A Word for 2017

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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

Why I (Still) Voted

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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

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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.

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Offering

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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?

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On Showing Up

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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.

 

 

P.S. Love

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When I was applying to colleges, I had to go through the arduous task of writing college admissions essays. The topics were mostly boring and predictable—what are your hopes and ambitions? What is your greatest fear? What is your favorite word and why? (That one still baffles me.)  There was one, however, that continues to stand out to me: What is the greatest challenge facing your generation?

I chose to write about racism. Of course my white, middle class self understood very little about racism. I had never been on the receiving end of it, and yet I had seen enough to know it was a problem. I had watched people I knew, loved, and respected choose racism—whether overtly or in subtle comments and decisions—over love and acceptance time and time again. It seemed glaringly obvious that something needed to change, that our generation should be the people to change it.

That was over ten years ago.

Now as an adult with a little more perspective and a lot more awareness, I fear that things have gotten worse instead of better. Hate and injustice are rampant, and the effects are tragic. Fear is everywhere, and it is suffocating us.

This week my heart breaks for the mamas that are afraid to send their black sons out into the world because they know that it’s not a safe place for them to be. My heart breaks for the wives and husbands and children afraid to send their police officers into the world because they fear they may not see them again. Friends, it is ENOUGH…something has to change.

Here’s the thing we’ve got to get: All lives don’t matter until black lives matter, until homosexual lives matter, until refugee lives matter, until police lives matter. We can’t fix the whole without putting each piece back together, and so we start there.

I don’t have all any of the answers, but I know that today I choose love. I choose to stand with and beside by black brothers and sisters. I ask for grace as we attempt to converse about matters of race and injustice because I don’t really understand and never will. I choose to insist that their lives matter and refuse to indulge slogans or justifications that suggest otherwise. I choose to feel nothing but pride and gratitude for the police officers that serve and protect our country. I choose to pray for their families and their safety daily and wholeheartedly.

I want to be a part of the generation that for the first time in our nation’s history chooses love over fear. It’s time, friends, and it’s too late yet. Let’s choose love today.