23

this feels a little like coming back to an old friend – one that is always there, one I can meet up with and it feels like nothing has changed. this corner of the internet has held me and sustained me and believed in me.

it feels appropriate that I’d return today: my 23rd birthday. I know and have known for months that I have words to say. words about making myself more of an extrovert. words about struggling to believe that “life is a gift, and the Giver is good.” words about some weeks of being so low that I confused a little depression for things like mono or the flu. words about what it feels like to finally breathe after holding my breath for ten months. those are to come.

this morning, I woke up and hugged my dog. I held him so close to my face that his drool soaked my cheek. a year ago, that would’ve disgusted me. now, he loves me and I can hug him and he holds eye contact for minutes, big brown eyes that somehow get it, and I think I needed a love, a dependency, a loyalty like that. Baxter, you have no clue just how great you are.

we wandered to the patio, to the birds chirping and the sun rising. isn’t it funny how in all the little moments, nothing changes, and then someday you wake up and you’re 23 and life has happened?

today, today we’ll talk about a birthday. about 23 whole years. about how at 12, I could never see passed 18. about how now, I dream of 30 and 35 and 43.

today, we’ll celebrate how the Lord is overwhelmingly kind, a brand of kindness that moves me to tears. we’ll celebrate His goodness. how though it doesn’t always look like kindness, I can stand and run to that goodness. how it is very truly the anchor of my soul when I feel untethered from all the things that I thought would last.

let’s have a little cheers to the last 23 and a big yes and amen to the next 60. let’s cheers to all that He has done, what 23 years have taught. God, you’ve moved some mountains, don’t let me forget:

  1. that happiness is fading and fleeing, but joy, even when it is clothed like everything else, lasts. you can bargain on joy, sister.
  2. that the older you get, the better life gets. man, it gets good, hold your breath on that.
  3. that being truly rooted, coming from the vine, looks like a hope, no matter the season. I used to confuse contentment or happiness for life being good. no, life is good because I have the hope of Christ, even when that hope aches.
  4. that friends are truly one of my best blessings. I could not say thank you enough.
  5. and speaking of friends, that they will walk through the fire alongside me. that’s a weepy thought. but again, eternally thankful.
  6. that family changes and needs room to change, like a wine that gets sweeter with time.
  7. that gratefulness is a state of mind.
  8. that in the daily, I can find holy ground.
  9. that depression needs her name. and that when you don’t call her by her name, she becomes a million times harder to figure out.
  10. that even the worst of worsts can be redeemed.
  11. that if He will clothe all the flowers of the field, the ones here today and gone tomorrow, surely He will continue to clothe me.
  12. that I can call life to dead things. that the same power that raised Christ from the dead lives in me – oh my goodness. goodness. that is some real goodness.
  13. that it is truly a privilege to step in the gap for my brothers and sisters, to appeal to the Father when they feel no appeal. to hold their arms up.
  14. that the Church is even less of a location than I’ve ever thought. that ministry matters when her tears, not my tears, are streaming. that theology carries weight when I have no words for him, but I’ve been given all the words I could ever need by the One that spoke truth and life. that I don’t need to know more about the Lord because, truly, I have all that I need.
  15. that fear does not come from the Father.
  16. that I can worship through the venti vanilla iced coffee with cream, no classic. somehow, the way that it is mine and something to hold and a helper when I need it is sacred. coffee lovers, tell me you get that.
  17. that I have to give myself grace on the worst and best days. because if I don’t, it’s hard to let Him. and if I can’t let Him, my best days are the best and my worst days are the worst. don’t lose the anchor.
  18. that natural light can cure anything. joy comes in the morning, babes.
  19. that you are never too old or too settled for a new friend.
  20. that doing things with God beats trying to do things for God a million times over. walking with the Lord is a new kind of song.
  21. that the things I am passionate about will be my callings, and I am thrilled about that.
  22. that He has already given me freedom and I don’t have to live like a slave to my past or my present or to all the future. freedom is mine for the taking.
  23. that I could never be enough, no matter how much I think I need to measure up. praise be to God, the Father.

23, I’m ready and expectant and believing. life is a gift, and the Giver is good.

make me the girl | postgrad blues

1. I wake up in the morning, and the weight of the day is already present. it is on me something heavy. I feel the weight of things not done, clothes not folded, a carpet not vacuumed, a Bible unopened.

“guilt” is not a familiar emotion to me, but like bug bite in the summertime, she is here for this season. she moves in quick, before I can even call her a name, and it has felt like the waters are rising. with each day, there is something new for her to boast about – not enough money in my savings, a little bit behind on rent, wishing my dog would leave me alone.

2. “Brenna, you are so talented. I wish I could write like that.”  she’s only saying that, it’s courtesy. this isn’t genuine. “thank you, that’s sweet.” my answer is as quick as my brush pen strokes the paper before me.

I don’t know when I stopped believing people. I think it was sometime over the last year or so. I think loneliness and pressure and self doubt (aka all the things since graduation) are quick to whisper lies. they are quick to make me feel that even the smallest of comments in all the things that make me the girl that I am are false and only said, not meant.

3. Ashley asked me what I am believing about the Lord that makes me feel so much guilt. I don’t know that I am believing anything wrong about Him, but rather, not believing any word He says. a good Father that gives grace? sounds great, but I can’t feel that for myself. peace? and forgiveness? and shameless? I know that to be true, but the pressure of this season has made me feel anything but.

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I think they’re all related. the guilt and shame I’m feeling, the disbelief of the words of my best cheerleaders, the literally life-giving promises of a God that promises to never leave me or forsake me, no matter how off and unhinged and messed up I get.

I know that I am not really those things. and I know that I am way more critical on myself than anyone else. but when you listen to what the world shouts rather than what the sweet Father whispers, I am with you I call you Mine I went to the end of the earth to call you Home, it is easy to believe the world. it is easy to feel that I am so behind on where I should be as an adult.

postgrad blues is a real thing. and I promised that I would never use that phrase because I would seamlessly and flawlessly move into this adult phase (LOL) but here I am, feeling it. feeling it like a summertime bug bite.

so what am I doing about it?

I’m naming it. I’m calling her guilt, even though I’ve never known her before. I’m naming the lies that I’ve bought into. I’m naming the reflex to just say thank you and move on. I’m naming my identity what the Father calls me, not what I call myself.

I’m seeking. how ironic and fitting that the Lord would lead me to a 2017 word like seek when I would, more than ever, feel the tendency to chase after the world. it’s almost comedic.

I’m depending. like my life depends on it, I am depending. my story is not full of butterflies and sunshine, but I have never felt the weight of waking up and completely and totally needing the Father to sustain me. I know that my sins are forgiven and I know that grace and peace and joy are mine for the having only because the Lord came to me, but I have never woken up with my first thought being Jesus, You have to sustain me today. You have to. and yet, I’m waking and asking and believing and depending on Him to do it.

Jesus, make me the girl that would hold tight your promises, locked away in this heart of mine. give me hands to grip the truth that you speak, not the lies I tell myself. make me the girl that trusts that my story is already written and that no right or wrong thing that I do will change that. make me the girl that would be sold out to the life You give. give me hands to feel you. make me the girl that would rest in the truth.

morning girl

I think that I have always been a morning girl.

my body wakes up long before my mind, and I lay in my bed watching the sun get just a little brighter every minute. I don’t close my blinds all the way at night because this is not worth missing.

I open the shades of my living room and snuggle deep into the pillows on my couch. the view on the other side of my shades is nothing to write home about, but the light is. coffee warms me as the light holds me.

fullsizerender

the morning is new, it is fresh. it does not hold all of yesterday’s mistakes. it does not beg for attention. it comes with meekness, shyly, stirring me awake and desiring I dwell. the morning speaks quietly and softly and gently.

I like to think that the Lord is anxiously waiting for us to wake up, like a child on Christmas. He knows what the day holds, and He is excited. He has made the day, and He gets to be a part of the story of it all. it is tender, it is sweet.

it is spiritual. it is ritual. and yet, it is so new, so unique, each time.

this morning is a big morning. it seems that the even the sky got the hint – 2016 was a doozy. this morning is overcast and a little more grey.

2016 was a year of firsts – first time graduating with a college degree, first time signing a lease and paying rent and moving in on my own, first time in a big girl job, first time having my own little puppy. it held the first time caring about a presidential election, the first time having my heart broken during the summer days over social injustices, the first time begging the Lord to come quick. it held the first time doing Thanksgiving and Christmas elsewhere, the first time I experienced a different community than that of the last ten years or so, the first time I really felt the consequences of sin and the gifts of grace.

my word for 2016 was “enough” and yet, in all the little things, I have felt less than. this year was hard, it was hard something deep.

but as the morning comes, a new year dawns and this newness feels better. it feels really good.

see, I am a morning gal, but some nights, this night, holds a new sort of treasure that I would never miss. we get to ask new, we get to see new, we get to live new. there is a new song.

my word for 2017 is “seek”. seeking to see the Lord in all the little things – in job interviews, in potential moves, in friendships, in ministry, in however this all shakes out. I dream of seeking the Lord and knowing that He is the keeper of my story.

seek is about finding Him in the moments. it is giving back to the Giver. it is saying “yes and amen” more than I rely on my options and choices and outcomes. it is finding truth and clinging to the God that says trust Me.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:7-11

here’s to you, 2017. here’s to the unknowns you hold and yet, the promises already there. here’s to the presence of a good, good Father in all the little things. here’s to pure and selfless and favor. here’s to the seeking that this heart will do. here’s to the King who gives good gifts.

Fall, the best reminder

“listen! the wind is rising and the air is wild with leaves.

we had our summer evenings. now for October eves!”

Fall,

you have arrived in all your glory. there is a candle on my bedside table, one on my dining room table, and another in my bathroom. this is so important. the smell of Harvest Sangria, Blackberry Cider, and Autumn leave me lost and spinning. I light them as soon as I am home, and part of me screams that the more I burn them, the quicker they will be gone. but I cannot help it, I am so in love.

when I get in my car, the windows are down and the sunroof is open. the AC isn’t getting much action as you turned down the external thermostat and I am thankful. you are not quite brisk yet, there is still life here. the grass is cool, not frozen. the air is refreshing, not painful. this life is easy.

I wear sweaters and boots, Christmas socks. I have colored tights. I see my breath in the mornings when I let out Bax. it is pullover season. it is football season. it is pumpkin season.

speaking of those, I’ve bought a few. I made it a special time to go to the pumpkin patch. there are little ones on my counter and one at the front door of my house. I’ve made an apple pie, I’ve eaten soup. I’ve celebrated all the little wonders that October is speaking.

there is so much to celebrate – new tv shows and occasions to slip away from town, leaves that crunch under my feet, windows open, warm drinks, open fires, holding people real close. Fall, I could not love you and all your little pieces more than I do now.

and yet, in all of these moments, some of my favorite moments ever, they are not the reason that I am thankful, thankful, thankful.

Fall, you have created in me a spiritual awakening. I know that the Lord made everything and all the seasons, but Fall, I believe He put something special in the air when He made you.

it is like I have come to life again – a gentle reminder that I am dead without a Savior. it has been resurrection and restoration. Jesus, I love restoration. I am reminded that You write every story unique. I am reminded that You speak life, that You command the winds and the waves, that Love is Your name and Known is mine. what a gift, what a treasure.

and it has me begging something deep: Father, thy will be done. surely, You have goodness in store. I get a glimpse of all that is to come, and I am spinning even more than any candle could ever make me twirl. Breath of Life, I breathe You in. I breathe You in deep, You are in my lungs. All glory to You.

Fall, thanks for that reminder.

more than I can handle

I am calling BS on all of those well-meaning sayings, those signs you can hang in your home, those texts from a friend, the microphoned-voice of a pastor, even myself when words evaded me, all of those good-intentioned proclamations that our dear, kind, loving “God will not give you more than you can handle.”

that simply cannot be true. it cannot.

I wake up in a bed that is new with a ceiling fan that rattles in a way I have never known. my sheets are new. the light peering into my bedroom is new, I never had windows like these. there’s a new dresser here. a new bathroom is across from me, one I never imagined having.

there’s a new fridge in my new kitchen with a big island that I don’t really know what to do with. a new dog with a new red collar will run around my feet in a few days. each morning, I drive to a new job where I have a new role with new friends and new coworkers.

“new” seems to be the theme of this season. it feels, on most days, that nothing is familiar and that I am learning a new life (which I guess I am). my community has big time changed, my address has changed, my finances have changed. and, man, it has absolutely felt like “more than I can handle.”

I have laid down at night and sleep has evaded me because there are so many things buzzing around my head. I have forgotten too many things that I almost fear I am losing myself. I have felt this crushing weight on my chest as I lived in the “in between” – not quite grown, but surely not a child. it is there as I budget, there as I work more hours than I should, there as I confess to a friend that God has moved way up (not in the good way) on my priority list. it is absolutely there.

I have named myself Busy because of all the work that I do. I have named myself Overwhelmed because holy cow there is so much and I have literally thought, on more than one day, that there are truly not enough hours in the day for me to be good enough. I have named myself Inadequate because I never thought that I would fill out some twenty job applications and not receive a job. I have named myself Failure because duh I would settle into an easy job in an easy place, a circumstance that took next to no work for me to wind up with. I have named myself Lost because I have felt pretty aimless.

and it, oh it, has felt like way more than I can handle. I have struggled to catch up with my own life as it races ahead of me and I chase after it. my eyes grow wide as I consider, “is this adulting? is this my new life?”

and yet, as the dust settles, as the crazy week ends, as the chips begin to fall wherever they may, as the new wears off, hindsight becomes 20/20. perhaps there is a goodness in the “more than I can handle.”

perhaps He is doing something far beyond what I can dream up and this training, this trial, this time is necessary in order for me to know Him in it. perhaps I was made for such a time as this because I am pushed to the limits and He proves Himself faithful if only I am wise enough and sure enough to choose to see it. perhaps I find Him best in the waiting, in the “please Jesus, help”. perhaps He is near even now as I lay in this new bed, new sheets, seeing the new light, the new dresser, the new bedroom – perhaps this is only the start of something new and I would be such a fool to discredit Him for all the blessings that I did not even ask Him for.

I didn’t even know to ask.

I have this Post-It note in my bathroom that says, “My God is always willing to grant me encouragement. may I be bold enough, confident enough, and proactive enough to ask for it.” I don’t remember when I jotted that or when I decided that right beside the reflection of my face each morning, each time I wash my hands, each night before bed, was a good place for it, but I am convinced that Jesus arranged it. that perhaps He knew days, weeks, and months ago just how desperately I would need Him this day, this hour, all these moments.

and so, as I continue in the life that feels like so much more than I can handle, perhaps I will rest in the God that calls me to it, the God that handed it over to me. perhaps I will throw the notion that this is too much for me to bear right out my new window because my God is a God of restoration and perhaps this is some of that really good Isaiah 43, words that are a balm to this tired soul.

perhaps this was what He was saying all along. perhaps this is my September song and I just don’t know the words yet.

perhaps more than I can handle is the talk of love, a whispering of destiny as He does infinitely more than I could ask or imagine.

perhaps new are the words He is speaking and it took a new life for me to see it.

the next thing before me

on Saturday mornings, I wake up and come downstairs and open my blinds. I settle into that sweet spot on my couch – pillows high behind my head, my hips perfectly pressing into the deepest spot of the couch, a blanket over some of my body and not over other parts as to keep the temperature just perfect. I can see out of the window, I can hear the birds chirping, and this feels so good, so right, that I think I’ll just stay here for a bit.

life has been full of those little moments lately, moments where I have no clue what the day holds, what my tomorrows hold, or even what the next month of my life will look like.

but I am learning to surrender to these moments. I am convinced that the Lord is in sweet times. just as much as I need Him to be in my future, I think He needs me to be in my present. because how else could this moment be so perfect without His divine hand orchestrating the birds to sing, arranging for my lungs to rise and fall, sending the sunshine so delicately through the trees that I am lost in the beauty of it all. I think He wants me lost and noticing.

I am learning to do the next thing before me. while sometimes I struggle to figure out what that is, a lot of the time it is so easy to know what my next moment holds. it feels holy and sacred as I feel my feet step into the Father’s path.

it has looked like applying for the job that, literally, three months ago, I said I would never do, in a town I swore I wouldn’t stay in. my next moment looked like that application and watching the Father do what only He can do, whether it is that job or not.

it has looked like placing my dream of Texas on the shelf for a bit because that does not seem to be what the Lord is whispering right now. it has looked like laying the bitterness over a dream delayed aside because God is sweeter than my dreams and that is no cliche, but a real truth that He has made known. it has looked like wasted months, only to get me to the opportunity that I was made to pursue (and needed three months to come around to).

it has looked like spending the day with my sister. reconciliation and restoration must be the Father’s business, I’m sure of it. it has looked like “I miss you” snapchats and “okay, I’ll come home”s. it has sounded like “dinner, my treat” because love is so deep and so divine.

it has looked like being in the in-between – not quite an adult, but looking to buy a bed and furniture and a place to live; not quite a child, but being homesick for a town you never knew you’d crave. it has looked like loving this roof over my head, even though it is not mine and it will be even more not mind when I move out in a few weeks.

it has sounded like sermons on money, time, and generosity. it has looked like preparing for my future – budgeting for it, arranging for it, being a little scared of it, and learning to trust the Father with it. it has sounded like life learned in a way that I never knew I was missing.

it has been waking up and feeling heartbreak over the turmoil that the world is. it has been  not understanding and aching because of it. and it has been committing to prayer and seeking the Father because I don’t know how to fix the mountain before me, but until I know what else to do, I can and will do this, this will be my next thing – finding Him in the chaos.

and it has felt like the couch rising to meet me, like my down comforter perfectly enveloping me, like pillows that bow to my weary head. it has felt like being able to do my job and do it well, like walking around campus with a friend who has come to know my innermost parts and has stuck around for it, like the tears after a FaceTime date because life has changed, but omg, it is so sweet and I cannot handle that. it has felt a lot of ways, all of them feeling right, even when confusion and heartbreak and misunderstanding do not feel “right”. doing the next thing before me has felt so incredibly right.

and in all the “never knew”s, my cup has overflowed (and my eyes as the tears have run). it’s like the Lord’s plan is happening around me and I am in the eye of it, with perfect contentment and peace and a place to rest. all my spinning over the last year, and I wish I would have just surrendered it all. this is life full, this is peace that passes understanding, this is my Father’s work.

I am sure that any moment now, my heart will burst. surely it cannot handle this much pleasure, this much joy, or this much love. there are more questions than answers and somehow, I would not change a thing.

Jesus, You satisfy.

the “things I’m learning” list

I’ve been keeping this running list in my phone for a while. I call it the “things I’m learning” list.

It is a funny thing how in the most simple of moments, life hits you. It hits you and little light bulbs all over the place begin to twinkle and glitter because aha! – you’ve got it.

Life lately has been full of those little moments.

I learned that scones are easier to cook than I thought and that those little pouches of buttery, mixed berry goodness are heavenly. I learned that having people around my table does a special soothing on my heart and I see the Lord in that. I learned that blueberry picking captivates a sort of simple and free that I don’t often feel elsewhere. I learned that my sister and I actually do get along and that it’s time for me to stop hiding behind the curtain and stop believing that we are too different and that we don’t see eye-to-eye. Because the truth is I love her so much sometimes that my heart could beat out of my chest. We can get along and we do and we love something deep.

I learned that home isn’t so bad – that old place you might wander back to. It’ll welcome you with open arms and you will slip back into who she is and life will catch you gently and sweetly. And you’ll begin to dream of returning to those arms because normal, I crave normal. It might not be the dream, but I am certain that the God who dares to dream differently than us must know what He is doing.

I learned that while a whole lot has changed, a lot hasn’t. The Lord has been faithful in the whole process. Oh, if I knew all that He has planned for me, all that is to come, I would not dare wish for anything more now. I would be content in the waiting and in the stillness because I would see the whole picture. Time to stop wishing and start living in this day. That old lesson for me has not changed.

I learned that being behind the lens of a camera is still one of my favorite spots. It is like returning to an old love in that life feels just a bit sweeter, just a bit more blissful when I’m around it.

I learned that awkward and uncomfortable does not yield bad. It yields trying. A few nights ago, a handful of us showed up and we tried. And I’m going to pray that the Lord will take our tries and do something that only He could or would do.

I learned that some family is forever. Not hindered by distance or space or differences. They will drive to get you and pay to feed you; they will grab your burdens and sooth the aches in your shoulders. And you will reminisce and dream and you will settle into your chair a little deeper than you have in the previous days, because this, oh this – this is what dreams are made of. I learned that, almost more than anything, this heart of mine flutters and swells at reconciliation – in the breaking of bread as restoration slips like glue into the cracks that once separated us.

I learned that when it gets too late at night, I need to power down my phone. Because the thief comes to steal and destroy and most successful time of day to get me is when the sun goes down. I learned that, if I let myself, I will scroll and scroll through Instagram and compare myself over and over and over. I will see that I don’t measure up and I will ache. But I have also learned to protect myself – to power it down, to turn the song off, to not read the comments.

I learned that cooking on the grill with the best of friends is like therapy to me. I learned that days off from work are so needed. I learned that driving is an art that I let loose, it is therapy.

And like a million little lightbulbs, life becomes brighter. I am convinced that I was made for that – for seeing the twinkling lights. because over and over, this rings more and more true – “great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”