as it stands

as I get older

not in age really; but in character, and likely faith

I found I no longer write the way I used to,

get the words out, get the sound out

my voice wants to speak louder than my fingers will allow

that’s new for me,

and I don’t want to sit at tables in coffee shops and restaurants alone

as I ponder and draw for hours while sipping hot tea or gin and tonic

I want to talk to the person next to me, have someone across the table

and being three minutes late and 45 minutes early doesn’t bother me like it used to,

being okay not knowing the time to meet or if there even is a plan at all

chasing grace instead of ambition

that’s new for me,

I used to be afraid of change.

But that’s before I knew about transformation.

 

and I become a lover of spontaneity

community

making mistakes

speaking up

dressing down

everything different, all things new

a reconstruction from the ground up

 

& as it stands, I stand with it.

 

{2 Cor 3:18}

 

 

 

 

a letter on waiting and grace

I close my eyes and noise of the rush, rush stops around me. Silence fills my head – quiet fills my mind, but I open my eyes again and I sense the rush, rush, with all five of my senses. My brain takes it all in again.


Everything is broken, and nothing is resolved. There’s nothing I can do about it. I raise my voice enough to take in a deeper breath, then quiet it back down again. Frustration doesn’t fix the things that aren’t working.

Part of me says it would be better if someone else was in this room with me, and I wasn’t on my couch alone. But even if someone was here with me, it’s likely all I would be doing is complaining.

This space is the hardest space for me.

The long hours at work are getting to me — they weren’t this morning, but they are now, as I’m online at 8pm on a Friday waiting for information and planning a full day of work on Sunday. I’m longing for a weekend where my computer is shut, a weekday I’m not reaching for my phone when I’m out with friends on the off chance an urgent email comes through. There are other things getting to me too (uprooted fears meeting the surface are never easy, but they are worth the struggle).

Freedom doesn’t come easily in this space, and I find my mind wondering if there’s enough grace to cover this, enough peace to carry me, enough perseverance to stay calm through the mess.

I think of Peter, stepping out into the water. I think of Rahab, Daniel, and David, I think of Paul. Ordinary people called to purpose through deep water. Can I ever be like them?

I want to see miraculous things happen. I want to be humble, and kind, and even-tempered, and stand my ground where standing my ground is due. But I find myself trading these things for counterfeit strategy in the means of stress, fear, annoyance, and frustration.

The middle of the story is hard for me.

I love telling stories after they’re over – hearing where something ended plus the “but-look-where-you-are-now.”

The Uber driver I had who told me he once took a one way Greyhound bus from Seattle to D.C. with two duffel bags to spend the summer with his brother because money was tight at home (thirty years later, he lives in the Seattle area full time and works for a large tech company, driving on the weekends for fun). The girl behind the cash register who asked me where I got my glasses as she handed me some tea. Our stories are weaving all the time, creating new endings, and turning dust into beauty.

When I think about a story never being over, part of me feels joy and the rest of me panics. I don’t know if I know what to do without an ending.

I look at the unfinished pieces, the loose ends, the untied shoe strings and I trip over the what-could-be and what-could-have-been in so many areas of my life that I spend the length of forever underneath my potential instead of living into it. I do everything I can to fix the failures and complete the stories instead of living into grace.

I talk about grace a lot, but I learn about it all the time. I seek to understand, but grace is never something that will be fully understood — a missing ending that I’m learning to be okay with.

A big part of grace is the waiting. It’s the email I’m waiting for in my inbox, the timer of my lamp to turn on, the three days after the cross that led to the resurrection.

Jesus said, “It is finished” in the middle of the story. He said it before the resurrection, before the Holy Spirit, before the veil was torn.

I see the way grace finishes the story in the middle, step by step, process by process, wave by wave. It transforms time and melts the ice of frustration into lakes we learn to walk on. It folds our failures into origami. It comes at us so quickly that when we fall, we don’t brace ourselves. We fall freely, and hit the ground without pain. It weaves the loose end of the tapestry back into the pattern to keep it from unraveling.

We close our eyes again. We wait for the grace to come in and whisper stillness; in its fluidity, we are free. The mess doesn’t change in the middle, but grace shifts the story. This is why we wait.

 

 

 

Washington: State

Washington: State, Day 1

Redmond, WA; April 30/May 1

But from here, I see You aligning my path so that I can be free, so that I will let go, so that I will be brave. I know now that patience will lead me to hope, and hope to love, and love never fails. Find me here, Jesus. You’re the only One who knows what an empty tomb looks like. You’re the only one who felt these mistakes & these failures, You’re the only One who can save. Teach me, God. Help me to find my way in the forest; through the promise, when I don’t understand – show me that I don’t need to. I’m not looking for easy, I’m just looking for You.

“Those who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness” – Jeremiah 31:1

 

Washington: State, Day 2

Seattle, WA; May 1

As the seasons change, all I ever find, all I’ve found is that I end up where I started – and that’s a fear I promised myself I’d get past – I am beautiful, I say again, aloud this time. I am brave and my heart is safe, my heart is kind and I will trust, I will trust You and I won’t be afraid now. I will sing my identity over myself until I break out of my comfort zone and I will trust, I will trust You and I won’t be afraid. There is nothing holding me back. There is nothing holding me down. There is nothing stopping me from not being afraid. I am free, I am free and the outcomes are mysteries in the water, a map for the ocean [it’s all the same], and my mistakes I no longer carry. I say it again, until it’s less just words and more of an identity. When I was younger I saw the fire, and I hid from the flame. It was never the smoke that scared me. But it was what I ran from, taking it as a signal for the root of my fear. It’s like walking on ice; it’s like tiptoeing to the edge of a cliff. I was open to the adventure, but could never balance the risk. Today, I’m finally older. When I faced it, when I stood my ground, for the first time, ending up where I started is not a starting place at all. It looked the same as when I started – it looked like Jesus. But I had left behind a piece of me that had clung for far too long.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far have our transgressions been removed from us” – Psalm 103:12

 

Washington: State, Day 3

Redmond, WA; May 2

Two hours earlier than I was ever used to, the light shed its glow through my window and spilled onto the floor, onto my bedspread and opened my eyes to the dawn. As I stretched, the peeling from my sunburn lifted itself away from my hand – I am healing, I whispered. Under the dry skin, as I rubbed it away, my arm was more of the way I knew it once had been. When I was sunburn, everyone said it – “that must hurt so much” – I think the same way it is when we’re broken. We’re far better at recognizing pain in that state, and we can relate (but spend most of our time being glad that it wasn’t us that had to endure it).  The process for healing is foreign; and I found myself apologizing far more often for the layers of skin peeling off of my arm and hand than I ever did for my sunburn. But the past tense of healing was coming. That’s the power of our Jesus. If brokenness is where we began, the next step into healing is not much easier; but healed was where we were meant to be at first, and healed is where belong. We were not made to be broken, so we were not made to experience healing, and that’s why both are hard. Few will understand that place in between, not even I – I spent the last week pulling my sweaters over my hand to hide the peeling skin, explaining my way through it, hiding it.  We all walk through it in different levels, and we can’t explain it, because we don’t know where we’re going or what we’ll find when we get there. And He put it on my heart and said to me, do not be ashamed of your healing. When the light broke through, there is far more healing that took place than I ever saw on the surface.

“If you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.” Romans 11:24

 

Washington: State, Day 4

Bellevue, WA; May 3

“Shall we simply begin, or start with a Midwestern grace?”, he asked me, and I smiled and said, “let’s start with grace.” And he told a story of a man somewhere, at some time, who spoke some sort of Latin – who said the same thing, “Let’s start with a Midwestern grace”, and he said a few words in Latin and “amen.” And so, he said the same, “Amen,” followed by “Scotch on the rocks is the only thing you can drink internationally that will be accepted in all cultures,” and proceeded into a story of drinking in Japan, and I knew that this space was just a continuation of a year’s worth of notebooks in a box in my closet at home. Four times I could feel the well behind my eyes begin to flow, because the changes that had happened over the last year and a half carried deep pain. He continued, “So, I don’t want to go back there, of course, because you are familiar with what happened last year, I don’t want to go back without her… but there are others who need me there, and it is why I must go.” Healing. The intersection of grace; yet again, the space between what we want and where we were made to be. It was then I knew that things had changed. I looked down, and for the first time since my sunburn, it was no longer peeling. “Some say there is smart and stupid, but I say otherwise;” he continued, “the book of Proverbs says there is wise and folly.”

“Whoever trusts his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” Proverbs 28:26

 

Washington: State, Day 5

Bellingham, WA to Seattle, WA; May 4

‘Everything must change for all things to be made new.’ I wrote it in my journal two weeks ago.

I came to a hard realization today that helped me see how much has changed. The way I once loved sitting alone, the way I loved traveling alone has changed; changed for the better, I suppose. While I still can sit at coffee shop bars and alone at tables for two next to windows, there was a time I wanted this – where as now, I’m comfortable, but I don’t feel as content. I don’t learn there anymore. The conversations I had that came from questions – the Uber driver who once rode from Seattle to D.C. on a Greyhound bus, the woman who told me about the college students who make backpacks and bags for those with disabilities, the dad sitting next to me sharing hundreds of dad jokes with his young daughter – watching my story entangle with the rest of these, as I shared pieces of my own story – writes a new story, one that is edited by the intersections.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

 

Washington: State, Day 6

Bellingham, WA to Seattle, WA; May 5

9:00am

Two backpacks and a new longboard later, I’m on an Amtrak train back to Seattle from Bellingham. It’s a lot to carry, but the guys at the board shop showed me how to put the board across my back before I put my backpack on

10:52am

Update via phone note: leaving the train was hard with the bags, and walking through doors is tough, and navigating a new place is tough, and I have no idea where I’m going to get to the Starbucks that’s apparently two blocks away on the upper level of the street

11:16am

“Is that a longboard?” the Starbucks cashier asked me.

“Yeah, haha,” I say, “it is.”

“It’s cool. That design is amazing.”

The bottom of the board is red and has two eagles on it – it’s a little boy-ish, but it was shorter than the others, and I liked riding it in the store, and it was in the price range I was looking for. I had a sense for a while I was going to buy one there, and it was the only one that fit the criteria I needed/wanted to get it back to Chicago.

“Thanks,” I said. “I actually just got it.” I moved down the line and waited for my coffee at the Starbucks, and a guy waiting for his coffee said, “Does your board glow in the dark?”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “That would be cool though.”

“I’ve seen some wheels like that, they light up when you ride it. That design on the bottom of your board is dope.”

“Aw, thanks” I said. And two more people behind me said that they too liked the bottom of my board. Four people in a 7 minute timeframe. Then, I thought of Isaiah 40:31 – a verse I hadn’t thought of when I bought it.

And I realized this wasn’t just any longboard – there was a reason I felt it on my heart to buy one there in Bellingham. This was a platform for the Gospel, one I didn’t plan for – and I was scared, and I was shocked, and I laughed at the way God aligned it.

When I felt it on my heart to buy a longboard in Bellingham (weeks ago, maybe two months ago), all I could think about was the marathon. All I could think about was the possibility of getting hurt. But when I was in the store, the guy in the shop said, “You’re a natural at this.”

I laughed and shook my head and he said, “No, look. Try this.”

He explained how to carve on this board and I said, “I don’t think I can do that.”

He replied, “You almost already are. See, take a shot and ride it around the corner into the hallway.”

As I rode around the corner and hopped off the board in the hallway, I grinned and covered my mouth with my hand.

“Told you, dude.” He said.

If I had the longboard, I could practice more. And then, I saw the metaphor.

Keeping the presence of Jesus with me creates an opportunity for a conversation to open up, the way it had with the longboard.

I saw that space merge – where the longboard became a story about the verse, which opened up the story of the marathon, which opens up a conversation about Jesus (this seems really great in theory, but I’m going to need to pray for courage in action).

1:25pm

This storyline God is writing goes far beyond me – I don’t know what’s next, and based on how this day is going, I don’t know what will happen an hour from now – but I will keep walking, and I will stand firm, and I’ll be open to the Holy Spirit and see where I end up next. Today feels more of a run on sentence than I usually write, and I’m nervous, but things have changed.

All things new.

I’ve said it once, I say it again, over and over: If you want to be free, be free.

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

 

 

 

 

 

 

louder.

My heart beats louder in a forest than it does in a city.

The tap, tap, tapping of my laptop keys is louder here than it is at my office just a couple blocks away. The lamp is brighter here from my bed than it is by the couch across the room. The screen of my laptop is clearer with my glasses on than it is when I take them off.

I’ve come to find when the environment changes, insecurities rise.

These changes are physical, but the changes in my heart are less easily discerned. I’ve learned to quiet my heart for long enough to find I wasn’t quieting it at all; I was melting beneath a shade of emotion I didn’t understand how to process. My mind has ruled my heart far too often to let my feelings go far.

I’m watching that change now.


 

Let’s look at it this way. If I get a paper cut on my left hand and use my left hand less, I forget about the paper cut. That is, until I run it across the paper again. Then it’s just as raw, just as painful; the same sting as it was when I first cut it. If I follow this pattern enough times, I begin to believe that each time I pick up a piece of paper with my left hand, I’m going to get cut. Then, one of two things happen: I pick up the paper enough times for the pain to stop hurting the way it once did; or, I stop picking up the paper entirely.

If I pick up the paper enough times for the pain to stop, I eventually share enough blood over everything around me to realize something is wrong. If I stop picking up the paper entirely, the bleeding stops, and I stop interacting with the pain.

Usually, we have to bleed enough to realize there was a problem in the first place – which is why we stop picking it up entirely.

There came a time I had gotten enough paper cuts to stop picking up the paper. And the less I thought about the paper, the more often I could think like a healed person would. The worries I had when I had the cut were put to rest; but the mind is malleable, and the heart is not. I can convince my mind of anything. Give it enough reason to believe the right answer, and it will. My heart, on the other hand, is resolute.

I was thinking my way around the paper cut. I lived in a space of “don’t” – don’t touch, don’t move, don’t go near that paper. And me, shutting down my feelings to let my thoughts rule, didn’t want to hear what my heart had to say about the situation.

That is, until I had to pick up that paper again. I didn’t have a choice this time.

I came back around to realize that it wasn’t the paper that was causing the pain, it was the way I was picking it up. Maybe I had to step away to realize it. But maybe, if I would have stayed for long enough, I could have seen that it was the way my hand moved toward the paper – toward the situation, toward the decision, toward the pain — not the paper, the situation, the decision itself.

The paper has been the time I was hurting in relationships and took a year off of dating; it’s been the days at work I feel enough stress to not know where to begin; it’s the 8k I’m running on Sunday that I haven’t trained for (again). Something hurts there, and I don’t want to address the pain. But I have to pick the piece of paper up again. I might not pick it up the right way the first time. I might get another paper cut. But I have to keep trying.

I healed my mind by walking away, but now I heal my heart by walking back in.

Because healing isn’t a thought. It’s a feeling.

And as I walk back into these paper cut situations, I’m learning to hold the paper differently. I’m learning to not back away as quickly. I’m learning to feel again, and heal again.

My heart beats louder in a forest than it does in a city. I had to take the time away, take the break, take the moment away to think it through. I had to come back around. It’s not perfect; in fact, maybe it’s the messiest it’s ever been. But I swear, if I’ve ever found grace, it’s now.

My heart had to speak up, it had to be in a space where my mind could no longer be louder.

And I tell myself, time and time again: If it’s not good, it’s not finished.

lacuna

I’m in love with you

I blurt out

into nothing, nothing but

the air around me and the bookshelf across the room.

it has to go somewhere,

it has to go to the rivers and the sidewalks

the canyons and hardwood floors

and the trails that lead to you,

it has to

(it has to.)

but if it doesn’t,

if it doesn’t travel past this room

if it’s never written in the story

if it falls outside of time

when you’re here, I’ll repeat this moment

until the lines turn into letters

and the letters turn into phrases,

into sentences that lead to books

and I’ll be there, in this moment again

with you

ineffable

I move around the mugs in my kitchen cabinet

for the first time

in a while,

because the mug with the flowers

is the one I use on Fridays,

and every other day of the week, I wake up too late for coffee.

I don’t find one I like much more,

so I relent and rest on the cream-colored couch

in the living room, just east of the kitchen.

but I know there’s a mug I’m missing

which one, I know the one

but I can’t remember what it looks like

except that a boy I knew sent it to me as a gift and

it was a quote I had written in a blog some time ago

it’s funny, I think

that someone that came out of my very own brain,

I just can’t remember

until I do

and it’s timely

but I lost it

but I remember it

and maybe, that means I never lost it at all.

 

 

 

stories

but you look,

again

the pages

and pages

and pages

of thoughts, thumbing through each one

like an avalanche

and you don’t see it.

you don’t see the words

you only see the story

but dear,

a puddle starts with a drop;

not the ocean.