When I Can’t Fix It.

The last couple weeks have been hard. I went to a 15 year old’s funeral last week. He collapsed while he was playing basketball… playing basketball. A kid who was an excellent athlete, loved by so many, fun and respectful, gone way too soon. It doesn’t make sense.

I wish this was the only thing that happened, but you know that saying, when it rains, it pours? It’s been pouring lately.

I’m a fixer. I love being able to put things back the way they should be. I love helping other people figure things out. I thrive in harmony and when things are the way they should be.

The last couple weeks have been full of things I can’t fix and I hate it. I can’t tell our students that their friend is coming back. I can’t get rid of the cancer filling my friend’s body. I can’t fix any of it and it sucks.

Things are broken. The world is broken. Sometimes we have to sit among the broken things and realize we can’t fix it. We have to sit among the situations that don’t make sense.

We can’t explain away the death of a 15 year old. We can’t explain away cancer. Honestly, when we try, we can do a lot more harm then good.

I’ve realized the only thing I can do is pray and be there. I don’t have any answers, I don’t always know the right things to say, I don’t have the ability to fix things, but I can be there. I’ve realized that sometimes I can get so caught up in trying to fix things and figure out solutions that I miss what I should really be doing…showing up and being present because sometimes things aren’t fixable and all you can do is be there with the answers of this doesn’t make sense, but you’re not alone.

(After I wrote this I came upon a post that had perfect timing by Heather Plett about what it means to “hold space” for people and it’s great…you can read it here)

26 Things.

It’s my last day of being 26 and my 27th birthday is tomorrow. I guess I can really claim “late-twenties” now. I feel like I have no business being 27 and sometimes I feel like I’m still just a little kid, but then I look at all of my bills, student loans and remember that my ten year high school reunion is next year and I’m brought back to reality. I honestly am not bothered at all by getting older. I think aging is a beautiful thing because you get wiser and gain perspective, but for some reason 27 seems weird and kinda boring. It may be because I hate odd numbers and when do you hear of anyone saying…yes…that really exciting thing happened when I was 27! But I’m not going to judge this year of life that has not yet happened, but rather welcome it with open arms and hey, it could be the best year yet!

26 was a pretty good year…pretty mellow and consistent, but also stressful, hard and challenging at times. For the last couple years around my birthday I’ve made a list of things from the past year. So here are 26 things about my 26 year of life…

1. My nephew was born. This was a highlight since one of my greatest goals in life has always been to be an awesome aunt. The fact that Jonah Henry is the cutest, sweetest baby has made it even easier to love him. I just wish Seattle and Nashville were closer.

Abby and I

I may or may not have given him that onesie…

2. I finished my second year of grad school. I think I’ve lost track of how many books I’ve read, discussion posts I’ve made and pages I’ve written, but I’ve learned a lot and I’ve really enjoyed what I’m learning. I also have the best classmates and having the chance to be at residency in Philly with some pretty great people is always a good time!

3. I realized I can be creative. I have always thought I wasn’t creative so I never really tried to be, but I’m realizing that’s not true.

4. I got a new tattoo. After my first tattoo I knew I probably wanted another one, but wasn’t sure if it was going to happen. I have a rule that I have to want the same tattoo for at least six months and it has to have lasting meaning…and this one met those qualifications so I figured, why not? This one hurt way more than the other, but it was worth it and I love it!

5. I’ve discovered new dreams and I’m excited for what the future holds.

6. I visited NYC for the first time!!! This was amazing and something I’ve dreamed about forever! Two of my friends and I went for just the day while we were at residency because we had a day off from class and even though it was really short it was worth it! I saw a lot of the touristy things, but I can’t wait to go back sometime!

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7. I was unafraid. Unafraid was my word for 2014 and there were many opportunities for me to be brave…I didn’t always welcome them and it wasn’t always easy, but it did end up being a year of being unafraid.

8. I saw Justin Timberlake in concert! For real, one of the best shows I’ve ever seen…like, seriously amazing. I may have turned into a 13 year old version of myself and freaked out a little, but I’m not even sorry about it. I also saw Usher in concert. Another incredible show! 26 saw a lot of other great shows too like Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. I also saw Wicked again and an awesome performance of Les Mis, oh and the CMT Awards, where I saw John Legend and I freaked out…oh my gosh, so many great shows in year 26!!

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The one and only Justin Timberlake. He was just so good.

 

9. I discovered the greatness of essential oils. I’m not as much of a fanatic as some people about oils, but I do think they’re beneficial and work.

10. Discovered this website. If you need a couple minutes to relax from the craziness you’ll be glad you know about this now.

11. We took a family trip to Seattle and the Cascade Mountains. Leah and Jake graduated from graduate school and we made a whole trip out of it. It was so fun, so beautiful and so good to spend time with my family!

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12. I jumped on the bandwagon and got hooked on the podcast Serial.

13. I’ve done hard work in counseling. I think being whole and healthy means taking care of ourselves emotionally and psychologically. My journey with counseling has not been easy and I’ve struggled through a lot of things, but the amount of growth and healing that has resulted has been worth every step.

14. Discovered and binge watched Parks and Recreation. Lots of different people have told me over the last couple years that I just had to watch this show, but I haven’t until recently and I’m too embarrassed to write how many episodes I’ve watched. I think we can all learn a lot from Leslie Knope and some days I tell myself to channel my inner Leslie Knope when I’m feeling unmotivated or having a bad day.

Leslie Knope

15. I survived my first year of home ownership. Not gonna lie, I pray often that nothing breaks and I maybe freak out a little too much if it seems like something is breaking.

16. I attempted to create and break habits each month. This was one of those, “Oh my gosh this is a great idea and I’m going to do it every month” ideas, but it kinda fizzled out in the end. I made a list of some new habit I would create or break for each month, but between being weighed down with work, school and life and just completely forgetting I made the list, it didn’t go too well. To focus on the positive, this did result in me eating healthier and making my bed every day. I can proudly say I’ve made my bed every day for the past six months (Mom, it only took me 27 years to do it, but aren’t you proud!). I read somewhere that making your bed each morning is mentally good for you because it’s one thing you’ve already accomplished before you have even really started your day and it’s true!

17. I’ve realized how impulsive I can be and it’s the worst.

18. You guys…I tried online dating. It’s also the worst and just not for me…although very humorous and entertaining.

19. I got to witness and celebrate big moments in many good friends’ lives. Babies were born, engagements and weddings happened and big life decisions were made. I love when my friends have babies and that they let me love them. One of my favorite things is celebrating big moments in my friends’ lives.

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One of the precious babies born this year…Miss Flora Mae.

 

20. I took a creative writing class from a community college. At the time it was probably not the wisest decision since I was already taking other grad school classes, but it fell mostly during my break in between classes and I enjoyed it so much it wasn’t really like work.

21. I realized how important self-care is and that it’s not selfish. I also want everyone to realize this. I think we would all be better, whole, functioning humans if we took better care of ourselves.

22. I had meetings about retirement funds and had to name beneficiaries for things. Those are weird moments and also are classified as “I guess I’m actually a grown up now” moments.

23. Marci graduated high school! I’ve had the honor of mentoring this lovely lady for the last couple years and it was so exciting to see her walk across that stage!

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24. I made a personal strategic plan. I had to do this for a class, but it ended up being a great thing for me. It’s a great way to incorporate your life’s mission statement with your goals and vision.

25. Betsy and Ryan came to visit me! I love when people come to visit and it was so fun to have them here. They ran our 5K and saw the sites and it was a great time!

Ryan and Betsy

26. I uncovered even more of who I am. I think life is so exciting because there’s always something more to learn and know about life, others and yourself. This year has been a big one for me in really uncovering who I am and who I am created to be and remembering to stay rooted in that.

26 was a pretty good year! I am always so thankful for all the things I’m able to do, but mostly for the people I get to do them with. Here’s a great year of 27!

Patience and Anticipation.

My word for 2015 is balance. You can hear more about that here, but this morning I’ve been thinking about, in what ways do I need to create balance? One thing that came to mind was with patience and anticipation. I am not great at patience. I can get really excited about something and want it to happen right then. I can really care about something and then when nothing happens right away convince myself that I don’t really care anyway so I forget about it. I can get so caught up in what’s to come or what I want to happen that I forget to stay present in the here and now. The more I thought about it, the more I realize I need to create that balance for waiting for what is to come and being fully alive and present in the here and now.

I was reading Bread for the Journey by Henri Nouwen and this is what he says about patience:

Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control, the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later and somewhere else. Let’s be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand. 

This year I want to choose to create balance in such a way that cultivates the discipline of patience. I want to live each moment to the fullest and to be completely present. I want to anticipate the future and dream, but I don’t want to try and get away from where I am. I think there’s a delicate balance that must be struck between the now and the not yet and it’s looking like I may be figuring out what that looks like this year.

O Holy Night.

I’ve been working on a lot of papers these days with the semester winding down, which means I’ve been listening to a lot of Christmas music to accompany me…John Legend Holiday Radio on Pandora to be exact. I really love Christmas music…within the time frame of Thanksgiving and Christmas. 🙂 Every time I’ve been writing or working on an assignment whenever my favorite Christmas song comes on, O Holy Night, I just stop and listen to it.

I think about all that is happening in our world and in this season of Advent, this season of waiting and anticipation of what is to come and this song shines a little light into the darkness and brings a little hope to the hopeless. It’s a beautiful reminder about why this season matters so much.

My favorite part says this:

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

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Because this is what Jesus is about…to be about love and peace. Not to get caught up in legalities and arguments and I am right and you are wrong, but to love one another no matter how we differ from each other. Jesus came to show us His love so we can love each other. Jesus is also about justice and equality and about those on the margins and the oppressed experiencing freedom, justice and peace. I’m thankful for a song that reminds us of that. It also has an interesting history if you’re interested in reading about it, find it here. (a good reminder to people that just because something is not created by people labeled as “Christians” doesn’t mean it isn’t Truth)

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Justice Matters.

I’ve written and rewritten my thoughts about all of this. I’ve read more articles than I can count and had many discussions with those close to me. I wasn’t sure how to articulate everything that I’ve been thinking and feeling these last few months. Hearing the latest news though has done me in and I can’t be silent even if my words don’t make sense. Because when I saw the officer was not indicted for choking Eric Garner to death, I was furious and felt like I was going to throw up. I haven’t been able to sleep because I keep thinking about it so I decided to write.

Every time I saw another article posted about it, every time I saw someone write #blacklivesmatter, every time I heard someone say “people are over reacting” or “we don’t have a race issue”, I want to throw up.  I’m not going to claim I even know all the details about these particular cases or argue the particulars because this is SO MUCH MORE than that. This is about something bigger. This is about a system of injustice and oppression that has roots so deep people can live in ignorance to the issues because it’s what they’ve always known. This is about the fact that there even needs to be a hashtag that says black lives matter. No one should have to campaign for that because everyone should know their lives matter. But in our society that’s not the case.

I know this post won’t do much in the grand scheme of things, but I cannot be silent about this. America does have a race issue. It’s rooted in years of oppression that created unjust systems that are still in practice today. Systems that benefit those in power, those with the same skin color as me. It’s not fair. It’s not fair that I’ve never been pulled over for no reason at all while my black friends have been too often to even keep track of. It’s not fair that my parents never had to talk to my brother about how to be polite and act around police officers for his own personal safety, but those are conversations every black man I know received from their parents. It’s not justice that five times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites. It’s not justice that there are countless examples of how white people get away with the same crimes that people of color get put away for, just look up the hashtags #crimingwhilewhite and #alivewhileblack.  It’s not justice that someone can be killed on video and they’re treated like their life doesn’t matter and that it does not even deserve a trial.

You better believe we still have a race issue. It’s just getting exposed and national attention recently and for people who can’t acknowledge that, live in ignorance. Ignorance to the fact that the color of your skin still does matter and injustice abounds in our world today. The fact that white people can ignore this issue or have the choice to tune it out attests to the privilege we have.

I believe that the world is not supposed to be this way and that there’s hope for a better story, although it’s hard to envision that better story these days it seems. But we know to hope for a story of justice and equality…that we can be a society where justice rolls down and every single human being’s value and worth is known. But it starts with change…deep change.

For those of us that claim to follow Jesus, this matters. This matters because our brothers and sisters are hurting, mourning and have injustices laid upon them day after day. This matters because every person was made in the image of God and every single person’s life matters. This matters because we are called to love each other and to enter into the pain of our neighbors. This matters because peace, justice and equality is not present and that is what we are supposed to be about. I pray that justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream because something has got to change.

I’m not saying anything new…so many others say things way better than I do, but with my little fraction of the interwebs I had to get it out there. Here are some others who say it better:

I highly recommend this video.

Here are some other articles to read:

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/current/nation/justice-black-lives-must-begin-us-part-1
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/current/nation/justice-black-lives-must-begin-us-part-2

http://www.upworthy.com/chris-rocks-epic-truth-bomb-about-how-its-white-people-that-have-progressed-not-black-people

http://www.awesomelyluvvie.com/2014/12/stages-injustice-against-black-people.html
http://qz.com/251570/now-you-know-what-i-always-have-america-does-not-value-black-lives/

And for one final thought.

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Immigration is more than just politics.

The title really says it all, but I feel like it merits some explanation. What I have to say people may disagree with, it may result in disagreements or confrontational conversations or inaccurate labeling or name calling, but it doesn’t really matter. I have been too silent about this issue for awhile because of those very reasons, but I’ve realized that’s not the way. The President’s announcement last night and the many negative comments I’ve seen since, especially from my Christian brothers and sisters is sickening.

Because here’s the deal…immigration isn’t about just politics.

Immigration is about people. Immigration is about human beings. Immigration is about individuals who were made in the image of God just like everyone else and who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, an Obama hater or lover, a Conservative or Liberal…that shouldn’t matter if you claim to be a follower of Christ. Our faith mandates that we move beyond those basic labels and that our ultimate label and job is to be citizens of a greater Kingdom, of God’s Kingdom. We are called to usher in the shalom community…where there is peace and justice and wholeness and equality and where we’re not divided by our politics, but where our main concern is people and loving each other well.

President Obama’s announcement tonight gave me so much joy. Joy because people I know and love are able to step out of the shadows and not live their life in fear. People who are here because they had no choice but to leave their home out of fear for their lives and the best way to do that because of our majorly broken immigration system was to do it “illegally”. People who contribute more to the social and moral fabric of our community better than most and who want to make things right.

These friends, these families, these children. They are why I don’t care if President Obama “went outside his legal rights”. Frankly, people who are so focused on the politics of this and continue to direct their hate and disrespect to Obama are totally missing the point, especially those who claim to follow Jesus. Because Jesus said…I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Jesus has a lot to say about welcoming the stranger, loving people and loving those who are forgotten and on the margins…and actually he wasn’t even that concerned about politics.

How are we welcoming the strangers really? I hope and pray the Church is able to lead the way and by example putting people over politics, hospitality over rejection, acceptance over judgement and love over hate because that is what we are supposed to be about.

Your song.

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I read recently in the book, Faith-rooted Organizing, Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World by Alexia Salvatierra and Peter Heltzel, a really great story. I am privileged to have Alexia as a professor this semester and I have learned so much from her! Not just about organizing, but about faith and life and it has been one of my favorite classes.

In her book she shares this:

In several regions in Africa, when a woman is pregnant, she must gather in the forest with other mothers and members of the community to discern the song of her baby. They all sing the song while she is giving birth so that the baby will be born well. When that baby grows up and begins their education or their career, or at any other important moments of life, they remember and sing their song. When they find their life partner, they sing a duet. When they are dying, the whole community sings their song. When a person has committed a crime, they also gather the community, place the offender in the middle and sing them their song to remind them of who they are.

I just think this is one of the coolest things. My first response to this was, wow, what an illustration of community! This is what the Kingdom should be about. Not only do others prioritize helping a mother discern the song of her child, but this community remembers this specific child’s song…they remember who he/she is. They call him or her back to who they are.

How affirming that must be for someone. For so many people to care for you and to sing your song in celebration and in death, to care enough that even if you commit a crime…they gather to sing it to you, as a reminder. When I first read this I thought it was going to say they bring the offender in the middle and take away their song or strip away their rights (this shows how ingrained our penal and judicial system is in my head), but rather, they gather the community, place the offender in the middle and sing them their song to remind them of who they are. WOW. What grace, what a way to approach someone with dignity even if it may not be “deserved”. It’s not letting the person off the hook or absolving responsibility, they’re not backing away, but rather confronting and calling them back to who they know they really are. It’s beautiful.

This is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read recently and I realized that although a literal song may not have been discerned over me when I was born, I still have a song. We all do. We all were uniquely created to be who we are, whether we’re fully and wholly that person yet or not. I am so fortunate to have people in my life who sing my song with me in celebration and who remind me who I am.

My hope and prayer is that I can do that for others too…that we would all do that for each other.  That we realize the importance of knowing others’ song…that we’re not afraid to sing that song to them, to remind them of who they are. The world would be a better place if we all recognized that each and every person has a song. Sometimes people just need to be reminded of who they are and that everyone’s lives matter and that everyone has a song.

I don’t remember…

The other day I was doing this writing exercise (why I was doing a writing exercise is another story for another day, but anyway…) where I had to write my stream of consciousness starting with “I don’t remember”. It was a little weird because how are you supposed to write about something you don’t remember? But it’s amazing what can happen when the only rule is to keep writing for five minutes. 

After I finished my five minutes I read back through what I wrote and noticed a trend. “I don’t remember why I decided to do this…I don’t remember why I decided to do that…” filled the page. Many of the biggest decisions I have made in my life and that have created the greatest impact on my journey stem from an “I don’t really remember why I decided to do that”. 

These decisions or actions I made had other things in common too…they put me out of my comfort zone, they seemed like big deals and looking back they seemed out of character.

Even though I couldn’t remember why I decided to do some of these things, something else all these decisive moments in my life had in common was someone there helping me, not making the decision for me, but reminding me of who I am so I could make a decision or take the step in the direction that aligns with who I am. Sometimes in those moments when the risk and unknown seemed like too much, there were people there encouraging me and reminding me what I am about when I seemed to forget.

I moved to Nashville to attend a college where I knew no one. I had family, friends, and youth group leaders encouraging me to decide on a school because I knew what I wanted to do even if it meant I would go alone.

I went to Zambia with three strangers. I almost choose to go somewhere more “safe” and “comfortable”, but my brother reminded me of the dream I had since I was little to go to Africa some day and I couldn’t back out because of fear.

The examples could go on and on. I don’t remember the moment I decided to move to Nashville or go to Zambia, I don’t remember why I decided to do those things, but I remember the people that were there alongside me with those moments and decisions. They were “risky” and uncomfortable steps to take and for someone who always leans toward the comfortable, seemingly out of character, but on that “I don’t remember” list were some of the most important, shaping and life-changing events in my life.

So, if you’re like me and lean towards the comfortable and the safe option most of the time, maybe it’s time to take a leap. Take that trip you can’t decide on, reach out to that person you’re not sure about, send in that application, try something you don’t think you’re good at, listen to those people around you who speak truth in your life and remind you of who you are, it may seem scary, your hands may shake, you’ll probably look back and not be able to remember why you said yes in the first place, but it’s worth it. 

So one time I literally leaped off of a 35, maybe 40 foot cliff into the water...an out of character moment, but so fun. Plugging my nose didn't make for the best picture, but sacrificing a good picture so I wouldn't get water plunged up my nose was worth it.

So one time I literally leapt off of a 35, maybe 40 foot cliff into the water…an out of character moment, but so fun. Plugging my nose didn’t make for the best picture, but sacrificing a good picture so I wouldn’t get water plunged up my nose was worth it.

Coffee Shops.

I’m currently sitting in a new coffee shop not far from my house, it’s quickly becoming my favorite. Not only do they serve great coffee (I may be a little biased, but Humphreys Street Coffee is pretty good!) 🙂 But the atmosphere is relaxed and comfortable and I love it. It’s never too busy in the mornings, which I guess I should hope isn’t the case for long, so they stay in business, but their scones are delicious, this coming from someone who doesn’t really love scones (I just inhaled their chocolate, raspberry one) and everyone is very friendly. Anyway…this isn’t an endorsement for Woodbine Coffee Co, but if you live in Nashville, you should check it out.

I love the atmosphere of coffee shops and the built in expectation that community will happen here. I love people watching and observing people and coffee shops are an excellent place to do that. I love randomly running into someone I know, observing friends hug and exclaim how happy they are to see each other, seeing a group of people hunched over intently having a meeting, watching the contentment  of someone working alone at their computer, noticing the tension of another person studying for their MCAT, seeing another wiping tears from her eyes as her friend looks at her with a face that says, everything’s not okay, but you are not alone.

I love coffee shops because I’ve seen community deepen there, I’ve seen ideas be born, I’ve seen both burdens and celebrations shared, I’ve seen productivity achieved, I’ve seen a shared space become a place where there’s room for everyone and it all happens over a delicious cup of coffee (or tea if that’s what you prefer). I know for me it’s a place where I feel peace, where I feel productive and where my creativity can thrive and that is a beautiful thing, my friends.

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Exhale.

I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Washington this month. My whole family was there and we celebrated Jake and Leah’s graduations from graduate school and then spent some time in the mountains at an awesome cabin. It was wonderful.
I realized that week that my soul needed to breathe. It needed room to have a nice long exhale without being rushed back to routine. The minute the plane took off I felt lighter and lighter. It’s not a reflection on my life in Nashville, but just a reminder that my soul needs room to breathe. I need to make room for my over-thinking mind to rest, my over-empathetic heart to take a break and my always achieving soul to stop. It was a chance to be reminded that I do not hold the world together and that it keeps going when I’m gone.
My soul took a nice long exhale and I was able to rest. I was able to think about things that I usually just push away and cover with busyness. I was able just to be. I was able to exhale and inhale rest, peace and joy.
With every fit of laughter, every game played, every beautiful scene taken in, every short nap in the car, every page read in my book, every breath caught on the hike, every talk with one of my family members, every thought that with these people I am completely known and loved…my soul exhaled.
The hard part is not to feel like you’re choking when it’s time to get back to reality, to not feel like your soul is getting stuffed back down after experiencing that breath of fresh air. How do I make room for my soul to breathe in the everyday and the ordinary? How do I allow myself to feel that freedom and rest in the middle of the busyness and routine?
This was supposed to restore my soul and give me rest to start again and it did, but it also just made me long for more, long for more room to breath, more room to rest and more room to be restored. So, how do I create the space for my soul to exhale in the every day?  I guess it’s something I’m still trying to figure out.
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We had to take advantage of the picture opportunity…I love, love, love my family (just missing Teresa in this one!)