I ask thee to stay close by me forever

I’ve been working through this document put out by the Lead Stories Podcast on wrapping up 2016 and looking forward to 2017.  One of the activities it leads you through is to read Psalm 139 and reflect.  As I was reading, one particular verse leapt off the page at me, here it is in context:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.  
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
-Psalm 139:1-6 (ESV)

Yesterday morning at church our kids dressed up to help us tell the story of Christmas.  We had angels, shepherds and one cutie little cow.  As I was helping hand out costumes I was making some last minute alterations to the costumes for our littler angels.  Before you get too impressed – this simply meant I was cutting the fabric to make the dresses shorter.  Nothing fancy, just a pair of scissors and a rough estimate of how much I wanted to take off.
For some of the pieces it was easy – make a snip and then tear it the length of the fabric.  In other cases I had to cut through seams or hems.  The former was easy because if you cut in the right direction, the fabric just tears in a straight line.  The latter was more difficult because seams and hems are strong.  Hems especially are meant to withstand some tension.  They are made strong because of the style of stitching and folding.
So when I read this passage, the word HEM jumped at me.  I thought about cutting the costumes yesterday.  I thought about how hems are meant to protect our garments.  Being hemmed in by God is an act of protection.
The whole psalm is about how well God knows us.  How even before we were formed he knew the days of our lives set aside for us.  This section at the beginning talks about how he knows our rhythms.  As I read it I knew that God was saying to me: I know it all. I know the stress of this season, the busyness of your job, the movement and the stillness.  Before you even call out to me, I know.  I hem you in and I place my hand over you.
He has hemmed me in.  He has sown an area of protection around me and inside of that he lays his hand upon me.  He reminds me with his touch that he’s here.  He’s always here.  He is Immanuel – God with us.  God with me.
I’ve often felt in the hustle of life that my life is uncharted.  There’s no plan in place, everything I know and love can change in an instant.  It all feels random how I’ve made it here, to this place.  But today as I was reading this beautiful psalm, that I’ve read probably 1000 times, I realized that my life is not uncharted.  It’s known.  Not by me, but by Him.
And as the psalmist writes – that knowledge is too wonderful for me. Which means two things to me – this knowledge (my life plan) is actually too wonderful and too high for me to attain.  I cannot know it all now, I must keep moving forward knowing that He has it mapped out.  But also it brings up that joyful feeling when someone you care about shows you they care too.  That God would love me that much.  That he would know me that well.  That is a feeling of joy that I simply cannot hold in.
So in this season of advent, I’m realizing what I’m waiting for.  I’m waiting to see how my life will unfold.  I’m waiting for whatever big thing is on the horizon – good, bad or indifferent.  And for the next week at least I’m going to live into that waiting with the knowledge that it’s not completely unknown.
I’ve been hemmed in by the Creator of the universe.   In all circumstances he is there and his hand is upon me.  So I echo the line from Away in a Manger that I used as the title for this post –
I ask thee – stay close by me.  Forever.

Say You Won't Let Go

It’s time to bring back #TuesdaysinLeadership!  If you’re new(ish) to my blog, this series is where I discuss a topic of leadership in response to a podcast that I’m currently digging – the podcast is called Lead Stories.  It’s a podcast where two amazing women discuss topics and questions surrounding leadership.  This week we’re going to take a look at Season 01: Episode 44: The Leader Behind the Scenes: Who are Your People?
This was exactly the podcast I needed to hear this week.  I love this discussion and it prompted me to step out of my comfort zone in one of my relationships.
In their discussion, Jo and Steph both let us in and told us who their people are and how they connect with that group.  When you’re a person in leadership, you need people who have your back and who get you.  You need relationships with people that care about you and challenge you.  It’s something I always acknowledge that I need but have struggled having it.  Part of that is due to transitions in life, my people have moved away, I’ve moved away.  It’s created continuity issues.
In this conversation, Steph brought up the idea of having a DTR with your people.  We use that term in romantic relationships where you sit down and have that awkward conversation about what you both want and need and whether that can happen together.  But Steph said challenged their listeners to have that DTR with the people you are hoping to count on, otherwise you may go to lean on them and they won’t be there – like a failed trust fall.
I’ve never thought of that before.  To actually have a face to face conversation with someone I’m hoping to have some level of vulnerability and trust with, to invite someone to become one of my people.  I love this idea of putting out there what you need and asking what the other person needs and then agreeing to a level of friendship that works for those needs.
So that begged the question – what do I need?  I had to do some soul searching and praying to know what exactly I was in need of in my relationships.  What am I looking for beyond having fun with them and compatibility.  Here’s what I came up with:


I’ve shared about this here before but I have some level of trust issues.  I’m working through it but sometimes they still rear their ugly little heads.  So loyalty is something I prioritize in my relationships.  Here’s how I define this characteristic: loyalty in relations someone who has my back through thick and thin.  It’s someone that I can take everything they say and do at face value and not question if I’m getting the ‘real story.’  In a world where gossip sometimes disguises itself as telling a story or processing a situation, I need my closest relationships to be people who will have my back.

Grace and Accountability

I am in no way perfect.  I don’t lead perfectly, I am not a perfect friend, I may be a perfectionist but I often fail at that too.  So something I look for in friendship is both grace for when I will inevitably screw up and accountability to push me to be better.  No one wants to hear that they messed up but I need my friends to tell me when I’m being too stubborn or when I need to take a deeper look at why I do what I do.


Again with the trust, there are times I need to talk about things that need to stay between me and my people.  I’ve been burned in this way before, and it might be because I am so open with my own life.  But I need my friends to know that my story is mine to tell.

Respect and Attention

This one sounds weird – but again it comes from having known the opposite.  I want to have friends who are willing to truly listen to what’s going on in my life and ask about it.  Too often I’ve had friends who ask me about something but then don’t really want to listen.  Or immediately tell me about something they experienced rather than listen to my full answer.  I’m an external processor and I need my people to be those willing to deep dive with me.
As I listened to Jo and Steph talk about who their people are and how we can identify our people – I realized that before I could even identify my people, I needed to ask myself what I needed.  That’s why I made this list.  Then, as I made this list, I realized that those who I already called my people already contain these characteristics.   It also led to a conversation where I invited someone new in.
Friendships are a tricky thing, especially for those in leadership.  But when we are honest with what we need then it may be easier to define who can be our support system.  It’s great to have clear expectations for our relationships so that we know if we are asking the right amount and if our people can feel like they can provide for them.
Also, obviously this is a two way street.  You need to ask your people what they need from you so you can provide that for them.  But it starts with you –

what do you need from your people?

so if it matters, Let It Matter

FullSizeRender.jpg.jpeg I woke up this morning and followed my usual routine.  I checked my social medias, always ending with Timehop – that app that shows you what you’ve posted this day on years past.  Before I even tapped on that little yellow blue square I knew what I would find.
Today’s the 7th anniversary of the day he passed away.  I knew that I would scroll through those pictures posted on this day over the last several years.  Always a family picture with some caption on how much I miss him.  But this morning as I contemplated what to share – what picture, what story, how to convey the ache in my heart that feels a little deeper today.
But I couldn’t quite figure it out.  I couldn’t figure out why planning my usual Instagram post wasn’t making me feel better.  So instead I got up, got ready, slid my dad’s old watch onto my wrist and went about my day.
But I still felt off.  The thing with grief is that it never really plays by the rules.  There isn’t a time table or a playbook that you can consult to know what is the right course of action. So you just try to keep going and hope you’ll find the way.  Today felt a little like that.  If I’m honest, a lot of days feel a little like that.  The weirdest things will trigger that pull of loss.  And it will knock me off my axis.
Over these past 7 years I’ve found a few ways that help me get back on track when I’m feeling the tug.  Instead of completely shutting down, I’ve learned to cope.  Here are a few of my methods –

Invite someone into the pain

I think that’s what I’ve always tried to do with my “tribute” posts.  Maybe even what I’m trying to do with this blog post.  A lot of people around me have experienced loss.  God has placed people into my life that have similar grief to my own.  Those people have entered into my story with me: asked questions to know more about my dad, given me space to not be 100%, prayed for me, not pressured me into moving too fast.  Grief looks different for everyone, those that have entered into my grief with me and allowed me to feel it however I need to in a specific moments are the friends I continue to turn to on this day every year.

Do something that brings you joy

Today I started a mentoring program that our church is doing at a local elementary school.  It was our first day, so I met my mentee for the first time today.  I’m a long time fan of mentoring and have always seen the fruit of spending one on one time with a child or youth.  That simple act today – getting to know my mentee brought me a kind of joy that helped me see how the pain of my past could be used to help someone else.

Take your mind off it

Sometimes what I need is to occupy my mind.  To remind myself that the world around me is still turning even if my heart is broken.  I’ve learned to recognize that in myself, especially more recent years, that I am strong enough to close the box on the grief.  Somedays I need to remind myself that grief is real but it’s not in control.  I am in control of my emotions.  There were countless times today that I had to refocus myself, to not let my grief mess with what I was doing.  It’s a skill I’ve learned over time but an important one that I’m glad I have now.  No longer do I have to let grief completely shut me down.

When all else fails – Let it matter

There’s a song off of JOHNNYSWIM’s new album called Let it Matter.  Both members of the couple lost one of their parents and they wrote this song in their grief.  One of my favorite lines is – “I don’t wanna feel better, I don’t wanna feel good, I wanna feel it hurt like losing someone should.”  If my last one was knowing when I need to take my mind off of it, this one is about knowing when I can’t take my mind off of it.  As they say in the song – “if your heart is breaking let it ache.”  Some moments I need to let it matter.  I need to cry or vent or feel the depth of losing my father to an awful disease that robbed me of several good years and half a lifetime of memories.
I loved my dad.  I still miss him, I will always miss him.  He left this life too soon and it’s not fair.  Grief is never fair.
If you’ve lost someone you love, maybe this resonates with you.  Maybe my words can help you on the road to figuring out what makes you feel normal again.  Because that’s what grief does to you – it takes away your normal.  When the world around you is still spinning, still planning, still going on as if there wasn’t a gaping hole in your heart, you have lost your normal.   Then you’re left figuring out a new normal, but even trying to find a new normal reminds you that you lost your normal.  And the cycle continues.
There’s no way out of the cycle.  But, dear friends, you are not alone.  We’re in this together.  We’re walking the road together.  Let’s find some ways to cope together – I’ll share mine if you share yours.