Tag Archives: writing

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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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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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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soul check [1]

Some days I know who I am and where I am and what I feel. Some days, life gives me the space to breathe and contemplate and think my thoughts all the way through, from beginning to end. Sometimes, I need sentence starters, things like I feel, I love, I remember. Sometimes I need practical ways to think my thoughts, and today is that day. Today is soul check day for me. Join me?

I feel like myself today. That isn’t always the case, particularly at work.

I crave wide open blocks of time during which there’s nothing urgent to be done, nothing with a deadline or expectation attached to it.

I love laughing with my students. I really, really love laughing with them.

I’m afraid of death, and the way it changes the living. I’m afraid of the grief process, of myself and the people I love coming out on the other side as completely different human beings, who have to learn how to love-in-action-in-real-time each other all over again.

I’m discovering that my best creative thinking happens at around 7:30 in the morning, usually during or after my commute. That feels a little inconvenient.

I’m bothered by the fact that sometimes it feels apparent that we’re more attached to the idea of quantifiable and correct theology than we are to the fragile hearts of the human beings with whom we disagree.

I’m encouraged by the fact that there are sixteen school days left before summer, and today, that doesn’t feel like much at all. It doesn’t feel overwhelming.

I’m remembering that all is grace, even the things that don’t feel like it. Maybe especially those things.

I’m listening to All Sons and Daughters on repeat these days.

I’m reading Emily’s latest blog, and reminding myself that it’s okay to just sit and be. That sometimes, that’s genuinely the best and most important thing we can do, even if it’s not the most urgent.

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It feels impossible to write down how I got here, how I got to all of these bitter and hard places with God and the church.  Because I know that if I were to say this to my sweet mama, her pure-intentioned heart would be broken, because it’s genuinely not how she and Dad meant for me to see it all, this business of faith.

But I know I have to.  I know I have to learn to separate myself from that feeling of guilt in speaking the truth.  I have to put it all down anyway, because regardless of intention, it’s my story.  Everything I do and say and believe is tangled up with it, and it’s time to work out the knots.

I grew up with the suspicion that God’s love for me was directly related to my ability to perform well, to not screw up.  To live a squeaky clean life on the outside, even if that meant my outside and inside couldn’t ever match.  Even if it meant that, on some level, I spent 100% of my time lying.  We never called it that, clearly.  But the older I get, the more I am convinced that when your outside doesn’t match your insides, you are living smack in the middle of a lie of monstrous proportions.

Maybe that’s what this is, ultimately.  Me learning to fight for truth.  For my truth.

I remember waking up Sunday mornings, putting on a dress, a little makeup.  Making sure I was perfectly presentable, but not pretty or alluring enough to be distracting.  But always, that dress or skirt.  Because God wanted my best, and for a teenage female in my world, that meant dressing up for church.  For the longest time, it never struck me as strange, being the only version of reality and truth I’d ever encountered.  It never struck me as strange that our pastor referenced the Scripture that talked about how God looks not on the outside but on the heart.  It never struck me as strange that the same man who preached that sermon also shamed a woman for wearing a pant suit to our church; a woman who stopped coming.

And no one said anything.  No one openly questioned it.

The more I think about that, the more angry I get.  Mostly because I find it completely representative of that church culture, of my raising.  That God wants our best, deserves our best, and when God says He wants and deserves our best, He mostly just meant that He wants us to look our best, needs our lives to look their best.  He mostly cares about how things appear.  Because essentially, we are God’s PR people, and it’s our job to paint a pretty picture, even if the canvas is rotting.

That’s why so many people don’t fit, I think.  Why there is no place for anyone who doesn’t fit the mold, who lacks the desire or the ability to just fall in line.  Because to some degree, it’s easier to worship the mold, to worship a cleaned-up appearance of God, than it is to actually worship a messy, wild God that none of us can even pin down.

And I’m smart enough to know it’s not that black and white.  I know that this world has been home to billions of people who have experienced God in a billion unique ways, and I know these beautiful, maddening people who raised me really DO see God in this mold.  I know the mold has helped them make sense of God and faith, and isn’t that what we’re all looking for in our own imperfect way, really? I know that hurt doesn’t cancel out grace, and I know there will be a day when the grace will feel weightier than the hurt does to me.

But for everything there is a season.

Today I’m in the middle of a season of hurt.  On behalf of myself, a girl who spent decades trying to stuff a massive soul into a tiny frame.  A spirit with sharp and fragmented edges simply does not fit in that world, and for years I lived with the hand-me-down philosophy that since the mold was one purely of God’s making, it had to be me that was broken and in need of fixing, so I could fit into it.

Today I’m in the middle of a season of hurt.  On behalf of the wandering ones, the friends I grew up with who sensed the same things I do, felt the same skepticism and disillusionment, but weren’t ever found by someone able and willing to suggest a new approach to God and faith.  The ones whose hurt whispered you don’t belong here…give it up one too many times, until they simply believed it, and did.

Today I’m in the middle of a season of hurt.  On behalf of all the people who have missed out on precious people and precious experiences because those people and experiences didn’t fit the mold.  The ones for whom fear won out, fear of what might happen if they let themselves really, truly Jesus-love someone who didn’t fit the mold.  I know the beauty those people have missed out on, and my heart aches at their loss.

Today I’m in the middle of a season of hurt.  On behalf of God Himself, for all the times His heart has been missed, so that we could water things down to a level we can understand and quantify for ourselves and others.  For all the times we’ve forgotten that Jesus once said that whatever we do to the least of His kids, we do to Him.  When we neglect them, we neglect Him.  When we refuse to try to see their hearts, we refuse to try to see His.  When we submit them to a system of scales and balances and find them wanting and therefore unworthy of our genuine love, we find Him wanting and therefore unworthy of our genuine love.

Which was the one thing He asked of us above every single other thing.

to love God more than the mold

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