I'm home now, I'm coming around

Seven months ago I got a letter in the mail from my apartment complex with the reminder that it was time to renew my lease.  I took a month to pray about what to do because I needed to move, if only simply for the reason that my rent was too high.
Six months ago I made the decision not to resign and thought to myself, I have two months to find a new place to live. Mostly thinking about which surrounding suburb to look for a place in.
Three months ago I moved to Minnesota.
Today I came home from work with the strong desire to make something.  I had all the ingredients for soup but my recipe was for making it in a slow cooker.  Because it’s been cold with a few little flurries, soup sounded like the right thing.  So I decided that I would experiment with making the soup on the stove.
So I cooked the quinoa.  I cooked the chicken.  I started mixing all the things into the big soup pot and as I did I recapped my day.  Something about the stirring motion and watching all the ingredients swirl in the pot slowed my mind enough to think through the small moments of my day.   What seemed inconsequential in the moment now flooded my senses.  That moment in the hall with this person, that side conversation, that deep breath in while I felt the warm cup in my hands.
It wasn’t a particularly interesting day, a pretty standard Monday.  But as I took stock of the day I couldn’t help but smile because I’m starting to feel settled.
I had a conversation recently with a friend about what “home” means.  She’s married and has created a home with her family.  When she thinks about home and family she thinks of the one she has now – not her family of origin.  I think that’s really true of people who are in that stage of life – married with children – they have this space they created with their spouse, their traditions, etc.  But for those of us not in that life stage – what is home?
Life pre-marriage tends to have less stability (or so it seems) – so our idea of home and family is still wrapped up in our family of origin.  But the problem is, I haven’t really lived in my mom’s house for almost a decade.
I often feel a little stuck in the in-between.  My hope is still that someday I’ll be married.  I’ll create a space with someone else that is just ours.  And because of that everything in this stage seems temporary because I’m renting and I know it’s not long term.  But I’m not yet ready to buy a house or a condo.  So “my home” needs to stay a concept for a little longer in that this exact space I’m living in – this one bedroom apartment filled with all of my things – is not a forever space.
But that’s okay.  It’s all lessons in learning to be content in my stage of life.  Hope for the future can still exist but while I’m here in this space, I might as well set up camp.
As I reflected today I thought about how I love my church.  I love the people around me.  I see the potential of some really meaningful friendships and community spaces.  I’m three months in and starting to have rhythm.  I’m starting to feel more comfortable reaching out to people.  I’m finding my place here in this physical space.
Tonight in the simple act of cooking myself dinner I realized that this place is feeling more and more like a a place I could call home.
*blog title from Tegan and Sara’s The Con

laying down what's not mine

I’ve always wanted a tattoo – a reminder that will be there with me forever of who I am and who I was created to be.  The problem is – I’m constantly discovering a new facet of what that means in my life.  I find a new word, phrase or image that I want to be my guiding force and it causes me to question if I really want to permanently put any of them on my body.   So I tend to use jewelry for my reminders instead.  I love to find wearable symbols that remind me of who I am and where I’m going in this season of life.  Words, phrases or images that help to ground me and declare who (and whose) I am.
I recently heard someone speak about the significance of wearing your own armor.  She referenced the story of David and Goliath, when David initially goes out to go toe to toe with Goliath they want him to put on Saul’s armor.  But when he puts it on it’s too big and it inhibits his movements.  So he takes it off and goes to face Goliath without it.
The woman sharing this image with us was encouraging us to put on our own armor, not the armor of someone else.  It hit me deep.
So much of the world around me tells me who to be.  From the superficial things: how to dress, how to put on make up, how to do my hair; to the deeper things: how to carry myself, how to be a leader/pastor/writer.  I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to figure out what my niche is – where it is I feel most alive.  But part of the problem is that I’ve let others tell me who to be and what to place value on.
It has resulted in me putting on someone else’s armor.  Sometimes because their armor was shinier than my own.  Sometimes because they told me their armor was thicker and more protective than mine.  Sometimes because I didn’t realize it wasn’t mine to put on.  Sometimes because they were someone I wanted to emulate and therefore I put their armor on to be like them.
But the problem with putting someone else’s armor on is that it doesn’t protect you the way it should.  It doesn’t amplify the places where you are strong and protect the places you are weak.  It isn’t meant for you.
If I believe that God created us each uniquely, which I do, then I also believe that God equips us each for a unique calling on our lives.  The calling serves the same purpose for each of us – joining in the mission of God – but it’s lived out by each of us differently, based on who He created us to be.
So of course our armors are all different.  As I journey through discovering my own armor, I’m learning what it means to pick my way through my own calling and journey.  I’m learning what my armor is, what my battles are, where my path is leading.
These days there are two pieces of my armor that I put on myself each day.  One is a bracelet that says “FEARLESS” which was a bridesmaid gift from my dear Lo.  The other is a bracelet with a feather on it.  The company who made this bracelet says that a feather is the bearer of truth and justice.  As I walk forward into this next season of ministry and leadership, I am choosing to put on these two things – truth and fearlessness.
What armor do you need to put down today? And what armor are you picking up?

Nothing else will do 

We gathered around the kitchen island.  Friends gathered from near and far to celebrate the love of a couple.
It was the calm before the rowdiness. The quiet moments of catching up and getting to know each other.  My mug felt warm in my hands and I inhaled the comforting scent of caramel. As I looked around the room it became clear that the amount of love and care that I feel for my dear friend was mirrored across the faces of all these women. Women who have walked alongside of her for months, years, decades now join together to stand beside her on this beautiful occasion.
By the end of the night I can see why each of these women are in her life. They all share her wit and kind heart. They deeply love Christ and strive to make him known. They have all endured seasons alongside of her in joy and in hardship.
It was a picture of pure friendship, mutual adoration and unconditional love. It’s the dream – the true gifts of friendship on display.  Strong, passionate, loving women surrounding our friend as she says “I do” to a lifetime with her love.

if it's not too late for coffee…

Over the years I’ve had a lot of musician friends.  As with any type of artistry, when a musician is sharing their passion with you, it’s a beautiful glimpse into their heart.  Tiny moments where they come alive through their music or as they talk about music.
But I’ve never had a friend who is classically trained or plays a classical instrument, like professionally.  One of my youth leaders plays and teaches people how to play the double bass.  She is also a recent transplant to Minnesota so we’ve become exploring friends.  On our adventures we often circle back to music and she explains to me how she feels when she plays music.  She often tells me about playing more contemporary and abstract pieces and hearing her talk about them is so fascinating.
Last night I got the distinct privilege of hearing her play live.  It was enthralling.  And afterwards, as we sat around drinking coffee and eating delicious home-baked goodies, she told us about how it feels to play for people.
She said that she loves getting to share the music with others because so much of her musician life is spent alone.  She plays in her apartment or in a small practice room.  But sharing it live in front of people is what makes her a musician – otherwise it would be a hobby.
She has been given this incredible gift, she’s worked hard to hone it over years of practice and development but it’s a gift from God.  Hearing her talk about what it feels like to share it reminds me that God has given us all gifts.  And when we don’t share those gifts, we’re robbing the world of displays of God’s greatness.  He gives us these great gifts and sometimes we only use them as hobbies.
How can we show off the great Creator through our giftedness in our lives?
*blog title from Copeland’s Coffee

consoled a cup of coffee…

…but it didn’t wanna talk*
We brewed a pot of coffee at work today because we were in need of a little afternoon pick me up before staff meeting.  I slid open the drawer that’s filled with coffee mugs and searched for the right mug to fit my mood.  Or to be more honest – the biggest mug in the drawer.
I found a mug that was covered in hearts.  My mind flashed back to an earlier conversation where my colleague told me that coffee was like a mug full of love.  So I pulled out the mug covered in hearts, filled it with coffee and walked over to staff meeting.
As we sat in staff meeting I wrapped my hands around the mug and breathed the scent of coffee in deeply.  I thought about Las Vegas.  I thought about all the things happening around our country and world that seem senseless.  Violence, Racism, Sexism, Poverty, Prejudice, Natural disasters, Classism, broken systems that hold people back from becoming all that God intends for them.  The world can seem so broken and it feels like there is no way to repair the damage that’s been done.
Then I looked around the table at my colleagues.  These amazing men and women who I get to walk alongside and do ministry with.  I listen as we talk through ministry and life.  I hear their heartbeats for the congregation we serve.  I hear their support of one another and I see them clinging to the Father when all else fails.  I see them each as a reflection of Christ and I remember that there is hope.
Hope for repair that can only be found in Christ.  That can only be found when we peel back the layers of defenses we’ve put up to shelter ourselves from the pain.  Only when we’ve found the courage to lament the brokenness that surrounds us can we see through to the hope offered by the King of Kings.

*Jewel – You Were Meant for Me 

about this old coffee shop

When I moved to Chicago, a friend of mine sent me a link to the 10 best coffee shops in Chicago.  I made a goal to go to all 10 and blog about each of them.  I think I made it through 2.  In the long run I actually went to 4 of them (I think) but only wrote about 2.
The truth was I was looking for my local coffee shop.  A place to frequent, to learn about the owners and baristas, to sit and do work or dream or meet people.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my Starbucks and as a new Minnesotan, I’m learning to love Caribou.  But what I’m always on the look out for is a great local place to spend my dollars.  Local coffee shops are always filled with the most creative types.  From the owners to the baristas to the patrons – you’re likely to stumble upon some amazing stories.  They are a passionate people dedicated to the craft of coffee.  Each one unique in their own way and living their passion out in different ways.
Last week I went to a new coffee shop.  It was a recommendation from someone at church who is proving himself to be more into coffee than I am which also means he can be trusted.  In one of our first conversations he causally mentioned that a certain place had a good cortado.  At that point I knew he was a kindred spirit.
The moment I walked into this place I felt at home.  It was a gloomy day outside and the interior was dark and homey.  Lots of wood, natural light and the perfect music – the type of playlist you find on Spotify that is labeled “Coffee shop vibes.”
I ordered a latte and a scone to stay.  Mounted a stool at the bar within view of the roaster.  Opened up my laptop and started my work flow.  Within an hour I had the outline for my Confirmation lesson and the beginnings of the talks for youth group.  I wrote a few e-mails and then finished up my youth group prep.  At some point I got a cup of drip coffee to taste out their roast.  It was amazing.
People swirled around me, conversations buzzed sometimes interrupted by a swell of laughter.  Community was happening.  I would glance around from time to time watching the people around me.  Wondering about this person’s occupation or that person’s stickers on their laptops – what is that sticker that I see everywhere around here?
After a few hours I left that coffee shop feeling more like myself.  The thing about moving to a new place is that sometimes you feel like you don’t know which parts of yourself to reveal at what point.  Just as much as you’re trying to figure out a new community, they are trying to figure you out.  You’re constantly self editing as you explain yourself to people.  Jokes you’ve always made about yourself  or the world suddenly need explaining.
But sitting there in that coffee shop, surrounded by no one who knew me, I found myself falling into place.  I was doing the things I love most – crafting messages to communicate Jesus’ love to my students and drinking really good coffee.  My physical cup was empty when I dropped it in the tray, but my emotional cup was overflowing.
*title from Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop by Landon Pigg