Celebrate returning to faith, hope, culture and life with community.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

give me your messy

There is really nothing scarier than claims of a robotic perfection. 

I say, give me your messy!

Becoming one with a body of believers is like kneading dough.

God says knead this dough. Go ahead and get busy with loving those whom I have loved first.

Pack in the flour and the water. Slap it in the palm of your hand until it sounds hollow. Stretch, wax and wane each other. Until together you're like the tide of the ocean. Growing with goodness. Receding with sin.

Cover your palms with flour. Get this bread of life–this perplexing, loving symbol of life and love–in the crevices of your palms.

Get messy with the way you love and grow vulnerable with others.

I know a man who does this with his pizza dough.

I'm falling in love with watching him work in the kitchen. The way he spreads flour on the smooth surface of the cutting board. He gets so excited about things like how the dough rises when you use different kinds of flour. When he adds a certain kind of water to the mix, or even an ounce or two of beer.

He tends to it.

And when the pizza is hot, cut and ready to eat, he always saves all of his crusts for last. If he had four slices of pizza, four semi-circle pieces of bread would be scattered on his plate like leaves on the sidewalk.

Then, after he finishes the thick, warm melted mozzarella portion of each of his slices, he studies each each bit of crust, nibbling on its ends. Savoring it like wine. His handsome face darkened by deep concentration.

Mmmmmm. He says, stopping mid-chew. I think I'll try self-rising flour next time.

He lets me watch him be vulnerable, experimental even, in the kitchen. He shows me how beautiful, and imperfect this process can be.

(And homeboy can make a pretty mean pizza to boot.)

He shows me that there's fun and life and community in the mess of it all.

A few days ago, I was unexpectedly submerged in the process of kneading community. I'm still in awe of the good, messiness of it. We were in the process of sharing our "be" goals with one another: telling each other what we want to be rather than what we want to do.

We shared things like be more patient, be more understanding, be more thankful and content with this current season. 

And our leader said,

What are you people talking about? Who are these people? I don't see this. Y'all are the most patient, understanding folks I know!

But, we all smiled because community was happening. Real community. We were showing each other our messy, imperfections. We were sharing our inner struggles. The things that the outside world wouldn't see.

We were kneading each other. 

And that's the kind of friend, the sort of sister in Christ that I want to be. A friend through the messy. And growing in my own.

Do y'all have a community group to be vulnerable with? Have you ever been a part of a friendship with someone who didn't let you see their messy? Why is vulnerability important? Leave your thoughts below! 


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

staring up at my skyscrapers: leveling the drama I've built into my life

There are too many things I've allowed to have tenure in my life.

Not because they're honorable. Or that I even want to have them around. They've just been lingering, dwelling over me. They've become towering structures, bigger than my own hands and mind that conceived them.

I realized it in New York City last summer. Insecurity was built up into my life like skyscrapers.

I was walking, alone, down 42nd Street in New York City. I had my head held high, and my eyes narrowed sharply. Everyone was my enemy. Everyone I passed had the potential to hurt or rob me. I was feigning a sort of inner strength–and I did it so well that I was thrown off guard when a German tourist asked me if she was on the right path to Times Square.

I panicked. And looked around for help. The veil of busy-anger was torn from my face, and I was just as lost and helpless as she was.

Directionally-speaking, if I can tell my right from my left, I'm having a good day. I could have been trekking toward Pennsylvania for all I know.

There I was, in the city, exposed as a fraud. Exposed as someone feigning assuredness. Suspicious. Untrusting. And unsure. Small and quiet in the wake of a sea of skyscrapers.

The good news is that I'm not the only one.

There are probably hundreds of thousands of real New Yorkers feigning the same confidence and the same assuredness in direction.

And there are probably dozens of my closest, real girlfriends living all over the planet feel that way too in their lives. Like insecurity is a towering force about them.

I know this because one of my closest friends has straight, red hair and is absolutely gorgeous.

So gorgeous that there is no room for doubt or debate. It's a fact.

Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, and this woman is a total knock-out.

One night, with red wine–red like her hair–and getting to know one another, she looked at me solemnly.

I've been celebrated for my looks all of my life she said. But you could tell me that I'm beautiful until you're blue in the face. I just don't believe it.

But, why?

I have to believe it's because of the skyscrapers. This gorgeous friend of mine has them, too. The insecure ramblings, the total lies she's taught herself to believe.

Girlfriend needs to tear those insecurities down.

And so do I.

And I'm tempted to just level these down to the ground. Wipe out these tenured insecurity trophies I've collected in my life over the last (almost) 25 years. Start building again. Enter some sort of witness protection program for women like me–those of us who are embarrassed or ashamed by the way that we've built up our lives so far.

Give me a new name. Give me a new street to live on. Give me new passions, new pursuits. Let me start over again. I'll even promise to do a better job of loving others, and standing up for myself this time around.

But, maybe it would be better if I held on to these skyscrapers? Made them small and collected them? Like sterling silver charms that would dance and clink at the end of my wrist.

Not like shackles. But something to bare on my arm. To have proof of the past behind me. And to be able to show other women.

See? I'm just like you. Look at these skyscraper charms hanging off of my wrist. Ask me how to get to Times Square and a more faithful, fulfilling, forgiving and loving walk with our Lord.

I think I can remember the way–I was just there. Staring up at my skyscrapers and feeling so small.

And now I wear them around my wrist. And it's a good place for them. They're there for me to remember. To touch and reflect on each one like beads of a rosary.

And they're there for me to share with you.

Ladies, I'd challenge you this week to think about insecurity (or other struggles) that you've given tenure in your life. What would it take to break these things down? Isn't it time to acknowledge these hindrances and start building again? Tell me what you think, leave a comment below!


Thursday, July 11, 2013

looking at the big picture: why you're already more fabulous than you'll ever know

One of the most important people in my life–the Greek girl, who I refer to as my person–had to audition to become my best friend.

I should clarify.

She was auditioning for the a cappella group I was in during undergrad. Which is, essentially saying the same thing. Those girls were are some of the the best friends I've ever had.

But, I remember the specific moment I knew we would be friends. It was around 2 a.m. (these auditions tended to run very late into the night–lots of praying, and there were a lot of girls, so there was also some crying–but it was my person's turn to sit down in one of those blue plastic chairs in front. The rest of us were scattered about the room, in a semi-circle strung out with sweatshirts, junk food, backpacks, sheet music and loose leaf paper.

She had already passed the initial singing part of the audition. And now it was time for her interview. We asked her with a film of boredom clouding the room, the question we had already asked twenty other girls that night:

If you could have one superpower what would it be? 

She sat for a moment. Still. Smiling faintly. And then said,

The ability to look at the big picture.

We, the fifteen or so of us sitting in the semi-circle, became very quiet.

It was a pretty ballsy thing to say, really. She didn't want to fly, or to run really fast, or to see into the future–like all of the other girls had said that night. She was bold. Faithful. She didn't have to know the future. She just wanted to understand it.

I learned a lot from my person that night.

Because, this business of growing up and settling into the rigid routine of adulthood just isn't easy.

Especially when you factor in the heartbreak, car maintenance, the crazy schedules, that pesky Redbox DVD that's been sitting on your passenger's seat the last few days (why can't you just return the damn thing?), unreturned library books, paying your bills, taking out the trash that is overflowing past the point of ridiculous, and apartments with sewage problems that make your home seem as though someone is playing a pretty gross game of hide-and-seek.

(I won't tell you what it is that's hiding, but I will tell you it is not an Easter egg.)

And it's these times, when I get absorbed into the swell of the day-to-day, and I'm charged with the really daunting tasks, I tend to pray/beg Christ for wisdom and peace.

Perhaps it's something that we all need.

Because, if we focus on the mundane heartbreaks and aggravations of our daily lives, we're missing the big picture.

What would happen if we all had the ability to look at the big picture of our lives? What kind of precious, strong, and beautiful troopers would we all be if we could have a Heavenly perspective on our lives and talents–instead of such a jarring, immediate one?

I was speaking with a girlfriend, a nurse, the other day who was struggling with being honest in a relationship. The man wasn't quite treating her fairly, but she didn't quite know how to go about sticking up for herself.

She said,

I can literally breathe life into a baby to save it, but I have a panic attack over these little things.

I can't even imagine the big picture of her life. The long nights. The opposite sleeping schedule from the rest of the world. She literally has young lives depending on her.

Big picture? The woman's a complete rock star.

I recently had a conversation with another dear friend about the Proverbs 31 woman–you know, the passage that intimidates every woman, if she's being honest with herself–and how it makes her feel inadequate.

I listened to her talk about how hard it is for her to keep all of her irons–of which she has many–in the fire. And how she feels like she doesn't measure up.

Didn't she know? She is totally that woman! 

How does that verse go? Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all [?] (Proverbs 31:29).

Couldn't she see that she was maintaining that particular passage perfectly? I wanted to slam my cardboard cup of coffee on the sidewalk. I wasn't mad. I just wanted to make a point. How do you tell someone that they're all that you could ever hope to be in your life? And that their life as a dedicated loving wife, student, worker–all-the-while having the discipline to workout, be involved in her church, and being independent and all around lovely–is all that I could ever hope to become?

I didn't slam my coffee on the sidewalk. But I was mystified. I look up to this woman greatly–but she would never suspect. Because she's like me, sometimes, caught up in focusing on the mundane. Rather than the big picture.

So, sweet ladies. I'd like to encourage you all to pray this week to have the wisdom and the superpower to look at the big picture of your lives. Ask God to show you how He's using your unique gifts and skills–and how valuable you are to the Body of Christ in the story of our world.

It's a lesson I have been trying to learn.

Ever since one of the most important people in my life had to audition to become my best friend.

Where do you struggle with looking at the big picture? Do you have friends who are struggling to see their purpose or worth? Share this with them–tell them that they're a rock star at the end of the day.  And leave me a comment about it below!


Friday, July 5, 2013

American flags and dandelions: (disjointed) thankful thoughts onpatriotic sacrifices

It was five years ago today.

My high school sweetheart and I had broken up the day before. On the fourth of July. Though it's been half a decade (half a decade?!) I'm still talking about it, because the very fact that I'm a writer and a former English major makes the smog of irony surrounding that situation far too thick to ignore.

It's a day that's still impacting me years later. It's a day I began learning a lesson that I'm forever thankful I learned.

But, how could I have understood that I would one day be thankful that morning, when my eyes were so sore and puffy I could barely slit them open? How could I know that the sandpaper feeling in my throat would one day dissolve? And that he and I would one day both be joyful and happy.

Even joyful and happy with people better suited for us.

Wild, just wild.

I hadn't emerged from my Tiffany blue bedroom in my parent's house just yet. But they knew I was up. I could tell by the way the frame of the house seemed to sink inward under the weight of their nervousness.

Luckily, the day my cashiering shift at the local grocery store began early. My family, and the house, would soon be able to sit up straight. The pressure of saying or doing the right thing to and for me would be gone.

The day before, I had laid down my Isaac. And it was less dramatic than I anticipated. God didn't send an angel to intervene, to stop me from uttering phrases like "it's not you, it's me," and "I just feel like God is calling us apart"or anything like that. He didn't even send a replacement sacrifice like I thought He would have.

My mom shouted some sort of scripture at me–one of those verses about sorrows lasting through the night, but hope coming in the morning–as I burst through the front door in my royal blue polo and my grease-streaked khakis.

It was one of the hardest most pitiful days of my life. Bagging groceries and straightening up folded, frayed dollar bills in the register. Tip-toing very dangerously close to erupting in tears with every subtle move my hands or feet made. And feeling, for the first time in my life, the impulse, the need to start smoking.

(I didn't ever work up the courage to start doing it, though.)

That same nervousness my family must have felt for me that day as they saw me bounce out of my home, with my earth-shattered and my eyes blotchy, catches in my throat when I see a service man or woman in uniform.

The first man I ever knew who served in the military went to my church. He was in the youth group, and I always had a sort of awe-filled crush on him. This caused my father quite some concern. But, I just couldn't help it.

How noble was this man's sacrifice for all of us? What was it that made him want to step fearlessly into combat zones? How deep was this honorable pride that must have run through his veins?

He was gone shortly after the 9/11 attacks. And he was away from home for a long time. And when he came home sporadically, even when I was in college, I had no idea what to say to him anymore. I was scared by both his goodness but also by the trauma I knew he must have experienced and the horrendous things he must have seen.

How could I tell him I'm thankful? How could I encourage him, and tell him he was doing legacy work?

How could I even relate to someone like that? The only hard thing I had ever endured at the time was breaking up with a boyfriend.

I was intimidated by his sacrifice. And I didn't want to say anything naive, or stupid. So I chose to say nothing at all.

For five years, I've been dwelling on all of this.

And now, it seems that increasingly important people in my life are currently or have served in the military. A few months ago, my phone lit up from a Navy man with a text that read:

Just so you know, a batch of your cookies went to support the troops today.

And I cried. Because it seemed so simple. Dumb, really. I had the resources all along to show gratitude and appreciation.

Cookies, of all the things...I didn't even need words.

I shouldn't even be writing about laying my Isaac down, because the truth is that after five years, it looks far less like a sacrifice and more like it was just the right thing to do.

I don't know squat about sacrifices. And as a writer, I should only write what I know. I don't write posts about math or chess or raising children or even how to cook. So why would I ever have the audacity to be living under the guise that I know. anything. about. sacrifice?

But. Those cookies. That text message. My dear, sweet friends I love tremendously who serve so selflessly. Who lay their very lives–the Isaacs of their every day and souls. They are the ones who could write about what I don't know. They could write about being heartbroken, and separated from their loved ones. About being rattled and jarred. And like the earth was being stripped from their feet.

They could write about sacrifices.

Here's what I do know, and what I will write about, however. The knot in my heart that has kept my purpose and calling is becoming undone by wading into and learning to understand the men and women who serve us in this way. It's become loosened in such away that I am awake and alive to it for the first time.

All because of a day–five years ago today–that once left me rattled and jarred, gave me the chance to learn how to love others more. It's become an Isaac that I would gladly lay down again and again. 

Without a second thought.

Thankfully, there are people out there, men and women in uniform, who don't have to learn these lessons. They just do them without having to be taught.

It's about as bold as you can get. And I'd like to be able to write about it one day.

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