Maybe G was for Grace

I have been learning how to live without.

I’ve also been baking non-stop. If you don’t know me, then let me tell you, I ain’t the kind of girl that bakes.

But this week? Brownies, muffins, cookies, cinnamon rolls.

I learned a lot about loss when I lived in Apartment G.

My doctor told me I had to cut out sugar and white flour. I didn’t respond well to being told that I couldn’t have chocolate or pizza or cheesecake. It was a sad day when I was forced to break up with Ben & Jerry.

Now, here I am a year later. I’ve learned to do without it. Apparently, I learned to bake without it. I learned a lot about grace while giving up a lot of things I love.

Not just sugar or flour, I lost a lot more than food when I lived in Apartment G.

I am now seeing just how much these months have changed me. I am not even close to being the same person I was when my sister and I unpacked our lives in that little space.

In that time, grace grew me up to be steady. She taught me how to choose love when it seemed like a complete waste. She sat with me while I ate peanuts and tried to figure out how to dance through someone else’s sadness.

Her elegance and class kept me from saying all the things I held in my clenched fists. “Keep your head high, love.” Over and over she would whisper words like, “You’ve always been enough.”

She would grab my hand in critical moments, tuck my hair behind my ear and remind me,”You are better than the words you want to speak in your anger.”

Grace is the kind of girl who wears a dress to meet you at a diner. She orders coffee at 9 pm and settles in for the long haul. Grace knows how to love the bad, endure the imperfect, but grace looks for the beauty, the worth, in everything she sees.

Even after I ignored her, left her in the cracks and crevices of apartment G, she quietly followed me. She followed me back to my parents house, and hangs out with me in the kitchen while I bake.

Because that’s who she is. Grace tells you to do what seems impossible and then she teaches you how. When you can’t quite sing the words, she teaches you how to hum the tune. She teaches you how to live with less. She’s beautiful in that way.

Even in all of her elegance, grace knows about living with less. She knows how to make loss seem lighter.

Even when I was knee-deep in blame and anger, she was waiting for the day when I came back around. Always waiting with her wit, strong coffee, healthy breakfast and some endless laughter.

Grace is teaching me to do the same. She’s teaching me to be classy in my efforts, poised in my anger. She is teaching me how to stick around for the long-haul, even in the midst of terrible loss.

Grace addresses birthday cards that may never be appreciated for their sentiment and she never believes that it is a waste.

Grace knows Thursdays are for calling to say “I miss you” even if they don’t miss you back.

I’ve always known her, but we became good friends when I learned to pay bills and sweep my own kitchen. I think maybe that was fate because in these days I need her more now than ever.

Maybe G was for Grace.  Maybe those days in that tiny apartment were about learning how to stand alone when others walk away, about learning how to live without, with less and with loss.

 

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Jesus Doesn’t Hate Your Make-Up

Women are praised for showing their bare faces.

No make-up, no photoshop retouches, their blemishes are put on display and they should learn to be happy about that. A confident girl can embrace all of her flaws, right?

Women are scorned for painting their face. They are condemned for putting their best foot forward. They are called down-right shallow for spending an hour on their hair.

And as a Christian, I’m supposed to condone these views and call them right and holy. I’m supposed to clap my hands for every girl who is au-natural, call her the Proverbs 31 woman and throw her a party.

For the girls who spend two hours getting ready, who decorate their appearance with clothing and make-up, I should try and convince them they are surface and that they are “really just masking their insecurity”.

The church is willing to accept that we live in a fallen world. As Christians we can easily take “we all fall short of the glory” and shout “AMEN!”

We praise the pursuit of righteousness. We tell people to strive to live in love, to treat others with kindness, to walk in humility, to give generously. We can easily admit that it’s harder than God intended. He intended us to be perfect and sometimes we feel the sting of our imperfections, our shortcomings and we seek to do better, to be better.

Well, let me break it to you, I am not as God created me to be.

I am imperfect in my appearance. I have permanent bruises from a broken nose. Right at this moment, I have acne. I have thin hair. I have lines from gaining and losing weight. I have scars from falling down. My appearance changes from week to week and month to month.

I am not as I was intended to be in heart or in body.

 I am a mess. But this is because of sin, not because of God.

I am praised for making my heart better, but doomed for doing the same to my outward appearance.

I can hear some of you and see you in my mind, shaking your head, wagging your index finger and saying “1 Peter 3:3-4”.

Forgive me for rolling my eyes at you right now. I did not say that my beauty COMES from my outward appearance. I know it comes from my heart. I know that WHO I AM is far more valuable than what I look like or what I wear. God said those things don’t define your beauty. But he wasn’t condemning women for their clothing or appearance either, because let’s be honest, that’s not his character.

He was saying, don’t neglect your heart. Don’t make the outward your priority.

But he never said you couldn’t improve it, better it, or decorate it. Oh, I can hear people shouting the “whitewashed tomb” verse at me.

Jesus said (my paraphrase), “you’re beautiful on the outside and inside you are dead bones and filth”.

Uh. If they weren’t filled with filth, I highly doubt Jesus would have cared if they were looking stylish that day. Maybe he would’ve asked to borrow their shoes sometime. If their hearts had been in the right place, He might would’ve complimented their robe and encouraged them to pair it with a fashionable belt.

Jesus doesn’t have a problem with appearance, WE DO. That’s why he told us these things. Not because he thinks you shouldn’t fix your hair, but because he didn’t want us to think that was more important than the heart.

I assure you, when you get to heaven, you are not going to be gross with wrinkled robes, greasy hair, and with dark circles under your eyes. You’re going to be absolutely flawless and radiant because we will be like Him when we see Him as He is.

If your heart is filled with life and purity, if you’re pursuing the heart of God; please don’t let the church condemn you for showering and blow drying your hair.

The truth is… they would all judge you and abandon you if you stopped wearing deodorant and brushing your teeth.

You are beautiful because of your heart. You are absolutely gorgeous in your own skin because you are a miracle made from the hands of God. Whether you wear make-up, or not… you are enough. But not wearing make-up doesn’t make you more holyTelling people to stop brushing their hair, doesn’t make you evangelist of the year.

You are broken and fallen. You are flawed. You are not as you were made to be. 

I’m not giving you permission to starve yourself and spend $17,000 on plastic surgery and clothes at Nordstrom. But you are free to be natural and you are free to be glamorous. I’m telling you that if you want to wear a cute dress and powder your nose, God’s not disappointed in you, you are not unholy and you don’t have to apologize for it.

It may not mean much, but it’s okay with me if you stick it to the state of sin we’re all living in and say “I’m going to get as close to flawless as I wanna be.”

The Mud Makes the Man

We’re always wearing gloves, always afraid to get our hands dirty.

But it matters where you stand.

You know? It seems like you think your indifference doesn’t really affect the world. You act like your fear of conflict is actually a virtue.

But love and justice and all the other things that keep you awake at night? They’re thirsty for someone who’s not afraid to get their hands dirty.

You’ve made your mistakes. You’ve also been hurt. That doesn’t mean you have to spend your life avoiding the mud.

The mud is where the men are made. 

Honesty is going to be your best policy. Bravery is going to be your weapon. But you can’t pull triggers and win wars with gloves pulled over your hands. 

People aren’t going to like it. They’re going to leave you and accuse you.

They never like the ones who are knee-deep in muck and covered in dust. But battles aren’t won by the neat and tidy. The safe may have their comfort, but they have no victory.

Stop being afraid of digging your heels in and deciding that you’re going to fight. Please don’t stay where you are because you believe it’s easier that way

Peace is not kept, it’s made.

The bad guys are going to fight, the war will still rage on. And while you sit and say that you hate or are afraid of conflict, the good guys numbers seem to be growing less and less. The war isn’t going to stop just because you don’t fight. Hate it or not, conflict and battles are happening, you’re never going to really be able to avoid them. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to hurt, but you were born on the side of victory, so you can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.

Your fear, apathy, indifference or anxiety doesn’t make you peaceful. It makes you detached. Oh, it makes you downright unmoved and calloused. 

Because when you let others carry the load of combat while you sit in your reverence; you start to lose your smile.

And I really love to watch you smile. I love the victory you’ve always carried on your shoulders; even when the bloodshed was vast and you were covered in the paint of your wounds. But you were smiling and laughing. You were dripping with triumph even in your damaged state. You knew then that it matters where you stand.

You knew back then that half the battle is letting your mind learn the truth your heart has always known. It’s about accepting the things that your ears don’t know how to hear. The other half of your battle has always been walking away. Not in indifference, but intentional steps, because you’ve been fighting for the wrong things.

You’ve been fighting for comfort, safety, and security. Oh, your days of security have been a war of their own. You’ve struggled for things that will never bring you joy, that will only bring you emptiness.

You’ve left behind all the things that make you better, stronger, and braver because you’ve never known how to rest from defense. You’ve never known offense. You’ve never known the courage that ignites in your bones when you choose to make the first move, when you choose to fight for something better, instead of staying in what you have.

You are meant to taste the celebration of winning the peace you made instead of the peace you kept. Don’t be afraid of the wars you march into, they are far easier than the ones that you are slung into while kicking and screaming. You never needed to fear the fight, because the battles happen even if you never move. But it’s the battles you start: the ones for love and victory, for peace and justice, those are the ones that make a man. Those are the ones that change the world.

The Burden of Acting Free

I want to see you laugh again. That kind of laughter that used to swallow the world.

I want to see you look at the world with a sense of wonder. Even in your brokenness, you always saw the wonder.

Did you know there’s a difference in being free and acting free?

When you go through the motions of pretending to be free; when you get louder, prouder and bolder, you are not far from danger, my dear.

You’ve been taken from one kind of prison and thrown into another. Because the burden of having to keep up the appearance of freedom, is even heavier than the one of trying to create a facade of perfection.

It will steal the life right out of you. This show of acting like you’ve let it all go & there is absolutely nothing holding you back. 

Oh, sweet one. I wish you could see that you’re in a scary scary space. You’re using your energy to draw a room to believing that you’ve reached the pinnacle of liberty and license. The truth is, now you’re bound to a life of striving and a life of deception. You keep saying that you’re free and yet it’s taking every muscle you have to convince the world. That’s not freedom, it’s a life that breeds exhaustion.

Freedom isn’t something you have to convince others of. And it’s not something you have to convince yourself you have.
Freedom just is. It doesn’t draw attention to itself, it just is. Freedom is not tied to opinions of others, or even opinions of your own. Freedom can go home and be okay with that. Freedom can have a night out on the town. Freedom means that whatever choice you make, you don’t have to do it for the sake of convincing anybody or anyone. Freedom acts on its convictions and is free to do so. That’s why freedom is so beautiful. Freedom is free to make it’s choice based on what it believes.

Freedom is not a mask or a costume. You don’t just put her on and wear her to the ball. Freedom sits in your fingers and toes and makes your choices. Freedom holds your head up when you’re in a room with no one but yourself. 

Freedom comes from who you are, not what you do.

You can climb mountains, dance in the town square, buy a funny hat or hug a stranger and appear to be free. But free people don’t use those things to define their lives. Those things are not the things they announce or take pride in. Freedom doesn’t know how to be proud because freedom is released from the burden of having to impress.

Freedom doesn’t have to explain itself or pat itself on the back. Freedom just smiles quietly at the end of each day and feels the contentment of a full life. Freedom smiles, oh she smiles and even when she’s sad she smiles.

She smiles like you used to when you were under those orange street lights or when I saw your face shining through the windows of the kitchen, your hands washing dishes in soapy water.

Freedom laughs when people are looking, when they’re not, and doesn’t know the difference.

Freedom says hello and she’d like come back in your ligaments and limbs. She wants to fill your stomach and teach you how to laugh again, how to stay and how to walk away. Freedom wants you to know that she never really went away.

Freedom wants to come home and rest in your bones. Welcome her with open arms. Oh, and you don’t have to announce her arrival, believe me, she’ll make her presence known.

What About Thursdays?

Saturday mornings are for cold pizza

Most Tuesdays are for dancing in the living room like a bull in a china shop. Four to Six are the hours best for reading books and drinking apple cider.

Oh, and Wednesdays are for shoving discouragement on the playground, for giving hopelessness a bloody nose.

I wish we would all realize these bullies were also the weights around the feet of the sailors who kept on going when everybody said, “The world is flat, you can’t, you can’t!”

“Oh, someday I hope that you get tired of waking up to thieves and liars”

I hope you stop listening to the voices that scream why you can’t, won’t and never could. I hope you laugh in the face of impossibility. I hope that doubt gets trapped and forced to watch your eyes sparkle as you start to realize just how much you can and you will.

I hope you make fear tremble and insecurity break out in a cold sweat.

Let’s watch cowardice wave its last goodbye. I want us to chase away timidity ’til he reaches the point of no return. May we unnerve reservation and isolation all the way to their core. 

I want to be fearless and brave. In my bones, I am made reckless and daring. Oh, I’m learning how to be downright disheartening to the enemies who have tried to keep me down.

When they turn to see us fall, I want us to be standing with heads held high and hearts intact. We’ve got the makings of a warrior and the limbs of a champion; let’s challenge rejection, manipulation and apathy. Let’s riot in the streets against hatred, abuse and criticism.

Inferiority doesn’t stand a chance when we walk in the room. Indifference is moved when we speak.

The world is full of books about people who threw off those shadows and came out of the darkness. History favors the brave, celebration and change follow the gutsy and the lionhearted.

Pity parties are for the faint of heart and procrastination is for the counterfeit. You have something to give that no one else can and you can, you can, you can.

You know all those things you want to do? You should do them; and you should laugh, dance and unabashedly revel in joy and hope as you do them.

Be outrageous and improper and grab every day by the face and sing it a song, call it sweetheart and take it to dinner. Be romanced by this abundant life that you’ve been given. Buy yourself a cup of coffee, read a good book, fly to the other side of the world, give someone a hug, decide to change the world.

Because we can, you can, I can.

It starts with deciding that passivity and halfheartedness are not welcome where we are. Detachment and comfort are not the cool kids and passion, bravery and backbone are the stuff of champs.

So, what about Thursdays?

Thursdays are for remembering that the world isn’t flat, that men can walk on the moon, and for making sure that impossibility runs home crying to its Momma.

A Letter to The Ledge

“I refuse to be another stepping stone.”

I believed her.

“Why am I the last step before someone finds their greatest adventure? Here I am, just a stone to be stepped on.”

It was easy for me to stay quiet. To sip my latte and just listen because I know that ache. I’ve felt that kind of frustration coil itself around my muscles. Time passes and it just ties and tightens those knots of disappointment.

I didn’t have words that would wrap her wounds with the kind of healing they were begging for.

But I think I have some things to say now. I think I’ve got a letter to write to the ones out there just like her.

Darling, You are not simply a step. You are a ledge.

Oh, and when they step off your steady ground, they are left free falling and it seems like the time of their lives. Breath rushing to their lungs, the world full of possibility. Everything feels so free.

But they always come crashing–down, down, down. Just know they will hit the water every single time.

After that, it’s nothing but work. Swimming and holding their breath. Strokes of effort over and over again trying to find the dry land they once knew. It doesn’t take them long to remember you. Steady ground’s beauty starts flooding their memory as they choke on the waves of the unreliable waters they left you for.

You are a steady, strong, awe-inspiring ledge. You are exciting. You bring a sense of adventure, but you’re solid and dependable and you are where people climb great and far distances to stand.

But there are going to be few who climb to your great heights.

From where I’m standing, reaching a peak like you is a long way to travel. Only the brave and strong will go that far. But there are going to be those who make it and who still leave you for the sake of plummeting into the waters below. Because the dive seems like the climax of their journey.

But just know, they missed it all if they missed you. The dive may have lasted for a minute, but the view they had from standing with you will burn itself into the deepest parts of who they are. 

Oh, they’ll be carrying you around for years to come.

Even if they’re far too proud to admit it.

But baby, they’re probably not going to climb all the way back to you. Because very few can take the kind of journey it takes to win a heart like yours twice. But, that’s okay. Other climbers are coming and one of them just won’t be able to leave that horizon that they see from the firm earth below their feet.

You were never a stepping stone. You were a ledge that led to the free fall of the ones who were never meant to hold your heart.

But you are a thing of beauty to the brave ones. You are a glorious destination to the traveler who knows the value of the view versus the temporary excitement of the jump.

You’re a firm ledge, darling. You’re a perfectly lovely piece of this breathtaking earth. And you are worth the climb and worth the one who builds a home where you are.

You will never be just another stepping stone.

You Stand Before a Harvest

There is no disappointment like sitting in the dirt.

Knee-deep in mud and glaring straight into the pain of barrenness brings an incomparable grief. Sometimes it feels like that’s all you’ve ever known, and when it fills your entire frame of vision, there’s only one option.

Stand up and step back.

When you do, you will see that you stand before a harvest.

It was the dirt and the mud that made this ground rich enough to produce crops that stretch farther than your vision can hold. You will see its richness came from every pain and every heart ache you have ever known. You will see how it has grown the seeds of love in you, ones that know the risk of giving your heart, and that still give it anyway.

In the way you are able to forgive and in the way you are able to return, you will see you are standing in a field of harvest.

You are surrounded by more than your belly could ever consume. You have produced something that will feed every person that walks into your life.

You stand before a harvest when you look into your own heart.

Abundance leaks from your veins. There are seeds and seeds of redemption that have been sown into every crook and crevice of your being since before you were even born.

You’ve got love down inside of you that knows how to hold its ground and how to let it go. You’ve been cultivating a garden that can grow the kind of love that will nourish the nations, and you’ve got the heart to give it away. Because you know in your bones and in your ligaments, even when you’re worn, that you’re giving from what you’ve been given.

You were born to give away the love that made you, the love that was always too big for you to hold for just yourself.

So when someone steals from your grain, or they pluck every last piece you seem to possess, know that you pull from an endless garden of grace. There won’t be anything that can be taken from you that you cannot let go of with joy, because redemption won’t fail to spring up in your fields! They cannot take one single thing from you that your Father won’t hand back to you. He is the finder of lost things, the Father who multiplies the lack, who brings the dead things back to life again.

I hope you really know that.

When you only want to wrap your arms around what you’ve lost, hold on. Because joy is going to well up inside of you and you’re going to be handing out your harvest by handfuls. Oh, you’ve got mounds and piles of love! You’ve got enough to go around, even to your enemies.

Your field has got some stalks that Jack ain’t ever even thought about climbing.

You’re going to feed the multitudes with your fields of favor because your Father doesn’t withhold. So lift your eyes from the dirt. There is more here than what your eyes currently see. When your eyes finally adjust you will see that the times of pain and plowing have caused you to be standing in a field of abundant harvest.