Category Archives: story

fear and flying

Dearest one,

It’s a rare day when I genuinely feel like I have some thoughts worth offering, thoughts that might be worth adding to the noise of your already crowded mind. But today, the stars align and the words just keep falling out of my mouth, and I feel like maybe I do. 

You think me this brilliant, amazing creature. And I love that you see that in me. But here’s the truth, a truth that’s not far from your own.

I can’t get myself to commit to a practice of writing every day. 

The reason I can’t get myself to commit to a practice of writing every day isn’t because I don’t have things to say. I do. It isn’t because I don’t have a decent command over the English language. I do.

The reason I can’t get myself to commit to a practice of writing every day is because in my mind, I’m already thinking about writing a book. And none of my thoughts are connected enough for that. I have so many thoughts about a million different things, but I don’t have enough thoughts about ONE thing to justify writing a book.

And so I don’t write. Because I’m so busy thinking about the end product that I am paralyzed. I feel like none of it matters until I know exactly what it’s going to look like in the end. I feel like none of it matters until I have a plan. Until I can nail down what it’s going to look like. Until I feel safe and secure and like its all something I can control.

I am a walking, talking definition of missing the beauty of the forest because I can’t see past the trees.

And so it is with you. 

See, for all the credit you give me and all the shame you so effortlessly give yourself, you and I are not that different. Not at all. Steps without an endgame feel pointless to you. And I know that feeling. They feel pointless to me, too. But the thing I’ve been thinking about today is how there is no endgame until you take steps. If I don’t start taking some steps without knowing where I’m going, the endgame is RIGHT HERE. This is it. The endgame is me, sitting around and wanting to say something worth hearing, but not saying anything because I want a roadmap first. If I don’t start taking some steps, I will still be this person in forty years, only with a whole lot more regret and a lot more untold stories and a lot more unlived life.

And so it is with you.

I remember his words to you one day, months ago, about how the greatest enemy of the next step is the fear of what’s across the room.

You and I, dearest one. We are one and the same. We are both so focused on what may or may not be across the room that were frozen in place. Stuck. Afraid to take a step for fear that it might be the wrong one.

But grace, man. Of all the things I’m unsure of, and there are many, Grace doesn’t make the list. Not even close. Grace may, in fact, be the one thing I know like I know my own name. Mostly because of the frequency with which I’ve had nothing else to fall on.

I believe that our steps will be messy, and some of them will be the wrong ones, because we are nothing if not fully human and prone to being and creating disasters. But I also believe they’re all important, every last one of the steps. All necessary. All growth. All Grace.

Some of my biggest missteps have turned out to be my biggest graces.

And so it is with you.

And so it will be.

Breathe. Crawl. Step. Leap, even. Jump off a cliff knowing that your wings get built while you fly. Growth and movement and purpose doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Doesn’t happen at a standstill. It only happens in midair. In discomfort. In dirty soil. 

All you can do is this one moment. You can’t handle the overwhelm of a lifetime, all at once. All you can do is this one moment. One moment that looks like crawling, but is really more like flying, when you’ve spent all this time standing still, rooted to your fear. 

Fly, mine. Don’t stand rooted to your fear. There is nothing worth fearing more than that.

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words are sharp and shiny things

Words are sharp and shiny things, and I am good with them. I always have been. I can twist and shape them into whatever form I wish. I can take you places and bring you back; I can make you feel things and ask questions and draw pictures and crave adventures.

Words are sharp and shiny things, and I am good with them. But I have learned to wield them reverently. I’m good with words in the same way I would imagine a sniper is good with his rifle, holding it with a healthy dose of both adrenaline and fear, because he knows that what he holds has the power to decimate anyone in its path.

Words are sharp and shiny things, and I am good with them. I am also terribly afraid of them. Because I know my words, the words close enough to my chest to be called mine. They aren’t easy ones, to write or to hear. They might be packaged neatly, but there is no resolution. I won’t ever give you a conclusion, and the loose ends don’t sit comfortably.

Because the words close enough to my chest to be called mine aren’t even completely mine. They are mine, but they’re also the words of at least five different people, from five separate conversations that have taken place in the past month. They’re also the words that I haven’t heard, but have seen in the eyes of more people than I can count. Words that don’t get a voice because they’re terrifying, and they can plunge a person into a rabbit hole that may cost more than they’re ready to pay.

If the North American church is a true reflection of who God is…

It feels a little bit like God doesn’t have space for messy people, for broken people, for lamenting people.

It feels a little bit like all God wants to hear when He asks how I am is “Great! How are you?” And then for me to be on my way.

It feels a little bit like God doesn’t want my love and affection as much as He does my blind and unquestioning acceptance.

It feels a little bit like I need to be successful and happy to belong to God. 

It feels a little bit like issues of race and poverty and slavery and gender and sexuality only matter to God so far as they can be dealt with as “issues” rather than dealing with the messiness of the real, vulnerable people behind the issues.

If the North American church is a true reflection of who God is…

…then I’m afraid that God maybe wants nothing to do with me. And I’m not positive I want anything to do with Him.

And if all of that isn’t true, if it’s my perception that’s flawed…

Who IS God? And what does He care about? And where do I find Him? And how do I reflect Him? What is my responsibility in this? How do I love like Jesus does, in real life and real time?

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my best adventures

I’m bored.

I hate saying that, because I usually think boredom is little more than a lack of imagination, and I don’t fancy myself a person who lacks imagination and natural curiosity.

But I’m bored.

I’m also a little bit intrigued by it, because when I poke at it, slide up close and tuck myself beneath its arm, I can’t help but notice that it comes from a really unexpected place.

See, I think it’s the introverted part of me. I spend 40+ hours a week, every week, playing the role of an extrovert out of necessity and some days I find myself wondering how they, the real ones, aren’t bored out of their minds.

Which is mildly hilarious, given that I was in bed by 6pm last night, happily reading a book written by a monk and drinking unsweetened hot tea. 

Still. In the same way my extroverted friends often wonder how I can be so satisfied with a night like that, I often wonder how they operate. Because people are like a treasure hunt for me. Every single person is an adventure. And when I know too many of them, when my days are filled with too many of them, it feels like I don’t get to REALLY go on any of the adventures. It feels a little bit like going to Europe and spending two hours each in a large number of cities. Two hours in Rome. Two hours in Paris. Two hours in Barcelona. Two hours in London. Two hours in Amsterdam. Two hours in Dublin. Two hours in Athens. Two hours in Edinburgh.

Two hours in, you’re just arriving. You’re barely even there.

Sometimes, teaching feels exactly like that. Like there’s all of this opportunity at my fingertips. There are all of these huge adventures. But I’m too busy trying to get from city to city to really experience any of them.

Then I get home, and I’m so absolutely exhausted from all the traveling and all the cities and all the disappointment over all the missed adventures.

So I miss out on a few more, because I’ve already given every ounce of energy I possess.

And some days, I simply don’t know if I’m built for it.

I’m built for digging deep into dirty soil. For long conversations and eye contact and noticing everything remembering small details. I’m built for holding space for people, for their messiness and madness and brilliance. I’m built for uncontrollable laughter and ugly crying and knowing that both are of equal value. Both are terrifying and both are sacred.

I was thinking earlier today about money, and how if I had enough of it, I would never stop getting on planes. I would never stop getting on planes that land at coffee shops, planes that drop me off at tables with uneven legs, across from the people who were and are and will become my favorite explorations. I would never stop showing up for anyone who needs to hear someone say, “You are one of my best adventures.”

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love behind the wheel

And then comes the moment when you realize that you’ve been fighting tooth and nail for something you already have. That for all the moments you’re desperate to be seen and known, somehow you already are.

…who you are is someone with more love than you know how to handle, and I will always be welcome in your heart. And I will always be your people.

Oh, man.

I have so much more love than I know how to handle.

There’s this thing that we’ve always said, me and my best girls, at the end of lingering phone conversation and wandering words woven together into long letters.

I love you more than I know how to.

The thing rooted deepest into my fibers, engraved on my soul, is wild and untamed. It is lovely, but terrifying. I think in some ways, it’s the thing I’m most afraid of. Because when love is behind the wheel, all bets are off. For so many years, I worked hard to build a fairly predictable life, to be a fairly predictable person. I wasn’t always very good at it, probably because I was always going against the grain of my own spirit. But God, I tried hard.

But to say it out loud, to acknowledge and give power to all the ways that I am ever expanding with the swelling of an uncontrollable love for the world, for the people who surround me, for the Creation of my Creator.

To say out loud that love is what gives me my life and my breath and my motivation.

That changes everything. There is no more predictable. There is no more safe.

There’s just me, and the God who made me, and the wild love He wrote into my DNA.

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under the sky

Sometimes, church is pipe tobacco and a shared bottle of wine.

In moments like that, the Texas sky seems exactly as big as all the old country songs claim, freckled with stars and nearly swallowing the moon with all its navy blue.

I didn’t know that first night, months ago, how immediately they would be our people. You know the ones. The people you sit around the dinner table with, laughing and talking, and a split second later, you look up to find that hours have passed and it’s tomorrow already and you instinctively know that this conversation has only just begun.

The night ends and months go by, because life is busy and there are jobs and kids and soccer practice and piano lessons and all of the things, but eventually you’re gathered around that same dinner table and it just feels like you never left.

So you take it outside, under the sky, because all the best things should always happen under the sky, and conversation like that is the best thing. Honesty like that is the best thing. Laughter like that is the best thing. Hope like that is the best thing.

In those moments, with the voices and and the stories and the sky and the same pipe tobacco Tolkien loved and the red wine, I feel it in my chest again. Church. I believe in it. I always have, but some days it comes easier than others. Some days it’s a picture I can see clearly, and some days the picture looks like nothing, clouded as it is by my own imperfect vision.

I sat out there, stars blinking and wind blowing my hair, and I wondered if this was what it felt like in the beginning. If this was why Jesus felt so strongly about gathering with people around a table. If maybe, when Jesus talked about the church, he was talking about this. This lack of pretense, this lack of politics, this lack of a business model, this lack of programs, this lack of agendas, this lack of cultural success. This presence. This presence of real, messy, disastrous, beautiful human beings who just want to know Jesus and do things the way he did, love people the way he did. Even when that feels impossible, wrapped as we are in humanity so frail it’s been known to shatter.

I want that. I want so much more of that. All of the fibers of my being strain toward it. Toward Jesus. Toward his people. Toward church, for the first time in so very, very long.

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in which themes really aren’t my thing

Every October, they pop up. The lovely 31-dayers, with their beautiful words and their respectable consistency, and I think of joining them. Every year, I want to put a few small words out there, give them wings to take up residence beside the words of the ones I would consider great writers.

But every year, I get stuck on the same thing. The whole idea of a theme. I’ve never been very good with themes. Too many things are too terribly interesting and important to me. Which sometimes feels like a lack of focus, mostly because sometimes it is.

This year is more of the same. I’ve tossed around at least ten different themes in the past couple of weeks, and they all hit the walls of my soul and slide off. Nothing sticks, nothing clings to my insides, my ribcage.

But oh, how I want to write these days. I feel all of the things inside of me, scratching and clawing to get out. And if the only thing stopping me from challenging myself to write every day for a month straight is the lack of a theme…well, that’s just silly.

So I, personally, am considering my theme “31 Days of who-the-hell-knows-what.”

It’s slightly less poetic than “31 Days to Listen” or “31 Days to Dream” or “31 Coffee Dates in 31 Days.”

Slightly less poetic, but far more true to where and who I am in this moment.

Because too many things are rattling around these days to pick just one. Maybe that’s why I need to write so much these days. Maybe that’s why I spent half my drive to work yesterday teary-eyed because I just wanted the space to crawl into a quiet part of my soul and put the rest, the part that’s not at all quiet, on paper.

Too many things are too important and too heavy and too possible and too never-gonna-happen and too unknown.

Too much of life is who-the-hell-knows-what.

And so I will write from there, from that place.

It may not be pretty, but it will be honest. And I’m sure it will look a little like healing, in that way that only the ugly, honest things can be.

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grace alive

Grace alive is an unpredictable thing that can never quite be pinned down.

I so often watch for grace to arrive in an expected package, something beautiful and aesthetic and wildly appealing to my personal tendency to over-romanticize pretty much everything.

I saw it coming from months away, the grace of a long weekend away with my love. I saw grace coming in the form of early morning coffee and long, quiet moments to write the sunrise. I thought it would be found in climbing mountains that hold thousands of years worth of secrets in their jagged edges. Surely grace is standing at the top and breathing deep and experiencing the perspective you can only get from above, from watching large things become very, very small. I thought the best grace would come from exploring new territory, trying new things. I saw grace coming in moments that would undoubtedly be fresh and breathtaking and special and unusual.

And I stood at the bottom of the mountain for five days, and at the end of those five days, I felt a little disappointed. I felt the itch of the temptation to be jaded. Because all the graces I thought I would have turned out to be not at all the graces I got.

I got the grace of sleeping in, and then waking up and walking out the door to see a truly stunning mountain skyline literally in my backyard. Of watching Law and Order SVU in the same room with people I love dearly, people I rarely share air with. Of giant bear hugs from my biggest-littlest brother. Of making mischief with my sister, who loves to tease my husband and does so like a boss. Of a tiny blonde niece who simply could not get close enough to my skin, could not contain within herself all the six-year-old stories she needed to tell me while she had me close enough to be whispered to. Of Jimmy Fallon and Cards Against Humanity, alternating on repeat until midnight, punctuated by wild and irreverent laughter. Of watching the shortest, fattest dog I’ve ever seen just trying to waddle from place to place, and laughing until I ugly-cry. Of snuggling up to my love on an air mattress that kept rolling us both toward the center, always closer, always laughing.

Those sound like really good graces, right? Maybe even the best graces. The ones I found myself briefly tempted to be disappointed by. I am quite literally rolling my eyes at my own expectations and my ability to kill off a beautiful series of moments with them.

Because what about the unexpected grace of the everyday? The grace of recognizing, even in the grimy mess of your own humanity, that sometimes you don’t need the an escape into new and different and better. Sometimes you just need to see grace alive in the ordinary, wherever you are. Since that’s what makes a life anyway. That’s what makes all the moments worth having. Grace alive is why I can be just as glad to fall asleep at home in Texas as I was to fall asleep in Colorado last night.

Yesterday’s grace, today’s grace, expected, unanticipated, wild, alive. If there were five words to be prayed for myself and for the ones whose hearts I hold, these are the ones.

May we see grace alive.

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