This One’s for the Girls

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and I loved reading all the posts and comments from other women about the bold, beautiful ladies who have changed their lives. I love the idea of taking a day to celebrate women, because I am so deeply thankful for the friendships in my own life.

I am unapologetically a girl’s girl. I love my husband, but the truth is that I would be lost without my mom, my sisters, and my girlfriends. They are my TRIBE. The women in my life inspire me with their courage, compassion, and creativity. They are my confidantes and my cheerleaders. I can count on them to make me laugh, sit with me when I cry, celebrate with me when life is good, and help me finish a bottle of wine. To me, girlfriends are not optional. I need them, and they make my life sweeter and richer every single day.

We celebrate women because of the light and goodness and strength they bring to this world. And let’s be honest…they just get stuff done. Cheers to the wise, fierce, fabulous women we’re celebrating—may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.

Lent and the View from the Mountain

1usnjzuduz7kmovatrkog_g

In Exodus, God speaks to Moses and says, “Come up to the mountain and stay here.” It’s a simple invitation, and yet it strikes me as profoundly important.  As I’ve reflected on those words this week, I can’t help but think that this invitation is at the very heart of Lent. During this quiet,  reflective season, God offers us an opportunity to come up to the mountain with him and just stay.  He invites us to stay with nowhere to be and nothing pressing to do. He invites us to rest in the quiet and just listen. He invites us to be present and make space for his glory.

Last week I spent some time with a group of ministers talking about wellbeing.  One of the leaders spoke about this particular scripture and he noted that the thing about being on top of the mountain is that it changes your perspective.  Suddenly, your view is completely different.  When we’re on top of the mountain, we notice the beauty and majesty of creation—the vastness of it all.

But at the same time, everything feels smaller. The details fade, and we’re left with the reality of who we are.  We are human. We are small. Sometimes we fail. We are broken and in need of a Savior.

And yet, we are surrounded by the grace and majesty of God.

Lent offers us the chance to see things from a new perspective. Today, on this first day of the Lenten season, I’m giving myself the space to experience something new. I’ll be closing my office door for a few hours in order to go up to the figurative mountain and stay for a while with God.  I will let the details fade away, if only for a moment, and listen for how God is speaking to me in this season.

The invitation extended to Moses is for us as well.  If you’re tired, restless, weary, or broken, there is place for you to sit and rest. Come up to mountain, take in the view from the top, and stay.

 

*Photo Source

What I’ve Learned From 10 Years

dsc_0099

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I recently realized that Bryan and I have officially spent ten Valentine’s Days together. TEN! We’ve only been married three years, but we started dating my senior year of high school. (We also met for the first time at thirteen, so suffice it to say that he’s been through a lot with me.)

A lot of people are talking about love this week…and with good reason. Love is an important, hard, confusing, incredible, life-changing topic—and there’s a lot to say. In ten years of loving Bryan, I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things about love. At the very least I can say that what I thought I knew about love and marriage has totally shifted.

When you’re with someone for ten years, change is inevitable.  The world will change. Your lives will change. Your relationship will change. And you will both change, sometimes for the better and sometimes not. Bryan and I are both very different people from the two teenagers who went on their first day to see a Reese Witherspoon movie over a decade ago.  As we’ve grown and changed, we’ve had to choose love again and again. We’ve had to decide to grow together instead of apart. We’ve had to choose to accept the way the other person has changed, even when it wasn’t what we wanted. And during that time, I have learned two very important things about love…

First, I’ve learned that love is hard. This seems obvious, but I think that love—and marriage in particular—is hard in ways that you can’t understand until you’re in the thick of it. There are so many big things to fight about, like sex and money and family and planning for a future. But there are also the little things, from laundry to dirty dishes to stealing the covers, that can pile up and become the things that break you if you let them. There is disappointment and frustration and worry. And the choosing is hard, too. Choosing to put the other person first. Choosing to let things go. Choosing to love someone who you don’t particularly like all the time. Love is about selflessness and sacrifice, and those two things are never easy.

But I’ve also learned that love is so, so worth it. Over the past ten years, we’ve graduated from college and grad school and found careers that bring us fulfillment. We’ve lived in two apartments and bought out first house. We’ve cooked meals together and made plans and travelled all over the world. We’ve grieved together and learned how to share. We brought home the world’s sweetest puppy and said “I love you” more times than I can count. Together, we’ve built a whole life.

When I look at Bryan, I still see my very best friend in the whole world. I see a partner and someone I fully trust and respect. I see someone who makes me laugh and brings out a freer, more content version of myself. There is never a day when I don’t feel safe in his love.

In ten years, I can think of so many things I’ve done wrong. I can think of fights I regret and words I wish I could take back. I can think of mistakes and failings, both as a wife and just as a person. But here we are, ten years later, and the love is still here—strong and steady and in it for the long haul. Ten years can be a long time to love someone. Thank goodness we’re just getting started.

 

 

What’s Saving My Life

img_0218

One of my favorite writers asked this question on her blog the other day: What’s saving your life right now?

The idea comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s memoir, Leaving Church, which just so happens to be one of my favorite books of all time. In the memoir, she talks about being invited to speak and the host assigning her this topic.

To me, it’s more accurate to ask about those things that are giving us life.  What brings you joy these days? What little moments do you look forward to each day? Why do you want to get up in the morning? What is the bright spot?

There is always plenty to complain about, and it’s easy to focus on the negative. But I love the idea of giving time and space to focus on the positive things in our lives—no matter how small or trivial they may seem to other people. The thing giving you life these days may be as simple as a cup of coffee in the morning. (And let’s be real…that morning of cup of coffee is LITERALLY life-giving.) Here are a few things that are “saving” my life right now….

  1. Books – There is fresh stack of books on my bedside table, and I’m making the time to actually READ them.  Words—writing and reading them—give me life.
  2. Midday Escapes – I’m working on being more intentional about balancing my work life and personal life. If I got to work at 8:30 and know I’ll be there until 9:00 that evening for a meeting, I take an hour in the middle of the day to do something for myself. Sometimes it’s wandering through a book store or going home to have lunch with my husband. Sometimes it’s just walking across the street for a cup of coffee. Either way, it’s fresh air and it’s glorious.
  3. Finley – My sweet girl. I love her so much. I’ve never been a dog person and had no idea I would grow so attached when we got a puppy. But I’m totally smitten. And there’s nothing like coming home to a so-excited-to-see-you-she-can’t-stand-it puppy.
  4. Red Wine – Most of my (adult) life, I’ve been a white wine drinker. Lately, I’ve been having a glass of red wine at night and I’m kind of starting to enjoy it. Sometimes I pair it with popcorn so I can feel like I’m basically Olivia Pope.
  5. Sunshine – This has been the strangest, most wonderful winter ever. We had snow and then a 70 degree day less than a week later. Since then, we’ve had these pockets of gorgeous, sunny days (like today), and they make me so, so happy.
  6. Writing – I’ve said before that writing is the way I talk to God, and I’ve been making the time to do it more and more. Whether it’s here on the blog or just in a prayer journal, I’m enjoying the act of creating.
  7. Girlfriends – I’m a big believer in the idea that relationships–all relationships–take work.  For me, that means making time to see my friends every week even when I’m tired and busy and have too much going on. Our weekly dinners are the highlight of my week, and I’m always, always, always glad I made the time.

 

 

A Word for 2017

grace

Well, it’s been pretty quiet around here for the past few weeks.  Last week I took a little break from the internet while Bryan and I spent a week soaking up the sun in Hawaii! We had such a wonderful time, and I’ll definitely be sharing more about our trip here soon.  We came home to snow and ice (sigh), so we’ve spent most of the past couple days curled up at home watching Netflix and snuggling Finley. For now, though, it’s back to real life. Today I’m sharing my one word for the year—the word I want to meditate on as I go through the coming year and the word that I hope becomes a bigger part of my story. This is my word for 2017:

Grace. 

As I thought about what I needed this year, what I was truly longing for, I kept coming back to the word grace. For me, it means grace for others—withholding judgment, offering forgiveness and understanding freely, and striving for compassion. For so many of us, this year has been difficult and divisive.  We’ve had to bite our tongues about issues of great importance and swallow our anger when friends and family members make remarks that are hurtful or cruel.  It’s a painful time in our country and most of us are struggling with how to respond.  I have to admit that my first instinct in these situations has been judgment or anger or even disgust. But if we’re going to move forward then each of us must learn to show grace…even when we disagree.

It also means grace for myself.  It means letting go of perfection and hustle in favor of a more present and content way of life. It means accepting that things may not always turn out exactly like I hope, and that’s ok. It means relaxing my grip and expectations and living with gratitude for the life I have, just as it is. It means cutting myself some slack when things don’t get done and learning about the beauty that exists in the imperfections.

Finally, this year I am praying for grace for our world. We are hurting and broken, but God offers us grace freely and unconditionally. My prayer is that we would accept and live into that grace, extending it to one another and working towards a different way of living.

So, what are you hoping for this year? What is your prayer for 2017?

From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.

1 John 1:16

2016: A Year of Adventures

It’s hard to believe that 2016 is almost over. This year has truly flown by, and so I’m taking a few moments to look back at some of our favorite moments. 2016 brought our world it’s fair share of heartache and pain, but it also brought our family some incredible adventures.  2016 is definitely a year we will never, ever forget. Here are some of our favorite memories from this crazy, wonderful year:

January: Skiing with friends, movie nights, snow days, leaving a church we loved, and the most wonderful few days in Jamaica.

IMG_7343

February: Bachelor nights with the girls, a new job, more snow, and a baby shower celebrating sweet Baby Kennedy!

FullSizeRender.jpg

March: Lock-in with 4th and 5th graders, CBFNC, Holy Week activities at church, March Madness, and a few days at the beach with family.

IMG_7644

April: Baseball games, nights spent listening to music and grilling on our back deck, welcoming (and falling in love with) baby Kennedy, OIAM at church, and a trip to Atlanta for work.

IMG_7810

May: Graduation festivities celebrating my sister, Pentatonix at Red Hat, steak frites in Paris, boat rides in Capri, touring vineyards in Tuscany, sightseeing in Rome, and celebrating three years of marriage. (Basically the best month EVER.)

IMG_8281

June: Bryan’s birthday festivities, moving my sister into her new house, BLTs from Merritt’s, rooftop bars, and standing beside my best friend while she married the love of her life.

13445360_10103588966534118_5365042555054704574_n

July: A week of birthday celebrations, NYC, a wedding at the beach, pool days, buying a new car, and lots of ice cream.

IMG_6739

August: A weekend at the lake, countless hours spent watching the Olympics, Fellows orientation, and Saturday mornings at the Farmer’s Market.

img_8903

September: A crazy busy month of work, Ben Rector, camp with my kiddos, a weekend in Asheville, and house hunting.

img_9246

October: Girls’ weekend in Charlottesville, visiting my bestie in Chicago, family retreat with church, Rent at DPAC, and meeting Finley.

img_9300

November: Belong Tour, ALL THE GILMORE GIRLS, Thanksgiving celebrations, tailgating in Chapel Hill, Christmas card pictures, and buying and moving into our first house!

mears-portraits-2016-6

December: Unpacking, Christmas parties, picking out a tree, decorating our home, Living Nativity at church, Christmas services, all the holiday movies, a trip home, and jet setting to warmer places!

img_9946

Here’s to 2017—I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us. Cheers!

Why I (Still) Voted

img_9704

I always vote early. I hate crowds and lines and tons of people (I’m delightful, I know), so I go early.  I went to my local library this past Friday to cast my ballot. And I waited. I stood in line for about 45 minutes before I even got in the building (which I know is nothing compared to what many people experienced this weekend). I waited in line with all kinds of people who decided that this election was important enough to show up and vote.

I waited in line with mamas who had babies sleeping on their chests and toddlers climbing up their legs. They looked tired and overwhelmed, and I know it would have been easier for them to stay home. But they came. I stood in line with people dressed for work, who had jobs to get to and meetings to prepare for and appointments to make. But they came. I stood in line with people who were much older than me and people who were voting in a presidential election for the very first time. I stood in line with people of different races and religions and backgrounds. As I waited, I overheard a conversation between the man standing behind me and an election official.  The man, an elderly African-American gentleman wearing a U.S. Army Veteran vest, told the official that he had driven by earlier that week and had noticed there was no line.  He said he thought about stopping but decided to come back later.  The official assured him that the line moved quickly, and he wouldn’t have to wait much long to get inside. He replied, “Oh, it doesn’t bother me. I’m not complaining.  I’ll wait all day to vote if I have to.”

As I stood there, a lump formed in my throat. I truly thought I might start sobbing right there outside the Durham Public Library.  My heart was so heavy that I just couldn’t stand it anymore. The truth is this whole election still baffles me. How did we end up here? I thought about the people I was standing in line with—people who had been demeaned and belittled and discriminated against throughout this election because of the color of their skin or their gender or their religious beliefs. I thought about the hate and distrust that weighs on our country leaving us all bitter and angry and so incredibly tired. I thought about the genuine fear that exists for many who are considering the future of our country and the kind of world we’re leaving for our sons and daughters.

All this to say—I get it. I understand why so many people are saying they want to abstain from this election. I understand why people say that they can’t, in good conscience, vote for either candidate. But friends, please hear me say that it is too important. This election is too close and the stakes are too high for us to be silent.  If you believe that neither candidate is the right choice for our country, then use your voice to vote for a third-party candidate and say that. Please vote. The choices are bleak, I know, but the choice is still ours.

I (still) voted because I have been given a voice and a choice. I can choose to use my voice to speak up for kindness and truth and hope or not. I can choose to use my voice to say that all people are valuable and worthy and equal or not. I can choose to use my voice for love or not. So I chose to use my voice. I hope that you will, too.

The Art of Balance

balance

Hello friends! I know things have been pretty quiet around here lately.  September has been a crazy, busy, hustle-to-get-it-all-done kind of month. (And we’re barely at the halfway point—that can’t be right, can it?) I’ve been moving at full speed this month. Work has taken over all of my everything, and I’ve been struggling with rest. I’m tired and my house is a mess and I can’t remember the last time my husband and I spent more than an hour  or two together without our phones or computers. Life gets crazy, people. But you know that, of course.

I think we all struggle with this thing called balance.  How do we make it all work? How do we fit everything in? How do we care for ourselves and our relationships while also doing the work that has to get done?

The important thing to remember is that it’s all important. The Christian life is a sacred balance of both work and rest. Life cannot be all rest, but Jesus still calls us to stop, to be still, and to be present with him. We are to honor the Sabbath and keep it holy. We are to set aside time for worship and stillness and rest. It is essential to our faith and to our lives.

And we are also called to do the work—to go, preach, love, and care. We are to work as if working for the Lord, which to me means doing my very best with what God has given me. I want to say yes to helping, and I want to do things that matter to the kingdom of God. The work I do matters greatly to me—this busy, sometimes crazy and exhausting work feels important to me. And I believe it matters to God.

There’s a balance to be found there, I think.  There’s a lot of pressure on all of us to do more, to be endlessly and relentlessly productive. But when we never stop, we miss opportunities for the connection and creativity and peace that comes with good rest. And when we rest well, we are better able to go and do good, holy, important work.  We work with more passion and commitment.  We serve out of a deep desire to do God’s work instead out of a well that continues to run dry.

Balance is an art, yes, and it’s also a discipline. It’s a rhythm and a way of living that requires practice, dedication, and patience.

The past few weeks for me have been about the work. So I’m choosing in these next few days to take time to rest. I’m choosing to let some things go undone. I’m choosing to go to bed earlier and wait to answer just one more email until the morning. I’m choosing books and coffee and conversations over an endless to-do list. I’m choosing to do the things that need to be done without piling more on. I’m choosing balance. And my soul is grateful.

*Photo Source

Offering

field_grass.jpg

A few weeks ago I travelled to Atlanta for CBF Fellows orientation.  CBF Fellows is a program that invites young ministers to learn together, build community, and support one another. Our meetings were held at FBC Decatur, and the room we were in had a Bible verse written on the wall. Day after day, I sat in sessions forming new relationships and learning about leadership and family systems and healthy ministry practices. And I looked at these words:

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” Romans 12:1 (The Message)

Weeks later these words are still on my heart. I can’t stop thinking about this idea of offering.  It often feels like I have nothing of value to offer God.  But the truth is that I do have something to give to God—we all do. The real question is not whether or not we have something to offer to God, but what we choose to give to God.

When I think about my daily life, here are some words that come to mind: tired, frantic, stressed, busy. But what would look like to live my life as an intentional offering and response of thanksgiving to the God who loves me and created this ordinary day? Joy, gratitude, grace, peace?

One thing I’m certain of is that I want to lay the very best of what I have to give as the feet of God as my life’s offering.

Now I understand that life is life, and there will be days and weeks and seasons that drag and weigh us down no matter what.  But this idea of our daily lives as an offering to God is an invitation to a different way of living, a more intentional way.  It invites us to approach each  day to day with more reverence, more hope, and a profound expectation that we will encounter something holy.

Yes, it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day. But that’s okay—there’s something sacred there, too. What can you offer to God today?

*Photo Source

On Showing Up

IMG_3681

When you think about your day-to-day life, what are the words than come to mind? If you’re anything like me (and from what I can tell, anything like most people), these words strike a chord: busy, hectic, chaotic, exhausting, FULL. And that’s why I’m finding over and over again that one of the greatest marks of friendship is simply showing up.

Last week three of my friends and I met for dinner on a Thursday night.  It wasn’t a special occasion or a celebration of any sort. We had all had long workdays and even longer weeks. I’m certain that all of us thought about cancelling at some point during the day.  We were tired and overextended.  I’m sure that each one of us could have used a night off and a night in. But I’m just as sure that we needed each other more.

And so we showed up.  We drove 30 minutes in traffic to downtown Raleigh and caught up on life over glasses of wine and plates of risotto.  We talked about work and relationships and the most recent episode of Bachelor in Paradise. We listened and laughed and left feeling lighter than we did when we arrived. We showed up when it was easier not to, and it made all the difference.

It’s easy, of course, to show up for the big things.  We commit to being there for weddings and parties and births. But I think it means so much more when we show up for the small things—midweek dinners and coffee dates and “just because” visits. Those are the moments that remind us how rich relationships really are and how valuable it can be to know that there is someone who we can count on no matter what.

I want to make it a priority to show up for my people. I want to be intentional about investing in those relationships, because I know they are what will help sustain me in the long run. And I want to make sure I say thank you when people show up for me—what an incredible, life-giving gift.