Unpredictable Grief

I hate the unpredictability of grief.

It’s hard and inconvenient, random and unannounced. I hate feeling like I’m not in control, and if anything is reminding me of the reality that I’m never really in control, it’s the ambushes of sadness and apathy and frustration hitting hard.

So far, grief has looked like tearing up while cutting a pan of brownies a friend brought over, because brownies remind me of home and how my dad always made them from the Ghirardelli box mix my mom bought from Costco.

Sometimes it looks like tears dropping on the crisp white worship guide on Sunday morning while Matt puts his arm around me and draws me in close because we’re singing “Be Thou My Vision” and the last time I heard this hymn in a corporate, church setting was at the end of my dad’s funeral.

And a lot of the times it just feels like exhaustion for no reason. Or being overwhelmed with little tasks that seem like too much, and then frustration because I could handle them before all of this happened.

In a lot of the past few months, I’ve felt like I’ve been living two lives. My external one, where I’m hustling to get all the things done– the class slides for the next day, the grading, the reflections, the emails, the parent phone calls, the trying to be intentional about relationships, and the billion other obligations that come with being an adult. And they’ve mostly been getting done.

But I’m also experiencing life in my head, where I’m randomly exhausted and frustrated and where it just feels like there’s not enough space for all the things I need to cram in it. I want to deceive myself, and convince everyone else around me, that I’m ok by checking all the things off the list because it just seems easier. But then there are moments like when my boss compassionately looks at me and tells me I’m not doing my best because I can’t, and then I drop my shoulders–and everything I’ve been trying to hold up with them– and realize she’s right.

I’m learning that grief has its way of humbling people, and it just doesn’t care about all of the new and hard and transition already happening in life; it just barrels its way through to make you realize you can’t shove down and ignore tragic things.

Friends, I really hate this. All I want is to be ok, to ignore grief because sometimes it seems too big to face, too monumental to process. And when I look back at the past two months, I notice that I’ve been masking so many moments with busy and tasks and emotionlessness until it all inevitably leaks out unannounced.

As I keep stepping forward into this thing, as aggravating as it is, I’m starting to realize that maybe the Lord is using this hard, unpredictable grief as a grace.

Because I think grief, in all its unannounced ways, is forcing me to be kinder to myself because I just have to acknowledge the reality that I’m more broken in ways I can’t hide anymore, even to myself. It’s forcing me to slow down and to Sabbath, because I’m learning I actually can’t function without the intentional breaks, and also that we were never intended to in the first place. And it’s creating this compassion in me, one that wasn’t there before, because when people share their hurt, I can resonate in ways I couldn’t before.

In the midst of all of this hard, the Lord is using these unpredictable ambushes of grief to make me look down at my wide open wounds and allow Him do the hard, painful work of healing and growth that I’ve been ignoring with perfectionism and busyness. And isn’t it beautiful that the Lord can use the most tragic of circumstances to do His good, holy, and perfect work? The work He’s been doing all along?

I hate that this thing happened, and I hate that my dad is gone, and most of the time, I hate how grief keeps humbling me in unpredictable ways. But when I take a step back and look at the work the Lord is doing through my broken and sad and pain, I can’t help but be grateful to experience grace in new ways, ways that are softening me and pointing me towards Jesus again and again. And if that gets to be the end result of this terrible thing, then I have hope as I keep leaning into these random waves of grief.

A Month of Grief


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My dad died at the end of August.

I feel like I need to write these words down to help me continue to believe them, because honestly, I’m not sure if I do yet. I’ve pulled up his obituary online several times since as a reminder, to see his picture next to his death date because it all still feels like a terrible nightmare, one that I desperately want to wake up from.

The past month has been a blur. In the first moments especially, it took every ounce of strength just to breathe my next breath. I’ve sobbed uncontrollably in people’s arms and on the two hour flight to Chicago the morning after we heard, and I’ve felt deeply sad, well, a lot. In some moments, it was hard to stand, and I physically shook for days after hearing the news. But in a lot of moments, I’ve felt ok; I’ve even experienced more periods of joy and peace and normality than I expected since coming back home to our new apartment and church and jobs in DC. In fact, I’m struggling with this tension grief is bringing me– the tension between what I think I’m supposed to be feeling and what I’m actually experiencing. It’s all just so complicated, and I’m trying my best to keep up and lean in and be present. I’m learning there truly is no formula to this thing, even though I really want there to be.

Losing my dad launched me out of a strange season. For the past nine months, I’ve felt dry and uninspired and complacent. After years of such fruit and joy in learning and Bible study and writing and teaching, January 1 brought forth a lack of interest in any of it. I’d been trying to fight it, but I spent a whole lot more time scrolling and consuming rather than learning and creating. But even in the midst of not feeling like it, I still opened my Bible most mornings. I still sat in the pew every Sunday and recited the readings and sang the songs. I still muttered inconsistent, ramble-y prayers and trudged my way through some books and turned on worship music in the mornings because that’s all I knew how to do. And you know what I’m realizing? It mattered. It didn’t change my salvation, because that’s secure regardless of my efforts, but I’m realizing that the Lord grew in me even though I didn’t feel Him.

And now, even in the midst of walking through this hard thing and coming out of a strange place spiritually, I feel rooted. I feel rooted in the Lord and I’ve experienced his provision and his peace in the most real ways, even though it’s been right alongside the start of some deep anguish and extreme anger. Our people have loved us well, and we’ve been reminded through the care and words of others that pain is ok, and also temporary. That in the Lord, there’s an end date to all the sadness and that Jesus is grieving this death with us, and with all of you. Because this is all just a lot, I’m doing the thing that I know works for me, which is to come back to the page and write.

I started this blog in college, motivated by a breakup, but really because I was ready to practice writing as a craft and because I needed a place to process and discover who I was in the Lord after a lot of years trying to conform to the people around me instead. I was so afraid to start this project, especially because I didn’t know what people would think. But one of my primary champions from day one was my dad; he loved this blog and always encouraged me with each new post. So it feels fitting, both because I’m walking through a hard thing again and because he loved this space, to start writing once more.

I am incredibly passionate about sharing real stories with each other, especially the ones that aren’t neat and tidy. I’m processing in this space for a whole host of reasons, mostly because I know that writing is one of the things the Lord uses to help me heal and to practice a skill I love, but also because I truly hope, deep in my bones, that these stories and ramblings in some way resonate with you as you walk forward in your hard things, in your faith, and in your ordinary moments.

This month has been impossible and beautiful in so many ways. It’s been strange and hard as we all figure out a new normal, but I’m learning to keep putting my hope in Jesus because I’m finding a lot of life and comfort there.

 

Bible in a Year Reflections and Hopes

It’s that time again for resolutions and goals and both reflecting on the year past and dreaming about the year to come. I love this time of the year, quite possibly more than any other season, because it seems so fitting that immediately after we spend a season remembering that Jesus came to save and serve and love, we get to walk into something new and try again. I think there’s a lot of beauty and grace propelling us forward in this season, and that gets me excited and anticipatory for the coming year. 

As I’ve reflected on this past year, one of my very favorite things I did was read through the whole Bible. This is the second time I’ve done this, the first being in 2016, and I’ve decided to make it an intentional practice every year to come because of how it moves me closer to the Lord, more knowledgeable about the God I serve and love, and molds me into a better wife, friend, daughter, teacher, and sister.

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My year of reading Scripture in 2017 was so, so good. I intentionally read from one Bible all year and took notes in the margins every day, thanks to the popularity of journaling Bibles. I used the reading and note-taking skills that I teach to my students and became a student again myself, every morning, practicing interacting with the text that was in front of me. In 2016, I worked through a first reading of the Bible, and in 2017, I was able to engage with the words on the page more deeply because I already had a context of what was happening. And being married to a man in seminary means that every morning I had access to Matt across the table, who is a wealth of knowledge on all sorts of Biblical things, and also his massive commentary/resource library to draw from, which I turned to often.

It’s really beautiful to look back on the year and pinpoint major events by where I was at in my reading plan and realize how the Lord was teaching me, comforting me, and challenging me through His word during those times. I recently heard in a sermon that the purpose of spiritual disciplines is for intimacy, not mastery. And that’s how I feel about this past year, more intimate with the Lord because his words ring over every major memory I have from 2017. His character and his presence were clear because I practiced recognizing them, and friends, this certainly changed how I lived and loved.

But just as a traveler learns after every place visited just how much more there is to explore and discover, the more I read the Scriptures, the more I realize how much more there is to learn about the Lord and how much more I can grow in Him and in my relationships and in my calling.

And although this can be disheartening, I remember that the point of spiritual disciplines isn’t mastery, but rather intimacy. I’m not practicing this to become perfect at it, but rather to grow closer to the only One who is perfect.

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In the coming year, I get to read the Bible again and learn more about a really incredible God and how he wants my heart. I get to read about how he provided a way for that to happen through Jesus. I get to learn, again, about how I don’t need to do anything to be loved, but rather I serve a God who fiercely fights for his people over and over and over again. And I get to grow closer to this God who is love and be transformed more deeply to who he’s called me to be.

This is why I commit my mornings to Scripture, even when it’s hard or when I’m tired or don’t feel like it. Because growth happens in the in-between moments, right? I’ve found this to be true and I want to continue living in this way with even more intentionality this year. Here are my Scripture reading goals and resources for 2018:

-Use the M’Cheyne reading plan– four chapters a day and it goes through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. (I used this plan the past two years)

– Use the new She Reads Truth Bible in the CSB translation (I used this journaling Bible last year and I’ve been eyeing this one to use next year)

-Take notes in the margin of my Bible

– Journal through Scripture at least twice a week

-Join Well-Watered Co’s Word before the World challenge– not getting on social media/email until I’ve spent time reading Scripture. The founder of Well-Watered Women has a great blog post explaining the challenge here.

I would love to know what your Scripture reading goals are for the year and walk with you this year! Let me know in the comments below or on social media @kelseylietzen

The Better Way

Every week, I have the joy of leading a girls small group at the public high school where I teach. Preparing for and being a part of this group is one of my very favorite things I get to do; I’m constantly grateful for the opportunity. Here is some content that I’ve prepared for them, and I hope it’s encouraging for you too.

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 9:1-15

It’s officially Christmas time! As crazy and exciting, and even hard, as this season can be, as Christians, this gets to be one of our favorite time of the year for a deeper reason than just the food and parties and presents, even in the midst of our loneliness or exemplified reminders of brokenness. This is the time where we get to collectively celebrate that Jesus came to save. And while this can be such an overused phrase, how sweet it is when we dig deep to understand– to understand what exactly we were saved from and how Jesus changed everything when He came.

People in the first century were waiting, longing for a Messiah, a Savior that God had been promising for centuries. There were 400 long, bloody, law-memorizing years in between Malachi and Matthew, the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. To these people, Jesus finally arriving was an answer to a promise of a second, better covenant that was given generations prior, a promise that had been remembered through storytelling and tradition and rituals.

Jesus came to change the game– the game of the Temple and the priests and the hundreds of sacrifices. Of the lampstand and the glory seat and the sacred, exclusive Holy Place that fulfilled the first covenant God made with His people. He came to take a law that was once written on stone and write it on our hearts instead and to become the better Priest who only had to make one sacrifice, Himself, instead of shedding the blood of many animals. He came to take the temple, a once Holy, external place, and put it in his people instead, securing the way through his death and resurrection. He came so that we could live life from what he already accomplished instead of striving to a place where he would accept us so that we could be reunited with our Creator.

And he did this because of his love and because of our sin. Because of the Father’s character and our separation from him. He provided a better way for his people, one where we are already the good and faithful servant, where we are already holy and unblemished and free the second we say “yes” to his calling. Friends, it started long before the first Christmas, but the plan was set into action the minute the angel came to Mary. Everything. Changed. And this deeply matters for us still, enough to remember and celebrate in community and to sit quietly in gratitude and awe. Jesus came to save and to make a better way to the Father, one that we have full access through today. How good and glorious of a thing this is!

Discussion questions:

According to verses 1-7, what were the rituals the priest and high priest had to perform in order to wash away the sins of the people in God’s eyes?

According to verses 8-10, why was this system not the best way?

In what ways in our daily lives do we try and earn God’s love? Do you feel like it’s ever enough?

In verses 11-14, how is Jesus the better priest and sacrifice?

As stated in verse 15, what does this mean for us, today, as people of the second covenant?

Tuesday Victories | 9.26

September has been quite the month! It’s been filled with games and traveling and conversations and needed moments of rest here and there. I’m so thankful for every moment, and here’s a collection of victories from the past several weeks for this Tuesday. 

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1. Longs Donuts: Matt and I live five minutes from one of the best donut places. It’s a small, unassuming cash-only bakery with amazing pastries that are super cheap. We hadn’t been in awhile, and decided to a few weekends ago before a soccer game and it was so. good. Donuts? Fall? Done.

2. Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller– I’ve mentioned Sharon on here before because her writing has been such an encouragement and challenge to my faith, and her first book is releasing on October 3! I preordered it a few months ago and downloaded the pre-order gifts last week, which included the introduction and first chapter of the book. I read them yesterday on the bus to an away game and oh friends, it’s going to be a good one. Miller focuses on how everything in our lives is better when we stop constantly looking at ourselves and instead on Christ, the way we’re called to live in the first place. I cannot wait to read the rest of the book in just one week! If you want to preorder the book, go here and then receive your pre-order gifts here.

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3. Honey crisp apples- I love fall. Every stereotypical part of it. And I’ve had a honey crisp apple in my lunch every day for the past week and I look forward to it everyday. They were on sale at the grocery store, so Matt picked up a bunch and we’ve been savoring them!

4. This sermon– Steve DeWitt is the pastor of my home church in Crown Point and this sermon from this past weekend is fantastic. He talks about the history of the Reformation and why it’s so crazy dangerous to add anything to the Gospel. I’ve always been fascinated by the Reformation and this is a great overview of some important historical moments for the Protestant church.

5. The Lone Bellow- Matt and I went to Nashville over Labor Day weekend and stumbled upon a few free music festivals. The Lone Bellow was playing Saturday night at one of the festivals and it was the best. They put on such a great show! If you’re looking for some new music, check them out!

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6. White pumpkins- now that it’s officially fall, I’m loving all things festive and these white pumpkins are my current favorite. I found some mini ones at Trader Joe’s for 70 cents, which was a steal compared to Target or Hobby Lobby (granted– they are real and will only last for this season). My wallet and home are happy now.

7. This download from Christianity Today- this is a special edition collection of articles about women and discipleship and church and I devoured it this past weekend. Such wisdom from women who have been there, studied it, and can write well about their experiences and findings. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday Victories | 8.29

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. Psalm 103– My reading plan takes me through the Psalms on Wednesdays and I haven’t been able to get this one out of my head since I read it last week. The entire chapter is filled to the brim with specific attributes about the Lord: that he is a forgiver, a healer, a redeemer, a satisfier. He is righteous and merciful and gracious and always loving. I need to be reminded of who the Lord is, everyday, and Psalm 103 is helping me this week.

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2. Fat Dan’s Deli in Indy— Matt and I first stumbled upon this place last winter and have been raving about it ever since. It’s an unassuming place in So-Bro but shoot dang, their food. It’s definitely a place to indulge, and their fries and wings are the best we’ve had in Indy. It’s a Chicago-style place, so tons of Cubs gear on the walls and Italian beef on menu and everything is amazingly delicious. My parents came into town on Saturday to watch me coach and my girls play and then treated Matt and me to lunch afterwards. I remember thinking how much my parents would love the place after we visited the first time, so it was a blast watching them love their experience. And the food!

3. GHS Soul Sisters– At school, we have this hour in the middle of the day where students get to choose where they want to eat and hang out. It’s also a time where clubs can meet during the school day. With the help of my two of my best work-friends and the enthusiasm of some students we all have relationships with, we launched a Christian-community group for girls on Friday during this hour and it has been AMAZING. The girls are pumped and inviting everyone they know and this past week we had 30 girls reading Scripture, talking about who God is and why that matters. Friends, this is incredible. To be able to disciple in a public school with students we see every day has been such amazing thing to be a part of. So thankful for the space and freedom to watch the Lord do his thing. Go follow us on Instagram @ghssoulsisters

4. You all!– Friends, your responses to my last blog post about body image was incredible. I received so many texts and messages and comments that were so encouraging, especially since I was crazy terrified of posting something so honest and raw. Thank you for sharing your struggle with me– I so value your vulnerability. I want to continue having conversations about body image and the balance between working out and eating well from a place of gratitude and worship rather than a place of obsession and self-gratification. Hopefully this will be a place where that can happen.

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5. Dance, Stand, Run by Jess Connolly— I know this has been one of my victories a few weeks ago, but the more I read, the more it’s changing, challenging, and encouraging me to step into a place of holiness and grace and mission. I cannot recommend it enough. Go ahead and pre-order your copy here! You will not regret it, promise.

I’m in the full swing of a busy fall, but life is so, so good right now. But, I’m still needing to remember the victories that make my weeks particularly sweet. Let me know what some of your favorites are in the comments or on social media @kelseylietzen

The One About Body Image

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I spent a lot of my engagement worrying, controlling, and trying to work my body into something different– something thinner, smaller, leaner. My worries would ebb and flow, typically depending on how I ate that week or how many times I was able to get to the gym.

During my first dress fitting, I remember feeling immediately discontent after looking into the mirror because my reality of how I looked didn’t meet my expectations. And then I felt angry and sad and ashamed because my thoughts clashed with what my mom and the alteration lady were proclaiming and what I knew Matt would think- that me in the dress was perfect and beautiful and stunning.  

I wish I could say that my worries about my body only started a year ago, but they didn’t. The earliest memory I have was in middle school. I was looking around at my peers in the hallway and I realized that my body wasn’t as lean or tiny as some of the other girls and I hated it. I didn’t understand why my body was betraying me– I had always been able to measure up to the skinniest girls before.

This struggle has lasted through high school dance dress shopping and band concerts with unflattering uniforms. It was present in every sport I played, where I was never the best or most fit, and in the locker room after my personal fitness class for two years. It carried me through prom and graduations and dorm life where comparison is hard to avoid. And it followed me to my wedding– the very place I didn’t want it to show it’s face and even though I hate to admit this, when I look back on my otherwise beautiful engagement and wedding, my struggle with my body was there, looming in the background of every fitting and party and picture.

A few years back, I ran my second half marathon. Finding time to run during the week and the stamina to complete long runs on the weekend was tough. Runs that used to be seemingly effortless in college were now difficult and this defeated me. After an intended 9 mile run turned into a 4 mile run, I plopped down in front of my mirror, fuming and angry at my body and myself for not being able to push through to complete the miles I needed in order to stay on track in my training schedule. At the time, I was on the launch team for Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan’s Wild and Free. I had been praying and thinking of aspects of my life where I needed the Lord’s freedom and I remember entertaining the idea of what it would be like to be wild and free from the strict expectations I put around my body and fitness and diet. What if how I looked and having the perfectly balanced diet all the time and logging in so many hours at the gym just didn’t matter as much as I perceived it did?

I hate admitting that this is really the first time I had considered this. This is the first time I really acknowledged my negative body image as a legitimate problem and pondered the reality that the Lord is strong enough to free me from the shackles of comparison and discontentedness and control– all I need to do is accept and receive Him, every minute of every day, again and again and again. And gosh this is hard, not impossible, but hard to believe and do in a society that pushes us to be perfectly fit and healthy and thin.

I want to say that I’m done struggling, but I’m not. I fought my body image battle through the past few summers and my engagement. While this summer was so, so good as Matt and I enjoyed our newlywed-ness and our trips to different places and feasting with family and friends, once all those things were over, I took stock of how the experiences took their toll on my body and started shaming myself over not being disciplined enough at the table or the gym and found myself in the depths of comparison and control once again.

We clearly live in a society that values physical health. The benefits are proclaimed over and over– we’ll have tons of energy and can mentally process better and have an all around better attitude in life if we’re eating well and exercising often. And I’m all for this- I love eating well and exercising and I think they can be done in a worshipful, God-honoring way because we are called to steward our bodies. But when I go into a Whole30 or the gym with the wrong motivation, it stops becoming healthy. When I’m trying to control my body into something smaller in order to feel better or happier or to prove that I’m good at life, I’m just feeding myself a lie that those things can satisfy something in me when really, only God can.

Writing these things down is hard- I’ve never done this before. But after another summer of attempting to shame and control my body into something better so that I can feel good about myself, I walked into work for another school year and I heard my coworkers and students and players echoing the same comments and aggravations I had all summer. And I thought that there has to be a better way– enough of us are struggling with this and there’s got to be something better.

And friends, there is. The answer isn’t seeking flattery and reminders of our beauty or enoughness. The answer and the way is Jesus- it’s always Jesus. This may be our weakness, but the Lord is sufficient and he’s really good at using our lack to prove that He is enough to a people who desperately need it– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 promises us this. He came because of love and died because of love and now we get to play in his grace and enter into holy places all because of Him, but only when we admit our weakness and confess this hard, prideful, controlling sin. The way is learning to submit to the Lord’s purpose every single day, deeming it our own by walking in it, trusting that it’s better.

Our purpose is not our bodies. It’s not how we look or how we feel and while we should pursue health, we can’t forget to pursue Christ first. We can’t forget that our purpose is to love Jesus and to love the people around us well. I’m preaching all of this to myself first– stumbling into submitting to the Lord every day. My steps are shaky and I fail often, but repentance and grace are helping me move forward anyway. If you’re here too, walking this hard, broken path with me, please know that you’re not alone and that Jesus is always, always better.

 

So many of my ideas were derived from Jess Connolly’s new book Dance Stand Run. I’m on her launch team and this book is WRECKING ME. Such great stuff. Preorder it here

Also- from this sermon by Scott Sauls. He’s currently doing a series on Romans 8. AMAZING. Go listen now. You’ll find that here

Tuesday Victories | 8.8

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. Sharpie Pens– School started last week, which means I got to break out all my school supplies! And people, I just love new pens and pencils and paper. Such a geek- I know- but at least I’m in a profession where it’s fitting. Sharpie pens are my new favorites this year and I’m excited to have a few colored ones to grade with! (The things teachers get excited about hah!)

2. Routine- I know this one is more abstract, but during the last few weeks of summer, I was craving routine and being an extrovert, I was missing being around people for a majority of my day, so I definitely welcomed the start of school. Except the 5:30AM wake-up. I didn’t miss that.

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3. The song “Saved My Soul” by City Alight– Friends, I LOVE finding new worship music. And thankfully Spotify aids me in my searches through their Discover pages and this song came on during my drive home today. I played it on repeat the whole way home. I cannot wait to listen to the rest of their album this week! Here’s a good one if you’re searching.

4. Matt’s wasp killing skills- So Matt is the best husband for a billion reasons, but our apartment has had some wasp nests around it (NOT MY FAVORITE) and I came home to him yesterday attacking the nest on our balcony with Raid. And gosh darnit, those wasps are all gone and I’m not mad about it. Whatta champ.

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5. Jess Connolly’s new book– I’m on the launch team for Jess’ new book that comes out in October and it’s just incredible. It’s called Dance, Stand, Run: The God-Inspired Moves of a Woman on Holy Ground and she gets crazy honest about her past few years learning about how grace and holiness intersect and it’s beautifully Gospel-centered, challenging, and authentic. You can pre-order it here and if you participate in the pre-order, you can claim some goodies here

6. The Lumineers Spotify radio station- Matt is currently working towards a graduate degree and I’m back to teaching, which means some of the free time we have together at home is spent working– reading and writing and grading. Since Netflix would just be super distracting, we’ve found a few Spotify stations that we love and The Lumineers station is one of the best ones to be playing in the background while we work.

I hope you’re enjoying your Tuesday today! And maybe some of these victories made yours a little better, too. Share what’s getting you through the week in the comments! 

Tuesday Victories | 7.25

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. Eat with Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food– my Whole30 journey started and then ended after four days. I didn’t quit because I necessarily wanted to give up, but rather because it wasn’t the healthiest decision for my body and mind. Because I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately, I’ve been reading about eating and I stumbled upon this book and downloaded it immediately. I’m about halfway through and it’s challenging me to think about the way and reasons why I eat, which is an incredibly challenging process. I’ll let ya know how it goes and what I’m learning in a blog post sometime.

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2. This sermon by Scott Sauls- Matt introduced me to Scott Sauls (not personally- just his writings/preachings) several months ago because Sauls is a preacher Matt greatly respects. I’ve been on a podcast kick this summer, mostly when I’m driving or working out, and downloaded this one yesterday from the Christ Presbyterian’s podcast channel. This sermon is such a treat. It is challenging and beautiful and packed with truth and Jesus and I didn’t want it to end. I’m excited to listen to it again and take notes!

3. Chat Pack– this is a product I got at a conference as a catalyst to start discussion among students, but Matt and I used it a bit when we first started dating. It’s just a box filled with cards that have interesting questions on them, but they’ve sparked so many great conversations for us! We hadn’t used them in the past year, but Matt found them last week and we went through a bunch and it was such a blast to learn things about each other or see how our answers have changed. And it’s always my favorite to connect over intentional conversation, so I’m thankful for that time with him!

4. This carnitas recipe– Although Whole30 turned into Whole4, we still had all Whole30 food in the fridge for the week. We made these last night and they. are. amazing. Easy to prep, pretty inexpensive (I used a pork shoulder rather than a tenderloin) and super healthy. Matt and I both agreed that this will be one of our go-to repeat recipes.

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5. This Philippians study– I mentioned Sharon Hodde Miller’s Twitter feed a few weeks ago and she just released this study on Philippians. We’re only two days in, but so far I’ve loved the what I’ve learned contextually about this church and this time period and where Paul was at while he was writing this letter. Philippians has always been my favorite book of the Bible and I’m so excited to dive deeper!

A shorter list for today because I’ve been running around getting ready for school to start next week. Ah! If you found some victories this week, and I certainly hope you did, let me know what they are in the comments!

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.