Today is a major day in the state of Alabama. It seems the whole nation is watching what we do. Today, someone will be elected to a seat on the Senate. During the last election, our local mayoral elections, I reflected about how only recently I've realized what a privilege it is to vote. And that many people, especially women, have fought hard for me to even have the right to vote. As of writing this, I still have not gone to vote in the Senate race. I've constantly been going back and forth, weighing all options in my head, praying about what is "right". I've looked to see what friends have done (peer pressure, y'all and curiosity), read countless articles, and still, I just go back and forth. There are only certain things I know to be true and knowing anything about politics is certainly not one of them. I don't see myself as a traditional Republican, nor a Democrat. Like many other areas of my life it seems, I struggle to figure out my place and where I belong. Despite my stubbornness, I've never been one to argue (sorry discuss) anything political. I hate listening to it on the news, because instead of actual conversations, it becomes person after person yelling over one another. If I have to yell over you to try and get my point heard, it's not worth my time. I'd rather have a legitimate conversation with you and learn from each other, rather than get spit in my face from you trying to convince me you are right and I'm wrong. I live in between cynicism, pessimism, and optimism. I want to believe that everyone has some good in them, that they are looking out for others and not just themselves, but I know it's often not the case. We are a selfish people. One of the fights of this world today is serving the self, finding out ways to only satisfy us and not serve our neighbors. While I want to believe in and find the good, I tend to hold people at arms length. My lack of trust in others makes me need them to prove to me that they are capable. To do what they say they will. To stand behind who they say they are. Even if there is doubt on my end, part of me is cheering for them, wanting them to succeed and prove to themselves, to me, to everyone, that they are who they say they are. That they can do it.
That is what makes elections hard for me. I want to vote for the one who has proven to do right. For the one who stands entirely behind what they say they do. To not back down at every turn, but to remember who they said they were during the campaign. To actually be for the people who voted for them. For the ones who depend on them to be their voice when theirs isn't always heard. I want to build trust, not fall into pessimism over and over again. Voting today is often about choosing between the "lesser of the two evils." That's not what I wish voting was like. I wish I could walk confidently into my polling place, cast my ballot, and be perfectly okay with what I just did. I honestly can't say that I have ever had a voting experience like that. I'm not sure if I ever will.
Living in between cynicism, pessimism, and optimism, trust is hard to find. And though I will carry out my right to vote today, after lots of prayer and back and forth, I'm quick to remember that ultimately all authority belongs to God. Whoever fills the seat, this year, and the elections that come after it, He reigns. All powerful. All authority. Almighty. There is no voting to take place, no questions to ask, no worries to wonder. His seat is one that is already filled and will never be filled with another.
The older I've gotten, the more I've gotten excited about the idea of settling into one area. My college summers and the year after graduation were all spent in different places. I know I was meant to be in each of them. And when memories come flooding in from all of those places, when the faces I remember come back to mind, a smile comes on my face, followed by a sweet sadness.
When the memories flood in, I realize how fast time truly went. I immediately want to go back, to remember.
I want to snap my fingers and be back in the ice cream shop in New Orleans, that one night when camp was over, and we would all be leaving soon. I want to stay in that space, laughing forever. I want to hop a plane and be back on the shores of Lake Tahoe and I want to walk the Rim Trail knee deep in snow for just a mile longer. I want to always be among the snow covered pine trees when the wind blows and snow falls gently to the ground. I want to go back and sit with all the kids I've met for a little while longer. Read one more story as they sound out words, color one more picture. I want to go back to that one hill in Arizona, and sit there every night as the sun sets in the desert. I want to go back to the first time I saw the Grand Canyon and sit on the edge for just a little longer.
I want to go back. I'll trade my days of being settled and in routine, to go back to the days that I want to last just a little bit longer.
Like the college nights spent sleeping over at a friend's house when we watched nothing but The Office and made pallets in her living room. Or the nights spent cheering on our favorite football team. The nights we would fill up our favorite restaurants and stay until they turned out the lights. Those nights we made blanket forts and ordered way too much pizza. When we would push together the tables in the dining hall, so we could eat as one big family, going back for countless bowls of ice cream. The time we crammed more than enough people into a beach house. The night we went looking for a meteor shower and never found it, so we turned on music and just danced beneath the clouds.
I want to go back. I want to make myself stand back for just a minute longer and take it all in a little deeper and longer. To remember the smells of the summer night, how the water felt when I ran through it, the excitement of family all around, the breeze as it gently went by, the smiles and laughs of friends who wouldn't be friends always...
I've become used to the idea of being settled. But one thing I will never be completely settled in doing? Saying goodbye.
Saying goodbye to family, to places, to friends. I never want my best memories to become hazy, or worse, lost.
It's true that each day there are new memories to be made. God has written this incredible story that only He could write. The only thing I can do is walk into the new page each morning and see what He has written. I've walked quickly through some of those chapters in the past, barely stopping to see what He wrote on the pages beneath my feet. And that's why I want to go back, that's why I want to trade my settled routine. I want to go back and see those pages again. I want to go back and read them a little slower, as my feet move from one word to the other, syllable by syllable. With each step I want it to be stamped into my memory bright and full, like I'm living it again.
But, with the turn of each page, it becomes just another memory. Another goodbye. Another part of a chapter, filling a book, with a story where I vaguely remember the beginning and don't know the ending. Memories don't keep the goodbyes from happening. But, I have to look for the greetings of each new day.
I have to look down at the words on the next page. Because new memories are unfolding and, for today, I can be settled. Today I can walk the pages a little slower, take in the words a little slower. Because in another five years, ten years, twenty years, I'll look back and want to come back to this chapter. I'll want to come back to lazy rainy days, to the nights spent on roofs, to the sound of waves rolling in from the Gulf. Back to the moment your best friend finds out she's having a baby boy, when you watch a friend graduate, when families invite you into their homes.
I need to read these words slowly, Lord. Don't let them pass until I've taken all of their meaning in. Keep the memory bright and full. Keep me settled in today, so I'm always looking at the pages that You've put under my feet.
I remember going on my first mission trip ever when I was in high school. It was the first time I had ever really been away from my parents, my first time really out West, and my first time on an airplane. I was so excited, but also nervous. Stepping into Arizona was a new world to me, even though I was still in the United States. It brought me new friends, new realizations about people and life, and challenged me greatly in my walk with Christ.
One of the most memorable moments is when I was standing on a plateaued hill, in the desert of Arizona, watching the sunset. The sky literally seemed to be painted, as it turned so many different colors. God as Creator became real to me then and He's never let me forget that moment. Since then, I've tried to serve Him locally and domestically as best as I've can and go wherever He has led.
He really does work in mysterious and sometimes funny ways. Like when as a freshman in college, I sat with a friend at a cafe in New Orleans and told her that I felt like God was leading me there. And He did in the summer of 2011. Or the summer I served in Mobile, many years before I would eventually call that city home, as I do now. Then, He somehow got me to California, the absolute farthest I had ever been from home or anyone I knew. I went fresh out of college and knowing no one. Simply ready for adventure. And that it was.
Because when following the Lord, it is certainly an adventure. A beautiful, fun, crazy, most times scary, adventure. I've visited places I've only dreamed about and somehow, I'm not sure how, but I love them all so much. I smile when I think of them and I love when they come up in conversation (or let's be honest, when I bring it up because I want to talk about it). I smile because of the places I've been, the people I've met, the pictures I've taken, or simply just my memories. I smile, because I often can't believe that the Lord would give me such great chances. And I smile because His love is just that great, that He did, and still does, give me those chances.
It was way easier to say yes to those chances when I was in high school and college. Now, I feel like there are so many other things I have to think about, or work out, before I can say yes. And because of thinking that way, I wonder what I've passed up, because I didn't say yes...
Missions is in my heart. The people, the places, the food, the smells. They get in my heart and they never let go. I don't want them to. I want to hold on to them forever. I want the memories to grow stronger, but also make room for new ones to form. With new places, new faces, new smells, and new sunsets.
Every place has its sunset moment. Lord, I pray I don't miss it...
A few weeks ago, the tree in my front yard was full of bright, pink blossoms. A hint of spring in the middle of winter. Today, the leaves are green, bright and colorful in the midst of other trees still bare. Yet, nearby, pink azaleas, both light and vibrant, are already blooming as well. Petals and green leaves hold on tight under a sky mixed with grey and white clouds with a hint of blue sky, as the wind blows dead, brown leaves across pavement.
I love watching the wind blow. You can see it travel, first hitting a tree way off and then others following suit as their branches and leaves begin to sway side to side. Petals and green leaves seem to dance, while the dead leaves tumble across the driveways. I want to be like the petals and green leaves. Holding tight to their branches, dancing as the wind blows by. Blooming. But, I find myself more like the dead, brown leaves. Tumbling, head over heel, as the wind blows. Thrown from driveway to driveway, trampled by feet and car tires. Nothing to hold on to.
My mind doesn't dance with the wind, it tumbles with constant worry. Worry about all the things that can go wrong. Worry about what I will do next. My mind doesn't dance with the wind, it tumbles with constant sadness. Sadness over things I do not have. Sadness over how lonely my heart often feels. My mind doesn't dance with the wind, it tumbles with being angry. Angry about all the things I can't do. Angry about how things always seem to be just out of reach.
My mind tumbles, but what does it take to dance? What does it take to bloom? The petals, green leaves and dead leaves all feel the wind. The wind moves them all in some way. Attached to their branches, the petals dance as the green leaves follow. The dead leaves tumble by, no longer is their place on the branch. They all feel the wind, but whether they are attached to the branch or not, determines how the wind moves them.
Apart from Christ, my Branch, I can do nothing. My mind will tumble all day long, as the wind blows, and as long as I'm not connected to Him I'll keep tumbling. But, how is it, why is it, that even when I find myself attached to the Branch, I don't always see myself blooming? Or dancing? Only tumbling? I know the source of everything I need, but I'm not letting Him nourish me. Instead of letting Him grow me, I'd rather fall off the Branch. Yet, I know that the moment I leave the Branch, nothing will be the same. And all chances to bloom will be gone, tumbling down the pavement with me. Apart from Him, I can do nothing.
The wind is coming, it's inevitable. Worries, sadness, anger. If I'm the dead leaf, I'll only continue to tumble when the wind reaches me. But when attached to the Branch? I'll have life, vibrant and bright. And when the wind comes, I'll be able to dance. And one day, if I keep hanging on, I might even bloom.
I've followed with the trend of picking a word for the past couple of years now. Wait. Better. Fear. Those have all been some of my past chosen words. And here we are, time for another picking. I've been slowly making a list of goals and things that I would like to accomplish in 2017. After looking back on my goals for 2016, I realized that...well, I didn't do nearly half of what I wanted to. That bums me out, but also makes me want to worker harder in the new year.
2016 was the year of fear. The year of fearing the Lord and striving to know Him more. Some dreams fell away and some old dreams returned, ones that I had forgotten about or chose to ignore in the past. So, I re-circled those dreams. The Lord has put them on my heart for a reason and I believe, in one way or another, He will bring them to fruition. I'm excited to see that happen and it makes my heart flutter just thinking about it. And I know that I'm still not close to some of those dreams becoming reality, that the season of waiting continues. However, I'm more content in the Lord than I've been in years, and that I realize, is what makes the waiting easier.
The later half of 2016 sent me on a search to find rest. I started a new job in 2016, one that I never thought I would be in, but love. With that comes new routine and changes. I found myself mentally tired, more than physically tired. For a couple of months, it seemed that things just came one right after another. There was no slowing down, no moment of calm, before something else popped up that needed to be taken care of. I needed rest. I needed renewal. And the Lord gave it to me. He showed me that He is my rest and where I find all rest. In that place, in Him, is everything I need. As long as I look to Him, as long as I put Him first and allow Him to be all that I need Him to be, there will be nothing more I need.
I began that in 2016 and I want to continue it in 2017. There are things I would love to do this year, dreams I would love to keep circling and prayerfully see Him answer, but most importantly, I want to choose Him. I want to be about the things He is about. I want to daily look to Him, I want to find my rest in Him, I want to follow Him to wherever He has me to go.
Spiritually, emotionally, financially, physically, missionally, daily, big things, little things, in friendships, relationships, in my writing, at my job, in everything! He needs to be a part, because all these things are for His glory, and I want to do the best I can with what He has given me. So, I will choose Him. In every step of the way, I choose Him. Simple.
You know, when I was thinking about what word to pick for this coming year, I was struggling with it. I wanted it to be some amazing thing, because I felt like it had to be perfect. I thought about flourish or cultivate. And while those are great words, they just seemed too fancy for me. I'm simple. And I like that. I don't need eloborate things, the smallest things make me happy, and I don't need grand gestures. I need simple and easy. As I was doing the Advent study with Sacred Holidays in December, something that Becky Kiser wrote stuck out to me. She said, "There isn't a magical formula to following Jesus. Following Jesus is simply choosing to actually follow Him. This following looks different for each person because we are all different." I love this, because it is simple and true, yet I often forget it! I get caught up, thinking that my time with the Lord, or my life even, has to look a certain way because that is what other 28 year olds are doing or what it looks like on Instagram. My call is simple, choose to follow Him. So, simply choose Him I will.
The word for this year and the word that I pray is for every year? Choose.
Have you chosen a word for the year?
What is something you want to do in 2017 that you didn't do in 2016?
I so wanted to have this post up on Monday, however we were having horrible weather which made for horrible internet. Then, Tuesday I rented the new Jason Bourne movie and watched that instead of blogging. Because, y'all, the Bourne movies are some of my most favorite and it hit Redbox this week! On to today's post: around the end of the year, photos and videos start popping up on social media, giving a recap of everyone's year. The best nine typically is found on Instagram, so I checked out what mine was going to be. The website just generates your top nine based on numbers of likes. While I liked all the photos, I didn't feel like it really showed what 2016 meant to me. So, I chose my own top nine. You may have already seen it on my instagram, but here is my top nine, with lessons, moments, and memories I want to remember as 2017 begins.
We were only three months into 2016 and I found myself moving into a house with my already roommate and two practically new to me girls. I was a little iffy on the whole move at first, I am anytime that I have to move. In college and the couple of years after, I never blinked an eye to moving around or changing places. Yet, the older I've gotten, it's something I don't want to do as often. I like where I am and I want roots. Roots can't grow unless they've been planted somewhere for awhile. At the same time, I don't want to be unwilling or unopen to whatever and wherever the Lord may lead me. Ultimately, my roots are in Him alone and in 2017, I want those roots to grow deep and strong.
This is straight from the Instagram caption of when I shared this picture last May: "Four years ago I graduated from college. My life looks completely different four years later than what I thought it would be. But, I'm resting in the fact that God's ways are higher and better than mine and I'm so thankful for that and praise Him for where He has put me. These years have taught me to take risks and have adventures, to take care of myself and cultivate good habits, that moving back home wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and the importance of finding community. So, here's to the next four years of navigating the sometimes unfamiliar adult life. My time at Bama taught me a lot, these last four years have also, and I'm sure the next four will as well. Roll Tide to the adventure that awaits." This year, 2017, marks five years out of college and ten (10!) out of high school. You guys, that seriously feels like a lifetime ago. Even as I read that caption and this post again, all of these things still ring true. I want this year to bring more adventures, more risks (the good kind!), more community, and more cultivating those good habits.
I think THE biggest lesson that 2016 brought me was experiencing forgivess and reconcilation. Not only in extending it, but being offered it as well. I finally broke through a wall that I had built and continued to fortify for six long years. That wall did nothing but keep people out and allow my heart to harden. And when the silence of six years was broken, I found freedom. There was reconcilation, yes, but there is still work to be done. And I've never been so happy to see work in my life. If there is one post I want you to go back and read from 2016, it is this one. And I pray that if there is someone on your heart, someone you've had silence with, someone you need to forgive, that the walls will come down and freedom will come in. Never have I understood Ephesians 4:32 more. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
It's funny to me how quickly friendships can form and how I don't often remember the first time I meet someone. I just remember all the times after and the stories and moments we can relive. My last year at college brought me two of the greatest friends. We had been in school with each other for years already and in the same college ministry, but one summer we were all still in town when it seemed everyone else was gone, and we've been in a group message ever since. ha! Last fall, I got to watch one of those sweet friends get married. It was one of the best weekends and greatest celebrations. I love weddings, because they are like mini college reunions. And when one happens in your college town, you get to walk along the same streets and eat at the same restaurants at late hours and just reminiscence about how much you miss things. And realize that you miss it a lot, because of the people you were with the first time, and it just wouldn't be the same if you moved back without them. We may not all be in the same town anymore, but I know that they are literally only a phone call or text away.
Remember when I moved into that new house at the beginning of 2016? Well, it brought two new people into my little community. We are #Casa605 and we only have good vibes, #Casa605Vibes. And one of those girls got herself engaged and married in 2016. The other has become one of my dearest friends and we are practically the same person, except she is way extroverted and I am way introverted. So, it makes for interesting times.
One of the best books I read in 2016 was Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst. I knew the moment that I saw it announced, it was a book I needed to read. I immediately pre-ordered and wanted to devour it the moment I got it in the mail. Instead, I took my time, did an online Bible study with Proverbs 31 ministry and worked my way throug the book, chapter by chapter, week by week. And there were some days I didn't want to keep reading, because it cut so deep. I'm pretty sure Lysa had seen some of my posts here or maybe a journal or two that I've written in, because this book was absolutely for me. It will frequently be pulled off the shelf and most likely re-read each year. One of the biggest take aways from this book was the practice of replacing lies with truths. I realized that I am not unworthy or alone, invisible or ignored, uninvited or defeated. My God sees me, knows me, and wants me. The same is true for you as well. In 2017, get rid of the lies and practice putting on truths.
In 2016, I discovered what resting in the Lord looks like. And how following Him is simply choosing Him. It's not always going to look perfect and it won't always be grand. But, all I have to do is simply choose to say yes. No longer do I want my laziness, lack of perfection, or comparison to other believers distract me from following the Light. I read this verse with new light in 2016 and I want to carry it with me into 2017: "My heart says of you, 'Seek his face!' Your face, Lord, I will seek." I'm declaring and committing to that verse (Psalm 27:8) in this new year.
2016 also made me an aunt for the sixth time! I got to welcome and meet another sweet nephew into my heart. I swoon over every picture I have of my neices and nephews and wish ALL of my free time could be with them. I'll settle for holidays, praying that I make the most of the time that I have with them. And pray that they know how dearly loved they are. I will never understand how my heart can love so many places and so many faces. How much more is the Father's love for us!
And finally, 2016 saw the end of the golden year. I said goodbye to 27 and hello to 28. What does it hold? Only God knows. I've stopped with birthday wishes. Instead, I just thank Him that I'm able to blow out candles for another year and pray that I will enjoy every moment and honor Him as much as I can.
Happy 2017 everyone!
What lessons, memories, or moments are you bringing with you into this new year?
Well, today is the day that I admit that I didn't finish yet another challenge. Have I mentioned that I'm horrible at follow through? I am. My intention is great and I love setting goals, but I have absolute no follow through. Two weeks is around the time that I usually fall behind and slowly walk away from whatever it was that I eagerly began. Case in point: I made it 15 days into the Write 31 Days challenge.
At the beginning of October, I started the journey to aim to write about finding rest for 31 days. I wasn't as organized as I should have been, I wrote most of my posts at night (sometimes late at night) after work, one post was written entirely on my iPhone, I didn't promote the series like I should have, and the majority of posts do not have pictures. I didn't tell many about the challenge mainly because I thought I wouldn't finish it and I heard once that you're more likely to finish something if you don't tell anyone about it...
I think part of me thought that my writing would take off and that I would have some sort of book idea by the end of it. That was the elaborate, long-term goal. The easier, short-term goal was for me to just get into the habit of writing every day. It's something that I enjoy, so why wouldn't I make time for it? I bounced around with different ideas about what to write on for the next 31 days and I almost changed it completely the night before it began (even after I had already created the graphic). But, I knew that rest (and finding it) was something that the Lord was calling me to, because He knew that I needed it.
Writers usually write about what they know or they do a lot of research before writing and sometimes (most times maybe) it's a combination of both. Rest was something I wanted to learn and write more about, because I felt like it was something that most of us need and are seeking. I didn't know just how much I was needing rest, until I started reading about it.
Many books, lists, and Scripture searching later, I've found that needing rest is something continual and that it ultimately is found in my Savior. I wasn't going to find it in 31 days. But in 15 days, I was closer to a better understanding of it. And thankfully amazed at the perfect timing of the Lord, that He knew that now is when I needed rest the most -- emotionally and spiritually.
Honestly, if I had finished writing about finding rest back in October, I probably would have stopped looking for it. I would have thought that I had found it and been done with it. I would have thought, "Okay, I know what rest is and how to accomplish it. I'm sufficiently rested up." But, I think the Lord knew that I would still be needing this reminder, even now, maybe more than ever. I needed the reminder, that to sufficiently find rest, I must daily look to the One is All-Sufficient. So, here we are, day 16 of writing about finding rest. But, day 42 of actually learning what that is.
I love fall. I'm pretty sure I've said that enough times where you aren't surprised anymore.
I love crisp mornings and I love bright blue, wispy cloud days. I love that the leaves know to change colors and fall when the wind blows them off of their trees.
I love that when I drive up to my parents house, I top a hill and see vast white cotton fields starting to bloom on my right and on my left.
Fall doesn't seemed rush to me. It's the season where colors change and so do I. The season before the hustle and bustle. The season where things can be enjoyed, slowly and peacefully before everything gets loud again.
The fall is the time where things seem peaceful and more restful.
I almost didn't write at all today. I wanted to write and in a way knew I needed to write. I just didn't want to. I came home, worked in my backyard, talked to my mom on the phone, had dinner with my roommates and then was about to pull out the computer, but went to lay in my bed instead. And that is where I am right now. Typing this out on my phone, desperately trying to keep my eyes open.
Desperate. That's a word that has been showing up all around me lately. It means to "have an urgent need or desire." But, there is another definition that stood out to me. It said desperate was something "reckless or dangerous because of despair, hopelessness, or urgency."
I am desperate for some hope.
I am desperate for some truth.
I am desperate for God's love.
I am desperate for some rest.
For the days where I don't want to talk to anyone. I'm desperate to talk to God.
For the days where I just want to lay in bed. I'm desperate for the Lord's strength.
For the days where I don't have answers when someone asks if I'm alright. Im desperate for the Word of God.
For the days where my head overthinks and my mind becomes my worst enemy. I'm desperate for God's rest.
I'm desperate to be pulled out of the pit, but I'm also desperate to not forget Who pulled me out the pit.
To remember that He hears my prayers.
That He gives me more strength than I imagine.
That His word never fails.
I'm desperate to remember that He gives me rest and in Him I am renewed and refreshed.
Lord, I'm desperate for You...
Friday is my favorite day of the week. It used to be Thursday. And I love the weekend, don't get me wrong! But, Fridays are my new favorite. Friday is my day off from work. (I know, I know. Many of you are saying, "how nice!" And you would be right.) But, having the day off isn't the only reason it's my favorite.
Friday is the day that I can wake up slowly and not rush to be anywhere. I can lay a little longer in a messy bed. I can enjoy the quietness of the morning and watch the light of day creep through the windows. I can drink my coffee a little slower and I can actually eat breakfast! I stay in my pajamas and sometimes all day.
Friday is my favorite, because I spend the majority of the time alone. It's the day where I recharge and rest. My quiet time is uninterrupted and often much longer, because I have time to enjoy it, not rush through it. I can sit, read, and be quiet as I dig into the Word and actually listen and hear what God is telling me. Friday is the day that I simply rest in the Lord. Other days it can feel rushed, pushy, and impersonal.
On Friday, the rest comes easy, natural, and simple.