A dirty mirror.

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This mirror is one of my favorite things in my house. I found it one day in the barn at my parent’s house and asked if I could have it. They said sure and that it had been in the barn since my grandpa built the house back in the 70’s and came from their other home before that. It definitely wasn’t the most loved item, with dirt engrained in the wood and smeared across the glass so you couldn’t really see your reflection and paint chipped away. I was going to paint it a different color, but once I cleaned it up, I realized I liked how it looked…paint chips and all. It made a difference once you could see your clear reflection in it.

For some reason, I’ve always loved mirrors. It’s a weird thing and I don’t know why, but it’s a thing for me. So a mirror that actually came from my family and means something and looks cute in my house…jackpot!

Anyway…for some reason this image of a dirty and smudged mirror has been in my head lately. So often we think of ourselves like we’re looking at ourselves in a dirty mirror, we can’t see ourselves clearly and we can’t see a true reflection. We don’t see ourselves the way God intended. I think truly knowing where our identity rests, loving and accepting ourselves, engaging in healthy relationships, becoming self-aware, and dealing with our issues helps that mirror become more and more clear, so we can truly see who God created us to be.

This is a lesson I’ve been learning a lot about the last couple years. One reason I love life is because it’s a journey and I feel like there’s always something more to learn about others, about the world and about yourself! We need to love ourselves so that we can love others well and we need to continue to uncover who God created us to be and live into that identity. I think at some point in life we start building up walls, we start hesitating here, or ignoring those feelings there because we’re scared to be who we truly are. We get caught up in what people think of us, we get caught up in being perfect and we get caught up in being who we think the world wants us to be…at some point we look in a mirror and it’s so smudged and dirty, we can’t see ourselves and who we truly are.

For me, this journey of uncovering who God created me to be, of loving myself, of holding myself to a standard of grace and not perfection, and finding my identity in the fact that I am dearly loved has not been easy, but it’s worth it. I’ve realized too that sometimes we need others to help us “clean off our mirror.” A lot of the time we don’t actually see ourselves the way others see us or believe in ourselves the way others believe in us so sometimes we have to borrow that belief and accept that help from others.

For a long time I stared into my mirror and it’s like all I saw was dirt and imperfection and smudges, but then a friend would come along and remind me where my identity should come from…and she took a rag and wiped some dirt away. Then another person came along and encouraged me and affirmed who I am and that’s who God created me to be and took a rag and wiped a few more smudges away. Then another person gave me an opportunity to show that I was capable, even if I didn’t believe it myself, and they took a rag and wiped away some dust.

My people coming around me helped me see myself more clearly. They helped me pick up my own rag and wipe away all the dirt and smudges so I could see myself clearly, so I could truly see who God created me to be.

It may just be me, but this has been a process over and over again for me. Sometimes I forget and the mirror gets a little cloudy, but God seems to always send someone with that rag in hand to speak some truth until I remember it myself.

I hope we can all be mirror cleaners for others…may we only speak truth so that others see themselves clearly.

I want you to know that even if you don’t see yourself clearly right now, you matter, you have value and you need to start seeing yourself with love and grace. Sometimes we can’t do it by ourselves and we have to borrow that truth from others, so here I am, telling you this truth, you are dearly loved, you were created on purpose and you are meant to be who you truly are…let me get my rag so I can come clean your mirror.

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Dear Exhausted Job Applicant

Dear Exhausted Job Applicant,

I see you. I see you over there trying to word “I would love to work for your organization” in three different ways so they really understand that you want this job. I see you rewriting and rewriting cover letter after cover letter, researching another organization and trying to formulate your resume to make it look like you’re qualified, because you know you are but  “on paper” it seems like you’re not. I see you getting your hopes up, sending every resume off with a prayer and then hanging your head when there’s silence on the other end. I see you.

You try and remember that your value isn’t in your work, but it’s hard sometimes. It’s hard when you enjoy working and know that is where you find joy and now you don’t have the certainty of that. You try and remember it’s normal that people change jobs and job hunt all the time. You try and remember that “God is in control” and all the truths you know you’re supposed to remember, but it’s hard.

It’s hard when you feel like you’ve been led to let go of where you are in order to grab onto what’s next. It’s hard when what’s next isn’t clear. It’s hard when people stare at you like a crazy person when you say you are leaving one job without knowing what’s next. It’s hard when you felt such peace about your decision, but then nothing seems to be working out. It’s hard when you’re just trying to do the next right thing and then all of a sudden you’re not sure what the next right thing is. It’s hard when you don’t want to doubt and be confused, it’s hard to not be terrified all the time.

It’s easy to stop applying and just hope something works out. It’s easy to have a pity party and complain. It’s easy to beat yourself up and give into the fear. That’s the easy part…but that’s not where beauty shines through.

Beauty shines through when someone looks at you, not like you’re crazy, but says they’re proud of you. Beauty shines through when a peace that surpasses all understanding fills your soul. Beauty shines through when even when it’s easier to have the pity party and believe the lies that you made a mistake you choose to replace the lies with truth. You’ll slowly feel the truth cement in your heart and start to grow roots in your soul. Beauty shines through when even with all the unknown and the time of transition, people come alongside you and hold up your hands and remind you that it’s going to be okay. Beauty shines through when people extend you the grace, compassion and understanding that you’re having a hard time extending to yourself.

So, exhausted job applicant, let me replace some lies with truth for you. You are not your job or your occupation. You have value regardless of what you do because you are not what you do, you are who you are. If you know God led you to a decision or a choice and it doesn’t seem like he’s showing up, remember all the examples in your life before and how he’s been faithful. Why would he stop now? Also, people don’t get hired overnight. Some of us who are impatient and like for things to happen right now have a hard time remembering this (Of course I’m not talking about myself…).

This is getting long and you’re already tired from all those cover letters and resumes so let me tell you these last things. It’s okay that this is hard. It’s okay to grieve what you’re letting go of and still be excited about what’s next. It’s okay to have a pity party, just don’t stay there for long. It’s okay to be dramatic, but just make sure you have a good friend there to let you know when you’re getting ridiculous. And remember, you need people. Even if you’re coping mechanism with all this is to retreat into yourself, don’t retreat all the way. Remember we’re not meant to do life alone. There are people who want to be there for you, give people a chance to show up and let that beauty shine through amidst your circumstances.

I see you and I’m with you.

Love,

Abby aka An Exhausted Job Applicant

The Beauty of Community.

I was fortunate enough to spend last weekend in Michigan with some of my favorite people. The beginning of the trip was with family and the end of the trip with friends. It was refreshing and exhausting all at the same time, but overall, it was just what I needed.

No matter where I live or where I go, Michigan will always be home. Staring out the big window in my parent’s living room and looking out to the backyard, sitting on the beach, playing in the waves at Lake Michigan and soaking in the sunsets are where I find peace.

That weekend I didn’t even spend much time at my actual house, but I was with people in lots of different places. It made me realize home isn’t always a place, but it can be who you’re with too.

My friends and I rented a house for the weekend. We’ve been planning this trip for almost a year and we managed to find a time where all eleven people could come from five different states to one of our favorite places, Lake Michigan. When everyone arrived, my heart felt like it would burst because it was so full.

Some of these friends I have known since I was a baby, some of them elementary school, some high school and some have “married into” the group, but regardless of the length of time each person has been in my life, they each mean so much to me and have a piece of my heart.

The weekend was a healing balm and jumpstart to my heart, all at the same time. One group got dinner ready, while others played cornhole and others talked on the porch. We played game after game after game. We sprinted across the sand to meet the sunset. We talked life plans and caught up in ways that can only happen in person. We settled into each other’s presence and picked up where we left off. We jabbed and joked with each other and went back and forth, where others may look in and wonder if we’re more like siblings than friends. But that’s the beauty in community, just because we don’t share blood, doesn’t mean we can’t be our own kind of family.

With each burst of laughter, each heart shared, each question asked, every joke made and every smile exchanged, I just saw beauty. Beauty in friendship, beauty in bonds that last through change, through moves, through life transitions, beauty in new friends and marriages and babies and life milestones celebrated, beauty in community and beauty in the ability to sit down, pick up where you left off and really be together. States, time and life might separate us, but that doesn’t mean the beauty is gone. It just means we have to hang on to it when we can and know it’ll be there the next time we’re together.

We are meant for community. This weekend was a testament of that truth for me. We are meant to open ourselves up to each other and do life together. We are meant to encourage, comfort and listen to each other. We are meant to enjoy, laugh and have fun together. We are meant to be a part of each other’s story.

I am so thankful for the community I have and that through the people who exist within my different communities and “families” that I am able to see and experience so much love and so much beauty.

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All the lovelies with our cute little banner…geez, these people are the greatest!

Other.

There’s been a lot happening lately…from the beautiful lives lost in Charleston (Also, did you know six black churches have been set on fire since this happened? It hasn’t been all over the news, but it’s real and it’s happening. Check out #whoisburningblackchurches on Twitter), to same sex marriage being legalized, to the affordable care act being upheld, lots of conversations happening, bringing “issues” to the forefront and everyone having an opinion about something.

Also, unfortunately, there seems to be lots of hate going around. I don’t really get it and I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Something that I’ve realized in all this rhetoric about different things is how we view each other as “other” or think about people in terms of “us” and “them.”

We don’t agree with homosexuality and we think marriage should be between a man and a woman so those that disagree or practice homosexuality are “other.”

We think the Confederate flag is just part of our heritage and doesn’t stand for racism or slavery and anyone who thinks differently is too “sensitive” or “other.”

We think “poor people” should just work harder and not take advantage of welfare and “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and those that don’t…”other.” Aren’t we glad we’re not like “them”?

We think those “immigrants” should just go back where they came from, they’re too “other,” they’re not like “us.”

How often do we step outside of our own perspective and worldview and try to consider another? How do we stop seeing fellow human beings as “other”?

I know I’m guilty of this too. I can see people that are different than I am and they are “other.” They’re not like me, they don’t believe what I believe, they are wrong…therefore, they are “other.” It’s me against them…whoever them is. It’s like it gets engrained in our minds…there’s us and there’s them.

It once was easy for me to say, oh, homosexuality is wrong and the law shouldn’t include same sex couples…until I started having friends who came out and actually entered into friendships with people who are gay and took the time to listen to them and hear their story. It was easy for me to say, oh, racial profiling probably doesn’t happen on the scale that people try to say or racism still isn’t a huge thing, people just exaggerate, until I started having friends and neighbors tell me their experiences, until I started listening and really opened my eyes to see. It was easy for me to say, I really do care about equality and justice, but it’s just too much so I’m going to distance myself from it all…until, I really started seeing the inequality and injustice. It was easy for me to say, why wouldn’t people just enter our country legally…until, I started hearing the stories of those that are undocumented and hear about the fear and injustices they live with each day and how screwed up our immigration system is.

These “issues” aren’t issues to me, they are people, they are living, breathing, beautiful people with the image of God stamped on them just like it’s stamped on me.

Things can be easier when we see people as “other” or when we just think in terms of “issues.” We get to have our opinions, we get to see things in black and white, we get to distance ourselves and thank God that we”re “not like them,” but is that love? Is that carrying each other’s burdens? Is that truly working to see God’s Kingdom on Earth as it is in Heaven? Is that truly experiencing the richness and fullness that can come from deep relationships and community? Is that really choosing to love our neighbor as ourself? Is that what Jesus was about? (I’m pretty sure Jesus spent a lot of his time with people who were considered “other”)

We need to be surrounded by people who are different than us. What tore down the walls and broke the lens of seeing “other”, for me, was relationship and community. It was love really. It was stepping outside of my perspective and my own box. Building relationships and stepping inside someone else’s story breaks down the barriers of “us” and “them”…it creates space for just us.

I wrote a prayer on my bathroom mirror that I read every day because I’m tired of how easy it can be to see the people around me as “other” and I know I have to work to uproot the bias and the indifference in my own heart. I pray that I would be reminded daily that everyone is made in God’s image, that everyone deserves to be loved and that if I can even have a small part of affirming that in someone, I will.

It doesn’t have to be us and them…we can be part of creating a better story. A more inclusive story. A story where there is no us and them, there’s just us. A story where no one is marginalized or made to feel “other” because they are affirmed in who they are and affirmed in the fact that they are created in God’s image and are wholly and fully loved.

How does my prayer end? With love…just to love well.

Charleston.

Last week, a horrific, evil act happened in Charleston…motivated by racism and hate. I’ve had this post sitting in my drafts section since I heard about it. I would type and erase, type and erase, sit and stare, and cry and cry and cry, so angry, so sad. I’ve been reading and listening a lot…partly in fear that anything I would say may not be the right thing, partly because who am I to even comment and partly because I wanted to hear from others, but ultimately coming to the conclusion that I cannot be silent.

Feeling so angry about it all and while yes, it’s hard to wrap your head around such evil, I can wrap my head around the attitudes and culture of whiteness and white supremacy that moved him there…because it’s everywhere. I refuse to sweep it under the rug as just a hate crime that is isolated to this “white guy who was a loner” or explain it away as “it’s just sin”. It’s more than that. There is nothing new about this killer’s worldview. As Joshua DuBois says, “Yes, the killer was deranged, but he simply had a more extreme version of a common malady.” (please read the article that comes from here). It’s a further example of the racial injustices and racism that courses through the veins of our country and our society. And yes, while I was born white, a fact that does give me privilege and power, I was not born silent, I do not have to invoke that privilege and distance myself from this awful event, among so many others, and forget.

My dear white brothers and sisters, we cannot be silent and complacent, like @feministgriote said, “Black folks did not create racism, anti-blackness, or white supremacy, therefore it is not our issue to fix.” Karon Walrond, says it well too. We can’t even blame it just on a “white supremacist.” As Nancy Rust says, “We can’t call it that because it lets too many White people off the hook.  The average White person (AWP) in America will look at the headlines, recoil at the sickening pictures and deplorable details circulating about Dylann Roof and then declare, “Wow, is he crazy or what? …Until we are able to acknowledge the system that allows these acts to flourish, we will get nowhere.” 

Austin Channing, talks about how white supremacy affects everyone and says that we have two choices, we can acknowledge that and work to uproot it or we can let it grow…we are either nurturing love or hate. And knowing that those of us who are white, when we say things like it’s not “all of us”, that really isn’t a comfort, but rather creates distance. So to her I say, “I see this sin in my own heart, my own life, my own church and I am working to uproot it. I don’t want to be this way, and I will do the work to submit this ugliness before Christ.”

To my black brothers and sisters, I am sorry. I am sorry that you are made to feel that your lives do not matter because they absolutely do. I am sorry your experiences are discredited and ignored. I am sorry you have to live in fear and for the pain, anger and injustice you experience, that I know I will never fully understand. I am sorry for the way I have distanced myself from things before because it was easy and have not stood up and worked to uproot this sickness.

There are so many more things that could be said, so many more articles or videos shared, so many more “explanations” about why white supremacy, white culture, whiteness is a thing (explanations shouldn’t even be needed…just look around) but really…it is a time for lamenting. A time where it’s hard to see the hope, joy, peace and reconciliation that should exist. Where people refuse to be comforted and join in prophetic grieving. When these beautiful people in their place of worship welcomed a stranger and then were gunned down for their hospitality and grace, with the only crime being the color of their skin…it’s a time to lament. It’s a time to remember the victims of this tragedy and say their names because THEIR LIVES MATTER: Ethel Lance, Myra Thompson, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., and Rev. Sharonda Singleton.

(p.s. please take the time to read all the links. Also, the sermon below by Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil is worth the 30 minutes)

It’s About More…

A few months ago, I went to a church that was holding a panel on racial reconciliation. The pastor asked the panel, why should Christians care about this talk of race, reconciliation and justice? One individual responded about how we have to because it’s what we should be about. He talked about how we too often take the pieces of God that we like, people cling to the piece that has the most in it for them and what they like the most, the salvation piece.

We take the piece of God we like…the salvation piece. Too many people’s version of Christianity is just concerned with our souls. It’s all about going to heaven. I remember spending many days and nights worried as a kid that if I sinned, wasn’t able to ask for forgiveness and then died, I would go to hell because I didn’t ask for forgiveness and my soul wouldn’t be clean because my Sunday School teacher told me that was true. This is just really bad theology in my opinion, made me live in fear for a long time and totally made me miss out on the beauty of the gospel. (and makes me realize that I was way too worried about deep things at a young age…these were my thoughts as an eight year old. Anyway…).

Our souls are very important…obviously. Salvation is important…but God has so much more for us. We don’t get to just decide “we want to go to heaven” and take that piece of God and leave it at that. God is so much bigger than that. People ask me why I care so much about justice and equality and I honestly, truly think it’s because we’re supposed to. As people who believe in this great big God and claim to follow Jesus, we have to care about justice and equality. We have to care about our neighbors and what is happening to them. We have to remember that every single person is created in God’s image and we are called to love each other well. We have to remember that when we claim to follow Jesus, we committed to be a part of a bigger story, that we decided to be a part of God’s Kingdom coming here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Many people have said about me before, “Abby…justice and loving and caring too much is her ‘thing'”, but it shouldn’t just be my “thing”. It should be all of our “things”. (And you know I’m no expert or that great at it, so we all need to be in this together!)

I was at the Justice Conference last weekend and got to hear Dr. Cornel West speak and one thing he said really stuck out to me…he said, as people who say they follow Jesus, we have to be about love and justice. They’re not equal, but their indivisible. If our faith and beliefs are rooted and all about love, with that comes justice. To me, it just makes sense, that’s what my theology is about.

We can’t just take the pieces of God we like.  We can’t ignore the injustices that happen around us. We can’t think that the goal in life is just to make it to heaven. It’s about so much more than that.

“The gospel at its best deals with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well being. Any religion that professes to be concerned about the souls of men and is not concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is a spiritually moribund religion awaiting burial.” – MLK Jr.

Lessons from my Thesis

I submitted my thesis last night…all 100 pages! (I was excited that it ended up being such a great, round and even number). I can’t believe it’s done. I’m not sure if I’ve ever worked so hard on something in my life. I was trying to think of all the hours it took up and I really don’t think I can count them. Let’s just say, I’m not gonna know what it’s like to not have work to do before I go to work in the morning or as soon as I get off at night and I won’t be spending all weekend at my computer. I’m not going to miss scheduling interviews at lunchtime, dreaming about coding data or spending 12 hours a day looking at a screen. I feel like I’m about to re-enter society!

I’m currently laying in my bed as I type this on my phone because my body and mind vetoed my attempt to actually sleep in until 8 today. I let it sink in that I was done with my thesis and naturally, because I think too much, I started thinking about all I learned this semester through this process. So, naturally, I made a top ten list.

1. Things that are worth it are hard. I could have taken a lot of shortcuts through this process, but I didn’t. I actually really do care about what I researched and I wanted to produce a thesis done with excellence. Producing this was really hard, but worth it.

2. I have the best community ever. I wouldn’t have made it the last couple months if it wasn’t for my family and friends. When I think about how great everyone is I get emotional because I’m just so fortunate to know such awesome people and that I get to have them in my life (I’m allowed to be emotional aboht these things…I just completed a milestone). I actually could really feel the prayers of so many people and the texts, calls and gifts kept me going. The fact that I have friends and family who would transcribe interviews, edit chapter after chapter, let me cry and assure me it’ll be okay and make sure we celebrate even the little victories is amazing. My people y’all are the best kind of people.

3. It’s okay to say no. I became very familiar with the phrase, “I just don’t have the capacity for that.” I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to say no and everything will still be okay. Not gonna lie, still not great at this and am not always good at doing this without pounds of guilt accompanying it, but I’m working on it.

4. Even when you don’t think you have time to take care of yourself, you have time to take care of yourself. I’m not just mentioning this because my whole thesis is about self-care, but because it’s actually true. Through this whole process (full disclosure: at least up until the last two weeks or so) I have tried to make a conscious effort to still love and take care of myself through the crazy. Not only was I working on my thesis and had another class, but this is one of the busiest times for work too and there was always something that needed to be done. But sometimes, I just took a nap or watched an episode of Parks and Rec (I mean they’re only 20 minutes and it’s the best show ever…) I also tried to get 8 hours of sleep most nights, I truly think being proactive in caring for ourselves results in more productivity and helps you keep your sanity. I wasn’t always great at this in all aspects (don’t even ask me the last time I worked out) but I could tell a notable difference from when I felt like I was consciously choosing to care for myself and my soul.

5. Good music matters. Pandora was my BFF for this process, also my “Grad School motivation playlist.” The Explosions in the Sky, John Legend and Ingrid Michaelson stations were in heavy rotation. I love music and listening to it while I work makes me feel like I’m not alone in it…(as I typed that I realized that may be weird but it’s true)

6. I am highly motivated by rewards and incentives. Yes, call me a child or a puppy, but the range of incentives I made for myself during this process were sometimes ridiculous and comical but effective.

7. The mountains help me think and give me life. I was fortunate enough to get away for a weekend to Gatlinburg to work on the bulk of my research and it was awesome. I had a clear mind, got to be creative and was surrounded by mountains. Even though I barely left the hotel room and I worked 15 hour days, it was life-giving.

8. Sometimes knowing you’re not alone is all it takes to give you the extra push to get it done. I loved the group messages between me and my classmates and knowing we were all working on this together.

9. It’s okay to borrow belief from others sometimes. There were times I wasn’t sure I could finish this or felt like what I was doing wasn’t good enough or really valuable, but there was always someone around me reminding me those were lies and who believed I could do it. Sometimes when we don’t believe a truth, we have to momentarily borrow the belief from someone we love until we believe it ourselves.

10. Every season ends. This was a season. A long, hard, emotional, rewarding, but intense season. Amidst all the work, it’s also been a difficult personal time for different reasons, but knowing this was just a season kept me sane at times.

I actually cannot believe my thesis is submitted and I graduate next week! The last two and a half years have been a crazy time. I’ve learned more than I thought, been continuously blessed by the people I’ve met through this program and I’ve grown a lot. I am so thankful for this season, but I’m ready to move into this next season carrying all that I learned through this one with me.

(For real…a HUGE thank you to all of my family and friends and all of your love and support through this grad school season. If I could take out a billboard to brag about how awesome and wonderful you all are, I would…not to be too dramatic or anything) 😉

The Discipline of Unlearning.

Recently I’ve been realizing how many things I’m “unlearning”. We all have habits, we all have tendencies, we all have things that we just do…our natural reaction to things, the habits that are just ingrained in who we are, how we respond to stress or difficult situations.

I’m realizing these habits, tendencies and natural things I just do aren’t always healthy. They don’t serve me well, but it’s hard to change them. It’s not easy to unlearn something. It’s not easy to go against the grain of what have become your natural tendencies. I really think it’s a discipline. The discipline of unlearning.

It’s easier to just keep doing what you do. It’s easier to just keep reverting back to how I handle stress and anxiety. It’s easier to not have to put effort into something because it’s how it’s always been. It’s easier to fix things than sit in the brokenness.

It’s hard work to choose the healthier option. It’s hard work to replace the lies you’ve always believed, with truth. It’s hard to remember that the motivations of guilt and shame are not healthy. It’s hard to take the risk when you just want to play it safe. It’s hard to be truthful and honest in a conversation when you’re used to just saying whatever will keep the peace.

This discipline of unlearning has been a process for me and every day I have to choose to not revert back to old habits. I have to make the choice to replace lies with truth. I have to choose to breathe in peace and not let anxiety rule my thoughts. I have to choose to sit amongst the brokenness and not try to fix it.

It’s definitely a discipline to unlearn. Discipline is not something I’ve ever really been that good at, but apparently whether I wanted to or not, these days have been full of doing things I’m not good at.

It can all be pretty exhausting, but the nice thing with discipline is that when you keep practicing it, it starts to come more naturally. Although it takes hard work and it’s not easy, the healthier tendencies are what start to become ingrained in you and it’s worth it.

Painting.

I really don’t like to do things I’m not good at. My long-running involvement with sports coming to an abrupt end, my ability to get out of any required art class through school, playing it safe rather than taking the risk, the list could go on with examples of things I quit, didn’t even try or managed to avoid just because I reached a point where I didn’t feel like I did it with excellence, so what’s the point in trying? I thought it was best to just stick with what I’m good at and the terror I felt with the thought of failing was crippling. This is something I’ve been trying to unlearn the last couple of years.

Yesterday, I went to one of those places where you paint pottery and I laughed at myself about how much anxiety this used to cause me. Because for real, I’m not a very good painter. I’m just not the best artist. I am too impatient to wait for the paint to try, my hand shakes a little when I try to write words and I eventually get bored so I lose concentration and go from wishing it was perfect to if it’s good enough, that works for me. I would get so irritated that my piece didn’t turn out how I thought it would. I would stare at everyone else’s pieces and get annoyed that they looked great and they were so creative. Yesterday was different though.

I knew that painting wasn’t my strength, I knew this wasn’t something I was excellent at, but that didn’t mean that I couldn’t enjoy it. I decided to just put any expectations away…except for the expectation that my piece would probably not turn out how i wanted it to, and enjoy the process. It was a completely different experience. Come to find out…I really enjoy painting, I really enjoy doing something artistic, yes, I might get a little impatient, lose concentration and my final product is not something I could sell on etsy, but it doesn’t matter because I did it. I enjoyed the process of creating something.

How would our lives look if instead of always aiming for perfection we trusted the process of growth and didn’t make perfection the goal? How would our lives look if instead of always playing it safe and sticking with what we’re good at, we took a risk and put ourselves out there to figure out that even if we’re not great at something, we may still enjoy it? How would our lives look if instead of looking at the people next to us wishing we were as successful as they are, we appreciated their work and their excellence and celebrated their success?

I think a lot of freedom can come from letting go of perfection and a fear of failure and replacing that with the truth that really no one and nothing is perfect and we’re all going to fail at something.

Freedom comes from trusting in the process, from finding the courage to take the risk, from celebrating others successes, and from realizing we can still enjoy something even if we’re not good at it. I choose freedom.

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)