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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Love Wins

I will always be grateful for therapy.

Years ago, now, I sat in a stale, small, windowless room, with my knees pressed tightly to my chest. I leaned deep into awkwardness, into the past, and into opening my heart, painfully, one stitch at a time.

As often happens with hearts, wide open it bled, it cracked, and I thought it would probably never mend. It was disfiguring. It felt like death.

But the funny thing about damaged hearts? About that tear-stricken pain?

On the other side, the brokenness heals. The open wound begins to close, and this time, there’s nothing slowly decaying underneath.

Stitch by stitch, guided by a woman three times my age (and ultimately, my Creator), I opened myself for the first time to love. To genuine love.

That relationship ended in a car crash similar to that ever-famous scene in Blues Brothers, and yet- this thanksgiving season has me indebted to those college hours. Because there is something new budding in my life, and I catch myself wanting to push back, to build walls, to examine under a microscope with cynicism and disbelief.

Years later, older (but barely wiser), I know both sides of relationship well: open wins.

So instead, I shuffle forward. Small steps, yes, but steps possible because of that teeny room and tenderhearted woman.

(praise).

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Family

Honestly, I love the church.

I know that’s probably obvious. I’ve attended (mostly) from my exit from the womb, and have amazing memories and experiences tied into living alongside of a community of people who love Jesus. And, uh, I give them my time and energy (read: life calling), and they give me money to eat ice cream and buy shoes. So, that’s pretty awesome.

And honestly, I love the commitment the church has made to family.

But. But as an upper-20-something-single-female, can I say something?

I have a family, too.

And I don’t just mean the one that was given to me through my Blue Eyes and Last Name, although that family is pretty sweet. I mean the one my life has formed. Built. Created.

All over this country, every place I’ve lived, there are humans I’ve lived life alongside of. Who I’ve stood beside in uncomfortable shoes during wedding ceremonies, and beside later as I brushed gently the soft heads of babies that were truly hours old. Who I’ve sat with and mourned the bitterness of death, and sat with at Happy Hour after long workdays. Humans who I’ve lived with through inconvenience, through 3 am airport pickups, lugging boxes for a move, through   sitting in the hospital awaiting an answer.

People I have deeply known and deeply loved.

People who have deeply known and deeply loved me.

 

These people are my family.

And while I love that we commit to families growing together, and leading together, and loving together, let’s not forget: Not everyone’s family is the same.

My family may look a little bit different, may be spread among miles and miles, but that doesn’t make them any less of a family. We may belong to each other through memories, and not through blood, but that doesn’t make the commitment any less.

Commitment. Living together despite brokenness. Baring both spirit and mistakes.

And gratefulness. To live among family, whether it fits the traditional definition, or just my own.

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You Are Making Me New

Dear 2012,

I’m a little slow in writing this letter to you (like, 3 months slow), but honestly, if we’re going to be friends during the next 12-ish months, you should probably get used to that. Finishing things in a super timely manner is not something I would list under “Special Skills” on my resume.

So, 20-12, here’s the thing.

You’re already lucky, with your oversized bag bearing change and new and beauty. I’m not sure how you managed to pack so many unicorns and rainbows into the last 81 days, but let me tell you: we might be soulmates.

You see, 2011 beat me up a bit. He was like that boyfriend that you know you shouldn’t go back to because every time you ask him if he’s cheating, he averts his eyes and changes the subject. He brought a bit of heartbreak, and by the end of the year, I was tired. And tired of being tired.

But 2012, you’ve released me in some incredible ways. You have long wavy hair, oversized sunglasses, and you smell of the rain and adventure. I want to be best friends with you.

And, my new friend, I’m quite aware things won’t always be perfect. I’m accepting that as the thing we all refer to as “life”.

But I’m also accepting a spirit of gratitude. Gratitude even for 2011, because while I’m more than happy to show him the door, I also rest firmly in my blessings today because of who he was. And for that, I’m thankful.

So, 2012, pop those high heels into your purse and let’s grab hands and run hard with wanderlust blowing in our hair as we journey together. Let’s accept our baggage, but not let it coerce us into traveling slower. Let’s skip after Our Creator, who has truly given us all things to work towards His good.

Here we go, my new friend. Just you & I & He.

Yours till 2013,

Annie

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