to the people who want to see the world burn.

angels rest.jpg

Dear you,

My family doesn’t have a lot of traditions, so when I went to college I made a lot of my own with  friends. For Easter, there’s this church in my college town that always used to have a Sunrise Service by Bellingham Bay. Everyone woke up freezing and tired and groggy, but after reading scripture we waited in expectation for the sun to break over Mt. Baker. It’s stunning. One time there was a gospel choir singing “This Little Light of Mine” across the bay and it was one of my most favorite Easter moments.

This year I spent Easter at home in Vancouver, WA. It’s a suburb that’s close enough to Portland, OR and the wilderness to spark a dangerous curiosity. It’s home to a place called the Gorge – you remember it –  not the one that Dave Matthews visits every summer, but the place where Multnomah Falls inspires tourists and the walls of Oneonta Falls make you feel like a true explorer. If you know someone from here, you know that hiking in the Gorge is part of our culture. It was our first taste of freedom as a teen. It was likely our biggest adventures as a kid. And it never, ever gets old to turn a corner and find a new waterfall. (No matter what TLC says…)

In keeping to new tradition, I got it stuck in my head this year that I would drive to Angel’s Rest for my own version of a Sunrise Service on the Saturday before Easter. I’ve done this hike too many times to count and I knew the familiar switchbacks and the rocky field just before the near 360 degree view of the Columbia River. I knew that the sun would break over the hills in the East. My hope was that I would be struck down to my knees in a moment of clarity in the familiarity of it all. All of my post-grad questions that I had been carrying would be answered and then God would come down and gift me with two stone tablets entitled “The 10 Commandments of Following Me in a World Where Everyone Follows Everyone”.

The drive out was beautiful and solemn because no one is on the road at 4:30AM. I made French-pressed Case Study coffee which is a very important detail because it was so good and so special. I stopped by the Vista House for a sunrise, watched the fog clear and then made it out to Angel’s Rest for a quick 6-miler all before noon. I didn’t receive stone tablets outlining my life’s mission but I did remember feeling extremely alive and seen even though I was hidden on a trail. This solo morning hike would be the last time I would experience the Gorge as I knew it.

You see, I go to church but I’m not one of those who believe that church is a place. I believe church is when two people meet, anytime and anywhere and about anything. Church creates holy spaces that teach us more about the stuff that makes up a soul.

The Gorge is our church. If you only knew that my holy place would teach you respect for people and the land by having the mantra “leave no trace” etched into our memories like a prayer. It would teach you how to have the humility to slow your speed in order to walk alongside your tribe rather than pushing your own limits to prove yourself as capable. It taught intangible lessons like perseverance and curiosity and wonder and discretion. Part of our PNW liturgy is hiking here and you took that away without knowing what you were losing out on.

I get it. I was a kid once and we do stupid things to show the world that we’re okay. You probably didn’t even know at the time what kind of destruction you were causing for the sake of a Go-Pro video. You figured someone else would deal with the smoke and it would be nothing; later you would laugh about it.

Being a grown up isn’t an act of being flashy and hoping someone cleans up your mess. It’s owning your own actions. It isn’t creating chaos to distract from your own hurts and it isn’t using people/living things for your own gain. If you had spent time in the Gorge, you would have learned all of this. But you didn’t. Some people never do.

I know with the hundreds of other natural disasters and strife happening in the world, the Eagle Creek fire seems like a drop in the bucket, but this article does a great job explaining why it matters to me. We’re all grieving this place. This letter isn’t just to those who light the fireworks that lead to wildfires. It’s also to those who signed legislation that steals away someone’s right to work & live in a country they’ve grown up in and call home. It’s to those who think that by taking away someone else’s power that they will somehow amass more of their own.

Despite your actions that result in only hurt and destruction, I feel sorry for you. I don’t know why you make decisions out of fear. Maybe you’re afraid because you’ve never known how freeing it is to experience grace and mercy from someone when you know you don’t deserve it. So you throw fireworks to gain enough street cred to make you feel adequate. Or maybe it’s because if you boast and show off then you can distract people from your deep insecurities that you will never be good enough. You tweet and stoke fear because you think it all covers up the truth: you’re small and scared. But I’m just speculating here.

The earth is created to be reborn. Time heals a lot. The trees will come back and the soil will regenerate nutrients and life. Even though it will be different, there will be new growth. There are new leaders who are learning what true courage is right now. There are movements that are disrupting your systems that have been trying to divert power away from people. There’s a new generation finding their voices and lifting others up with them.

You stole parts of our home, but you didn’t destroy our hope.

Xoxo Em

Advertisements

missing my British twin.

Processed with VSCO with acg preset

The 90’s and early 2000’s pop culture marketed at young tweens had a weird obsession with twins. If you went to a sleepover and didn’t eat pizza and watch Billboard Dad (or another classic Mary-Kate & Ashley movie) you weren’t crimping your hair right.

Knowing its audience well, Disney reintroduced The Parent Trap in 1998. This movie convinced me I had a long lost twin somewhere in the world and that I needed my ears pierced. It also kicked off my deep admiration for Lindsay Lohan & Dennis Quaid. My mom assured me from her eyewitness experience of my birth that I most definitely was not a twin, but sometimes on my hard days I like to imagine there’s a British version of Emily on the other side of the world. She’s having a great hair day and has perfected all of the steps to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” choreography. In other words, I hope alternate me is having a killer day when I am feeling less than.

This idea of imagining another you in another space at the same time is the dip-your-toe-in-version of what a multiverse is.

Why am I writing to the internet about the multiverse? Because my idea brain is the most active on airplanes, with the heights and perspective and whatnot, and flying inspires me. It’s probably why I impulsively buy tickets instead of clothes like a normal woman. As I write this, I have literally flown from coast to coast and back again (Eastern Standard to Hawaii Pacific Time, which is 6 hours of difference so I was #TeamNoSleep). Then I listened to a podcast about the multiverse. If you’ve ever wondered how big someone can think, make sure they’re exhausted from travel and then challenge them with quantum physics and philosophy.

Time to get sciency: I learned that multi-universes are not plausible according to everything observable. Which is fine by me. But I’ve been in a heady space and I’m a heady gal and I think the universe is full of things unseen. I’m not saying that there’s other universes out there, but I do think it’s important to know where your head goes when your heart is hurting.

After changing time zones too quickly I found my mind wandering back to my long lost British twin and I wished her well, like the proper psycho I am and also like someone who misses someone when they’re alone on a plane 30,000 feet above everyone you love in real life. 

I don’t think the world does a good job of talking about loneliness. We’re all afraid to admit that from time to time, we all feel lonely. There’s an expectation that if you have awesome friendships, maybe a great romantic relationship, consistent/stable/healthy time with your family, or any other form of thriving community in your life then you aren’t allowed to feel sad when you’re alone. It’s like if you admit that you’re lonely, then you’re weird or desperate for more relationship in your life, which isn’t true. It just means you’re missing someone somewhere.

I’ve had a lot of alone time lately, and because of that I’ve felt real lonely. This is not a cry for help or a realization that I need more friends – I have those, I swear! – but it’s a simple statement of fact. I’m not good at being alone. For those of you who are into things like the Enneagram, I’m a Type 6 which literally means that my biggest fear is being without support and guidance from people/communities I trust. Without people around me, I tend to get insecure and indecisive and scared. Lonely likes to sneak in and whisper lies that my secure relationships aren’t actually so secure and no one wins. 

I don’t really have a tidy quote or life lesson prepared by being honest about this, other than the belief that loneliness is as powerful as it is normal. I’ve seen it make hearts hard and lead people to make split-second decisions that hurt themselves and others. So I decided I’m taking loneliness back.

The way to slay the dragon named “Lonely” is to embrace it with open arms – fully, wholly, completely. Don’t let Lonely tell you lies that you’re unworthy of love. Lonely just means you were brave enough to let people in once upon a time. That should be celebrated and I hope you continue to have courage to step into situations that scare you – like being alone or choosing love over apathy or renting a moped in Hawaii and pretending you know where you’re going.

We’ve got to talk about this feeling that can influence our decisions and bring so much shame around such a normal concept. So how do you respond to loneliness? Do you think being lonely is a bad thing? Why do you think admitting that we’re feeling lonely is such a hurdle for most people? If you’re feeling bold, leave a comment below or send me an email if you prefer a little anonymity.

The next time you’re feeling lonely, just know that we’re all missing our British twins and we all wish them well. Maybe there is another universe where they’re all wishing us well, too.

it’s on the tip of my tongue.

Processed with VSCOcam with se3 preset

You know that feeling where a word or a name is stuck in your mouth? Its when your brain has stored a fact away for safekeeping and try as you might to excavate it, it won’t come out when you want it to. You can attempt to force it out with verbal cues and other various forms of muttering in hopes that eventually the letters will form what you know them to be. But the more you force it, the further away the idea becomes. The only thing that makes the words eventually tumble out is time.

I’ve had writer’s block for two months. For eight weeks, I’ve stumbled around with the words I want to say on the tip of my tongue and it has been infuriating. When my big ideas float around untethered to anything it leaves me feeling unsettled. Writing them down feels like coming home.

It’s not like I haven’t had anything to say. There have been more than a few events that looked me straight in the face and said, “This matters to you. It might matter to someone else, too.” I always keep just one reader in mind and think of what I want to say to them in those moments, like we’re sitting across from each other sipping a latte and letting the truths we feel spill out. I wanted to create a place for people to experience honesty in a world of filters and feel like they belong.

Something has shifted since the last time I wrote something for this little tribe. I realized that people actually might read this. And that’s freaking scary. It’s a lot easier to be vulnerable and honest when no one is listening.

The last few weeks have been spent trying to put words to what I think God is walking me through and coming up short every time. I’ve written and deleted entries and keep stringing together pretty sentences to make you feel good, but every time I type something it feels forced. I’ve been too in my head about what I think I should say rather than going with my gut about what I know to be true. The words are there, but now it’s on me to make the choice about how I want to respond.

The thing is: you can’t choose if you don’t know what you want.

Whenever I meet a person in their twenties who can say exactly what they want I immediately assume they’re lying. Seriously. I can count on one hand the number of people I know who can put words to what they truly, deeply desire in life and have actually gone out and done it. These people are inspiring and annoying and are the Millennial unicorns of the world. They’re the people who add you on LinkedIn and actually endorse you for your leadership skills.

No twenty-something actually knows what they’re doing or how to choose that thing. Some of us are just luckier to stumble into situations that make our eyes light up more often than not; myself being one of them. But my passive way of letting the world dictate what I want has been a cheap form of my middle-class privilege that allows me not to care. Because I have the power to choose what I want, but some people in this country have big dreams and goals that they are passionate about and they still don’t have this choice because the world told them, “No. Not allowed.” And I’m left being the asshole trying to get rid of this gift because I don’t want to be honest with myself about what I actually want out of fear.

I’ve felt the pressure to be some kind of spectacular for you. I feel like I need to keep appearing like I have the world figured out and I know exactly what I’m doing and what to say in any given moment. But I’m none of those things. I have no idea what I want. Or maybe I do, but I don’t know how to put words to it yet. I barely even know where to begin. And I’ve started paragraphs and pressed backspace too many times to pretend that I know how to tell you all how to figure out what you want.

The words haven’t been coming because I’ve been too focused on waiting for you to tell me what I should do. I avoid choice because I fear the uncertain aftermath that maybe what I want to say doesn’t matter to anyone else and that nothing matters at all. Which is semi-true, but it’s allowed me to be passive in my decision making and live semi-satisfied. I feel good when others validate me and yet I’m left longing for something I can’t quite place.

Just like the words on the tip of my tongue, my big “wants” are taking form with time and experience. I’ve tried to force them out when I so desperately want answers but they can’t be rushed. I think my dreams are most pure when they choose to show up in my everyday. Like when I’m making tacos or bumping Chance the Rapper in my car and all the sudden I’ll just know. Call it inspiration, call it God, call it luck or whatever. But don’t ignore it.

Your wants/desires/dreams are legitimate. They were planted in you for a reason and you’re worthy of letting them grow into something really beautiful. We owe it to ourselves, our Creator, and even the people around us to be active participants in our lives. Otherwise, you’re just another asshole who has traded away your gift of choice for mediocrity.

I guess this is my long-winded way of saying that I’m sorry for not showing up and being honest sooner and that I am making the decision to make decisions. We all get this one life and I’m learning how to say what I want without shame telling me that we weren’t all created for more than this.

ending well & other things I’m bad at.

Featuring that one planner everyone owns by Rifle Paper Co, that one bedspread everyone owns from Ikea, and my favorite wool socks.

There are few things as satisfying as finishing a great book. Knowing that I spent weeks (albeit sometimes days, or even hours, depending on the story and my schedule) devoted to finishing one thing and finally reaching the empty pages at the back is a unique form of relief. The definition of closure is flipping the last page and reaching “The End.”

I grow attached to characters and the message; often I’ll write my favorite quotes down on pieces of paper and stick them around my room to find later to help me through the post-book depression that starts to settle in soon after I’m finished. For awhile I’ll mope around and refuse to read anything ever again because I’m convinced it just won’t measure up. I’ll tell all of my friends that they have to read this book because I feel some sort of strange loyalty to it. One day I’ll go to the library to find another piece of fiction to tide me over and the cycle starts all over again: read, fall in love, finish, mope, move on.

That’s what ending well looks like to me.

Sometimes I wish life’s seasons were divided into chapters and bound by hard covers. That way  ending well would look like living the story, falling in love with it, finishing the season, mourning about the good times in memorandum, and eventually moving on a little wiser and stronger than before.

This time though, I’m eager to shut 2016’s cover. Screw the process. I want to duct tape this year shut, shove it away in a box marked “NO” and never look back. It’s easy. It’s quick. It allows me to ignore the tough stuff instead of doing the gritty work of sorting through this year. During a couch talk – aka the slightly less dramatic equivalent of a driveway car talk – with my sister, I realized that in order to move forward we have to decide what to bring with us from 2016.

Here’s an unpopular opinion: 2016 wasn’t actually the worst year ever.

Life really sucked when the Black Plague hit Europe in 1346. I’m also going to give a HARD PASS on going back in time to 1861 when the Civil War was taking place. I lived in North Carolina for a month this year, and even though that was less than ideal I would gladly take Charlotte in 2016 over 1861. Just saying. And I’m going there: World Wars. Hitler. Genocides. Even though you can make valid comparisons of these past crises to current world problems, the list for “The World’s Worst Year” is pretty thick.

I don’t want to invalidate the pain that has scarred this year for individuals and people groups. People made choices that left others hurt and confused about where they belong, if they belong. That’s devastating and shouldn’t be made small. But this year hasn’t had more or less letdowns than others. We have always been living in a world that is bleeding from the inside out, it just became more obvious this year. If anything, 2016 was the year that left me feeling a little less naïve than before because of this realization.

Surreal is the best way to summarize how I felt looking at the state of the world and my life after this year. It was hard to believe I was actually seeing and hearing things. Most things I held as true and safe were challenged. I kept saying that I felt older after reading the news of another worldview shattered. A lot of my good friends have expressed feeling frustrated by this constant second-guessing of what is real in their lives as well.

Life never gets clearer, you just get more sure of yourself.

I wrote this quote down on a sticky note and kept it on my work computer. It’s been acting as a subtle reminder that I need to rip the 2016 box open and sort through it. Otherwise it’s going to sit on my shelf for years taking up valuable space in my heart. So I’m holding the triumphs and trials of 2016 in my hands and choosing to keep close the moments – good and bad – that made me feel more sure of who I am. Kind of like a weird, mental version of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. I’m in my mid-twenties and these are the kinds of books you read when you’re trying to pretend to have your life together.

Moments like standing next to my best friends when they got married are the ones that show me that this year mattered. Or times when I took a risk and learned something new. Or where I was when I found out about Brexit or the US election results. And how I felt when I looked at the picture of the little Syrian boy in the ambulance. This highlight reel of living 2016 out to my edges is what I’m able to point to as experience, wisdom, and has revealed more of God’s heart to me.

I mention God a lot in these blogs but I don’t really address the fact that yes, I am a Christian, and yes, my life has been completely changed by following Jesus. Maybe that’s because I’m afraid that somebody will assume things about me that aren’t true based off of what they read. So here it is: I’m passionate about loving God and His people (that’s you, that’s everyone). I still drink far too many margaritas and say things I shouldn’t and that’s ok. It doesn’t change the fact that I am completely sure that God has called me His daughter, even if I’m not sure about a lot anymore. That’s big for 2017.

I’m bad at making resolutions. It’s hard to set measurable goals when you only have a sliver of an idea of what you want or how God is working in and through you. But I want to give 2016 credit where credit is due: it made me more into the Emily that I want to be in 2017.

In 2017 and for the rest of my little existence here, I want to see people and run toward them rather than running away because I’m uncomfortable. I want to celebrate well and dance hard and often, because some things – like love, hope, and forever promises – deserve to have a bottle of champagne popped and a killer playlist. I want to freely forgive. I want to travel because I can and pet dogs because I can and vote because I can and love because I can. I want to be bold and say the things I mean and hug people a little closer because no one gives good hugs anymore. And I want to ride my bike more.

So as much as I want to ignore 2016, it mattered. And 2017 will matter, too. And one day all of the years will add up and matter a whole lot. Then everything that happened won’t matter at all because I’ll be way too focused on praising God for who He is and has been all this time.

Here’s to becoming more of who we already are.

Dressember 2016: Day Sixteen

I wrote a guest blog for one of my dear friend’s Dressember Campaign to end Human Trafficking. Read why I didn’t wear pants for a month here:

Dressember 2016

Day Sixteen: Emily Flanagan (Seattle, WA)

I love my morning coffee and cozy blankets. I live my life in scarves and will often go out of my way for the things that bring me the warm fuzzies, like visiting old restaurants or wandering my favorite bookstores. I love my comfort.

But I also avert my eyes when I’m at a stoplight and a stranger is holding a sign on the corner. And I’ll politely excuse myself when a woman at church begins to share stories from her past. I avoid tough conversations and plug my ears when I hear news that I don’t like. I love my comfort.

When I first heard about Dressember a few years ago, I didn’t get it. How can simply wearing a dress solve an issue as big as human trafficking? The answer is: it doesn’t.

What I mean is – simply wearing the…

View original post 484 more words

the good life.

I’ve been walking a pretty steady pace in 2016, and then November came into my life. November cranked the speed all the way up to 10 and told me to keep breathing.

Each weekend in my planner quickly filled up with celebrations, conferences, trips to the airport, and promises. In the moments between scheduled appointments, life’s news decided to push in for space as well. What little room I had to rest and recoup was filled with a mosh pit of hard feelings – the blues and the mean reds and even the confusing combination of violet, too.

At first glance, I’m usually pegged as an extrovert who is a “yes” person. I’m a chatty gal who loves a good happy hour with friends and holds her own when talking to strangers, so it’s easy to assume that I’m most relaxed in a group of people.

Hard as I have fought to uphold this image, the older I get the more I’m realizing how much alone time I need to function as a person who loves people well. I look forward to cancelled plans because that means I can go for a run or read a new book. Showers are the best because I have an excuse to be alone. After parties I turn myself into a blanket burrito for a day just to feel human again. At the heart of all social interactions, I’m an introvert of introverts.

Needless to say: November was exhausting.

Every other blog and op-ed circling the Internet seems to have the same feeling that we all got socked in the gut and we’re not sure why. I think we’re all just looking for someone or something to blame so we can move on with our lives, but when there’s no one to point to you just feel stuck.

How do you move forward when you don’t know how or who brought you to the place you’re in? It’s a desert out there and God feels far away. It feels like he dropped us off here in 2016 and left us with the clothes on our back and a canteen to build character.

Lately I want to throw my hands up and say “I don’t want to be here, I want to be there.” I’m guilty of treating this “desert” as the in-between before my actual life. Like once I move or get promoted or make 10 new friends or join one of those hip, niche gyms then the things that made November so full of disappointment won’t have a hold on me anymore. We’re all slaves to the next thing that makes us feel whole again.

I don’t think that there is anything wrong with hope. But the cocktail of hope and the in-between is a dangerous one. It mixes feelings of discontent with the reality of now. Because in the midst of all of the crap November brought, there really has been a lot of light.

This month I’ve been on six different planes and have spent weekends in four different places. At each stop along the way I’ve been able to share a meal with someone I love and do something I’ve never done before. I’ve checked two dreams off of my bucket list and have lived out the true stories I will tell my kids someday when they’re falling asleep. Disappointment won a lot of battles this month, but joy won the war outright.

Here’s a piece of wisdom that I’ve tucked away for the especially gray days:

“Whatever is happening in our lives right now, that’s God’s best for us. Even if what I think is best is different, He knows. And I want to live out His best and honor that gift.”

Yes – life does feel a little lost right now and God feels too big and far away in the midst of the mess. Where I’m at doesn’t feel like what’s best for me and what I think would be the best is over there… wherever there is. I’m learning that I don’t need to feel like everything is okay to come, sit at His feet and wrestle through the hard stuff together. He knows I’m tired and I need a moment to be upset. But He’s also a good gift giver, so good that I found myself sitting in Main Street in Disney World with a cup of warm coffee humming “The Good Life” and “Holly Jolly Christmas”.

It feels good to breathe in the now rather than wishing for less than. It might even be what’s best.

a Cubs win means more curses are ready to be broken.


W.

For those of you – like me – who don’t necessarily follow baseball and you might have sworn off all media for 2016 (not a bad idea, in hindsight) the Chicago Cubs just won the World Series after a comeback, a rain delay, and a 108-year “curse” hanging over their heads. A curse that said no matter how hard the Cubs tried or how dedicated their fans were, they would never quite achieve what they wanted to… except when Wednesday happened and it was shattered. For-ev-er.

Curses get a lot of credit they don’t deserve. It’s easy to justify crappy situations by pointing to something beyond our control, like a curse, and shifting all blame to it. I made a joke the other day with a friend that my dating life is cursed by me being the one before the One (has only been true once…maaaaybe twice, but it made us both laugh). It’s easy to say “unlucky” or chalk a bad situation up to being cursed rather than face the fact that maybe it wasn’t our turn. Or maybe we didn’t have the faith & patience & perseverance to break the curses weighing us down ourselves. 

In the words of Michael Scott, “I’m not superstitious, but I’m a little stitious.” Some things in life truly just happen, but I don’t want to credit life’s magic moments to just coincidence. It’s the victories, the W’s, that we need to lift up on our shoulders and hoist in the air. Let’s give them the facetime instead of the curses. Things like a 108-year-old curse being broken deserve to be celebrated more than just another mark in history. They deserve parties and parades, the toasts and speeches written about their long time coming, and they deserve to be recognized as on purpose. Things like the Cubs winning the World Series make me hopeful that all curses are just waiting to be broken by a group of ordinary people with extraordinary callings. 

This is not a political post. I promise I will not say the names of Those Who Must Not Be Named. But 2016 has made me cynical, and I’m not the only one. There has been a lot of disappointment in the state of the world and it can make a gal feel blue. Instead of letting all of the things going wrong dictate what we speak about 2016, I vote that we start talking about all the curses that were shattered this year because that’s what really matters. 

There are victories happening all around – like human trafficking busts and documentaries like 13TH being brave enough to tell the truth and love stories of people pledging stick by each other for better OR worse. These are the stories worth celebrating and telling our grandbabies about one day. Stories of hope breed dreamers, and we need more of those in our lives to grow up to be the curse breakers of the future. 

I believe in people, regardless of how unqualified and imperfect they are. I will root for the underdog and I will bet against all odds for the One to change the game. We give curses too much credit because it just takes one win, one person, one ruling, one change to shut it down forever. Even if it takes awhile, they always come to an end if you’re patient enough to keep the faith that promises curses are only temporary. So let’s keep the hope and let the rest of 2016 be a year of the W.