In Anticipation of Easter

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5: 3-4

It’s been a while. The first few months of the year have required me to sink in deep each day. Peeling back layers of conversation, stints away from home, the hard work of staying present each day. I’ve been okay with keeping my writing voice quiet, but not today.

I ache for the family of Deputy Carl Koontz, who was shot and killed in the line of duty just two counties over. I’m at once angry and sad, and as a police wife myself, it’s a sobering reminder of what my husband, friends, and friends’ spouses willingly do five nights a week. It’s gut-wrenching.

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I found myself praying portions of Psalm 119 this morning:

“I lie in the dust; revive me by your word…I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word.”
Psalm 119: 25, 28

And I remembered how when Jesus sat down on the mountainside and began to teach, one of His very first statements addressed the poor in spirit and those who mourn.

I’m participating in a study of the Sermon on the Mount, and we looked up definitions of the word poverty. One such definition was “the state of one with insufficient resources.” To be poor in spirit, then? To be unable to provide hope of my own accord. To be at the end of my rope. To be aware of the faultiness of self-sufficiency and self-effort and self-help because I can’t do enough to clean up the mess, reverse the evil, fix what’s broken.

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven…as Jen Wilkin writes, “the kingdom of grace here, and the kingdom of glory hereafter.” Those who desperately ache for justice and feel hope crumbling beneath their feet – in Christ, they are not bound to this world, as we know it. This may be our current station, but there is more to the story. How I long for reconciliation and the whole story now.

In the midst of whatever we mourn – death, illness, the dissolution of dreams, unmet expectations, dysfunctional relationships, our own sin, or anything else – we can hope in a God that meets us in the dust. Who desires to be present and longs to give us the grace and peace we need today, tomorrow, and the next.

“And emptiness itself can birth the fullness of grace because in the emptiness we have the opportunity to turn to God, the only begetter of grace, and there find all the fullness of joy.”  -Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

As Easter approaches, I’m very aware of Jesus, who can actually clean up the mess, reverse the evil, fix what’s broken. How long, O Lord? How long before we see the kingdom of glory hereafter? How long before we recognize the kingdom of grace right now?

The emptiness of feeling will meet (assuredly, has already met) the emptiness of the tomb and the powerful and compassionate reign of Jesus. Then, now, and hereafter.

On Choosing to Abide

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This is the beginning of my post for (in)courage. Read the full article here!

I am aware of my broken pieces.

I know what pulls at the sleeves of my patience and what triggers my insecurity. I recognize my propensity towards perfectionism and where I’m prone to apathy.

And where there is my sin, there is me: desperately trying to determine the source of those broken pieces to hopefully, eventually, fix myself.

If I could just be more selfless, then I would be more present to my husband.
If I could just be less controlling, then I would stop turning my day into a task list.
If I could just be more patient, then I would not have said those harsh words.

As I grow in awareness of God’s character, the more I see we were never meant to be our own heroes, our own handymen, our own problem-solvers and saviors.

Read the rest of the article over at (in)courage.

I started following (in)courage during my first year of college. Wander around their website, and sign up here to receive free daily encouragement from (in)courage writers.

I’m Not Making a Resolution

When I see articles and blogs and sponsored Instagram posts (bonkers annoying) about resolutions and setting goals for 2016, my head feels all swirly and my heart starts going fast.

I become aware of everything I could be doing, everything I don’t have. It looks like list-making and trying to drag my husband along on my quest for more of one thing, less of another.

Honestly, I’ve asked myself why I’m to act like this year is the year when January 1st comes around every year. What makes this year any different?

And yet, I completely get the appeal of new beginnings, ambitions and anticipation. Vision-casting is practically a planning type’s hobby.

But this year, I’m going in with less of a resolution and, hopefully, more of a direction. I’m saying no to cut-and-dry, numbers-driven goals and yes to less tangible things I believe God has already called me to…things like taking myself less seriously, accepting complexity and engaging whole-heartedly. I suppose my goal would be to remind myself of these things.

At the risk of making you feel over-resourced (me every week), here are two pieces I found helpful entering the new year that didn’t entirely make my head spin:

This printable from Ann Voskamp.

This blog post from Paul Tripp.

Maybe a clear goal is just what you need. Maybe your resolve will make this year markedly different than past ones, and if that’s the case, I am so cheering for you.

For me, I needed wiggle room, allowance for the canvas to be painted differently as the year progresses. I don’t know if 2016 is the year above all years, but it is the one we’re given, and that is a grace in itself.

A Piece On Grace

I’m convinced grace is a big deal.

I’m also still trying to figure it out.

It is, essentially, the Gospel. But its implications are daily and permeate my actions, my thought life and my relationships.

And to consider that accepting grace for myself requires courage? Well, that resonates somewhere deep within me.

I read a ton of articles online regularly, and I keep coming back to this one. It’s called Be Brave Enough to Accept Grace by Nicole Unice. I’d encourage you to find some quiet to read the whole thing, but here’s a short excerpt:

A friend once told me about her grandfather, who was fascinated with radios. His condo was full of broken radios that he insisted on keeping, thinking that the transistor from one would fix the other; that he could cobble the broken parts together and make an old radio new. But despite his good intentions—he just owned broken radios.

Our hearts can be just like that—a storeroom of broken stuff, full of mismatched bits and broken pieces. But we keep adding to the pile, thinking that more life experiences will help us sort out and fix all the broken pieces. We are desperately holding out for the one piece we need to fix ourselves. The problem is, the right piece isn’t in our hearts, and it’s not something we can find on our own. The missing piece—grace—comes from outside ourselves.

3 Resources for Advent

Growing up, I remember the excitement of counting down to Christmas with an Advent calendar. Depending on the year, we’d punch out a piece of chocolate each day or open up a tiny flap to reveal a tiny picture, probably a snowman or nativity. I liked the chocolate ones best.

I haven’t observed Advent with a calendar in years, but lucky for me, I’m continuing to find resources to help draw my attention to the remembrance and anticipation of Christ more than my Amazon orders. Here are a few I plan to explore and wanted to pass along to you.

1. She Reads Truth: Born Is The King

For women, specifically (good thing they also have a He Reads Truth version!). The first few weeks of these daily devotions, which always include tons of Scripture, focus on how Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophecies and promises. The second half will go through the Christmas story narrative. I know many women who use SRT throughout the year for regular study, so if you’re interested in a daily plan with pretty pictures, start right here.

SRT - Born Is The King

2. Paul Tripp Advent: The Whole Story

I first heard Paul Tripp speak at a conference a few years ago and still enjoy reading his weekly email newsletter. This is a four-part devotional with questions and full sermons that explore the Christmas story in the context of God’s bigger story of the world. Check it out here.

3. Restoration Living: A Simple Advent Book

This e-book has short daily devotions with prompts for meditation and prayer, centered around Isaiah 9:2-7. Get it right here.

A Simple Advent Book

Happy Advent-ing!

Chicago

Last month, Thomas and I went into Chicago.

It was our first time going into the city together – a place that was very unfamiliar. We dared to navigate the Shedd Aquarium line, not to mention the beast that is the public transit system. I prepped and planned the day before, finding a cheap place to park and creating the most efficient routes via trains to our desired destinations.

Eating breakfast before we left, I confessed I was nervous about all the plans and attention to detail the day required. Because I know how I get when I’m nervous; I’m grumpy and impatient. And this day date I was anticipating, it felt weighty and pressured, like I really wanted it to be worth it.

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Long story short, we had a fine day. We saw sea creatures and people-watched and ate delicious (I mean delicious) pizza. But it wasn’t without its moments of tension, like when I wanted to wring the neck of the guy who didn’t plan for restrooms at train stations. We had a fine day. But we were tired, minds aloof, just trying to get where we needed to go all afternoon.

Fast forward a few weeks, and Thomas asks me this question:

“What would be your ideal day that we’d spend together?”

The question caught me off-guard, and I fumbled over my thoughts for an answer. At a loss for a response, I told him to go first.

He said he would spend most of the day at home. And I agreed.

This felt significant. I’ve always considered myself a homebody, content folding laundry, pleased to take my time with dinner and read on the couch afterwards. But I’ve never really considered that home could be his most sacred place, too. This revelation did a couple things.

It affirmed my desire to be at home and invest in home. To eat in and decorate (even simply) and wipe the counters down because we both thrive in comforting, peaceful environments. These things are not menial to two people who feel most full at home with each other and are their best selves when they don’t have to navigate new highways. Dinners out can be fun, and getaways have their purpose, but we’re also fine to stay in. Creating a home together has been one of my favorite parts of marriage. 

It gave us a hint of vision for the future. We both grew up in families that valued vacation and travel, so we already knew that a healthy combination of rest and exploration will be important when we have a family of our own. But contentment in being home, carving out time amidst the busyness to stay in, we value that, too.

I was so thankful he asked me that question.

No offense to you, Chicago. You’re a nice city, but the best gift we can give each other is ourselves. And our best selves are right at home.

With Deepest Empathy

One of the main roles of working in campus ministry is being a listener.

When a student chooses to share a piece of their story with me – a deep hurt or current chaos – I feel both incredibly honored and wildly deficient.

Brené Brown explains empathy well in this video. It’s messier than pitying from a distance; it requires involvement, presence, with-ness. “Me too” – the ability to connect over a feeling or experience – is a powerful thing we can offer, even when we don’t have answers or resolutions to pain.

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But here’s what I wrestle with. Sometimes – many times – I can’t honestly say “me too.” I feel like I can’t actually relate to that thing. Abuse is far from me; I’m not burdened by addiction or discontentment with singleness.

And I’m tempted to think, “Well, I’m certainly not very useful here,” and write myself off because (in all truth, praise God), I have not experienced everything I hear. I can zoom out to the larger reality and relate to broken relationships, desiring control or lacking passion for scripture. But to sit with someone in a specific trial, what does that require? A relatable answer? A prayer? Redirecting them to someone obviously more equipped than me?

I’m discovering, slowly and with a constant pushing away of negative and un-affirming thoughts, that two other phrases (articulated and practiced) can be just as healing.

  1. “God sees you.”
  2.  “I’m here.”

Because He does. He sees and knows and loves you.
And I am. I’m here if you need to vent, need a meal, need to know you’re not alone.

Of course, there are healthy limits and boundaries; we can’t be anyone’s superwoman or savior. But maybe that’s exactly what frees us to move towards people, anyway, with seemingly little to offer.

Empathy begs to extend beyond “me too.” I feel like I’m just beginning to test the waters.

October Goals

I’m welcoming fall this year. The fake decorative leaves, the honeycrisp apples on sale, the cooler mornings, all of it. I guess this isn’t really a new thing for me, but something in a season shifting wakes me up a bit. Now entering October, I’m setting a few goals/reminders/would-love-to’s for the month.

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  1. Finish one book. Maybe two. And I should probably give myself the guideline that cookbooks don’t count. I’m ready for another fiction read, so let me know if you have any recommendations.
  2. Clean out the closet. Then get new winter-proof boots.
  3. Make pumpkin ice cream. Probably from Joy the Baker in her book, Homemade Decadence. 
  4. Take note of what I’m learning through the month. Inspired by this post.
  5. Try something new. Vague with little direction. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Happy October, friends!

Simply Tuesday (on a Friday)

I’m reading a book on smallness. Or rather, “small-moment living in a fast-moving world.”

It’s called Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman. I’ve probably referenced her writing a dozen times on this blog over the years.

I’ve underlined and boxed in lots of text so far, but I wanted to share one of the prayers that she writes at the end of every chapter. I think we have this tendency to want to know that what we do matters. We like to be recognized for our good efforts and get a lot done in a day and call ourselves productive. And maybe this isn’t entirely wrong until we start believing that big accomplishments are more valuable than the un-fancy movements of our daily life.

The reality is we can live well and glorify God in what feels like really small ways. I’m dwelling on these words this weekend and pray them for you, too.

“May we stretch out in the fullness of small and move downward with gladness rather than upward in fear. May we let go of the constructed life and embrace a connected life, even if it leads to less. May we be marked more by our small moments than by our fast movements. May our small moments do more lasting good than our fast movements do harm. Be gracious to remind us that our souls aren’t made for fame. May we receive the gift of obscurity with joy, gratitude and a light heart” (p. 112).

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A Word to the Planners

Hey, hi, hello. I hope September has been good to you so far.

The past few months have been wild, working in campus ministry during the start-of-the-semester hustle and attempting to create healthy rhythms in the midst of it.

Photo Credit: Andrej Chudy

Days are full, and although they sometimes wear me out, they’re also full of purpose. I’m continuing to process all the changes of this year – job shifts and two houses and new friendships, and I hope to share those with you in time.

But for now, I wanted to tell you about a blog post I recently wrote for Deeply Rooted Magazine about releasing expectations and seeking Jesus instead. You can find it right here!

I discovered Deeply Rooted this spring and was immediately captivated by the lovely design and honest content. I’m humbled for the chance to write for them and hope you’ll meander around the site to explore it for yourself.

Thank you for reading, and for hanging out with me on the journey.