Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Live Your Story - Not Hers

I forgot how to ride a bike.

Which really isn't a problem, except I didn't know I had forgotten until I was on the bike and going straight towards a tree, unable to stop.

It wouldn't sound so bad if I were five or seven or even twelve but no - I was nineteen.

Picture it, that college freshman version of me on a green bike. It was a sunny afternoon and after begging friends to ride on the trail across from campus, my roommate finally gave into my pleading and we set off for an adventure.

We didn't know where we would go or how long we would ride - we just went.

I guarantee she looks back on that decision with much laughter and a huge smile because boy did I provide some great entertainment.

It started out well, naturally. Across the street and over the bridge and then a sharp left turn to go down the incline and begin riding the trail.

There was just one little problem . . . the brakes on my bike didn't work. We didn't know that either until it was, you guessed it, too late.

With the wind in my hair I heard my own voice shrieking "I can't stop! It won't slow down! What do I do?!" Within 1.73 seconds my mind exhausted all possible options:

Jump off! No, that would obviously hurt.

Round the next bend and pray for dear life you don't tip! Tempting, but I have no balance and will surely fall off.

Run into that tree! Dude no way - there's an entire baseball team on the other side of the fence and they'll see me!

I didn't see my life flash before my eyes; I saw a series of unappealing choices. But I had to decide and as my roommate turned to watch, yelling for me to slow down and use the brakes, I flew into the tree yelling "there aren't any brakes!"

It's okay, you can go ahead and laugh.

As I pulled myself out of the tree and assessed the damage, the only thing that really hurt was my pride. My roommate was doubled over laughing and the entire baseball team had turned to stare at the college student that ran straight into a tree.

It was mortifying and I wanted to give a piece of my mind to the girl who had rented me the bike but the only option was to get back on and keep going.

Climbing back on, we rode miles and miles all the way to Greensprings and back laughing and remember when-ing what had just happened. There was no chance of playing it off or salvaging any bit of dignity, so I gave into the laughter.

I'm the girl who ran into the tree on a bike because she forgot that spinning backwards will slow down a bike. Oops?

But I'm also the girl who got back on and kept riding.

And I'd bet money on the fact that you've been both versions, too. You've run into roadblocks and challenges and had to make impossible choices knowing that all outcomes will be painful. You've lost pieces of your dignity and had to face the crowd feeling vulnerable and uncovered.

But you're also the one that kept on going. You brushed yourself off and made the choice to laugh and find the joy in the ridiculousness of it all. You've faced the crowd with your head held high and lived to tell the tale.

It really has nothing to do with a bike or a tree, it's about running your own race and the choice to keep. on. going. when it would be easier to turn around and go home.

Do you see what this means - all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running - and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God. Hebrews 12:1-2, The Message

It would be a shame to give up and we all know it. But it would also be a shame to make the choice to press on only to live in the memory of the tree and the stares or to wish you had someone else's bike.

We don't need another person denying her story in favor of living another's.

We don't need another story to go untold because of doubts or swirling thoughts that someone else's is bigger, better, funnier, more interesting, or sure to make a greater impact.

Sound familiar? I've got to believe I'm not the only one that hears those lies inside.

I'm gonna have to stop us both right there, though, because I've heard enough of the Not Enoughs and I'm dusting the dirt off, climbing on the bike, and focusing on the Alreadys.

The story of your life is yours alone and if you don't live it, no one else will.

Every day you choose to leave an after of love or open up your mouth to tell the truth of what's going on, you share a chapter with us.

Your one wild and beautiful life is the story of your days and we need it something fierce.

But we need you to fiercely love it, too.

Turn your eyes from the stares or the stats of others and choose to pick yourself back up and ride.

You've got a story to live.

I'm joining this week with several women I admire, offering encouragement and telling His Story through the words live your story. Feel free to join the link-ups at Holley'sJennifer'sBeth's, and Holly's each Wednesday morning.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Written Word [Link-Up and a Giveaway!]

From as long as I can remember, I have dearly loved and believed in the written word.

I can ramble for hours on end and spend more than my quota of words each day through texting, typing, or speaking.

But there's something special about the written word, the looping l's and how each person signs their name. The written word requires time and intentionality and is often personal.

You can change the world for one person in five minutes with a piece of paper and a pen.

One week after coming home the summer after my first year of college, I was carrying stacks of envelopes to the green mailbox outside my home. It had been a whole week and oh my word was I missing people!

I should have seen it coming then but I was completely oblivious: it would only get worse.

I write letters like I breathe, and they often come out that way - full steam ahead, train of thought, rambling words. It's who I am on a sheet of thinly pressed tree, and I've written myself on a thousand pages.

I write the words and lick the envelopes because it matters. It matters that I send them, yes, but it matters because I know what it can mean to be on the receiving end. Words can be a salve to a weary soul. We must wield them carefully.

For the past year and a half, I have gathered on Monday nights at school with these three. There have been seasons with more or less warm bodies and a semester of Wednesdays, but we have stuck it out and figured out what it looks like to do community together. We had all heard "do life together" but not a single one of us knew what it meant. We have most certainly made mistakes, but we've learned how to rock this thing called community.

But then summer comes and we're in four separate states and suddenly doing life together becomes a whole lot harder. I'm about to enter my senior year of college and if you could see inside my head you would beg to leave the madness that is inside, full of a million different thoughts concerning this "final" year.

I tear up every time I think the words "senior year." Lord forbid I say them out loud. But every time I worry about being far or even being five miles away but in two separate worlds, I land on this: make it count.

Make the moments count. Laugh hard and take five hundred thousand pictures. Make sure to grab a few candid shots, because that's real life and it's the reason you love each other so much. Share your hurts and your joys and keep counting the gifts every day, even when it's hard to find them. Talk about Jesus and sing too loud in the car. Take road trips and have dance parties. Wring the joy out of every last drop of this final year.

Because change is inevitable and it is coming, whether we want it to or not.

Being the planner and fixer that I like to think I am, I was certain there had to be a solution, at least for the summer, until we gather together again to love out this thing called life.

So I bought a notebook and I wrote out my joys and prayer requests, added a few encouraging quotes, personal letters and updates on my life, and then I mailed it along. It's the sisterhood of the traveling notebook and it showed up in my mailbox this past Friday.

And listen, I flat out squealed and clapped my hands when I opened the brown paper package to a bulging notebook full of updates and highlights and hurts and a letter for me written by each of the three.

I dare you to tell me that the written word does not make a difference. The time it takes to sit down and write with ink is worth every drop of time. You can carry those words in your heart and in your hands.

Link-Up: Whether you are part of #fmfpartysnailmail or not, please feel free to link-up any posts that follow the topic of the written word - and then make sure to scroll down and enter the giveaway!

So, how about a fun giveaway?!

Three sweet friends have gifted some really fun prizes! Music, a new book, and Starbucks coffee - it sounds like the making of a perfect afternoon to me!

My friend Katie Reid recorded a CD called Echoes of My Heart and I'd love for you to check it out. You can listen to samples of each song on the album here and just in case you don't win, you can purchase her CD on Amazon, iTunes, and right here as well.

The lovely Barbie Swihart has written a book that I just know you'll love to have a copy of! Coffee Talk With Jesus: Intimate Chats with the Savior is a 31-day devotional and each day includes a devotional, reflection, a prayer, and a space for you to write down what God is showing you. Bonus? The book includes 15 coffee-infused recipes!

And since you'll certainly be wanting to sip coffee while reading, the always encouraging Erin Salmon will send you a little Starbucks gift card, perfect for an iced coffee with vanilla (my go-to), a frappucino, or a hot tea if you would prefer!

A big thank you to each of these lovely women for offering to gift these items to one lucky #fmfpartysnailmail friend! I am so thankful to know so many generous people, both in real life and online.

A Perfect Afternoon: Gift Bundle

Please note: This giveaway is open to Round Three participants. Thank you for your understanding. I will contact the winner via the email they used to sign up for Round Three. Affiliate links are used with the CD and book. If you click through my link to purchase anything from Amazon, I will be given a small compensation that goes towards maintaining this blog.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Finish {Five Minute Friday}

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

I'm not a runner - by any stretch of the imagination. The only place you'll see me running is to the closest Starbucks, and only if by "run" you really mean "drive."

But I've run from community many times. Over and over I've hidden deep inside instead of putting myself out there, thinking if I use myself as a shield I won't get hurt.

But the fastest way to be hurt by community is to keep your heart hidden inside. That's a game where no one wins.

I make lists and to-do's and there is typically more on my plate than I should allow. I pick up so many of the wrong things and my eyes drift from my own path to the journeys of others. How are they handling it all? Are they enjoying life or simply surviving? How are they balancing community, being real and vulnerable and open, with all the mundane things of the every day?

Just like that - I've moved from my own race to another's and I'm starting to see it:

When I run from community I typically run to all. the. things. that I can put a check mark next to. But those will never fill me up.

A checked off to-do list will still leave you wanting more at the end of the day.

To me and to you, I am writing a reminder, a letter to keep our eyes on our own path.

May you run after it - whatever "it" is - will full abandon. But may you chase the dandelions instead of the chores left waiting to be done. May you remember each night as your head touches the pillow that the moments that mattered the most were the ones spent in community.

Fix your eyes and clear your mind. Know that so much of each day seems ordinary and uneventful, but not a single day is wasted. Every breath matters as much as the last and the next.

You've got a story to tell and you're already living it. So fix your eyes and finish strong. Run the race. Run YOUR race. Today, may your eyes stare straight heavenward.

A big thank you to the many who read last weeks FMF post on "bloom" and left such encouraging words. In Him is no darkness at all and so we know that even when we don't have the answers, we know the Answer. I have written a follow up of sorts titled Spiritual Warfare and When Everything Is Fine But You Aren't. I would love to continue our discussion over there!

We gather. Fast and in five minutes, with sisters and lots of delicious. Every Friday the prompt goes up at Lisa-Jo Baker's and #fmfparty slows down. We write. We breathe out our hearts, sharing the hurts and the joys and splitting hearts and words wide open.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Spiritual Warfare and When Everything Is Fine But You Aren't

You can stand with hands raised in worship one day and kneel with hands over your face in frustration hours later.

It is entirely possible to sing and smile on Sunday only to lay awake Sunday night with tears trickling into your ears, eyes staring straight upward, asking God once again to be near.

I don't care if you've gone to church every Sunday since you were still in your mother's womb - darkness is real and it spares no one.

Even Jesus? Yes - even Him.

Everything can be fine on the outside and you can be completely un-fine on the inside.

It's pretty hard to explain that one to the people around you. "What's wrong? What's going on?"

"I don't know" is the only response you can manage and I just want you to know, friend, that it's okay.

It's okay to not know where the heaviness has come from as long as you know Who can carry it.

It's okay to be frustrated when you can't find the answers if you can hold tight to the only Answer.

It's okay to wrestle and fight if you lay there each night knowing He is fighting for you.

It's okay to not be fine when everything around you is fine as long as you remember the Truth.

It's okay to not know how to answer the people around you if you know the only way to answer back to the darkness is to say one name: Jesus.

Whisper it when you're scared, when you're tired, and when you've got nothing left but Him.

Shout it when you're angry, when you're passionate, and when you've got everything to fight for.

Sing it when you're still, when you're in the battle, and when you've gotten through another day.

There isn't always a reason for the sadness or the heaviness. Sometimes walls go up and there's simply no explanation.

Don't fight alone. Take the risk and let someone behind those walls. Allow them to help you tear them down and choose to fight together. Ask the ones you trust to bring your name before the throne daily until you're no longer drowning. But if that's too hard and you simply don't know how to manage any of it, not even one more thing, then this is what you've got to know:

Just say Jesus.

Repeat what you believe not because you've stopped believing but because there is power in the name. He is light and darkness must flee. Whisper how much you love the Father, offer praise to His Son who was crucified and then raised to life, and gratefully ask the Holy Spirit to intercede when you have nothing left to give.

Go ahead - talk to the darkness. Tell it what you believe and feel free to mention how the battle has already been won. Jesus comes out victorious, so keep on whispering that name, friend.

And it's okay if you wake up tomorrow and the burden hasn't lifted. It's alright if you find yourself weeping an hour from now, completely unsure what has upset you so much.

Sometimes Goliath looks more like getting out of bed in the morning than a giant looming. Sometimes Goliath looks less like an enemy and more like letting someone into your lane without waving your arms. Sometimes Goliath looks more like a waiting blog post than a battle waiting to be waged.

Today we will simply stand. We will choose for today to pick up the Sword and to be prepared.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

It's funny, all this armor of God that is listed out for us to wear. The one thing that will pierce, the one weapon we are to wield, is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. And I can't help but wonder why God would ask us to put on armor when we already feel so weighed down.

The tip of Goliath's spear weighed close to 15 pounds and his armor was likely 125 pounds. David, completely armor-less and fighting with a sling and five stones, killed the giant with one shot.

Could it be that the armor of God carries the weight for us, lifting it off and placing it in His hands? Is it possible that David was wearing the armor of God and that as we open His Word each day we are sharpening the tip of an invisible sword?

You don't have to win the fight - that's already been taken care of.

All you've got to do is stand.

Some days that feels too hard to manage, but it is possible. He brings beauty from ashes, light from dark, and life from death. Put on the only armor that will be a relief instead of a burden.

This is why we can stand with hands raised in worship. It is why you can whisper His name until sleep comes and the darkness must take a step back. And it is why it's okay to not be fine even when you keep on fighting.

Today, we're simply going to stand.

I'm joining this week with several women I admire, offering encouragement and telling His Story through the words just say Jesus. Feel free to join the link-ups at Holley's, Jennifer's, Beth's, and Holly's each Wednesday morning, and by all means happily pin and share these images!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bloom {Five Minute Friday}

Let your roots grow into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7

Even when the rain falls
Even when the flood starts rising
Even when the storm comes
I am washed by the water

I can't draw a full breath.

I'm living on stale oxygen, sucking in air before I go under again.

I've been drowning. Rain has fallen so hard and for so long that I'm flat worn out from dog-paddling. I've swallowed salt water from my own tears and have cried out for mercy, for a lifeline, for someone to hear the desperate pleas.

They've been muffled by the sound of the waves and I sink further, lower, deeper.

I write about belonging and the truth is, I didn't write it for anyone but myself.

Because I feel like I don't. And so I write what I would want to hear, what I need to hear, and I tell myself that if the lies are gonna pour down then the Truth is gonna have to rain down, too.

All images are created for you, friends. Feel free to save or share.

Darkness has come and attacked. The winds are mighty and strong. I long for quiet and rest but they push me down and under and I am tossing, turning, churning.

He knows it because I've told Him so - If life is a flower bed then the truth is I love the gardner but I don't always love the garden.

I'm bent over with petals flat on the ground as the gardening hose drenches day after day and I am a sopping wet mess.

But the roots are growing deeper. The darkness hasn't disappeared and the water is still pouring but I see the sun peaking out.

I will bloom where I am planted and the rain will strengthen the roots.

Sometimes you hit publish when the words don't make any sense at all. This is one of those times, and truly all I can ask for is grace. Grace for the messy, grace for the true, and grace for the fact that although everything is fine - I am not. I'm learning daily - sometimes hourly - how to combat the darkness and I although I don't have the answers, I do know the Answer. So I dig in and of this I am sure: His Word is a life preserver.

We gather. Fast and in five minutes, with sisters and lots of delicious. Every Friday the prompt goes up at Lisa-Jo Baker's and #fmfparty slows down. We write. We breathe out our hearts, sharing the hurts and the joys and splitting hearts and words wide open.