Wait

What does waiting do for us?

We wait for rain. For tomorrow. For a larger budget, a baby, a text, an apology. We wait for experience to be supplanted by wisdom, and for the cake to finish baking.

Waiting (the scraped-knees in-between, the middle) is home to handwringing, eye-rolling and pacing. We think about eternity or “the next thing” or nothing at all. We yank our minds away from obsession. We seek obsession. We write narratives, create a multiverse of endings, some happy and others tragic. We shout, tell lies, laugh harder or cry.

Mostly, we try to slog through the muckiness. The middle is largely uncharted, so we either dig in our heels and try to turn around, pity our own stuck-ness and build a home in the muck, or try to find a short cut.

But there is an alternative.

I picture Hawkeye and BJ in the Swamp. In one episode, a freak accident leaves Hawkeye with temporary blindness. He’s forced to linger in his tent, in post-op, in a lawn chair. This giant is brought to stillness by a mistake, and he has no choice. He can’t fight it, can’t speed up the healing.

So he listens to the rain. To people slipping in the mud. He absorbs the world around him as he never has before. Obliged to pause over each note that, when strung together, comprise the symphony of a single day, he finds something he didn’t expect.

“Something fascinating has been happening to me. One part of the world has been closed down for me, but another part has opened up. I’m going through something here that I didn’t expect,” he hesitates. “It’s full of trap doors. But I think there must almost be some kind of advantage in this. I’ve never spent a more conscious day in my life.

When Hawkeye’s most immediate means of pleasure is removed, he “sees” how each minute creates a whole day. Or, on a more abstract scale, how every moment spent waiting links together each memorable, life-changing event.

The concept isn’t profound until it’s practiced. Then, and only then, does it become the best practice. The middle is worth lingering over. Not for how it will change the future but for the value gained from being fully present at any given moment. Waiting for the sake of waiting. And fully, drastically changing the paths in our brains, mending brokenness on a level that will lead to true healing.

We wait our whole lives, actually. Until our hands are veined, our eyes yellowed, our faces lined. Until we’re remembering more than anticipating. Until our souls, tired and multi-roomed as they are, reach their home.

Wrestle with the waiting, but also learn to listen. To notice. To value deeply those parts of life that make all the big moments hang together. The dinners that taught us to love onions and garlic. The conversations that created new spaces in our minds. The people that went from nobody… to somebody. And all of this in the relative blink of an eye.

Tribute

The school year is hurtling towards it’s crescendo. The final hours of lecture and study and late-night flings are here. Graduation day approaches for a handful of my heart strings, too, those few who have changed me inside-out without knowing it. I thoroughly underestimated this work and the ties that can’t be untied and the memories that can’t be replaced. I didn’t realize it would be so redemptive, or so joyous.


To the students who have captured my imagination as well as my heart.

To those anchors, those tethers to belonging and home.

To the open doors and open arms, the physical proximity as well as emotional and mental bonds.

You inspire me daily. I anticipate your visits, seek you out, cheer you on. You probably don’t know how much I want to be where you are. It’s instinctive; a gut-level pull to be present with you.

The evenings are never long enough. The conversations never too deep. The hugs never too frequent.

I didn’t realize I could love you people so much. I want to pour out everything for you, willingly, joyfully, fully. In some small way, that’s what it is to be like Christ. Because when you lean in, I see it there, clear as day. That humanness. That created-and-called-good reflection of a holy God.

Thank you for your messiness. Your dedication. Your scars and triumphs.

Extraordinary magic, indeed.

Blips

Blips has returned after a brief foray into the recesses of my (very busy, very color-coded) calendar! Here are a few bright spots from the past few days:

Que lo Que – Social Club Misfits

Because what is better than rap with Latin flair? Listened to this on repeat today, complete with the desk dancing that my coworkers are definitely jealous of. Can you salsa in your spinny chair? Didn’t think so.

John Crist

If you aren’t familiar, I’ll gladly introduce you. My brother and I saw him live last week. We started laughing when we got there and didn’t stop until we got home. By the way, did you know that laughter increasing the flexibility of thought and can boost your immune system? (In other words, let’s stop taking life so darn seriously.) Clean, non-crass, actually funny humor does exist! I highly recommend following John on Instagram, too. His stories are laugh-out-loud funny.

Micro-Roasted Coffee Beans = Better Coffee

Think of it as curated coffee. Fine-tuned to the roaster’s palette and full of fun variations, micro-roasted beans are a coffee-expert’s playground. And you know who brews a mean cup of micro-roasted coffee? Light Rail. It’s better coffee. Change my mind.

Gospel

Though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
    they shall be like wool.

I attended my church’s pre-Easter service tonight. I ran Camera One, headset and all, perched on a platform at the back of the sanctuary.

The service started a bit behind schedule. Due to the practice runs, I’d already seen and heard the service close to eight times… but as with all scripture, it entered my ears in fresh iterations.

It was the same story, over and over. Jesus condemned by Pilot, beaten within an inch of His life, given a cross, grotesquely paraded to Golgotha. Nailed to the cross. Spectators watched His life slowly drain from Him. Upon His death, the earth broke apart, and the sun went dim, and the temple curtain split in two.

His side was pierced by a spear. He was taken down. Nails removed. Covered.

And creation, His followers, God Almighty, wept.

It’s this death, and the following resurrection, that allows the sun to rise each morning, and for babies to be born, and for worms to keep aerating the soil. Without His death, we have and are nothing. Time is merely spinning out to its inevitable end.

But by dying — beautifully, gruesomely — He ensured life into eternity.

I’m not sure anything else matters quite so much.


Extra thought: I’ve been on the tech team for almost a year, and never once have I felt that the lights, cameras and musical prowess are part of a show. Or if they are, it’s only in the loosest sense of the word. It’s creative. It’s emotional. It’s meaningful, and intentional. But it’s not glitzy, flashy or manipulative. All kinds of people enter our sanctuary, and if the high-quality worship and oversized, comfortable atmosphere make them feel at home, then all the better. Some people walk into my church and call it a show; for others, this church is the reason they still believe in God.


Braced

We’re all aware of it, I think, to varying degrees. Sometimes it hurts worse and wounds more deeply. Other times it’s a paper cut. You know what I mean: when you screw up in the same way for what seems like the bazillionth time. You’re ready to learn the lesson and move on already but you keep repeating your mistake. You feel yourself drifting toward That Edge again and again. Sometimes you avoid it, sometimes you topple over.

I’m no stranger to this. In the last few months especially, my life has followed a clear pattern: I collapse and then I’m rebuilt. Breaking and building, breaking and building. It’s as messy as it is beautiful.

It’s like I’ve been placed squarely in the middle of all the Earth’s beauty and all of its burning, no matter how chaotic, no matter how little I actually understand. I’m not braced between the light side and the dark side or yin and yang, but between all the heaviness and all the splendor, as much as I can take of both. Some days my arms sometimes break under the pressure. I collapse. And then moments (or days, weeks, months, years) later, I’m rebuilt. Rinse and repeat.

Here’s what I’ve learned and relearned: To be human is to screw up. To be human is to create exquisite beauty. To be human is to love and stop loving. To trip over the same dang milestone again and again. Our whole lives are lived in this cycle. It’s full-color, full-bleed, and it hurts as much as it elevates.

Obviously, you’re probably thinking. That’s life. Life is hard. To which I reply, Precisely. But it’s glorious, isn’t it? And we’d both be right, because the breaking is what leads to the rebuilding. One would not exist without the other. Both are as captivating as they are essential.


I want to end this post with some wise, encouraging words from the ever-lovely Annie Parsons. She’s referring to the pain of heartbreak but the principle applies to all realms of beautiful-burning. A humbled life, emptied of its lust and weary of its solitary brokenness, is a life on the verge of being mended.

I am no stranger to the ache; I don’t know that anyone is. We were created for connection, and the loss of a significant relationship is worthy of our grief. With tears burning, I lift my chin to the sky and pray what is half demand, half request: “I’m not meant to be alone.” And in the place of deep knowing, I hear Him respond, gentle and loving, with a smile in His voice. “No, you are not.”

Loneliness

Today marks my fourth Super Bowl Sunday spent alone. Four years. Not only do none of my friends care for football, none of them have Super Bowl get-togethers just for the sake of getting together. And so I’ll warm up a frozen pizza and silently curse the Patriots from the couch, all by myself.

I’m not moping; I really don’t mind being alone. And I’m not upset at any of my friends. (I get it, not everyone grew up with football or even understand the point of the game.) What this anniversary signifies, though, is worthy of a blog post.

It’s about loneliness.

People are lonely partly because other people don’t pay attention to their internal prompting. (Or whatever you want to call it. Intuition, sixth-sense, conscience… I think it’s more properly known as the HOLY SPIRIT.) Too often, we don’t go when we should go, we don’t invite when we should invite, or encourage or admonish or inspire when we know we should. I’m convinced that if more Christ-followers acted on prompting from the Holy Spirit, our churches would be unified and our homes would be places of refuge. People who don’t really know God, or those who do but have questions, would see it and be drawn out of themselves and into love.

And maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t be spending my fourth consecutive “big game” celebration alone.

I don’t have anyone in mind to ask over this afternoon; no names have popped into my head. (And no one need deliver me an invitation out of pity.) I’m sitting here silently, though, willing someone, anyone, to need a place to stay for the evening. I can’t help feeling that there must be a person who’s tired of their own loneliness and just isn’t bold enough to break the silence.

Whoever you are, there’s frozen pizza and good company here. All you have to do is ring my doorbell.


Certainty

“Not to balance, but to trust.”

I don’t remember where I heard that phrase. (Some podcast, probably.) But the gravity of it stuck with me. If I’ve learned anything about myself in the last year, it’s that imbalance is paralyzing. Whether it’s a strained relationship, an abrupt deadline at work or my own high expectations, feeling as though my world is unbalanced throws me into a mental tailspin. A whole array of emotions beat me over the head, and in the chaos, I don’t know which one to pay attention to. It’s frustrating and exhausting to run through an entire gauntlet of feeling within the space of a few minutes. It’s almost physically painful.

What I’ve also learned is that life is changeable. Almost nothing is certain. To make matters more complicated, I’m trapped in time. I can no more see the future (or fully understand the past) than I can tell the grass to grow in January. My desire for balance will never be fully met while I’m still on this earth because there is simply too much upheaval.

So it’s all awash, right? A great lousy lifetime spent walking on eggshells. No peace to be had.

Well, I happen to be an Enneagram 4. All those brooding storm clouds are hardly complete without their antitheses. Darkness is always edged out by light. Always.

It’s just true: life is frustrating. People change, new circumstances require new habits, I must be in a constant state of unlearning and relearning. And yet… I am certain of something. Several things, actually. The first is that there is a God; the second is that I am not Him. The third is that there is ultimate truth, and that there is a right way to live, and that I will be accountable to God for what He has given me. I know all of this, like I know my eyes are blue.

Imbalance isn’t caused by an uncertain world but by the absence of trust. And, in fact, perfect balance is fickle, as fleeting as happiness. Balance isn’t sustainable. Certainty is. I can remain certain even when my world is in turmoil because certainty is developed through trust. And trust, when placed correctly, does not disappoint.

The challenge, then, is to let my life bear that out. To live with certainty and imbalance. That’s one of the most self-emptying (yet filling) tasks I can undertake, actually: to be certain in the midst of upheaval. To trust.

Enneagram 4s, I know this is hardest for you. But for the rest of you, please hear me: don’t seek a balanced life. Seek certainty by way of trust in the God who is perfect in both wisdom and power. Your whole world may crumble; His goodness never will.

The Slow Seasons

So I’m trying, along with countless other young women, to address the “why” and the “how” and the hurt accompanying singleness. And maybe this is just my opinion (I’m about to state is as fact; argue with me later): Our culture is twisted. We flaunt feminism, claiming that women are absolutely equal (if not superior) to men. And then we wonder why they are no men. I have news for you, single ladies: the median age for marriage is 35. Just half of U.S. adults are married.

I’m done throwing pity parties, so buckle up. The truth is that I’m 22 and  regrettably without a significant other, and although this is not at all what I expected from my 22nd trip around the sun, it’s actually been an incredible teacher.

But I’m not here to mope about being single or tell you it gets any easier with each passing day. I’m here to tell you that our story, your story, started long before that of creation and we’d better start living like it. Today — today — is ripe with blessing. That doesn’t mean we can’t wait for something, hope for something, have deep and often overwhelming desires. I get it; I feel all of those things with you. But waiting is not the equivalent of standing around with hands in our pockets. It’s about action. Focused, intentional action to a specific end.

Learning to wait well is a little bit like being on a train. You’re going somewhere, moving forward. Some hours are spent speeding past the green-brown-blue blur of the countryside with only splashes of pink for rose gardens and sketched outlines for buildings. And then the train slows to round a bend or pull into a station and you can see a boy walking his dog. You can see expressions on faces, the 2-for-1 deal at a local bakery, the tangle of ivy and honeysuckle in a backyard. It’s beauty on a new level, a detail-rich, enhanced level.

That’s waiting. It’s about absorbing the world around you in a way you can’t when you’re going a hundred miles an hour. Either way, you’re alive and moving forward, but one way allows you to savor the world more fully.

Ladies, it’s time to stop wallowing. This, too, is a season. The train will pick up speed again and you’ll wonder where the past few weeks have gone and how you could have missed them. But now, right now, be content to notice the freckles on their faces. Enjoy the next challenging assignment at work, or a home-cooked meal and a sunset. Absorb the soft drumming of the rain. Take pleasure in being alone or surrounded by people.

Waiting gives you the opportunity to invest in individual lives and to take up new (or old) hobbies. It’s all about leisurely walks after dinner, or arriving early at the office, or reading stacks of good books. Your mind isn’t pulled in 20 different directions because it only needs to focus on a single direction.

Bonus: This season of slowness leads to gradual life change on deeper levels, to lasting transformation. It holds its own sort of lovely for people who are willing to notice it. Start today; savor it with me.


New Year, New Website

Things look a little different (and hopefully better) around here! My old site felt as clunky as the old habits I rid myself of in 2018. With the start of 2019, a fresh look was in order.

This streamlined site puts more emphasis on words. But don’t worry, I’ll continue sharing pictures, too.

Take a look around. See what you think. Thanks for sticking with me all this time.

Gratitude for the Ordinary

Daily magic.

Steam unfurling from a mug. Shadows and silhouettes and people edged in light. Plastic forks and paper plates. Drippy leftover ice. Powdered sugar snow. Apple crisp in a mug. Red noses, thawing fingers. Boxy scarves. Those eyes, hers and his, and their hands. Gold streaks in chestnut hair. Freckles. Books with underlines and dog-eared pages. Ripe bananas. Cluttered cabinets. Plaster walls, chipping.

I could be grateful for all of these things, and I am. I could write whole poems on each of those items; sometimes I try. It’s daily magic, it’s the details that layer and envelop and define and it’s all good. It’s all stuff to be thankful for.

But if that’s it, if our gratitude is based solely on what we’ve been given, then we will never be truly grateful.

Eternal thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving isn’t about what we’ve been given, it’s about the all-powerful, all-wise Savior who does the giving. If I choose to be grateful for His unchanging nature, first and foremost, physical health and possessions will matter less. So when I don’t have them — when I catch the flu, when my laptop’s hard drive dies or when a relationship doesn’t work out — my level of gratitude remains *mostly* unchanged. (Frustration and disappointment are inevitable; how long those emotions have to linger, less so.)

I’ll be honest: to look at my life, you’d find nothing wrong. A great job, great friends, great apartment in a great location. It’s all great. And I’m grateful… except when I’m not. Except when a relationship swerves unexpectedly or when I’m wrestling with a project at work or when the weather refuses to cooperate with my mood. Then I’m suddenly unhappy and having a bad day.

The truth is that my bad days aren’t really all that bad; my gratitude is just misplaced.

It’s not so revolutionary. It’s nothing you and I haven’t heard in church a thousand times. There’s still a subtle mindset shift, though, one that can lead to a huge amount of change. This Thanksgiving, you’ll find me choosing to rejoice in what lasts, those things that carry eternal weight and purpose — they will create a permanent state of gratitude in my heart. And then, of course, I’ll rejoice in daily magic; it’s there for our delight.

And this, the foundational building blocks of all lasting thanksgiving:

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1 John 4:9-12