Springs & Winters

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I never find myself sitting down spending quality time with this blog when it’s been a painless season. Instead I find myself here when I’ve been learning and growing – often not in the most comfortable ways.

A few weeks ago I was talking with one of my best friends, Evan, giggling about some sort of ridiculous plan she had mapped out for me. It was one of those plans that you concoct for your close friends – for them to do something you know they want to do deep inside but need a push- like dying your hair blue or starting your own business. When I started explaining to her why I could never go through with her plan, she looked at me, daggers in her eyes, stopping me mid-sentence and just said “Yes. You’re worth it” with a confidence you could hear in her voice and see in her face.  

It hit me so hard because I’ve been doubting so much of myself lately. It’s been a season of winter and dry where I’ve let the songs of fear wash over me. It’s scary to feel like you’re not worth it, it’s scary to realize you’re trying to ‘fix’ people around you, it’s scary to realize you don’t know if you still want the things you’ve always told yourself you want, and it’s scary to not have a concrete plan of what the future looks like.

And that’s where I’ve found myself – floating and unsure and scared.

I’ve been learning a lot in my winter. I’ve been learning to find the Lord through my doubting. I’ve been learning to take care of myself. I’ve been learning I can’t fix everything. And I’ve been learning to listen to people like Ev who say I’m worth it when I feel small and unsure of myself.

In seasons of winter and drought we tend to carry a special tenderness in our demeanor. For me, it feels like when I’m spread thin, any small thing hits me more poignantly. It was in a dry season that Evan telling me I was worth it over something silly hit me like a truck and actually got through to me. When I’m in a winter a flower could make me cry and the Lord could teach me something at any moment on any day. It sounds awesome on the backend, but it’s uncomfortable in the middle. Winters force us to learn, and without them, I would never realize how strong I can be, how much I need people, and more than anything how much I need Jesus. Our lives are cyclical, our seasons are temporary, and as much as we love the spring, winter will circle back around – it will bring us back into that special tenderness.

However, even in your springs it doesn’t mean there aren’t traces of winter.  It’s still scary to feel like you’re not worth it, it’s still scary to realize you’re trying to fix people, and it’s still scary to not know what you want and what your plans are. Even in seasons of spring our problems and insecurities we grapple with don’t disappear, but we all need a few more Evans in our lives to remind us of who we are and what we’re worth – to remind us to embrace the spring seasons and to embrace who we are.

Because as tired as I might get of my own winter, The Lord always uses it to shape me into something better.

I’ve probably cried more days on this calendar year then my eyes have had dry days, but I never want to stop living this way. I never want to forget the true joy that comes after the dry times – the way the Lord shapes my heart shows me how to be better, how to be fuller. I never want to forget that when the Lord lets us go through falls and winters, there are always springs that follow.

I’m thankful that spring has come and this season of winter is closing, but I don’t doubt that winter will come again and teach me a special tenderness in a new way.

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For When You Feel Too Small

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Too small was never something I thought I would feel – it’s not something that I feel comfortable sitting in, because the majority of us are scared of small. We’ve been taught to believe that everything we do needs to be big. We’re scared of the living breathing relationships right in front of us because we’ve been conditioned to want big often at the expense of personal. Our culture thrives off big. Big is sexy. big means important. If you’re not doing something big you have yet to arrive.

Lately I’ve been hearing so many stories of heartbreak. Stories that rip your heart out and lay it on the table for spectacle. In these stories I’ve felt paralyzed, I’ve felt too small.

Too small.

I get anxious about feeling small – about not being seen, about not being the one to fix the world’s heartache. In a dream world I’d like to be the person that gives everyone a shoulder to cry on, I’d like to hear every sad story, I’d like to be everyone’s go to person, and I don’t feel that I’m too bold in saying that I’m not alone in wanting to be that.

A few weeks ago I sat on the couch with my boss and I cried. Tears for the things that need to be done and the frustration of feeling like I have so few cards to play. Feeling as though my voice doesn’t hold much weight – I’m just a student who watches Gilmore girls in my free time – who’s listening to me? I cried tears over being a person with passion and feeling anything but heard.

I cried tears of frustration over the systems of oppression that I undeservedly benefit from. Tears for young men in this country who live in fear and tears for women who are trapped in slavery all over the world. Why them and not me?

As we sat on her couch she spoke words over me – she reminded me the importance of playing the cards we have – no matter how small we feel our voice is in the moment. She talked about the importance of waiting for God’s timing but also loving people thoroughly every day. She exemplifies living love out as far as her arms can reach. She fights to reach farther because she knows that loving people well & respecting them is a form of justice. She speaks because she knows there are things that deserve to be talked about and spoken over people even if there are only a few listening. She speaks because she knows that no matter how loud her voice is what she’s saying matters.

Love isn’t a grand show but rather it’s trying to live each day a little kinder and a little more like Jesus. I know that my arms can’t reach all the people right now, and possibly ever. But I’m learning the beauty of doing everything with a little bit more love. This is not to say that we can’t have love for all the people—we are built to love all the people. But so often we get too caught up in loving the big picture & the idea of justice that we stop loving the humans right in front of us.

I’m asking you to sit in this with me for a bit. To consider the nitty-gritty and the ugly of what it looks like to love the people within our arms reach. To be the shoulder someone can cry on even when it doesn’t sound fun. To love people in their ugliest moments & to choose to stay even when there’s no one to see it. To see how we’re loving others when life hits the fan and loving suddenly isn’t just a pretty concept but asks for real sacrifice. And when we fail (which I often do) how are we choosing to pick back up and love more deeply? How are we choosing to stay, and how are we using our voices to speak out?

I want to leave with the over-used but very powerful & true words of Mother T., that came back into my mind yesterday and caused me to finally get my words and convictions to paper: Small things with great love.” Sometimes the cards we have to play are just to love those around us better and to speak out – and how beautiful that we’ve got such a job?

 

Songs of Hallelujah

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Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of ‘love yourself’.
It seems to be a buzz-phrase. Something people feel they have to say to me because they know I’m a feminist or something. Things like, “You don’t need a man, just love yourself” and “Jesus is your boyfriend” are things I hear far too regularly, and frankly don’t know what to do with.

I hear it so frequently that I usually smile and nod and let it roll off my back. Whether I’ve been listening or not, as a single woman at a Christian university, ‘love yourself’ has been a mantra I’ve been hearing for 21 years.

A year ago I left Southern California to study humanities in the seclusion of a kids summer camp with 40 other students in the middle of the mountains near Yosemite. It’s a place where you’re constantly smelling trees and getting splinters in your toes and crying because the way that the sun kisses the mountains at 5pm is too pretty to not cry.

I pretty frequently say that living in the outdoors made me better, but I often neglect to remember the pain that accompanies growth. I forget the moments I felt I wasn’t enough. I forget the moments I told myself I wasn’t good enough for someone else. I forget the moments I felt completely incapable, and the moments when I didn’t love who I was.

It was through the mess, the moments of real honesty with those around me, and moments of looking face to face with the monster of self-doubt that I’ve grown most. I’ve hated the frequency of the words ‘love yourself’ because they meant nothing until I started to think of myself as something worthy of consciously choosing to love. I don’t think I even realized the importance of loving myself well until I started to do it.

It didn’t happen in some ah-ha moment. There was no moment of clarity where the heavens opened up and told me I was worthy. It was in the moments I felt vulnerable and weak.

Let me tell you about a friend of mine named Paige.

Paige loves people really well. Paige loves me, and she probably loves you. But the thing I like the best about Paige is that when she believes in you, she genuinely believes in who you are with every part of her. Paige doesn’t let you sulk. Paige doesn’t even let you feel stupid when you run really slow.

A year ago when we lived in this little mountain school someone somehow convinced us to run a half marathon. If you knew me at the time you knew running is not a thing I did. With that in mind, the scene is set—I’m on an 8 mile run. The longest I had ever run in my life. I’m 4 miles in, running as slow as a snail and thinking only negative thoughts of myself. ‘You’re slow’ ‘You can’t do this’ ‘You can’t do this’ ‘you can’t do this’ ‘You’re incapable’. At mile 4 I see Paige. We only pass for a moment, but she stops me. She could see my eyes welling up and hear the shaking in my voice. She could see me being defeated, and all she said was ‘You are capable’.

You are capable.

Those words rang in my head the next four miles. They weren’t easy or fast miles, but the words kept ringing—‘You are capable’. It was a little thing but it started to break me down. I was weak and someone chose to see value in me anyways.

For me, it’s been the most uncomfortable points that reap the most growth and joy in the end. It’s through understanding that the Lord wants to redeem us that we can best love our broken neighbors with Christ’s redemptive love. It’s through learning the ways the Lord wants to love us. For me, seeing my own self worth started at a kids summer camp with the trees and the splinters and the sun kissing the mountains.

I’ve often neglected loving myself in order to be strong and love others and give without wanting back, but I’ve realized that we’re no good if we aren’t letting ourselves be loved as well. This isn’t a call to a righteous pride, but rather to live in the knowledge that my God calls me worthy—and that changes things. Jesus tells us to pour out and simultaneously be poured into. I cannot pour if I am refusing to accept the Lord’s pouring—I am merely a vessel. 

A lot of days I still find myself singing songs of doubt and self-deprecation, but more often than not I sing songs of grace and of who God tells me I am. I can sing hallelujah because though I am messy I am asking God to pour into me until I overflow. I wish someone had told me that while loving myself is about me loving me, it’s mostly about allowing God to love me. It’s about listening when someone tells you

you are capable.’

Being All Things

I cannot be all things for all people.

This has become my anthem lately. I cannot be everything that I would like to be for everyone that I would like to be there for—I’m not that strong, I’m not that big, and I’m not God.

I’ve been realizing how often I don’t give my God any space to be God. I’m still trying to figure out why in the world we do this. We can so clearly see that there is a gap between our ability and our needs—

but we keep stretching and contorting and reaching to fill that gap on our own.

 And sometimes it works. Sometimes we reach the other side just by hard work—but let’s be clear: that was never the intent. I was not built to do all things, to fix all things. We were not meant to run ourselves dry trying to keep a handle on the problems of others & ourselves. Though it’s probably possible it’s just not the point. You cannot be all things for all people.

I was built with the capacity to reach for help. This is what our weakness was made for. This is what I was made for. I was made to ask for help in everything. I was built to let Jesus invade my spaces & be in my hard conversations, for Jesus to be a part of not only my best days but my most insecure days. It’s a struggle I know well because who in the world likes to give up power and be vulnerable? For God to show that he’s strong he needs me to be okay with my own weakness. That’s not in my comfort zone. I love the idea of being strong. I hate the idea that God asks me to accept that I’m weak, but what would be the point of my God if I could take care of all my own battles? If I could create the sun and moon and stars and daisies? What would be the point of solving our own problems if we could never rest in the peace of something greater than ourselves?

We do ourselves and God a great disservice when we press into our problems by ourselves and then claim that there was Jesus in what was done. I serve a God who made mountains and valleys, so I’m trying to give Him the space to show up in my miniscule details. And no matter how big the problems that I solved were, if I try to say that I did it through Jesus when I really didn’t—I’m just making my big God look silly and small. But why is it so hard for me to just let God be big?

I want to stop. I want to stop handling things that were clearly not designed for me to toil and sweat and worry and worry and worry about. I spend too much time worrying about if God’s actually going to come through and no time actually letting God dance with me in my life. There is nothing that I have realized is more beautiful than the way that the Lord keeps calling us, keeps coming back and asking us to dance. I’ve felt so frustrated in this season with a whole lot of things yet even in my ugliest of moments of anger God keeps reaching in and asking me to dance. My God looks at me and wants me to talk about him with the same confidence that I have when I talk about the moon and the stars—I have not a single doubt in my mind that they will do what they are there to do. However so often I doubt that God will be what he says he’ll be.

I so often grab hold of opportunities where God could show that he’s God and I hoard them. I hold on. As if the harder I hold the stronger he’s going to work. And sometimes God does. He pries off our white knuckles from what we’re holding onto so strongly, and takes care of it. But how much greater would it be if God didn’t have to pry? If we could remember that we cannot be all things to all people,

we weren’t meant to be.

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A short commentary on the moon

 

I shouted a curse word, out loud alone in my car tonight when I saw the moon (sorry mom). This was shortly followed by me trying to stare at the moon while I drove on the freeway home, and then trying to drive through my tears as I caught a glimpse of the moon right above my rearview mirror—a mirror that held the faint streaks of a northwest sunset . The Lord was in the details tonight.

A few days ago I was on the phone with a friend & I just started talking about the moon and God’s splendor & how the two are connected. His response was simply that I should write about it, and I didn’t really think anything of that until I was alone in my car saying words I shouldn’t because I couldn’t find words poignant enough to express God’s beauty (and still can’t).

Let me explain this whole splendor thing:

Splendor means “great or impressive beauty”. I think the moon is one of the clearest images we get of God and his character. Yes—all of nature is great—but there’s something about the moon I just can’t wrap my head around.

The moon is one single facet of the night sky. It’s always showing different sides of itself, yet at the same time it’s always staying constant. It’s always the same moon. Even when we can only see a little tiny sliver it’s still the same moon that showed it’s whole self tonight & captivated me while I was driving (p.s. no one was harmed on my drive home)! The moon doesn’t change, but at the same time it’s always showing us something new. The moon is beautiful but also terrifying because though it appears small, it’s magnitude is ridiculous.

And I just find it so fascinating that no matter what I accomplish here as a human being I can’t plant a moon. You just can’t plant one. I will never plant a moon. Stop laughing at me for 2.5 seconds and just think about how big God is. Our God is a God of splendor! He made a light for the night that is not only functional but so beautiful that it can bring me to tears on the freeway. God planted a moon!! I can plant a tree, but I serve a God who plants moons!

Basically I’m really excited about the moon because it gives me a clearer picture of who God is.

Someone told me one time that we should each have something that every time we see it, it reminds us of God. So here’s my plea: pick something big, pick something small—but for the love pick something that reminds you that you are not God. I could care less if it’s the moon, because ultimately you may think that the moon is nothing cooler than a really big natural flashlight & that’s fine! But find something that reminds you how big & glorious our God is & how tiny & helpless we are. We serve a really really big God.

So find your thing. Do it, I dare you.

 

Jesus & Donuts

The only thing that really matters is Jesus. I need to remind myself of that every single day because I have a lot of my own crap that I need to work on. all. the. time.

Just a short list: I get way too worked up when I’m running late for work. I spend 500x too much time staring at a screen when there are real people present. I get upset about silly things & then realize how much privilege I have, & I complain about not understanding philosophy (but honestly those that can read it on their own & understand it are beyond me).

But all of that to say wow wow wow how silly are we sometimes and how good is our Lord to love us anyways? When I stop and think (which is really easy to avoid in our culture if we want) I come back to how much I need Jesus and how good he is. And how much of an amazing gift his love for us is.

The other night I was sitting in the top pot parking lot with a friend after a failed attempt to get donuts (top pot was CLOSED so we ate crappy donuts from the grocery store), and we ended up having one of the most poignant conversations about Jesus. After a while, the most honest thing I could say was I just want to love Jesus more.

Have you ever met one of those people who genuinely call Jesus their best friend and live by that? People who actually function differently because of what Jesus has done for them? I don’t mean the difference between Christians who are really good at following rules & those who aren’t (because oopsie I swore in my first draft of this!)—but I mean people who base every action in their life off of the fact that they want to know Jesus more deeply.

I want there to be more of those people! I want to be those people! Jesus was so radical & loved people so unconventionally. He wasn’t hateful & Jesus wasn’t a business! Jesus wasn’t trying to push something down our throats or badger us with a point, but rather he simply showed love. Why is that so hard while it’s so easy to share an opinion of Caitlyn Jenner on facebook? There is something brave about Jesus & the way that he proclaims such a pure love!

I’m not claiming to have answers, but a mentor of mine once told me that we’re the best at teaching what we’re currently learning ourselves. So I’m learning. I’m learning what it looks like to love people more fully. I’m learning that Jesus wants to hear about the tiny details of my day. I’m learning what it means to pray all of the time—and I’m learning from other people. I think that we can see Jesus everywhere. This is not some hippie-who-lived-in-the-mountains-zen-life-philosophy, but rather the fact that God made us, so obviously his big ol’ God fingerprints are on everyone & everything!

Basically it seems like every few months I feel inclined to write something & put it on the Internet in case anyone is moseying through facebook & has kept with me this whole time. I don’t know why but here I am telling you what I’ve been learning.

So here’s my recap:

Jesus is good. Whether you’re living in the mountains or working a 9-5 job he wants to know about your day! Jesus is fascinated by you & he cares so so much. He thinks your thoughts are important!

I want to know him more. How cool is it that we have a savior we can keep getting to know? I will never know everything about Jesus, and it can keep trying & imagining because he gave us imagination!!

Jesus is beautiful & he leaves his fingerprints on everything.

Those are my thoughts. I’m still learning but maybe in some weird way my rambles have inspired your rambles!

Pleasant Places

I didn’t intend to write this. I sat down on the floor in my apartment on the Sunday night before finals with the intention of mindlessly cranking out all the Psalm reflections that I neglected to for my 100 level psych class that I don’t give any craps about. Somehow I ended up here, reading the words I’ve been looking for all semester and couldn’t formulate myself. And I hope with everything in my heart that some of this may show you rest, because that’s what the Lord has been showing me.

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” –Psalm 16:5&6

This prayer is for contentment today.

My heart is restless a lot of the time. I know in my head that my lines have fallen in pleasant places, but still my heart is restless. I know that the Lord has me where he wants me but it’s often hard to feel it in our hearts when life is happening. Life goes on and things happen that give us tired days and sleepless nights. There are days that we’re sad all day for no specific reason and we do not feel at all that our lines have fallen in pleasant places. But guess what? They have.

This semester has been shambles at times, and if I’m being transparent there have been far too many days that I have let myself stew in that. There have been too many times that I have felt that I could make my own pleasant places, but look—the text says that the lines have fallen for me. As in I don’t get a say. It ‘s not mine to place. We don’t get to tell him what we think contentment will best look like for us. And that’s a great big jumble of uncomfortable/scary/relieving.

But after this semester has been said and done you know what’s been pleasant? Growth. The ways the Lord has put me into places that are uncomfortable and said ‘look’ or ‘stay here’, or ‘do you see what they mean?’ That is pleasant to me. Not often the moments, but the result that has come after. We have to get up and know that our lines have fallen in pleasant places, even when we are so positive in our human spirit that we have a better place to put our lines.

So this is my encouragement to you and me, our lines have fallen in good places. I’m not saying that life isn’t hard. I’m not saying that life doesn’t suck sometimes, because it does. I’m saying that the Lord wants to show you things through the times that suck. There is no better place your lines could be falling than where the Lord is putting them, so let him put them there. The Lord has our best interest, even when we are fighting him tooth and nail to submit to places that feel anything but pleasant. My prayer is that the Lord would show us how to be content with the pleasant places of today. I pray that we can stop wrestling about where we should be, and just be present where we are today. I struggle with that daily, it’s so freaking hard sometimes, but the Lord knows what he’s doing, and that gives me rest.