He gave you the goods

breathe(Kristine, me, Amelia, Amy)

This weekend I attended Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Grand Rapids.

My dear Amy Sullivan (newly published!) trekked all the way from North Carolina. I met the talented Amelia Rhodes (the mastermind behind Praying A-Z) in person finally! I also met a writer that I have followed for a long time Chad Allen in person. He is truly just as encouraging and genuine in real life. I grew to know other talented women from the area like Melanie, Kristine, Catie and Jenna. I love that in a crowded and enormously competitive field, I have only met generous and encouraging people.

Amy stayed up until 1 am with me, getting me on track and brainstorming. God is so good to give us special friends to journey with us in our lives. I think He knew I would need someone to kick my butt, but love me all the same. Also nachos can come with waffle fries instead of chips?! Who knew.

 

The key note speaker was Julie Cantrell. I can’t wait to read her books. She has a beautiful story of faith despite enormous loss. She could not be humbler (hello, New York Times Bestselling Author.) Check her out.

 

This is what I want to share with you. Whenever I go anywhere or do anything, I feel so inadequate… like I so do not belong at a writing conference. Why in the world are these people friends with me? I am the worst. I have imaginary conversations constantly.

 

Another presenter Tracy Groot shared this:

God is the ultimate gift giver. 

The gifts God gave you are not broken. 

The anti-thesus of creation (satan) wants us to believe we drive a gutted car. 

 

I waste way too much time buying into this lie. I think I have some major stock in it.

 

So, this day I want to extend this encouragement. He gave you the goods. Beautiful, unique, utterly you gifts. He poured them out with generosity like no other. Own them, they are yours and yours alone to live out for him.

I think that covers our ordinary days with a layer of joy and bright and purpose, for that I am thankful. I am thankful for all of you and the way you reflect that gift giver.

What lie do you buy into? What are your gifts? Share what you do best! 

 

where sad and happy coexist.

LakeMIThe miles of built up ice began to separate last weekend. Thousands of pieces shifted and began to float down the channel from Lake Michigan to the inland Lake Macatawa. They crackled under the sunlight, and the kids threw rocks and sticks onto their surface as they floated by.

Under the sun, I started to feel the ice break up around me too.

 

I read the book The Fault in our Stars over spring break. The story was sweet, and funny, and sad, and brilliant. I loved it very much. While I read, I realized you can feel infinite happy and sad in coinciding moments, and just maybe this is normal.

and just maybe this is beautiful.

 

Sometimes, I don’t feel good enough. Really, I never feel good enough at anything I do. I never have, it’s my biggest struggle. It leaves me feeling sad in moments that should be happy.

 

My heart has felt uncharacteristically icy for the last many months in this struggle. Still, I want to rise up into a new day where sad and happy coexist. Ice will build up and shift apart, and eventually it will drift away further and further out to sea. This will keep happening over and over again.

That is real. It is the moving of our lives through imperfect terrain, through changing seasons.

 

Now I know, I am grateful for the happy and the sad,

in its beauty,

and in the way it moves us to love like Jesus did.

numbered

Have you read the Fault in our Stars? What did you think? 

Where does happy and sad coexist for you?

 

Capturing Exhales

capturing exhalesOn my college campus lived an arboretum. I always choose a blue bench in the very back of the west side. The bench waited for me, never was it occupied.

I sat for hours between classes: doing homework, reading, and writing out my prayers, exhaling and giving God space. God felt close as I struggled with where I was heading, and as I fought feelings of inadequacy.

In the Michigan winter I choose a study corral in the back corner of the third floor of the library. {Looking back, that was kind of creepy of me, because it was so empty and quiet and alone there.}

Whatever the season I left space and there God captured my exhales.

 

This weekend we took a small walk outside. Finally, the snow is receding and there is a hint of warm in the air, the peeking of sunshine. I stood watching my kids run and remembered to breath. It felt broken that breath, but it came.

When you are twenty-two you wrestle with who you are and where you are going. You think the answer is around the corner and that when it comes you will go on breathing easily. Really, that question presents itself a thousand times in a lifetime.

I am struggling with it again as a thirty-five year old. Where I am going, the pathway is not clear. Sometimes, a scary gray muddies up my attempts to keep going. I keep plowing into my own fears.

 

I remember the arboretum.

I remember the space I used to leave.

I remember the way God captured my exhales.

 

I want to go backwards and tell that girl that she was not inadequate. That God knew what he was doing. That every shaky exhale was gathered in his hands.

I can’t go back.

Maybe, I can tell this girl that she is not as inadequate as she feels. That God knows what he is doing even though it seems so gray. That he has not misplaced one of my breaths.

Or yours.

 

That makes a difference, because if there is light, if there is purpose, if there is that assurance…

we too, can capture the exhales of those in our proximity.

We ease their ability to breath and hold close all they release.

 

Whose exhales can you capture this week? Where do you go to give God space? What would you tell your twenty-two year old self? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Take His Breath Away

I am good at hiding.

During summer camp orientation, I first met my husband Kris. He was playing a pole in a skit, and my eyes kept getting stuck to his. The first week of camp he was my prayer partner. I was so shy I barely spoke to him the rest of that summer and the following summer. He came to Michigan to work and I spent an entire year looking at the ground whenever he came around. At a winter retreat, I attempted to throw a snowball at him, but my hand pulled back and the snowball imploded on the ground. I am good at hiding.

 

During a particularly difficult time in ministry I write these words:

The hurt tugs at me. This time it may pull us under completely.

Surface and reach for a jagged life-giving breath and another until you are on steady ground again.

Sink under, then, fight your way back up again.

So difficult to lend a hand of care to another when the walls are closing in

Unkindness slowly breaks away at our spirits.

Hide me away for good this time, until justice finds us.

I am good at hiding.

 

I write secretly for ten years, terrified for anyone to know any deeper part of me. I am good at hiding.

 

I hide behind my anxiety. I hide behind my fears. I hide behind my shyness. I hide behind my perceived inadequacies.

 

There is something refreshing about eight-year-old girls. They have not been taught to hide yet. My daughter wants to be a pop star, a dance teacher, an artist. She has a Hello Kitty box that she calls her ‘body box’. Inside she keeps her fingernail clippings, the teeth she has lost, and dead skin. This does not seem strange to her whatsoever, because every piece of her is very important.

 

Somewhere along the way we learn to hide.

We learn that it is safer. We are expected to be only half selves, the polished portions.

When the broken, ragged edges surface we seek to hide.

 

To God there is no greater than or less than.

Just because of the way you breathe, he finds you beautiful.

So beautiful, you take his breath away.

(Photo Credit: The Amazing Toni Wever) 

When did you learn to hide? How do you find courage to surface and be yourself, the self God finds so beautiful?

Draw Me Out

 

Psalm 18:16

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. 

 

Sometimes, I feel like I am drifting into deep waters. 

 

I wake in the earliest morning hours, afraid.

Fearful, that I have not been all I should be. 

That somehow I have offended someone by being myself. 

That I am not good enough… for anything I have been given. 

 

And I drift, keep drifting, drifting further… 

I am over my head. 

 

Draw me out and draw me close to you. 

Bleed

I found the following quote on pinterest:

“There is nothing to writing… all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”   -Ernest Hemingway

Sometimes words soothe, they settled into my heart because they feel like home. They remind me of who I am and what God has asked of me.

Have you ever had an emotionally rough week?

Last week was one for me. I received a rejection that nudged at all my vulnerable spaces.

It made me cry and I don’t often cry. I try to be strong that way. Crying is hard when you’re a Mom.

“Mom, will you come to the basement to see my flock of aluminum foil swans?”

“Yes,” –sob.

“Mom, read the chose your own adventure about the tricky fox again, I need to know the ninth possible ending.”

“Sure,” –sob.

My skin is sometimes too thin and I like to lament that. That creates a challenge when you chose a profession where rejection is sometimes a daily occurrence.

Then, the reality of social media settled in, something essential for a freelance writer.

(Side Note: The following things bother me about computers.

  1. They get viruses-it kind of creeps me out.
  2. They get cookies- the only cookies I want are the ones I can eat.
  3. They get spam- a supremely yucky word like moist. )

Back to the social media, I can’t count the ways this is difficult for me. I gravitate to the background. I delete over half of what I attempt to do.

Slowly I have been adding the social media presence, the latest venture is twitter. (See my social media buttons up at the top there? Thank you so much to my sweet friend and her husband for helping me advance to 2012.)

# that is a hash tag on twitter. (Side Note: In my School of Social Work class called Drug Use and Abuse we learned about hash. Every time I see a hash tag that is what I think of #weird.)

Also, self-effacing humor makes me feel happier. If I am laughing in my head, I really enjoy that. So, I go through the day making up little hash tags #impatient, #needsomejuniormints, #bleeding, #loser.

Once again I am back on my knees, God I surrender my feelings of inadequacy.

God never promised we would live all our days comfortably without inner turmoil, void of our own failing.

Never was EASY promised.

But, if I am giving my all, letting my heart bleed for him, I HAVE PURPOSE.

I have purpose worth living for.

Let our hearts bleed for truth. He is sufficient to meet all our needs.