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.

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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.

trusting the process

over the two months, the process has been hard.

I am not even close to exaggerating when I tell you that the slightest of things bring me to tears. yesterday, I saw a teenage boy riding home from school in the car with his grandpa and I cried because I remember how sweet and tender and foundational the high school years are and I so badly hope that he becomes someone really special and really great. I cry at dogs, I cry at memories, I cry at art. I cry at all the words, I cry at the Word, I cry at beautiful things are – even when they look a little broken.

it seems that all of the huddled emotions of the last year of my life have come to the forefront and they are running from my head, out of my eyes. lol, but really. I don’t think it is that I am so sad, but rather, that I am so emotionally overwhelmed. this season is one of being overwhelmed. I’m trying to soak up the days, though, so I let those tears fall.

I’ve been trying to learn to trust the process. the process has looked like not getting into grad school and it has looked at telling my mom bye (she’s only working in ND until May, but still). it has looked like job hunting. it has looked like all the hard conversations and all the prayers for heart change.

it has felt like anxiety in the minutes before I fall asleep at night. it has felt like needing a break, but pressing on more because this too is only a season. it has felt like the warm embrace of a friend that loves me and sees me. in the same way, it has felt like a friend saying “let’s go sit, we need to catch up”, and finding those old seats in Merritt and talking about my hardened heart.

the process has felt like the relief that I cannot even describe as I climb into my covers, pull my blankets up to my chin, and fall so hard into a different reality. it has felt like the roughness of dyed wood as I remember building that table and creating that piece and pouring my heart into something so good. surely, that process is worth it.

the process has looked like taking the long way home because, oh my gosh, I might lose my mind and I need ten more minutes by myself. the process has looked like making more of the 1 hour break that I get on Thursday by running to Target and listening to Judah and the Lion so loud that I cannot hear anything else for the rest of the day. it has looked like processing all of the things in the ways that my introverted head and so-emotional heart needs to.

the process has smelled like lots of Starbucks coffee because I’m finding myself there almost all the time. smelled like everything bagels, stacked with sesame, salt, poppy, and all things heavenly. how did I go so long without liking cream cheese? it has smelled like that sweet boy at corner bagel that asked me what’s next, the one that chose to see me, and told me to keep him posted about all the Texas things I’m praying for.

the process has sounded like “oh, I’m so sorry.” and like pieces of the Word, pinging on my phone, because my friends get that this season is hard and they want to encourage me. the process has sounded like the silence from other friends and the volumes that that speaks to me. in a totally different way, it has sounded like the “hiiiiii” over the phone, the one from that friend that moved away but loves me anyway, praise the Lord for her. the process has sounded really a lot like chaos in my head, but, oh, if I can trust it a little longer, then a little longer, then a little longer.

but I’m finding that in the process, I begin to look more like Christ. my heart begins to think on whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, what is lovely, whatever is commendable. it totally makes sense – when I learn to trust Christ in the process, I can be more like Christ.

I’m going to trust this process. I’m going to trust the hard and the easy and the good and the bad. I’m gonna trust because I don’t really have a choice. here’s to trusting.

Sunday is

“yet I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope.” Lamentations 3

Sunday is church. Sunday is Church. it is intentional conversations and warm hellos, despite the snow on the ground. it is “it’s my first Sunday here, can you show me where to go?”

it’s the Lord chiseling away at the way that I daily live to self. it is the work He is doing with my mind & my wallet. it is in the whispers, the ones where He forces me to wonder how deeply I really do believe in Him. it is in the car rides by myself, no music and more than enough time to think think think of who exactly I call God.

Sunday is a little puffy eyes in the morning and having a distaste for this season. oh, but it is really remembering that the Lord is still good, today and yesterday and in all my tomorrows. Sunday is remembering that promise.

Sunday is flowers on the table, music in my ears. it is “me, too” because I didn’t know that you grew up that way as well.

it is being surrounded by such a majestic, beautiful symphony – a great cloud of witnesses. it is realizing that we are all here together because we have all seen the Lord at work and we gather because, yes, the Lord has fulfilled promises over and over and over to each of us. and yes, He is worth it and we gather to agree and nod and praise the Lord. it is found in the sound of those voices raised high like a banner, “HALLELUJAH.” surely it is found in that sound.

Sunday is conversations on the couch and sweetness for the heart. it is toasted sandwiches and bowls of soup. it is handlettering and corduroy pants.

Sunday is warm jackets on cold, melting-snow days. sweet tea at night. Sunday is handwritten cards – ones written for your heart just as much as for the receiver’s. friend, this too shall pass.

Sunday is white, fluffy comforters, the kind that swallow you when you snuggle deep. Sunday is the smell of coffee, mixed with wake-me-up. Sunday is 1 Corinthians 6 and remembering that God paid full price for me, even though I don’t see myself that way.

Sunday is hospitable. it calls me Home like a beloved child. it begs me to leave yesterday in the yesterday and to trust in the promise of a new day, in the promise of new mercies. yes, it is promise. it is hope fulfilled and grace poured poured poured over my head of clouds.

Sunday is pen scratching because the words are flying and I cannot get them out fast enough. yes, Sunday is in words. it is in remembering the way I can add letter to letter and create a melody worth singing. it is in the words plus the words and paragraph after paragraph of remembering.

Sunday is here. oh, I’m thankful that it is here. that it is this day. that it is Home and words.