Live Color Fully

today i am excited about everything.

The Big 3(0): Creator

A short series where I write about the three BIG things I’ve learned before 30, in honor of my new decade and turning the BIG 3-0. Which, by the way, happened recently, just in case we’re not friends in real life and you missed the 97 reminders I gave you. So. (Part I here, Part II here.)

Life is crazy.

I sincerely hope this is not the first time anyone has let you in on that little fact. If so, I’ll wait. You sit down for a second and take a breath or forty-five.

The rest of you, those that are giving the computer screen the equivalent of the 1990’s slang “duh”, those that live on planet earth and have been around for more than one day, life is crazy, amiright?

(I’m right. Not often, but this time).

Some days you wake up and it’s moving day. At the office, or at home. Or at the office and at home. Your best friend moves away, your boyfriend moves away, your family moves away.

Some days you get a new boss, or your old boss quits, or you become the boss. Other days, you start a new job. Or, you get fired.

Sometimes a friend needs you, and you pick up and go. You sleep in one state, and then a new one. And the next day? A new one again. Sometimes you’re the one who needs, and people file into your home(state), your home(sweet home), or your temporary home(stead).

Other days, you sit in a dark room reading out loud while your friend lays inside of a large metal machine that will tell her if something is wrong with her brain. Or, you sit cross legged on the floor of a hospital room playing a mindless card game with a child who will be sliced open, tomorrow. Some days the doctor tells you something is wrong, and you go to the hospital. Or a specialist. Or she says the scariest of all the scary english words, “Cancer”.

Some days, you wake up from heartbreak so binding you can’t breathe, and you cover it with makeup and brush your hair, and you go to work. Some days the phone rings and you pause everything to rush to the side of an ailing love.

Some days, you sit across the table from someone who holds your whole heart, and they tell you goodbye. Or, someone travels across the continent to sit across that same table and tell you they still love you. Some days you fight in a (way too) public place. Some nights you kiss in front of a lamppost under the moon. Some days you cry at the grocery store.

Some days you drown inside of endless pile of ToDo lists and unreturned phone calls and over-scheduled calendars and noteverenoughsleepandandand…

Some days, all these things happen at once.

Many days, all these things happen at once.

This is life, in all it’s muddy, chaotic, insane  glory. It is both beautiful and terrible.

It is light and dark.

And while Whitman claims that both are miracles (and he’s probably right), it really doesn’t make it any easier, does it?

When life begins to move, to wiggle, to swirl around me in blasts of color and pandemonium, when I try to find somewhere to plant my feet, I find myself here (again and again):

We must find our rooting outside of ourselves.

We can take deep breaths, we can calm our spirits, we can reach deep inside of us for a strength that wasn’t there before, but it just won’t be enough. For a minute, maybe. But the next day, when the sun rises again and brings with it a full new lovely day with full new lovely crazy, it won’t be.

And in 30 years, this is the most important lesson I’ve learned:

Find Faith in something bigger than just you.

Find the Creator, the one who picked out the coloring of your skin, and the coloring of your personality. And then, find His friendship, His love, His very Self. And put your feet there.

This Rock, my friends, doesn’t move. It doesn’t change. It doesn’t wiggle. It is the same (yesterday, today, forever).

And if you can put your feet there, the chaos of life, in all its dark and light, will spiral and billow around you. And? It will be okay.

Some days it will be scary, but you will still be safe. You will still be secure. You will have your roots stretching beneath you, deep in Steadfast Love.

The first two lessons are important and good, but this one is the most of both.

Most important. Most good.

This is a lesson I learned early, and then again at 23. Oh, and 24. And all the years after that.

And… today. And probably tomorrow. This lesson is a lifelong one, I think.

But today, surveying the Craziness-That-Is-Now from my place perched on this Rock, I feel my heart stretching in gratefulness. So here’s to 30 years, my dear ones. Lived alongside all of you, and alongside this Creator I love.

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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The Big 3(0): Community

A short series where I write about the three BIG things I’ve learned before 30, in honor of my new decade and turning the BIG 3-0. Which, by the way, happened recently, just in case we’re not friends in real life and you missed the 97 reminders I gave you. So. (Part I here.)

My 30th birthday was the very best day.

I know I say that pretty much 6 to 7 times a week, so it might be hard to take it seriously. But in between the army of pink and the singing telegram that spoke love and the princess pinata and the hours and hours of work that went into making the whole shindig go down, I looked around and realized (again and again): I am the luckiest.

It’s not easy to build community, to expose parts of your life and be willing to put in the time to live inconveniently with other humans. It’s especially not easy when you repeatedly move and start over, roughly every 2.5 years.

It matters, though, doesn’t it? This thing when you discern who stays close and who you only see once in awhile. This thing where…

you choose the people who are a part of your life.

This is something you learn a bit in high school, this whole “How To Choose Friends That Help You Make Good Choices Like Not Doing Drugs” thing. But in the rocky road that is less marshmallows and chocolate and more learning to live life, it becomes.. pretty damn important.

Important: they will be your family as you live far away from your family (more on that here).

Important: they are the ones who speak into your life.

Important: they will speak, and you will actually listen.

At 23, they are the ones who will finally give you the courage to walk away from that terrible guy. They will push you to trust what you hear in your spirit, the part that is truly you, and you will move. In Louisville, you will find the church again. You will feel what it is like to love your job.

There, your new community will tell you it’s scary that he gets so mad and yells. It’s not passion, they’ll claim, and they’re right. And maybe just make better choices about who you date. Sheesh. They will tell you that feminism doesn’t mean walking alone in an alley at night, unless you’d like to be a dead feminist. But it does mean speaking your mind, even at meetings where you are the youngest, even at meetings where you are the only one wearing color, even at meetings where you are the only female. They’re right (on all counts). And praise God, because you will need this later as you navigate the male-dominated ministry world.

And it’s not just the dating (failures). These are also the people who will tell you that when your Creator speaks, you should listen. And no, it’s not crazy to leave all this behind and leap into ministry. And later, they will help you walk through That Time Ministry Breaks Your Heart. You will want to walk away from your calling, but they will help you find the courage to stay.

They will tell you when you’re being stupid. And selfish. And… SIGH… impatient. Mostly that last one. Actually, always that last one.

They are gifts, these few. More than anything outside of the Words of Faith, they will communicate to you what you can’t see yourself.

We’re told: just listen to Self! Look within! Trust who you are! And those things are all nice and true often, right up until they’re not.

There will be times when you are so sure you’re right, and the thing is… you’re not. Sometimes, every so often, you get so buried in what you want that you can’t see reality. And during those times, which WILL happen, it will be crucial, crucial, crucial that you’ve chosen great people to be around you.

You know this now, because it happened to you at 23.

At 23, you almost drowned. Almost. You wanted something so bad that was so bad for you. And without your community, your life would look very different right now.

There will be people that come and go, but the few you choose to walk alongside of, the few you choose to listen to, those few… they are precious. They are life giving. They are Christ, to you.

We can’t do it alone. And (praise be), we’re not supposed to.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:9-10

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The Big 3(0): You

A short series where I write about the three BIG things I’ve learned before 30, in honor of my new decade and turning the BIG 3-0. Which, by the way, happened recently, just in case we’re not friends in real life and you missed the 97 reminders I gave you. So.

At 20, I was just realizing that I didn’t know it all.

It’s a bummer, isn’t it? To exit those glorious…ly awkward and wonderful teen years, where you know everything about everyone about everything. And then it’s on college where it turns out you know…

  1. A bit about Shakespeare, from that summer where you read all of Shakespeare’s plays for some reason.
  2. Sort-of how to do laundry.
  3. End of list.

So, nothing. Enter the 5 stages of grief.

The good news? By 30, that grief will just be a distant memory, replaced by 147 jobs in 152 cities (rough estimate), with more friends and lost loves than any human should be un/lucky enough to have. The amount of things that will be packed into the next 10 years will be ridiculous, in the truest, realest sense of the word.

It will turn out you don’t have to know it all. (Thank you, God.)

But you must know you.

Not because of a self help book that shouts at you from a bookshelf. Or because it’s kind of trendy to sit on a mountaintop in the cold somewhere in high in the sky and consider who you’d like to be. It’s simply because The Creator who pieced and poured and knit you together, did that for a reason. If you don’t know you, it will be devastatingly difficult to know what that reason is.

Because at 30, it will turn out that you’re not a famous opera singer. Praise be to the One who made you, 20 year old girl.

You think you want that, but you just don’t know you, yet. It turns out that you love early mornings, and you hate late nights. This will be awesome when you’re trekking towards (oh so many) early morning hospital visits, and watching the sunrise as you study words that you will impart to the sweetest of forming spirits. And you love crafts! Glitter! Foam board! All of this will make you want to sing songs of joy when you enter Hobby Lobby. Literally. Songs of Fricken’ Joy.

You’re creative, it turns out, and not as administrative as you want. And that’s fine, because people will still hire you to do things. In fact, they will hire you to do things you’re actually good at, and they will let you not be good at details. THANK GOD, because you’re really tragically bad at details. And keeping schedules. And To Do lists. And… not spilling things and turning off the stove and closing cabinet doors, and… so very many things. The list of things you’re terrible at will grow and grow, and you will still be okay. When you figure this out, it changes your life.

You learn how to feel again, and cry- and cry- and cry some more- this decade. You will no longer be forced by some unknown power within you to pretend things are fine, always. And although you’re sure it will make you weaker, in one of life’s great mysteries, it strengthens your spirit. You learn to love and serve in ways you don’t know are possible right now.

And while others are at home with children they have birthed with sweat, blood, and tears (a lovely experience, I’m certain), you will be in the homes of others, late into the night, flinging playdoh and footballs, and stroking hair as you speak blessings over the smallest sweet spirits. You are teaching them: I love you. Your church family loves you. God loves you.

It will be the inexplicably the greatest gift you ever get to give, in your 30 years.

And it couldn’t have happened at 20. When you were so sure you knew The Things. All The Things.

There’s more of you and life to know, I’m sure of it, around the corner and across the street into the next decade. But here, at the intersection that reads “30” from both sides, knowing the free-spirited 29 + 365 days version of you is enough.

Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. John Calvin

I desire to know God and the soul.
Nothing more?
Nothing whatever.
St. Augustine

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Every Hour

At night, now, I follow a routine.

I mean, sort of. Routines are definitely not my strong suit, as I basically feel more alive in change and new then I ever will in the familiar.

But- there is a sense now, at 29, of a routine. Things out of order, maybe, or in different combinations as I multi-multi-multi task, but the same things: brushing the teeth, flossing (especially now with the recent claims that it adds 4-6 years to your life-eek!), running my fingers through my hair to check for any unwanted visitors (ie stickers, leaves, small children), round cotton balls that carry with them to the trash the day’s (many) coats of mascara, warm socks over abnormally small feet, and lotion over shoulders, elbows, hands and an increasingly wrinkled forehead.

The wrinkled forehead I love- years of laughter and raised eyebrows while fiercely listening to children reflected in deep crevasses stretched from temple to temple. Deep, to hold deep, full love.

But the arms, people.

As I smooth white over my arms each evening, I feel my limitations. I feel how thin skin is stretched tightly over a mess of muscles and blood and a pile of bones, somehow holding in breath, and deeper still, a free spirit. I feel-

I feel-

I feel the fragility of life.

I want to escape, in these moments, to find someone else’s story to cling to. To turn on the TV, or music, or reach for a favorite book, to drown out these moments with something loud, something different, something noise.

But I trust in my Creator, something I’m still learning to do at 29, and I lean in. I remember that fragile is not the same as hopeless. I feel the darkness, the stillness of the moment and I don’t scream into it with light.

I am quiet.

And tomorrow, with the (always faithful) rising rays of the sun, I will carry with me my moment of stillness. Living life intentionally- on purpose- is hard, and I need to remember why.

We don’t have forever, here. We’re not meant to have forever, here.

The moments of light and joy are beautiful, and so are the moments of dark and hope. They exist, side by side.

To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle. Walt Whitman. 

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The Year Of Passionate Living

So, a few (*cough* 2) months ago, I turned 28. 28, years, old.

And truly, it was fine. Other than 25, I’ve loved each birthday. Older women often smile knowingly as they pass along that as women age, we just grow into our existing skin. We become more ourselves. I’ve heard the rumor that it gets even better at milestone 30, so let me just say: Bring It On.

On my birthday each year, as only the product of two teachers can do, I choose something I want to learn. Not in the “fly a plane” or “speak the native tongue of the Pecheneg people” strain, but more “live in the moment” (24) or “hold life with open hands” (26) or “value community most” (18).

This year, in the midst of recovering from surgery and weariness, I fought for contentment. I struggled to be okay with the turn life had taken over the past few years. I read books and magazines, I journaled, I drank tea, and willed my turmoil to stop, Oh God, please.

And? Nothing.

The truth is, I’m not sure we’re always meant to be content. That churning we feel in the depth of our spirit was put there by the Creator who built us out of nothing. We’re not meant to squash it, to hush it into submission until all that’s left is a dull numbness.

We’re MEANT to feel that.

Because when we strive for contentment in that way, we change the meaning of the word. We change ourselves.

Not that all contentment is bad, but I’m not sure it should be used as a synonym for “lazy” or “cool with the crazy that’s happening”.

Or “boring”.

Or “stagnant”.

Contentment is maybe a little more about finding the joy in your life, and holding that with both hands.

So for this year, the only year I’ll ever have as 28, I reject contentment. I choose Passion.

So, here we go, 28: The Year Of Passionate Living.

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