Lovely Letters: You and Your Baggage

I don’t want to live in the haunting memories. I can’t figure out if I will ever move on.  Why do we carry around this baggage?

-M

 

M,

Yesterday consisted of sifting and sorting through my inbox. Letters from others like you, filled with words of joy, pain, confusion, excitement, thankfulness, uncertainty.

While replying to some of them, I moved from the couch, to an adirondack chair, to a comfy leather chair, to a bean bag, to a lawn chair.  I kept trying all day to fill blank boxes with words. I kept hoping I could say something to load others up with something that will pour hope back into their bones. But no matter how many times I changed location or position, I couldn’t get comfortable with all the words on my screen. They were just plain heavy.

That being said, there’s one thing I learned while letting my eyes pour over all the things tossed into my mailbox.

We’ve all got some baggage.

I mean, really, we’re all lugging around clunky and bulky suitcases. Some are filled with words, some are filled with dark memories, some filled with disappointed hopes. Here we are, broken and at the core, all the same.

But just a few days ago, crying on the murky green carpet of my little house in Georgia, I learned something about traveling lighter.

When we carry around the pain, the hurt, the stings of the past as our baggage, we give ourselves all the reasons not to try again. We create walls to make us safe. But the reality is, after lugging those bags around for a while, you start realize that hurt is a lot easier to heal from than those bags are to carry.

We carry our bags to remind ourselves that people will break your heart. We keep them close and whenever we think we’re in the slightest bit of danger, we start stacking them like a fort around us. Not again, I’m never going there again. This is often the anthem of humanity.

We had some visitors in our home this week and one of them didn’t bring any clothes (seriously, this person packed almost nothing). The other two brought so little that they could easily fit it all in their arms.

It’s easier to travel without all that weight.” 

That was their motto, their anthem, their reason for walking around in the same clothes and worn out shoes. It was easier to travel that way, and that was all the reason they needed to leave their bags behind.

Because they’d rather live lightly than carry around the heavy weight of what makes them feel safe or comfortable.

They may appear poor to the rest of the world, they may appear unprepared and unwise. The reality is, they’re some of the happiest people I’ve ever known. They have a posture, a strength, a fierce confidence that I’ve never seen before now. They live lightly and loudly. They climb trees, run mountains, jump cliffs and get covered in mud and dirt over and over again. They do it all, knowing they have no change of clothes, that they may have to sleep covered in today’s dust. But they’re living, and it’s a lot easier to do and a lot more fun when you’re not trying to figure where to keep all your bags.

Rip the tag off, M. Take one last look at that frumpy set of luggage that you’ve grown to know so well.  Leave them all where they are and choose to pack light. Choose to let go of whatever it is that’s weighing your heart down, whatever suitcases are packed with things that keep you from laughing loudly and playing in the mud.

Let this be the spark that starts the kind of fire it takes to be brave, to do something that absolutely terrifies you. To live in a way that makes you laugh in the mud instead of living in fear of it.

We’ve all got it, M. We are all carrying stuff around, but I’m trying to figure out how to throw things off along the way. Sometimes, I just have to muster just enough strength to drop what it will take to climb that staircase, or to get in my car, to say something scary or to do something that makes people think I’ve lost my mind.

Today, that’s enough. Tomorrow, I’ll have to throw off a little more.

There’s a reason that airlines charge extra for the more bags you bring. Oh, and the heavier they are, the higher the cost. Isn’t that just how pulling them around yourself seems to feel? Trust me, M, you don’t want to exchange your future or your joy for the currency it takes to pay the charge for lugging around the past.

It’s all a choice, M. You get to choose what you carry. I hope you’ll leave your bags behind. If you do, I think you’ll find that you’ve got what it takes to make it, even if you go with nothing more than the clothes on your back.

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday (well, at least once a week)! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

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The Church Didn’t Teach Me The Gospel

Sitting around that worn wooden table, we just glared at one another.

These glares often followed an outburst of saying some things our mothers would not have been proud of.

I never turned to see how many people were staring at us during the times when we would scream at the top of our lungs. Night after night, this happened, inside a room that often held so many people that everyone was forced to sit or stand shoulder to shoulder.

We were finally far enough away from home. Finally, we were an ocean away from the hell we had been in for the last two years. At last, we felt free to say some things we had learned to swallow and choke back down, whenever they had threatened to come spewing out.

No need to whisper anymore, it wasn’t necessary to peek over our shoulders and make sure the coast was clear. We could slam our fists, raise our voices. We could use names, dates, places. No need for discretion, no desire to filter, just brokenness laid bare on the table before us.

I was done with secrets, at least for those few weeks. The strength in my voice had finally cracked under the torturous pain that those secrets had bore into my skin. Bloody and bruised, I gave up the fight to appear brave.

For me, the last leak of light had disappeared. I stopped trying to mask the wretched smell of my own blood, my infections; the way the pain and hopelessness had cut me and left me unbandaged and left for dead. My hands clenched the dirt that my once joyful face now lay on, I knew I could hold out no longer. I knew, then and there, that I was absolutely and undeniably finished with pretending like I could crawl another inch.

These are the things I never said when I came home from that trip.

This was the story that I left at the airport before I boarded the plane to come home. I decided to live by the whole line of what happens there, stays there.

But I didn’t come home healed, clean, or pretty. I managed to bring all of the agony to the surface and then when I stepped foot back home, I felt that sense of urgency to tuck it all away again. I needed people to believe that I had done my holy duty, I had given “our kind” a good name. I wanted the church, my friends, my family to believe I had taken flight, changed the world and come home a little more cultured, a little more experienced, a little older and a little wiser.

The reality was, I’d come home a little more reckless, a lot less reserved, and panicking to pretend like I didn’t see the worst version of myself when I looked in the mirror.

Because the reality was, in the year before that trip, I had seen more death, more defeat, more bitterness, more failure, more ruin than I’ve seen in all my other years combined. There had been things done in that time that had been so hurtful, so downright selfish and toxic. I had seen certain glares of evil that my once naive heart could have never even fathomed. But rather than turning on the light and staring those monsters right in the eye, I had kept my knees to my chest and sat with eyes closed in my bed. In the middle of the darkness with all its demons, I just remember thinking to myself, daylight always comes. It won’t feel this way forever, it can’t last forever.

I would remember thinking about that verse that said, though pain comes in the night, joy will come in the morning.

But when I would wake up in the morning, it was still dark. It was still painful, I was still shaking.

These are not things you expect when reading a Christian blog. These are not the things we paint for you on our stained glass windows. These are not the things I bring up at the breakfast table, or chat about over coffee on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

But this was reality. I cannot say I reached a point of depression to which I could not function. I cannot say that I internally dealt with thoughts or ideas that many people I know have. God kept me from places of self-hatred, of losing my will to live, or of decisions that could have ruined mine or my family’s lives. I was protected from those places, I was kept safe from those corners of darkness. But nevertheless, I faced fear that the church never taught me about. I came face to face with things that no mentor, minister or televangelist had ever fully admitted to walking through.

I had heard lines like, “I’ve gone through some dark times, but the Lord brought me out.”

But no one ever told the details of that darkness. No one had been authentic enough to pour out the gory and raw specifics of what it takes to hold on when you’ve worn out all your black dresses from going to funerals. I hadn’t heard stories of how dim it could get before dawn would come. My Bible sing-a-long songs had never told me that I would feel abandoned, forgotten, paralyzed. I had no grid for what life could look like when I had “done all the right things” and “made good choices” and was still attacked and assaulted by evil.

I was in a war, they told me I had weapons. They handed me verses about armor. They said I’d be able to fight. They never prepared me for the repulsive and vile face of the enemy standing on the other side of that battlefield. They made me think he was a little cartoon with shiny red horns and a laugh like the villain of a Disney movie.

The church did me a disservice when it came to teaching me how to grip hope when darkness would steal so much of the rope that there was not enough threads left to “tie a knot and hold on”.

I finally understood why so many sanctuaries sit empty and the rate of substance abuse, suicide and war were on the rise. We disarmed our best soldiers by training them with a simulation of stories with fluffy vocabulary about “trials and storms” when the reality is they will come face to face with an enemy who doesn’t fight fair and only plays dirty. He can come with excruciating beatings, cause agony with the twisting of his knife, spin hurricanes that knock down everything they pass.

I had been trained to believe that if I read my Bible, sang my songs, quoted my memory verses; then I would “weather the storms”.

They told me God was my shield, but they never told me what I’d need him to cover me from. They said He was my strength, but they never told me how weak I could really get. They said he’d be my joy, but they never really told me how that I’d need it because I could become utterly hopeless.

They used their Christian terms, their catchy (and not so catchy) praise songs. They didn’t tell me the truth. To the ones they raise in their four walls, the sheltered ones, they shut off from the world, they never tell them what it’s really like when they push you out of the nest to “Go to the nations” or “Go make disciples”.

I write this with absolute certainty that many will judge me. I don’t care. Because there are other believers out there, sitting in their pain and believing that for some unknown reason; they are the only Christian to ever know such pain. They are not. You may lie to them, you may dress it up with pretty pictures and a Jesus with a shiny robe and silky soft hair. I will not.

The reality is, I rarely listen to “Christian songs”. Because they’re perky and make me think that I’ll just keep walking on and pumping my fist and quoting Philippians 4:13 and that that is how I will “overcome”.

They write songs about how His love is warm and cuddly and will cause me to be able to do the aforementioned things like skip through life and shine my little light.

When the reality is that His love is not a sunny day that will make all the clouds disappear. It is a fierce and devastating force to be reckoned with, it is what stands up in front of me and fights violently for me when I am face down in utter ruin. When my body and mind are so battered, bruised and broken that I cannot stand, that I can no longer cry, that a whimper would require more strength than my mouth may possess.

And His Word is not a little butter-knife that will trim off bad habits and bad behaviors. Life isn’t just as easy as writing in my prayer journal to add a warm delightful topping to my “daily bread”.

His Words are a sword that cut lies and mutilate evil and dismember the limbs of the ones who come to murder me when I sleep.

This is the Gospel and this is the God I’ve come to know this year. This is not the sing-a-long song that I carried around in my little cassette deck. This is reality, this is the truth. This is what we’re up against. This is my victory. This is what I know about this battle. This is how He won it. This is why I’m a Christian. This is why He was on a cross.

It was not so I could have little arm floats to hold “little ole sinful me” while I splashed in the kiddie pool. It was so that when I hit the bottom of the darkest, deepest nightmares of my life that I could grip an anchor that would bring me back to the place where he could breathe life back into my water-filled lungs and with his scarred hands pump a rhythm back into a heart that stopped beating.

This is the reality. This is hope. This, in all its scandal and controversy and offensive imagery is the Gospel and it is not the one I’ve heard in most churches.

But I have not given up on the church, even so. Even in her disservice to me, I love her more now than I ever have. I do not say these things to start a rebellion, to sway someone to never again darken her doors. I say this to open the platform, to pull back the curtains, to call her higher,  and to challenge her to speak truth. This is to stir up authenticity, and to apologize for her wrongdoings.

I say this to remind her and myself of our first love, of the Man and God who still pursues us. To charge us, to love him back… for who He is, not the Hallmark Movie Hero we tried to make Him out to be.

I say this to say: let’s tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth… so help us, God.

 

Lovely Letters: When Your Plans Are Wrecked (& You Can’t Find a Map)

Happy Wednesday! Here’s a new Lovely Letter and a challenge. After reading this, leave a comment for the girl who sent in this e-mail with a simple sentence of advice/encouragement about what you know when it comes to plans failing and life changing.

“And while my heart has been changed to accept that the life I once planned won’t happen, it’s still hard. I appreciate this stage of growth in my life, but I also really wish I could have gotten this lesson without so much heartbreak. ”

-O

Dear O,

Something happened inside of me when I heard her say these words:

“I just feel connected to you.”

A complete stranger, working at a kiosk in the middle of the mall just stood with her dark eyes looking up at me. She leaned her head on my shoulder and it felt like a bandaid was being placed across my world.

All because I stopped (and I never ever, under any circumstance, stop at a kiosk in the mall). I am the rude person who will not even glance over at them, because I know that they’re going to harass me in attempts to sell me what is probably the last thing I’ll ever need.

But this time was very different and there was something about the way her voice sounded when she called out to me. It was like the voice of an old friend, it was as though we had been on a thousand coffee dates and grew up having movie & ice cream nights together. I knew her, I just did. Though I had never seen her face before, I knew her.

So, I just stopped.

It was never a conscious choice, I had no interest in the product she was selling, but I just stopped. I can’t even explain the reason, other than it’s just what you do when you see a familiar face, you don’t question it; you just stop to say hello.

And with an ease we just meshed into conversation. We talked about how she was from Israel, about my trip there three years ago. It was like we’d been there together. We talked about the food, the nightlife, the way people greet you on the street. We laughed, as though together, we had shared memories and jokes during our desert days.

I ended up buying something, she ended up asking for my contact information and she told me to come back. She invited me to stop by again and see her. She asked to be friends.

And in that moment, I learned something I thought I already knew.

The best things in your life are the things you didn’t plan on, the moments you can’t make sense of, the moments that simply had to be pure fate because they weren’t on the map, but they somehow changed your entire direction.

I wish I had known a year ago, that some of the best things in my life would happen in the middle of the mall or walking down hallways.

Not yet arrived to the place I’m trying to get to, I’ve stumbled into some pretty incredible moments along the way. Usually, it’s just when I’ve left a room of heartbreak and I’m trying to get to whatever room holds the next big thing. Usually, I’m in search of some kind of map while I’m in these hallways, I’m looking for some kind of sign to show me which door to walk in next.

Almost always, that’s when I collide with something that grabs at my heartstrings, something worth stopping for and suddenly, I begin to panic. In those moments, I refuse to even focus on the beautiful surprise, and rather start frantically searching for a compass, something to get me where I was supposed to go.  I tell myself, Don’t stop for this, it’s just a distraction. You don’t have time for this. You’ve got places you need to be, more important things to do.”

I wish I had known earlier how to enjoy the hallways; the people you meet, the paintings on the wall, the things that may just look like common decor, or that may seem unimportant. Usually, these are things worth giving a second glance.

You know, O,  I don’t always want to be in a hurry to find what’s next.  Sometimes, I just want to love what is.

Rather than searching for a map, I wish I had met & asked strangers for some directions along the way. I wish I had met more of the people coming in and out of the rooms around me. I wish I had known that it’s okay to walk alongside some people and go wherever they’re going. It’s not always a bad thing, you know; to trust someone new.  Even though that’s gotten you heartbroken in the past, there’s no  time limit or safety guarantee on how many people you should pass by or how long you should walk until  it’s an “appropriate time” to walk beside someone else again. Yes, they start as strangers, but seconds later they might just change your life.

That’s a lesson you can put in your back pocket today, O. Don’t let fear keep you from trying again, from making new plans, from turning the corner and starting down an entirely new hallway with a whole different set of doors. Don’t let it keep you from stopping when someone stands with their hand extended, waiting to meet you.

I know what it’s like to let go of the life you planned, the uncertainty of beginning again, or trying to figure out which direction to head in. I know what it feels like when dreams die and everything you thought you wanted starts to look colorless.

It’s okay to want new things. It’s okay to change your mind, to explore possibilities, to give yourself some room to make mistakes. Sometimes you’ll open the wrong door. Sometimes you’ll linger in the hallway too long. 

But sometimes, you’ll leave the wrong room and just realize that you’re grateful you didn’t get stuck where you weren’t ever meant to stay.

I just want you to know that you don’t have to keep waiting for the next thing. Sometimes, you can find the best things right where you’re standing, right in the middle of the uncertain hallway, where you never expected to meet someone who could make you laugh. Sometimes, you find people that change your life in the middle of the mall and you get to be enchanted by the mystery of not even knowing what made you stop.

Life is funny that way, O. You spend your days trying to find a room filled with your destiny, and most of the time you end up tripping over it in the hallway.

It never looks like you expect, but that’s the wonderful thing about surprises; they’re often much better than the things your mind could have imagined.

Life has some surprises for you, O. They may scare you, they can sometimes seem like hurdles and messes that cause a detour from the path you thought you were supposed to take.

But they’re there for you, they’re gifts if you open your heart. O, you’re going to get to where you’re supposed to go. But I don’t want you to end up there alone, exhausted, discouraged. Choose to enjoy the artwork, to peek in on others’ rooms, stop and make some friends; I promise you when you arrive at that place you’re wanting to be it will seem so much sweeter.

You’re going to get there, as will I. It may not be where we expected, the route may look nothing like we imagined. It may take longer than we thought, but we’re going to get there (whatever there looks like for our lives).

Don’t stress out about maps or compasses. Just keep walking. You are meant enjoy the walk, the process it takes for you to end up stumbling through the door of where you were always meant to be. 

You’ll get there, O; you couldn’t miss it, even if you tried.

 

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday (well, at least once a week)! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Lovely Letters: When Hate Walks In

Of all the e-mails I’ve ever received, I haven’t had one hit me quite the way this one did. I’m grateful to be able to receive words like these and to have an open invitation to share my thoughts about them on this blog. Thanks to all my readers who are being so open and vulnerable. Your words change me in ways I can’t explain.

Somehow, it took a turn for the worst and he was yelling things at me that no one should hear. “You aren’t worth my time / I’m so stupid for being here / You aren’t worth anything / Just stop talking”   I had never felt so unsafe and violated as I did that night…. I ended the relationship and friendship all in one. It’s never easy walking away from someone you’ve known for a long time, but I had to do it.

 -Ann

Darling Ann,

Your words took me back to a day in my parents’ living room. Scrolling through e-mails, I opened one that I had been anxiously waiting for. And there, in Times New Roman font, sat three words that I never thought anyone (especially not someone who had been so close to me) would ever say.

…go to hell…

As plain as day, in black and white… those words just sat there sandwiched between a few other words and sentences that were equally as blunt and painful. Granted, people have said worse, but when words like that come out of a clear blue sky, it’s quite a kick to the gut.

The truth is, I don’t know much about what you believe about God or about His voice, but I heard Him speak clearly to me in that moment. Despite what you may think, I think the words I heard Him say are just as much for you as they were for me.

“It’s not your fault.”

Let that sink in. It’s not your fault. Nothing you said, or did, or didn’t do, could ever merit someone saying those words to you. I don’t care how much blame they can stack on your shoulders, it will never justify being told that you have no worth.

Darling Ann, I’m sorry he was that coldI know how that in that moment you didn’t recognize his face and that his voice must have sounded like a stranger. I know that feeling all to well, and I know that the way it leaves you limping.

You might need a crutch for a few weeks or months. You may need some shoulders to lean on. But don’t lay down in it, love; don’t you dare lay down in those words. Because you are made to lean into words like “you’ve always been enough / you are worth my affection / i’ll always come running / time with you is never wasted” 

You did exactly what you should have: you walked away. I did the same thing, once upon a time, on a rainy night at Starbucks. It started with some yelling, it ended with my eyes closed and the words “it’s okay and I forgive you” tumbling out of my mouth.

Truly, I did forgive him. And somehow, after that, I knew I’d never again carry the weight of those words he tried to paint me with. Since that day, I haven’t been angry or bitter. I haven’t carted around loads of underlying rageHonestly, I haven’t thought of him much at all. Since that day, we haven’t spoken and most likely, we never will. Because he is just a person I used to know, who said some things that, for about five minutes, actually mattered. If I saw him at the grocery store tomorrow, I’d smile at him (like I do every passing stranger) and I would keep looking at the cereals or yogurt and that would be that.

Don’t get me wrong, we had some good times. We had some fun car rides, laughter that would make your belly hurt. He wasn’t always so cruel, we had some golden days. But I let all of that go, soon after I read those three words in that e-mail. Not because I didn’t value the good times we had, but because they became only stories when he brought hate to the party.

And I’m not willing to sit next to hate for a few good stories and some sweeter e-mails I saved in their own little folder.

Love and I just kindly smiled to one another and decided to get our groove on elsewhere.  I think that’s what you’re needing too. It’s okay to decide to leave the party and head back home. Have a few nights spent wrapped in a big comfy sweater, buy yourself some yellow tulips, sit down with a mug of Tazo Zen tea (that’s the best kind), and soak in some peace and quiet. It’s okay to take some time for yourself. Take some time, Darling Ann, because you’ve just been through a battle. You’re coming out swinging, and you my dear, are looking mighty fine with your arms raised in victory. But even so, I want you to sit and take a breath. Steep in the truth of who you are and who you’ll always be.

You’ll always be the girl who is worth good words, and the love of a steady man who doesn’t kick you after backing you into a corner.

I’m proud of you for knowing that you had to walk away, for being strong enough to actually do it, and not just sitting around wishing you could. You, precious girl, are the envy of many women who have walked in your shoes. There have been countless women who have prayed for the strength to get up off the ground, slam the door and start over again.

You’re doing it, you are plowing new fields, finding new skies, and I’m so proud of you that I could burstYou make that eighteen-year old version of me cheer loudly because me and you, we are a force and we are fierce and we are not going to be made small. 

You remind me, even years later, that a girl has got to fight for her right to leave the dang party.

You and I, we left the party when hate came in the room and that’s more than most people ever dream of doing. While they sit quietly, afraid to make a move (afraid of what they’ll do next if they lose something or someone) we are dancing, jiving, moonwalking out that door and it’s a beautiful sight.

The ones who know when it’s time to go home and to get the heck out of here… they are the ones who keep the light in their eyes.

So while you’re dancing home tonight, know that you’re shining brighter than the street lights hanging above you. You are absolutely stunning, Darling Ann, with the way that you’re twirling in that dress and waltzing with the moon.

I’m proud of you. Not just for the way you walked away, but for knowing that you’re better because of it. You are my brand of brave, you’re pure gold, you are a girl after my own heart. You never even needed any of these words to know that you’re going to be just fine, but nonetheless they are yours.

Here’s to you, and to me, and to my absolute certainty that the girls like us will always keep dancing in the street!

Love, Ashlin

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I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Lovely Letters is a series that happens every Wednesday! I’ve gotten such an amazing e-mail response from many of my readers and I try to respond to as many as I can directly; and some of them have inspired me to share thoughts and ideas on my blog. You guys seriously inspire me and what you’re going through is universal and I think other people need to hear that they’re not alone.

So… if you’re interested in inspiring the next Lovely Letters post, send me an e-mail and let me know what’s going on in your life. I absolutely love hearing from all of you!

E-mail:  ashlinkayh@gmail.com

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Twenty-one and strong as I can be–I know what freedom means to me.”

In one week I will turn twenty-two. I don’t really know how to feel about that.

Sometimes I wish I could write a letter to myself last year at this time. I wish I could tell newly twenty-one year old Ashlin what to expect in the year ahead. If I could buy her a latte, I would have a lot of words to wrap up for her. I would load her up with suitcases of advice for the journey of being twenty-one.

First of all– I would tell her that it will be a mistake to buy a million lotions on Black Friday. No one needs that much lotion and you don’t have enough friends to share it with. Just put the bag full of them back. Seriously, step away from the warm vanilla sugar; there’s not going to be a shortage any time soon.

Then I would tell her to be prepared to use her weep towel for the first six months of being twenty-one. Babygirl, you are going to cry all the time. Invest in some big sunglasses and a good under-eye concealer, because you are going to fill buckets with your waterworks. Then I would mention that she can throw it away after that, because the crying is over–the fat lady sings and the pity parties finally end.

I would tell her that she’s going to lose some people and things this year. There’s going to be a lot of loss, a lot of questions, a lot of darkness. I would hug her for a minute and tell her to hold tight to the still small voice. I would tell her to take more road trips, get lost in the trees and to really enjoy when the shades of orange bleed into the horizon. I would tell her that these are the things that will keep her sane in the middle of absolute uncertainty and unimaginable loss.

Then, I would tell her that she’s going to laugh more in the year of being twenty-one than all the others combined. There will be incomparable joy that will leak from unexpected places and will heal some of that pain. It’s still going to hurt, but that laughter is a medicine that Walgreens doesn’t have in stock.

I would tell her not to be afraid of anger. It’s not going to destroy you. It matters what you do with it, but it’s not wrong to have it. Be angry. Slam your fists when you’re alone and let out a yell that rattles your bones. Let it out. You’ve got reasons to be angry and God doesn’t fault you for it, in fact, sometimes He gets angry with you.

I would tell her that staying out until 3 AM on summer nights and weekends is brilliant and worth it—because staying up late with friends and laughing until your stomach hurts, sitting in diners, crying about heartache, talking about Jesus… those are things worth staying up for.

I would grab her by the face with my palms and say, You’re gonna run away sometimes and it’s perfectly alright. Do not let it gut you. You don’t have to be perfect! She really needs to hear this one, because she spent the prior twenty-years trying to be superhuman and do everything right. It’s time she learn that she’s beautifully and hilariously flawed.

Oh, then I would probably smack her and tell her to stop looking at people in the car next to her when at a stoplight. Because you know what happens when you do, and screaming “EW!” and driving off is not very Jesus-like. Even if they are creepy, that’s still not nice. Then, I would just throw out there that she needs to stop tempting her gas light. It does eventually run out–and when it does, it’s in the middle of five o’clock rush-hour traffic on the busiest road around. JUST GO GET GAS!

I would tell her that even though it’s going to be a hard year (a really hard one), that she’s going to write some of the best things she’s ever written. I would probably start to cry at this point; when I tell her that her inbox will be flooded with people who tell her that her words are changing their lives. I would tell her that it’s proof that God doesn’t waste the pain.

I would tell her that she’s going to taste fear in a way she never imagined. But I would promise her that it gets better. You won’t wake up in a cold sweat every single morning—nightmares will come and go, but you’ll push through and you’ll find a way to feel okay again. I’d comfort her by saying that there are explanations and reasons for why it’s happening—I’d tell her she’s not crazy, she hasn’t failed God, and it isn’t at all what she thinks it is.

Or maybe I wouldn’t. Maybe I wouldn’t tell her any of this—because maybe I can somehow see how I needed to learn this. I needed to navigate the unknown territory without a map; because it would make me grow and it would push me to do bigger and better than I ever thought I could. Maybe I wouldn’t tell her because I wouldn’t want her to have done anything differently or changed any of those decisions. Maybe I can be grateful that twenty-one was beautiful in its own way, that it marched to its own beat.

Twenty-one was all about questions, wandering, and words. But it was also about joy and freedom. It was about making impulsive and irrational choices–only to learn, those don’t always turn out to be mistakes.

Twenty-one was messy and chaotic, but it was a jam. It was a mixed melody and I learned to dance.

Welcome, twenty-two! Here’s to a year of turning up the volume and changing the beat. I’m ready to dance to whatever tune you’re destined to play.

 

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.