Saturday, April 21, 2012


Today was my last ever class at Richmont. Anytime I've said things about graduation to people outside my program, they seem to believe that it's a happy event, and cause for celebration. That's not what it feels like. It feels like grieving a loss that will never be fully grieved, because the hole it will leave is too big and too special to be filled by anything else. I have spent my life trying to learn how to love well. At Richmont, I learned how to BE loved well. I was pursued and valued here. I had a place and a role. I felt safe and comfortable. These three years, and especially this last year, have been difficult for so many of us. But Richmont has provided "emotional bubblewrap" (thanks for that language, Joel) for us in the moments that we have needed some small cushion from the pains and stresses of life. I have not only wept and rejoiced with my friends, but I have been wept with and rejoiced with. There has been depth and light, tears and laughter. There has been a lot of chocolate. There has been stress, anguish, turmoil, tragedy, trauma, and most of all, a holy and cursed waiting. We have played truth or truth (because none of us ever picked dares as kids), celebrated birthdays, sat in silence. We have worshipped together. We have done life together. We have done death together.

So forgive me if words of congratulations seem a bit incongruent with what I'm feeling at this point in my life. I'm sure there will be a day when I am excited and proud of the "accomplishment" of finishing Richmont and getting my master's degree. But today is not that day.

Today is the day that I cried (not pretty little tears, mind you, but the big ugly sobs) through the last five minutes of class. Today is the day that I thoughtfully and purposefully planned to wear my Wheaton t-shirt under my Richmont sweatshirt. I spent the day literally clothed in my past and my future, seated firmly in the present. And silly as it may have seemed, I paused in the foyer to take off my sweatshirt. I wanted to stay snuggled inside its warmth and cozy familiarity. It feels safe to wear a sweatshirt - the opposite of exposed. But yet, I knew that outside the doors, it was warm. The seasons had changed. It is spring now, and it is time to leave the comfort and coziness of this place behind. This season has ended, and it is time for us to move forward into our futures and the seasons that lie ahead of us.

There will be a time when I will be excited about the season coming next for me and the beautiful things that it holds. But not today. Today is about endings and goodbyes. It's about closing this time well and with honor for the weighty thing that it has been.

Forgive me for taking this out of context and using it in reference to an ending when its original context was in the death and grief of C.S. Lewis's beloved wife. I hope I will not do a dishonor to the weight of that story by using it as part of mine.

"Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal." ~ Shadowlands

Sunday, April 8, 2012

40 Days.

Easter has come. Lent is over. I’ve missed a lot of dates during this process. Some of them have been intentionally taken off to give myself grace and not to force myself farther than I feel I can go. Some of them have simply been forgotten. But I am a woman of my word. So here are 40 things I’d rather you not know about me. Happy Easter, friends. I am so thankful for this story of redemption.

February 22nd - I sing along with Mariah Carey.
February 23rd - I'm terrified of being teacher's pet.
February 24th - I already want to quit.
February 25th - I watch too much TV.
February 26th - Sunday.
February 27th - I am afraid of people thinking I'm a hypochondriac.
February 28th - I don't like to sweat.
February 29th - I feel valued when I am helpful.
March 1st - I failed.
March 2nd - I'm a messy person.
March 3rd - I wore pajamas all day today.
March 4th - Sunday.
March 5th - I don't like being vulnerable.
March 6th - I want people to think I have good taste in music.
March 7th - I'm not as good as you think I am.
March 8th - I was not okay today.
March 9th - I could not bring myself to be vulnerable today. It was too painful.
March 10th - I could not admit what was in my heart this day.
March 11th - Sunday.
March 12th - I'm indecisive.
March 13th - I eat unhealthy food while I watch Biggest Loser.
March 14th - I’m trying to guilt my sister into caring for my sickly and elderly cat because I don’t think I have the emotional capacity to handle it if my cat dies when I’m living alone in Chicago.
March 15th - The only place I've ever been asked for my phone number is at a gas station in the middle of nowhere.
March 16th - I feel guilty when I have a crush on someone.
March 17th - I'm so stressed that I don't know what town I'm supposed to be in next weekend.
March 18th - Sunday.
March 19th - I have a mild case of Bieber Fever.
March 20th - I am a procrastinator.
March 21st - I want to be a writer.
March 22nd - I might be co-dependent with my dog.
March 23rd - I reuse outfits.
March 24th - I went to see the Hunger Games. And I've read all the books.
March 25th - Sunday.
March 26th - I hate having my picture taken.
March 27th - Not only do I sin, but I resist grace.
March 28th - My most embarrassing moment is...
March 29th - It makes me angry when people treat me like I’m stupid.
March 30th - I’ve always wished I had a brother. I think I want to feel protected.
March 31st - Music is bittersweet to me.
April 1st - Sunday.
April 2nd - I hate goodbyes.
April 3rd - Sometimes when I'm really stressed, I add things to my to do list sometimes just so I can check them off.
April 4th - I'm lonely.
April 5th - I’m not properly excited about graduating.
April 6th - I think cursing can be holy.
April 7th - I still hate being vulnerable, and I’m afraid that I will not be able to find appropriate balance on this journey. But I trust that God has used this to teach me what he wanted to teach me, and not simply what I wanted to learn.
April 8th - Easter. Thank you God.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Authentic cursing.

I believe cursing can be holy.

Yes, I just said that. Now before you begin to tar and feather me (and before I lose my volunteer "job" singing on Sunday mornings at church for speaking heresy), let me explain. In the spirit of full disclosure, I think there are two types of cursing. There is vulgar cursing and there is authentic cursing. The same words spoken two different ways can be offensive to me or inspiring to me. In fact, there are many words that would not be considered curse words that seem so vulgar to me in the context in which they are spoken that they are more offensive than the "worst" types of words (which, by the way, are arbitrary words that have been socially constructed to be "bad," but I digress...). So what I'm talking about here is the latter - authentic cursing. Just like so many things, the focus for me is on the heart of the person more than on the legalism of what they are saying or doing.

I understand that cursing is offensive to some people and not appropriate in all situations. I'm not arguing for it to be any different. In fact, I'm not arguing anything at all. I'm being honest about who I am and vulnerable about things I'd rather keep to myself and reveal only in "safe" situations. That's this whole Lent journey for me.

The first curse word I ever said was in a prayer. I was angry, although I hadn't realized it before. I felt like God didn't care what was going on in my life. I felt separated from him. So finally, one day, I told him. I cursed as I told him. And then I collapsed into tears and sobs and felt him press into me, almost as if he were physically holding me. I felt him. Right after I cursed at him. I didn't really understand this then.

I think I understand it better now, years later. We've all heard that the opposite of love isn't actually hate, but apathy. Anger actually requires you to remain engaged in some sort of relationship with the person at whom you're angry. Apathy allows you to walk away or remain distant and unattached. When I was dishonest with God and trying to shield him from my questions and my anger, I was actually disengaging from my relationship with him. When I was finally able to be honest and tell him how I was really feeling, I was moving back into relationship with him. I was trusting that he could contain my anger and my questions. I was trusting that he was bigger than me and could handle all that I can throw at him. Accusing him, lamenting, and throwing my questions upon him was truly trusting him. Keeping my questions hidden was out of fear that he would crumble beneath my anger or my questions. It was too small a picture of him.

I've said something pretty radical to a few of my friends and clients. I've said, "I think sometimes curse words can be more righteous than worship songs." Are you offended? Let me explain. Although you can remain offended if you wish. Again, I'm not arguing for anything here. I've sung worship songs before and not meant a word. I've sung them without feeling. Disengaged. False. I've sung them pretending that I am okay when I am not. I've sung them self-righteously and smugly. It is in these situations that I believe God requires our true selves, not our false selves. And if our true selves are angry and accusatory (like, perhaps, the author of Lamentations?), I believe that is who God wants.

My false self is incapable of being in a real relationship. My true self is fraught with imperfection. But it is honest. It is authentic. When I am my true self, ruptures in relationships will occur. But repair and redemption is not possible without rupture. And redemption is what this whole story of earth is about.

“Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth. What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth— then my judgments go forth like the sun. For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." ~ Hosea 6:1-6

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


This is the post I've been putting off since the first day of Lent. It's the one I knew I would have to write when I agreed to do this. And it's the one I've chosen not to write every single day since Lent began. Out of all the things I wish people didn't know about me, this has got to be at the top of the list. I'm literally taking a deep breath before I type it.

I am lonely.

It looks so ugly and shameful there in plain text. My fingers actually felt a little icky typing it. But there it is. I know it seems shocking to you that an almost 30 year old woman might feel a little lonely sometimes (that's sarcasm for Sheldon's benefit). But believe it or not, it's shocking to me. I've always been quite content to be alone. I enjoy the freedom of it. I am an introvert, and I enjoy having space and quiet to myself. But recently, I've found myself wishing that there was a person who would like to sit on the couch with me and ask me about my day. I've realized that I'm a little bit tired of going to concerts by myself all the time. I've realized that there are days that I really need a hug and there's no one to give me one.

I'm terrified for you to know this about me. I don't want to look desperate, clingy, whiny, or weak. I don't want to be "one of those girls" that people assume are miserable because they're single. Because here's the deal - and hear me say this clearly - I am NOT miserable. I really like my life. I get to do lots of really cool things, hang out with really wonderful people, and go really awesome places whenever I want. It's just that I sometimes wonder if it would be fun to do those things with someone. And believe me, the thought has crossed my mind that it might NOT be fun to do those things with someone.

I guess the bottom line is I'm afraid that admitting I'm lonely means admitting that I feel undesirable. It's the same old thing... if I allow people the opportunity to look too closely, they will realize that there is a reason that I am single. They'll be like, "Oh... That makes sense." They'll assume I have a dozen cats when really I only have the one that I've spent the last three years trying to get rid of. But this is a journey of laying down pride, and this is what it all comes down to for me. Pride lures me into believing that I can do it all on my own. Vulnerability, then, is admitting that I cannot. Admitting that I cannot do life without God is easy. I know I rely on him. Admitting that I need friends is new for me, but God has worked deeply in my heart these last three years and has showed me how much I need my friends and how much better of a person I can be if I allow them to help me. It is not easy for me to rely on my friends, but through discipline and practice, it is becoming easier.

Maybe this is the next step. Maybe it's not. I have always said that the only reason I would ever get married is if the two of us glorify God more together than we do apart. My mission and purpose do not change. I am called to love as well as I can the people that God puts in my path. And if he deems me able to do that on my own, then I will thank him for such an honor. If he brings me a helper, I will thank him for his gift. But regardless of his plan, to deny my loneliness is to deny a part of how he has created me. I do not demand that it be fulfilled, but to deny it is dishonest. I offer it back to him as a gift of my scared and wounded heart. And I believe the tattered honesty of it will please him. So I guess it doesn't really matter if it pleases anyone else.

"Do not let your longing slay the appetite of your living." ~ Jim Eliot

Monday, April 2, 2012


I didn't think I was a person that hated goodbyes. I've left so many people and places in my life that I've gotten pretty good at them. I enjoy change. I like fresh starts and new beginnings. But right now in my life, every new opportunity means another goodbye. The good is tinged with sadness. I guess that's always the way it is on this side of heaven.

The goodbyes are surrounding me. I'm saying goodbye to clients, my school, community, friendships, rhythms of life, family, musical comrades, trivia buddies, favorite restaurants and venues, my house, and even my car shop. I've spent many years trying to escape Knoxville, and now as I'm finally presented with the opportunity to leave, I find myself hesitating on the precipice.

That which we know is always more comfortable than that which is unknown. It takes risk to gamble on a future that isn't defined or spelled out. I'm not a risk-taker or a gambler. But without risk, there is no reward. Someone told me once to always live life on purpose, lest you wake up one day and realize you are somewhere that you never intended to go.

Goodbyes are painful, but they bring a closure that we need and that we do not always do well. It's easier to avoid them, because they involve embracing the pain. Simply allowing someone to leave your life is easier than saying goodbye. I know because I've always been someone who allows people to leave my life fairly easily. But if I am going to ask my clients to face the pain of goodbye, I must be willing to do it myself. I cannot avoid the end and loss of my relationships. I cannot pretend that things will not change. And I cannot regret a single ounce of my investment in them, even though the happiness then adds to the pain now.

I'm trying to learn to both embrace and let go, for the letting go is just as much a part of the embrace as the holding on.