2017: A Year of Grace

It’s really not right to ring in a new year without taking a few moments to pause and reflect on the year we’re leaving behind. 2017 brought us adventures, new friendships, difficult challenges, and profound joy. Most of all, though, 2017 taught me A LOT—about myself, about how I relate to others, and about God.  I’m walking away from it deeply grateful for the lessons learned and the grace I experienced. Cheers, 2017!

January: The most incredible week in Hawaii, snow days, getting settled into our new home, Bachelor nights with the girls, and ice skating with my kiddos.

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February: A weekend in Asheville, pizza nights, more unpacking, a trip to Florida, Saturdays catching up with good friends, and binge watching The West Wing.

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March: A women’s retreat with church, exploring Raleigh with friends, and all the basketball.

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April: A UNC NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP, Something Rotten at DPAC, Saturdays in Chapel Hill, and birthday parties.

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May: A trip to Indianapolis for work, a Cinco de Mayo wedding, Aislinn’s baby shower, Bark in the Park, celebrating four years of marriage, and Finley’s first trip to the beach.

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June: Lacey’s wedding, Summer Arts Camp at church, celebrating Bryan’s birthday in Chicago, camp with my kiddos, and a conference in Atlanta.

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July: Turning 29, a surprise birthday celebration, meeting Scout, beach days, dinners under market lights, lots of books, and a mission trip to Romania.

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August: Finley’s first birthday, hiking and breweries in Asheville, John Mayer under the stars, and lots of writing.

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September: Hanson at the Ritz, finally getting to sing “Go Cubs Go” at Wrigley Field, Finley’s first tailgate, and a whirlwind of a month at church.

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October: Family Retreat, a super fun trip to Nashville, hosting nights around the fire pit, football Saturdays, and Halloween costumes featuring Thor and the world’s cutest lion.

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November: Bon Iver in Charlottesville, a wedding in Virginia, Memaw’s 93rd birthday, Thanksgiving festivities, our annual family photo shoot, and the most glorious week in Costa Rica.

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December: Picking out a Christmas tree, parties, annual holiday dinner at Angus Barn, time with family, celebrating Hannah and Justin’s engagement, and reflecting on 2017—a hard, bizarre, wonderful year that taught us so much about grace and courage and speaking up. And for that I’m thankful.

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On Being Human

I few weeks ago a colleague of mine wrote something in an email that has stuck with me.  She said, “Being human is not perfection. Being human is being.” I loved that, and it’s truth and simplicity has been on my heart ever since. Here’s why I think it’s so powerful:

It reminds me that I am not alone.

Her words were an important reminder me that everyone else feels it too—the pressure to keep pushing, keep striving, keep rushing. There’s this constant need to do more, be better, move faster, and we all feel that. We all struggle under the weight of that.

But that’s not what we were created to do.

Being human offers us the freedom to just be, to just rest in the promise that we already are exactly who we were created to be—children of God made in the image of God. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re totally off the hook. We’re still called to use our gifts and talents to do God’s work in the world and to do the best we can with what we’ve been given. But perfection is not the goal. Not even close.

I’m in Chicago this week for a conference on transformative churches.  A large part of the conference is dedicated to retreat—to rest, renewal, and solitude. In other words, just being.

As I go into this week, I’m thinking about this notion of being human. I’m choosing to allow myself to just be and to rest in the truth that I am already a beloved child of God. Because that is who I was created to be.

 

 

On Taking Up Space

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Well friends, it’s been a while. All of the sudden I looked up and it was August, and this little corner of the internet had been abandoned for months. I would like to say that I don’t know how that happened. Except that I do.

The past few months have been packed to the brim with camps and planning and supply runs and crafting and phone calls and to-do lists, and all the other things that define the life of a children’s minister during the summer. I’ve been traveling almost nonstop for work and just got back a few days ago from a mission trip on the other side of the globe. Things have been a little busy around here, to say the least.

Several weeks ago my travels took me to Atlanta for a conference. Any time I gather with this particular group of colleagues we end our time together with what we call the “talking chair.” We each take a turn sitting in a chair at the front of our room and sharing with one another what we plan to work on, either professionally or personally, until we meet again.  I thought about what I wanted and needed from the next few months, and when it was my turn to speak I simply said, “I will write.”

I’ve said before that writing is therapeutic for my soul.  It’s the way I connect with God and myself best, the way I give myself freedom and space to be the most honest version of myself. And so I’m vowing to make more time for that—both here and elsewhere. I’m vowing to write even when I don’t want to and feel like I have nothing to say. I’m vowing just to write and let the rest fall into place.

A few days ago I was reading an essay in which the author talked about the importance of taking up space in your own life. She was referring to our tendency to put everything else first—work obligations, family responsibilities, chores, etc. It’s not that those things aren’t important (they are), but if we’re not careful we can slip too far into the background of our lives. We can go  entire days and weeks and years without doing the very thing that bring us joy and give life, the very thing we were created to do.

For me, that’s what writing is—it’s taking up space in my own life. It’s making time for something that nourishes my soul and speaking the truth I have to speak. Thanks for reading along while I do it!

 

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

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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.

 

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What I’ve Learned From 10 Years

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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

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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.