here's a little poem from my heart to yours -- let's join the brave love fight.
It's been a long while since I've done this. Fifteen minutes, no agenda, no blog thought in mind, no perfectly packaged idea or list or collection of links. It's just me and a blinking cursor on a big white window.
I'm learning lately that life is a lot about just showing up.
In the mornings, when I'm only half-awake and still mostly grumpy-- show up, at the dining room table, with my Bible and my journal and a mug of coffee still too hot to drink. Be present before the Lord.
When the work day hours begin, when I'm not feeling inspired and my to-do list is miles long-- show up, find a place to start, and begin there. Do the work.
When the evening cools down, when I'm tired and Netflix beckons-- show up, put the sneakers on, take your keys, and go walk. Let the wind blow around you, see the sun set in the sky before you, feel the strength coming back as you move your muscles and stretch your legs. Go move.
When a friend gets news that is crushing, devastating, horrifying, and tragic-- show up, stand by her side, offer the few words you can find, and just love. Be there in love.
When there's a meeting on your calendar for this evening but the day has been long and draining-- show up, sit around the table, and let the wisdom, passion, and hearts of those women recharge you. Be fueled by their fire.
I want to show up. I want to be present. The news around me reminds me that this life is so short, and I don't want to stay asleep and afraid and miss it all. I want to rise up, awake from my slumber, and show up.
We need each other. We need people that show up and don't bail when life is hard or heavy. We need friends that prove through their presence and their constancy that they are trustworthy and true. We need to be reminded through the people that love us that the Lord's love is endless and relentless. When they show up, we remember that He does too, and that He always will.
Show up today. Be there. Be present. The Lord meets us when we show up ready, willing, and open. He will make it all worth something wonderful.
Find more Friday Freewrite posts here!
This Friday Freewrite post was written more than six months ago and never published, but the words still ring true as I share them today.
I have two hands, and they're small. My two hands can't hold all the people I love, or cling to every one of the dreams I have, or heal every hurt I encounter, or fix everything that's broken in my world. My two hands aren't enough for all that. It made me mad for a while. I was angry that my hands couldn't keep someone close. I was angry that people had slipped through my fingers and are too far away to bring back now. I was angry that opportunities had turned to vapors and drifted away before I could latch on to them.
My hands were fists, clenched tight and shaking and white at the knuckles, fighting a battle I knew I could never win.
Then, like a whisper and a freight train all at once, it hit me.
Nothing can enter closed hands.
I was so adamant, so indignant, so self-righteous. I believed my fists were justified. I was frustrated, and I wanted things to be different, and my hands were held so tight as I tried to somehow hold it all together how I wanted it to be.
My hands grew tired. My fingers couldn't hold their grip. I let go.
It happened slowly, as if I was releasing things one by one, finger by finger, until my palms lay open before me. I let go of the stress about a job I desperately wanted that didn't even exist. I let go of the anxiety and the worry about a relationship that had consumed me. I let go of the people whose lives had drifted from mine, wishing them well and loving them even still. I let go.
And my hands were filled again. This time, with peace so real I swear I could feel it settle over me. This time, with friendships out of the blue bringing comfort and laughter and the sweetest quality time. This time, with ways to serve and spread joy and love on people.
Blessings came when I surrendered my grip and held my hands open before Him in surrender and in worship.
All in or all out. Hot or cold. Lovers or strangers. I ricochet from one extreme to the other, flying between polar opposites, refusing to believe middle-of-the-road is a place I could reside. I don't work that way. Lukewarm has never been my preference, even-keeled has never been an adjective next to my name.
Stubborn, passionate, hardheaded...these are the words they put next to mine. You can find me in the North Pole or the South Pole, but never along the Equator. I'm sure it's nice there, 70 degrees year round, perfectly pleasant and comfortable, but that's never been my home.
Here's the thing about being a girl of extremes: you'll be intimidating. You'll be exhausting. You'll be misunderstood. You'll get asked a lot of questions about why you can't just calm down, can't just take it easy, can't just let things be. And you won't know how to respond. Why would you want to live a half-hearted life? you wonder. Why would staying in the median be better?
Sure, the medians are grassy and full of wildflowers with a perfect view of the traffic flying by on either side. The medians may seem safe, may seem like a haven, but they're just a place you get stuck.
The road is where things happen. You have to move. You may come to abrupt stops, or you may fly faster than you're meant to, but that's living. You may have to U-turn or slam on your brakes, you may miss a beat and hear honks from nearby cars, but that's living. Median living? Living on the equator? Trying to stay safe and sound? That's not really living.
I want the extremes. Call me crazy all you want. I want to sip drinks when they're still steaming and scald my tongue because I just couldn't wait one second longer. I want to run into the crashing waves even though they'll freeze my toes because I finally found an ocean this year and I don't want to miss this moment.
I want to speak my mind, even when my thoughts are tangled and my words are wandering. I want to be present, in the moment, whole-heartedly there in every scene of my life. I want to merge into the speeding traffic, avoiding nothing, feeling everything, responding and reacting as I go, learning all the while.
I want to embrace that this, this hot and cold, up and down, high and low self, is who I am.
She came in just moments before the lights dimmed, just as the band was taking the stage. She sat on the aisle seat and two others who seemed to be friends sat next to her. As the first song began, she stepped out into the aisle and ever so slowly turned all the way around, taking it all in. I was in the seat right behind her, and I watched her curiously as I sang.
She lifted her left hand high in the air, fingers together, pointing toward the screen where her eyes were reading the words her lips were mouthing. A few minutes later, her left arm went down and her right arm went up. One arm was in the air for the entire duration of the worship set.
I've never seen her before, and it didn't seem like she had been there before either. Maybe she's been there for years, just always at a different service from me, I don't know.
What I know is that she worshipped beautifully. I couldn't help but smile as I watched her. In a church where we sometimes forget to clap after a song and we mostly stay politely quiet and hands are rarely raised, I loved her brave audacity to worship proudly. I loved her unapologetic hand in the air, waving as she turned, pointing upward to heaven. I loved the smile on her face as she sang sweet words to the Lord. I loved the extra large print King James Bible with wrinkled pages that she pulled out when Psalms was read aloud between songs, just so she could follow along. I loved the way she nodded along to the pastor as he spoke. I loved watching her worship. I don't know her, and I didn't even get a chance to introduce myself, but I'm grateful for her.
In the middle of my wishing we danced a little more, I'm grateful for the reminder that worship isn't about who's around me or who's watching. I'm grateful for the reminder that the Lord created our hearts for worship-- brave and beautiful and unapologetic worship. I'm grateful for the reminder that our hands are for raising in praise and clasping together in prayer and tracing words on wrinkled Bible pages. I'm grateful for her and for her heart of worship.
I wish we danced a little more. I wish, when the drum sticks click to give us the beat, we all started tapping our feet. When the melody starts, I wish we swayed with it, feeling it coursing through our bodies and responding intuitively. I wish we raised our hands when the words stuck chords in our hearts, wish we clenched our fists when they hit us in the best way. I wish we let our bodies be part of the worship more than we do.
We stand still, poised and polite. We sway slightly but mostly stand still. We stare ahead, singing along if we know the words, silent if we don't and silent if we just don't care.
I wish we danced a little more. I wish we spread out into the aisles so we all had room to breathe, and I wish we moved. I wish, when the voice from the stage sang loud, we sang back just as proudly. I wish we responded in a way that made it all seem like a glorious dance, like a swirling, twirling, twisting dance of words and limbs and songs of praise.
I wish we felt more free. I wish we weren't so aware of the hundreds of eyes around us, so worried about what those hundreds of minds might think. I wish we just moved as the Spirit moves.
I wish we shouted "AMEN" and declared "Yes, Lord!" as the message was given. I wish we murmured our assent more, nodded our heads more, clapped in affirmation more. I wish we raised our hands more, fell to our knees more, laughed out loud and cried more.
Inside of me is a girl wanting to break free and dance wildly around the sanctuary's chairs. Inside of me is a girl wishing to worship wholeheartedly and freely with voice and dance and every beat of my heart. Inside of me is a girl who feels just a little bit stuck in her own skin, more afraid than she should be to worship her Creator as she desires. Inside of me is a girl who wants to shake the standards off her shoulders and shatter the stereotypes and just let it all go at the feet of her Savior.
Isn't that what worship should be? An outpouring of love-- heartfelt, pure, true, expressive, wholehearted, honest, authentic, all-we've-got for all-You-are kind of love?
I wish we worshipped a little more wildly. I wish we danced a little more.
I want to be bravery. Unshakeable, powerful, rock-solid confidence not even a tornado could shake. Humble and gracious, like soft silk in my skin, not passive, not a pushover.
I want to be loyalty. Fierce and devoted, always cheering in the corners of the ones I love.
I want to be boldness. No hiding, no holding back, no hinting. I want to use my voice to speak my heart and say the things I know to be true without any hesitation.
I want to be grace. Deep and rich, sweet and surprising, endless as the sky that never leaves or fails or forgets to show up every day.
I want to be love. In words and actions, in letters and phone calls, in smiles at strangers and eyes that truly see. In acts of service and quality time, in gifts and compliments, in just showing up.
I want to be compassion. The not afraid to get dirty, stay up all night long, cry when words fail, just be present kind of thing.
I want to be intentionality. Honest. Genuine. True. Reaching out and pressing in and persisting. I want to be truth. No facades, no white lies, no exaggerations.
I want to be mercy. Never turning blind eyes, never feigning ignorance, never shying away. The generous kind, the giving kind, the graceful kind, the gritty kind, the glorious kind.
I want to be forgiveness. Turning my cheeks, letting others go from the hook of guilt and shame, freeing hostile bonds in endless love.
I want to be kindness. Soft words, gentle touches, a ray of light, a glimmer of hope.
I want to be goodness. Seeing beauty, seeking joy, sharing smiles, touching lives, leaving footprints worth following.
I want to be like Jesus. I'm nothing like Him when I look in the mirror-- I'm flawed, crumbling, damaged, broken. My intentions are selfish and impure. My actions are careless and chaotic. I fall before Him, barely held together at the seams, every beat of my heart echoing in my ears a desire for Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. More of You. Take over more of me. More of You. Flood more of me. More of You. Redeem more of me.
More of You, making me more like You. More of You, transforming me to look like You. More of You. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, make me like You.
As life rushes on, I never want to forget...
...The first night that finally felt like winter, and sliding the wide window above my bed open to let the chill fall over me as I slept. Bundled up in a tangled mess of blankets, I slept better that night than I had in weeks. I can count on one hand the number of times I turned the heat on in that apartment of mine...being cold at night has always been my preference.
...The night that rain came crashing down with an anger that whipped branches from the trees, and standing on my balcony to watch it all. Just barely covered by the roof above me, rain still reached my feet and misted my face. I didn't want to stay inside, barricaded away from it all. I wanted to encounter the storm and see it all for myself, watching the rain's wild dance in the light of the lampposts in front of me.
...The night I collapsed on the couch, crying until my stomach hurt and my head throbbed and the box of tissues was empty. The emptiness felt so real that night. I didn't know I could miss someone so much.
...Cooking the same batch of triple ginger cookies three times in my temperamental oven, failing at first and eventually perfecting them (meaning my friends were surprised to find they were totally gluten-free and vegan-- SUCCESS.)
...Coming to the realization that I'm happy on my own without a relationship to rest on. Looking back at my life and realizing how much time I spent on relationships spurred me to into a season of fully embracing and enjoying being single. I now know I don't need a someone just for the sake of not being alone. I'm a someone too, and I've realized I'm the someone I want to spend my time focusing on right now.
...The swelling feeling in my heart when I get to experience someone pouring their heart out into their passions. A band before me on a foggy stage, giving everything they have to the music they play in perfect harmony together. A team before me on a bright green turf field, bodies acting and reacting quicker than I can take in, every fiber on fire as they chase the win. A writer spilling honest words from the depths of their soul onto a page I get to have and hold and soak up.
...We are all on journeys. Sitting around a table with women seeking Jesus for the first time for real...sitting around a living room with friends all laughing at unruly board games...sitting across the table from two new friends...sitting on the floor surrounded by a million Lego pieces...we are all on journeys. I want to always be full of enough grace to cover that fact. We will never all be at the same place. We will never all see eye to eye. We will never always agree or get along or like each other. I want to give grace big and sweet and amazing enough to cover that in every way.
...This life is so good. Even on the twelfth snow day, even in the bitter cold, even on the fifth day of a migraine, even when I can't sleep, even when friends let me down, even when things fall apart...this life is so good. I want to always be abundantly grateful for the gift of this life.
In the spirit of a classic Friday freewrite, here is what has been bubbling out from inside of me in fifteen minutes of uninterrupted, unedited writing.
- Christians-- we do not always have to vocalize our opinions about the things we disapprove of. Our silence can be a more impactful protest. The more we feel the need to publicly bash or attack or condemn something, the more we build it up and inadvertently promote it. If we just kept our mouths shut and let our actions talk for us, we might all be better off. If you don't approve of Fifty Shades of Grey, don't read it and don't see it. We all know what it's about and we don't need a million blog posts about it all.
- Love should be celebrated every day, not just on Valentine's Day. The chocolates and Cupids are sweet, but also very cliche. Find out the love language of the people close to you, and use that to serve them and love them well constantly. It doesn't take much to make others feel loved, but it makes such an impact when we do.
- Our world is broken. Equality is not our reality. The headlines make that very apparent, and it's devastating. This is something we should be speaking out about. This is something we should be using our platforms to shine light on and start meaningful conversations about. Nothing will change if we turn a blind eye to injustice and ignore that it exists right where we live.
"Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” --Martin Luther King, Jr.
Having big dreams, goals and strategies is remarkably important. Having a grip on reality and the present is equally important. Partnering dreamers and doers is necessary, unbeatable, and brings about unbelievably better outcomes.
Fostering strong and vibrant community means loving people when they're at their best, when they're serving well, when they're active, when they're present and contributing, and also when they are distant, when they disengage, when they aren't around, when they take a step back, when they are struggling. It's a beautiful thing when communities love well in all seasons, despite everything life brings.
We are blessed. We may not have the lives we envisioned or the possessions we desired, but we are blessed. We can choose to dwell on what is seemingly lacking or less than ideal, or we can choose gratitude. One is depressing and exhausting, one is freeing and life-giving. Let's choose thankfulness, appreciation, joy.
Everything is gone. Just slanted wood floor and shadows from the sunbeams remain. There's nothing here to give a sense of scale or even to make the space make sense. You can't tell what happened here. The walls can't whisper memories of the hands held on the couch or the tears cried there months later. The floors can't sing you the song of how he twirled you around, half asleep and sliding in your socks yet safe in his arms as he dipped you low and pulled you in close. The windows can't wrap you in lullabies of how the rain soothed you to sleep when the darkness seemed desolate, or how the sun stirred you to believe again, try again, love again. You can't hear echoes of late nights of laughter with best friends, the tunes of the songs blasted here, the voices on the TV from your favorite shows. The kitchen doesn't carry the scents of the meals cooked here, the cookies baked here to be shared with friends, the coffee brewing every morning to keep the writing coming. The hallways don't hold the frames of memories from past travels and photographs from seasons long gone. The air doesn't hold the sweet scents of autumn that burned from crackling wicks long into the night.
This place is empty. A shell. A vacant memory.
Everything is gone. Soon this space will hold new faces, the floors will carry new feet, the walls will surround new life.
Remember: you were here. This space mattered. Imperfect and impulsive though it was to live here, it mattered. Life, sweet and stretching and important, happened here. This place is empty and this is a farewell, but the next steps are full, your heart is full, and this is the start of something new.
Find more Friday Freewrites here!