Monday, December 31, 2018

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

I have no expectations for myself for New Year's. I want to be gentle with myself. And gentle with others.

Yes, it's a blank new page for a new year. 

The blank page used to terrify me. Now I see the possibilities and twists in the story really do make it interesting.

I don't have any revolutionary reflections that I'm bringing with me into 2019. It's day by day and the good news is here we are. Ready for another page turn on the calendar. 

We're still breathing!

I think about the verse in Psalm 73: "My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." 

Through times of great change, heartache, longing and numbness this year, I know there have been also times of love, hope, friendship, grace, laughter, and surprises. 

With all that, I am reminded of my tendency to want to take a big picture view. It helps make things easier I think, and also, taking the long view is a more hopeful way of looking at life, because hope is one thing that is for certain. 

Still, I have to be reminded sometimes of my true need before God, in ways that can't just be explained away or something that can't be fixed by me cheering myself up enough or even by praying enough or calling a friend or even through writing. I found out this year that nothing I could do eased the pain deep down.

I'm finding that just like memories sneak up on me, so does God. But God makes Himself known to me that He is still here, and that He is going to provide for needs I didn't know I had. Maybe not in ways I expect. He is gentle with me, and shows me that this is the way to healing. 

I don't know if your new year is happy or not, but I pray you would be gentle with yourself and know you are loved and that your heart would be filled with hope this year. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Hot Yoga and Peace on Earth

I just sat down to video tape myself looking silly and foolish (is that anything new?) so that I could create a spontaneous, off-rhythm rap for my friend who I miss and because I thought it would bring her cheer. I didn't have to try hard to create an off-beat rhyme. I couldn't have manufactured something so ridiculous if I tried. These things just sort of come naturally.

What comes naturally to you? 

Yesterday, I tried hot yoga for the first time ever. I think I knew deep down it would be something I would like so I wasn't too afraid of trying it, but still, it was new, and I did wonder how my body would respond. I like heat and challenges though.

I noticed a couple things during the hour long session (I was grateful it was the express class). 

1. I like doing yoga better in the heat. I like sweating it all out. All the toxins. Even if my skin did breakout two minutes after leaving class. Errr, gross, I know.

2. We can survive in the room for the whole time. I felt a sense of community with the others, knowing it wasn't necessarily 'easy' for anyone. Yet, we still do it because it's a good thing and it feels good. It's a strange solidarity.

 3. I often don't give myself permission to be a beginner. It takes time to learn the flow of anything new, and often I expect myself to catch on and match whatever pace is happening around me. I am realizing yoga can be a help to me to pay attention to my body. Lie down when needed. Breathe. Breathe some more. This does not come naturally to me, but it actually feels better in the long run when I do it.

Ahh, yoga. Ahh, peace.

I have a Christmas decoration that says "Peace on Earth." I kept it up all of last year, that's how much I liked it.

Is peace really possible in this chaotic world?

I grappled with peace this year, and the phrase that kept coming back to my heart has been, "do you want understanding or do you want Jesus?" I know God has been asking me, especially over the past few months, to stretch my imagination to something new for me. It seems like my go-to way of living for a long time and a way to quench my longings, my questions, and my misunderstandings of life has been to try and find concrete answers and understanding. While some understanding isn't bad in itself, instead of seeking Jesus and having a restful heart in Him, I would find myself having to keep the pace, and keep searching for what I was looking for. Sometimes, life is deceiving because it seems to produce the outcomes or answers I want, but often it doesn't, and I'm left determining where to go from there. 

Life can feel disappointing, outcomes don't match expectations, it's easy to feel like you're going to crumble under the weight of whatever is breaking your heart.

Input the question of peace in this chaotic world? 

A verse comes to mind, and
I think I am still in process with it: "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

This is what I desire all the time. What of a heart that feels undone, left lurking in an unknown future? For a girl who has often gotten lost and trapped here, there's somehow a sense of peace with the unknowing right now. Speaking this out loud and letting this be true is beautiful. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

You can do hard things

I keep reminding myself of my friend's voice that has told me many times during this  recent difficult season, "you can do hard things."  

When experiencing a deeply challenging time period, it is common to want to check out, shut off from the world, numb or escape, but the feelings, issues, or problems still eventually rise to the surface and my friend's voice comes blasting through when I try to remember that I can do hard things.

This may look like confronting an issue or making choices to take care of ourselves, engage in community, whatever it is for each of us. 

Maybe it is not the easiest choice but a choice after all that moves us forward. 

So my prayer tonight is to keep being able to do hard things, balanced with soul rest. 

I pray that for you, too, tonight, friends.

I keep finding that one way out of the rut of my heartache is prayer, even when I don't want to pray, or when I find myself hurting, or lost for words, or feeling stuck. 

Writing is this for me, too. Writing as a prayer. Writing as a way through my stuck-ness, a way to be totally honest, when regular life and small talk feels fake, and everything feels so unnatural lately. There is an uneasiness in me I am not used to, like my insides could burst out and be exposed at any moment. 

If you need to express yourself (and who doesn't?), what helps you do that? I've been so grateful for words during this season and places that encourage creative expression, freedom with your voice, and vehicles for writing and wordplay and storytelling. 

I'm not sure why I feel like I will cry when I pray lately but that's a thing. I want to cure it all through laughter and comedic words but sometimes the only way out is through so I embrace the cry-pray, cry-pray pattern and when I have more days when I feel free and good, it's wonderful, and I think the grief and stress are gone, but then they are not.

I tell myself what I know is true: it won't always be this way. Still, I don't want to store up my living for another day. As hard as it is to do hard things, I remind myself that whatever choice lies in front of me that I need to do to keep trying to live well, that's what I've got to do. It's amazing how a mind and a heart need those small reminders. Take care of yourself. Take care of your heart. Give yourself time, grace, space. 

You can do hard things. I can do hard things. Let's cheer each other on...

Thursday, October 11, 2018


I am 15 and my high school best friend, Jodi, and I are walking around the reservoir, our favorite place to walk because it is quiet and surrounded by water and trees, and it feels to us as majestic as a big lake. We go there for walking, but mainly talking.

Here is a short list of things we might talk about: school, musicals we are in together, practices for the musicals keeping us at school late at night, other activities we do that keep us at school later (is it even legal to keep kids at school all hours of the night), boys, water activities, boys, family stuff, the future, solving the world's problems.

Isn't life grand??? As weird as life is at 15, it's never THAT bad with a friend.


I wish I could remember more of the walks and conversations I had when I was a teenager, but I just know it helped me get through the most awkward years. 

I work with teens now and I consider all their questions and uneasiness about themselves and the future and think that I was a lucky one. Even when there were plenty of things to complain or be confused about, everything is better with a good friend.

Jodi paved the way and was one of my first true friends, the kind that sticks by you.

I write about home and the topic of moves and starts and restarts, but I don't often talk about my hometown, Findlay, Ohio. Flag City, USA. Nestled away from the world, a city onto itself.

If I'm honest, most parts of me want to say I'm from anywhere else, any of the other places I've lived. I'll say I'm from North Carolina, even though I lived there far after I was raised. I will always consider myself 'from' there in a way. It's such a home to me.  And yet, I didn't start out there. I didn't even start out in Cleveland, which is the other place I say I'm from, where my family lives and where I go when I visit family. It's the home that got away. I used to say I wished I would have been raised there.

But the home I got was the home I got and it was the one that formed me. And for better or worse I've made peace with it and actually still feel a connection with Findlay, Ohio, however distant I still have managed to stay all these years in miles and heart. 

Later in life I have wondered what came first, my drive to get out of that town or my sense of adventure. 

Once in awhile I also wonder what would have happened if I stumbled upon my future husband when I was 15 like Jodi. Would I have stayed? I already know the answer to that question, but it is interesting anyway. 

As for Jodi, her story is a total movie. Literally. 

We were at Family Video renting a movie when she first talked to her now husband. It was our Sophomore year and that year she went to homecoming with him and I went with a guy that I never spoke to again after that year. That was a million years ago! What if we had grown up in today's time when there are not video stores? Maybe they would have met doing Pok√©mon Go or something. 

If you are young, go outside or go places with your friends, you never know what will happen. Not just because of meeting a future husband or wife (I don't think those are good odds, anyway), but this can be a great thing. If you're not young, pick up the phone and call a friend and invite them to do something in real life. You don't have to wait for someone to call you.

Jodi is one of those friends that keeps the memory of a strange past experience with a small town alive. It only takes one positive memory to blot out a bunch of negative junk. 

I have this dream from time to time and in it are some old friends who didn't want to be my friend as I got older. When we were in high school, we basically stopped being friends all together, and it never made sense to me. Now, I would guess we drifted or became different people. Back then it felt like they stopped liking me for me and I didn't understand after being friends for a long time.

Most of us have probably had a story of friendship gone sour. Good thing this dream usually involves one of my favorite ice cream parlors in town, so it's like a combination of a stand off with these people and something truly delicious and sweet.

Even in the dream, I can almost taste the flavors of the orange and vanilla soft serve swirl. I would go back to Findlay just for that.

Although in a dream everything can feel so real, this part of my past was a LONG time ago. That helps me step back and look for the good things in it, too. The reservoir. Growing up in a safe town. Everyone knows everything about everyone, and while I didn't like that at all, when you find the right people, you are known.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Bargain Shopping

I tried to make it to Anthropology today but walked inside Macy's instead. I landed in the shoe department. I thought it would be a quick trip. Then I found four pairs of shoes for forty percent off each, which I told myself was a bargain. Somewhere in there I got an extra ten percent off too, but it almost felt like buying a plane ticket, a cheap plane ticket mind you, but still a plane ticket. When I consider whether I would rather buy shoes or plane tickets, as much as the smell and look of a fresh pair of boots is enticing, I still choose travel any day.

I tried to make it to Anthropology because I remember the great experience there earlier this year meeting Mae, and finding the perfect jumpsuit, which actually looks entirely like a dress, so really it doubles as both. The perfect jumpsuit dress was also a perfect bargain. Long and flowy and turquoise.

The perfect turquoise jumpsuit dress was a dream buy, especially for someone who doesn't like to shop. It was January and I needed an outfit fast. Maybe I'll get lucky if I go to a store I don't shop at often, I thought to myself, and started scurrying around, eager for a magical clothing item to jump out at me. That's when I met Mae. She wasn't a magical clothing item, but she was her own kind of magic. She was friendly and we were both chatty. She talked with me about where I was going.

'I'm speaking at a storytelling front of a couple hundred people," I told her. 

Only a couple minutes later, I found the dress and started getting excited. She agreed that it was the right pick. 'I know it's winter but..' 

I started telling her a little about what the writing piece was about and what my style of storytelling was like. I told her I wanted it to be fun, but also portray a sense of change and rebirth. Well, the dress was just that: colorful, light and airy. 

I was now officially getting more excited about the dress than speaking. Time to snap back into reality.

Mae asked me when the event was. Tomorrow! She then said she was off the next evening. She decided right then and there to purchase a ticket.

The next night, when the time came for the AZ Storytellers Project evening on New Beginnings, Mae showed up and I told her she could come sit with me and the other people who came to support me that night. I ended up sitting by someone who was a stranger 24 hours before.

It is only now that I am realizing that Mae is a coffee, and that the 87 Coffees project still could have some life in it yet. Her adventurous spirit and sense of style is inspiring. 

When we parted ways in the store that first day, I told her everything had gone full circle, as this meeting was completely giving life and breath to what I was saying about New Beginnings. She said now she had to come to see what I was talking about. 

Mae is a genuine, gutsy person, I could tell just by meeting her. She Facebook friended me because that's what happens after you take pictures together even though you don't really know each other. She told me she had a great time at the storytelling event.

I think it's important to get out there and live a little and I'm glad I have the turquoise dress to remind me of that. The dress reminds me of getting up there in front of all those people and of meeting Mae and if I wanted to interview her for a book, or really sit down for a coffee with her, I bet she'd say yes. She was a good reminder of when saying yes is a good thing.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Wake me up when September ends

Thanks for the reminder Green Day.

It's more like, I will go to sleep when September ends when the clock strikes midnight and I am done typing here soon.

However, I have been sleeping off my wisdom teeth surgery for about a week now, so it would make sense to wake me up when September ends.  The whole week was a blur, but I only took two days off of work.

I have dreams of taking months off at a time to do creative projects, do mission work, try a completely new work endeavor, or take a spiritual retreat/ writing sabbatical. I dream so much, but when it comes to finishing things, I often wander off the course.

What about you?

So here I am again, even if it's just baby steps, writing and offering what I can in the direction I am going now toward an unknown future. Beautiful. Messy. Scary. Exciting.


Writing is a lot like love, you learn as you go and it's not without messes along the way. My friend's little boy is going to be two soon and he is learning to say lots of words. I notice him say the word "mess!" a lot. He says this as he fumbles around the living room to put toys away. He has watched my friend well (she is a lot more organized than I am). I don't think he knows yet that this is going to happen again tomorrow and the next day and the next day. This is life: MESSY. 

I know there are many brilliant things to be said about love and love stories. I don't really know how I feel about love stories right now. I keep thinking I don't have a lot to say about love, but the topic comes back to me in the late hours of the evening. Write it down, write it down. That's what I encourage others to do as they are seeking healing, so I attempt to do the same, as I know God has used writing in the past as a healing balm. Also, writing connects us in powerful ways.

I am listening and thinking and reflecting on what God says about love. I STILL sit confused and that's okay.  Because right now I don't get how to embody love like Christ in this messed up world. Then, I ask Him to fill up the spaces of my lack and what to do when it feels like we are just twirling around in circles of our sin, brushing up against each other, still in need of His redemption.  Love can bring out our most messy selves, the ones we have done so well over the years hiding away. We need you, Jesus. Help us in our mess.

In my mind, I know that a story, even one with an ending that is hard, does not equal a fail, but it still feels like there's no easy clean up for a mess of a heart still hurting at times. I settle on realizing the work God has already done. 

Love also consumes more than romantic love, and so I'm thinking about keeping the flow of love going in my life. What's getting me there is staying open. Openness for me currently means being honest with emotions that feel very present and at times too much and I hate being 'too much.'

However, the real truth is the past few months have been weird but also freeing: there are often no words I want to say (strange for me), too many words I want to say, times I feel embarrassed by not being able to 'pull it together,' days where life is moving so fast, days everything is going slow, moments I'm feeling way more like the person I know I've been all along, times I cry in public and I wonder why I am not curled up on the couch not leaving the house until next month.

I like to have words that sound good, I don't like to feel embarrassed, I like to tell the truth but it seems like far too often I don't know if I can really trust you. I like to be understood. I like to keep peace with people.

Change right now is shaking me up because even though we had a talk awhile ago and decided we were going to stop meeting like this at unpredictable times, change isn't listening.

Change keeps nudging me, softly, slowly, then sometimes quickly, to give up my rights to those things I thought I had rights to or in essence, could control. 

Change this time around is also being a bit more friend-like. In essence, as I release more,  I recognize that change is not my total enemy. Not entirely. I don't actually hate change completely. I guess.

Has change ever brought you to a place of letting go?

Colossians 3:3 says "for you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

This verse reminds me about my real life. My life is not hidden in all the things that I like to use to tell myself I am okay when big parts of my life are falling apart, like for real completely unsettled and I don't know what is going to come next, but hidden in Christ. He enables me to keep going and know that I will not crushed by the waves that threaten me. Even if everything may not always FEEL or even BE okay, at the end of the day, God is with me, and my soul will rest in that hope.

By the way, I'm going to be publishing this in October. Happy October, everyone.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Being Strong and Dark Hallmark Movies for the Win

Tonight I haven't felt incredibly strong. There were some tears, like full on bring me the pillows, which is my version of bring me the tissues. I just really like pillows.

There's some beauty in accepting yourself, too, right where you are.

I think I am becoming more accepting (most days) of the transitions I find myself in these days, and for the most part that feels like life being life, and at the same time there is still some residual sadness. Hence, the pillows.

Naming what's true even though it's hard to name it has been a life giving force for me.

I am feeling the sting and loss of an important relationship. Although this person isn't gone in the full sense of the word, there is still a gap where the relationship was, the loss of being with this person, and really just the knowing of another person, which in essence isn't that what we all love about relationships, anyway? Or at least some of us? The knowing, the ability to know and be known? The flow that allows that to continue, that allows love in, the bridge to one and other. 

So naming something hard like loss is not my favorite thing because it makes it seem more real, but it is actually good because it makes it seem more real. Sometimes the hardest part of anything for me is pretending or acting like something isn't happening that's happening. All we can do is live in today, and name what's true.

All we can do is live in the present, but if I can't be real with what the present is showing me, then what can I really do?  Giving a name or voice to something is important. Sometimes something is true for now, for awhile, for all time. Sometimes things change and then I am afraid what I said yesterday will define my tomorrows, but I have to get better at being honest with myself and really honest with what's actually happening.

I am really just trying to keep owning my voice. I used to say I was trying to 'find' my voice or myself but I have been here the whole time. I just need to own my words and not apologize for them.

I think up until recently there was a certain apologetic-ness to my thoughts or voice when it came to how I was viewing things with my relationship that has ended. It still creeps up every once in a while, but it was like I had to hold everything so delicately and protected, so it wouldn't crack anymore, when in essence doing that just made me crack more. I can still be kind but honest. I don't have to be afraid.

I can still feel the stress in my body sometimes. And the stress in my soul. Sometimes it comes out in dreams. It comes out in little ways I know I'm holding extra pressure than usual in my muscles. All the major anxiety seems to have faded; I still notice a tension that takes effort to ease. It's a battle ground, allowing myself to grieve some days, because I just don't want to or maybe I have more important things to do.

God is relentless though; He keeps meeting me time after time when I just want to be strong, this theme that often penetrates me and I wonder why that's so important to me.  I think about how He has helped me overcome so many seemingly worse situations, more painful situations, physically brutal, when I had to hold on to hope for dear life, and yet, have continued to make it through every migraine and situation of pain in my body over the years, through every moment when I endured problems with eating in my early 20's, through even all the times previously when I thought that whatever emotional pain I was in was pretty bad. For me, it seems bad at the moment, but then, once it passes, I don't usually recall all that I had to get through to get through it. 

God HAS been faithful before and I know will be faithful again. I constantly have to wrap my mind around He who is so powerful and loving and just that His ways don't always equate what I think I want at that time.

There is a part of me that REALLY doesn't want to be weak even though I can tell you, sure, my jam is that verse in Corinthians that says "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."  More what I am resonating with lately is, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:24

I see victories as I move forward though and I know that it's God's grace. I see things changing inside me, I see so much hope spilling out even though there are times of great grief and change and missing him, and I'm not afraid anymore to say what is happening inside me. I'm not afraid speak my words, and I pray that continues, and I pray God's joy can keep flowing and be my joy.

I know that even though there have been ups and downs, I see myself looking more toward God's truth and not just sticking with my emotions, even though sometimes I can feel justified in feeling a certain way. I know this has been one of the hardest few months, but I have I gotten through things before that were hard.  I am realizing how I am not going to get completely thrown off course. That sometimes I might feel weak or sometimes I might feel strong. But God, He keeps me on course somehow. Maybe on a course I didn't know or wouldn't choose. STILL. It is beautiful. I believe it is beautiful. Even through all the muck. I would not have changed the course.

I am thankful, even in this new time. In this NEW FOREIGN LAND. 
Even though I am in the same land, it is a new beginning (new beginnings, I am sick of you).

I am thankful though, for the chance that there can always be new beginnings. Yes, there can. Even if I sometimes still long for the familiar again.  

Does your life ever seem like it would make for a good Hallmark movie, or rather a bad Hallmark movie? Are any Hallmark movies not bad, actually? I secretly dislike Hallmark but feel like I would be someone who would like them. I know, complicated. One of my best friend's husbands nailed it when he said that I probably don't like Hallmark because I do stand up comedy/improv and am into 'that' kind of humor, whatever that means. Like maybe I secretly (or not so secretly) like snarky, sarcastic or dark humor and so I'm not a hopeless romantic after all. I'm just a wanna-be hopeless romantic. I think if you know me, deep, deep down I am a hopeless romantic. But, here's the catch. I just know that the feel good, super cheesiness of it all that we want to wrap our arms around would pair well with some dark humor and probably some tragedy rolled in. That sounds a little more like my life.

But we'll end the movie on a sappy note of course, lots of music playing, and I'm not sure what the ending will be, but it will probably involve horses. Don't all Hallmark movies have horses?

I know, I know. Life isn't like the movies. But you get to vote. Hallmark lover or hater?