I’m Learning to Listen

 
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Coming to know the love of God feels a bit like coming home. Like settling down in your favorite spot, right in the indent your body makes. It molds and fits and feels right and trustworthy and good. It feels warm and light and weighty with a kind of significance. And I am certain that it is the very best thing to know in life. To know the depth of fondness and tenderness meeting you each morning with the sun. The new mercy that slips into your bedroom with the sunlight. It dances and boxes, both gentle and strong and asks not demands that you pick it up and wear it. I want to wear mercy and gentleness and strength. Because the love of Christ is not fragile. It’s bold and bright.

I’m learning how to listen to the Spirit. Learning how to step back and hear him. Learning what his voice sounds like. It’s wild the way we can spend our whole lives following and never listening. I have always had this restlessness, this impatience, this charge-ahead-because-I-know-it-all attitude. I walk ahead of the Spirit. And because I’m so deeply loved, the Father is showing me how much I don’t know. And how much I strive.

If I’m honest, deep down I’ve adopted and fostered the lie that I’m not enough and that God has enough for everyone else but not for me. Like the parable of the talents, I have made friends with the idea that I have less. Two and not four. And I’ve worked to become content there. But the Spirit is calling me out of hiding, calling me to allow him to make up the enoughness. He is the gift that fills my cup. I don’t have to settle for less when the Spirit gives more. God has enough for me. I can lay down my striving at his feet.

I’m learning that being enough comes from a place of rest. A place of yoking myself to the Spirit, allowing his light and easy burden to cover me and all my striving. Because at the root of striving is creativity-stealing, freedom-binding fear. For as long as I have strived I have come up empty. Reached down into my heart and stirred up bleakness. Bleakness that bled into depression, depression that bled into bondage. But when I found my authority in Christ, I found my freedom. I found my identity, my voice, my courage.

I’m afraid God doesn’t have enough for me. And so I exchange my faith for something resembling works. I compete for his enoughness, I control, I compare. But I finally understand what it means when he offers me rest. He’s offering me his enoughness. He’s offering to fill me up. By the Spirit, I am full. I think that’s what Paul meant when he said he boasts all the more in his weakness. Because with more weakness comes more filling, more of the Spirit, more of the power. The weaker I am, the more power he gives. I’m not enough, but he is, and he has enough for me. I can enter into the boldness of his enoughness empowering me.

I want this to be a place of genuine humanness. Authenticity is as important to me as breathing. And I promise to show up, somewhere here in these words, in these little squares. Because this space is important to me. I’m done listening to the urgency of the world. Listening instead to that still small voice encouraging time for stepping back a little. I want to cultivate the most important thing. Time spent loving and being loved by the One who is seeking me out. Turning my heart to him. And so I’m learning to listen to his voice. Letting that grace the spaces I fill.  A good father doesn’t withhold good gifts. And as I sit with him, I trust that good gifts are coming in good time.

I’m finding the best parts of my day have become those early morning moments, cross-legged on the couch, eyes closed, face tilted towards the rising light. You’ll find me there. You’ll find me listening.

Twenty-Four

 
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It’s always a little quirky and clever when you stumble into truth that turns depression into dancing and timidity into boldness. When the wisdom you passed off as cliché comes knocking at your door, barely two steps off the welcome mat, making itself at home.

I have walked through the last two years of my life holding the hand of shame, depression, anxiety. And while I self-preserved, I grew smaller, more shy, quiet. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.

But lately has felt like the culmination of a God on the move. Because it’s the same God who asks me to use my hurts and fears to feed his sheep. And I can’t help but wrinkle my freckled nose in a smile. For the last twenty-four years of my life, growing up in church, Sunday school, dresses, hymns and pews, I would have said I understood God’s love. Of course Jesus loves me, I would have quipped, the ever-answering, know-it-all in my Sunday school youth group.

But in the weeks since twenty-four, it’s like God has turned a spotlight on who he has been creating me to be this whole time. And so much of it has to do with the fact that I am finally, finally catching on to how deeply loved I am. And what I thought before pales in comparison. I don’t have to fix myself up for him and even in all my blaring humanity, he will still put food on the table, he will still feed me. I don’t have to keep asking if there’s a return policy, a re-do on this whole adoption thing. And that’s where I’m learning how to step into freedom: raw, honest and alive freedom.

It’s so Sunday School. But I’m staring his love right in the face, daring it to move, daring it to be something, anything other than the fiercest love I’ve ever imagined. But it doesn’t. His love doesn’t change. And I’m getting it. It’s catching my heart and flinging it wide open.

It’s changing the way I see myself. Purposed and called. Brave. The pressure I heap on myself is falling off and I’m getting to rest in the simple fact that I’m alive. I can put my hand on my chest, feel my heartbeat and know. It makes me giddy and glad. Only the wildest love would love me enough to create in me a poem. One whose words carry the weight of authority. One whose words breath authenticity. One whose words come from a place of raw, unflinching identity.

And it’s because of that, that I know who I am. It’s because of that, that I am loved and unafraid.

This Season Called Home

 
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It's hard to figure out depression when you don't feel at home in the world. When you can't wrap your head around setting down your suitcase much less your heavy weighty emotion. I think that's why in the midst of transition I have always struggled to carry everything the most. And I never think of transition as lasting very long. Maybe only to the next stoplight. But sometimes the traveling from one place to the next does. Sometimes it lasts for what feels like an eternity stretching it's fingers beyond simply unpacking your boxes.  

And in the midst of all of the human chaos of this year, I wasn't home. I was pining after a home that didn't exist for me anymore. A home with echoes of a previous season full of college friends and the support system of faces who knew me for years. And I sunk deeper and deeper into depression as I clung, fingers turning white, to the old. 

We started a series at my church about embracing the new and leaving behind the old. We created a centerpiece in our lobby with polaroid photos of the people in our church. And each week as I unclipped each polaroid from the twine it's hanging on, I've found myself getting emotional. For the past year, I have struggled to make this place my home. But I'm slowly starting to realize that it may be because of how hard I have clung to my last season. I've tried desperately to have both. But maybe I can't have then and a present here.

I've been in a season of learning to call this place my home because it hasn't come naturally. But like what I’m bringing home from church, I'm realizing that to welcome the new I have to leave behind the old. And as I look at each of the photographs, I'm confronted with the fact that these people have become my home. Each of these faces, even the strangers. These are messy, human and honest people. Family. People who have seen me through the past year, witnesses to my growth.  

Tonight as I drove home from my community group, I felt happy. For the first time in a very, very long time I can finally say happy. The grace and acceptance I have needed this year is here. It's all around me. I have people right here who look at me and see me as God says he sees me. Who let me stand there.

This is home now. And it feels sweet and right and good. It feels a little like nostalgia for the present.

Living with the Rug Pulled Out from under my Feet

 
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My eyes watched the city skyline until it faded from the rearview window. I'm learning to pull on traveling like a necessary coat. It's my lifeline. I need the detachment. I need the rug of my own head pulled out from under my feet. I need to be drawn into the very alive, very breathing present. Traveling helps me fill my space unapologetically, helps me throw my weight around a little, kind of like a boxer. I'm slowly becoming a little more confident, decisive, known. And when I'm wandering around a new city with no agenda other than to take it all in, I know exactly who I am. I appreciate without comparison, I smile without suspicion, I am without hesitation. 

I need the adventure to pull me out of my head and into my body. I need the mental health break. We throw around the words "self-care" a lot these days. For me, self-care is looking a lot like boundaries, like giving both my introversion and extroversion the gift of acceptance, like finding little ways to be brave. Finding little ways to have faith. Finding little ways to reach deep down inside and bring to the surface whatever is there, pretty or not. 

I took a trip to Philadelphia last week and I spent every day walking as far as my feet would carry me. I joined a protest. I got lost. I breathed deep. I had aching feet. That trip brought me home with a heck of a lot less anxiety than what I had left at home. 

I think we should do that more. I think we should throw ourselves into the things that scare us. American culture has taught us all to be safe, to not take risks. Especially when it comes to our faith. We're so quick to deny anything that makes us uncomfortable, anything that rebels against the teachings we were taught when we were little. I think sometimes the church itself can become a barrier keeping us from Jesus. I think about my own church upbringing and realize the freedom I have desperately needed, as a twenty-three year old, as a woman, as a wife, has stayed just outside of fingertip reach because of institutions placed around my wandering curiosity. But God loves the person more than the institution. And he isn't intimidated by our questions.

I’m disheartened by the American church. We’ve failed each other, other races, women. I grew up in a church where women were not pastors, were not worship leaders, were not teachers. And it's tired. I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t know that the answer is very clear. But I do know this conversation needs to start showing up in big and loud ways. 

What I do know is that  women's voices have been hushed for generations. I know Jesus went out of his way to empower women. I know when women were unreliable witnesses in court, he entrusted the proof of his resurrection to a woman. I know in a society where women couldn’t speak to men, he sought one out at a well. I know when a woman chose to sit at his feet and not in the kitchen, she chose the right thing.

I think sometimes we’re afraid to lift our voices too loudly, because somewhere in history we’ve been painted as hysterical, women with uncontrollable emotions. We’ve been painted as witches. We’ve started wars over golden apples. We've been the temptress. But freedom demands that we throw those things off. And maybe it's uncomfortable, maybe even scary. But I think we need the escape, the detachment, the rug of legalism pulled out from under our feet. We need the freedom to fill our space well, wherever that may be, and to box a little with the things that scare us, take a little risk. And I think it'll feel a lot like traveling. With lots of rest and little anxiety.

"Of course if no one had ever been exposed to dangerous ideas from scandalous women, Christianity itself would not have had its unique beginning nor its glorious history, but whatever." - Nadia Bolz- Weber

Roadtripping North

 
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For the last few months, I've been doing the motions. Believing but not feeling. 

I've written about my legalistic church upbringing before but mix a conservative, southern-baptist church background with some heavy theology and the girl you get is swept up and stumbling around in waters that are downing her. So much of my experience with church has been this tug of war between right and wrong with little grace. But I'm learning with adulthood that sometimes it's right, wrong and a whole heap of grace thrown in. And like with a lot of those stiff beliefs I was raised with, I'm starting to invite grace into this season.

I need grace. And so does every other human who walks through those church doors clinging to their faith through their motions. And if I let in a little grace, I'm finding that "doing the motions" isn't something we can circle and cross out in red marker with a big "F." Sometimes it's all we can bring to Jesus' feet. Sometimes we need to go to church a little numb, a little broken, a little depressed. Sometimes we need to sit through worship without feeling it touching our hearts.

Those motions have been carrying me here. Those motions have been my faith, my loyalty, and the fingerprint proof that I'm hanging on. Because I am hanging on. And I'm seeing joy finally start spilling over again. I've been sitting here with hands stretched open for so long and for the first time in a long time there's a faint little breath on my palms. 

There's beauty in the mundane and sometimes in the motions. There's beauty in being carried into a promise, into fulfillment. I feel joy in the comforting weight of alive. Like a cozy sweater on a rainy day. I wouldn't trade this thing called growth.

Sometimes all it takes is a shift in the wind to start to feel again. Like when the unexpected comes and reminds you of God's deep, undying care. Reminds you to put on hope. To start breathing out, "I'm okay." Like an answered prayer in seamless timing. Or like the sweetness of spring in the air, following you, even in the dead of night.

It’s been a season of hurting, a season of raw. A season of shattering. But I’m finding myself in a place where his voice is calling me out from where I've sat back, holding my broken pieces. Waiting. He's calling me to seek and find. Calling me out into the open spaces where joy makes it's home. He’s calling me into the sun. Not in spite of my broken but with my broken. And I think my first fews steps will feel a little robotic, a little forced. 

I guess that's all I'm really trying to say to you. Don't let go. Because he isn't going to let go of you.

And so here I am. Sitting on the curb, head on my knees with my face tilted to the sun while my husband grabs us coffee on our road trip north. There's an expectancy dancing in my heart. He's always moving, always beckoning. And I am picking up this hope, cupping it with my fingers, and carrying it into the next season.

I feel him breaking down walls. It's been so dark, I haven't been able to see. But he's turning on the lights. Revealing his purpose, his project. Me.

I was made to illuminate with my hands, my pen, and the words in the back of my throat. I think you were too. Hang on. Walls are coming down and light, light is going to pour in. 

I'm Breathing Out Winter

 
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I’m opening up the windows of my home.

I'm cleaning house, tucking my now short hair behind my ears as I sweep away the dread, chase the stagnant out of this place. 

My body is breathing out winter.  

It’s been a long time in the dark.  It’s been a long time sinking under the weight of a depression reaching it’s fingers up and around my heart, feeling anxiety settle over my shoulders in familiarity.

I’m opening up the windows of my home. Watching the light flood in and bring it’s golden, it’s warmth. I’m breathing deeply. Because even though I don’t feel rescued yet from the deep exhaustion of holding my head up high and even though I’m starting to wobble where I’m standing, I’m trusting still. Trusting that it’s okay to not be okay. Trusting that seasons change, like they always do, and summer is not far off. Trusting that this mundane moment contains perhaps some of the brightest potential, this hope stain too deep to ever be scrubbed from the canvas of my heart. It’s here to stay. Hope is here to stay.

I think that’s what Spring is all about. It’s about hope. It’s about the dead coming to life. It’s about new freckles and shedding heavy sweaters. It's about cutting your hair, letting old things go. It’s about warmth. It’s about breezes softly lifting the curtains. 

That’s what I’m hearing right now. That it will all be okay. I will be okay. That eventually, I will be shedding these heavy, weighty feelings. And I’ll be rejoicing in the sun.

The winter never lasts forever. I read somewhere that depression doesn't have eternal life. And as I write this I’m feeling the edges of my mouth turn upward into a smile. Because I know it’s true, even if I can’t feel it yet. And it’s chasing away the night. Light, pouring into every crack in my heart.

Sometimes I’m afraid to show these cracks, to offer them up to a world very much hurting. Hurt people hurt people. But I will always press in for vulnerability. Because that’s where the healing comes. When we all feel safe enough to show our broken places. Say, "I'm depressed" and maybe hear "me too." Bare our bruises to each other.

So, here are mine. And it feels like healing.

I’m opening up the windows of my home. Letting in the light. 

 

Post Grad Life

 
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Making friends post grad is a heck of a lot harder than it was in college. In college, I had roommates who listened to my bleeding heart with kind ears, who held up my heart every night even if that meant simply sitting together in silence, the glow of our phones in our faces. Encouragement felt like the tin overhang that framed our window when it rained. In those four walls of our living room it was a comforting kind of loud. The kind you curl up next to. College was together, hair unwashed, sweatpants on. It was safe. No one had to know who they were, they just were or they were figuring it out. Safe. 

Now, starting friendships feels a lot like pulling teeth. It's a consistent reminder that you’re growing up and moving on. They don’t just happen anymore. You aren’t thrown into a room with scared written on your face and finding out that everyone else is just as scared, the scared a sort of glue that holds college students together. 

Now you don’t run into friends on the sidewalk on the way home from class. You have to schedule time. And scheduling time has this kind of formal attachment to it that translates into dressing up, sipping tentitive coffee. Now you deal with the fact that people may just not want to be your friend, they may just not want to make commitments, they may just not seem to need it which only makes you feel needier. You may not be in the same life stage and the common ground feels forced.

And we don’t support each other anymore. There’s this barrier between you and her that no one talks about. Chalk it up to comparison, but vulnerability feels forced and scarce. Like it doesn’t exist anymore. Like it’s a threat.

I’m lacking in friends who show up. And it hits at my self-confidence like a hammer slowly chipping away at my definition. I put my worth into a construction zone to be deconstructed by strangers. And I’m finding myself handing over power. Letting something else reshape me. And when people don’t show up. I don’t show up.

This week I spent time with one of my friends from high school. We sat in the car, with the car turned off, and talked. And we were honest. Deeply honest. The kind of honest where "how's your relationship with God" doesn't feel like a challenge, it feels like an open page in a journal, it feels like safety. And it felt right. It reminded me that this season called twenty-something is the wildest and very best and I want to show up for it. Because that’s what makes life. Showing up. 

Because it’s a brave thing to be you. It’s a brave thing to stand there, in that spot and look directly into the world. It’s a brave thing to take it all in, the mess and the broken, to put yourself somewhere you will get hurt, to give someone the power to make you doubt. It's a brave thing to speak up, to fill your space, to let yourself be seen.

And I’ve always longed to heal hurts. To press flowers into the rips of the world. I’ve always wanted to stand up and scream that we can all just stop hurting each other.  

Rest like a Backbone

 
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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I think I have always copy and pasted my Sunday school, dressed up, hand raised answer to the question of rest. But lately I've starting thinking about a different kind of rest. A rest that feels more like a backbone, strong and unmoving, propping me up. A rest that pulls me out of the the depth of my head when I get a little lost there in anxiety. A rest that works a little like wire-rimmed glasses, a nostalgic, focused, old but good kind of rest. 

I have spent much of my life broken and picking up the pieces. And the side effects look an awful lot like distraction. A lot like dropping the pencil I'm holding, forgetting the poem on the tip of my tongue, dropping to the ground and frantically gathering the fractured bits littering the floor, ashamed and glancing over my shoulder to make sure I get all the pieces before someone sees. I want to fix the pieces together in a kind of sloppy disguise, instead of letting them all sit there and stare unblinkingly into the faces of strangers, instead of letting me be me with my broken parts exposed.

It's constant, this running from one problem to the next, trying to solve each, spending and spinning myself into exhaustion. Gathering pieces and gathering pieces. Panicking over what someone thinks of me, what they meant when they said, what they posted. 

I've been spending the limited time I have, wanting what I don't. And it's not fulfilling. The more I live this distracted kind of half life, the more I catch myself waking up to grey skies, the more I slip into this melancholy kind of living, the kind where I want to sleep an extra hour, not because I'm tired, but because I'm not ready to drag myself into the world. 

Writing has always saved me. It's always pulled me out of depression, driven me to leave the pieces where they fell. But distraction has kept me too busy. It's kept me purposeless, wasting time. I've been wallowing in consuming and never creating. I'm been forgetting what freedom tastes like. 

I declared 2018 to be a year of rooting out the things that have me distracted. Saying no to the exhaustion that comes from spending my life picking up pieces. I'm declaring it to be a year where I let my broken display itself on the floor. A year where I leave it. I’m pulling back the curtain and pushing back lies. Easy and light. Gentle and humble. Rest for the weary and burdened.

It's only a distraction, what they said, what they wrote, what they posted, or even what they thought. All that's lifegiving is that I listen to the voice calling me into healing, into laying it all down at his feet, into a settled kind of adventure where I am exhausted by the good things: the wildness, the abundance, the freedom. I want to be exhausted by that poem, that art, that passion.  And I'm learning that rest and exhaustion go hand in hand. Exhaustion from pouring out and letting go feels a little like rest. Somehow it's filling and focused. Somehow it's freedom. 

And I feel it. I feel the discipline, the purpose. It's been productive and good. Something like rest, like gentle, like humble, easy, light. 

Confessions of an Enneagram Type Six

 
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I drifted through last year a girl who never knew herself, a stranger in my own body. I was unsteady, shaky, upset and undone by whispers, bewildered by choices. I would hear my own words passing over my lips like they didn't belong to me. I became a disappointment, I took up too much space. So I withdrew often, self-preserved, got smaller.

I stumbled through the wilderness. But I'm here now and I know myself. I can stand at a welcome mat, hand raised to knock and feel welcome. I feel unafraid to take up space. I know the ugly and messy parts of me. I know that my fingerprints are my opposites, tough and tender, courageous and timid, strong and weak. I sit often alone in suspicion and self-doubt. I let those things mute me still sometimes. But I'm also learning to mute them instead. I am reactive, defiant and rebellious. A go down with the ship girl. Sometimes to a fault. Sometimes to a saving grace. 

Anxiety is the wallpaper of my home. More often than not I am walking around with unease, with worst case scenario on repeat. I don't trust and I'm overtly sensitive. Abandonment causes my heart to beat in my throat. My bones ache for security. My backbone is defense and indecision. But I'm grateful to know these things now. Because I now know how to resist the anxiety that buzzes behind every closed door I lift my fingertips to open. I can push pause on the repetition because I know what's on repeat.

So now I create because I know who I am. I create because I'm comfortable in tension. I'm present in them. I welcome the self-doubts but I don't give them a say. They make me stronger, the wilderness only ever doing just that. 

I'm standing in the guardianship that is my personality. My wildly sensitive heart that bleeds for injustice, for cruelty, for the broken world I can't seem to look away from. It's tearful eyes. I come undone and long to cup the world's face with my hands, stick a bandaid across it's bloody knee. 

I am standing out from under rejection. Taking the risk. Stirring up fear. Daring to trust. Facing worst case scenario. And I've found faith on the other side. A fierce faith. 

I welcome the loyalty that has marked my life because it has protected me in seasons of wandering. Because it's what I want to live. A life of Your kingdom come. A life of not my will. A life of His renown and His renown and His renown. 

Maybe you've felt it too. That pang whispering you are unknowable. It might just take the wilderness to get you there. But you'll get there. And you'll find out just how loved you are. Mess and all. 

That's how I'm running into this year. Full of childlike wonder at the way the Lord answers the cries that my heart didn't know to breathe. I'm filling up my skin in a new way, like a new home, still hanging up pictures and moving furniture, but settled. I know who I am. I know my rebellion, my anxiety, my tenderness, the way my heart beats a little crooked and I know my own bravery. It’s me. I’m me. The whole me. And it’s good. It’s gonna be a good new year.

 

Settle My Heart

 
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The night of Charlottesville, I wept before my head hit the pillow. And again before my head lifted the next morning. As I sat in church I felt numb, my heart unbearably heavy and my bones aching, a skeleton in the pew.

The task seems daunting, and a bit hopeless. And my heart quivers under the thought of the genocide bubbling up under the skin of this country. Because I never thought I would see the day when it happened in my own lifetime, in such proximity to me, so unopposed.

And I never thought that a vast majority of American churches would be as silent as they have been. We’re afraid to make waves. Afraid to lose followers. Afraid to be too political. 

I don’t know where my voice is, where it is not, where it ends and where it begins. But I cannot be silent. It’s been silent for too long. And I’ve watched silence, heard the voice of a Rwandan genocide survivor attest to it,  story after story of the slavery and oppression happening now, right now through trafficking.

But I heard something that stirred my soul, and I am clinging to it today.

Fear kills dreams.

I guess I am mostly frail and afraid.

But “do not be afraid" is the anthem God has spoken to countless hearts over and over and over again because He uses mostly frail and afraid people. He has overcome the world and we can take courage, nestled there in that fact. And because of that, we can wrap ourselves in light and run straight into what is hurting and broken. We can charge the darkness as servants in the battlefield.

We are but servants here in the battlefield. 

So until I figure out where my voice has been and where it is going, I want to serve well, the bloodied, battered, beating hearts that are under vicious, racist attack. I want to find my place there. Which means, I must stay. I must stay here, and hear the cries of the crucified. I must place myself close to the suffering. I must stay in the bloody soil. And I must serve.

God, settle my heart for the task at hand. And let your kingdom come.

Somewhere Along the Way

 
 
 

I have always loved storms, the ones that raise the hair on my arms and crack the sky wide open, my heart along with it.  I have always loved storms but recently I was caught in one alone on a dark, foggy, mountain road with a panicking heart and furious windshield wipers as a scared kind of pleading passed breathlessly over my lips to a God who terrified me in that moment.

Somewhere along the way, somewhere amongst a community whose heart beat legalism, I lost sight of the warm, twinkling-eyed God I knew when I was younger.  I grew distant from the God with the belly-laugh.  I forgot that God is good.  The idea of God as friend became sacrilegious and like a game of "tag, you're it," my broken conclusion became fear. 

So when I was asked to describe who God was to me now in this season, post-college, I struggled to answer the truth.  

I don’t know why I have separated the Lion-God from the Friend-God. Because even lions can have kind eyes.

And I’m learning that God holds more paradoxes, more depth than makes me comfortable but walking on water was never supposed to feel comfortable.  Even there, in the uncomfortable, He is the friend who is beckoning me the way He beckons children, with kindness peeking out from behind brown eyes, sitting at an old weather-beaten table, breaking bread with His friends.

He doesn’t have to use us, but He wants to anyway.  He doesn’t have to hear from us, but I know He wants to and I think it puts a big ol’ “that’s my daughter” smile on His face when we pour out our hearts to Him like He is a friend, a kind of pride in our confidence to boldly approach the throne.  I think of myself marching in as a child with knobby knees, a wispy, brown pony-tail and a million freckles and I feel that deep in my soul.

And I know that God is putting out a welcome mat for me, every time I come over for coffee.  Because He is and forever will be, my dearest friend.  And I still love storms as I realize that we can sit together, under that tin roof and point out the lightening and count for the thunder.

Eyes like Wildflowers

 
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I sat across from her and looked down at my lap before beginning. “I started counseling today.” I don’t know if I have ever spoken harder words. I don’t know what it is about women and why it is so difficult to be vulnerable with them. But in that moment I felt every guard I had so carefully built up around my heart come crashing to the ground. And the tears that sprang to my eyes came not from the pain of retelling my past but from the sheer relief of trusting someone again.

One season it seems I have my worst self beat and the next I find myself pinned to the floor under the weight of an insecurity that has no mercy. And a year ago I started this blog and I struggled with the same thing. Deliverance feels far away. Maybe this is my thorn to carry in my side.  I have this fear of being too much and altogether too little, a fear of taking up too much space and at the same time not enough space. I look back over my writings and see the theme of a girl who is trying to pour out from a place of not having been poured into. I see a girl who is afraid of her own shadow. I see a girl who has no idea who she really is and who is small and fragile. But I also see a girl who is trying her hardest to be brave in the face of untiring, relentless waves.

Maybe the purpose of my thorn is that it’s the incomplete and broken that creates some kind of perfect imperfection, which could be the very best way for Him to receive the glory from my life. Maybe perfection is the truly crippling thing and my imperfection is the invitation for the One who is whole to rescue and redeem, to do what He does best. Maybe being brave means being imperfect and being okay there in that hope. Maybe being brave actually means finding your voice when the world tells you can’t, not by having the perfect voice but by trying it out in all of its imperfection.

I have spent way too much time allowing comparison to hinder my ability to support my friends and my ability to maintain joy. Because somewhere amidst the pain of insecurity, the joy of the Lord is my strength. And somewhere amidst the sea of distrust is a sharpening and a growing and a multiplying and a harvest. And somewhere amidst it all, the pain and the sea, He holds the future, my future, your future, and her future. Then I can lean into my friends, I can trust their tales of wild faith and add my own wild faith stories, watch them dance like fire without feeling less. I can sow with them, compliments and prayers alike.

I have this vision of the women we can be, women who give life through words, who breathe healing, who bend down with quick fingers to stitch up the bursting seams of broken hearts, who work with both humility and gentle confidence, unashamed to be loud when necessary, when bringing voice to the voiceless. I want us to find ourselves, to be the kind of women who scramble to our feet in defense of each other. I want us to be the kind of women who hold open our arms when the women around us are growing, because growing is tender. I want us to be the kind of women who see life as messy, who are okay with ourselves, who are friends with ourselves and who are building houses of forgiveness over ourselves and inviting those around us in for dinner.

And this is true freedom: to be at peace, to be both plenty and enough, both safe and wild. And we are meant to be free by the One who sings steady, unfaltering sweetness over our bones. Yes, we are loved and seen and plenty and enough and known and safe and wild and a wildflower.

An Open Letter to Refugees

 
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Dear Refugee,

I don’t know if you can hear me.

I am one voice in a sea of screaming voices.

I don’t know if my words will dare to launch themselves from page to heart, your heart, but that’s where I want them to land.

The world is a mess of war, of hatred, of pointing fingers and wagging tongues.

The violent voices, scream too loudly to give way to simple understanding, wisdom so desperate to seep into their bones.

I don’t know why they scream that way.

I guess they are afraid.

But I want to tell you something.

I am not afraid.

I am not afraid of you.

In fact, I have been taught to lay down my life for my friends.

And I think you and I could be very good friends.

And even if we were not, I would still value your life, just as much if not more than my own.

I don’t consider my own safety, not at the cost of yours.

I think loving you is more important.

And oh, how I want to love you well.

I ache to grasp your tear-stained face in my hands and look into your eyes.

You are my equal.

And as I envision your trembling and weary frame, my heart breaks.

I want my life to be a welcome mat.

I want you to feel at home with me, to find grace with me, to laugh loud with me.

I want to be a warm, home-cooked meal and a hot cup of coffee on a bitter, negative-four-degree day.

Because when I counted the cost and gave Him my very life, I gave up the right to demand my own comfort.

I gave up entitlements.

I gave up demands.

And I cannot understand the horrors you are facing right now, but I am sorry.

I am so sorry.

I am sorry that pride paralyzes.

I don’t deserve freedom any more than you do.

And, I know that this letter doesn’t change anything, but I pray that this would provide even just one small degree of comfort to your heart, that you would feel loved by one small person.

My friend, come on in, you’re very, very much welcome.

 

"You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:34

"'For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brother, you did it to me.'" Matthew 25:35-40

Wide Open Spaces

 
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I brushed my hair behind my ear and placed my hands on my hips, surveying the closet full of old childhood memories.  And as I began to envision the kind of house I want to have after my wedding in December, compulsion wrecked me.  I don’t want anything that doesn’t have purpose.  I want minimalism.  The whole closet needed to be gone through and I couldn’t sleep until it was sorted and tidied.  I looked at the clock on the wall, 2:30 in the morning and my bed was still made.  I don’t know why it is so hard for me to just be, to accept the messy closets, to close the doors and rest, except that maybe it has to do with what is in those quiet, blank moments.  That’s when my mind races, fills up with all the “what ifs,” imperfections and out-of-control moments.  I guess I am seeking to control what little I can in the face of a life that is so outside of my control.

And I’m tired.  I want to be comfortable with the still moments, the empty page before the first chapter begins, the little inhale before the plunge.  I want to be comfortable with those places, the places the sky meets the ocean on one of those cloudy days when the entire horizon is one mess of steely grey.  I want to be okay with the days where I don’t feel anything, where I don’t feel mountaintop but I don’t feel valley, when I’m not quite sad but not exactly happy, the days where I just am.  The days where my writing feels dry and dusty, mundane and human.

I wonder what it would look like to embrace the wildness of wide open spaces, the spaces where I cannot touch or taste, the spaces where I feel lost and vulnerable, where I am half in and half out, where I cannot quite make the connection, the spaces where tension seems to hold me, the still spaces, the spaces where imagination fails, the sweet moments, the human moments, when I hesitate to talk and to come out of that weird place, to break the magic, the limit-filled spaces, the beyond spaces where everything must be handled with grave delicacy, the strange spaces between word and thing, the spaces where art fails to see and shape, the misery and splendor of those spaces, those places, those blank pages.

Those are the blank pages I want to embrace, bones and all.  I want to embrace the wide open, exposed, transparent places where the stirring up inside of me makes me want to make it, the intoxication of trying.  Those are the places I want to go into, to go deep with, to see through and to lean on.  I want to come undone, to stall out, to find the charged awareness of what it is like to be human, to feel that vibrant vertigo.

Because it’s those places where I am fearless if I am prayerful, if I meet those empty moments with the continuous voice of the One who crafted it.  It’s in those places where prayer is the default posture and worry is not, where prayer banishes fear and the need to be in control, where even the question of identity, the question I have heavily wrestled with in the last year flees because it is simply trusted, with open hands, to the God who ordains all.  It’s those places where I have to keep pressing, keep writing despite the fear holding me back.  It’s those places where I must press into my calling.  Because it’s those places where I feel newly alive.  It’s those places where God meets me, where He whispers into my soul, “now, watch for the good stuff.”

Perfection

 
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I haven’t found my niche yet.  I haven’t found the space where my fingers bleed more than they write.  I wander, sometimes aimlessly, many times lost, listening to an ever-persistent whisper from the lips of perfection.

Perfection has always run rampant throughout my life.  Control and perfection, contentment and security, all wrapped up in a tight little bundle I've deemed fit to label "identity" which threatens and looms over the whispers from the Father, whose gentle voice does not threaten or loom, does not clamber and only shouts in sovereignty.  Perfection itself is a whisper that threatens to quench the fire burning within my heart, the fire spreading through my veins and into my fingertips, the fire that brings blood onto the page, realness.

And I'm not perfect. Somewhere, embedded in the very core of me, is the constant tension between who I am and who I am becoming.  Deep in my bones, I know that I have been made new and yet that identity is forever challenged by the fact that I also know that I am in the process of being made new, that I will never be truly perfect until I am resurrected with Him.  I am desperate to resist the old me while trying to reconcile my unavoidable imperfection.

Like Jacob, in my wrestling with God my hip has been touched and my name has been changed.  And also like Jacob, He sees the new me yet sometimes I believe He chooses to call me by my old name to remind me that He is the God of both.  He is the God of who I am.  He is the God of who I am becoming.  And He is the God of my process.  He reminds me that there is no shame in that process.

So, this morning, I have decided to wrench my head in a different direction.  I will listen, not to the whisper of perfection, but to the whisper of grace.  Because in Him, I find the grace to be human.  In Him, I will find the grace to dance a little and to stumble often.  I find the grace to be somewhere in the middle of being made new and new, messy and a little bit awkward.  I find the grace to be myself.  I find the grace to tread water in the middle of the sea, having jumped ship without the shore in sight quite yet, the grace to be in transition, to be crafted by transition.  I find the grace to build on that strange tension with passion, with strength and discipline growing in my shoulders with every stroke, knowing that when I am carried to shore, when I wash up with the waves, I will roll the tension out of my shoulders and leave room for only the passion, strength and discipline built up during those past times of deep insecurity.  

This morning, I’m not sitting down with perfection.  In fact, I’m showing perfection up.  I’m choosing to spend my day with contentment instead.  I’m choosing to walk through the rain and enjoy it anyway.  So no, perfection, you can’t steal my joy.  It’s not yours and it never was. 

I've been finding that sometimes this means that I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize the stranger I see there.  But I am learning that it’s okay to not completely know myself.  Because living in the tension of who I am and who I am becoming is a process and as I grow, I change.  I am becoming who I was made to be.  And while it once terrified me, I’ve decided that it really isn’t all that scary in its uncertainty.  It’s actually a tender and beautiful thing because I have found that I can and will trust the Author of my story.

So I continue to hold my life out to Him with open palms and continue to flip to the end of my story, taking little peaks at the last chapter of the last page to remind myself that He is indeed making all things new.  

When You Just Feel Different

 
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I’m sitting wide-awake tonight, cozied up under a blanket as the house grows silent. Lately I have started to feel discontentment slowly working on the corners of my mind. It’s the week after Christmas and I ache to enter the new year with contentment and security but I feel pressure, pressure to gather up the broken, messy pieces of my life for the new year, to be the woman I want to be now at the very beginning so that I can just hold onto her for the year. If I am honest with myself, I am frightened of this next year. I’m graduating in the spring and I find myself clinging to the holidays with a selfishly tight fist because I know that next year won’t look the way that it has for years.

And while I want to look at the new year with fierce hope and rejoicing, I struggle to look past the exhaustion in my heart. There is little left in these dry bones. It’s much more than an uncertain year ahead. I feel different. And I know it comes from a deep foundation tremble. It comes from facing an uncertain year with an uncertain self. I feel as though I’ve grown a new set of bones. It’s a different that makes me feel the weight of gravity push it’s fingers into the weak chinks in my armor, a different that is brittle, one that feels more fragile than I ever thought possible in my extroverted and wild self.

That’s just it. Until recently, I was an overflowing, giddy extrovert. I thrived on people and I never felt awkward or embarrassed. I was wholeheartedly, unapologetically me. Yet as college has gone by, I have started to feel my very bones shift. Right now, awkward and misplaced words cause me to meditate deeply on my imperfections, cause me to shy away from the social. I walk away from hard conversations doubting everything about myself. I label myself, hanging lanterns on my insecurities to avoid the fear of being labeled by others. I forget that it’s okay to mess up, to show the cracks in my mask of perfection and give the world a glimpse of the realness underneath. I hold myself to unobtainable standards as if I were not entirely human, flawed and imperfect, stumbling about in uncharted waters of muddy humanity.

Lately I'm a stranger in my own skin. I don’t know myself. I stretch out a hand and I don’t recognize it. I look in the mirror and I don’t understand the girl I see there. I wake up and I feel sadder, more realistic, more doubt-filled. And yet, while this change is painful, I have found a quiet boldness inside these bones. It's not all bad. I no longer feel like I have to scream to be heard. I can rest in gentle grace. I can sit quietly and listen. I can hear people.  I think the frantic fear inside of me that makes me feel so uneasy with the changes stems from the lie that I have to be a certain type of person, the person I have been told my whole life that I am, instead of just being who I am. It comes from the fear that I am somehow made up of all the things I hate. But I'm not.

And so this is my hope for the new year, that this is where my faith will grow the most, that this is where the wilderness will test me, that this where my faith becomes truly wild and free. And I can find a quiet contentment in that. I can be happy. Not a happy that demands to be heard or parade around on a platform, not even a happy that appeases my obsession with perfection. Instead, I can find a deep seated, soft contentment with my messy and imperfect life, a sweet joy that holds back discontentment. Because then, I am free to accept the new year and all that it brings, not as a perfect person but as a real person. 

Cold and Broken Hallelujah

 
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Silence crawled across the earth like a dark shadow.  It climbed and slithered into every crack, every hollow on the surface of ocean and dust.  The voice of the One who knew Earth’s frame uttered not a word.  Heavy was the air and thick.  She heaved a sigh, her brittle bones ached with thirst.  Life ebbed yet it did not flow, skeletons drank in dry sand, a spiral unto death itself.

Humanity without hope.  A flame, flickering in the reckless moments before sheer darkness.  Each human shoulder burned with the weight of mourning, until a whisper, in the form of a shivering babe pierced the darkness, an arrow shot into the heart of the dry earth herself.  Her breath caught.  Humanity’s shoulders twitched and stretched, awakening from deep slumber.  Hope rode the currents of the wind, swiftly perhaps more purposefully than ever before, a hope to echo through the ages.  God with us.  Emmanuel.  A hope that uncoiled like a tendril in the midst of the deepest despair.  The ear-straining silence that had spanned hundreds of years broke in an instant with the wail of a newborn.  Lonely exile torn like the veil to come.  God, Himself, entered into humanity's ugly mess to rescue His people and put to death night’s dark shadow.  To speak tenderly and call out,

“Comfort my people.”

And with that, He sends words of balm and peace to His children.  God, Himself, coming to earth to bring good news to the poor, to the ones with a cold, broken hallelujah, to the hopeless ones, the despairing ones, the ones who can barely put pain soaked steps to earth.  He came to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom to those bound, to comfort those mourning, even this Christmas.  He came to give those broken ones strength and grace.  He came to snatch away their faint spirits.  And this, this is the beauty of that cold and broken night, the reason that we hold Christmas so near to our hearts and the reason we feel glimmering giddiness sparked deep within our souls when the word Christmas is breathed.  That this babe would utter the words the world had so longed to hear whispered into their ears and curled around their hearts.  He would unroll the scroll and find the place where these prophesies were written, read them aloud and say,

“Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

The elegant, reigning beauty of this cold and broken night is that the One who whispered life into being chose to step into mess, chose to step into awkward and exhausted brokenness, to face cold and rejection for the sake of those whose shoulders were and still are bruised by the weight they are carrying.  And so, this night, find your happiness in the gentle contentment that comes from the whisper gently floating through the snow studded trees from nail scarred hands that left royalty for dirty earth.  Rest your cheek against those hands and sigh with a peace that doesn’t need to demand or perform.  Rest your cheek against those hands and feel the quiet joy, let it overwhelm you because this night, redemption and reconciliation have been born and Emmanuel has come and God is with us.

It's a New Year

 
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It's a new year for me and want this year to be different.

I want to stand on my back porch and tilt my face to catch the beginning drops of rain from a summer storm while lightening races across the sky and my hair stands up on my arms as electricity dances and thunder echoes through my heart and the walls of my house.  And then when I am soaked, I want to still stand, listening to the wind whispering to my soul despite my shivering frame, laden with goosebumps.

I don’t want to become cold, calloused or bitter.  I never want to give up.  I want to be supple, a living plant, green and stringy when snapped, bendable by the Father.  I want Him to always be able to work on me and shape me.  I want to be alive.  I want to feel hurt and pain as proof of my existence, proof of my thriving instead of further bricks on a foundation of numbness.

I want to climb into bed at night, free, bones light and free from expectation.  I want to fall asleep with a smile on my face and close my eyes at night, resting assured in the One who carries me through paths worn in nightmarish meditation.  I want to open my eyes in the morning and feel my soul quivering in the light of His glory, streaming through the cracks in my blinds. 

I want to be joyful and to give compliments as a testament to the battle against insecurity won after many years of fighting with tears streaming down my checks as He lifts my head from the dust to set eternity in my heart, remind me that I am His and settle a blanket of victory around my dirty shoulders.

I want to walk faithfully on rocky crags even when the sun has blistered me, the wind has chaffed me and my feet are worn to the point of bleeding.  When my head is bent, my shoulders hunched, I want to keep on trudging with my heart beating to the sound of the One who makes it beat.  I want to wear my identity boldly, fiercely and securely.  Undeniably.  I want to scream my identity from the roof tops into an indigo sky studded with stars framed by mountains until my throat is raw.

I want to get to the bare, honest, gritty place where I am willing to give everything, to truly give everything, to give my life without a second thought.  I want to walk confidently, one foot steadily after the other steadily in who I have been created to be, head held high, heart centered. I want grace to fall from me, gentle waves kissing the shore.

I want to be a nomad, a wanderer, knowing that my true home isn’t on this earth and it never will be.  I want to hope wildly and fiercely, to be a lion.  I want to believe in that hope so assuredly that my words help to heal the gashes wounded into the hearts of those around me.  I want to paint pictures with my words, pictures that swallow me whole as I grab the gilded frame and peer into it.  I want to take after my Father and speak life into death.  I want to create sentences in the image of the One who creates life.

I want to glorify Him.  

 

North Africa

 
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I was in North Africa last spring, a witness to their bewilderment. 

Their questioning, pain-filled, hijab-framed eyes peered into mine searching for an answer, a defense, a reason behind the madness that is hatred in my country.

I could give them none.

I assured them that we did not all feel that way, that many in my country looked past stereotypes and loved, that there was no way hatred would be given more power, more influence.

I was wrong and now I can't rest.

Haunted by those eyes.

I meditate on the desperate hands that clutched my arm in giddy trust masking trembling fear.

I remember the bathhouse, being stripped naked and scrubbed down, stereotypes like dead skin shed and scraped off leaving red rawness yet smooth vulnerability.

And as I stood naked with these African women my heart was infected, infected with love and adoration, empathy and pain.

I was humbled and as the woman washing me slopped shampoo into my hair and dragged her fingers through my scalp I broke.

Tears mingling with filthy water from dirtiness, from hatred, from ignorance and pride.

These people are precious,

not their stereotype.

Oh, how they love and extend open arms.

They kiss on both cheeks the white foreigner, the traveling stranger.

After their questioning, affirmed by the hope they saw in our faces, they broke out in joyous dance.

One boy drummed on a table while we all danced together, twirling around on the dusty floor entwining culture and community, sweat and sweetness.

Oh, that this would be our response.

Oh, that we would dance together and shake off the hatred and the unwillingness to press fingers into our own hurting places so that we may love without hindrance or brokenness. 

 

 

Brave

 
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As I sit cross-legged on my bed, the rain hitting my windows with the softest patterings, the thunder rolling in the distance, the word “brave” echoes through the caverns of my heart.  The word has been my anthem this summer and now this fall in the face of fears and lies.  It has been painted, like war paint on my cheeks and a battle cry in my throat.  It has been the challenge to start writing again and it has been on repeat, turning over and over in my mind as I lay down to sleep at night.

In the face of learning who I have been created to be in Christ, I have had to face who I once was.  The most raw and painful of these times: losing a soul sister over who I used to be and my past.  And while that caused my heart to stand out in the rain, shivering and weeping, knocking on a heart that wouldn’t open, I have had to be brave in realizing that who I used to be was ugly but that it is not who I am anymore.  I have had to be brave in the understanding that I am fully known and still fully loved to the One who crafted my days.  Not despite my past but with my past.  And when my flesh wants to rage and hate and scream out to the sky, I have to claim bravery in loving hard as the Spirit whispers into my heart and deep into my soul,

choose. choose to love hard.

And I know, love doesn’t come naturally to me and it may not come naturally to you.  Bitterness lies deep, deep within me.  Yet, Jesus tenderly reminds me that love is more than smiles and laughter.  Love is full of sweat and tears.  It is full of standing in the rain, knocking on hard-fast, shut doors with eternal perpetual hope.  Love requires sacrifice and a willingness to put control into the Father’s hands.  Love demands that I go outside of the walls I have built to protect myself and it means that I may get stung, hurt or broken.

And when pettiness and pain threaten to appear, there is something about that whisper that makes it easier to just love hard because I want to be a woman who gives Jesus glory.  Jesus, the One who abounds in grace, can surely overflow my parched cup.

I have had to claim bravery in the light of my past because there is something about bringing shame into the light that hurts.  Shame has to be dragged, kicking and screaming into the light and sometimes I step back, chest heaving, with fresh cuts and bruises from that struggle.  My flesh fights because of my pride.  Pride that keeps me from wanting to admit the undesirable and seemingly unredeemable aspects of me.  Pride that keeps me wanting to keep up the perfect reputation.  Pride that hates being misunderstood.  Pride that wants to defend and to be heard.  Pride that wants to resolve conflict simply because it can’t handle the thought of not being able to control how someone views it.  Yet I have to be brave enough to throw it off.  I have to be brave enough to give grace, despite reputation, despite wanting to cling to how I feel I have been wronged.  When it hurts beyond all else, I have to listen to that still, small whisper from a God whose ear catches the faintest murmur from my heart, a God who prepares me for the path ahead and a God who comes after wind, earthquake and fire in a low whisper to remind me of His power, His tenderness and His ability to instill the bravery to give grace.  

And let me tell you, the months of seeking and searching for bravery have not been in vain.  Sometimes the Lord shows us our answered prayers in ways that cause us to fall on our faces in awe.  This last weekend I shared my testimony at my campus ministry’s fall retreat.  Before I stepped out onto the stage, my heart was beating more wildly than I have ever felt it beat before.  I have never in my life been so terrified.  And as I walked out from behind the curtain, I felt as though I was Peter, clambering over the side of the boat, stepping into churning waves with trembling hands.  But as I stepped out onto the stage, I didn’t feel as though I was walking on water.  I felt as though I was walking on the hands of Jesus himself.  He carried me.  He never left me.  And as I started sharing my story, my heart’s racing slowed, everything became clear and I knew exactly what I needed to say.  He stayed right beside me on that stage and in that moment, every second of suffering was worth it.  

He made me brave.

 

 

 

Thank you, Zed for being the one to give me the key and start me on a path of pursing bravery in Jesus Christ.