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.

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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.

When Life Just Doesn’t Feel Like a Grand Adventure…

You need the joy in the ordinary. There are times when every day life is just so grand and glorious. 

I want you to know what that’s like.

You need some belly-aching, can’t-breathe, tears-in-your-eyes, knee-slapping laughter.

You need to sit in a parked car in a traffic circle with a dipped cone of ice cream with people who care about you and act silly just to make you happy. Even when you sneeze on them and are so exhausted that you can’t hold a conversation, they will love you and laugh with you at the simple joys of life.

You need to be friends with people who walk out of their office to go and give five dollars to a homeless man. You need to stand there in the cold and hold hands with them and pray for his heart and pray that he experiences love in every part of his life.

I want you to experience the adventures to be had sitting at bonfires, restaurants, coffee shops & on airplanes; fumbling over awkward introductions and crashing into the joy of turning strangers into friends.

Oh, that you would be broken by the beauty of the ordinary things in your life!

Life is happening and people are living and the world is crazy and beautiful. And I want us to see it.

I want us to be moved by the miracle of a newborn in our arms. I want our hearts to be stirred by the simple act of someone complimenting our smile, or strangers saying hi as we walk down the sidewalk.

There is true beauty in everything that is happening around you.

The comfortable doesn’t always have to be so colorless. There’s a dimension of breathtaking awe that could come over you if you would just take time to appreciate the constant love of the people in your household or the steady affection of friends who have known you for so many years.

You have a beautiful life. Even when you’re restless and ready for an epic adventure or for your big moment to arrive. You need to see that you have precious and irreplaceable things and people around you. Their consistent presence in your life is one of the greatest joys you will ever know.

Be grateful for the dinners with family, the kettle corn with co-workers, the movie nights with funny friends. Even when you’re holding up your pant legs to try and keep them from dragging in the mud of your fears and failures, be grateful that at the end of the day you were given the strength to keep plowing your feet through the pain.

You have greatness all around you. I have it all around me. I want us to see it. With every glance through our not-so-rose-colored-lenses, I want us to recognize that even in the day-to-day there is so much awe to be had for the ordinary

For Those Who Think I’m Perfect.

Sometimes, I’m absolutely terrified to tell my own stories.

The funny ones were never difficult, I’ve always been able to easily spin and weave those into any and every conversation. Nothing brings me joy like making a room full of people ache with laughter.

But the ones that require me pulling off layers of skin, cracking open my rib cage and letting you peek at the cracks and crevices of my core?

These are the stories I have always been afraid of.

I have driven to the places that haunt me so many times, that I know each tree that lines those gravel streets.

I used stockpile restaurant napkins to keep in the glove box of my little blue Nissan, for all the times I would sit in grocery store parking lots, legs crossed, tears pouring down my face.

I’ve worn out the words “I love you” to people who will never and can never say them back to me.

All by myself, I have stumbled up to houses, hands shaking & stomach churning to apologize to people who probably didn’t deserve it.

I have given out hand-written letters with splatters of my own heart painting the page. I have said words that made me cringe, words that left me feeling bare and exposed because I really believed those people needed to hear the absolute truth.

I lost myself in fears that threatened to swallow me whole. I gave room to a series of imaginations that paralyzed me and barricaded me. I let myself forget the feeling of sunshine on my face and fresh wind filling my lungs.

I’ve lost best friends. People who have seen the best in me, the worst in me, who let me fall into their embrace and told me “it’s all going to be okay”.

Those people left me and it nearly killed me.

I told myself that I needed to hide these parts from the world; that strangers and friends alike didn’t deserve to hear about these scars, they didn’t earn the right to know the pieces that aren’t so pretty. They are not ready for the i’m-not-so-perfect-after-all confessions of a preacher’s kid.

I prided myself on my ability to lock up my disfigured limbs and the unlovely layers of my heart.

But I’m starting to think people need to read and hear the stories that make another person human. They need to know that they’re not alone in their despair, that they aren’t the only ones who have been kicked and thrown dirt at.

They need to know that they weren’t the only kids who trusted someone who took advantage of them.

They need to know that they are not alone in their questions about the God of their childhood, who looks nothing like everyone said He did.

You’re not the only person who is angry at someone for breaking every single promise they ever made to you. You are not the only one who came limping home, head in their hands, feeling like they’d been kicked in the gut because someone should have protected you, but didn’t.

I used to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, screaming into my pillow from the nightmares that plastered themselves to the walls of my unconscious.

I’ve been broken by memories that are stuck on repeat. Nights of trust and truth that were erased by ones of betrayal and misery.

I have beat my steering wheel. I have used words that, if she had heard them, would have caused my mother to wash my mouth out with bars of white Ivory soap.

Because I am human and that is glorious and chaotic.

I am often broken and sometimes smothered by harsh realities, unanswerable questions and heartbreaking losses.

But I am beautiful. I am so absolutely, unmistakably, breathtakingly stunning. With all of my flaws and blemishes and imperfections, I am still worthy of love.

I have wrestled with the emptiness that weighs heavily on my chest, I know well the pain of having something and someone you love deeply taken away from you.

But I am learning to be open about that.

All the parts I try to cover up, the wounds I try to sew up that seem to keep cracking open at the first signs of disappointment:

I am done with trying to erase them.

I am so done with the idea that our bruises and our scars are not marks of beauty. I am finished with refusing to look at them. When the truth is, they are my marks of redemption and grace.

Those things that I have called ugly are reminders of His unfailing affection and His immovable desire to come for me, even when I hated Him.

I don’t want to push it all away. I don’t want to clean up and look pretty. I want to show the world the marks I bear on my heart and my body that scream HE LOVES ME! HE LOVES ME!

The ones that I don’t have to hide any longer because on His own body he wore the scars that brought healing to mine.

I am not ashamed of who I am, where I’ve been, the brokenness I’ve felt and that He came down and pulled me out. I will not hide those stories that make you wince and cause you to see my grief.

Because I am not ashamed of the power of God to take what is absolutely hideous and make it the perfect picture of freedom and redemption.

Not only did Jesus let his friends see his scars, He let them put their dirty hands on the places where he had once been ripped apart.

He is not ashamed of suffering.

So, I refuse to cover my wounds. I refuse to hide my marks of past suffering. Because He has redeemed them. He has carried them and He put pain on display so that I could have the right as his child to display His grace, His healing and His forgiveness.

But I cannot show you how He heals, unless I show you what was first broken. I cannot give proof of how He washes, if I will not show what was dirty before He came. I cannot convince you of the greatness of His love, if I do not first show you how He took away the shame of all the things I think are unlovable about me.

I’m sorry.

I’m so sorry if the church has made you feel like you can’t show your scars. If they made you feel ashamed of all that you have done or have carried.

I’m sorry if we seem perfect, with our pressed church clothes and words like modest, pure, and consecrated and have made you feel like that we were always clean and tidy; born with a Bible in our hands.

I’m sorry we have been afraid to tell our stories.

That somewhere along the way we forgot that they are what make us relatable, human and displays of infinite grace.

I’m sorry if I haven’t let you see the parts that sometimes still bleed, the limbs that are still a little crooked. I’m sorry that I sometimes still cover the insecure places with my fancy words and deeds.

But I am human and I am flawed. I have known the feeling of weeping on the cold tile floor. I have done things that dulled the life in my eyes. I’ve been the girl who has felt used and worthless.

But I am loved. I know it when I read of how He continuously rolls up His sleeves and lets people remember Him naked, hanging on a tree, mocked and rejected.

He doesn’t let us forget His pain. He doesn’t try to cover it up. He reminds us over and over again of all that He endured.

But He also doesn’t let us forget His resurrection and that He overcame that so that we could also overcome.

So, I will not be ashamed of my stories. My stories tell the world of His ability to love the unlovable and find worth in the unworthy.

 

I Was Born Wearing a Red Polyester Cape

“You can’t make everybody happy.”

She said it in such a matter-of-fact tone. I thought those words were just the scraps from her years of practiced indifference.

“And one day, you’ll get tired of trying.”

I didn’t believe her. It didn’t seem that a day would ever come when I wouldn’t want everyone in my life to be blissfully happy. When I wouldn’t want to do everything in my power to make it so.

But that wasn’t what she said, was it? She never said I wouldn’t want it. She said I’d get tired of trying to make it happen.

I wish she had been wrong.

There are only so many speeches, letters, gifts, and heartbeats you can offer a person before you realize you can’t and won’t and might never make them happy.

I want so badly to wrap my arms around every single person I’ve ever known and every stranger I meet. I want to buy them cups of coffee and read them bedtime stories and whisper words like, “every little thing is going to be alright”.

And I could do that. But it doesn’t mean I could make them happy.

You can offer them everything you are, you can look into their muddy brown eyes and tell them they are enough. You can do the hard things, the brave things. You can break your own bones for the strength of another’s aching limbs.

But you can’t make everybody happy. And that’s perfectly alright. 

What she didn’t tell me was that it’s okay to be completely exhausted from love.

No one ever told me it was okay to take a drive to the mountains for a date with the trees and the sky. No one ever told me to let the wind sing me a lullaby as I watch the leaves change. Oh, I wish she had told me that It’s okay to admit you’re broken and to take a sick day every once in a while.

Sometimes, I think I was born wearing a red, polyester cape. Because I’ve spent my life trying to live up to the task of saving people.

It took me seeing a photograph taken in the city on a summer night before I finally knew why I’ve been feeling so weighed down. I knew immediately that I was going to have to untie this layer of superhero attire and realize this:

I can’t save you. I can’t make you happy.

I used to see bright eyes that resembled the watercolor paintings from my childhood, but now I see that they’ve faded through the months.

Because you were born wearing a polyester cape and like me, you’ve been trying to save the world.

But the world already has a savior and He’s not on leave. He didn’t ask us to take over while he vacations on the beach. Like a child following their Daddy to work, trying to carry his hammer, his nails, his bag. We want to save the world.

But we can’t.

We can only tell people Daddy’s on the way. And that he loves them. And that he says they’re beautiful, wonderful, funny, handsome, mighty, fierce.

But we can’t make them live the life that bleeds the things that God painted on their hearts long before the earth had a speck of light. But we can tell them that He is on the way. We can tell them that they are enough. That they are worthy to be loved.

And we can love them.

But we will get tired. These feeble bodies that will someday expire, can’t always hold the weights that our hearts and souls carry. Sometimes our bones grow weary from lugging around the kind of love that changes the world.

But you’ve got to keep going. You have to keep telling them all the words they never got to hear. All the words that never came to the little boy or the little girl who wondered if they were enough.

But you can’t do that without some days by the sea or moments under the stars. You can’t do that without untying the ropes of unyielding and immovable devotion for just a little while. You can’t keep going if you don’t stop and let yourself breathe for just a minute. And in your breathing, you must keep reminding yourself:

You can’t save the world. 

Not for lack of trying, or because you don’t want it with every single cell inside of you. But because you too need saving.

And the only one who can save us is the one who made us. We are not Him. 

We could never bear the weight that it takes to have that kind of love; the kind of love that saves. The kind of love that causes flesh and bone to cling to a tree. We could not hold in these mortal bodies the kind of love that does not grow tired. Not yet.

So, it’s okay to take an adventure to watch the sunrise and to remove your red polyester cape. To remind yourself that you too need saving. To remind yourself that Daddy’s on the way. And to remind yourself that your only job is to tell everyone else the same.