walk slowly

Have you ever gone on a walk with a toddler? I have. And it’s definitely one of my top 10 favorite things. I can say this because I’m not the parent and I don’t have to go on these walks all of the time.

On my most recent toddler walk we went at sub-sloth pace. Every leaf that got in our way was met with a tiny, “Hey!” Every stick, “Ooo stick!” as it was piled up next to a tree.

As others were already at our destination and my adult FOMO started to kick in, I realized this pace was worth paying attention to. I would have much rather picked the toddler up, walked at a faster pace, and gotten to the park in a ‘timely’ manner.

Instead, every step had intention.

We looked around.
We noticed the sticks.
We got annoyed with the leafs.
We spent time together.

And we walked at a pace that made me pay attention.

I believe God is big enough to connect with us in ways that our hearts need connection. Sure, there are spiritual rhythms and disciplines and structures set up for us to commune with the Lord, but He also knows us better than we know ourselves and gives us what we need when we need it.

I need God with flesh on. I need connection with His people. Not too many at one time though (#introvert).

And on a walk to a park on a sunny afternoon, His connection was a toddler with a slower than molasses pace. A pace that helped me to that connecting and communing with Him was as ‘simple’* as slowing down and looking around. Noticing the leaves on the ground, the fresh air, the love from friends, the fresh pizza dough waiting to be baked, the tiny hand holding mine, the hawk in the tree,

the

list

goes

on

But I don’t notice these things if I don’t walk slowly.

So, on this, the first of February in the year of our Lord two-thousand-twenty-three, my hope is to walk at a little bit of a slower pace. To notice the things that bring me joy and frustration. To notice the things that get in my way and say, “Hey!” before kicking them off the path. To bring myself fully in to the moment I am in, take a deep breath, and sigh out a tiny prayer of gratitude for the life I never imagined I would be able to live.

*I say ‘simple’ because slowing down is the most simple, yet complicated, thing we can do. I’d rather have coffee or an adult beverage to hash out my thoughts than write about them right now.

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a brave 2022

Word-of-the-year recap time! If there’s eight things I can be counted on to deliver, this is one of them.

The year of our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty Two was the year of leaning into a characteristic that others had been calling out in me, but I was too – ironically – afraid to believe. What started as an admonition from a miniBFF, telling me that I was so brave because the Lord was with me, became a theme that needed to be explored in my life.

You see, when you walk with people who walk with Jesus, you listen to them when they tell you who you are.

So I did.
I wrote on my whiteboard in my bedroom, “How can I lean into this quality that everyone keeps speaking over me?”

At the beginning of 2022, even after months of those that love me telling me I was brave and courageous, I didn’t believe it. December 2021/January 2022 had be believing I was weak. That I needed to concede certain convictions if I ever wanted to be fully accepted and loved. That I wasn’t brave or courageous, but rather foolish for believing that what God says about Himself, about me, and about the way He has created us to flourish was outdated and only holding me back.

Again I say – when you walk with people who walk with Jesus, you listen to them when they tell you who you are.

Within the first 2 months of the year I had the opportunity to believe I am who they say I am.
I had the chance to know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that the Lord my God was with me – that I could be strong and courageous and brave because He was/is nearer than my next breath.

My misconception in being brave is that it had to do with major displays of facing your biggest fears and conquering dragons while riding a lion.

But that’s just not true. I don’t think that’s the kind of brave that I am.

Sure, my bravery did take on a big act – kinda like opening the door for the dragon to leave after it’s breathed fire in my face for three hours. And never letting the dragon back in.

But more than that, I discovered that my kind of brave is a lot smaller and way quieter.
My bravery shows up in radical honesty – telling the truth the best way I know how.
It shows up in asking for what I need from those I’m in relationship with – hopefully with humility and a mutually beneficial point of connection.
It shows up in tears while loved ones hold me as I fall apart.
It shows up in telling a friend that you’re not doing well and you’d just like to come sit with them so you don’t have to be alone.
It shows up in planting a garden and believing that the work you put in will literally (and often spiritually) bear fruit.
It shows up in a sweaty workout room – a place you swore you would never be – yet here you are, three years later, freaking crushing it.

It shows up in believing someone when they say, “you’re the bravest person I know,” even when you don’t feel it, because you both know that the Lord our God is with us wherever we go.

I’m not brave because I slay dragons, or wrestle bears*, or take down the patriarchy every day.

I’m brave because I know what it means to be full of fear and even there know/believe/feel that Holy Spirit is nearer than my next breath. That He never leaves me or forsakes me. And that He has given me an army of people to remind me of who I am and that I can trust the next step in front of me.

So here’s to 2023 and taking bravery with us.

*I have wrestled a savage almost-4 year old and survived, so that definitely counts for something.

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psalm 38

“O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.” (38:9 ESV)
“You know what I long for, Lord; you hear my every sigh.” (38:9 NLT)
“Lord, my longings are sitting in plain sight, my groans an old story to you. My heart’s about to break; I’m a burned-out case.” (38:9 MSG)

One of my favorite things about the psalms is their honesty.

Read any psalm and you will experience space where emotion and theology meet. A space where the writers are fully aware of who they are and who God is. A space where dishonesty has no ground to stand on because the writers have laid their hearts open, fully exposed.

And, personally, I think this type of honesty with God is achieved because the writers – specifically David, author of our psalm today – are so anchored into knowing Who they belong to. They know the relational safety it takes to be able to cry out with the words, “I’m worn out, completely crushed; I groan because of my miserable heart.” (38:8 CEB) and know without doubt that their God hears them.

If you had a good relationship with your parents growing up, do you remember the fights you would have? How you would rip into them because they got onto you for going over your text limits again this month and it was just so unfair because your friends had 100 texts per month and you only had 50*?! And then 2 hours later they were cheering you on at your basketball game?

Just me?

Think about the safety you had to be able to pour out all you were feeling and know that, at the end of the day, they still loved you.

And then we get into relationship with God and for some reason we think that relationship operates differently.

Even though the Lord saw you miss curfew more times than mom and dad did.

We think we can hide our emotions. We think we need to hide our emotions.

Because if He knows I feel this way then maybe He’ll be mad at me.
Maybe I’ll lose favor in His sight.
Maybe He’ll turn His back on me.

But the longer I live this life with Jesus the more comfortable I become with giving Him all that’s inside of me – my anger, my sadness, my hope, my joy, my loneliness, my gratitude, my longings…my self.

Because God has proven Himself faithful in my life, He is the safest relationship I have.

It’s terrifying as hell to know this kind of safety, because knowing this kind of safety means I have to do something with it.

I have to trust Him.

My sighing is not hidden from Him.
My delight is not hidden from Him.
My hope is not hidden from Him.
My despair is not hidden from Him.
All of me is before Him.

I don’t have a tidy way to wrap this one up. I’ve got adrenaline running at 120mph right now and am about to go see a Tony Award winning musical in leggings and a Walmart t-shirt.

So I guess I’ll end it with this: what a gift to have the writers of the psalms leading the way, teaching me (us) what it means to bring our full selves to the Lord, knowing that He sees, knows, and takes great delight when we lay our hearts bear before Him.

*if you don’t know what I’m referring to here, we have nothing in common

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a great cloud of withness

Did you have a basement as a kid? If so, are the we same type of weird where (if the light switch was at the bottom of the stairs) as soon as your turned the lights off you broke the land speed record getting to the top so you could stay away from all the monsters that crept out when the lights were off? There are even times now, as a grown woman, that I have to force myself to slow down and walk gingerly up the steps of my parents house, reminding myself that the monsters in the basement aren’t interested in me and will leave me alone.

My miniBFF recently asked me to come to the basement with him because he needed to grab a couple things for nap time. On the way down he mentioned that he was scared of going to the basement by himself. After a, “No problem, I’ll go with you!” he asked, “Are you scared of anything?”

“I’m scared of a lot of things bud.”
“Like what?”
“Sometimes I’m scared of the dark, basements by myself, and being up really high. There are alot of things that scare me.”
“How do you not be scared?”
“Well, I ask Jesus to help me be brave, and my friends help me remember that I can be brave because they are there to help me too! When I’m scared, I just ask for someone to come with me, and then we can both be brave together!”
“Like we’re doing right now!”

Exactly.

(side note: it’s always the kids. pay attention to them. the kingdom belongs to these.)

I haven’t been able to let this interaction go. It holds the truest thing about my story over the last couple of years. It speaks to the great cloud of withness about me.

Withness is a term I swiped from Ann Voskamp. I don’t fully know the context she uses it in because I just get it from her Instagram stories, but ultimately she speaks to the witness and withness of Christ and His people.

We bear witness to the Gospel as we bear with one another.

As I embark on new adventures or travel back into wounded spaces, I can do so with great bravery because I know that I have the withness of those that love me in the journey. I bring those with me that remind me of who I am, and who Christ is, in the midst of the hard, beautiful, scary, dark, exciting, unknown places.

Sometimes that looks like a first date.
Sometimes that looks like a hard conversation with a friend.
Sometimes that looks like a celebration of a loved one for a thing that I’m longing for.
And sometimes, that looks like walking down the steps into a basement with a little one that just needs me to be with him to help him be brave.

I can be brave with and for him because someone has been brave with and for me.

So many of us are unwilling to go with someone because of what it might cost us. It could cost us time, energy, or even money. It could cost us vulnerability and having to actually be known by someone – risking both rejection and love. But if there’s one thing I know in the depth of my bones, it’s that the reward of going with has always (and I do mean always) outweighed the risk.

If you’re scared, bring people along.
Ask them to be with you.
Be with those that ask.

Getting through this life, IMHO, will be abundantly rich if we take with us a great cloud of withness.

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hopes & dreams

I had a birthday recently. Obviously, if you pay attention to the picture above, you know how old I am. I think I’m going to call this my triple-threat year.

One of my favorite birthday traditions with myself is to make some space for reflection over where I’ve seen God move and work in the days since my last birthday, and to dream dreams with Him about what we want to see happen between now and the next.

I’m not naturally prone to gratitude. If anything, I remind myself often of the lack – where I’ve missed the mark, where I could’ve done better, the gaps that I failed to fill. I threat forecast. I see where things have gone wrong, and I try to prevent those things from happening in the future. So, the practice of gratitude, well…needless to say, it can be life or death for me sometimes.

This past year has been the hardest.
Yet, the bravest.
The driest, yet, the most abundant.
The loneliest, yet, full of more love and community than I could have ever imagined.

It has felt…pivotal.

So many things were brought to the surface.
So many things took deep, deep root in the soil of my heart.

So as I entered in to my hopes and dreams for the coming year of my life, it was a tricky process.

How do I hope, when I’ve been hoping and nothing has changed?
How do I dream when my dreams seem foolish and unattainable?
How do I step into the unknown of year 33 with joy and gladness and faith and trust?

The short answer is – I don’t know.

I don’t know how to move forward on my own.
I don’t know how to navigate being a human in 2022 at the age of 33.

But what I do know is that God is present.
I’m not moving forward on my own, I’m moving forward with the Author and Perfecter of my faith.
I’m moving forward with a great cloud of witnesses surrounding me, sitting with me in my hopes and my dreams, in my losses and my letdowns.
I’m navigating being a human with other humans who know how hard it is to be human, but how infinitely full it is to be human together, and with Christ.

So, my hopes and dreams for 33 are basically this:
Remain with Jesus.
Remain with His people.
Trust the kindness of God to get me to 34.

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