yes to quiet

31 days of WTHKW

I have been writing a lot. Much of it hasn’t ended up here; in fact, most of my 31 days haven’t ended up here. Maybe because there are some thoughts that are just better held close to my chest for awhile. One of the lovely things about writing for me is that, the more I do it, the more layers of myself I uncover. Which is beautiful and terrifying simultaneously. Terrifying because it feels so exposing, and I always feel the need to hide in the quiet for while.

So I’ve been hiding in the quiet a lot. But today, my thoughts are clear and easy and not quite so inward turned.

Last week, I was talking to a dear friend and mentor, someone I love very much. We were talking about me being exhausted and sick, about my body just leveling me with one thing after another. And I was explaining to her a little bit about how I believe that’s stress related, that my body was responding to a lack of rest, a lack of good food and proper hydration, a lack of general nourishment. And she made the comment that it’s just how life goes. That busy is just the way it is.

The older I get, though, the more I don’t really believe that. I believe that we’re as busy as we choose to be. I think of “yes” and “no” as currency these days. And I believe that when we’re exhausted and overextended and tired and sick, it’s because we’ve lost track of our yes and our no. We’ve decided that someone else gets to spend the yes and the no for us, and we just have to go with it.

I don’t think that’s true. I do believe that there are certain seasons that are naturally busier than others. I know this to be true in my career. Last week, half the reason I was so worn down was because work was really busy and really stressful. Saturday was solo contest, and trying to prepare twelve middle schoolers for that is just stressful. It just is. And I do know that was half the reason I was so tired, and likely a large chunk of the reason I felt so sick.

I also know that the other half of the reason was because I haven’t fully learned that, when I’m in a season of spending a lot of yes at work, it is vital that I learn how to spend my no in other areas for that season. In the same way that, when work is slow, I know I have some more yes to give to other areas of life.

I know as well that when those busy seasons hit, and I only have a little bit of yes to spend outside work, I need to be choosy about where it goes. I didn’t do that last week. I spent my extra yes on a lot of junk food and a lot of time with TV and social media when what I really needed to be saying yes to was making sure my body was properly cared for, with good food and plenty of water and long baths and phone calls with my best people and writing sessions and yoga and meditation and maybe a few naps.

I’m not doing this perfectly, the spending of my yes and my no. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But I am growing. I am learning how to re-chart my course a little bit more quickly than I used to.

For example, I know I should have spent my yes more wisely last week, and made more use of my no, but I didn’t. I am, however, mapping out this week to look a lot more like last week should have. I’m giving myself the margin and the downtime I need. I slept in a little today. I went to yoga. I watched one episode of Gilmore Girls and then turned the TV off, rather than spending the entire day marathoning my way through Netflix. I got groceries so my home is full of good food. I took the time to cook for myself. I’ve been drinking plenty of water, and nothing else. It’s 7:30 pm, and I am curled up in bed, snuggling my dog and listening to absolute silence while I take the thoughts in my head and put them on paper. I’m not planning to stay late at work this week, or to go out in the evenings. I plan to spend plenty of time snuggling with my puppy and my husband, or curled up with a book, or painting my nails, or coloring. Doing something that allows me to stop trying for awhile and just be.

It’s time to quiet down. It is always my choice to say yes to quiet.

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terrifying and true

31 days of WTHKW

There are days when I hold words close to my chest. Because words are wild and powerful, and sometimes I just have to wield them quietly, carefully, reverently. As though they’re capable of most anything.

And they are. Don’t ever underestimate the way that words are capable of most anything.

These past couple of days, words feel like that. I keep writing them, but in the way that I always write the things that feel most sacred. On paper, with my own hand, in the quiet of the morning. Sometimes I think that’s the space my best words were created for. I don’t kill my darlings. I don’t have the heart. But I shelter them, and I hold them close to my chest.

And sometimes I don’t know why.

On my better days, I believe it’s because I’m aware. Aware of myself, aware of my tendency to need people to approve, to need feedback on my own soul in order to feel validated. Aware of how easy it is for me to put myself out there to people and let those people affirm me, rather than God Himself.

Some days I think I hold my dearest thoughts in private places because for once in my life, I want to express my own thoughts without worrying about what anyone things about them.

And on my not-so-much-better days, I believe it’s because I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of myself sometimes.

I said it last week, out loud for the first time, that sometimes one of my major disconnects with the church these days is that sometimes when I speak about things that actually matter to me, one of the most common reactions I get is something that closely resembles fear. Is it okay to say that? Sometimes I worry that people, particularly good God-fearing church people, are a little bit afraid of me. That I’m just too much. I have All of the Big Thoughts and All of the Big Feelings and my brain wades into All of the Grey Areas. Literally nothing is off limits to my questions.

And sometimes I think that’s terrifying to people. I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that it’s terrifying to me. And so I find myself holding on to those parts of me.

The parts of me that I would define as the most difficult…but also the parts of me that I would define, without hesitation, as the most lovely. The most genuine. The most true.

The most me.

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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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breaking and making

I have a love-hate relationship with moving.

In the first twenty years of my life, I lived in one city and one home. In the past ten years of my life, I have lived in six cities and eleven homes. This time next week, it will be six cities and twelve homes.

Sometimes I feel as though, with every move, I become a little less sure where home is. I feel a little more disoriented and a lot more ready for the day when I wake up and feel the roots planted beneath me. See, I grew up in this tiny town with roots. Deep roots, the kind that keep people around for an entire lifetime. My daddy lives in a town where everyone knows his name, and everyone knew his dad’s name, and his dad’s dad.

Some days I long for that, in a way that feels like my chest cracking open. See, I have a wild and free spirit, and I’ve known since I was young that I had a gypsy heart. But even those of us with limitless wanderlust…we feel home in our chest. And when we don’t feel home in our chest, we feel the empty space, full of question marks and doubt.

Sometimes I hate moving.

But in the same breath, moving has taught me how to decide what’s important and shed the rest. It’s taught me how to surrender what is neither beautiful nor useful.

It’s such slow learning.

Because it’s not just the tangible things. With each move, my possessions, my “needs” dwindle and dwindle. I’ve learned how to travel lightly, how to live lightly, where material things are concerned. My tastes are simple and my needs few, most days.

But oh, to leave behind a season. To hold people loosely, knowing that sometimes, our people are part of one season and not as much a part of the next. To not look back at the roads that got closed off when I chose another. To let myself open the door and walk out of the places where I no longer fit. To evaluate my life, to look at the things and people I’ve chosen to fill my life with, and to actively choose not to close my hand on what is no longer either bringing me joy or growing me. To leave behind what doesn’t have the weight of something that feels like eternity.

Those parts are hard.

Those parts are growing up in slow motion.

Those parts are breaking me and making me in the same moments.

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open

Living open is hard. It’s stunning and beautiful and exactly like cold water to the face. And sometimes it feels like that’s all this year has been. One foot after another toward living wide-eyed, living open.

I don’t want to be a person who holds on to my life with a white-knuckled grip. I know there are better pieces inside me, pieces that are pure and wild and fearless. Those are the places I want to live from.

But open hands are such a tricky thing. Because as quickly as they receive, they surrender.

And surrender. It’s that thing that’s beautiful and freeing, but it can feel so hard in the moment, when you’re surrendering things you thought you needed.

This year has been that. Opening my hands and receiving beauty that I never dreamed about, while simultaneously letting go of pieces I thought I needed. Pieces I have allowed to define me.

But the truth. The truth is you never receive until you’re willing to surrender.

So tonight, with my back flat on the floor, eyes staring at a candlelit ceiling, she asked what our intention was. Asked us to phrase it in the present tense, rather than as something to be hoped for in the future.

I am open.

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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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