefs and consequently, her own struggle with faith. As a well-known pastor’s daughter and as someone who grew up in the arguably-sheltered American church, she realized how difficult and confusing it can be to learn that Christianity is much more resilient to doubts and questions than her upbringing led her to believe. And she also learned how freeing and beautiful it can be to live with this kind of faith- a faith that is strong enough for our questions and crooked paths and insecurities. Her honesty creates space for a needed kind of courage in the church today, the courage to wonder and ask and be open to receiving unexpected answers from the Lord. The courage to interact with people who look and act and believe differently than we do, to take risks and to learn over and over and over again what it looks like follow Jesus, especially in the midst of uncertainty.

Lucado’s ringing message to her reader is a beautiful reminder that when we inevitably encounter places of doubt and we allow ourselves to lean into our questions and into our searching, we find more of Jesus. We grow in Him, we allow our worlds and lives to be expanded by Him, and we experience His faithfulness. I needed a place like Montana to break the mold of what I always knew, to find a fuller Jesus, one who can be experienced through many denominations and cultures. I needed Montana to push me to ask questions, to search for truth, and to find it in His word and in unexpected places and paths.

I hope you read Lucado’s story too, allowing yourself to remember the place where you started to question and grow or to receive permission and grace to find that place to wonder and doubt and come to know Jesus more fully.

Engagement and Gratitude

Our engagement started in my apartment. I was wearing a Boston Red Sox t-shirt and Nike shorts when Matt walked in with the most beautiful bouquet of flowers. The bouquet contained peonies, my favorite, and all sorts of other pretty things. I noticed the twine holding them together, and I thought it looked ridiculous. But I ignored the twine for the moment, deciding I would take it off later, and found a vase.

It was a normal night where we hung out and made dinner together and ate at my secondhand round, oak table. And after dinner, as Matt started an incredibly intentional conversation about our relationship and our love for each other and what’s to come, he started to unwrap the twine that bothered me earlier, somehow extracted the ring that was hidden inside, and before I knew what was happening, he was on his knee with a ring in his hand and I was screaming yes before he could even get the words out.

We spent the next hour looking at each other in awe, then at the ring, then back at each other. We laughed and screamed and chattered in disbelief and excitement and gratitude. I was impressed that I had no idea what was happening until he was on his knee and he was impressed that he completely surprised his nosy, intuitive, and impatient now-fiance.

The past eight months have been beautiful and crazy. They’ve both gone too fast and not fast enough. We’ve made a million decisions on invitations and guest list and decor. We’ve called our parents a billion times to ask questions and get feedback and say thank you. I’ve run tons of ideas past my amazing bridesmaids as we enjoyed the opportunities to talk more often. And in the middle of all the decision making, Matt and I would remember that we are going be married at the end of all of this and we’d start smiling and laughing and dreaming all over again.

And now, as I sit in front of my computer waiting for the wedding programs to print out with a billion things on my mind and copious amounts of gratitude in my heart, I can’t help but reflect on and remember this season that will be over in just two days.

Matt is my favorite person– he is kind and loving and smart. He loves Jesus with everything he has and pursues Christ with a mature tenacity that pushes me to do the same. He’s good at grace, really good at it, and he has this witty humor that makes me laugh everytime. He is quiet and careful and slows me down, which if you know me, are all things I need often. He’s my balance and my person and the thought of getting to do everything together for the rest of our lives gets me all giddy excited all over again.

And after Matt, when I think through the different months and milestones of our engagement, I can’t help but think of our people, of our community. Matt and I learned that we’re not in this thing alone, that we have an incredible army of people rooting us on towards each other and towards Christ and these past several months I’ve been sitting in awe at all the love that has been poured out on us.

Our marriage is going to affect more than just us and I’m excited and hopeful to see how the Lord is going to use us to build people up in our community and how our people, whoever they may be in our different seasons together, are going to build us up and support us in the ways we need. And if our engagement is any indication of what’s to come, I know we’re going to be taken care of well because our people have taken care of us in more abundant ways than we could have asked for.

So to each of those people: thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We couldn’t have done this season without you and we won’t be able to face the coming seasons without you. The Lord has created us for community, and through our engagement, we have experienced this truth in so many tangible ways through the showers you planned and surprised me with, all the pieces of advice, all the offers for help, and all the grace during the crazy weeks when we had a billion things on our minds. We hope to extend that same love, grace, and encouragement to you when you need it.

And so, as we finish up the last of the to-do lists and go through what might be the busiest, craziest, most exhilarating day of our lives thus far, here are a few last thoughts: engagement is so much more than the pictures and the dress and the ring and the reception looking perfect. It’s more than working out a ton and eating well to ensure the dress fits perfectly or pleasing every single person who will show up. And I’m writing this to you because this is what I need to remember the most right now. Engagement is this unique form of community and companionship, a beautiful in-between period of anticipation and preparation and excitement that the Lord knew we needed to prepare and to get ready for something that’s so much bigger than us– a reflection of His relationship with His people. It’s this season to remember and to learn more about the Lord’s heart for us and how that can transfer to our love for each other in the most intimate relationship we can have here.

I know these next few days are going to fly and so soon we will no longer be able to identify ourselves as engaged, but married. And as excited as we are for our life together, I needed to remember this time, these past eight months where the Lord has proved his faithfulness and provision through each other and those around us. Thank you for being our people, for reminding us of the goodness ahead and to focus on what matters, and for loving us so, so well. 

 

 

 

 

How I’m Finding Meaning

Over Christmas break, Matt and I soaked up a rare morning together as we sat on the sofa at his brother’s house. I leaned my head on his shoulder and we talked about our Bible readings that morning. He told me about John 15, explaining how it was a passage describing vines and branches, death and flourishing, and how Jesus is who we grow and multiply from, that apart from him we can do nothing.

That apart from Christ, we can do nothing.

These words have been rattling around my head ever since, coming to the surface as I teach high schoolers and drive home from church and am engaged in conversations. I’ve heard them before. I’ve read through John’s account of the Gospel for classes and in She Reads Truth studies and John 15 was even the central text of a Youth Conference I helped plan in college. But as only powerful, life-giving texts can provide, I found new meaning in these particular words on this cloudy December morning in Kansas.

I’m reading through the Bible this year and as I spend my time working through my allocated chapters for the day, I find myself sneaking away to John 15 even though I’m not quite there yet in my reading schedule. I’ve spent a lot of time in this chapter, circling and underlining and coming away consistently refreshed, renewed and reminded to seek Jesus. I’m revived knowing that I don’t have to grow and multiply and influence and live well all on my own.

John 15 likens our relationship with Christ to vines and branches, that he is the vine and we are the branches. As branches, we are connected to the vine, abiding and growing and soaking in life and energy from our source. And our source here, as Christians, is Jesus and his love. The first part of this passage establishes that we cannot function well without Christ- that no good thing can come from us unless we are rooted in Jesus. The second part teaches us that when we abide in our source, we will find strength to follow what he says is best and as a result, live in the fullness of joy.

In the past few years, and really in the past several months, I’ve felt this push towards meaning. I want to create it, live in it and engage with it. I want my life to matter and I want this meaningfulness to seep into my relationships and classroom and writings and online spaces. I want to pack as much in as possible in every moment, trying hard to make sense of the things around me. I feel the pressure to do something with this meaning, and there are just so many things I want to write about and read about and so many people I want to sit down and learn from and share with.

Sometimes this pressure can feel so overwhelming, so daunting that I find myself doing nothing. That instead of writing or reading or planning coffee dates, I spend another half-hour scrolling social media because it’s easier. And then another day angry at myself. And another moment feeling jealous of the woman who is doing the thing I wish I was doing. And another minute believing that I’m not enough because I’m not trying hard enough. It’s a nasty cycle.

I’m slowly learning that instead of trying harder and living in my inadequacies, to turn to John 15 and to remember. I’m finding out that what I think is a craving for meaning is really a craving for Jesus. That my desire for influence is really a desire to abide in the Lord, to know him as my source and home and to trust that he can do more through me than I could ever imagine. The most important thing I’ve learned is that Jesus is better. He is better than my plans and dreams and good intentions and John 15 tells me one reason why- because he is my source. Because I wasn’t created to thrive on my own, to share this Good News on my own, to find meaning on my own.

John 15 talks about fruit, that when we abide in Jesus and let him into our spaces, into all of our lives, he allows himself to be known through us by how we live. Our fruit is compassion and love for others and patience. It’s our ability to connect with the people around us and to encourage, to uplift and walk alongside the hurting and to make good choices. And it’s this fruit that leads us to meaningfulness, but if we just keep trying hard to get this fruit we will be trying in vain, because it’s only accessible through Jesus.

Friends, I know I’m not the only one who craves meaning and I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt stuck trying to find it and express it. I figured you might need this reminder just as much as I do– that we cannot do anything good, beautiful, or meaningful without abiding in Christ, without creating a home in him and allowing him to abide in every moment of our lives. And so, as you go about your day, remember Jesus. Remember that he is better, that he is worth investing in and that he can create meaning through your life because he is the very meaning you desire.

Morning Commutes and Trusting the Lord

I moved to a downtown neighborhood this past summer into a cute, two-story historic house nestled closely within the surrounding homes. I live with roommates and travel a little bit longer to school and to church and to Matt, but it’s a lively neighborhood packed with people and hospitality and social events every month.

If you talked to me at all this past fall, you know how much I hated the drive to work in the dark, early mornings and during rush hour through downtown after soccer practice. I hated having to get up earlier to get to school obnoxiously early because I was afraid to leave and arrive to work too close to the time we started because it didn’t leave much room for error. What if there was a crash and too much traffic? Or if the weather was terrible or some part of my route was closed down? What if I arrived to school late when I had more to prepare for the day? I didn’t ever want to risk it, so I got up early in attempt to minimize any problem before it could happen. 

As much as I dreaded this new commute, when I think back to the fall, one of the most consistent memories I have was in my car in the mornings. It was always dark and the roads were empty and it was quiet. And around October, in a strained effort to up the game in my prayer life, I started to pray aloud for at least half of my drive. At first it felt weird to talk to someone who couldn’t audibly respond, but as all habits do, it became normal and needed and a necessary part of my morning routine.

Through these prayers every morning, I started to practice remembering what the Lord has done. Because on days when I walked into the classroom exhausted after emotionally draining late-night games, He gave me energy and the ability to connect with my students. And in the moments when I’ve been overwhelmed with wedding details, Matt has been there to calm me down and my mom has been there to take the reins on whatever needed to get done. And in the moments when I’ve needed rest, He’s worked through the people around me to allow me a break, even when it came in the middle of 2nd period. Through this practice of remembering, I’ve realized that even though the Lord has provided every single thing I have ever needed to keep moving forward and to thrive, actually trusting that the Lord is in control has always come as an afterthought; something I realized once the struggle was done.

Trusting in the Lord is something I’ve always tiptoed around, something I’ve tested before believing that He’s someone I can always and consistently count on. Because when I look back on this past year, in so many situations I only trusted when it was the last resort, when it was the only option I had left. When I had finally held up my white surrender flag after realizing that I couldn’t do it all– all the driving, coaching, teaching, loving, communicating, planning, and organizing– without Jesus.

I hate this reality even more than I disliked my morning commute at first. Because I’ve been a Christian my whole life, I don’t remember a time where I didn’t know Jesus. But I get stuck in the rules and the expectations and the ridiculous notion that I am in control, even though that’s failed over and over again. But the Lord is gracious and he provides well and I want this year to be a year where I trust more in these truths than in the unnecessary expectations I put on myself that only lead me to exhaustion and dissatisfaction.

And so, I want this year to be a year of remembrance, of always knowing that the Lord provides abundantly what I need. I’ve tiptoed around this reality for too long, testing God first only to look up at him in awe, wondering how he could do such a good thing. I want this year to be a shift from sheepishly wondering whether the Lord will provide to completely trusting that He will. I want to trust that he is enough for my mistakes and insecurities and anxieties before they get to be too overwhelming. I want to fully trust that he is a God who answers prayers and who fulfills callings, that he is a God who restores his people to himself, even in the midst of complete and utter mess and brokenness and especially during times of prosperity, joy, and excitement. 

This year, I’ll keep getting up too early and start to say my prayers once I pass the Keystone exit. I’ll continue to practice remembering who our God is with the hope that I learn to trust him more, before the overwhelming moments come. But even when I forget, even when I’m stuck in my anxieties and control, I’ll remember that my Lord has restored me before and will graciously do it again because that’s who he is and what he does. Today I’m grateful for this new year and this time to be reminded to start over, to inch my way forward in learning how to trust a God who has always been in control.

How to Stop Trying So Hard

She came into my room when the lunch bell rang, looking up at me with hopeless, confused eyes before she broke down crying, repeating,

“I’m stupid. This is stupid. Why am I crying? I don’t cry.”

I gave her a hug, sat her down in one of my desks, and asked her what was going on. Her significant other broke up with her last period over a text, she said, and now she didn’t know why she was crying.

As I probed to get some details, I learned she just started dating this person a month ago and all seemed fine last night. And then this. But more than being upset about the broken relationship, she seemed more upset over letting herself feel. She was angry at herself for crying, for breaking down and for letting hurt crack through her hardness to places she tries to hide by distracting herself with relationships and grades and accomplishments- places that confront her worth.

I had two other students come to me that Friday, crying and frustrated because they couldn’t meet their own high standards or the standards they felt the world calling them to meet. They were frustrated because they felt their worth dwindling after not being able to check every box on their expectation list. I hugged them and reminded them that their worth is not in what they do or who they’re attached to or what they can or cannot accomplish.

It’s incredibly humbling to give this advice when it’s the very thing I’ve been struggling with the past several months.

I thought second year teaching would be easier- that was my expectation. But as my expectations have been shattered in the hardest ways, I’ve found myself stuck in the whirlwind of a longer commute and practices and games and makeup games and three preps and creating a new curriculum and grading and planning a wedding and learning about marriage and trying to invest and invest and invest to learn that I can’t.

I can’t. I cannot invest in everything, I cannot take on everything. Not on my own. And as the weeks have flown by and I’ve accomplished a majority of the things on my checklist, I still feel behind. I still analyze and overanalyze every conversation that could have been more others-focused, I want to fix every problem people have had with me, I want to be more productive with my minutes and I simply want to feel like I’m doing a good job in my classroom and conversations and relationships and alone time.

And when I take a step back, I find myself taking good things, holy things even, like the desires to invest and be compassionate and love others and slow down, and twisting them into my control, deceiving myself that I’m the one in charge of making all of these desires gone wrong, go right.

When I find some quiet, when I finally surrender to not being in control and when I sink into my bed early on a Friday night with a candle crackling next to me and a week of mistakes and ramblings and papers piled up, I’m reminded to seek first my God.

Because when all I keep doing is seeking my own desires to change and to fix and to control, the Lord says to stop and to seek Him instead.

In Him I will find my rest and my worth. I will find grace and love and meaning and space. I will find the strength to stop kicking myself for every mistake I make and every unchecked obligation on my list and instead, I’ll be restored in the Lord’s grace and hope and deep, unchanging, unending love. In this place, I’ll find the strength to slow down and to rest and to consider others before myself, the very things I’ve been trying to do on my own because I know they are the best ways.

When those girls walked into my room that Friday weeks ago, I saw myself in their mess because I’m there too. I wanted to talk about why they were struggling so deeply with their emotions and their unmet expectations and their mistakes. I knew where they were at and since I couldn’t specifically tell them about Jesus and grace and rest because public school, I want to take the time here to remind you dear reader, about the Lord and seeking him first, because I bet you’ve stood in those girls’ places too.

So friends, we can desire good things. We can want to be productive and loving and compassionate and whole, but we can’t do these things on our own because we will twist them into stress and dissatisfaction and frustration. The Lord calls us to seek Him first, that in Him we will find our worth, we will find our desires fully met because he is enough and in him, we are enough too. The reminder you and I need is to seek Christ, even before our desires, because in him, we’ll find the very things we’re trying to do on our own.

How to Grieve a Good Thing Gone

Anna got married to Ben last week in a chapel where people were sharing seats to make room and the homemade wreaths hung on the doors and Kiersten and I handed out programs with smiles on our faces even though our extremities were frozen from the abnormally chilly May wind.

The Brick House was reunited, but everything was different this time. Kiersten is in grad school and taking summer classes and Kayleigh is in Colorado, doing what she does best– adventure and hospitality. Audrey is also in Colorado, but doing the hard work of teaching young minds to care about words and each other and not running in front of cars during a field trip. I sat in the tent in a much different place than I expected, confident in my job and community and with a man who loves me and whom I love deeply and who filled in for the ushers even though he didn’t know the bride or groom and who took care of me when I felt my worst that day. And Anna, beautiful Anna, is married to her person– to gentle, kind, loving Ben. She filled each space with calm and grace and poise and beauty because it was so evident she had found rest in where the Lord brought her this year and it ended with this celebration.

For one of the first times this year, it hit me that we’re never going to get the Brick House life back. I knew that last year- in the months and weeks leading up to graduation and as I sat in the Von Maur parking lot ugly crying the day after because that beautiful, restorative, safe year was over. And so was the season of living with the most incredible women I ever had the privilege of doing life with. Gone was my safe bubble of dancing to Beyonce while doing dishes and singing the Doxology as a prayer before dinner. Gone was walking out of my room to a living room full of women graciously willing to let me externally process the hardest year of my life-who let me lay my head on their laps as I cried in frustration and sadness while I unraveled the past two years and waited as God created a new thing in me. Gone was doing life with my people, all under one roof in a safe place.

That year was sacred because the Lord was so evidently there. We all knew it. We felt Him in the quiet moments following a prayer or a Scripture reading at dinner. We felt Him when we gathered with each other for movie nights and house breakfasts and lunches and dinners and porch times. We felt Him when we ran and biked and then sat on the dock one last time, knowing that the sacred year, our year of safety and rest and restoration, was over.

I think it’s natural for humans to want to hold on to these sacred moments. I remember struggling knowing there was a defined end to this good thing- how were we ever going to find anything like it again? How do we cope with a looming new season of hard and danger and lonely and inexperience?

How do we grieve a good thing gone? A thing that always had an end date?

As I sat in church last Sunday, in my exhaustion, I worshipped Jesus in my new place that the Lord so abundantly provided. It was one of those rare moments where I felt completely raw, without the strength to bury the things that hurt, like the reality that although I was with my best friends last night, it just wasn’t the same because we’ve all changed in the past year and because we aren’t all sharing the same space anymore. We’ve moved on to where the Lord needed us to go.

I stood next to Matt and looked around at my new community and up at him and felt a small twinge of guilt- guilt for enjoying this new thing that is so different than my Brick House community last year. But even more so I felt sad because my best friends, the ones who walked me through some of the hardest, ugliest moments, weren’t here to share with me in this good new thing and I wasn’t there to share with them in their new things like we had done so well in the Brick House.

As I sang the words on the screen on the verge of tears, I realized that we grieve a good thing gone by believing and knowing and trusting that Jesus is always better than even the best season. That the sacred moments are just glimpses of His glory, pockets of heaven that He allows us to experience now, moments that hold eternal weight and hope because we’re promised a forever of these heavenly moments when we leave our last season here on this Earth.

Even when the season ends, even when that good thing is gone, our Father promises us an eternity of good things. What a beautiful hope to cling on to.

So, my dear Brick House friends, I feel so honored to have lived life with you and experienced glimpses of heaven with you, and even though we won’t ever share that Brick House on First street again, I’m excited to share in new moments with you in new spaces when life allows. I think it’s taken me this past year to process through our safe haven year, and I don’t entirely think I’m done yet, but thank you for that year. Thank you for exemplifying Christ’s love and servant-heartedness and helping create one of the safest places I’ve ever known. Thank you for sharing your beautiful lives and hearts with me, and thank you for becoming my forever friends. I miss you deeply and love you even more and am rooting for you as you flourish in your new pockets of the world.

 

Becoming Wild and Free

“If Christ is in you, the wild nature of God is ready for you to access and practice and live out…This means, simply put, that you don’t live subject to any constraints or categories. You can defy expectation and throw off all assumptions because that is the nature of God in you.” Jess Connolly//Wild and Free

I am not much of a risk taker. I like to play it safe, to weigh all my options, and to plan out my days down to the hour. My planner has become one of my favorite personal objects and there’s a small part of me that is overly satisfied every time I get to write something in the little boxes.

But lately I’ve started to question and wonder why being organized and safe delights me as much as it does. With as much joy I put in this planned life, there is also extreme dissatisfaction when plans go awry. I’m not sure I’m ok with that kind of life.

Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan released a book today- Wild and Free– that, among many other things, confronts this struggle and more importantly, the joy found in living the kind of life Christ calls us to. I had the privilege of being on their launch team and I’ve spent the past month reading and processing and praying through the idea of being completely free in Christ. The more I soak in this idea, the more I realize that so much of my life is bound by my perceived expectations of those around me and the more I am growing in my desire to step outside the lines I put around myself and fully participate in a wild and free life with Christ.

Up until recently, wild and free were simply not words in my vocabulary. In college, I found myself bound by the expectations of my Christian community: wear the Chacos, go to Chapel, work at camp, and create the pretty Instagrams by the brick wall. Find the boy, and if not, then be content in singleness because hey, Paul was single and he was pretty great. Create the façade of wild and free, but stay confined by the trends and expectations even though it’s impossible to perfectly create the picture as aesthetically pleasing as that person over there.

For my first three years of college, I crumbled under this pressure when my experience looked differently than I thought it would, finding myself in zero on-campus leadership positions, in an unhealthy, stagnant relationship, and severely insecure in my major all because I couldn’t match the perceived expectations I thought others were holding me to. My world felt small and it was hard to experience God working in the midst of all of this disappointment and failure.

Throughout these past two years of finishing college and my first year post-grad, I’ve started to loosen the ropes tying me to the expectations of my communities by believing and living in the reality that the Lord offers something better. Through this process, I have experienced more freedom than I thought possible and have made some wild choices that have led to some of the most life-giving experiences and relationships I couldn’t have imagined on my own. I’m just beginning this wild and free journey, just getting a taste of the goodness the Lord offers by slowly scrapping my life of meticulous plans and living fully for his glory- wild and free in this beautiful, unpredictable, get-to life with Christ.

Friend, if you find yourself living a small life constrained by the expectations of the culture around you and are craving something more, I urge you to pick up a copy of Jess and Hayley’s book Wild and Free (you can order it here). This book is rooted in Scripture and breathes Gospel. It consistently points to God’s glory and proclaims truth with every word. It has pushed me to places of reflection and wild dreams, of prayer and gratitude and grace. This book is an invitation to the wild and free life, a beautiful place that is fully ours without having to meet any standard or expectation. So, friend, I invite you through Hayley and Jess’ words to come join in this life, to join the women discovering that we don’t have to live such constrained, small lives, that we can truly live freely in Christ.

Feature Picture: Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly

Good Friday and Staring into Fog

This time last year, I trekked up a steep trail with my missions team on a mountain in Bolivia.  My calves burning and my lungs out of breath, the promise of a beautiful view propelled me forward. But as we reached the top, we stared into a foggy abyss, blocking the waterfalls and rivers and colors we expected. Disappointment filled me as I sank into the side of the mountain, my arms wrapped around my knees, exhausted and angry.

The year prior to this moment carried the most pain I had experienced up to that point. It started with a breakup and from there progressed into a process of recognizing all the things I had been hiding and manufacturing and controlling in order to look like I had it all together. I cried a lot. I experienced more anger and resentment than I thought possible. I allowed myself to experience God’s brutal truth, giving Him free reign to mold and shape and refine me. It hurt.

I experienced a lot of life that year. In the midst of being refined and learning what I wanted, I faced great fear. I was graduating soon and had no clue where I was going to be even though I knew where I wanted to go. I remember reading Donald Miller’s Scary Close for the first time, resonating with the concepts of finding authentic community and being real with the people around me in order to experience some of the best of life. I knew that was what I wanted wherever I ended up.

But what I remember more vividly was laying on the bottom bunk of my bed staring at the mattress above me with the book open upside down on my stomach while fear consumed me because I didn’t believe the Lord would provide that community or those people for me to be real with once I left my safe college bubble.

Fear stuck with me that year, always creeping around in the back of my mind, clinging itself to any hope or thought about what I desired. It was especially sticking to every hope I could imagine as I sank into the steep hill and wet grass in Bolivia, staring into the fog.

The day I sat on that mountain was Good Friday. How perfectly metaphorical was it that, on the most hopeless day in history, I stared into fog from a mountain slope, unable to experience the wonders ahead because they were blocked by darkness.

As I fumed in my anger about not being able to see the beauty below me or the future in front of me, I wondered if this was how the disciples felt once they learned Jesus had died. I wondered if they felt they had climbed and worked and endured what they thought would reap eternal benefit only to be left alone in their despair at the top. I wondered if they felt as if their future was full of whisp-y fog because the Man who had promised them life was now dead.

Last year, sitting on that mountain, I hated the fog. I wanted it to be lifted, to see the grand wonders underneath and experience every drop of the beauty right then, as I imagine the disciples desired for their fog to be lifted on this day thousands of years ago; to be assured that the life Jesus promised, the life they believed in, could carry eternal weight.
But as I kept staring into that fog, I remembered Easter. I remembered that Lord promises us life and that we can cling to that promise because Jesus defeated death permanently. I remembered that the disciples, and all of humaity who chooses to believe, had been freed from their hopelessness because Jesus did what he promised by not allowing the Cross to be the end but rather the beginning of something eternally life-giving and freeing.
Good Friday reminds me of the death that our expectations and perceived futures and need to control will inevitably face. Sometimes we need the fog to push us to Jesus, to remember how desperately we need Him. The best part of Good Friday is that Easter always comes soon after and the promise of the Resurrection allows us to cling onto the hope that the Lord has something better, that He gives abundant life.