Monday, March 2, 2015

What do I avoid praying for?

I had a great conversation recently about fear, admitting the things that we really hope to receive, and how we pray for them. I was asked what it was that I desired most but didn't pray about and without thinking about what my "right" answer should be, I blurted out, "a family". As soon as it came out, I laughed at my own ridiculousness. Seriously, that is the thing I am not praying for? As if God, and everyone who knows me, wouldn't already know that is the answer to that question. Or maybe it isn't as known as I think? So why in all of my time praying am I not asking for it? Maybe my fear of not getting it had gotten in the way of truthfulness or maybe I was scared that God would answer my prayer and then what. My heart is already known but there is great freedom, love, and peacefulness in actually requesting it so that it can be known in a greater way.

As I started to ask for the courage to admit what was on my heart, I began writing because I often find my truest thoughts in that space. A lot of my imagination for writing happens in letter format so I wasn't surprised when without analyzing or questioning, out came this little letter to a future child that I hope to have with a future husband. All unknown and fully honest. And this little letter brought tears to my eyes, not because it said anything profound, but because it came out of the most vulnerable part of my heart.

Even as I am about to hit the publish button, I cringe, hesitating to let you all into this vulnerable space. I decided to share it with all of you anyway, not only to share what is on my heart, but to encourage you to explore those spaces in yourself where you are suppressing requests or feeling fearful.

Dear little one,

I spent almost my whole life hoping that I would someday be entrusted with you. It is taking a long time to grow me and make me ready to be your mom, but we will get there, and I'll still be learning. I might be terrified, by the way, but will arise each day loving and pursuing you, knowing that God will provide what I need to be your mom.

I dream about the possibilities of who you might become and all of the things that I hope we teach you. There is a great big world out there full of people who live, eat, look, and think differently than we do at home. I hope we take you to places where you can learn to love and appreciate people who are like us and those that may seem different. I want you to really know people and be ignited by places and experiences that excite you. I hope that you love learning, discovering, creating, and playing. I hope that you enjoy fun and silly moments that seem small now but will one day be big. I pray that you will never fear for where you will sleep, know hunger, or lack education, but that you have a heart for those that do. I hope that you experience failure so that you learn perfection isn't the goal. On any given day, let the soundtrack to our life be laughter and humility. For the days that we do it all well, there will be many others that one or all of us in this family will miss the mark on loving each other well. At home, we will do love, prayer, service, kindness, apologies, forgiveness, learning, and then more love. I envision that the table will be the centerpiece of our home where we will share meals, life, devotions, and learning. I hope that you have a heart that makes the whole world feel like home. I pray that I trust not in my own expectations but rather in the purpose that has been designed for you, just like my parents did for me. In moments when you aren't sure if you even like us, we will still pursue you, because we are pursued that way. You may grow up to be many things, but I hope that we teach you most about pursuing God and knowing His love which is greater than anything your dad or I could ever give you.

Speaking of your dad, I'm writing you this before this is even close to being a reality, which is probably crazy, but your momma is a dreamer. Blame it on literature. I haven't even said yes to one of the biggest questions I will ever be asked. When I say yes to your dad, I know that my faith will have grown bigger than my trust in him. While I'm sure your dad will ask in a special way with a pretty ring, it matters most that we commit to pursuing a life together that is rooted in faith, love and service. We will be two people who are flawed, perfectly made and full of love for each other. I hope you see and learn from the choices that we make to remain in that love.

While I don't know when you will arrive or if I will ever actually be called mom by you, I'll trust in the plan that is for my life, knowing that it will not have loose ends and all of the chapters will be in the right order.

x.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Learning about what I don't do while crying over milk

This current season has brought up a lot of great conversations with my girlfriends about the things we commit to doing, and maybe even more importantly, the things that we say no to so that we can say yes to the things that hold the most truth in our lives. When I read Bittersweet and Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist, it was like a bomb exploded in my heart. She wrote great, powerful pieces about the walk we take in doing life with others, pursuing faith, and the experiences that our lives present. I literally have pages and pages where entire paragraphs are highlighted as the words were challenging me and stirring up opportunities for growth.

One of my favorite chapters featured her tough lessons on overcoming her inclination to do EVERYTHING. Everything for everyone being my drug of choice in the fall. My list of things to do better had been getting long, quite long, and weighty, with what felt like new things being added all the time, never with the thought about what should I stop doing. Stop doing anything? Um, no. For a long time, I had been the girl that could do everything. I don't even have a husband or kids yet so I certainly should have been able to handle all that was on my plate. Not doing everything felt a lot like failing and I wanted anything but to feel like I had not lived up to some potential that I thought had been determined for me.

I remember the day where I thought to myself, "this just has to be enough and how do I stop this crazy train that I am driving". The day.. well, it was when I burst into tears over being out of milk. Full on tears. Over milk. Full of shame. Failing to meet some crazy standard I had set for myself that day of being the perfect girlfriend who makes her boyfriend breakfast before his work trip, in the midst of a hectic week, because I was certain that I could do it all. I am not sure if I cried in that moment because I realized that being a perfect girlfriend is not attainable, or the realization that I could not do everything, or the fact that I was actually questioning if my boyfriend would still love me when he found out I was not wonder woman, or from being exhausted from striving for so much all of the time. I'm going with all of above, as illogical as all of those thoughts may be.

Of course, I tried to recover quickly in the moment, saying I was just tired, and suppressing all those emotions, hoping I could pretend to shut off my mind, and stop my tears for the duration of the breakfast. The saddest part is that all I really wanted was an hour of enjoying being with him and feeling connected. I spent the rest of that day trying to recover and wrestling with how I come clean about where I actually was. On a lot of days last semester, that felt a lot like a sinking ship. I was no where near even knowing how to admit the reality of where I was, but clearly, the moment you start crying over milk, that isn't even spilled, is probably your enough point. At least, it was mine.

Thanks to my graduate program, I am an eternal student of development theory and aware that I am transitioning from seeing self-sacrifice as value for my goodness, and learning that I need to find care for myself (Gilligan's second transition). I am in some serious growth now, full of cognitive dissonance, which I find really hard some days and a total breeze on others. Thankful each day to be where I am, learning and making different choices - much more like a sailing ship.

Niequist wrote a chapter entitled, "Things I Don't Do", where she reflects on her own battle with doing everything and needing to articulate (she's a list maker too!) what she had to quit in order to do the things that allow for the life that we are really intended to be living. I am working on writing my own list, actively turning down opportunities I would have piled on before, and making room for the ability to say yes to the things that are deeply important to me.

As hard as it was to reach this point, I am encouraged daily, and I hope that sharing this will encourage all of you that are struggling with your EVERYTHING. What is on your list of things you don't do so you can say yes?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Remaining

I had never been to the state of Arkansas or even knew anyone who had been there when I visited campus for an interview in 2009. It was the furthest I had lived from family, the lowest paying job I interviewed for, and I did not know a single person for miles around, but I knew without a shred of doubt that I was meant to go there. I'm grateful, all the time, for that part of my plan.

While I was there, I met my friend Lyndsy. She inspired me with her pursuit in natural childbirth, living with less measures, and comfort in her own vulnerability. Her vulnerability often challenged my own discomfort in that arena. She would often allow me to give my first response to a question and then with patience and love, she would pursue my answer again, allowing me to have space to communicate what was really on my heart. Every time I felt thankful for her pursuit of me in those moments and the space she provided for me to be seen and known.

During my time there, I watched Lyndsy become a mother. I watched her find joy in the transition and struggle through the hard pieces with honesty and love, showing up each day with renewed strength. Her little one began these crying fits that lasted hours, requiring perseverance, a lot of faith, and unrelenting love. Her husband had to travel for work so I went over to assist in an effort of support and to help her not lose her mind. I LOVE babies, happy or throwing a fit for hours, so I felt up for the job. We could see the relief that he needed, mainly sleep and food, but he resisted, struggling through, fighting off our love and comfort, searching for something while missing the fact that we were offering all that he needed. So we kept pursuing him that night, giving patience while he fought us, providing what he needed even when he turned it down, wrapping him in love, until he finally surrendered to peace and comfort.

The memory of my friendship with her in that moment with her little guy makes me smile and think, of course, because it is how my relationship with God can look at times. He provides, calls me higher, deeper into His plan, and I gear up for battle, determined to create my own plan and turning away from Him and all that he is providing for me, failing to see that everything I need (and probably asked for) is being given to me.

Moving back to Tampa was not in my plan but the doors opened and I felt the call to return. It has been the best move and hardest move for many reasons. In the fall, I had this sudden awareness that the plan that was unfolding looked nothing like I thought it would, unfamiliar in a familiar place, and I got to work battling to fulfill my own expectations. It was tumultuous and exhausting, resting no where in my faith or identity. Still I fought, much like my friend's little one did that night, and so He pursued me with a greater amount of love, a brutal but needed mirror, a lot of forgiveness, and comfort to remain.

God used it, is using it, to teach me a lot about love. Falling in love can be quite easy - the thrill of the newness can be exhilarating but the great stuff happens in the remaining. I fell in love with God a long time ago but remaining, choosing over and over again to be faithful, to find humility in my moments of discomfort, staying when other things entice me or seem easier, is where I lose my way at times. I'm thankful in those moments that He pursues us more, allowing our hearts to better seen, and faithfully staying with us in it, through it, and after it.

I am learning a lot about how I walk out that love for Him and other people, when I choose to respond to my immediate emotions, rather than from the truth and joy that is within me. Real love is remaining - in community, kindness, forgiveness, grace, contentment, gratitude, and choosing to stay in the remaining when I could give up or throw up barriers. I don't always know how to walk out love in that way, and there will be moments when my fear threatens those spaces, but I surrender to that He does, knowing I will be taught, be given people that will walk out that out with me by asking the question again, when I need them to, in order to share what is really in my heart. I will be made brave in those moments.


"The foundation of bravery is about pursuing love.. its takes bravery to choose 
to continuously walk out that love, come what may."


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

2014 reflections.

"And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good" - John Steinbeck

2014 was a really beautiful, changing, messy, struggling, loving kind of year. Half the time I was basking in the moments of pure joy and happiness and the other half the time I was battling expectations and impossible perfection. All of which led to a pursuit of peacefulness in knowing my freedom and appreciation for the people, opportunities, and moments that are given to me each day to make up my life.

As I am thinking about the new year, and all of the unexpected things it has already brought, I am also reflecting and celebrating all that the previous year held. The truth is, my highlight reel is pretty big and overwhelming in the amount of moments I was keenly aware of love. I'm celebrating these little, big moments now, so I can remind myself each time my mind gets busy as a way to say, "quiet down little mind, rest in truth, be patient", which I know will probably happen about 15 times a day (and those will just be the ones I am aware of). For all that 2015 will hold, I hope to pursue and know love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Happy 2015! Enjoy some highlights from 2014!

Dates with Momma

Dancing with Justin

NYC with Kerri & Erica

Literacy Nights

Dustin's Graduation

Painting & Life Conversations

New Team
Students

Old Friends
New Friends
x.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Letters.



One of my favorite bloggers, Today's Letters, does a letter writing series that I adore. Her husband also writes (swoon). I don't know if it is because letters may very well be my love language or if those two just write so beautifully that I can't help it, but I repeat reading them over and over. I appreciate their honesty and window into life. They've been inspiring my writing for a while and some say imitation is the best flattery, so I stole their idea and format for today's letter.


Dear Momma, thank you for our long chat, which I enjoyed through the sunshine in my new backyard. I cherish those life moments with you. Dear J, I love the way that music ignites you. My favorite way to observe you is when you are singing your heart out. Dear fear of the unknown, you've been creeping in a lot lately through all of my transitions this year. I'm getting braver. Dear God, thank you for the brutal dose of truth that reminds me I'm not in control. Dear Daddy, you didn't even know I picked Saturday's race because of you. I'm sure glad you're a survivor. Dear new room, you don't quite feel like mine yet, but I'm looking forward to spending some candlelit nights with you, featuring a quieter mind, cup of tea, a pen, and my journal. Dear love, thank you for holding my hand, calmly waiting for my thoughts to be articulated, and letting me cry when I need to.