Barefoot in the grass.

Christmas is nearly here and after that, the new year begins. I’m not one for new year’s resolutions so much as I am for last year’s reflections. I believe that we cannot move forward until we look back and acknowledge what propelled us to this place.

Much of my Texas life feels surreal. Even when it’s hard, even when I’m letting out frustrated sighs and muttered curse words and finding myself raw and bleeding from another encounter with a heart that’s hurting, it is still surreal. Because was it really a year ago that I told the Lord I was committed to staying in my wee house in my heartbreak town? Was it really a year ago that I laid down my other dreams for good and told myself that working in healthcare would be my path? Was it really a year ago that despite feeling like I was supposed to stay, I started packing up my house anyway because new things were coming and I could feel it in my bones? I distinctly remember the night I told some friends that half my house was already in boxes because my life was about to change. I didn’t know when or how, but I knew it. Somehow. They didn’t laugh, but they weren’t encouraging either. They thought I was crazy.

I was crazy. I was crazy tired of mediocre and half-assed. I was crazy ready for some new adventure, some new adrenaline rush, some wild thing to happen that would force me up and over the mountain. I was crazy with fear that what was in front of me is all that it would ever be.

Was it really only a year ago that I felt like that? Ready, but not knowing anything that was about to happen? Was is really a year ago that the Lord whispered gently: “For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Was it really a year ago that I laid sick as a dog on the couch on Christmas Day, unable to breathe properly and dreading another year like the one before? I remember how it snowed so hard my dad had to load up his snowblower and drive across town to plow my driveway. That blasted snow. So pretty, but such a bear to contend with. Little did I know I’d be leaving it far behind and heading 800 miles south to see dreams come true just 7 weeks later.

Oh, this year. It has not been without its hard moments (and perhaps those will lend themselves to writing later), but it has been lovely. Far, far lovelier than I deserve. A redemptive year, you could say. My heart/mind/soul has been redeemed from the pit of depression. My career and academic goals have been redeemed. My perceptions about the church and how God writes the meta-narrative of my life have been redeemed. Some relationships I let go of have been returned to me tenfold and the welcoming has been so gentle and sweet. I love my job and my students and the passionate people with whom I work. My mind is exploding with ideas for books and dreams and adventures. Was it really a year ago that none of this existed in my life?

This time last year I was trudging through the snow, feeling burdened by circumstances and my heavy heart and lifting one world-weary boot in front of the other, hoping and praying for (but not believing in) changes so wild they could only be wrought by the hands of the living God.

I think the temp hovered around 0 degrees at Christmastime. It’s going to be a lot warmer here this year in my home in the piney woods. About 70, they say. I have plans to go to the lake and listen to the water at the shore and stand barefoot in the grass with my eyes wide open and my arms at my sides and not crossed in front of my heart. Life feels a lot lighter these days. And I’m right where I need to be. Because the Lord has been whispering again lately. To show up and do life in the ditches with my fellow travelers. To “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15). To be barefoot in the grass on Christmas Day, present and ready for another round of unknown and unfathomable adventures.

Waiting.

I have no patience. None. Zero. When something doesn’t meet expectations or deadlines – real or imagined – I smile and nod externally while I’m stomping my foot angrily on the inside. No patience.

I am especially impatient with the sorrowful times of those in my tribe. I don’t mean that I want them to get over it. I mean that I want their suffering to end and their lives to be lovely and light and unburdened. So right now, in the Christian Advent season, in the time when I’m supposed to be anticipatory and hopeful and breathless in awe and wonder … I’m real impatient with God.

Because people, my people, are hurting.

Because my cousins welcomed two teensy tiny baby girls into the world and they’re still hooked up to machines in the hospital. I so badly want one baby’s lungs to be strong and for her to weigh more than 1 pound and I want the other baby to be held unencumbered by her mama and I want to see them both grow up healthy and whole and run in fields and scoop up flowers by the fistfuls and drive their big brothers absolutely mad with their laughter and dollies laying everywhere.

Because my dear, precious friends now know why their sweet, darling little girl doesn’t feel well. May they finally get some rest and be assured that she will get well and grow up strong and healthy.

Because a high school classmate’s handsome little man 500 miles away is going through much the same as that darling little girl. Diagnosed within a week of each other. May his laughter always be a present experience and his illness just a memory. I want them all to be able to rest in the joy of knowing God as Healer and that this same God is bigger than tumors and chemo and endless hospital visits.

Because a dear friend/family member is wading through some hard stuff. And I want her to be joyful and unafraid.

Because my friend’s mother is in recovery but not out of the woods. And they’re all so tired. Long illnesses take a toll on more than just the sick.

Because last week I overheard a hateful and hurtful comment from a student that shook me to my core. And it wasn’t what he said about me that was the worst thing, even though it made me cry later. The worst thing was how those words changed a dynamic I thought was solid, and jolted my perspective about my university. As great as it is, hate and loathing still reside here.

Because I didn’t get what I long for. And despite every well-intentioned word, I wonder if I ever will. I wonder if maybe God forgot me, left me behind to do other things. I know it’s not about me and it never was. I just didn’t expect to still. be. here.

Because sometimes dreams don’t come true and we get tired of waiting. So very tired. We want our kids well and our people whole and our hearts unshattered. We want people to be kind and compassionate and respectful of the humanity and the divinity that resides in us all. My 33 years have held enough life for me to know that I may always be stomping my foot in my impatience with the fact that so many people are walking wounded.

It’s Advent. It’s a time when I’m supposed to be joyfully waiting on the Lord. It’s a time when I should be drawing nearer to and further in. Instead, I’m just impatiently waiting. Watching. Wondering. And absolutely convinced that all of this hard and holy mess is gift. advent-candles

Moving mountains.

About 6 years ago, I began a journey focused on one thing: not dying as a result of poor physical health. That was all. It wasn’t about the number on my clothes tags or about trying to impress a fellow; I simply didn’t want to die.

2 years and 115 pounds later, I was in a form I loved and I had officially become a gym rat. 4:30 am was my friend and together, we hauled tail day in and day out. I developed a fondness for weightlifting and I knew before I went to bed each night which trail I was going to see the next morning. Nothing could stop me.

Except he did, just a year later. And I let him. After everything, I am still amazed that I let someone shrink my heart so small. Still amazed that I allowed him to chip away at all of my soul and make me feel so completely worthless. Still amazed that I stood idly by and let myself be treated with such blatant disrespect and disregard. I cannot believe I was actually going to marry him and resign myself to such a life. I blame myself as much as I blame him.

And right after that, she died. I spent one horrific week watching her cling to a life well lived and watching her limbs turn black and listening to her struggle to breathe every second. On her last day, I wanted to die, too. I thought about driving my car right over the side of the bridge on the way home from the hospital. I thought maybe it would stop the sound of that terrible death rattle in my ears. All was lost.

Thus began my downward spiral into a depression it took me almost 3 years to get out of. I was plagued by constant nightmares of her coming after me, begging me to help her breathe. I lived in fear that he would be at my house when I got home from work or that he would emerge from the shadows in the early morning to finally take what he thought was his. I am grateful for the doctor who didn’t laugh when I sat in his office and explained that the girl who once earned the nickname “Giggles” hadn’t laughed in a long while and that’s how she knew something was wrong. That doctor saved my life. He was patient and kind and he let me choose how I would be treated.

The thing no one tells you about pills is that while you hope they make you better, they can make you much, much worse in other ways. A little pink pill, a whole lot of soul-searching, and a God who never fails brought me out of the depths. But all of that hard work on my mind and my heart meant my body got neglected and the side effect I dreaded most became my reality. I gained more weight than I ever lost, but I could laugh again and not be afraid. I told myself the trade-off was worth it.

I’m a bad liar.

I didn’t hate myself;  I had simply reached a point where I felt nothing toward my body. It was there and it was mine and that was it.  My body was my own, for better or for worse. I’ve been through too much with her to throw her to the wolves, but in all my hard work of not dying, I had developed a fondness for her. The resulting apathy after all that healing was surprising, but I was too numb to care.

I finally took a vacation a few weeks ago, back to the place where the journey began and where all the things happened that had led to my stint with depression. I was scared. Those people loved me when I lived there, but I honestly thought they surely couldn’t love me now. Even though my mind and my heart have healed, my body still bears the old scars – the weight – of medication and fear. I was afraid to let them see me, to let them hug me. Aside from a few texts and an annual Skype call, I had barely kept in touch since l had moved away.

I didn’t want to let them see me suffering. I didn’t want to let them in to love me during the time I felt most unlovable – the time when I needed it most. I was so afraid to see their eyes reacting to my changed appearance. But…with every single hug, I was reminded that I am loved regardless. With every hour spent in the presence of those I love, I was reminded that I have a good tribe who sticks with me in the thicks and thins even when I’m more thick than thin. With every truth spoken, I was reminded that my tribe is made of more substantial stuff than I have been giving them credit for. They are beautiful souls of whom I am most undeserving.

That blessed week of hard and holy space also proved that I still love getting outside and hitting the trails and laughing uproariously with those I love. I had forgotten how delicious it felt to have rock beneath my feet and wild air in my lungs. It’s a little harder right now than it was a few  years ago, but I’ll get there. I have a tribe who loves me when I can climb mountains and when I cannot. I am free from the pit of fear I dwelled in for so long. I have a God who calls me His own. I know what I know now and I do what I can. The journey is ongoing. I’m moving mountains…and all is gift.

the eucharisteo notes {2}

I am so grateful for the way this life simultaneously takes my breath away and breathes new life in my lungs. It is the only wild life I will live and I intend to do so gratefully.

That said…I am grateful for the way a new city creates new experiences. It isn’t always good, but it is always an adventure.

I am grateful for late night deep talks with members of my tribe. Sometimes these are the only honest moments I find with people in a day and I drink them in like cool water on a hot afternoon.

I am grateful for returning from trips and feeling, for perhaps the first time in my life, that I am coming home. Texas has handled my heart so gently, so carefully, and I am glad, especially after this week, to be home.

I am grateful for the way dear friends listen to my overly detailed stories and smile and nod along with me, even when I know they’re quite possibly bored. Those who know me well know I process more thoroughly in the details, and indulge me in the rare moments I have much to speak aloud.

I am grateful for pastors who speak truth, live truth, love truth, and encourage us to see the imago Dei in all, especially when all are different from ourselves. My eyes have been opened to a different kind of leadership and stewardship. I will not be the same.

I am grateful for the way memories rush unbidden to the forefront of my thoughts. Memories, painful though they may be, remind me of what I have come from. This is a good gift.

I am grateful for the separation of chaff from wheat when it comes to friends. My tribe is in perpetual shift these days and love flows out of unexpected places.

I am grateful for the five months I have held in my current position. I want to go to work every day and to do good work and make a difference. And the opportunity to make a difference is ever-present. This is so much more than a job to me.

I am grateful for the privilege of sharing my life’s two missions with others. I long to empower girls to stop apologizing for the uniqueness of their lives and I want to teach well-intentioned but largely untested Christian university students that every life is sacred and that those different from ourselves are worthy of respect and dignity and completely undeserving of mockery. I have had the chance to discuss this with others twice in this past month and it blows my heart to bits every time. These are my missions and I will not be silent.

I am grateful for the softness with which I greet the day. I used to be up at 5 and on the go and never stopped to catch my breath. I sleep in until 6 sometimes these days. I languish in crisp white sheets and let the sun rise quietly and I do not chase after it. This is letting go and this is grace.

the eucharisteo notes {1}

A few years ago, a darling friend gave me a memory box in which I was supposed to stuff an entire year’s worth of memories. The gift in that was that at the end of the year, I could look back on a year of  joys and sorrows, wanted and unwanted, good and bad, and reminisce and cry and be grateful. That was the year that left me ragged and raw and clutching my bleeding heart in one hand and my broken dreams in the other.

Here I am, three years later, in a very different place personally and professionally and spiritually, and I still remember all those notes. Life has been so delicious of late that I want to write down each and every thing as it happens. I won’t be quite that prolific, as real life beckons to be lived and not just recorded, but I hope to capture some bits here. Welcome to the first edition of eucharisteo notes.

I am grateful for…

  • the way things happen. I began 2016 resigned to the life I was living. In the first 6 months of the year, I have accepted a student affairs position, moved to Texas, began working at a state university, and  with that, saw three dreams fulfilled at once. I have long been praying for each of these things, but I never thought I would see them all restored at the same time.
  • colleagues who are passionate about what they do. It’s a gamechanger for sure.
  • old friends who love me the same, no matter where I am or how long it’s been since I have seen them.
  • goodbye towns. And the country songs that give me words to describe them.
  • wrong first impressions. I surprise them, or they surprise me. Either way, we all learn something about books and covers.
  • a mum who loves ice cream and queso.
  • Texas speed limits. Some rules are meant to be broken.
  • a university that dwells in and respects diversity and the imago Dei in us all.
  • restoration with friends.
  • a God who speaks.
  • friends who allow me the privilege of hearing their jagged life stories.
  • a pastor and a church unafraid and unashamed of truth.
  • people who return text messages in complete sentences.
  • new babies and the mamas who let me hold them.
  • safe and clean housing just when I need it most.
  • a new mama for my boy and the best adventure partner I ever had, Ruger. I have no doubt she loves him as much as I do and she keeps me informed about his life.
  • losing myself in my work.
  • the pursuit of higher education.
  • being under the leadership of someone who spurs me on to good work.
  • the space to grieve.
  • real tortillas. Real cheese. Real butter. Real people.
  • letting go.

 

We are done.

Dear church,

These words are a long time coming. I have waited and watched, hoped and prayed, been silent and not so silent. All the while, I was hoping you would step up and have some backbone. I know there are a few weary souls who have worked, and are working, diligently to resist the way you heap shame on already shamed shoulders. But that’s just it. There are so few when there should be many.

Your mothers and daughters and wives and sisters are suffering. They sit in your pews and bow their heads and cross their hearts and hope to die. They go to your dinners and put on fake smiles over dessert. They teach your Sunday School classes that promise hope, but they are hopeless. They marry the men in your ranks, bear their children, read about a God who loves and saves, but they don’t feel loved. Or saved from anything.

Your women are bruised and bleeding and broken and hurt and angry. I am one of you, church, but I am also one of them. And we are done.

We are done sitting silently in your pews on Sunday morning only to go home and get beaten up behind closed doors.

We are done telling the truth about your leaders only to be shamed and removed from your pews.

We are done being cast out.

We are done hiding wounds that don’t show up on skin, but instead carve deep, tender places in our hearts.

We are done being afraid at night.

We are done being blamed for our bruises and fear and rapes and our husbands’ infidelities.

We are done praying no one notices our pain because we can’t answer the questions honestly without fear of retribution.

We are done being yelled at, silenced, and shamed.

We are done with your publicly calling out abused wives from the pulpits and saying that their horrors and sorrows are all made-up lies meant to tarnish good men’s reputations.

We are done watching our children be verbally and mentally and physically abused by fathers you tell us are household leaders who can do no wrong.

We are done turning on one another to make our own realities less true. Your older women are telling younger ones that to submit to abuse is godly and good and a righteous woman it makes, even if it kills them. And kill them it has.

We are done with that.

We are done being told that boys will be boys. You know what? Girls will be girls, too. And these girls are not going to be quiet any longer, church. We are done.

From your pulpits, in your small groups, at your dinners, and behind your doors we have learned cold and hard truths about some men and the people who choose to protect them.

We learned something else, too. But not from you. From the Lord who seeks us out and gently calls our hearts to His. We learned that we are valued. We are loved. We are cherished. We are beloved. We are created and known by a God who loves us more than you ever will. More than you ever could. So we are done believing the lie that no one sees and no one cares and no one loves.

We know better. And we are done.

 

An open letter to the hurting tribe.

My dearest tribe,

You have ached and longed and prayed and cried and rejoiced and danced and sat with me in my deepest sorrows and highest joys. I could not have made it these last 33 years without you. Last week I was both saddened and overjoyed to return the favor.

Every text, every phone call, every email. All sorrow. Empty bank accounts, empty hearts, broken marriages, broken bodies, ruined dreams. So much pain you laid in my lap, in my ears, and in my heart. I have prayed for you, cried for and with you, and sat pondering late into the night how best to address your stories in this season. In the moments last week, I had no words. This letter is for you.

You, my dear, are beautiful. You are loved. You are worthy. You are known. You are strong. You are brave. You have the strength to be kind and to do the right thing. I won’t tell you what that is exactly. I know that my telling you won’t mean anything. You have to learn for yourself. Some lessons need to stick. Know that I am here for you. Know that I am not judging you when you call and tell me outrageous stories. I’m listening. I’m thinking. I’m praying. But I’m not judging. I want what is best for you. I want good things for you. I want joy and self-discovery and little victories for you. You are so worth it, my dear.

You, friend, are gonna be alright. I know you don’t know that just yet. I know that the weight of old things and the burden of caring for yourself have proven overwhelming, but I believe you will get through this as you have gotten through so many other things. May your lungs draw in nothing but fresh breaths and may the old things fall away. Square your shoulders, engage in the care you desperately need and have long sought, and forget what other people say. You are your own worst enemy. Now is the time to rise up and be your own best friend. I’ve got your back. So do a lot of other folks. You can do this. I believe in you.

You have been in my tribe a long time. You have had my back, defended me, protected me, and encouraged me. Guess what? I have your back, too. I’m here for you. I may not be there in body, but I am there in spirit. You are brave, little one. So very brave. And you can move mountains. You know your purpose and deep down you know those things to which you have been called. Set the world on fire. Go forth boldly and without reservation. You were made for this.

You, darling, are about to go through some hell. I’m fully prepared to go through hell with you. You have so much life ahead of you, and I know you’ll face this with the same determination and grit as you always have. I know you’re scared, even when you won’t admit it. Be scared. Wallow in it if you must. Being brave doesn’t mean you aren’t scared, it just means you still move forward despite what you are feeling. You have an entire tribe full of love and laughter and grit just like you. And we are all ready to battle with you. You are not alone.

Oh tribe, I love you. You light up the world with your passion and beauty and grace and joy and the intentional way you go about living. I am honored to hear your stories, to catch your tears, to walk with you when you need me and to step aside when you don’t. I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there. I know the raw wounds you carry. No matter how long it takes you to stand back up, I’m still in awe of you. How brave you are. No matter how weak you feel or ugly you think your life is or how maybe you don’t want to be seen at all, someone is always here to bear witness to your story. Your story matters that much. You are known.

More than that, you are so deeply loved. Beyond measure. Beyond belief. Beyond definition. “Come to Me,” He says, “all you who are weary. And I will give you rest for your souls.” May you rest in that truth tonight. Your life is known and you are loved. Sleep well.