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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

The world is eight brands of madness right now, isn't it?

Eight at the very least. About one hundred thousand authors, bloggers and even our churches are talking about resting for the season right now. They ask us to take a step back from the parties, the gifts, the incessant baking, to focus on Christ.

This is the soap box many of us Christians re-gift ourselves year after year after year.

Here's what I've noticed, though. My schedule doesn't need room.


I know what you're thinking. I could run down the roster list of activities for you to try to make something of myself. In fact, I feel a little vulnerable not listing how busy I am, for fear that you'll think I'm lazy or inadequate.

But the truth is, I learned a long time ago not to put my identity in my own busyness (or complaining about busyness). It doesn't make me any more important. Or any more joyful. It took me a long time to set healthy boundaries. To not make chronic, abusive, emotionally stunting people-pleasing the thesis for my day-to-day life.*

The holidays are no different.

And to be quite honest, there's plenty of time in the day. Especially for those of us 20-somethings without children or who aren't in college.

There are people who are maxed out. And I get it. I've been there. I've worked 60+ hours a week while in a full-time grad program. I understand busy.

And I know there are special exemptions to this. I know there are nurses who work 12 straight hours. I know there are law students studying for the bar. New mothers trying to figure out feeding schedules and working full-time. God bless you all.

But, I also know, for people like me,  how it's incredibly easy to make time to do the things that I want to do.

It's easier now than ever to flake out in this day and age. We swipe a text. We send an email. We don't have to clear our throat or show our face. We can back quietly into the folds of our home to do more important things.

Like binge-watch Jessica Jones. And make Christmas cookies.

What I'm saying is, our schedules are full. But so many us, as a culture of millennials, rarely show up consistently to these scheduled activities we're committed to.

Ask to see a busy woman, and I'll show you someone who shows up at your door when life turns tragic with baked ziti and a hug. Who shows up for the coffee date, the lunch date. Who is all she says she'll be, with room for grace, like coffee with room for cream. I'm not saying this is easy. I'm saying it's a discipline.

When if we took an honest look at our lives and how we spend 

our time, we could probably make room for a lot more.


But, do you know what's hard to do? 

Making room in your heart.

Two Sundays ago, the words to Joy to the World struck me in a new way. "Let every heart prepare Him room."

Prepare room.

...


How I wish matters of the heart could be scheduled.

... 

This season I've struggled with a few friendships. Nothing groundbreaking. Or out of character. Or even terribly hurtful. I've been upset in a vague way. Like when you can feel the sprinkles of sickness coming on. I'm embarrassed to admit infractions that occurred a long time ago are still in the back of my mind and in the corners of my heart.

I just can't quite forget. I can't quite let go. I can't quite trust.

And there's no greater weight these tricks of the heart and soul play on the room we give to Christ. It makes us sour. Like Scrooge counting his sheckels, I've labeled my grievances by candlelight. A miser of whom I give my friendship to, and how deep I allow them to get.

Bitterness takes up a lot of space. It takes a hold of so much more than your soul. It takes a part of your past and future.

So, by all means, yes, take time to celebrate Christ this season. Set time aside to refocus and rest. We only get so many magical, glowing Christmases in our lifetime. Remember, as the blogosphere will tell you, that this holiday is inherently not about how many white elephant gifts we can collect or how many Hallmark Christmas movies we can breeze through.

But, please. Take time to prepare Him room in your heart. 






*Clearly I still need to work on this, since I was complaining to a coworker about it today.
photo credit: A View with a Room via photopin (license)

photo credit: Berry Bush via photopin (license)

Have you noticed I've been a little radio silent lately? It's because I've been working on my new book How to Win a Breakup! I have all sorts of delicious plans for this little website. January 2016, here I come!
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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Thankful for the Extra Second


Last night the world changed again.

What frightens me the most is that you can go a whole day thinking that your little garden of 24 hours will play out a certain way. You'll come home from work, you'll go to the grocery store to pick up wine and risotto for dinner, you'll go to a concert...

You make your lists. You check them twice. You complain that this world of adulthood is too hard. Too scheduled.

Then a team of orchestrated terrorists decides to end it all.

And your world, your time-garden is destroyed. All because you wanted to have a fun night on on the town. All because you wanted to run a marathon, catch a movie, work at a military recruitment office, go to class or simply go to church for a weekly Bible study.

It can all come to a violent, spiraling end.

Last night I held my husband in my arms and prayed. Knowing he's a service member. Knowing this is our temporary home. Knowing that it could all change at the hands of evil and torment. Knowing that he isn't really mine to begin with.

I squeezed him for an extra second for the future. So that I'll always know that when I have the opportunity to hold onto him for another moment, another moment, another moment, I will.

We should all reach for those extra seconds. 

Because last night there were wives who lost their husbands. Mothers who lost their children. Who would give it all away for an extra second.

For those who didn't get their extra second. I am deeply sorry.

For those who have them, take them. Reach. Enjoy. Love. And pray for those who've seen them lost.

photo credit: Galliano Show via photopin (license)
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Thursday, October 8, 2015

You Should Be Scared

(Not of my face.)




































You should all be terrified.


You should be shaking in your boots, whether they're figurative or literal. Or ones with faux leather you purchased on a whim from Target.

For the sake of your relationships. For the sake of your art. For the sake of your career. For the sake of yourself, for goodness sake! you should be afraid (very afraid).

I hope the grainy bits of the ground make a scratching sound as you walk. I hope you're wearing a new scarf that you bought because it makes you feel fierce.

I hope you're standing at the edge of the extra mile, looking into the expanse and wondering if your legs have enough might and power to carry you across it.

This place is hallowed, friends. It's a blessing.


I'm not talking about the fear that comes with jumping out of planes or trying to make it through a stale yellow light.

I'm talking about the fear that comes from walking in your purpose. The fear that comes with walking in the forest with zeal. With a sense of what you do matters. With a sense that you're being all that you were created to be.

I hope you're scared out of your ever-loving mind. I hope you're at the place where you're running up against fear. And you have to break the emergency glass and check the tips of your fingers for the pieces.

In December, I'm sending off a fiction manuscript to an amazing book doctor named Tanya (which is why I've been more than an absentee here). It just took one 140-character exchange on Twitter for me to fall into an instant girl-crush with her. Her profile picture with a toy octopus on her head made me fall even harder.

I've never been more afraid. More self-conscious. And more thankful that I'm sitting at the helm of something jarring.

Because that might just mean that I'm spinning my web into 

something worth doing.

Here's to getting scared. Here's to risking hurt. Here's to standing on the brink of losing everything. Here's to taking the jump while wearing heels. Here's to putting on dark red lipstick because it's Friday after lunch and, frankly, why not?

You should also be paired with unspeakable joy. You have the inherent pleasure of wondering what you could be in the space between when you brush your teeth and your feet shoot in through the bed sheets like roots through the ground.

Because you have the privilege to dream.
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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Come Along for the Bloggy-Journey

Hello, sweet friends.

We brew the coffee strong in the Tubbs household (that's my new, though unofficial, last name, btw). My husband (that's new, too) starts our day off boiling water in our little blue kettle. Then he pours the water over a mound of espresso.

It's as marvelous and dangerous as it sounds.

I start the workday jittery and antsy until I can get my hands on one of my coworker's K-cups at the office and down another cup. Just to really lock and seal in the caffeine. Just in case.

I tell you this to say: a lot has changed in the last few months. So much for the better. For the sake of natural progression. For relationships. Spinning love into family like wool. Piece by piece, year by year, the thread gets smaller. The places where you were once apart are now woven together.

It's a sort of magical indifference. Magical in how new it all is. Indifferent in how it's exactly how we expected. How we planned. We've folded into one another.

And yet, nothing has really changed. I'm still the girl who writes a lot of words. I'm still the girl who has a manic obsession with layering on coats of lipstick (like wine, I'm partial to red). Who is the peacemaker, the mediator. Who has a passion for e-books written by friends and podcasts from strangers. And pull-'n'-peel Twizzlers. And the smell of Home Depot. And though I'm no longer single, I'm still the girl who blogs. 

Though I'm not sure what I blog about anymore.

You see, I started stitching this little corner of the blog-quilt back in 2008. My piece of the world was very different. I had just broken up with my high school sweetheart. I was reading works of New American fiction and getting graded on it. I was singing with a group of 15 girls who changed my life.

I blogged as a way to practice writing. Because I thought it was who I was supposed to be. It turns out it was.

But I thought I was supposed to write for the single crowd. For the crowd that was too good for the bad kids and too bad for the really good kids. For the people who felt left out of the Church.

Turns out that's a lot of people. Not just singletons.

And I think I'd like to be one of the voices who works on how to fix that.

Turns out, I've been holding on to a lot of fear about my writing. And one morning last week I felt my eyes getting hot. Overwhelmed with the feeling that I was selling myself short. That all this fear had been holding me back. In work. In life. And in my relationships.

Am I good enough? Just me. No gimmicks. No freebies. No Direct Message for following me on Twitter (though I have a lot of fun there).

Am I willing to explore topics that are, dare I say it, more challenging than the loneliness of singlehood? Am I willing to offend people? Am I willing to write about working to establish communities that impact change of our culture rather than meet to judge the messes of others?

Am I still up for the challenge of writing stitches on the corner of this fabric?

I think I am. 

Because I'm still the girl who loves coffee.

Only now I take it much, much stronger.

photo credit: 653 via photopin (license)
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Today, We Grieve

Today is no day for social issues.

It's not a day for politicians - with their (maybe?) well, but ill-timed intentions - to get a hokey-pokey right or left leg up on the left or right side.

It's not a day for a conversation about race. Or feminism. Whether or not mother's should bare their breasts in public. Or a day to celebrate dogs. Or Josh Duggar. Or Ashley Madison. Or Planned Parenthood.

Today is a day for grief.

Today is a day to hold each other close. Today is a day to remember that life is fragile. Death is serious.

It's a day to remember that none of this is a flash in the pan, a blip on a social media platform. A voyeuristic video.

This is not a day to be fake nice. To write pseudo-encouraging, high and mighty comments (or blog posts) to prove how well-developed and educated and reformed you are. This is not a day for trolling. Or pointing a finger at trolls. Trying to reason with the trolls.

There will be no social issues here. Not today.
There will be no stomach twisting arguments. No wringing out of a dirty dish rag, absorbed with white guilt, racism, disagreements, the-way-I-see-its, and acts of swift, curt, illegitimate, lunacy.

This is a day to remember that you could be doing your job one day. You could be pursuing your dream. And someone could, at any moment, end it all.

It's a day for respect. It's a day for memorial.

It's a day to shut up if you can't get along with the rest of the world. Just one day.

There will be plenty to argue about tomorrow.
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Monday, August 24, 2015

This Christian Has No Idea When to Stand During Church.

Happy Monday, friends! The following post is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called Prodigal Sister: Redeeming Stories for the Bad Girl Coming Home.

It's a collection of essays about being single. Struggling with faith. And making the decision time and time again to return to Christ.

I never knew when to stand up during church services.

I must’ve missed that lesson the year our eighth grade Sunday school group went through the Confirmation class in the Presbyterian Church.

Yet, that couldn’t be true, because our family never missed a service.

Regardless, I was always caught off guard when the other members of our church made an impromptu surge to their feet. I’d hear the stampeded of heels to the floor and bulletins fluttering to the seats behind them. And only then would I feel the need to quickly follow suit.

Of course, I can respond to the prompting of the pastor or even the written instructions in the church bulletin.

Please stand if you’re able.

Please stand and greet your neighbor.

Please stand as we sing hymn number 478.

Please stand for the benediction.

But, even with all our collective church experience on our family’s resume, when the Holy Spirit moved in our church, when the music swelled into a dramatic key change or when a woman gave her testimony one element of worship remained the same: the adults, the real Believers in our congregation stood.

It was perplexing. If no one told us to stand during a worship song toward the end of the service, then why was everyone moved to their feet? Where was it in the Bible, this manual for life, that explained this phenomenon?

Was it in a Testament between the Old and the New that I 

was missing? Or was I missing something else entirely?


Maybe I was too distracted by the high yellow walls and the black and white checkered floors of my home church in Richmond, Virginia. Maybe the pews were too hard on my thighs. Or maybe I was caught up in wondering how much longer it would be until Mom passed a roll of berry-flavored Lifesavers down our row.

I knew this knowledge-gap was a problem, so I watched Dad carefully. He was a respected leader, a loving husband and a perfect storm of playful, kind and firm when it came to guiding his children. Surely, he knew when to stand up. I followed his lead.

Sometimes, I’d even have to keep one eye open during prayer to see if he was simply closing his eyes, bowing his head, or burying his face in his hands. If Dad was the sort of Christian who bent over in the pew during prayer, I wanted to be that sort of Christian, too.

So, a few months ago when the pastor asked congregation to stand if they had sin in their lives that they knew the needed redemption for, I stood. I was in the front row, and I couldn’t be sure, but we all have sin, don’t we?

This was the pastor’s prompt for everyone to stand, right?

I craned my ears and listened for the familiar stampede of heels to the floor and rustling of bulletins. But there was nothing. Just a few of us foolish, honest sinners standing among a congregation weighed down, legs and arms crosses in their seats by their own righteousness.

Even after the pastor thanked those of us who stood, and even though I was 25 years old at the time, I still felt very much like the same naive child. For standing up. For owning up to my mistakes. For being pin-pointed in a chapel full of my peers.


I wished then that Mom and Dad were book-ending the pew with me again. At least they would have stood up beside me. At least there would have been berry-flavored Lifesavers.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

To the Man Who Won't Sleep With Me (Part Two)

Spoiler alert! This is a follow-up story to a blog post I'd written a little over a year ago. This man is now my husband.

What were we thinking? Saving all of this for marriage?


When you got down on one knee almost one year ago and asked me to be your wife, weren’t you worried that we weren’t physically compatible? Weren’t you worried that we wouldn’t fulfill each other? Weren't you worried that we hadn't already ridden ourselves of the mystery so many want to test before they make a big commitment?

(I was, a little.)



That’s why after you proposed I kept asking are you sure? Are you sure?

When you asked my parents for their blessing on our future together, weren’t you forgetting that we hadn't lived together before? We hadn't tested the waters, or entered any other euphemism for making a commitment with a frayed edge? A commitment that could easily unravel with the pull of a thread.

How could you possibly know that you wanted this forever? How could you possibly commit to me without knowing all of the facts? We’ve only dated for two years before we jumped into this marriage.

After all, you signed up to buy a car without taking it for a test run. You signed an irreversible doted line before you even knew if I snored or hogged the covers.

Dismiss the way our culture esteems fifty shades of sex over romance. And that even our moral breeding of not having sex before marriage makes sex all we can think about, sometimes.

Glaze over the fact that I wanted you there. I wanted you there

more than anything.

Should we have absolved all of the unknown bits about each other before you carried me across the threshold after our wedding in July?

Or did you find value in our relationship outside of our physicality? 


Did you enjoy our coffee dates where we talked about everything and nothing? Did you find delight in holding my hand by the harbor lights, or swirling a fresh, foaming pilsner at the cafe across the street? Did you come to value the friendship part of dating. The part that's not a scene from Titanic, or an imprint of a steamy novel, but the actual honest-to-goodness relationship of it all.

What were we thinking?

A few people in my life asked me the same thing. People who I love and trust. Be careful of the man who won’t sleep with you. There must be something wrong with him.


Intimacy issues. Unspoken traumas.

Because what man in his straight mind wouldn’t want his girlfriend to spend the night with him? What sort of intimacy issues does a man have who won’t invite you into his home past midnight?

 
When you proposed to me in my parent’s home, were you hoping that marriage would mean more to us than mandatory sleepovers? Were you prepared to spend forever with me even if that mean that we’d have to work at intimacy? Even if we'd have to start with a clean slate on our wedding day?

When you told me that I made you happy and that you wanted to spend the rest of your life with me, were you hoping that this would be a part of forever. And that even if we didn’t get it right the first few times that we’d have ‘til death do us part to work on it together anyway?


See, many others write about these sorts of things. They hook you in with their bait. They say things like “don’t stay pure until you’re married,” and “I’m not saving sex for marriage.”

They, of course, are written with a punchline in mind. They’re meant to tune people in and turn their worlds upside-down. They are meant to show their readers a new way of thinking when it comes to sleeping, sex and marriage.



They don't want you to miss out on the pleasures of life. From the brim to the dregs, they want you to drink life in.



But our lives don’t amount to a simple blog post. Just as our married life doesn't amount to shared duvet covers and pillow shams.

You were content with me and only me. You were comfortable not only taking the slow road but leading me through it. Even when I took offense. Even when I saw it as a sign that you were shutting me out. And that you only wanted me for a few hours before you showed me the door.






I take that as a sign of your commitment and character. A sign of the sort of husband you'll be during the long, slow years, and the sort of father you'll be to our one-day family.


So, to the man who wouldn't spend the night with me before we got hitched, thank you. It's an honor and a privilege to drink in life with you.


photo credit: @sage_solar via photopin cc

photo credit: Shandi-lee via
photopin cc
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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

What Are You Doing With Those Hands?




Your hands shook.

They trembled when you slipped the silver band on my ring-finger. And in my sun-streaked church, where I'd thought and dreamed of this day for thousands of moments, God placed a marriage covenant into our hands.

Our hands clasped together and bumped under the weight of it.

Like golden apples on a silver scale.

Remember how we didn't spend much time in our engagement season reading books about how to be a husband and wife to each other?

We put our hands at other plows: searching for a home, the perfect couch and ottoman for the living room corner, dreaming and writing about days to come. We registered for gifts. We leafed through catalogs and venue options.

We wriggled and twisted our fingers, waiting for the day when we'd be placed into the hands of the other.

Then the day came. And I knew the moment I wrapped my palm around my almost-husband's, while we were speaking our vows, we were being given something delicate. Strong. Assured. We were being given to each other.

We're more than a bride and groom. We're more than a couple who chose to do their dating relationship a little differently. We're entrusted to each other.

And that's no small task to put our hands to.




I don't know where your hands are today, but maybe it's time for

a hand-check.


Not a middle school youth-retreat hand-check, but an honest-to-goodness look at what we're putting our hands to these days. 

Maybe they're relaxed and unfurled, springing from the fresh new weight of something in your care. Like a marriage. A job prospect. A child. A new relationship. A talent. A dream. Anything.

Or maybe your palms are marked with the scars of betrayal, disappointment or a sense that you don't know where you're going. Or if you're doing enough. Or if this pedestrian day-in-and-out way of living, the traffic, the grocery shopping, the job you wish you could grow out of, is all that there is.

Maybe your fingers are clenched. Maybe they're bound in bitterness. I don't know.

All I know is that when I was holding his hands, the hands that were trembling at the altar, I thought about how my palms have the lines of bitterness and panic traced into them. And how it seems so easy to keep your hands clenched from giving or receiving.

But it's those fists that hurt us the most.

And they're primed to be the force that hurt others, too.


I believe we serve a God who wants to place hope and a future into our hands. And if you're a Believer, you know that they're the things we know we didn't work for or deserve. They were placed there. We were given a quiet tap, tap, tap! on the shoulder about them.


Whether you're the lover of a man, a woman, a career, a God, a family, a friend, a dream, a passion: I hope you hold them gingerly. I hope you unfurl your fingers, and I hope you let the hurt topple out so you can move on.

I hope you let the hurt topple out so you can spend time tending to the things God has placed in your hands.

photo credit: Free Blue Teardrop Rhinestone Ring on Finger Creative Commons via photopin (license)

photo credit: via photopin (license)
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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thoughts from a Woman One Month from Marriage

One month.

Today is June 4th. We're in a season for flip-flops and sundresses. Virginia is all lush, crayola greens. And white wine. And fireworks reflecting off the harbor at night.

I've told myself ever since G asked a question, the big question, on a bended knee in my family's home on back in November that the moment I slipped on flip-flops, it would be go-time.

For months I bundled in my puffy coat. Shoved ice and snow from the tires of my car. G and I missed a trip to sunny California because of a winter storm. I worked from home. Outside was all whites, grays and the wind swarmed around my apartment building.

I thought this time of year would never get here. So we all trudged along. We watched a lot of Neflix. Somewhere in there I ran a half-marathon and consumed a lot of pizza and merlot, just to remind myself that I was alive. That the cold air was to be enjoyed and savored. Not rushed through.

But now our sparkling red invitations are floating out somewhere in the mail-o-sphere. G is moving his items into our new home this week. I'm in the midst of purging my bedroom of the non-vitals, the items I can be without up until the last few days before the wedding.

Cluttered. Disorganized. Bills frayed out like a round of Go Fish. My mind is in that deck, somewhere. I'll find it in a game of 52-card pickup later. And my toenails are a bright red. For flip-flop season. Go-time, indeed.

But it's also been a sweet season with my girlfriends. Old and new. These women in my small group, the girls I run with, the girls I went to college with, my family, my in-laws-to-be, they've all rallied. And that may be my favorite part of this whole season. Seeing from the outside in how much love and support G and I have from the start of this adventure.



(Is it wrong to gush about my female friends so close to my wedding day? After all, God, my closest friends and family and the United States government will soon know that I love G dearly. And that these last 30 days we spend evenings apart might be one of the agonizing and exciting 30 days of our relationship.)

These women in my life give without expecting anything in 

return.

They're eight months pregnant, they're military spouses, they're authors, advanced degree-seekers, youth group leaders, engineers. They're all the carbon-copy of busy. Sometimes too busy.

And yet, here they are. Giving without expectation.

When I was single, in that bit of my life where I was in scads of weddings with satin dresses and had boyfriends who were fun for a while. But neither gave me much wear. The sweat-stained dresses or the guys, for that matter

I served. I plotted. I crafted (and if you know me, you know what a sacrifice doing anything with paint or glue is). All in the name of knowing that one day the same would be done for me. I gave with expectation of getting. It was the only way I could break through the grief (yes, grief) of not having a wedding of my own to prepare for.

But I've realized that this whole time, my motives were

wrong, wrong, wrong. Dead wrong.

Where's the love in giving because you want something back? Where's the love in giving because you want to show everyone how "okay" you are? Where's the love in giving because you want to be the bigger person?

Because these women in my life? They've given beyond the point of stretching. Beyond the point of their energy, or their time with their own spouses or significant others. They've taken pause. They're at the ready to help with programs. Or flowers. Or just listening to me when someone says something hurtful and I need to cry about it on a Saturday morning.

Here's what I'm learning a month out from my marriage: this may be what it's all about. This may be what being a military spouse is all about. Along with all the other bits we know - compromise, God at the center, fidelity - but also the selfless kind of giving. The kind of giving my girlfriends are showing me. 
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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How I Lost 20 Pounds (of Cynicism)

I wrote on a date in my calendar today. In pen. Blue ink.

Memorial Day 2015, my fiance and I will celebrate our two-year dating anniversary. I remember so vividly that day two years ago. Our walk on the beach. Our dinner at a seafood joint aptly named C.P. Shuckers on the boardwalk. The way he shared his bacon-wrapped scallops with me. The way the citrus wine gathered in little drops on the side of my glass.

The way my heart beat in my chest as he reached across the table for my hand and told me -- in no uncertain terms -- that he wanted me to be his girlfriend. The way he kissed me that night in his driveway.

And the way I kept asking: are you sure?


Last year the anniversary wasn't such a given. I looked at the date months beforehand in my calendar. I wrote it in my calendar. Put a little pink highlighter heart on it. Scratched it out. Wrote it again. Then colored back over it in black Sharpie.

I didn't doubt that we'd still be together. Necessarily. I just didn't want to look foolish if we weren't. So instead of hoping for the future, I crossed it out.

An anniversary with this man would either be a dream come true or a total nightmare. Depending on whether or not we actually got there.

But we're nearly two years into this now. A lot of trust has grown between us. He asked me to marry him. He's looking for places for us to live while I'm at the office. He's taking part in making a large decision for the both of us. And what's more, I want him to.

There's something very liberating about being able to write in ink on the calendar for this man. Being able to be sure in his character, his consistency.


There are dates in my calendar written in ink. There are dates that are filled with hope for a future. Without the impending fear that something bad will happen. That something will go wrong. That he'll stop loving me. That we'll find a fight that makes it impossible for us to move forward.

After all, that seems to be the attitude most people hold about most everything these days. The law of cynicism tells us that if something can go wrong, it will. 

And it makes it impossible for us to ever write in ink. 

This isn't to say that life doesn't disappoint. That we don't live in a world of flaws and backwards values. This week is no exception.

I'm saying that living under the incessant impulse to check our backs, to watch what we say, to expect the worst is exhausting.

It's like living with twenty extra pounds on our backs and thighs. You don't realize how heavy it is until you lose it all and you hold it in your hands. And you can't believe how you ever managed to hold on that long.

I've been living my faith-life in the same way.

Unwilling to write in ink. Unwilling to be sure in Christ and his goodness. I think that must be why scripture tells us to have childlike faiths. Their unburdened. Unwarranted. They write in bright crayola crayons and they scratch on (and off) the page. They don't expect doomsday. They don't know anything about the sky falling.

They simply draw it on the page in an irreversible way. They trust. They hope.

They write in ink. They teach us to do the same.

photo credit: waiting via photopin (license)
photo credit: via photopin (license)

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Never Throw Your Love Away

Photo courtesy of Alex Perry Photography.


It started on a muggy night in July. My childhood bedroom was fogged with grief. The shades were drawn and my hair was matted with the crawling scent of chlorine.

My boyfriend and I of four years had broken up in my neighborhood's public pool just a few short hours before. I wanted to retract the words I'd started. I wanted them to recoil like the thin fibers of a fishing line. I wanted to admit that breaking up was a mistake and make him mine forever.

Because that night, panic set in. I was already halfway through college. The "ring by the spring" deadline was approaching. If God really was calling me apart from this man, who would I marry now?

So that night I grabbed my nearest stationary, faded yellow paper with pink butterflies, and I penned a letter to my future husband. I wrote in faith, knowing that he was out there. Believing that all of my relational requirements would be met by a singular man who had a beard and played the guitar.

Sadly, my relational requirements at that time weren't

much more evolved.


Time, as it does, rolled by faster than a swipe left on Tinder. I think the ring-by-the-spring deadline actually pointed and laughed at me when it passed. I didn't go on one date, let alone a date that led anywhere near engagement.

Grad school came and went. Engaged-friends became married-friends, became parent-friends, became parent-again friends. And I stayed the single and still-single and ever-more single friend in the midst all of the social changes.

Instagram happened somewhere in there on top of everything else. If I wanted to forget I was living in the purgatory of being happy for other people, I couldn't.

Every wedding, every shower, every ribboned invite I received in the mail was paired with both joy and an avalanche of questions: when was it my turn? Where was the man who wanted to make me his wife? What was wrong with me?

So, somewhere in that time span, I threw the letter away. The letter of faith I'd written for my future husband. The letter I was going to give to him on the night before our wedding. The letter that said "I don't know who you are, but I love you already." The letter that said "I'll wait for you, no matter the cost."


But my lack of patience drove the cost up.

Photo courtesy of Alex Perry Photography.
Now there's a man who I'd love nothing more to share that letter with. I want to see his face scanning the lines that my naive and hopeful heart put together the night I was so sure God was going to put him into my life.

I'd go back again and again to shake the girl who'd lost hope in her future. To keep her fingers from tearing that page. To save herself from her jealousy or her defiant push-back from this cosmic waiting game she thought she was playing.

If only I had just held on to that faded yellow paper, 

I'd be able to give it to the man who truly deserves it.


Of course, I'm not only speaking about a letter. I'm speaking about my body and soul. I'm speaking about my carelessness of who I let date and touch me during that season of questions and doubt. Of whose company I kept. Of whose apartment I entered well after when it was appropriate.

There was a man for me. A perfect fit. Someone who had a beard and played the guitar, yes, but someone who I love dearly. Someone who forgives quickly, loves boldly and dares to follow God no matter his circumstances.

Someone who will marry me on the very day of that heart-wrenching breakup seven years later. Exactly. Giving me all the reason to believe that God is a God of redemption in the large and the very, very small.

And of this didn't fall into place when I had my life together. Or when I had truly put my trust in God. People must say those sorts of things to the brokenhearted and lonely to give them a clinical answer to a problem that's anything but clinical.

Because when my future husband walked into my life, I'd never deserved him less and I'd never doubted God's existence more.

That's the thing though: my relationship is helping me patch my faith, the scraps of that faded yellow letter back together.

I think sometimes God gives us the desires of our hearts not because we deserve them, but because we don't. Because He knows we'll proclaim His goodness all the more for gifts rather than rewards.

Yes, I'm speaking all of this on the other side of engagement. Yes, I know it's easy for me to say while being in the midst of a season I've waited for. I know this may evoke some eye rolls. I know my wedding day might be painful for some to endure without a cocktail. And that's okay. If anyone understands, it's me.

But just know this: this relationship is a tender responsibility. This season is a gift and an honor. And it was worth waiting for. I wish I'd been more graceful, more peaceful and less bitter in all the waiting.

I wish I'd saved my letter.

Don't throw your letters away. Don't throw your faith, your virginity, your standards, your intuition, your inklings, your friendships; don't cast any of it aside. You need it all. You'll want it back again.

You'll wish you kept it. You'll wish you had it for the person you've waited for. You'll want your letter back for him.




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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

7 Women Every Small Group Needs


If it were possible to have a crush on a group of women, I'd have one on my small group. Each week we gather around my little table, most of us with a cup of Earl Grey and we read books by Rachel Held Evans, or Shauna Niequist.

The group is out of its infancy now. We're real. We're meaningful. We're getting to that time and space where if we have to shift the group around, or can't meet for whatever reason it feels unnatural.

We're getting to that space where it's hard to remember what life was like before we started. And my friendship with them over the past few months have made me realize that we need all types of women in our lives to make our community thriving and whole.

The Woman Who Keeps it Real

This is the woman who you can trust to tell you like it is. She's the one who'll tell you if you have a lipstick smudge on your teeth or if your boyfriend doesn't look as cute in person as he does on his eHarmony profile.

She's also the woman you can count on to be honest with you and to tell you the hard truths. The fact is, she'd rather hurt your feelings in the short-term than to see you get treated unfairly or let your relationship endure a long-term struggle.

The Gift-Giver

This woman doesn't necessarily have to shell out the big bucks for you. She's giving of her resources and knowledge.Of her space.

She's the one who's open to invitations and selflessly gives in plenty what so many of us view as a precious commodity: her time. But, there are those days where she'll see something in the store and buy it because it made her think of you.

The Faithful One


This is the woman who will listen with an understanding heart. She's the woman who's there for nearly every meeting and activity. She's a focused, loving and tender presence and you learn to count on her in a land of the over-committed.

The Advocate


She's the member of the group who is all about acts of service. She's goal-oriented and will push you group to extend invitations to others. She always has the best interest of others at heart and she's always looking for opportunities to lend a hand wherever she goes.

 

The Empathetic One


She's patient. She's understanding. She's a great listener. This is the woman who will carry through group discussions. She's affirming in her ability to see eye-to-eye with every problem and prayer request your group has. She's also awesome at relating these back to scripture because she's good at making connections.

The Ultra-Encourager


She's the woman who will compliment your hair when you feel as though it's a frizzy mess on your head. She's the glass half-full sort. She's also into celebrating the victories, large and small. She's also probably really good at remember important dates (birthdays, anniversaries, weddings).

This woman will say what you need her to say exactly when you need her to say it. Not because she's a people pleaser, but because she has a genuine gift for sharing words that will uplift. Even when she doesn't know it.

The One Who Needs Encouragement


Not that they're always hurting. Not that they're always on the verge of a mental breakdown. Not necessarily. However, they're the woman who let's your group practice what it means to love like Christ loves.

Most of us, in one way or another, in different seasons and life-stages have fulfilled each of these personality types in some fashion. We've all been the ones who've needed encouragement. We've all been the ones who've undergone a specific hurt that makes us more malleable to listen, more perched to be empathetic.

Of course you don't have to check all of these boxes to have a fulfilling study. You don't even have to have seven people, but when these traits are fluid throughout the group, they're the portrait of the embodiment of Christ.

And that makes all the difference.


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Monday, March 9, 2015

Today, for the Twenty-Something: Give it Another Two Miles

Right away,  after my running girlfriends and I finish our stretches and start pounding the sidewalk in our collage of running shoes and swishing jackets, my shins start talking to me. They say, "Hey girl, you might want to give up before you start. This hurts."

Half a mile in and already my legs feel heavy.

I have to will them to keep going. Step by rhythmic step. Running through the twinge that makes me feel like the muscles in my leg are fragile chopsticks. Like at any moment they'll fracture under the pressure of making it to the end of the block.

Then we're one mile down. Six to go. We're running distances that are so foreign to me. Distances that made my head spin just a year ago.

I'd heard rumors of people running this far before. Racers, distancers, insane-people, would talk about their five mile runs. Their 5K races. I could barely make it through one song on my workout playlist. Running that far and wide would never happen for me. I wouldn't even try.

My shins like to remind me of the girl I was before I became a runner. But every time my running buddies and I push through those first few minutes. One of us tells a funny story about their significant other. Or their work. Or we talk about what it means to be a modest woman after the great yoga pants debacle finally died down.

It hurts. It sucks. I hate it. But we're distracted enough to keep going, keep pushing through the winded breath and the dismantled pace our feet haven't caught up with.

And then. We hit two miles.

Two miles and by some miracle, my legs feel lighter. My breathing settles. I can close my eyes and dip in and out of the grooves of the sidewalks and the cobblestone streets near my house. We're bounding, chatting, feeling empowered by the inertia from the very legs that were making me hesitate.

They are the same legs that were about to convince me that running is too hard for today. And that I should just give up. Pop a frozen pizza into the oven and settle into my couch with a glass of wine and a bunch of Mindy Project episodes in my Hulu cache.






The first two miles are always the hardest. They're the miles your knees, your joints, the bottoms of your feet are asking you why, oh why are you putting us through this torture?

But then you hit a pace where you could go on forever. Or, you know, two hours. Whatever you fancy. The next thing you know, a woman who could barely get herself to the gym is training for her first half-marathon. A year in the works.

Life is the same way, I'm learning.

Or at least life as a 20-something. We've broken out of college. Many of step deeper into the academic world, just to keep in touch with education. An aspect of our time and talents that we took for granted.

Others of us step into careers that aren't idyllic. In purpose or payment. Some of us step into motherhood, wifehood, and struggle and laugh and love deeper than we ever though possible.

Whatever route we take, the first few miles into adulthood are hard. Our minds, our finances, our family responsibilities are strained. Sore from the leading expectations. Our breaths are mismatched. We're finding our place. Our groove.

We're finding that spot where we can endure. Where we can push past those first dragging moments of hitting the ground running. We know that it's not going to be easy, we're running a race after all. But we're waiting to climb above the plateau. We're waiting to move past the point where we're not thinking about how far we've come.

We're just focusing on running forward.


It's not just about building endurance. It's not about just squeaking by in life. It's about living on the other side of the brim. It's about overflowing into life with love and gentleness, and a passion for sharing the love of Christ: whatever form that looks like in your life.

If you're stuck. If getting out of bed, paying your bills, caring for your family, or loving your neighbor today seems hard, might I suggest that maybe you're in those first two miles.


My advice? Wherever you are, whatever you're doing in your life: dating, attending church, writing a novel, paying bills, seeking meaningful living in a world run by Twitter followers and gas prices:

Give it another two miles.

Happy Monday, friends.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Why it's Hard to Write Good Fiction for Christians

Hi, friends! Getting a little extra vulnerable today. Not in an over-share sort of way. But in a way that makes me wear my heart and my words on my sleeve. Open to interpretation. Open to criticism. If you'll indulge.

For the last year and a half I've been working on a fictional manuscript set in Dallas, Texas. It's full of Dr. Pepper, the hum of journalist drones typing in a newsroom, cherry pie, Golden Retrievers, forgiveness and baseball.

It's called (at the moment) How to Win a Breakup, and follows the story of Jordan Jacobs as she struggles to stay ahead of the social game after her fiance dumps her.

That's the condensed version, at least ;)

But it's also a little bit about a faith journey. A wrestling with the job-market for 20-somethings, death and moving on from painful relationships. With boyfriends, and mothers, and with God.

The characters aren't perfect. They swear on occasion. They smoke (but only when they drink). They make out with inappropriate people. They don't respond to an altar call. They don't lead Bible studies. And they don't pray. At least, not all the time.

They're messy. They're selfish. They have a lot of flaws; many of which I want to correct in my own life and walk with God.

So here's the thing: I'm struggling with serving two masters: the truth of the world and the Truth that Christ has to share. And though I'm a total "pantser" (that's "by-the-seat-of-my-pants" for the non-writers out there) when it comes to plot, I don't foresee Jordan re-dedicating her life to the Lord at an altar call or memorizing scripture.


But is it "Christian fiction" if its written by a Christian author who's just trying to be honest? Is it Christian fiction if one of the antagonists uses the Lord's name in vain in the very first line of dialogue? Even if it's to create an atmosphere of immediate disdain for the character? Even if it helps along the conflict between the two characters?

I'm not sure.


I'm navigating all of this while trying to make the story work. I'd love for you all to be a part of the discussion and for the mission not to settle for contrived Christian art. This blog, Prodigal Sister, in and of itself is dedicated to redeeming stories that lead others home.

With that being said: here are the first 300 words of How to Win a Breakup.


“How in God’s name did we wind up with so many toaster ovens?”

Jared kicked a few white blossoms of tissue paper out from under his brown loafers as he breezed into our apartment. For the last six months of our engagement, we could practically measure our lives in mason jars, burlap cloth and yards of tangled twinkle lights. We were due for a call from the producers of Hoarders any minute now.

Jared’s eyes breezed over the growing mound of engagement gifts stacked by the door. He picked up the toaster oven box and held it in front of me, accusingly. “How many is this now?”

“Hard to say…” I sat with my legs crossed on the living room floor, iPad in my lap, searching the itemized gift list growing on our Exel sheet. If only I’d been this organized in college. I’d have been a Rhode’s Scholar.

“That brings us up to six.”

“Jesus Christ. How much toast do people think a newlywed couple needs?”

“There must be something wrong with our registry.” I glanced at my watch. “Target’s closed by now, but maybe you could call tomorrow and–”

Jared gave me a sharp look.

“Okay...I’ll call tomorrow.” I pulled up the “do-before-I do!” checklist on my wedding planning app and added it to the roster; a notification was kind enough to inform me that I was slipping down the white wedding rabbit hole:

You have sixty-two overdue tasks.

Jared shrugged off the strap of his briefcase and walked into the kitchen, undoubtedly to grab one of our monogrammed glasses for his nightly rum and coke. Funny, I didn’t notice him complaining about the gift situation when it was the overstock of his bar glasses that were coming in. But if one of your core values is winning arguments, don’t date a lawyer.

And certainly don’t ever promise to marry one.


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Monday, February 16, 2015

Surprised By Commitment

The following is an excerpt from The Prodigal Sister: Redeeming Stories for the Bad Girl Returning Home. Available on e-book as soon as the writer gets her booty in gear. Which takes a while because she's a chronic procrastinator...

...heh.

Two years have passed since I shakily entered this contemporary
 

church service.

Two years since I've uttered I'm home to God: the Father. Not just God: a faceless, careless man in the sky.

And it took about that time to heal from it all. It's the time it takes to write a series of essays about love and growing up post-college that are so trite and self-indulging that they make me laugh out loud.

But that's what it took to break through. That's what it took to be brave and commit to a community in a religion that I'm not always so sure I want to be a part of. At least, politically. I didn't have enough good friends in the church to remind me that not everyone in the church is an unkind maniac.

Some Christians are too busy loving and serving others to hold up inflammatory signs at a soldier's funeral.

But it's easy to forget when you're not submerged in a small group. When you're not interacting with a group of women who Believe in this century. People who are striving to show more love than hatred. People who--like Christ--would look at those who condemn and ask them to throw the first stone if they're perfect.

I didn't believe this sort of church or community existed today. Until I committed to one.

Fear of commitment runs deep in my blood. We live in a culture of wait-and-hope-for-better. Yes, I'll meet you for dinner, but I'll make sure to have one foot out the door and my phone on the table. It may as well be included in our generation's place settings.

In and out. Off and on. Here and there.

No wonder I wasn't creating lasting relationships. I was never 

in the room long enough to let them grow.





So we started a small group. Each week, about ten girls and I squish around my dining room table on Sunday nights. I make a large pot of Earl Grey and we sip and chat, they filter into my house. They bring homemade butter. And introduce the group to Rotel. They scatter the dining room table with tea bags and sugar cubes.the swells of each of our lives expel us into different places in lives and calling.

One of us is a museum curator. She loves yoga, and has short trendy hair. Another of us is a chronic volunteer. She's happy to serve. She's happy to be here. With her she carries all the enthusiasm of childhood. Like she's on the hunt for fireflies. She hasn't lost her soul in the mundane.

In this community I'm learning to be a better leader. A better woman. Because I don't do any of it perfectly. And none of us is expected to be.

We've been meeting since October, and to be honest, I've been surprised.

Surprised by the same faces that show up every week.

Surprised by how even if some girls can't stay the whole time, or have to leave early, they still stop by.

Surprised by how every week we get deeper and deeper with each other.

Surprised by how every Sunday night rolls around and 

hostessing feels like a great privilege rather than a great chore.


I keep waiting to feel tired of it all. To want to look at my watch. But it's not happened yet. In fact, it's become my favorite time of the week.

In other words, I've been surprised by the swirling commitment. The small steps. And the two-year journey it took to get here.

Soon I'll be making a full-time commitment to a wonderful man. The same man who told me he didn't want me to marry him. He wanted us to marry each other. Meaning he wanted us to begin our lives together. Rather than him simply absorbing me as a shadow, a second-stringer in this so-called life.

There's no one-foot-in mentality with us. Only conversation. Laughter. Trust. There's vulnerability and talk of the future. We're serving a one-hundred year minimum with each other. And since we're both nearing our thirties, it seems like a pretty safe bet. And an honor.

A great privilege rather than a chore. I think I'll start serving the church in the same way.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

An Open Letter to the Unexpected








We were eating dinner at an Indian restaurant with an unexpected group of women from my church.

We've worked hard to commit to each other. Really commit to each other. As women of a certain age outside of the classic love, marriage, baby carriage cycle we have to work a little harder for these relationships.

When you're in your mid/late-twenties, true friendship doesn't

come out of cruise control.

 

One of these friends sat at the end of the table and told us about the time she met her husband.

"It was so strange," she said. "I can't explain it but the moment I saw him I said 'that's the man I'm going to marry.'"

Then the conversation took a turn. Literally. Another woman at the table asked me if I knew the moment I met G that I'd marry him. I noticed several pairs of eyes were watching me across the table as I looked up from my spicy chicken dish.

Then I'm pretty sure I scrunched my face and gave some line about being attracted to him right away. After all, he's the most handsome thing ever. And then he puts on his Navy uniform and brings me coffee in the middle of the work day or plays me a song on his guitar and then, well...all bets are off.

But I didn't expect to marry G. Not right away. Because most of the time I expect for everything to go awry. Especially where dating is concerned.

Don't get me wrong. I have no trouble mustering encouragement and happy thoughts for others. I'm not a total Eeyore. Carrying around that amount of negativity is exhausting. For me and the people who have to put up with me.

However, two years ago when G and I met from across our Sunday school classroom I wasn't exactly in a confident "yes, he I shall marry" sort of mode.

Mostly just remember forgetting how to move my face. This guy was asking me pointed questions about my blog (which was at the time a series of letters I was writing about my future husband...), and it made me want to wriggle out of my skin.

Because he couldn't possibly be interested in what I had to say about singleness. The Church. Or how I feel like we have to fight for community in this world.

But then he spoke in fake British and German accents. But then he made me laugh. But then he only gave me side-hugs until he was sure that we were going to have a dating relationship.

But then after two years of gaining  a past with me he kneeled down and asked me to be a part of his future.

He asked that we lace our lives together forever.

And it's been better than I could've ever expected.

I'm not saying that life is a fairytale. Or that all things unexpected are good things unexpected. But I am saying that there's merit for not being timid. There's freedom in trusting a little more and more when your heart has been damaged.

But finding joy in the unexpected works with everything. It opens your eyes to little miracles here and there.When you hope for what's unseen. When we have faith and assurance for the future we can't see.

This season, these friendships, this commitment is teaching me that there's mystery to the way that we do life. Nothing in life is guaranteed. Not our jobs security. Not our finances. Sometimes life throws us plot twists.

And sometimes love, joy and peace come out of places, circumstances and conversations that we never could've dreamed or expected for ourselves.

Keep the faith, sweet friends.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Please, Stop Chasing Your Dreams

For years I was all about the ring (you know the one I mean).


All about that bedazzled left hand. All about the defiant chase. Playing out my life like I was a main character in a foggy romantic comedy rather than what I really was: a child of God.

For a while there all I saw from the inside-out was a woman with no rock. A woman with no faithful man by her side. A woman whose talents, beauty, friendships were all depleted. Second rate. Because she had no husband. Or potential husband.

I really went to great lengths to get it. Not to brag, but I entered into some pretty stupid relationships slash scandalous bar-hopping outings to try to make it happen. Ever tried to make out with a stranger? A friend's ex? Someone you work with?

Believe me, it's not easy to be that consciously stupid.

To feel the bad decisions stream through your blood. To ignore all promptings of don't do that and stop! you've gone too far. There's a constant storm in your heart and mind begging you to remember to be a good girl.

Because your decisions are pushing you deeper and deeper into an ocean of needless drama. And empty nights drinking rum and coke under the stars with a man who's been clear about his intentions with you from the very beginning.

And somehow you're still surprised by the way it all ended. With tears. Five extra pounds around your waist from binge eating entire Pizza Hut extra cheese pies straight from the delivery box. And your ever-loving aunt holding your phone hostage for an evening so you can't text him back.

I was literally chasing my dream. And yet, I was the one who was 

caught. Trapped. Sucked in.

 





















Years later, there's a bit of glitter on my left hand.


And it didn't come from chasing a dream or a desire. It didn't come from a night in a bar. Or a scandal. Or trying to force something to work. It came after a year of counseling. It came after wrestling to trust again.

It came through God's blessing and timing. It came undeserved. It came as so much more than a ring, but in the form of a man who I trust. Who leads me and my faith. Who makes me laugh. Who makes me want to love Christ more.

And it's so much more than I could have ever dreamed for myself.

But here's the thing: even in the midst of all of this, this swelling season of gifts and parties and registries, I can feel the familiar hum of a new mission. Another chase. Another facet of my life that isn't quite where I want it to be: my weight, my finances, my writing career...



The temptation to hop back aboard the Fight-for-What-

You-Want Express is astounding.


But that train only drops you off, most of the time, in places of despair. And seedy bars. And in areas where your character, the very core of who you are, comes into question.

I'm not asking anyone to sign a pledge stating that they will no longer wish for a stage of life, a piece of jewelry or a partner-in-crime. I'm asking you to stop chasing. Stop running yourself ragged over mere mirages. Over rings and daydreams.

Because maybe you'll get them and discover they're everything you could have ever hoped for. And at the same time those are a beacon toward something else you're not satisfied with, something else you don't have but you want.

Something else to lose your mission or dignity over.

Stop the chase for dreams and pick up a heaping portion gratefulness along the way.


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Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Year Without Resolutions



Every year, it's this year that's going to be different.

This is the year I will lose thirty pounds.

This is the year I will be intentional about my finances.

This is the year I will stop ordering entire pizzas to my apartment at 11 p.m. (See above.)

This is the year I will finish my novel.

Run a marathon.

Moderate my caffeine intake. (Forget it, I don't have a problem). Because where there is coffee there is liberty.

And perhaps stop bending scripture quotes into quips about coffee or sometimes harder drinks.

And every year I start out by peeling back the bed sheets, both feet firm on the floor determined.

It's different, different today. A different year and a whole new me.

Then hours, sometimes minutes later those little vows I made to myself seem less shiny. Less attainable. Less fun. For instance, this morning I've already had three cookies and two cups of coffee.

***

But this year it is different. It's all changing. Because this year I'm making no resolution except to be more resolute.

You might say those two words are exchangeable. I agree, they'd make a darling couple.

But one word seems like it was born out of the other. Like those Russian dolls that pop out from each other, smaller and smaller at each round. Yes, resolution is the larger word. And resolute is born from it. That anchoring word that evokes purpose, and unwavering determination.

Yes. This is the year I will abstain from resolving and am going pedal to the floor, full force into the word resolute.

I will be resolute with my vows to my husband.

I will be resolute in the search for my purpose and calling.

In my commitments to my friends and dear family members. The ones who have shaped and molded my life. The ones who will stand beside me as I begin the crazy, scary and all-things-wonderful adventure of creating a new family. A table for two that will grow and grow.

An outpouring of love. Like the Russian dolls that give and give and give from the very cavern of themselves eight or even ten levels deep.

I will be resolute in my purchase of Keurig cups. Because, you know? This bird you'll never change.

I will be, for the first time in years, resolute in my vows to follow Christ. Making up for all of those times I let the words to Oceans tumble out of my mouth without much thought or action behind them. Lead me where my trust is without borders.

But most of all, I will be resolute in the fact that no matter the changes the year brings, no matter the trials or triumphs–hopefully through triumph after triumph–that I am a child of God. And that nothing, no struggle with doubt, no fist fight with cynicism, no glaring fumbles of the church or a group of people could change that.

Happy 2015, dear friends.

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