The Expectations of Love and Getting Married

I’ll never really know what people expected of me, I think that’s where I have to start. Some probably thought I’d be the calculated type to spend years evaluating the ins and outs of a relationship, examining the nooks and crannies of every part. Sometimes I think that’s what I expected of myself—to logically pick apart every single piece until there was no question unanswered and no mystery unsolved.

But if I’m honest, I think I always knew that God would have another plan. Because I’ve always known that God is not a puzzle to be solved or love a code to be cracked. So when the right thing finally came, I knew the goal wasn’t to figure every equation out, solve the man in front of me and explain all the things inside of myself. 

As much as I wanted to reason and untangle my way through it, add it up, subtract it down, and understand all of the pieces of every single part of the reality of what it our relationship would mean—love is not a formula. When God gives it to us, it’s a gift, and having God forever in that process is the only successful factor to it. 

I knew quickly Matthew was who I wanted to marry, it was that simple.

Not because it sounded easy, or just plain fun, but because he looks at me and loves me how Jesus has my entire life—selflessly and with grace. And I want to do the same for him.

It didn’t mean that I wasn’t terrified, didn’t have questions, wasn’t asking God for direction. Because I felt and did all of those things, but Jesus being the source of love is what changes everything.

There are a million other factors that will enter into the equation, but none of them will cancel out reality, none of them will equal to or overpower the truth that Jesus came first, comes first, and will come first. It made all the difference, makes all the difference, changes all of the questions and answers. No matter the timeline, past, future, present, or expectation of things—that changes everything.

That’s the thing I would’ve told myself years ago, prepared myself with before I got to this stage. That you can’t examine and talk yourself into anything and you can’t set different expectations up because Jesus changes everything. When God shows up with the love He wants to give, just open your hands and receive it, go with it and whisper prayers of gratitude because it’s better than all the years you spent trying to grab onto your own other things.

All the years I spent trying to examine, understand, solve equations, make sure that person loved me, pray for clarity, make sure something was right, when the truth has always been: when God shows up, your own expectations and plans seem like sand castles because you’re finally standing inside of the real thing. 

The real thing…how did I begin to unravel that mystery? I guess the truth is, it didn’t take much unwinding. Because when love shows up, it doesn’t hide. It makes itself known and it isn’t hard to see. Love has never been a shy thing, never been one to bury itself and not resurrect quickly. The big questions it answers boldly. The ones that it has to take its time on, love is committed to the process, it doesn’t bail, doesn’t take off running. That was all I needed to see. Love like that sat front of me, inside of a man wearing a blue button down shirt, offering me truth and a cup of coffee, and I didn’t have to question the big things. That’s the real thing–thats why I could let go of people’s expectations, my own expectations, and lay down the formulas, equations, and how to make love be everything people, movies and songs told us it should be.

I’ve never really know what people expected of me, never fully known what I’ve expected of myself when it came to finally finding the real thing. But what God knew was coming was joy, forgetting the equations, open hands, prayers of gratitude—and someone so much better than I was ever expecting.

Let’s Try Holding On

Across oceans and continents, we still write and leave one other voice memos. When crisis comes or we find something funny, we send it to the other. We reminisce about the years we spent under the same roof, how we miss the Sunday mornings we spent making breakfast or listening to Josh Garrels in the living room.

Recently she asked me something that I wanted to answer, but wasn’t sure how to nail down. “What parts of me was it okay to lose?”It’s been years of growing, leaving, heartbreak, change—it’s a question we’ve both asked, but not one I’m sure I’ve figured out the answer to.

I think I’m better at holding on, so maybe it’s something I should reframe. Maybe I will give her some things she should try to keep through all the years, miles, plans, and seasons ahead.

Hope.

When all of us girls lived together in Georgia, we used to quote or sing Marky Mark, telling each other to be “in it to win it” —or otherwise. We once wrote it above the doorframe of our house.

I think holding onto hope is something like that. It’s the kind of thing you find people to wake up and sing to you. You learn to say to yourself, write it wherever you need to remind yourself to stay when things get hard.

Find people that have it, carry it, give it away, and are determined not to lose it–that are bold enough to tell you stay in it. Dig your heels in next to them and ask God to help you plant there. Wherever hope is, you’ve got a good chance of learning how to keep your heart open, soft, ready for whatever God has to say.

Joy.

Someday when I’m old, the one story I’ll probably be known for telling is the time my house of roommates were in the middle of prayer and we all ran out in the middle of a holy time to go buy an ice cream cake that said “Chicken in the Desert”.

We laughed until we cried, feasted until we were full, and we knew that God was right there in the middle. I’m also quite confident that while the girl behind the counter was confused about the statement on the cake, she saw something holy in that moment too.

Don’t lose your joy. You might sometimes lose your happiness, things that once added to your contentment and circumstances, but do not lose the ability to extend a holy moment into something that is seemingly ordinary or non-religious. God likes cake too and He likes when we pull Him into our best moments, worst moments, weirdest jokes, wildest conversations. Do not lose the ability to be childlike in your prayers and in the way you spend your days.

The world is full of people seeing everything half-empty, fully broken, and through the lens of all the things going wrong with the day. Do not lose the ability to see reality, but to choose the privilege of seeing the good God is and makes in and around us in the middle of pain.

You.

She asked me how to even remember who that is. Believe me when I tell you, sometimes it’s hard. I’m going to tell you to hold onto the parts you are so tempted to cover up, to yourself, to others, to God. The parts you are certain no one claps for, no one is impressed by, no one ever wants to see. The parts that have stuck with you, though you’ve tried to shake them. The parts that you secretly wish you could run away from. I’m telling you to hold onto them because I am learning, heaven help, I am learning that those places when I open them are the ones God pours into so fast. The only place to take them to is Him.

Those places that I sometimes think are too much, too little, not enough, that I probably need to scale back on. The second I crack the door on them, that’s when the light comes rushing in. That’s when God shows up and says something that is worth hearing and worth sharing. Don’t try to push them away or lose them, crack them open and let Him in. The things I think are worthless and weak, those are things that I find Him making the most of and showing me how to carry.

Faith.

Sometimes God likes a grand entrance, but sometimes God likes to sneak in through the back door and speak up when no one is expecting it.

But He will always come. Not usually in the way or time we thought, and I’ll probably often be standing there on the sidelines with you trying to figure out where He is and why He seems late. But we’ve seen Him show up too many times not to trust that He sticks to His promises, He shows up, and with a lot better than the plans than the ones we made.

I can’t tell you all the things you’ve lost along the way, what was meant to be yours, what to let go of, what needed to stay.

But you’re still in the making, in the wrestle, still in the game. You don’t have to know, have it all figured out. There’s no age limit on this “knowing who you are” thing. Walking with God is life long, you drop some stuff off, thinking you’ll never see it again, only to find out He picked up the bag on His shoulders and will hand it to you again at a different gate. Don’t worry about it, whatever you lay down, if it’s something you’re supposed to pick up again, He’s got you covered from now until eternity.

all the light that came after.

Shoes by the front door, a stone fireplace with stockings that looks sturdy enough to brace my shaky frame against.

I stand there half expecting myself to blurt out the words everyone keeps telling me not to say.

Because the words that pour out of the radio this time of year are, “let your heart be light” and as we know from last year, I’m a sucker for trying to figure out exactly what that means.

My eyes scan pages and pages of my textbooks for final exams and I’m trying to cram in all this information about how the first stars came to be. The authors tell me about what happened when they exploded, about all the light that came after.

I keep thinking about God and how His first words of creation were “let there be light” and I know there must be something to that.

I keep wondering if I explode or speak if some kind of light comes after.

Because maybe the magic of this whole season, the reason that we’re all obsessed with Hallmark Christmas movies is that they are scene after scene of people saying a bunch of horribly strung together sentences of things we’ve never had the nerve to say.

I’ve never felt I lacked nerve, but I’ve hoarded silence in the moments that seemed to matter. I’ve felt like a lover of lost causes in moments when it felt improper to say the thing that sits heavily on my shoulders.

Timing. Timing has never been my strong suit and it always seems that Christmas comes at precisely the time in which I have an armload of things I need to say and a crowd full of people and thoughts saying, it’s probably not the best time.

Because Christmas is cozy, quiet, a soft piano in the background of a department store. It’s chunky scarves, rosy cheeks, passing babies, wondering why everyone doesn’t get together more often. It’s silent nights, holy nights, it is good words written and stuffed inside gold foiled envelopes.

But I am the last minute shopper, donkey locked out of the stable, little off-beat drummer girl. I once demanded to be the angel in the Christmas play holding a stuffed beagle. I am the Barbara Robinson novel come to life. I am the girl who once nearly cut off her circulation and had a purple arm trying to buy Christmas presents in a Christian bookstore.

All is calm, all is bright. I am not good at calm. Sometimes I get the bright, but I rarely get the calm.

I find that I’m so occupied these days with sewing up my mouth, putting on my Christmas best, and hoping that no one notices me leaning against this fireplace holding back all the things that Ralph and Hugh (the writers of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas) missed when penning that song. Like sometimes gathering faithful friends and dear ones do not make my troubles feel miles away or out of sight. Sometimes, it makes me have to bite my lower lip because I do not know how to let “the fates allow”. Who are these fates? I do not know if I want them to allow. I think maybe I want to step in and decide some things and say some things before these fates get tangled up in this whole thing.

How am I going to have myself a merry little Christmas when this whole thing is left up to these vague fates and I’m just supposed to be hanging some star and figuring out what it means to “let my heart be light”?

Let your heart be light? I keep going back to that. Is that up to me or those fates? If it’s up to me, I want to say all these things that people tell me not to say. But then again, what if that makes us all heavier?

So then I’m supposed to hang some shining star. Well, that seems possible. I read about God and how light was His first priority. My textbooks then tell me those first stars exploded into all these other stars (according to science).

Well, then I think maybe if I just start with one thing, just one bit of light, more will come.

So maybe this blog is just about hanging that one star. Maybe it’s about saying that one thing, throwing out that one light and hoping that it explodes into a thousand more little lights.

We all have heavy things weighing on us and we all want this moment, this time, this season to be magical. We want it to be healing, something that brings us hope and helps us believe in goodness again.

Maybe you’re like me and you’re a little shaky, holding some things that you wish you could say, fix, change, or make happen. Maybe you’re a little lonely, tired, terrified, broken, confused. Maybe you just wish you had more time or capacity to enjoy it and feel it all.

Whatever it is you’re holding, I’m not going to tell you that all your troubles are going to be miles away. Your troubles are where they are. I’m not going to tell you it’s “a bright time or the right time to rock the night away” (mostly because I don’t even know what that means). I’m just going to tell you that I don’t know if any light will come after we say things we wish we could say. But there was the best Light that came, that stayed, that’s still here. It was here before the first words of “let there be light” were ever even spoken. And I don’t know what fates Ralph and Hugh were talking about, but I can assure you of this, the Faithful one who gives us all this light, well He’s tangled up in all of it.

A couple thousand years ago, He hung another star and regardless of what our shoulders might hold, we have to remember all the light that came after. It allows us to all have ourselves a merry little Christmas, even in this, even now.

 

 

 

I was right, God broke my heart.

I had a feeling when we were driving back from Tennessee that he was going to break my heart.

The fog sat between the mountains and I found myself spilling all my best words to him. I put every little part of me in his hands. I trusted him with every thought, every fear, the things that I had been holding inside of me for so many years.

I had just discovered The Lumineers and we listened to them on repeat. I have relived that day a million times: the taste of gas station coffee, the freedom of a road trip to a new place. Just twenty years old, my words were shaky, my heart was fragile, but I couldn’t stop myself from unpacking it all right there in his arms.

Still, I had this undeniable feeling he was going to break my heart.

As it turned out, I was right, God broke my heart. In the kind of way that only He can, in the way that offers no clear cut explanations or answers, in the way that you can never fully understand. You are angry, but it doesn’t feel justified; He’s God, after all. He knows all these things you don’t. You can’t really effectively argue with Him and you can’t get revenge.

God. Isn’t He the one who is supposed to be most trusted being in existence? Yet, He broke my heart. He had taken from me the very thing I had wanted most at that point my life. I told Him all about it, I had given him the secrets of my heart, prayed to Him about my biggest dreams. I had given Him my desires with shaky hands, biting my lip, nervous that I wasn’t good enough to have them anyway.

I spent a lot of years after that angry and hurt. Whenever I heard a song by The Lumineers, saw another foggy morning, thought of that Tennessee town, I thought about how that was the day I’d voluntarily fallen in love with a God whom I suspected might break my heart.

Five years later I still think of that day. I think of the drive through those mountains, how I complimented His color palette choices of green, gray, and brown. I remember that I knew He might break it, but that my heart was so full and alive that I couldn’t stop it from bleeding right there on His hands.

That would be the lesson that would follow me through all the years of pain: love can’t hold it in, but it will never regret the moments that it chooses to give it all away, chooses truth over fear.

Over those five years, there were a million more times that I would not or could not say to other people the things that my heart needed to say. I learned the pain of navigating that kind of regret.

But I never once regretted that morning with God. No matter the pain it ended up causing me.

Because there will never be another that can tuck the fog in the trees and make the contrast and exposure of the skies hit the perfect levels; that can create the perfect tones that crack my chest wide open and cause me to confess all the things that give Him permission to break my heart.

And on that day, by giving Him the things I thought I wanted most, He gave to me a God that was more than a story inside of a book. I found a God who was real and whom I had invited to come and sit inside of my world. A God who listens to my songs and laughs with me over Bean Street Coffee. I was given the gift of a God who is present, who is in my photographs and memories. Who, when the radio plays our songs, I can now close my eyes and whisper, “Remember that day?” In those years of my heartbreak, He gave to me Himself and years of stories, ticket stubs, parking lot conversations, back road drives, cups of coffee by the lake.

By breaking my heart in a way that I still don’t fully understand, it opened a door that caused me to keep coming back to Him to say, “God, I love you. I don’t understand how you could let this happen.” This heartbreak was my beautiful gift. It was the thing that He has used to draw me back to Himself over and over again. It became the thing that continued to give me more of those foggy days in the mountains, moments of spilling my heart out, seconds when I just couldn’t stop myself from handing it all to Him even if I knew it might not turn out the way I would hope.

And now when I hear The Lumineers, see those photos, find myself driving through the Tennessee mountains, the tears I cry are ones of gratitude. I find myself thankful that He took my shaky hands, holding what I thought I wanted most, and gave me something so much better in its place.

 

 

 

 

Breaking Up + Building Home

I just got back from Georgia and it felt a lot like seeing an ex for the first time since a break-up.

It was all the nervous tension and trying to figure out how to act and how to feel. At first it was this bittersweet mix of formality and familiarity. We’re used to do everything together, but it’s been a while and everything is different now.

I lived there for two years and made that place my home. It’s comfortable and easy. It’s laughter and inside jokes. It’s not having to tell the back-story or swim through all the surface stuff.

I miss being known and knowing where I belong. I miss being pulled into a hug and held there. I miss someone just showing up at my door. I miss someone reading my thoughts from across the room. I miss the things that took so much time to build.

It’s hard coming back to that.

You’ve moved on, and you know it was the right thing to do. But when things ended on good terms, you can easily fall back into those conversations and into finishing each others sentences. Then it just gets painful. Life, time and geography tell you that you can’t sit next to each other anymore.

And let me tell you, Georgia looked good. He looked real good. His build was strong and his hair was perfect. His green eyes were playful, he wore a well tailored suit, and brought a lot of sunshine and memories of some of my favorite times in my life. He was confident and steady.

As for me, I was a mess. I was not what you imagine or hope to be when you run into that former love. I was not a glamorous picture of success with perfect windblown hair and a five year plan. I was a sleep-deprived mess of a woman who had just lived out her own real life SNL skit involving a flat tire and three police officers.

For some reason, I came packed with the worst of my wardrobe. My skin was freaking out. I was stuffing my face with Skittles and Goldfish (which I guess could explain the skin issue). I was also trying to plan out speaking in front of people and how to finish assignments that felt like a foreign language.

Still, Georgia was inviting. He still knew how to make me laugh and took me to my favorite restaurants. He knew all the right things to say, all the right ways to pull at my heart. He reminded me of those former glory days, back when summer evenings were long and spent by the lake. He brought back winters with coffee on the couch and Josh Garrels on the record player in the living room.

It was hard to walk away.

I wanted to turn that car around and fling myself into the arms of that southern town and say “Please, take me back! I was a fool for ever leaving you behind!”

But it was a lie and I knew it. It was desperate and crazy. It was not the healthy, wise, or sane decision.

We know when it’s time to move on.

God, people, circumstances, and life let us know when our hearts need to move forward and I’m learning how to listen.

About halfway back home, a sad song came on my playlist and like a real break up,  I started spilling my guts to God. I kept mulling over all the reasons why my life right now looks so much less than what I had back then.

Because I mean, the most consistent person in my life right now is the man at the Chick-fil-A drive-thru window who serves me my yogurt and coffee every morning.

And believe me when I tell you, I think he is just as disturbed by his consistency in my life as I am.

Building a new life and new relationships take time and they require giving your heart. It’s hard to give your heart away again when what you had before was so good. Especially when there was really no seemingly good reason to end things other than it was just time to move on, things didn’t fit anymore.

Because what happens if I do this all over again and things just stop fitting?

What if I find something good again and then I have to move on and go start over with another blank apartment, another set of streets I can’t navigate, a table with empty seats? What if I have to even go find a whole other Chick-fil-A man who can’t learn to accept the fact that I’m just going to spend an ungodly amount of money on breakfast food?

One of my bosses gave a sermon this week and said something that hit me hard:

“We say ‘I’ve been hurt in a relationship, I’m never going to date again!’ instead of saying ‘Lord, show me the qualities that make for healthy relationships, so that I will know what is truly worth hurting over.”

Things end. But Georgia was healthy and it was worth hurting over.

Maybe I won’t be here forever, but I’m here for now. I want to build things that are worth hurting over.

Someday, if I ever move away from this place, I want to come back and have that momentary second of foolishness of wanting to jump into its arms again and ask it to have me back. I won’t do it, but I want to have been so recklessly selfless with my love that I’ll want to. I want to be shaken by the memory of what it felt like to wade through all the nervous first encounters, awkward conversations, DTR conversations, stupid fights, moments of wishing I could leave, stupid inside jokes, nights around a bonfire.

I want to build something worth hurting over if I ever have to say goodbye to it.

When I moved away from home I cried when I left my mailman. Right now, I don’t even know my mailman, and it won’t really hurt if I have to say goodbye to my Chick-fil-A man. But I need it to. I need to be teary for the day when he will no longer be MY Chick-fil-A man.

I want to build a life that’s steady and full of the kind of love that cries about my neighbors and the things that become a consistent part of my life.

Because I need to build a life that’s radically ordinary, beautiful, and full of health. I’m learning it will help prepare me for the someday permanent people and places, for when the time and person comes and I find myself making promises and covenants to stay.

(P.S. the Chick-fil-A man is old, married, and is not a romantic interest in my life.)

When The Holidays Are Hard

Some days I am still in the kitchen looking for napkins at that Christmas party. I can hear the laughter coming from the back of the house, my heart swells with the hope as the background music fades to the next track.

I immediately smile as I hear the younger version of myself laugh. Nothing was untouched by the lights that year, anything and everything was possible. All our troubles seemed miles away.

What I didn’t know was that by the next Christmas all of that hope would feel long forgotten and it would take years to get any of it back.

Fast forward to last week when I got a handwritten letter in the mail.

It was from a dear friend across the country and her words were full of that same kind of hope, risk, excitement, uncertainty. I found myself thinking about that Christmas party and about the year that followed.

I replayed what it felt like to let my heart grab on to things that were never meant to be. I let myself be taken back to those twinkle lights and the cold winter air. I let my heart stir in that hope that built me and broke me. While I can’t say I regret that time in my life, the memory of it sometimes still feels heavy whenever the holidays roll around.

One of my favorite Christmas songs is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. I get all warm and sappy whenever I hear it playing over the speakers in the mall, or when it greets me in the car on a dark winter morning.

I wish I could go back to the 40’s and sip coffee with the writers, Hugh and Ralph. I would ask them to tell me about the day they pulled that crumpled melody out of the trashcan. I would ask about the stories that caused them to write those words and that tune.

Let your heart be light…

Around this time of year, I have to remind myself not to get weighed down. It seems so much easier to get heavy when the days get shorter and the nights get longer. And there always seems to be so much pressure to get happier when the red ornaments come out and the big mugs of hot cider start getting passed around. The thick obsession with holiday cheer can weigh me down faster than anything else. I don’t want to miss it. According to every one and every thing, these are supposed to be my happiest months. I often feel rushed to get myself together before December slips away.

I’m figuring out that we need to learn to let our hearts be light, but that we don’t need to hurry it or force it.

Some days it is okay to remember the Christmas party that broke your heart and to grieve the chairs those people no longer fill. But then you have to let go of that weight, sweep the floors and make new invitations. Keep throwing parties and keep filling up those chairs.

Let your heart be light. Allow it to let go, allow it to hope for better years. Go and see the lights, sniff the fresh pine, watch all the best and worst Hallmark movies, help your grandmother decorate her tree, make plans to find the perfect wrapping paper. Let your heart be hopeful and expectant, even if there are hard memories and prior years that still bring pain.

Sometimes I feel like Dickens really got his stories mixed up. He really should have started off the Christmas one with that whole bit about how it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Because some days I’m still in that kitchen and I am heavy with the weight of what Christmas used to be, might have been, appears to be for everyone else. One minute, I am one pine-scented candle away from weeping in Target and the next, I’m singing Holly Jolly Christmas and flailing around in snowman pajamas.

Most days this really is the most wonderful time of the year. Still, Ralph and Hugh knew that there would be those holiday days we would need a melancholic song that would help us mourn, while simultaneously giving us a swift-kick-in-the-rear with a challenge like let your heart be light. 

I’m not sure if those guys knew it, but a different kind of Christmas light is the only thing that can help us with the heavy weight. That Light came in the middle of the night to a bunch of people on the run, who were probably crying over old Christmas parties, and whose lives looked nothing like Hallmark movies. He saw all the sadness, darkness, pain, loss, loneliness they were in and He came.

And when He took his first human breath, I think that was really the first time the world heard what are quickly becoming my favorite words of the season: let your heart be light.

 

 

As all of America responded, there was only one word I could say.

I fell asleep before the final results came in.

But I already knew which candidate was going to be the next President of the United States.

I woke up this morning and let it sink in. I scrolled through my social media and didn’t move for a long time. I finally crawled out of bed and slowly went to sit on my couch. I sat for a long time in silence.

Finally, one word came from my mouth as I began to weep.

“Father,”

This morning as America responded, that was the only word I could say.

I knew from the beginning I would be disappointed with either candidate having a victory. I have already spent months grieving both a President Trump or a President Clinton.

So, I did not cry this morning because of the results.

I cried this morning because many of my Christian friends called this election a victory for the church. I cried for the endless posts that said “God heard His people’s prayers”.

I cried because what they told the world was that God didn’t hear or honor the prayers of those who did not vote for Trump and that they are not His people.

Whether they meant that or not, this morning, that was what many heard.

I wept for the women in my life who are in an identity crisis. For the women who think Clinton was a role model. I wept for the women who believe their suspicions were confirmed: that they have to fight dirty in order to succeed and that even then, they will lose.

I wept for those who woke up with a smirk on their face and prideful words on their tongue because their candidate won. I wept because many of them believe God has put his stamp of approval on this man’s anger and immorality.

I wept because though I understand a sigh of relief from those who were afraid for a Hillary presidency, I cringe at their exaltation of a Trump one. I wept because many of my friends said it “bothered them to vote for him and they were doing it hesitantly, but he seemed a better option.” I wept because when they rubbed it in people’s noses this morning, it did not seem that it was hard or that it bothered them at all.

I wept because “How we walk with the broken speaks louder than how we sit with the great.” (Bill Bennot)

I wept for the way that many of my Christian friends chose to walk with the broken this morning.

I wept because as a person who voted third party, I was condemned, criticized, mocked, rebuked, scorned, and belittled. I wept because I cannot even fathom what people on the other side have endured and will endure. I wept because many of these are people who claim to operate under a law of love and a Gospel of peace.

My heart broke at those who sincerely asked Christians, “How do you explain this to your minority, Muslim, LGTBQ, and disabled friends?”  I wept because I know that many of the Christians I know do not have those kinds of friends.

Later, as I ran to get coffee, I found myself weeping again in the car. But this time, I wept because the barista told me that he liked my shirt that says PRAY. I wept because we are different genders, different races, and together we looked at one another in the eye and agreed that more than anything in these times, we need to PRAY.

I wept because God pulled me close and told me that He heard and hears my prayers. I am not a Trump voter, but I am His people and He heard and hears my prayers, too. 

I wept because though I am broken, I am thankful my hope was never in either of these candidates. I wept because I am thankful that I stood my ground. I wept as I told God that even though I was mocked, condemned, rebuked, I want to learn how to show others what it means to be a disciple who does not sacrifice their influence among Christians and non-Christians for an earthly government.

Today, I continue to weep because many voted for Trump believing he will help maintain their religious freedom. I weep because my prayer is that this freedom and their Christian influence does not become tainted by a pride, condemnation, or judgment of others.

Today, I weep as I pray that we have not pushed and will not cause those around us to say, “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Today, I weep, but with hope that God is faithful. His grace is sufficient. I weep, asking for faith to believe that His true church will wake up and will be known for their love.

I weep today and I cry out “Father”. May He be merciful and forgive us in these times when we know and do not know what we do.

The Only Way I Can Vote…

I took a walk this morning to grab a cup of coffee from the cafe across the street. I noticed that the air is getting colder, the leaves are slowly changing. This morning was the start of a perfect autumn day.

But I found myself frustrated, clenching my fists, telling God that this whole election thing has got me in knots. I know what everyone is telling me I should do, but I don’t know the right thing to do.

Just as I prepared to cross the street, I heard him whisper,

“You are not accountable for your nation, you are accountable for yourself.”

Instantly, all of my frustration fell off in the middle of that street and I knew what the right decision for me is:

I cannot vote for either of the main candidates in this election.

Believe me when I tell you that I have wrestled over this. I have prayed, sought counsel, listed the pros and cons. I have not made my choice without weighing every single possible outcome.

Here’s the thing: yes, maybe my country is seemingly going down the toilet. Either way, it’s likely that both candidates are going to make some detrimental decisions for this country. But I am not going to answer to God for those things. 

I am going to answer to God for the state of my heart when I stood inside of that voting booth. 

He will know whether or not I was pure in my choice or if I violated my conscience. He will know if I stuffed down all of the truth that stirs in my gut every single time either of the candidates speak.

He will know if I am compromising my Godliness for my Americanness.

He knows that I am not trying to be reckless in my decision, He knows that I simply cannot violate my own heart by bowing down to those that tell me I have to choose “the lesser of two evils”.

He will not hold me accountable for the decisions of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. He will hold me accountable for mine.

I will vote. I will honor the lives given for that right. But I keep in mind that their lives were given so that I could make the choice I believe is right. Not the choice that the church tells me is right, not the choice CNN or FOX tells me is right.

At the end of the day, I live with my choices and mine alone. My ability to look at myself in the mirror is worth more to me than the White House. My personal conscience is worth more to me than the Supreme Court.

I love this country and I care about its future. Whatever the outcome, I will pray for my President. And I will continue to believe that God honors those that honor Him. So, in this decision, I will do what my conscience says honors Him.

I will write in my vote and it will count. The name I write will not become President, but it will count because I did not deceive myself into thinking it’s noble to sacrifice my conscience and the truth for the “better of my country”.

They say we have to save our country, right? We have to gain back its greatness, don’t we?

“But what do you benefit if you gain America, and lose your own soul?”

 

 

 

Pour a little salt in the wound (forgiveness pt. 2)

I got an e-mail from one of my readers about my last blog post on forgiveness. Our stories are similar, it felt like I was reading an e-mail from myself a few years ago.

I started asking myself what the most valuable thing I’ve learned on this current road of forgiveness has been and I instantly knew.

Clean out your wounds along the way.

Keep the dirt out as much as possible.

Choose to be kind and love in the face of those who you’ve connected to your heartbreak.

Don’t pile on top of the hurt by acting rude, indifferent, or fake. Don’t embrace any opportunity to deepen the bitterness.

Start by immediately making your interactions with the people who’ve hurt you positive, loving, and pure. Even (and especially) if they don’t respond in the same way.

Keep the mess out. It’s hard, I know. It’s pouring salt in the wound. Every time you have to choose to love that person when you want just want to punch a wall, it stings. 

But you don’t want to find yourself finally healing from the initial injury only to realize you let the wound get infected by all the things that came after.

So leave your cold shoulder and eye-rolling at the door. Keep the wound clean.

It hurts now, but it will save you later down the road.

This is something that God spent years building in me. I’d be sitting with crossed arms and clenched teeth and I’d hear him whisper: Reach for a hug. Give a compliment. Offer them a cup of coffee.

I would sit there and squirm in my seat. I would tell God all the reasons why it was a bad idea. I would tell him how I shouldn’t because it wouldn’t feel genuine. But he’d say it over and over again: Love isn’t just a feeling, kid.

You love them, because it wouldn’t hurt so much if you didn’t.

So get up and do something with it. You have got to move. You have to move this seemingly impossible mountain with a little step of faith. You have to bring a stone (and it can even be a tiny one) and start rebuilding these burned bridges.

Salting that wound kept me alive.

If there’s one thing I’d tell myself when that whole process began is: it will be worth it. Not because it will produce miraculous and instantaneous results, but because it will teach you more about love than anything else. That passage about turning the other cheek won’t just be a nice little sentiment. That phrase will get so deeply rooted in you that before you know it, it will be the only way worth living.

But the deeper you want to be rooted in love, the more ground you have to break through. You’re going to have to dig and push. You are going to hit some rocks in your heart and in theirs. It’s not going to feel good, this loving in hard times is not a quick process.

This thing isn’t a sprint. Forgiveness isn’t even a marathon. It is more like a triathlon. It has different legs. You might get really good at one part, and then suddenly realize you’re entirely out of shape when it comes to another. Don’t lose focus. Don’t decide to stop going just because you can’t master it all at once.

It’s going to take time.

So, clean the wound along the way. Don’t let time scab this thing over while letting infection take root. Don’t deepen this thing with passive-aggressive comments, avoiding eye contact, or sarcastic stabs. Don’t let that pain become the first domino that starts knocking over everything else you’ve built with them.

It will hurt. You will want to avoid the pain that comes with keeping it clean. But when you get a chance, I promise you won’t regret pouring a little salt in your wounds.

 

 

To Be Honest

My breakfast yesterday morning was a sleeve of saltine crackers in the Publix parking lot.

I woke up with a headache that could make a grown man cry. I swallowed three Advil before crawling out of bed and slapping Icy Hot on my forehead. That isn’t something I would normally do, but desperate times and all that…

I finally managed to take a hot shower, throw on my worst outfit and drive to the grocery store. I entered with wet hair, baggy basketball shorts, and a tight grimace on my face.

And then I went and sat in my car. I sat there pitifully eating a sleeve of saltine crackers, drinking a Coke Zero, and telling God that I had officially hit an all-time low. 

I haven’t figured out what it means to have order in my life. That’s just the raw and honest truth of it. There was a time in my life that I had order, I had peace, I had a schedule, a plan, a routine.

For weeks my phone has blowing up every five minutes with demands, questions, events, meetings, plans, and I’ve been on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

I’ve realized I don’t know what it means to be honest.

Part of this comes from growing up in the South, where being blunt is somewhat forbidden (especially for little girls). It can often be labeled rude, and does not make you appear hospitable or agreeable.

You must aways find the perfect way to send your regrets, which means– the only acceptable reason for not going to something or doing something is because there is another life-or-death commitment/event that you cannot miss.

So, from a young age I learned not to say no because I didn’t want to do something, or do not have the capacity for it. I believed you must only say no if you’re saving orphans or helping old ladies at the grocery store.

And the church did very little to help me with this. There’s a notion of always having to do the Christian thing. There’s the right thing and then there’s what the church calls the Christian thing and they, I’m quickly learning, do not always coincide.

So, here I am, a bold and blunt individual who very clearly understands where she stands on most things, but who has been muzzled by “polite” southern culture and doing the Christian thing.

This is where chaos and being covered in cracker crumbs comes in. Rather than realizing that honesty will always trump presentation, I find myself making the dumbest excuses and telling everyone “I’ll get back to you” as a way to give myself ample amounts of time to figure out what the polite and Christian thing to do would be.

And then, begrudgingly, I will do that. Even if I hate it. I will inwardly whine the entire time. But at least I’ll have the false feeling of comfort that comes from believing that I did the polite and Christian thing (and knowing that Dolly Parton would be proud).

However, killing your honesty in order to make others happy is poison. One day, you’ll look around your life and see nothing but piles of perfectly formed excuses, all of them lies.

Saying I can’t or I don’t want to is not rude and not un-Christian.

This is a truth that I’ll probably wrestle with for the rest of my life. I’ve spent twenty-four years of believing the opposite, so it will probably take a while to re-learn a different way.

Neglecting our health and sanity and refusing to be honest about where we are is what breeds chaos in our lives. We find ourselves unable to say yes and no to things because we sacrifice what is necessary for what is acceptable to others. We can frequently find ourselves lying, but convinced that it’s for “the good reason” of not hurting someone else.

I’m terrified to disappoint people, to hurt them, to let them down. I am terrified of being bad at commitment.

This became clear to me when I was in a season of attending three churches in the same day. I would go to a 10 am service, drive twenty-minutes and go to a noon service, and then eat lunch and then drive thirty-minutes and go to a 6 pm service.

This went on for months. I spent so much money on gas and so much time sitting on pews that it’s a miracle I didn’t end up homeless and in a back brace.

All because I didn’t know how to disappoint people. I didn’t know how to accept my limits. I didn’t know how to be human. I didn’t know how to say I can’t…”

What I’m seeing is that running away, making excuses, and just being polite aren’t my only options and they’re certainly not the best ones.

Learning to be honest, humble, and human is what’s required of us. We are to be loving in our responses, but that doesn’t mean lying to spare feelings or to make others happy. It means sometimes simply saying, I can’t or I don’t want to and knowing that our reasons won’t always expand beyond that.

I’m also realizing that all the hiding and the time spent making up excuses will drain you from actually doing the things you need to do.

I’m trying to become a person who answers honestly. Knowing that it might not get praise, it might be disappointing, and it might not be agreeable, but I’m learning that loving people by granting them my honesty truly is the best policy.