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.

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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.”

Dear Younger Self,

Dear Younger Self,

We turned 22 on Friday. 22. Can you believe that? At 16, I never thought passed 18, and at 18, never passed 21, so 22 is really new to us. I wish I could go back and teach you and show you, my Younger Self, some things. I would teach you lessons on love and forgiveness and on kindness. I would teach you to take every moment captive. I would hug you hard and tight. I would heal all your hurts, even though they brought us here. I would give you a ground to stand on so that you are prepared for the life that is to come.

I would tell you, Younger Self, to notice all the little ways that the Lord is paving the road for you to meet Him – breaking your little life apart to make you depend on Him, ushering in just the right people to arrange the glorious meeting of you and Him, rising up biblical foundations (even though you wouldn’t call them that, you would call them your “good morals”) in your heart and giving you a care for the way your life goes. He was in all of those little moments. How precious it is to know that we were known long before we knew anything about it?

I would tell you, Younger Self, to take the Lord at His word. At 22, I chant “faithful You have been, faithful You will be.” It took promise answered after promise answered to get me to that chant, but I wish you could have known that and trusted that. I wish you could know that nothing is wasted, that He really does work all things for good. I wish you could have faith in His faithfulness.

I would tell you, Younger Self, to spend less time scrolling through social media and texting conversations that should not be texted. I would tell you to have adventures and get outside and see the world. I would tell you to stop believing the lie that you are ordinary, but to rather believe that your extraordinary is simply waiting to be found. I would tell you to grab life tight and to let it lead you. I would tell you that your petitions for control over the things that happen to you is so futile because things happen. But I would also tell you to make the most of all those things happened.

I would tell you, Younger Self, to seek people that pour into you well and that you can pour into well. Community will become our greatest treasure. Seek it, pursue it, utilize it, and adore it. I would tell you, Younger Self, to treasure the people in your corner – your mom, your sister, your very best friend. Treasure them so well because, over time, these relationships change and that will ache. But they last because you learn to treasure them. And that is worth more than gold.

I would tell you, Younger Self, to write it all. Write every little thought. Write all the feelings. Write every story and every tear and every laugh. Write down every boy that “breaks your heart” and every time our parents drive you nuts and every time you fall and fly and rise again and fall again. Write them all so that you can look back later and see how the Lord has been faithful. That too will be gold.

I would tell you, Younger Self, to definitely take off your makeup every night. Good skin is a dime, and you will appreciate it later that you did. I would also tell you to stop trying to fit into too small shorts and shirts and tank tops and dresses. I would tell you to embrace your body in all its curves and dips. I would tell you to embrace your size 11 feet and your too-wide hips. Someday, you will love this body and you will look back on the days that you hated it with regret.

I would tell you, Younger Self, OMG I would tell you to stop being so dang judgmental. I would tell you that you are no better than anyone else. I would knock you off your high horse because you do not deserve to be up there. I would tell you to strive for humility. I would give you a wake-up call lesson in how you are not the best at all the things you do.

I would prepare you, Younger Self, to ready yourself for your days ahead. There will be days that you trust the Lord so well that it surprises even you (think “I just graduated and I don’t have a job”). But there will also be days where your faith seems to be hidden under a rock and you cannot get to it. You keep holding on then – you do not succumb to the anxiety you feel or the hopelessness that surrounds you. You keep fighting and you crouch and crawl through the mud to get under the rock. You get under that rock, and you find your faith there. And you stay there until you can stand back up.

At 22, you will wake up from a dream where you went on a date with a precious guy. He loved you well and held the small of your back when you walked in front of him. He joked with you, bought your dinner, and didn’t make fun when you ordered chicken tenders, always. And you will wake up and realize it was only a dream and that’ll sting a little. But it will be nothing like the sting that the 16-year-old Brenna felt over being single. You wanted a guy to have fun one and one that would fill the void of Christ in your life. But 22-year-old you, oh, she will want a partner, someone to have and to hold in sickness and in health until death do them part. She wants someone to lead her and guide her into the Kingdom of God. So while the sting still remains, at 22, there is hope that the great, big God we adore adores us the same way and gives us good gifts. So, I would tell you, Younger Self, to not take the first guy that treats you somewhat well because it will waste your time. If he does not love you less than he loves the Lord, he cannot love you near the degree that you deserve. Hold fast because He who has promised is faithful.

And I would teach you, Younger Self, to fall in love with your life. It is nowhere near perfect, but it is beautiful and I would bend over backwards for you to see that. I would tell you to fall in love with what is happening and to carry that love with you – to help you, to sustain you, to encourage you.

Younger Self, know that love, grace, patience, kindness, and abundant life are coming and they are yours to have. The best really is yet to come, so hold on, Younger Self. Hold tight because life gets really, really good, and you’ll want to be able to see that.

​Love, 22-Year-Old Me

all the graduation feels

at all times lately, I feel equal parts overworked, overemotional, overstimulated, and over it. on the other hand (but the hands don’t switch off. I feel both at all times), I feel under-qualified, under-adequate (I know that should say inadequate, but for the sake of literature), and under a big weight.

as I type across this page, sitting a kitchen table that is not mine in a house that is not mine and feeling like maybe this life is not totally mine, I am a mere 181 hours from taking a stroll across a stage to shake hands with a President and grab a diploma.

I have, for my whole life, known that college would come after high school. it was never a question or even a thought. I just knew that college is what I would do. and yet, I had no clue at all that college would do to me.

I couldn’t sum it up (believe me – I’ve tried). I couldn’t make it fit in only some words. I could talk about my undergrad all day and all night if you let me. but I did learn a thing or two.

community. college, without a doubt, taught me community and what it was designed to look like. I’ve seen community work, I’ve seen it really not work, I’ve seen it need lots of work. I’ve been in it, excluded from it, and I’ve created it. I’ve breathed it and I have, oh my goodness, loved it. perhaps this is my favorite memory of college – creating a tribe such as this one. I cannot imagine the day when this community ceases, I dread it more than anything.

discipline. I thought I was a good student until I came to college. but I learned that my definition of good was only good enough because I could pass high school without ever studying, mainly because it was a joke. college jerked me around a bit to say the least. I learned to wake up on a schedule, seek the Lord as I rise, open a textbook, read all the words, arrange time for friends, schedule time for naps and walks and enoing. I learned to make the most of each day. and while I am still a work in progress when it comes to this, I feel as if maybe just maybe I’m not wasting so many of my days.

grace. I could ramble here for hours and hours. I thought I knew grace before. but grace came to me like cinnamon roll church and tears pouring and “that’s not true” (in the best of ways – thanks for speaking life, Ashley). it came through difficult roommates and choosing to extend that which Christ extended. it came through a sweet hug and a “you know I’m praying for you.” I saw grace come to life in college. I cannot describe it, but I hope, someday, you feel it and know exactly what I mean.

declare. I learned this one from a friend. she would make me stand on the couch and shout things to the Lord. at first, it seemed so weird and rolled my eyes because I thought it was so stupid. but as I stepped down from the couch and back into the proverbial “real world”, I felt the power pumping in my veins. I could stand on the couch and say, “I say you are a good God and I eagerly expect Your goodness today” and then walk in that goodness. I learned to speak things into existence – not things that were untrue, but truths and promises and declarations about the Lord that were true, even when my heart didn’t believe them.

team. I was on a few teams during my undergrad – residence life ones, ministry ones, friend ones, “we have to pass biology” ones, sand volleyball on a Saturday night ones. in all of these, I got to be a part of a group that was working towards something. my kids will play sports – not for the skill of playing, but for the understanding of a team. I watched my teams rise together, fall together, hurt together, pray together, and stand back up together.

rallying. I was a cheerleader for 10ish years. I am the biggest fan of cheering someone on. but college showed me in a whole new way what it looked like to really cheer someone on. to rally together for the greater Good. to believe, so fiercely, that this is what the Lord has and to become hell-bent on bringing it to life. I had people rally for me and I rallied for people. and it is always worth my time.

worship. since I came to know the Lord, I have loved worship. I don’t sing well, but oh, I will sing a joyful song to the Lord. yet, college taught me worship in a really new way. I learned how to sing words that I didn’t feel, to believe in promises that I did not have fruit around me to believe in. I learned to speak life, into myself and into others.

party. I learned to celebrate in a way that I had never known I should. I celebrated birthdays and breakups. I celebrated job interviews and staff meetings. I learned to soak up every little thing because life would not be life without each of those things. I celebrated the big and the small – it made all the difference.

treat. I cannot tell you the number of times where I thought, “you know what? that was a really hard thing, but I/we made it through it. we deserve a treat.” some of those treats were a bit of a stretch (“I failed that test, I need a treat”, “I made it through the day without a nap, I deserve a treat”), but regardless, I learned to reward myself for being a person. that might sound silly, but try it and I don’t think you’ll have regrets. sometimes you need to pat yourself on the back.

try. I was such a wimp in high school. I tried nothing. since coming to college, I’ve tried sushi, running, mission work, graphic design, roommates, calligraphy, wine, meeting people, and so much more. the Lord has stretched me in a lot of hard ways, but I have also been able to witness just how incredible the world we live in is because I was forced to try some things.

love. surely this is the best one. I learned how to love my body, my quirks, my awkwardness. I learned to love the way others dance, dream, and play. I learned to love learning and communication. I learned to love strangers and worship leaders and kids. I learned to love freshmen and ice cream in the caf and the booths in Java. I fell in love, everyday, ten times over. I have loved these four years.

I am certain that if I revisited this list in a year, I would consider different aspects to be the most valuable pieces of college. but nonetheless, these years have been sweet. I have seen life and life abundantly; I didn’t know life could be so good. thanks, AU.

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and yet, and still

this past week, within 120 hours, I rode on four different airplanes.

over the last week, I went to five cities, watched at least 50 episodes of tv (hello, Fixer Upper and Grey’s), slept for hours on end, ate delicious food, saw my sweet momma, cried a bunch of tears, and smiled more than I have in months.

I flew from Greenville-Spartanburg to Charlotte to Minneapolis, drove into Fargo (which is a much cooler place than anyone gives North Dakota credit for). then we drove back to Minneapolis to fly to Charlotte to fly back to GSP.

it was a blast. it was so fun. it was such a special thing to explore a city with my mom. this morning, I was thinking how tragic it is that I have to go back to school tomorrow because I would give a lot to be back in Fargo with my mom. oh, my mom. not enough affectionate terms could explain how sweet the time was.

the Charlotte to GSP flight was literally only fifteen minutes in the air, I have no clue how that happens. the flight kept my eyes glued out of the window. I was lucky enough to have the window seat on every flight and I’m still counting my blessings from that.

and yet, all I could do was stare out of that little window. normally, my mind wanders to places that I love (even when they’re tough places), but for the majority of the plane rides, all I did was stare.

“there has got to be something here”, I thought. there was no way that I could look out over (what felt like) the whole world and not have any words to write about it. there just had to be words for me to write about it.

and then it finally hit me, on the last flight – a 15 minute one, who would have thought?

I had watched the way the sun glittered across frozen lakes, reflecting so blindingly that even from thousands of miles up, I had to close my eyes.

and yet, I am known.

I’d seen the intricacy of highways and mountains and subdivisions. I’d seen shopping malls and had to wonder what they were because they didn’t look like shopping malls from 17,000 feet up. and yet, I am known.

I’d witnessed the complexity of runways and planes and hangers. I saw microscopic cars and semis. I saw our giant plane cast house-size shadows on houses, baseball fields, tennis courts, and freeways. and yet, I am known.

I think that it took some 35,000 feet for me to realize that I am known. that even though there are literally a million, bajillion things happening every moment, God sees me and knows me. what a tender thing it is to be known. that nothing could make me not known. that nothing could change the intimacy of being crafted and cared about.

because, friends, this season has run me to the ground. and I know I say that often and I am sorta trying to make the most of it, but it has been much harder than I like. my soul so needed to know that it is known. that it is cared for and seen. that there is a plan much more intricate than highways and subdivisions – one of insurmountable glory and joy and life.

in the headaches, I am known. in the spinning and stress and hopeless planning, I am known.

in the relationships that suck, I am seen, I am known. in the heartbreak and the dreams about ex-boyfriends and in the sin that so easily entangles, I am seen, I am known.

in the future, I am known. in my yesterdays, I was known and am still known in spite of them. in my annoyances and my frustrations and my exhaustion, I am known.

that, that being seen and known, is better than anything. it is better than life. it is special and sacred and deep. I cannot express how deeply I needed that.

and still, I am known.