Wednesday, April 24, 2019

fight



The yellow-lit table just behind the dark wooded restaurant’s host stand now held our phones and keys. I’d come through the door – only with the help of the valet man who kindly showed me the way even with his curious look at my propensity to just ask where the door was instead of finding it myself – and now I was sitting beside two people I’d recently met, one who I’d approached with the same gumption I showed to the valet man. I liked her, and when I make up my mind that I’m going to be friends with someone, well, buckle up.

Fight.

I’d asked about her recent road-trip, and she’d been honest. There was a breakup that was shadowing over her, but she spoke the truth of the light she was seeing even as she was, in many ways, still in darkness. “I realize I need someone who will fight for me.”

Cliché? Maybe a little. What does it even mean? It’s up for interpretation. But, her honest words in the amber-lit taco haven struck me.

Fight.

A few days later, I’d walked away from small group down the street. Big TVs and too-full tables, we were still standing in the entry. The light from the phone screen still illuminating her eyes, her words tumbled out: “Amanda’s pregnant.” Instead of flashing happy-joy-goodness, anger flared. Immediately. A person who was supposed to be as close to me as a sister, who’d lived in my house through much of my growing up years (and hers), who shared blood with me, hadn’t even included me in the cousins’ group text where this announcement hit in. Coward. She served the news to my sister who could softly catch it and distribute versus me who’d give fire right back to her. Coward. Not living the life we dreamed of as girls, she was single and unreconciled, and I was mad at her, mad at me for being mad, mad at the dad, mad at brokenness in the world, mad that I couldn’t call her and celebrate.

I just wanted to punch something. To fight.

The space bar blinked up at me, an untyped email draft still drating. I blinked back. Emails and details. Then her chat popped in. She was mad. She’d overheard a conversation by a friend turned not-so-nice about something they both had worked to put together, with me. This friend had thrown my friend under the bus, in front of her. And it involved a handsome face masking an arrogant attitude to make her flip. I was livid. For my friend, for the situation that still was to happen, for my role in it all. This added to my emails and details and politics and frustrations and impatience sent my feet, to the stairs. I’d climbed 15 flights of them before to cool down; this time it was only 8.

I just wanted to punch something. To fight.

So, I did. The navy-blue car climbed the five levels of the parking ramp to the top. We slid into a spot, slipped down the stairs, and came into the boxing class. One trainer wrapping one of my hands in the black strands and another trainer on the other side, I was rushed through punches and landed next to a punching bag. Burpees, sit ups, planks, push-ups, I was jab cross jab right hooking my way to happiness. Sweat on my face, heart racing.

 I just wanted to punch something. To fight.

And this wasn’t anything new. I’d put my lunch box back in the blue tiny lockers and speed walk outside. I’d volunteer, to be the one racing to the rectangular bin that caged the soccer, basketball, and volleyballs from the rushing elementary schoolers. First come first serve. I lived for this. I’d hit the sidewalk, and my shoes would hit their rhythm of sprint. No one wanted to end up with the flat spheres, so I’d make sure I secured my friends’ a first pick, and I’d make it down the coned-off street and back to the end of the sidewalk before my friends even arrived. Because school meant classes where sometimes I just got bored, where the teachers played favorites, where the cute boys would pick me first for the sports teams and then taunt me with one-finger high-fives, where I’d sit back quiet, quiet hating how I seemed to not fit in.

I just wanted to punch something. To fight.

Because, deep down, I have always been restless. In this season of transition, I finally slowed down enough to feel and hear and watch the somersaulting of my own mind. And I’ve been scared at what’s actually there when I take the time to look.

I had written in my journal, about five months ago now. I was searching, wondering for where the Deborah I really knew had gone. I felt frustrated at the injustice, at the reality that she’d been forced to go even when no one had asked her to leave, even when she’d been under so much stress and pain and how now was supposed to be the time to thrive. I’d journaled, I want Deborah back.

I just wanted to punch something. To fight.

To fight to have her back. But in the meantime, I was balking. I saw the texts from friends pile up on my phone, feeling zapped of energy or desire to communicate with the world. Fighting this nagging inside that people care and isolation is self-incarceration. I heard the voices of laughter across the hall, and my feet flip-switched to head back the other direction. Fighting this nagging that I needed to actually risk talking to these too-cool-for-me strangers who really were actually just humans following Jesus that I was to prideful to risk being known and unwanted. I saw her sitting, alone, and I also saw a different friend who could intersect me before I got to her path. And I took the easy conversation, fighting this nagging inside that I was taking the cop-out, the place where I wouldn’t have to risk looking weak, looking answerless to ease her pain, having to feel helpless to make a difference.

I was fighting.

But I wasn’t fighting for people. I was fighting against them. I was fighting the people who wanted to pull me close even when I was the closest to the end of my rope as I’d ever been. I was fighting the people who wanted to lift some of the burden I buried myself under instead of seeking their understanding. I was missing opportunities to live beyond myself by risking discomfort to bring comfort to others. And I was fighting myself, fighting against fully embracing the pain and the sadness and the fear that were making my living feel like shadowing, making my full breaking morph into shallow breathlessness.

I just wanted to punch something, to fight.

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1).

I am a fighter.

I want to fight for people. I want to fight with them. I want to live a bold, daring, risky life that puts itself on the line for other people. But, I only have enough time and energy to fight one. I can fight the work that God is doing internally, or I can let Him give me the fight to war against my selfishness and anger through the Holy Spirit’s transformative power. I can fight the moments and conversations and days and places that the Lord is using, or I can re-channel that fight to push straight to thankfulness for anything in my life that brings me to a place where I fight to know more of Christ, to be more like Christ, to fight to know Him and make Him known.

I just want to punch something, to fight.

And I pray we learn to fight what does not matter so that we are freed to fully throw ourselves into the thrill of the chase of that which does. That we fight our small view of life and pursue the big dreams of God. That we fight our cradling of our own safety and pursue creating character for His kingdom.

That we fight, for each other.

Friday, April 19, 2019

stay



My thumb pressed open the cover of my granite gray computer. The screen lit up: $425 Chicago à London. The ticket, expectant.

My work cubicle now seemed like a transportation portal, and my co-worker pedaled her rolling black chair up the imaginary diagonal line connecting my cube to hers. She was going to Europe, too.

Stay.

Seeing my email count reach over sixty, I’d suddenly find myself gazing at airports and ticket prices. I’d even bookmarked WOW Air flights with almost too low low prices, an escape at my fingertips.

Stay.

As my mind and heart pulsed to go, my conscience wouldn’t let me. Deborah, you still have student loans. Deborah, quit dreaming. Deborah, it’s probably not your greatest idea to hop on a plan in seven days and spread your wings, traveling across an ocean completely alone and without a plan.

Stay.

You see, staying has never been my thing. The brown-bobbed, almond-eyed boss dichotomized friend paused. “Deborah, why wasn’t it so hard to transition when you moved before—when you changed states for college?” My gut response hadn’t taken long. “I had an end date.” Yes, I knew college was a mini-uprooting and re-planting, but I hadn’t let myself plant that hard. Nah, I knew I’d be at college for about four years, and then the future was wide open. Myself? Remained uncommitted.

Stay.

Then, here. A new city, but a city without a foreseeable end date. Possibilities nagged at me that I hadn’t pursued them.

Because staying scared me.

I sat down on one of the hardest days in November and manufactured it: an end date. No offense to my company, co-workers, or this city—I actually couldn’t think of them as I was planning because it made it harder—but I knew I needed to imagine I had one. I let my strategizing run crazy as I planned till October 2020. It was twenty-two months away. Once it came, I’d go, go to Europe. Something like 19 countries in 9 months. Then, I’d spend the next year in NYC, the next in Chicago, and the next three months in 9 Latin American countries before I’d come back and have my wedding then seven kids. In the meantime, I’d begin a rigorous course of mastering Spanish while starting Greek again, teaching myself French, and starting self-defense so that I’d be prepared on all fronts. Then, I added to my “hit 22 doc” a slew of more things I wanted to research, learn, and develop which only complemented my other new year resolutions docs and my writing and videography editorial calendars. Sound crazy? Yeah, it is.

Stay.

For years, I’ve noticed that I often get the strongest impulse to run in the very moments when I most need to stay.

I sat on my bedroom floor, back against the white paneled door with a magenta pillow. I described it like a building process. Right now, I’m in the stage of getting to create something, like a house. And it’s as if I’m being handed pieces. But, I don’t know what these pieces are for or what they’re ultimately building. I just get a piece and get told where to place it, but that’s it. I don’t have the blueprint. Just a piece.

And? I know what rooms I’d like to be in this house, this house I call my life. Rooms I really, really want. But, I have no idea if they’re in the blueprint or even if they’re in the plan for this decade. All I have is the next (and only the very next) construction piece and my lack of ability to ensure that the house is built just as I want.

Stay.

Staying scares me. Staying sounds like commitment. Staying sounds like saying a yes to something and actually meaning a yes without a way out. That’s what scared me as a fifteen-year-old learning to drive. There’s no margin. Mess up, hit a car, someone could die. I couldn’t deal with that. I wanted insurance that I could somehow still pull an upswing, somehow still make it work, somehow find a way out.

But life doesn’t work like that.

When life brings me things I don’t want to deal with, I want to run. I want to flee to somewhere new, to experience something different. I don’t want to stay in the growth of what the Lord’s doing, I don’t want to stay in all that is called now, called here.

Stay.

But that’s the thing. When you leave something, you leave the good and the bad. When I left my college, I left the insane stress of overcommittment. But I left the people that made overcommittment worth it. When I left my parents’ home, I left the stigma of a pastor’s kid. But, I left the easy availability of their wisdom. When I leave my heart boxed up and guarded from developing relationships in the here and now, I leave my heart out of experiencing what it means to have others carry my burdens and the joys of carrying theirs. When I leave my frustrations with the process and with the waiting central in my mind, I leave the joy of all that makes life so good and so sweet—right here, right now as I stay.

“Love anything and your hearth will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one… Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves).

Stay.

I’m scared to stay because I’m scared to love. I’m afraid to love and have torn away again.
I’m scared to stay because I’m scared to risk. I’m afraid to risk attaching and maybe losing it all.
I’m scared to stay because I’m scared to let go. I’m afraid that letting go means I’ll let go of my ability to make my life into the happiness that it could be.

I’m scared to stay because to me, staying means surrendering. It means staying in one place: in the place where I can’t guarantee what’s in my blueprint, where I don’t have the power to change the blueprint, where I must stay, day after day learning the hard lesson of how to open my heart and not be afraid to love, deeply, even when that means I risk having it torn away again.

Stay.

Because there’s one place I must stay more than all: in where it means to live fueled by the love of God that compels us. I must stay faithful, faithful to that. Because? Well, I know that my October 2020 and beyond plan is just that: a manufacturing of Deborah trying to bring herself to a place where she can stay because she’s tricked herself into thinking she’s leaving. It’s a plan that could happen, but it’s more a temporary coping mechanism to hide the fear that I might actually want to stay or might come to a place where God calls me to leave and I won’t want to and will have to deal with the ripping away again.

All I have is there here, and all I have is obedience. For now, I’m called, called to be as present as possible, to live with my heart and not just my head, to stay fully, deeply, risking pain and all—no matter for how long. I’m called:

to stay.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

can't



Hi, my name is Deborah Spooner, and I can’t not do this anymore.

I just can’t.

It was January 5th at approximately 11:30 PM. I’d hopped under the gold and burgundy comforter and put my head on the Sam’s Club, t-shirt pillow-cased cushion next to my sister’s. She was there, too, in the upstairs spare bedroom, in the city where we’d struggled to find what it means to be women during our high school years. The walls enclosing us now were not the ones we’d grown up in but those my parents moved into recently, a dim reflection of how this town was our hometown but still just wasn't our home anymore. I felt the well inside my chest. I couldn’t help it, this time. She was still next to me, but I felt like I was far from her, not wanting to disturb her almost-sleep with my cries. So, I slid out of bed and went to the adjacent bathroom.

I knew I needed to cry, so I let myself slide down the wall to sit on the floor as a tear slide down my sleep-deprived cheek. I’d found my bin of stuffed animals earlier that day, and to be embarrassingly honest, I held one, now. Bubbles, the fluffy white bear wearing the teal pajamas covered with rubber ducks and (yes) bubbles. I was, yet again, in pain.

And tired of it. I’d spent too many hours on the floor crying in the last ten months than I’m proud to admit.

This time, I was thinking of how the stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas had been much harder than I'd realized. And now I had to go back to the new-home-state, and the thought of getting into my blue grey car and driving down the highways and walking into the grocery stores made me cringe because I felt the pain. I thought of the faces that I’d seen over break and how I’d had to say goodbye. I thought of the doubt I’d had about the choices I made and the rip of leaving those I loved. I sat on the floor, then I looked at my phone. It was 11:30. I had to drive nine hours in the morning. And I thought to myself. I can’t do this, not anymore.

Father, I can’t get myself free of the sadness and pain. I can’t get some of these thoughts off my mind. I want to be free. And I just can’t.

I’d had a conversation, earlier that month. My roommate had been on our deeper-than-jean-denim-blue couch, brown eyes staring into my blue. “And is weakness a bad thing?” I blinked, and hesitated. Weakness disgusted me. I ran from it as hard as possible. Anything but. But I stopped, to actually think deeper. Hesitated. “… no. Maybe weakness doesn’t actually mean… failure.”

I’d been so critical. Deborah, get it together. Deborah, learn how to adjust faster. Deborah, spend more time praying. Deborah, meet goals faster at work. Deborah, you’re disappointing everyone and not being faithful to live as fast and efficiently for God. Deborah, get it together.

Weak. I viewed myself as that. And, it disgusted me. Not even my own Christian living was good enough for me. I didn’t love God enough. Get it together, Deborah. I didn’t stay as faithful to doing the right thing as I should have. Get it together, Deborah. And it was all my fault, all in my power to change. Get it together, Deborah.

I sat, perched on the taller than bar-stool height silver metaled, black cushioned chairs at the island separating our kitchen from the living room. I pulled up my computer and pulled up Facebook messenger video. Soon, the large understanding brown eyes looked back at me. My college mentor and I were finally reconnecting, after months. I told. I told her of the weakness I felt. I told her of the pain of having to realize that I had so much spiritual growing to do, of the frustration with myself at doing the growth so inefficiently. I told her of the disgust, the disgust that I had to go through the process of development and never did it "enough" to satisfy myself. And I should already be past all this anyway, right?

“Deborah, isn’t it beautiful that our wretchedness makes Christ all the more glorious?”

For the past four months, I’d been working on a project with an incredibly gigantic goal. The project’s name literally had Gospel in the name, and it brought me face to faith with the reality that the Gospel is our foundation. It’s where we start and where we end. It’s what carries us through it all.

I was reading another bit for work. And, it talked about the Bible. Bringing me back to my Seminar in Theological Method class and Christian Smith’s work on biblicism, it put it more simply: the Bible isn’t a manual telling us how to live. It’s a beautiful tome showing us who God is. That? Is the core of how we, then, live. We’re wretched and weak, but He is glorious, so glorious.

“Yes, Deborah, I’ve been making it my prayer. Christ, you’re living in me, so please, live out of me.”

Christ in us, the hope of glory. Christ the enabler, empowering us. Christ. I was brushing my teeth later, hit hard. Do I really understand the work of Christ? Have I really let the Gospel transform my life?

I’m a pastor’s kid, working at a highly religious company. I’m a girl who has a bachelor’s degree in Biblical & Theological Studies. I was the champion of my Sunday skills sword drills who’d now given multiple presentations about religion at undergraduate theology conferences. A member of an academic religious honors society, I’ve presented about Koine Greek syntax traced through the epistle of 1 Peter and had collegiate deans and vice presidents come to hear my work. I’m currently reading What is Reformed Theology and The Institutes of Christian Religion just for fun. And now I stood, hair in a messy bun, sweatpants on, with my light-pink toothbrush in hand and weakness in my heart, humbled and being humbled. Do I really believe the Gospel, for me? For my own life?

The hum or the toothbrush contrasted this new hush in my heart. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.

Because, I can’t.

I can’t live a Christian life.
I can’t even make it through a half an hour without having a self-referential thought, drenched in my preferences and annoyances, my own critical self-standards of how I don’t measure up to a life reflecting Christ-like character.

Because, I’m just not Christ. That’s why I need him, so deeply. To put on righteousness. To count myself dead to sin and alive to Christ. To count all else as loss except the sake of knowing Christ crucified, and knowing that only through His finished work on the cross can I ever hope to finish any growth inside of me.

Because when I am weak, I have not failed. It is then that I am strong. It’s when my weakness leads me to lay down my striving, my keeping score, my desire to live for Christ good enough that I can realize that He left us on this earth with the very best thing: himself, His Spirit.

I can’t bring transformation.
And who am I kidding. I don’t want that kind of pressure.

This one thing I want, this one thing I want to always want to single-mindedly seek: to each day realize how hidden I am in Christ alone, and how in Christ alone I can lose myself in the best sort of way.

I can’t.
I can’t love people like they deserve.
I can’t be as amazing as a human as my insecurity wants to prove that I am.
I can’t break these bad habits and this sinful desire for more and more and more to fill this void of dissatisfaction.
But I can’t deny that someone died.
Someone died to bring me to the freedom on the flipside of surrender.

Hi, my name is Deborah, and I can’t not do this anymore.

I can’t not realize that my weakness is my greatest strength, because God has used the incredible disruption of my life’s past ten months to disrupt these levels of unknowing selfishness and self-dependence that I revert to in my very worst—He’s used it to bring me to my knees, the very place I need.

I can’t. I can’t not see this anymore even as I fumble to still live it. But oh, how glad I am.

I believe. Lord, help my unbelief.

Friday, March 8, 2019

seven


I’m a coward.

My worn, white high-top vans cushioned my stance as I’d neglected the chair in the heat of the moment in the cool of Ugly Mugs café.

You know what, Deb? I’m starting to believe that maybe you are.

These words of hers actually were deeply kind and hit me with the best sort of pain. You see, less than seven months earlier, I’d moved into an empty room in her house and our conversations had moved through the house into me. There were the early days – when I said “mom’s mom” instead of grandma and she had an indicator of some distance and distrust, when we would discuss our ability to share so much without venturing into vulnerability.

Our deep-striking banter crystalized through the enneagram. I have a love hate relationship with personality tests, mainly that I love to hate how much I think they can become a crutch in our lives keeping us from conforming to Christ instead of a tool to help us do just that. But as an eight, she’d challenged me to dive deeper. At first, we thought I was an eight. A flame that burns too intensely. A force with trust troubles and angered strength. But the truth began: my not only fleeing but denial of pain, my constant hunger for new, my love of the laugh. I am a seven, painting hope over piercing pain because I’m afraid. Deeply, deeply afraid.

I’d recognized the tendencies.

Oh, I’m not going to tell him that. Even though I’m also the co-founder of this magazine, he’s older, more experienced. What do I have to offer? I’m sure he sees things more clearly. Yes, I have this idea for this digital marketing campaign, but I’m so new. What do I have to suggest to my college that they haven’t already thought about? Yeah, I’m the vice president of student government, but he knows better. I just probably am wrong. I don’t know what I don’t know, so how can I know that I actually have anything to give?

Insecurity masked as respectful deference.
Fear covered in a silent excuse that I’ll say more when I know more, have done more, have earned more years.

I’m afraid.

I’m afraid if I stand up, I’ll be told that I’m so wrong so shut up.
I’m afraid if I step up, all I’ll be is standing alone, having tried to contribute and failed.

I.

If I, then I. When I, then I. Till I, then I.

Me.

You see, I think it goes back farther than I’d even care to admit. I used to not have a filter. I used to have a much shorter circuit between what’s in my mind and heart to my mouth. I was fire. I’d ride home from the soccer games, words faster than my sprint after the soaring sphere. I’d watch what was happening at youth group, spewing opinion opinion opinion afterwards.

Then, I started going. Going to a new school as a fourth grader. Looking out at all the people and just wanting to have a place to fit. To understand why their parents drove Lexuses and they could buy their lunch in the hot lunch line instead of carrying a brown bag with the sandwiches like I did. To know why they could spend their time thinking about the next movie they were going to see on their cruise vacation while I was thinking about how that movie didn’t make me think about my Christ I told the wide-eyed, worn souled kids about on Wednesday nights.

When I tried to share my words, I saw. People didn’t think like I talked. So, I learned to talk like they think.

Say words that will make them like you.
Learn to understand their world that seems so different than yours.
Figure out this game of how to live their way.
Because their way is right, and you’re wrong.

I didn’t realize that when I learned to figure it all out, I was learning to keep others out.
I didn’t realize that when I learned to hide myself, I was learning how to carry the burdens of my unpursued dreams.
I didn’t realize that what started as a girl’s desire to securely know she was valuable and loved and could trust people enough to share her soul would turn into a woman’s exhausted habit of living with her head and not her heart.

Doubt would become the rule of my days. I’d trade rest for resentment. I would hide, masking her insecurity as a shield of logic.

For being known and rejected might be one of the biggest fears of all.

I am a coward.

I’m afraid that people won’t like me.
I’m afraid that maybe I’m actually not likeable in the first place.

And I’m so afraid of preserving whatever semblance of happy stability and competence I can give myself that I don’t emerge with my whole heart into the word, trapped by my self-deception that it’s better safer happier right inside me. That people aren’t worthy of trust. That people aren’t ready to hear truth because they might not like the truth giver. That no one understands and never will.

But truth.

“Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourself. Do what it says” (James 1:22).

Listen to my own circular thoughts. Deceive myself into believing that the world is a big scary place that is waiting to slaughter me and my dreams. Do nothing.

Maybe it’s as simple as one step after another.
One small courage in the face of fear.
One conversation more ruled by what I think not just how I think they talk.
One day of putting the needs of others in front of the insecurity I hold as my own.
One deep breath and realizing that the world just might need the uninhibited contribution of yes, even me.
One word closer to being from my heart and not just my head.

I am a coward.
And maybe it’s one day at a time of realizing that it’s not about me.

And I cannot even take a step.
I need transformation.
But I know the one who saves.

Courage, dear heart (c.s. lewis).

Monday, February 11, 2019

james


The white-gray space heater was on, only one foot to the right of me. It felt like ice was slicing through the air and stopping an inch from my body, emanating its thick chill onto me.

I was actually shaking. But not just within my body. Much deeper within my heart and mind.

I had to push a name on a phone screen. A name I’d called many times before. A name that had called my phone more. A name that, over two years ago after I texted, I’d fling my phone as far away as possible, so nervous of having communicated and yet so hopeful of having communication back: wanting it and dreading it at the same time. What if I said something wrong? But what if I said something right?

This conversation was going to be different.

I’d sat by a heat source: a fire built by someone who was family. I’d started journaling, the packed-up processing I’d neglected from the past nine months pushing out. Ten pages later, I’d written almost a letter—written for my own processing but now unintentionally for me to process to him.

I edited. Refined. But tried not to edit my heart, not remove it from my words so much anymore as I used to. Struggling to know how much to share, to know how to share, to know what parts to leave quiet and which to expose. Struggling, when my heart wants to finally love but when my mind screams that this is just what brings the most fear, and when the shadow of his answer was already materializing  in my mind.

We texted and were having problems finding a time to talk. I felt nauseous, carrying my words within myself as something spoiling inside. It was time, time to let them out so I could fully heal.

I read my words, recorded them in a voice message, and sent it. Didn’t want to but almost didn’t have a choice anymore. Forty minutes later surrounded by new friends and salmon fishing camp stories in a semi-new city, the waiting began. I was juxtaposed: carrying old pain and anticipation but anticipating the new hope on the flipside of almost deeper than speakable pain, the freedom on the underbelly of costly release.

Five days later, I was by the space heater, pushing call. We talked, for about thirty. It was good. He said thank you, truly thank you for taking the time to share. He said sorry, sorry for the confusion and misactions. He said honesty, honesty that he’d be conflicted too, wavering between wanting and doubt. He said encouragement, encouragement that God is working. He said care, deep care for me. He said closure, closure and locking and a new kind of leaving.

We end capped it with theology and prayer requests, classic us. Three years of knowing him, one year of seeing him for hours almost every day. But now, the end my mind had been crying for but my heart had been fighting against: the door was locked to us ever being more than what we once were, of him becoming family, of me becoming his.

I pushed end, knowing as my finger touched the red that his would likely never hold me again, that our relationship which was more than it sometimes should have been was now finalized as less than it could have been.

But every leaving is a coming.

I was coming, first. Feeling anger slide away as soon as his voice slid in, but now I started sinking into sadness. Anything other. I hate it, despise it, can’t figure it out cleanly and make it go away. Then doubt. I could have, should have done something differently. If I would have changed my words, my thoughts, my appearance, not been so focused on myself, sought the Lord more, prayed more, then this would be different. Pressure. I’m letting my family down. All those who commented on how they saw this working. It must be my fault. Fear. You don’t know how to let people in, you wanted this but you always talked yourself out of wanting it but loved even though you doubted and still doubt doubt doubt, you may never find someone, he isn’t the right one but maybe he could have been or maybe he was and you’re wrong, who is going to know you as much as he did but you didn’t let him know you as much as you could and that is the problem, you are always the problem.

To every thought, a counter-thought. To every belief, a disbelief. To every hope, a shadow. To every confidence, a certain uncertainty. And pain. Soul-deep pain blanked with suffocating sadness, worsened by the compression of swirling change of the past six months, months when I uprooted my life and unbared my soul.

But every leaving is a coming.

I was coming, second. I stood by the deep mahogany cabinet, the amber yellow lamp casting a small glow as we turned out the rest of the lights in my parents’ home. I’d been talking some, sharing.

“It’s like I’m holding on. There’s this orb of so much piled high, and I’m clinging to the edge, dangling. Dangling and afraid to let go. Dangling, afraid to let my expectations go and go where He’s taking me.”

Trust. James had hit the core of it. A year before, I’d been writing a Greek paper, sitting in the deep red chairs of the library. The song had blazed through the ear buds:

“What if you could let your guard down? What if you could trust me somehow? I swear that I won’t let you go. I won’t let you go.”

I trust God with my life, but I hold onto my control of my days. Know He’s working it all out in the end but worrying about my messing it all up from the beginning.

James had let me go, but maybe he’d really shown me that I need to let go. To let go to this fear of people leaving and it always being my fault, to let go not only of the expectations people have of me but also those I bear upon myself, to let go of my fixation on perfectly pleasing God and to come, to come as a sinner in need of a Savior, a girl balancing belief and brokenness, a wide-eyed daughter who is learning to guard but not hide her heart, a woman afraid to trust, a human who is weak but can chose to seek: to lay down her dreams and desires when it actually costs, to come to the feet of Jesus with all of her and say five simple words: I can’t. But, I come.

Every leaving is a coming.
And maybe coming to a pain-dripping end of myself leaves me in the best place possible: surrendered.

Lord, have Your way in me.

“What if you could let your guard down? What if you could trust me somehow? I swear that I won’t let you go. I won’t let you go.”

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A Book(s) in Review: My Listening Journey


Read 23 books in 5 months? That sounds a little ridiculous, but isn’t that the case with some of the most fun things in life?

August 1 – December 31 may go down for me, personally, as some of the hardest months of my life (so far). But, they’ll go down as more than that. They’re also when I did just that: read more books than the number of years I’ve walked on this earth.

I say read loosely because Audible has truly changed my life. One-hour commute time and life’s dish washing, laundry-putting-away reality means a whole lot of time for having things read to you.

Here’s my roundup of some of the books I read in case you’re looking for some good reads (or listens):

Marketing
·       Building a Storybrand (Donald Miller)
·       How Brands Grow (Byron Sharp)
·       Story Wars (Jonah Stauch)
·       Content: The Atomic Principle of Marketing (Lieb and Szymanski)

Theology
·       The Weight of Glory (C.S. Lewis)
·       Basic Christianity (John Stott)
·       On the Mortification of Sin in Believers (John Owen)
·       Adorned: Living out the Beauty of the Gospel (Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth)
·       Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer (J Oswald Sanders)
·       Letters to the Church (Francis Chan)

Personal Development
·       The Invaluable Laws of Growth (John Maxwell)
·       Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity (Tim Challies)
·       The Road Back to You (Cron and Stabile)
·       Uninvited: Living Loved when You Feel Less Than, Left out, Lonley (Lysa Terkeurst)
·       Leadership and the Five-Minute Manager (Blachard and Johnson)
·       The First Ninety Days (Michael Watkins)

Other
·       The Pastor’s Kid (Barnabas Piper)
·       Daring to Hope (Katie Davis)
·       Behind the Beautiful Forevers (Katherine Boo)
·       Missional Motherhood (Gloria Furman)


And brace yourself for 2019 because this year's reading goal? It's 50. 

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