cinnamon & belly rolls.

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It was their ritual: the women would stand around the kitchen counter and talk about what they were and were not eating for the next few weeks. Last month they were on a Weight Watchers kick and passed around a recipe for a casserole that was only 8 points per serving. Glorious.

The older one – silver-haired and stunning, her skin soft and pillowy and everything you hope your skin feels like when you’re 65 – has recently discovered Atkins. She declares that bread is a sin now.

She slides me and my sister each a plate of cinnamon rolls that she made by hand. I stare at them calculating my next move. I love that I can expect to devour no less than five of these every time I come to her house, feeling no shame about my sticky fingers and hazy, post-binge nap that will happen once I turn on Nickelodeon. My family doesn’t have a lot of traditions, but these cinnamon rolls are sacred to me. Holy, even, for their consistency in my life. Now they’re dangerous.

So I decide to eat four and then go to the bathroom. I kneel by the toilet for a good 20 minutes, experimenting with the different ways to stick two fingers down my throat in just the right way to trigger the system my body was wired with for stuff that didn’t belong. It looks like I’m praying and I think I probably was, in my own way. Except nothing happened. No matter what angle I tried it just didn’t work. I failed for saying yes to temptation and now I wouldn’t even be allowed to join the sacred circle of stopping calories from setting up camp on my body.

I watched women I admired restrict, exercise, count, and wear themselves out trying to one day be smaller. This was around the time that I poked at my own thighs, wondering why others looked different in the destroyed, low-rise jeans that were the status symbol of every suburban girl in the mid-2000s. They gained all the bumps of early womanhood and yet it’s like their limbs still didn’t know what fat was, all twig legs and knobby knees. Later I learned that the secret was cocaine and eating disorders, but I still envied the figures I saw in the magazines. I was shaped more like a piece of Playdough that, with a creative mind, could be a great mermaid one day if it was stretched and rolled out in the proper places.

I saw first-hand how the disappointment of cheating on a diet could far outweigh the triumph of losing 5 pounds when I watched the women of the kitchen counter “fail” every few months or so. I remember looking at the dimpled parts of my own thighs, thinking that if I just spent more time on the elliptical or skipped breakfast then this “ugly” part of me would disappear and I would be one step closer to acceptable. I may even be wanted one day, if my calves had more definition and my hot dog legs began to look like my sister’s soccer-player toned extremities.

But I chose swimming over soccer. I was active but never an athlete. I ate fruits and veggies and participated in the occasional Taco Bell run after practice. I’ve had cellulite since I was 17 and spent years trying to hide my body from being seen up close and unfiltered.



Today I am textbook healthy – eating whole foods, exercising regularly and enjoying the occasional (and appreciated) pint of Ben & Jerry’s or glass (or 3…) of wine. You wouldn’t look at me and think that I have the body of a supermodel which is fine because I don’t. And I likely never will due to the culture we live in and given that my love affair with carbs will not die until a doctor medically pronounces me allergic to gluten and I risk certain death every time I eat it. Plus, I have thighs. They bring me places and help me run and have a lot of surface area to snuggle dogs. But they don't look like the majority of thighs seen on Instagram.

Summer is tough for me. Sunshine brings shorts, skin and exposure. I often feel insecure. Remnants of what I learned at the kitchen counter like to be loud. They convince me that I’m not good enough until I am 10 pounds lighter and I shouldn’t even think of myself as beautiful until my stomach is flatter. I’m learning to identify those voices and knock out their front teeth. (Metaphorically, of course.) But my insecurities don’t have the same diminishing power over me when I speak openly about them.

So here we are and it scares me. I want to speak light into the spaces that don’t get dusted off very often. I want to help others experience the lost-and-found feeling of “Me too.” This means I have to be honest, even about things like body image, and that’s really hard.  Chances are you’ve probably felt the same kinds of shame and embarrassment around your own skin. Whether it was too big or too small or too brown or too pale or had hair in weird places, it is a freaking journey to learn how to love all parts of yourself.

The body positivity movement has been growing in popularity, which I think is great because we need more diversity in media FOR SURE, but it seems to focus a lot on becoming confident by exposing your skin in any state. Which is fine, but to me this doesn’t encompass all of what a healthy body image is. I don’t want to feel like I have to put myself on display in order to change the narrative.

There’s this word in the Bible called shalom that Jesus used throughout his ministry which dates back to the O.G. Jewish days and I’m obsessed with it. Basically it means peace, but as a concept of ultimate balance and wholeness. When you spoke shalom over peoples’ lives, you were saying that you hope every aspect of their life is complete and no part is upstaging the other. It’s a powerful image of what humans were always created to be – enough by existing, resting in the fact that they have no reason to want because everything they need is just as it is: holy and good and loved. This also means you don’t have to PROVE yourself as valuable either. You just are.

Theologians, if I’ve gotten shalom all wrong please by all means correct me. And same for BoPo folks – I would love to learn if there’s an aspect of this movement that I’m not educated about! But even if I totally messed up the Hebrew or hashtag, I’m still sure that either way tells us we are created worthy enough for love at any state of being your body is in.

People shouldn’t have to feel like whispering to their inner circle if they want to make changes to their diets or their bodies – especially for the sake of physical or mental health. We all could benefit from the “good for you, not for me” mindset. But I also pray that your participation in another round of Whole 30 is a pursuit of wellness rather than an attempt to feel validated through something as trivial as a dress size.

Don’t diminish yourself and waste your life chasing an image that is anything less than what is true: that bodies are weird and different and beautiful, the media is the absolute worst measuring tape, and the sexiest quality a person can possess is their unapologetic willingness to be themselves.

Our existence is not measured by a number on a pair of jeans whether it’s on one side of the chart or another. You were made to occupy the place in the world that your body fills. Stretch out, breathe into the white space and fill it with gratitude. What’s really beautiful is what you do with the life you were given. I hope mine is marked more by how I loved rather than how much I was able to lose or show.

I’m speaking shalom over you – over the parts you worked hard for and the parts that someone told you aren’t there yet. My advice is to buy the dress. You know the one. Wear it out instead of letting it hang in your closet waiting for “good enough”. All of you is golden, even the hidden parts, and that dress is one little step into making your whole life a victory march. So wear the dress. And eat a damn cinnamon roll.

 

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maintenance required.

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This light keeps flashing on my dashboard when I start my car. Even though I know it’s going to be there, I feel my stomach flip each time “Maint Req’d” clicks on & off. It’s a little less alarming than when “Check Engine” indefinitely lights up and makes you rethink skipping that last oil change, lest you want to shell out $500 to a man named Steve who apparently found eight other things wrong with your vehicle. Warning signs are never a fun surprise.

I’ve turned the key and watched this light blink a few times before turning off again. I tell myself everything is fine. It comes and it goes away and the car keeps running and I keep moving along. I’ve done my due diligence of Googling “Maintenance Required light on a 2005 CRV” and it’s not detrimental. Maybe a mileage trigger took place or an engine code is making this little light blink. Everything is Okay and yet I know that eventually I’m going to have to take this car in, get it checked out and shell out some dollars to fix whatever is going on. Otherwise Steve might be getting a more serious visit.

Isn’t it funny how we see all the warning signs and reminders of a breakdown but we keep going until it’s necessary? Until life literally can’t go on without some greasy hands working to clean out and rewire what’s under our hood?

Nostalgia is one of my favorite feelings. I love looking back and reminiscing on good times. Buzzfeed articles about toys & bands from the 90’s/early 2000’s are food for my soul and I will never get tired of a good Throwback playlist, especially if it has “Shoop” on there. Whenever a major anniversary comes up I want to celebrate it with Memory Lane and rainbow sprinkles. Looking back shows us where we came from and it’s always been an encouragement to me to keep the hope that there’s even more to come.

But sometimes a year goes by and I want to fast forward to the good part.

My personal “Maintenance Required” light has been blinking for twelve months. It blinked once in July 2016. It blinked a few times the following September. It came back on for awhile in November & December and really started to stick around in February. I ignored it and kept going. I drove around yelling the lyrics to Taylor Swift’s 1989 album to drown out the light’s clicky reminder that my insides need to be checked out. And I thought I was doing a good job of faking Okay until this month when my “Check Engine” light signaled the Breakdown.

You know the Breakdown – your insides feel all spinny and for some reason you can’t quite point to what’s out of balance. You watch an episode of The Office and it makes you cry because you forgot how freaking EMOTIONAL this show is. You brave a new community alone for the 2nd month in a row and even though your brain rationalizes that all the good ones take time, your heart just wants to be known and it makes you a little sad. You try to keep your routine and find your footing but even all of the encouraging texts & love letters in the world can only point you to truth. They can’t force you to grab onto it.

For some reason I’ve felt more like a failure in almost every area of my life because of my choices throughout this year, especially in the areas that I hold closest like my faith and my relationships.

I don’t know where I got this measuring stick. I’m not failing – far from it – and according to a couple of my people I seem to be handling new pressures and challenges with grace. Maybe that’s because all of the midnight 1989 yell-sing sessions have lead me to perfect the art of Taylor Swifting it – appearing like you have it all together but secretly knowing that you’re probably unstable and a little psychotic due to your own self-destructive habits but it’s chill because at least I don’t sound insane (right?). Such is the life of an mid-20’s-year-old.

There’s a brand of Christianity who are pros at Swifting their way through life. Our sins stay on the surface and usually revolve around how prideful we are or how we could have done better by really being present with our camp cabin instead of sneaking away for a nap. They rarely circle around our love of sex or alcohol or anything that makes us feel a little less chaotic inside but still allow us to show up on Sunday with our collared shirts on & our hands held high. It’s a way to keep people at a distance so we don’t risk being found out: that we aren’t Okay, we constantly do what we know isn’t the best for us, and our favorite bands aren’t actually from Hillsong.

My prodigal heart is embarrassed to look my Jesus in the eye and say I tried and admit that I was given the world and I blew it on one too many shiny things that made me feel seen.  Honestly, my pride still doesn’t really want to do the long walk back home. I used to say I would never be “that person” because I suck and really just wanted to belong to some exclusive club where try-hards were rewarded for being the most liked and compared their holy merit badges. I want to point to great successes in the past and cover up the ways I messed up in the last year to justify my place at the table. But that person would just be a fictional character of who I am today. I’m invited to the party as long as I’m honest about which name is on the guest list.

Life with Jesus is more than a game of Simon Says to make you feel like you know what you’re doing. It’s not the feel of belonging in community, it doesn’t just happen on Sundays. It’s not choosing an occupation in ministry because having “pastor” in your title keeps you in check. It’s not raising your hands at the right times or tweeting out a bible verse or saying yes/no to things because you want to appear clean. It’s a Maintenance Required light reminding me that I’m in a constant process of breaking and being made whole again. Thank God, I’m still in process.

I’m still hopeful for what’s next. I’m still learning how much I need grace. I’m still thankful for the little community I have near and far who remind me who I am. I’m still standing and singing and I’m still so prone to wander. I feel it.

If you feel like you’re on the outside looking in, just know I’m there too. You’re not alone, but I think it’s time we come inside. Rumor has it there’s a party waiting for us and they even have rainbow sprinkles. Let’s go home.

 

everyone told me life was gonna be this way.

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Two years ago I was taking pictures in front of the fountain next to the friends who became family. We had just sat in rows of identical square hats, shook hands, and received an empty folder with a gold embossed logo on it. We hugged our people and thanked our professors. Later that evening we would all go to a concert in the park that our friends’ band was singing at. We danced and ate chips & salsa and no one mentioned the fact that everything was going to be different because in that moment, everything was good.

People kept warning me that the post-grad season is really hard as I prepared for my leap into the elusive “real world” two years ago. I hated that they were ruining my bright-eyed view of endless possibilities without a syllabus weighing me down. Post-grad might have been hard for them, but not for me. I belonged to community. I was a leader that people looked to for direction. I could do anything and the world was my oyster!

“During the process of rising, we sometimes find ourselves homesick for a place that no longer exists.”Rising Strong, my gal Brené (Brené Brown, that is. We’re not on a first name basis but I would like to think maybe someday we will be. We both were swimmers and have a tendency to cuss when we get riled up.) wrote this down and it has never hit closer to home than in these last two years.

During the process of rising, we sometimes find ourselves homesick for a place that no longer exists. – Brené Brown

It took me one year post-grad to realize that things were different after being homesick for the way things were, and just like everyone said – it was really hard. It took me two years later to realize that life is still good. It will probably take me a lifetime to figure out how to keep standing when the tide comes back in or the winds change.

I’m trying not to use the word “season” because it feels too temporary. And honestly, I’m trying my best to not refer to my life stage now as “post-grad” because it keeps my eyes fixed on the rearview mirror rather than on the road ahead. But one of the hardest things about this post-grad season is the undoing of what was sure. I went from being someone who saw myself as an example to look to – who was decisive and knew exactly what she was doing and why – to being relatively anonymous, having little to no direction at any given point in time and having to rebuild who I am from the ground up.

This might say more about me and my self-absorbed tendencies to view myself as way cooler than I actually am than it does about life after graduation. But if someone knows when the label “post-grad” has an expiration date, let me know, because two years later I’m still feeling like I’m in my freshman year of life.

I wanted to be able to follow a formula for success: get a credible job, move to an actual city, move in with friends to the same apartment and live across the hall from one another, meet in a coffee house every day at lunch, yell “WE WERE ON A BREAK” when you mess up and your heart gets broken, watch Monica & Chandler get married… you know, the typical 20-something lifestyle.

My formula for moving on was a gap year lived in my college town and then plans to move home with my parents to pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a barista in Portland. I kid you not, this was my big life plan for after college. Four years of tears and student loans and I am still so grateful that God dreams way bigger than I do. Today, my life looks completely different than how I would ever have imagined.

It’s like someone pulled all of the yarn out of my favorite sweater and handed it over for me to recreate without a pattern or directions. Granted, I’ve never knit anything in my life (sorry Grammie, I know you tried so hard to teach me but let’s be honest, I was never a crafting prodigy) and I don’t know why I’m starting with a sweater, but it’s a ton of guesswork. Maybe this long piece here will turn into a sleeve and the part up top kind of looks like a turtleneck and those are hip now so that’s good… but I’ve got a whole load of tangled yarn yet and I don’t know how to make it fit. It’s still good material, I just might end up with a scarf instead.

There isn’t a pattern for how to move on to what’s next after the undoing. The undoing isn’t a sequential step-by-step process but instead it’s more like poetry or jazz, having some kind of form but is punctuated with unexpected twists and new melodies that you have to learn to adapt to. You can’t mix and measure your way to a perfect transition, that would take all of the living out of it because transitions have to start with an end.

Grads, your life as you know it is ruined – which sounds extreme but is actually the most wonderful place to start. There’s this quote in the Bible of when Isaiah sees God for the first time. He falls down and yells “I am ruined!” because he has seen something so beautiful and OTHER THAN that he can never live life the same way as before he witnessed it.

That’s what the undoing is like: a holy destruction of life as you know it, then making something beautiful out of all of it’s parts and pieces.

I hope you grieve the end because of how sweet those late nights and long weekends were. I hope you remember the magic of making your own community for the first time. I hope you bring with you the lessons learned and that you don’t forget how special of an opportunity it was to participate in higher education. And I hope that you always laugh at movies like Nacho Libre and never grow tired of finding a new taco truck on a street corner.

I also hope that you don’t try to shove these unique experiences into wherever you are next. The last 4-5 years were one of a kind. Any attempt at replicating them is just a cheap knock-off of the real thing that will leave you frustrated that you can’t recreate the original. Except for the Nacho Libre part because that movie is hilarious no matter what.

So be patient with yourself. Let yourself feel all of the emotions – the relief of being done with something you worked so hard for, the excitement of new possibility, the worry of not having a next step, the sadness of watching your people move to new places, the anger that happens when things don’t go your way, the loneliness that comes during the process of building new community, and the hope that comes from knowing that tomorrow will be better.

Welcome to the world, I can’t wait to see what you make.

the truth about staying.

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“You might be part pitbull.” He said. To my manager, this is the ultimate compliment. It means that in his eyes, I don’t give up.

If he only knew that I am queen of the 3-month relationship, have quit more fad workout regimens than I can count on two hands, and frequently skip songs on Spotify once they get through the chorus, he might have said something different. But this compliment was proof to me that I’m growing up.

My fight or flight reflex is heavily weighted towards flight. When things get hard, I run. It’s embarrassing that my willingness to quit something for the sake of my own comfort has often defeated my will to fight back. In light of the world around me, I prayed for this to change. Comfort is just another form of oppression for those who don’t have the privilege to live without conflict. And I’m learning that seeing someone, truly seeing them, is the key to love – which is the ultimate fight.

Lately I’ve admired the fighters who always seemed to be running down the next thing in their way. They were constantly moving, constantly chasing, always finding the next challenge they could take on to bring about justice or create good.

I used to think choosing adventure and movement was more courageous. Like the ones who made the big move to a brand new city every few years instead of choosing to live in the same town they grew up in were somehow stronger.

All of that fighting the next fight is just another way to avoid finishing the job. During the fight, things get messy. It doesn’t always go your way and you might end up face down after throwing a punch or five. But if you move on to find a different fight in hopes that you’ll automatically be victorious, isn’t that just the same as the ones who run away at the first sign of trouble?

I don’t want to come off like I have it all figured out in my relationship with God, but I think He values staying a lot more than I do. He seems to say “Stay. Wait. Be Still. Watch.” to me far more often than he says, “Move. Go. Fight. Take up your sword.”

It’s like I’ve got these God-sized dreams and instead of sprinting after them I’m supposed to choose a neighborhood and buy a Costco membership. It’s uncomfortable and seems weird and all I want to do is move to the city where I feel like I can hustle my dreams into reality, but it was never about me and my ability. It was always always always about how God chose to stay with me even when I don’t deserve it.

Staying is hard, especially for the dreamers. It’s risky because it may mean that your community might see you when you’re weak. You might even look like you’re failing. I keep running because I’m trying to save face. I don’t want to need people. I don’t want to need God. My stubborn, flighty self wants to keep running and prove that I’m enough to myself and the rest of the watching world. But I’m only human.

Staying is where the good stuff happens. It’s how you plant the deep roots that keep you grounded. It’s where the growing up happens and even though it doesn’t get easier, it becomes familiar. Staying builds your grit muscles and teaches you how to keep standing, even when you find your knees scraped and knuckles bruised. Even when every bone in your body is telling you to move on or risk being found out.

Maybe the braver choice is staying. Maybe it takes a lot more courage to face the uncomfortable, disappointing and confusing middle and see it through to end. Maybe communities are more affected by the ones that keep showing up rather than the ones who make a big splash and leave soon after. Maybe we all need to stay.

So make a promise to yourself to tough it through the uncomfortable middle. Keep a white-knuckle grip on the place you’re at. Tattoo the word on your ribs if you have to. Whether you’re in transition or facing conflict or just seem to find yourself knocked down, keep standing. Your heart will thank you for learning to stay.

 

a pep talk: keep on adulting, kid.

If you’re a tired twenty-something who has a long list of responsibilities and a whole lot of questions about what the H you’re doing, this is for you.

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Daylight Savings hit me like a bug on a windshield.

Most days I wake up before the sun is awake. My alarm goes off at 6AM and after pressing snooze 3 times I pull myself out of bed. By 6:30 I’m sitting with a cup of coffee and my Bible on my lap with the world’s largest cat curled up next to me. My morning ritual of rising before the sun doesn’t make me any less tired, and most mornings I debate trading sleep for sanity, but it’s my sacred space. So when 6AM feels more like 5AM, it’s hard make like Big Sean and bounce back.

Adulting is hard. A friend shared this on Facebook the other day and I literally LOL-ed in my office because of how true it is. Adulting means prioritizing and actually doing what life has served to you on your plate. And it’s exhausting, especially here in the PNW “Almost Spring Not Quite” season where it’s hard to tell where the gray starts and ends.

You’ve got a list of to-dos to prove to the world that you are, in fact, thriving but you’ve only got the energy level to put on real pants that day. That’s only if you’re absolutely killing it and you’ve done laundry in the past few days or so. Most weeks I’m lucky if I remember to do laundry in time before I run to Target and buy some clean clothes.

Maybe you’re facing a mountain of your finals or you’re buried at work or maybe it’s just been a couple of rough weeks for you since the shiny beginning of 2017. Whatever it is, your tank is empty. BUT. I believe we’re the comeback kids. So consider me your Coach Taylor (except not a man and way less handsome).

My words are not as poetic as “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” But if you’re a tired twenty-something – like myself – who has a long list of responsibilities and a whole lot of questions about what the H you’re doing, this is for you.

First thing’s first: look up.

We get so heads down in the grind to prove ourselves as capable humans that we forget to look up around us and breathe. Everything seems a lot bigger when it’s the only thing you’re looking at. You’ve got a capable body and a sound mind a whole lot of future ahead of you. No matter what happens today, there’s going to be a tomorrow. Look around you and realize first and foremost that you’re not alone in this.

But there is something in this world that only you can do and the world needs you to do it.

This may seem scary, but it’s the truth! You were given a whole set of talents, abilities, opportunities and a brain that’s unique to you. You’re something special, you know that? And yes, everybody has been telling you this since the day you were born and it can start to feel like a pipe dream. But something magical happens when you realize that you play an important part in the world.

You could be the world’s greatest pinball player. Or you could use your dance moves to bring cultures and communities together. Or you could code the next app that saves lives. Or you could use your words, resources, and life to do a whole lot of good in your neighborhood.

I get that you can’t put words to what your gifts are yet, but they’re there. I know they are. YOU know they are. It’s only a matter of time before the golden parts of you are uncovered, but it’s on you to make the effort to do so.

You might not be able to create enough space right now to identify what it is you were meant to do on this big green planet, but that’s ok. Sometimes the most important thing right now is to show up and try your best to be present in the work you’re doing today. All of these little experiences make you more into the person you were meant to be. So keep track of what you love and what you hate, eventually you’ll start to build a clearer vision of who you want to be.

Here’s some tough love that I need to hear, too: stop being numb.

There are so many ways to eat the hours and keep us occupied. We scroll and like and click “continue watching” until our brains are exhausted enough to switch off and drift to a hazy shut down. You justify that you need this period of “rest” so that you can continue adulting tomorrow, but that’s not true. Numbing ourselves cheats us out of living and growing into real people. Eventually it becomes a habit and you wake up later and realize that you made a lot of plans and held a lot of dreams but never did anything about them. Don’t live your life in woulda/shoulda/coulda. Take a deep breath and do it, whatever “it” is.

I know you’re trying your hardest to make sure you’re doing everything right. You checked all the boxes of “ways to be a great adult” and still ended up doubting if this was the right thing to do. You look around at everyone else and make yourself responsible for being the example, even if you don’t even know what the example is supposed to look like. But remember when I told you to look up at the other pretty faces around you? They’re trying to figure out the same thing – what am I doing? We’re all wondering what we’re doing, so you don’t have to be the one person who does.

Today’s freedom: No one is expecting you to be the success story. Everyone around you isn’t holding you to these same measuring tape you use and you’re not going to let anyone down if you misstep along the way. No one is watching to see if you’ll fail. But there is a whole tribe of people who want to see you rise and make it to the finish line when you do.

They’re rooting for you to find that thing that makes you feel like all the disconnected parts of you came together – your symphony of strengths. That moment doesn’t have to happen today or tomorrow or next week. It might not even be a one time thing. It could be a series of decisions that all point to one obvious next step. Whatever it is, you were meant to find it and I believe you will.

Homegirl, you were never created to be good at “adulting”. Adulting makes it seem like you have to have it all figured out, and how boring is that? Life is way more fun when you have a sense of wonder and adventure. And grace is all the more sweeter when you mess up and don’t deserve it.

One day you’ll blink and you’ll be sixty. You won’t remember the each day’s ins and outs from when you had no idea who you were, but you’ll remember what you learned and made with your life.

There is always going to be another to-do or more responsibility piled on your plate, but you may not get another opportunity to sing karaoke with your friends on a Thursday night or watch college basketball with your grandpa. There’s only a select few days of sunshine in the PNW winter-spring, so go for a hike. Your laundry and your email inbox can wait and you’ll feel all the more human after you take a minute to truly rest and breathe.

You’re going to be alright, kid. You’re going to be alright.

restless wanderer syndrome.

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I love autumn. I love the pumpkins and apples, the boots and scarves, the new Bon Iver album and old Death Cab for Cutie records that seem to always play in the background of my life. I love eating soup and reading when it’s an especially rainy day. I love hiking in the brief sunshine and running in the crisp air when it’s an especially bright October day.

But let’s be real: Fall is a transition season that makes you crave Home. All of the changing leaves and weather and even wardrobe make a person want to cling to something steady, which is hard when you’re living in transition yourself.

Like most people, I used to think home was a place – but I realized that you can live somewhere and not feel at home. So then I thought home was a feeling, one of being relaxed and safe – but this feeling frequently changed, depending on who I was with at the time. Then I thought home was with certain people, which is semi-true but as much as I want to I can’t hold onto people and claim them as home. And I think in the end I’ve landed on this: home is the space where you know those around you and can be known by them. Another word for this is ‘intimacy’. Whether it’s a place, a feeling, or people, home is an intimate space of being fully known. 

I’ve been extremely lucky to have two homes, each on one end of WA’s stretch of I-5, and now I’m currently living somewhere in between. When I lived in Bellingham, I missed the people who know and love me well back in Vancouver. And when I was in Vancouver, I missed my community in Bellingham. Now I’m in the process of building a new community, a new home, with new people – which is risky. It means letting people knowing all of the good and all of the bad, most of which I don’t want anyone to see. Far too often I run away from this out and I’m left retreating from the deep relationships God created us to have. Because if I am fully known, I risk not being enough.

Enter in a term I like to call Restless Wanderer Syndrome.

Restless Wanderer Syndrome (RWS) is this thing that happens when you look at your life and you’re always in pursuit of something better, usually based off of what someone else has. It’s a symptom of our culture’s deep evil of always thinking something better is out there, something that makes you feel more whole, complete, and enough. Humans have been struggling with RWS for years and if you don’t believe me, read the Old Testament of the Bible. There’s tons of stories of people who look at what God is doing in their neighbor’s life and then they decide that what God has for them sucks and they ditch that for what they think is better. In the end, these people somehow always end up lost in a desert to spend the rest of their days lonely and bumbling around until they come home to what God promised them years ago. RWS is the worst curse because you’re never quite home, and how sad is that?

Maybe you can connect to this nagging feeling of wanting home. We are privileged because we grew up in an era where we can call our people whenever we want, use WhatsApp/Skype/FaceTime to call my friends living overseas, see life updates via Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/_____ and text whoever you want without limit (who remembers the days of paying 10 cents per text am I right?!).

Technology is great, but it still doesn’t replace intimacy within your relationships. Relationships exist far beyond a double-tap on a picture or even separated by space and an iPhone. They happen when we strip down technology’s walls and show up. When we’re there, unfiltered and letting yourself be real and known by the people around you. I’m not saying technology is bad, I think it is a really wonderful thing, but I am saying that in order to create a home you can’t run away when it gets awkward, or leave if you find a cooler crew to hang out with, or even hide behind social media and say you’re in community with someone. To experience home you have to quit running. You have to be willing to personally show up and stay long enough to be seen, no matter how uncomfortable it is.

I’m learning that it’s okay to be frustrated with the process of building new community, especially in a new church. Sometimes it can feel like everyone has already been at this party and you showed up late, so now you have to look busy by getting a drink and pretending like you’re definitely supposed to be there even though the person who invited you isn’t there yet. No one likes being the new kid. No one looks forward to kicking it alone in the pews while everyone else sits down with their friends. For a large part of my life I’ve played an integral part of building community, so when I’m on the outside it feels strange. I always feel welcomed, but it’s almost a constant reminder that I don’t quite belong yet.

One of the reasons I love following Jesus is because he is a person who says everyone belongs. He didn’t wait for someone in the synagogue to say he was cool to start building community, he just did it because he knew that first and foremost he was in right relationship with God. Jesus flipped the script when it comes to dinner parties by eating with pimps, gang members, swindlers and prostitutes. He kicked it with folks that the religious people of his time deemed unworthy to be seen with. But God’s love doesn’t work like that. It is wild, unashamed, and proud to be seen with you – no matter who you are, what you look like or what you’ve done. God is just excited to BE with you in His house. You are more than enough because He created you.

“Enough is a staying word.” – Hannah Brencher.

Staying is growing my roots deep, even if it’s much easier to remain on the top soil. It’s a painful process to be vulnerable, open, honest, and raw, then to be ripped up and placed somewhere else where you have to grow through the process of knowing/being known all over again. Building genuine community is hard. It’s tiring and all I want is to stay, root, and be Home in one place forever. So I default to my RWS and I run. And then God gently reminds me, “Come Home. I see you. Be patient. You belong.”

So to all of the people doing the good, hard work of building a new community: remember that at the end of all your running, you were created by God to crave a place called Home. Risk vulnerability. Be brave in your relationships with others. Stay awhile.

the key to resilience

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“When Life hands you lemons, make lemonade!”

Why is Life giving me lemons? It’s February and lemonade doesn’t make sense, making that saying null. Sometimes I want to throw those lemons right back at Life. Life, take back your lemons, I don’t want them! You can’t even do much with lemons anyway!

Then Life is all “No take-backs!” and I’m stuck with these freaking lemons.

This season has been a doozy for me. Nothing particularly heartbreaking or life-altering has happened, but little things that didn’t go the way I wanted them to have been piling up and eating my insides. It’s easy to let this spill over into 90% of conversations I have:

“I just need to vent for a second.”

At every little defeat I have been throwing myself a pity party and I wanted everyone else to join in with me. I’m all for lending a listening ear, but I received an attitude check the other day when I was “venting” to a friend. I realized that I was not speaking life-giving words. My heart was bitter, my joy was diminished, and I didn’t feel any better after my vent-sesh because nothing was actually different. All of this whining left a gross aftertaste in my mouth, which usually means I should start praying.

And get my hands on some Orbit.

My generation has this stigma where everyone is allowed to whine about their life on social media if any part of it is not what the world told us we should expect. Humor is sarcastic and opinions are critical instead of constructive. All of this hostility is not becoming of us, Millennials. We look like a bunch of Pig Pens from the Peanuts walking around with a dusty cloud of negativity that infects everything we touch. Posting on social media about how much your day sucks over mine doesn’t change the situation we’re in, it just makes us look grimy.

Whether I vent to a friend or on social media, asking others to validate my problems is just another form of complaining.

And complainers are annoying. We all know them, too – they’re the people where when you ask “How are you?” they  respond with everything going wrong in their life. Complainers are joy-suckers. They magnify their own life’s little tragedies over seeking joy in ALL circumstances. It’s selfish, really. Complaining isn’t something we were made to do, and yet we default to it so easily whenever things go wrong.

This doesn’t mean that we are not allowed to feel sad or frustrated by life’s circumstances. I also think it’s important for healthy, honest sharing to happen within communities about where people are at spiritually – and that might include some parts that aren’t all shiny and happy. But there is a way to still be resilient by recognizing that things don’t always go the way we want them to and still choosing to walk forward.

Resilience has much less to do with my feelings and much more to do with my choices. Resilience is choosing joy, despite circumstance.

Choosing joy in a sucky circumstance is simple: you create it.

God is a fixer. A redeemer. A healer. A re-arranger of sorts. God is making – it’s a process, people! – ALL things new.

Creating is the exact opposite of complaining. When someone creates, they are proactively not being ok with the present state of things and have chosen to change it into something different. Creating ushers in newness and wipes away the grimy layer of negativity, defeat, and even apathy about the way things currently are. When I create, I feel satisfied and full because that’s what I am made to do: to make and fill and subdue this earth.

You don’t have to be an artist or a musician to create. You can enjoy the process of making anything – whether that’s writing a poem, arranging flowers, coding something fun, forging a new trail on a run, or cooking really bomb enchiladas. Exercising your creative muscle is less about the outcome and more about the healing process of making something new out of what you have now.

For the past two weeks, every time I felt that little swell of “woe is me” rising up, I chose differently. I cooked a meal. I tried a new hair style. I lettered a verse for a friend. I learned a new dance and sang a new song and I haven’t once felt like moping, even on the especially gray days.

It’s hard to throw a pity party when you’re in the process of creating something different. So next time if Life hands me lemons, I could whine about how annoying they are and how I can’t even do much with lemons… or I could squeeze the crap out of them make something useful. If I don’t have sugar for lemonade, the least I could do is make a salad dressing.