Come as you are

2019 was a year of transition.  Personally, most of my focus was given to my relationship with the man who started 2019 as my boyfriend, became my fiancé and ended it as my husband.  There was obviously an amount of adjusting in those seasons. Professionally, my church also entered into a season of transition with leadership changes which we are still in the midst of seeing through.  And in other spaces of my life there was too much going on for me to comment much publicly. I still wrote a lot and someday those pieces may see the light of the internet, but not right now.  

For now, we pick back up here with Lent and some resources that I’ve chosen to help me focus my observation of Lent.

Every year, Lent looks a little different for me.  Some years I join up with a community to observe in a specific way.  Other years I’ve needed to seek specific answers and voices in my life and so I observe it more personally.  And some years, if I’m honest, Lent sneaks up on me because of the busyness of Advent leading into the Retreat season into the never ending February.  

This year though, I’m feeling a sense of fatigue from all the aforementioned transitional seasons.  I’m also feeling a need to take deeper roots in my faith and hopefully grow through this season. I’ve prayerfully considered how to dive in with Lent this year, and I’ve come up with a short list of resources I’m planning on using.  Feel free to join me!

Here’s What I’m Adding In:

Bread for the Resistance

I kept seeing this book pop up in my various timelines and decided this was just what I needed for this season.  Justice work can be very tiring. As can living as a person of color in today’s America. Both of those realities in my life have made me realize that I need to do a better job of filling up my bucket with voices from POC and especially WOC.  This 40 day devotional is just what I was hopeful for. I’ll be reading this to start my day Monday – Saturdays of Lent. 

Every Broken Thing 

This is a new Lenton resource by Erin Moon, who I follow on Instagram.  I’m intrigued by her voice and the use of the book of Ecclesiastes in her study.  She’s created this devotional for all the days of Lent (47 days in total) and is also including an audio version that you can put in your podcast app.  So I’m doing that and each day I will listen to the episode while I’m driving.

Here’s what I’m hoping to maintain:

Exercise (via our Peloton bike)

I’ve spent the last few months digging into working out on a Peloton bike that my husband had before we got married.  It’s been a pretty life changing move for me to dedicate space and time in my week to riding the bike. Exercise has always been a way for me to get out of my head and work out my anxiousness or unease. I’m hopeful to continue doing this practice 3-4 times per week.

Cooking with my husband

We’ve found this really fun rhythm of cooking alongside of each other at least three times a week. On these nights, we talk about life and work while we cook and then enjoy a healthy, home cooked meal together. It’s been a good rhythm to keep us connected and trying new things.

Here’s what I’m “giving up:”

Guilt surrounding boundaries around unhealthy/unsafe spaces

This one is obviously less measurable than the others. But I’ve noticed that in 2019, I spent a lot of time feeling guilty about needing to enforce more boundaries in my life. The boundaries started as a necessary coping mechanism and my literal lack of extra space and capacity. But I’ve noticed that while the boundaries have made me a healthier person, I often feel guilty about prioritizing my own mental and emotional health. So my hope in this season is to say goodbye to that guilt. I’ll be doing this through prayer and journaling through those feelings. My hope for this is to stop the thought pattern before it takes hole. We’ll see how that goes!

Feel free to join me in any of these practices, or leave a comment on what you’re practicing this year! Follow me on Instagram as we journey this season together!

Spirit Come – Lenten Practice Updates

The 2018 Lenten season started almost a month ago now.  Ash Wednesday was on Valentine’s Day.  And Easter falls on April Fool’s Day.   So needless to say that Lent is not quite the same this year.  Plus, I’m in a new church community that celebrates Lent differently than in my past congregations.
This year (like most years) Lent snuck up on me because the start of it fell in the midst of my busiest season as a youth pastor – Retreat Season.  For those who follow me on the social medias – you’ll have noticed that between January and February I spent three weekends up at camp.  One weekend was spent at a Youth Pastors’ Conference.  And two others were spent pulling together some fun fundraisers.
So when Ash Wednesday came around, I was like – oh no!  I haven’t picked a practice yet and my brain cannot handle picking up something or giving something up. It’s all too much right now. 
So, instead, I decided to reimagine an old practice that I had gotten a little lax on in the past few months.  Sabbath.
Partially I chose this because I had just recently listened to Annie F. Downs interview John Mark Comer about Sabbath.  And partially because of my aforementioned schedule, I was needing to be very intentional about my down time and resting to be ready for all the things going on in my life.
On a typical week of life I have two days off – Friday and Saturday.  Now, being a pastor doesn’t always mean those days are totally off, sometimes things come up and you need to deal with them, etc.  But for the most part, I try to do all my “work things” between Sunday and Thursday and then I disengage for two days.  In the past I’ve looked at one of those days as a Sabbath day and one of those days as a day to get all the household things done.
Sabbath comes out of the Old Testament, and the most common place to see it is in the 10 Commandments where God tells the Israelites:

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  You have six days each week for your ordinary work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. (Exodus 20:8-11, NLT) 

In the interview I mentioned above, John Mark Comer expands on this concept still being practiced today within the Jewish faith tradition.  (You should probably go listen to it.)
For me, reimagining Sabbath meant making time in my week to truly rest and find refreshment.  Rest looks like a lot of different things for a lot of different people.  So when trying to plan a Sabbath day, it’s important to take into account what gives you rest and refreshment.  Then you can build your Sabbath rules around those things.  This gets difficult when you have to take into account the desires of others (spouses, kids, roommates, etc.)  Luckily for me, in my current season I live alone and can shape my Sabbath days in a selfish manner.
So, here are some of the things required in my Sabbath day that help me to find rest:
Cook a meal from scratch
This seems like work, I know.  But for me, it’s really calming to do the work of creating a meal from raw ingredients.  The work part of it for me is the finding the recipes and shopping.  So I invest in a meal delivery service that helps me live into this practice I love.  The ingredients and recipes show up at my door once a week and gives me the ability to do the parts I love without the headache work of other parts.
Be with dear friends
I’m an extrovert who values quality time.  I need to be with people.  BUT – as an extrovert, not all interactions with people fill me up.   On Sabbath days I limit my interactions to people who are on the journey with me, my inner most circle wherever I am at physically.  This can mean family (if I’m in Denver) but most often it means friends that become like family.  Friends who know my heart and are in the trenches with me.
Limited Phone Time
I try my hardest to limit the time on my phone.  Sometimes it means turning off my notifications.  Sometimes it means intentionally leaving it on silent, in another room or in my purse.
Listen/make to music
I connect to music more than any other type of media.  It’s where my heart finds a home.  So every Sabbath day requires an extended music session – sometimes that means sitting at a piano and playing and sometimes it means pulling up my iTunes and playing through some of my faves.
Intimate time with God
I had a spiritual director once that loved to call me out on the lack of intimacy I had with Jesus.  She always challenged me to do things that caused me such discomfort that would deepen my intimacy with the One who created me.  I’m not talking about spending time in His word or praying.  I’m talking about talking about solitude, about embodying your relationship with Jesus – as if you are physically with him.  Tangibly this means trying to have solitude with just me and God.  Taking a walk with no music or podcast, sitting in his presence and not saying anything.  I try to do something to deepen that part of my relationship with him.
The Silly “No Work/Vain” Things
Sometimes you just need to name the things that you will not be doing on the Sabbath.  For me its:  No e-mails.  No housework (except dishes cause I weirdly love doing dishes).  No guilt for not texting/snapchatting/messaging back.  No social media stalking.  No early mornings.  No mind numbing activities (like TV or Netflix).
So there’s a look inside my sabbaths.  It’s the practice I’ve taken most seriously in my history of Lent practices.  It’s also been the thing keeping me alive throughout a busy ministry season.
What makes it on your Sabbath list?

thank you for the wilderness

thank you for the wilderness
where I learnt to thirst for your presence
if I’d never known that place
how could I have known you better

thank you for the lonely times
when I learned to live in the silence
as the other voices fade
I can hear you calling me Jesus

I’m an extravert.  I’ve always known it – I love people.  I am a talker.  I excel in places that are bustling.  It’s partially why I get more work done in coffee shops than alone in my apartment.
But I’m also shy.  If you’re reading this and you’ve spent time with me in person you are probably surprised by that statement.  But I am. I haven’t always been shy.  I used to be very outgoing.  But somewhere along the way I lost that trait.  I’m sure it had something to do with fitting it.  I realized somewhere around middle school that I was not like everyone else at school.  I didn’t exactly fit in.  So when I am placed into a situation where I am surrounded by peers, I shrink into myself.  I default to the people around me that have bigger personalities.
Again – if you’re reading this and you really know me, you’re surprised.  I have a larger than life personality when I’m comfortable.  When I feel loved and valued, I am a little over the top.  I’m a little much – and it’s great.
But the problem is, I’ve been told that I’m a little much – and that’s a bad thing.  I’ve been told I’m intimidating.  I’ve been told that my confidence is off putting.  I’ve been told that I feel like I’m entitled to something.  These critiques of my personality have created a negative thought pattern in head.  When I feel resistance, I tell myself these lies – over and over again.
In my last post I wrote about finding a way to claim the freedom that was freely given to me.  I realized after I wrote it how much of my life has been spent being less free than I could have been.  Because I’ve bought into these lies.  I’ve given into my life circumstances rather than giving into the one who created me.
As Lent was starting, I put myself into the wilderness.  I followed Jesus’s example and purposely turned down the volume on some voices and turned up the volume on God’s voice.  I purposely placed myself into situations that were lonely in order to find fulfillment in Jesus.
In doing this I realized something about myself.  I’ve learned to drown out the lonely with people, tv, music and other things.  I’ve learned to numb the pain of feeling alone through these other things.  When those negative thought patterns arise, I don’t fight them with the truth, I simply drown them out with other things.
But doing that doesn’t make them go away.  It simply quiets them for now.  But they will always come back.
But they don’t have to rule my life.  They don’t have to be the loudest voice because the Truth is – I’ve been healed by the Healer, made new by the Creator, stronger because of the places where I was weak and needed him.
God gave his Son so that I could be free.  Jesus sacrificed his life for my freedom.  And as I’ve been in the wilderness this Lenten season – as I’ve leaned into the truth and given control back to God, I am thankful.
Thankful for the loneliness because it shows me I’m created for community.
Thankful for my Too Much-ness because is shows me I’m alive and unique.
Thankful for my messy story because it gave me the moxie I need to live this crazy life.

Honey, you are free…

… as much as you can stand to be

Today’s post title comes from a song by Jimmy Eat World.  I’ve always had a special place in my heart for this band – they were the soundtrack to my high school years.  Every once in a while when they drop a new track I download it and their sound takes me back to a time in my life that seemed easier.  This song is called “You are Free” and it’s no exception.  It’s undeniably a Jimmy Eat World song, but it’s also been a little bit of a soundtrack to my 2017 Lenten season.
I’ve written a little bit on the things I’ve added into my life throughout Lent but here’s the semi-comprehensive list:

Life Lived Beautifully’s Breathe Bible Study on the Psalms <
> Reading Jennie Allen’s Nothing to Prove <
> Reading through 1 Corinthians alongside the Goddaughter <
> Journaling (almost) everyday <
> Intentional involvement in the Lead Stories Community (and Podcast) <

Throughout this time I’ve started to see some patterns come out.  Some threads throughout all of these different practices.  God has been tying in everything around me, He’s shown up in some pretty amazing ways and the overall message that I’m hearing him tell me over and over is this:
You can be free – as much as you can stand to be.
God’s been pouring into me and reminding me that He’s already set me free.  It’s not Him who limits my freedom – it’s me.
He sent Jesus to earth for me.  Jesus died for me.  Jesus was resurrected so that I could have freedom.  Not limited freedom – complete freedom.
So the things that I have put in the way of my freedom, the lies that have been told to me that limit my freedom, and all the excuses I’ve made as to why I can’t be free.  Those are nothing for the power of the Holy Spirit.
This Lenten season has drawn me closer to the throne.  I’ve sat at the foot of the cross and dug into why and how I’ve limited my own freedom.
Saying those words to myself: You can be free – as much as you can stand to be.  Reminds me that I have to do the work to clear out the junk.  To take the time and space to claim the freedom that was so graciously and mercifully gifted to me.
So as we step into Holy Week, how can we live our freedom out?  How can we lay down the lies that the enemy has put into our heads and pick up the freedom of the cross?
Let’s remember that the story we tell and the traditions we participate in this week shine light on the one who set us free.
You are free – as much as you can stand to be.

so I wait around for an answer to appear

I read this book by Annie F. Downs called Looking for Lovely and there was a chapter where she talked about her dating life.  How she had a perspective shift within herself – she went from waiting on God to watching for God to do his thing in respect to her dating life.  It seems like such a subtle shift, but when you think about the difference between waiting and watching, it’s actually very different.  When we are waiting for something, we are passive.  Maybe even unsure that thing will happen at all.  But watching for something has a level of expectancy, knowing that it will happen and watching for it to unfold.
I think this shift needs to take place in the way we interact with God in our everyday lives.
My last post was a month ago, pre-Lent.  I had every intention of being intentional with my Lenten practices and sharing them on here.  Writing what I’d been hearing from and experiencing with God.  But as I got into it, I found myself resisting the need to share.  Need probably isn’t the right word even.  I didn’t feel a need to share publicly, instead I felt the need to be in community with my practices.  My in real life people tribe.
God has showed up in some really tangible ways in the last 28 days.  He’s led me down a few pathways that I didn’t see myself going down.  He’s connected threads that seemed to be going in different directions or standing on their own.
My goal for Lent was to turn the volume down on the various voices in my world and turn the volume up on God.  Of course what that actually means is spending more time intentionally listening to his voice.  I was listening to a podcast about discerning God’s voice today and the speaker said “God is always speaking.”
I believe this in my head.  I believe that God is all around us, the Spirit is flowing through people and the pages of the Bible to make connections for us.  I believe He is in constant motion around me.  So then why is it that so often it feels like he is silent?
I have found myself waiting on God.  As I wait I do my thing –  I go about my life, do my tasks, hang out with my friends, make my plans.  It’s worked for me before.  God has intervened, spoken big things into my life, but it usually takes me a few tries to hear it.
But in this season of Lent I’ve tried watching for God.  I’ve been more intentional to pay attention – to read, journal, talk about God with people.  I’ve found that when I go looking for him, I find him.  I hear his voice more clearly.  I see his hand on my life, on the lives of those around me more tangibly.
There will be more on this to come, more thoughts as I process through these things that He’s revealing to me.  But for now I’m taking this simple thing – shifting from waiting on to watching for – and I’m going to run with it for a while.  See where He takes me.

All I need is You

I had a dream last night where I was preaching at a church about Lent.  It was a really vivid dream which is why it caught my attention – my dreams aren’t usually that vivid.  The sanctuary I was in was one I’ve never seen before and it was weird.  On the level where I stood there weren’t really that many seats.  But there was a balcony that came out pretty far that was packed full with people.  After I finished preaching we went into a coffee hour and even that was clear.
I don’t know what this dream means – probably nothing, but Lent is coming up.  It’s been a while since I’ve addressed Lent here, so maybe that’s all the dream mean, let’s talk about Lent.
Some background on my faith journey and Lent – in my house growing up we were always encouraged to give something up for Lent.  I honestly have no idea why.  We didn’t go to church regularly, I didn’t know what Lent really was other than that it meant on Fridays I wasn’t allowed to eat meat.  Coincidentally the worst food poisoning I’ve ever experienced happened because of some bad fish I ate on a Friday because of Lent.
It was never explained to me what we were doing, I just knew my mom would “suggest” something for me to give up.  Usually it was chocolate or soda.  And then on Easter Sunday after we did our Easter Egg hunt I was allowed to consume all the chocolate or soda or whatever that I wanted.
As I grew up and started to walk with God on my own, I rebelled against Lent because of my childhood of not understanding it.  When one of our youth interns talked about giving things up for Lent I would always roll my eyes because in my mind giving something up for 40 days meant nothing.  So I gave up chocolate, I could still have a variety of other candy that was just as good.  In my teenage youth I saw friends give up things for 40 days as a hope to be “healthier” which in teenage talk 9 times out of 10 means skinnier.  Lent seemed so manipulative to me.  It still had no real meaning.
Until I moved to Kansas City to start an internship.  Within my first month there the senior pastor challenged the congregation to a season of fasting and praying for our church and its impact on the community.  He challenged us to pick a level of fasting that would be sacrificial to us and spend the 40 days in prayer and fasting – seeking direction.
The youth staff decided to do the Daniel Fast.  If you’ve never heard of it – look it up.  It’s intense.  Although maybe not if you have ever done Whole30 or Paleo or anything like that.  But to me, it was torture.  It was unbelievable hard, every bit of food or drink that went in my mouth had to be scrutinized.  It changed the way our staff interacted with each other.  The lack of coffee to this caffeine addicted lady was rough.
But throughout the time of Lent we were encouraged to remember why we were doing it, in solidarity with Jesus and his 40 days in the wilderness.  To remember that there are times when we need to press in, to sacrifice our comfort in order to hear from God.
That season of Lent was the hardest I’ve ever endured.  But it was also incredibly fruitful.  I dealt with a lot of things in those 40 days and heard from God in some really tangible ways.
Since then, I’ve viewed Lent differently.  I haven’t always done as significant of a Fast but I’ve always tried to challenge myself to take something up that challenge me in my faith.
All this to say, I’m not judging you if you are giving up chocolate for Lent.  Instead I’m challenging you to know why you are giving it up.  In what tangible way is giving it up going to pull you closer to God.  Lent is not about denying yourself for the sake of denying yourself.  Or to see how strong your will power is – it’s about pushing into your relationship with the Creator of the Universe and being able to hear his voice clearer, freer from the distractions of this world than you are in other seasons.
So – What are we doing for let this year?  Share here in the comments and lets encourage one another!

giving it all to you

Ah, it comes again…the Lenton season. We all know that I have mixed emotions on the way that popular Christian culture portrays the need to give something up for Lent. Although that could also come from a childhood of giving up sweets and meat on Fridays. (You try explaining to a child that no, we don’t go to church on Sundays but you still have to give something up for Lent and oh yeah, you can’t eat meat on fridays…why? who knows but we’re doing it.)
New readers of my blog, don’t think that I’m a hostile hater, it’s more that simply giving up sweets or caffeine with no “real” reason makes my skin crawl. You are not going to magically become closer to God by abstaining from m&ms. That’s just not how it works. However, if you are giving up chocolate because you have recently discovered that it is one of the industries most responsible for slave labor and poor supply chain (which it is), and you want to give it up in order to take a stand against that. That’s great. Or, say, you are addicted to something (like caffeine) and you want to give it up in order to make yourself more healthy, also great. Although in both of those scenarios, it’s probably not the best thing to be pounding chocolate or coffee on Easter morning “because you can now.” (again, flashback to childhood and many Easters spent in a sugar coma).
Although, what you choose to do is between you and the Lord, so really this post shouldn’t be about judgement but rather about what the Lenton season brings for me this year.
This year, much to my chagrin, one (or more) of my professors has challenged us (for a grade) to do some sort of Lenton discipline. In my Ethics class we were challenged to have the discipline attempt to foster a virtue in us.
I racked my brain. It’s hard for me to come up with something that will be sustainable in this busy season of my life. But finally I came up with it, gave it a catchy name (cause that’s how I do) and I started. I am calling it Project LGLO (Love God Love Others). At least once a week will find me at a neighborhood coffee shop (not starbucks) doing devotions and homework. I will attempt to get out of my comfort zone by becoming a regular at said coffee shop. I will keep myself open by not allowing myself to use headphones while I work. I will attempt to learn how to love God and love others better as I get out of my 1 mile radius of NP and force myself to be better at getting to know others and my neighborhood.
The other thing (which I’m stealing from Jessa) is called Project Face Value. Where we try our hardest to take things that others say at face value without reading into them. We also will try and say things at face value – meaning that if I care about where we go to dinner I’m not going to say that I don’t. It’s not about causing problems with friends but honoring myself and my desires in expressing them, then I can’t get passive aggressively mad for people not reading my mind.
These are two simple things, but I think they will create in me habits that I would like to continue and get me out of my comfort zone in more ways than one. I am also going to try and blog more… but I always say that so…yeah.
(PS. I write this from the above mentioned coffee shop, which is my own little piece of heaven within Chicago. Big windows, lots of light, bit wooden table to work at, good coffee and a great mix of music. But I don’t want to share so I’m not disclosing my location.)