restless wanderer syndrome.

home

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.

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two thoughts.

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Preface: I am not a musician, however I am a “stomp-your-feet-and-sing-along-because-you-can” kind of person. If you need a harmony to back you up, let me know. Keeping that in mind, this is not about to be an album review but rather more of a late night commentary on the present state I’m in.

Joseph sang at my favorite college dive bar a few years back and since the moment they stepped on stage I was hooked. These sisters have a sound that is beyond this world. Their melodies don’t make you greedy for their talent, but they leave you thankful for the gift it is to stand and listen and join with them in a special moment of experiencing something only they can do. I’ll continue to fangirl about them for as long as they keep making music – which is for a long time, I hope!

Have you ever listened to a song that is so applicable to your life at the moment that you had to stop everything you’re doing just to hear it? Well Joseph recently released a new record and today as I streamed it on my car ride home I had to pull over and stop to listen to their song “Honest”.  There’s a line that says:

There’s always two thoughts one after the other – I’m alone, no you’re not. I’m alone no you’re not. – Honest, Joseph

After a full year of waiting, I packed up my bags and moved to a new city. A familiar city, but a new one nonetheless. There are few times in my life where I have been so certain that where I am is exactly where I am meant to be, which is exciting! But these two thoughts keep coming: I’m alone, no you’re not. I’m alone no you’re not.

Every twenty-something has probably experienced these two thoughts at some point. We’re saturated with various social medias and technology that’s forcing us to be connected to everyone all the time, and yet we still go home and sleep alone at the end of the day. We walk through life filtered to prove to the world that we’re okay, even if we’re scared out of our freaking minds because we don’t know what the hell we’re doing or how to even get “home” without using Google Maps. It gets old, you get tired, and the two thoughts come – I’m alone, no you’re not.

I think a shift in a person’s life can lead them through this series of unpacking the boxes of what they have known. Moving is more than just physical, there’s a mental processing period where you have to marry where you’ve been with where you are. Some things you bring with you make sense and they stick almost immediately. But some things feel uncomfortable in the new space even though you were once so sure of them.  You begin to doubt what was once true.

Change unwraps truth.

I’m alone, no you’re not. I don’t think we as humans would ever seek truth if we never experience doubt. That’s the whole point isn’t it? The experience of doubt is just the beginning of a greater desire to know what is true.

It’s true that you as a person are alone. No one has been in your brain and experienced life exactly the way you have. There is only one you. This is fact: I’m alone.

No you’re not. But I am not alone ever ever ever. My community might look different than what I’ve experienced and I can’t wander into my roommates’ room for a glass of wine and a ukulele jam session after a long day, but I’m not alone. There’s a million people around me experiencing similar things and trying to do their best, too. I’ve got a phone full of people to call who are each experiencing their own “alone”.

The two thoughts aren’t a contradiction between doubt and truth, but it’s big truth anthem given from two perspectives.

I used to be scared of my big doubts and worries because I thought they would somehow undo what I had built my life around. Now I’m seeing that this process of unpacking doubt is leading me into deeper truth as a whole. It’s a long to-do list of ripping tape off of boxes and unraveling, but ultimately the new space will start to feel more like home again.

I’m alone, no you’re not.

The two thoughts keep coming and it’s quite beautiful and messy all at once. So now that you’ve read my vague and ambiguous thoughts, go check out I’m Alone, No You’re Not from Joseph and be reminded that we’re all one tribe trying to find our way back Home.

go to Alaska & feel really small.

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I read once that great writers have daily writing rituals. They write in the same spot, at the same time, with the same cup of coffee in their favorite mug and are able to create deliberate and meaningful stories.

I’m writing this blog post from airport rocking chairs, airplanes, and charter busses. It is not stationary. It is not methodical or disciplined. But it is on purpose. So I’ll sit here and frantically thumb (I would say pen, but that’s not the reality of typing 1200 words on your iPhone) out what I think needs to be said before it disappears.


I used to hate feeling small.

All throughout elementary school, all I ever wanted was to be in the second row of the bleachers for school picture day. But every year I was always the third shortest in my class and my dreams of being in the second row were postponed until the next growth spurt. Being small meant I was seen as cute instead of capable. It was a constant fight to be seen, heard, and taken seriously. Maybe that’s because I was a girl rather than just small and often passed over, but that’s a whole different conversation. Basically, I have spent the majority of my life trying to never be small, because being small is scary. It meant I didn’t have power or safety or control.

Now, the word small takes on a different connotation. It means beautiful, desirable, and feminine. There’s a different kind of frustration wrapped up in the word because this kind of small is so darn relative. One day, average Emily will feel quite small and dainty and wanted. The next day, average Emily will feel like a clunky, repulsive giant who drags her knuckles and bumps into every corner in her living room. Real graceful, I know.

I don’t think I’m the only woman who struggles with desiring to be “small” in our culture. So many women I know expend countless hours of time and energy making themselves smaller in an effort to feel beautiful. I could go on and on about women’s equality (one of my absolute favorite topics) in the home, in the church, and in the workplace but I’ll just end this discussion of the word small with this thought:

Women have tried for many years to gain the same respect and opportunities as men and yet we still feel we have to diminish ourselves – whether that is physically or with what types of words we use and say.

We are still under the stigma to be small, and I don’t like it.

I hated the word small, and then I visited a place where the only logical feeling that made sense was “small”.

Juneau, Alaska is described as America’s most beautiful capital city, and that’s being modest. All throughout university I had friends travel here for the summer to drive tour busses or fish, each one of them raving about Juneau’s amazing views but me never fully believing them. People tend to embellish. Recently, I had a friend move to Juneau and we always joked about how I should take a mini-vacation away sometime. I guess this just shows that I have no shame in accepting these kinds of offers, but I bought myself a ticket and flew out to Alaska shortly afterward. I mean, who goes to Alaska in November? This gal! I could pretend that I went because I wanted to find answers or whatever, but really I went because I love traveling, I missed my friend, and I wanted to see snow.

I did need a weekend away though. One if the reasons I left is because Bellingham started to feel small, and we all know how much I despise that feeling. It felt constricting and it made me sad that it’s so cold and there’s no snow. So I bought a plane ticket.

The minute the plane landed my breath was taken away. If Juneau is beautiful in the summer, imagine how stunning this little town nestled in the mountains is with snow falling. My heart exploded from the beauty and grace that surrounded me. It was the most gorgeous image of solitude and so I did what any introvert would do – I cozied up in my friend’s apartment with a book and I fell asleep shortly after, content to just sit and stare out the window until I fell asleep.

I pretty much did this all weekend and it was the best.

God knows what we need. A few days later, we needed the sun to come out and glory! It did. Those mountains were practically begging us to spend time with them and this PNW girl was not complaining about it.

On Sunday during a break in the weather we hopped in the car and took off to discover. Everything was beautiful and clean and wild. Juneau is full of colors – bright turquoise and soft purples and sturdy browns. I had no words for Mendenhall glacier or the little island-shine we visited, only squeals of delight and the occasional “Oh my gosh just look at it!”

Being surrounded by the grandeur of Juneau’s mountains made me feel small again, but this was a new kind of small. I had only experienced a fraction of this kind of smallness before, often in solitary places when I pray. This sense of smallness was safe and seen. It was as if only God knew exactly where I was at that point in time. That kind of seclusion helped me silence the loud opinions this world chokes me with and to hear the small voice of Truth. That kind of small put me in right relation with a God whose majesty goes far beyond Alaskan mountains. It was gentle and humble and good.

For so long I fought smallness because it felt vulnerable and weak. I came at life on the offense, arms swinging in a desperate attempt to be bigger and be seen saying “Look at what I can do! Look at what I can achieve despite my smallness! Don’t I have worth? Am I valuable yet?”

God kneeled down to me in those mountains in an intimate, unseen, small moment and told me to stand down. To put my blazing guns away and stop letting the world name me anything else than what He already established at the beginning. God looked at me and called me “Beloved”.

“Here is My servant, whom I have chosen, My beloved, in whom My soul delights.” // Matthew 12:18

So now here I am, sitting small on a charter bus repeating my name to myself over and over until it sounds true – Beloved, Beloved, Beloved. Now I’m forever searching for the places that make me feel small.

here’s to the dreamers.

daniel sermon writing

It is common knowledge that if you want to get better at something, you should do that something more often. It’s the whole “10,o00 Hours” theory. The funny thing about most things is that the more often you do it, the better you become at it.

Unless we’re talking about eating kale, because the more kale I eat the less I like that stuff.

I have enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. Journals were my constant companion growing up and I wrote about everything from pre-teen crushes to the deep, philosophical thoughts a suburban middle child can have at the ripe age of fourteen. The first time I realized I was actually addicted to writing was in the seventh grade. Our teacher assigned my class to write a suspenseful short story that was required to be *gasp* 5 PAGES LONG, double-spaced of course. My story was about a middle school mystery where the suspect used a laser pointer to strike fear into the hero of our tale as he solved the crimes committed and tried to impress his best friend that was a girl (definitely different than a girlfriend) in hopes that she would “like him back”. It was 17-pages long and had chapters.

I’ve also always liked words because they make the impossible possible. Words strung together create stories and stories make people dream. That’s why I like writing so much: it makes me shed my comfortable layers of reason and allow me to dream a little.

Now that I’m older, slightly wiser, and college-educated I am very much aware that an excellent short story can have character development, struggle, redemption and conclusion well within a 5-page limit. But something happened during those beginning years of growing up: instead of writing every day I would write when it was convenient. I quickly dismissed my English professors when they told me to consider majoring in Literature or Creative Writing because it was impractical. What do you do with that?

Later I would learn that 90% of the time, your major doesn’t matter in the “real world” and if I spent half of the energy I used discovering my major, I could’ve ran a marathon. Or two. Or knit a blanket or done something useful.

I never fully quit writing, to this day I still keep a journal, but I let it take a backseat to more logical uses of free time for an undergrad student – such as learning how to cook a meal without noodles or binge watching Netflix until I forgot about that one assignment due tomorrow. The older I became, the more I traded dreaming for practicality. It felt like there wasn’t a space for my lofty goals among the daily stressors of passing classes, maintaining healthy relationships and ultimately trying to become a stably employed adult in the world. There were plenty of people I could talk to about my career. There were very few people who seemed to care about cultivating my dreams with me.

All of this brings us to now: post-graduate, working full-time, living my life in a perfectly “normal” way that left me feeling comfortable and unsatisfied all at once. That is until I woke up one day this summer and decided that I was going to do something that challenges me because I never want to wake up 10 years later, look back and say, “What just happened?”

It makes me uncomfortable to publish my thoughts for the world to see and judge, especially with the amount of run-on sentences I’m prone to use and the slang that’s likely to emerge over time as I get used to writing like this. It makes me nervous to think that maybe only one person besides me will ever read this or that what I’m experiencing no one else may relate with or care to read about. It’s scary to be vulnerable enough to write down the things that actually matter, but it’s a good kind of scary. It’s the kind of scary I want my story to be about.

This blog exists because I want to develop my dreaming muscle. My desire to create, to make, and to inspire hope through publishing my thoughts is what powered this blog. My hope is that it will encourage just one person to see their story as something worth living well and will create a space where you feel like you belong, Dreamer.  So here’s to the Dreamers: this is for you.