Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Thrill of Hope

The thrill of hope; the weary world rejoices…”

A line from my favorite Christmas song. I listen to this song on repeat all year round and not until recently has it struck me how beautiful that line is. The THRILL of HOPE. It reminds me of when I was a kid on Christmas Eve. Never had I had such a hope, an excitement, a joy, a thrill…that the next day would bring magic and presents and laughter and joy. I would have such hope that the next day would be the best day, that sometimes I would have trouble sleeping at night.
When is the last time you felt that childlike hope? Now as I’m older, I still hope; I just hope for different things now. I hope for peace and for joy and for laughter and health. I hope for feelings and memories and experiences rather than things. And ultimately, like Psalm 33:20 says, “we wait in hope for the Lord”.  What would it look like if I carried that same thrill of hope I had as a child with me now? And why don’t we? Yes, life might have dealt us some hard cards and the things that were once magical, like Santa, no longer have the same magic. But there are so many things to still be hopeful for. So this Christmas, my hope is that you hope. And that you never give up the thrill of hope.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Little Reminders...

The Cost

A while ago I was given the following assignment:

            "Please write a letter to an adolescent girl who is struggling with body image concerns about the costs associated with pursuing the thin ideal..."
The assignment was daunting and overwhelming and I don't like writing off of  prompt. However, I was told to look at a picture of my younger self and think of what I wanted to say to her. Putting it into that perspective allowed the words to flow. The holidays can be a stressful time, and with the New Year and all of the resolutions that follow, I want to share the letter, for all of the young girls. And older women. And boys. And humans in general. 

Dear little me- That feeling in the pit of your stomach and on the back of your neck when you're called on in class or asked to participate? That is anxiety. And you will face anxiety provoking situations for the rest of your life. The key is to participate in life anyways. You can't stand on the sidelines and wait for the feeling to pass, because avoidance only gives power to the anxiety. So dress up for spirit week, participate in field day, speak up. I know you don't like people looking at you and I know that you're very aware of your body. Body awareness is not always a bad thing-as long as your remember that you are more than your body. Appreciate your body for as long as you can. Be aware that you have a body and that it's capable of many things. You may grow up hearing "oh you're so tiny, so cute, so little". And you might be. But you are so much more than that.
You are a culmination of many things. You are made up of your memories and experiences, what makes you laugh and what makes you cry. You are made up of your favorite foods and the songs you like to sing and your plans for the future. You are the light that shines in your eyes when you get excited about something. You are made up of your favorite subject in school and your intelligence that helps you to understand these things. You are a child of Christ and you are made up of so many wonderful things.
There are also so many things that you are not. You are not your pants size, or the number on a scale, or the amount of money in your bank account. You are more than the number of friends you have or the sports you play.
I know this may sound very easy right now, but it does get harder. Appreciate your family for all they do for you, and understand and realize that they are not perfect, and neither are you. So as life throws you challenges, face them head on. But please. Hold yourself to a standard of grace, not perfection. Because there is no such thing as perfect and the pursuit of the unattainable comes at a high price. When trying to become "perfect", you may lose yourself and lose control. I know you may feel like you can handle it and like you have it all under control, and you might, for a little while. But in the pursuit of trying to become someone you're not, you will lose friends and time and happiness and money. And eventually the thing you so desire to control will end up controlling you. 

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Yeses and Nos.

Happy November, yall. Can you believe the year is almost over? (Thank God). This month I am learning to put the NO in November. Too often, we try to please everyone, help everyone, do everything, and it turns out to be at our own expense. I’m sure we all can think of a time we said yes to something we really didn’t want to. We all do it. And it’s okay. Sometimes we have to say yes to ourselves before we can say yes to others.
5 months ago today I said the biggest yes of my life and entered the doors of Selah House. In saying yes, I also had to say my biggest nos. I said no to my job. I said no to my friends. To my family. To my dog. To my responsibilities. To my phone and e-mail and texts and social media. I said no to friend’s weddings and people’s birthdays. I said no to summer vacation plans. And as hard as it was, in saying all of these no’s, for the first time in a long time, I was saying yes to myself. To life and courage and happiness and freedom. I was saying yes to myself so I could come home and say fuller and more whole hearted yeses to my friends and family.
What I didn’t realize is that I didn’t just have to say yes to myself on June 13th. Saying yes to myself is something that has to happen again and again every single day. Outside of the Selah bubble, there is real life and there is responsibilities and jobs and people asking you a million different things. And if you want to be able to fully engage in life and make your yeses count, you have to first say yes to yourself. And sometimes saying yes to yourself means saying no to others. And at first it feels horribly selfish and wrong, especially if you’re a people pleaser like me. However, I have learned that in taking care of yourself, you are able to make your yeses and no’s mean more to others. You are able to more freely give and to say yes without obligation and no without guilt. So one of the biggest lessons I learned this summer is this: That love you keep trying to give everyone else? You actually have to practice it on yourself first. Because as they say, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Present Over Perfect

To be present. To be fully in a moment. To be intentional with my time and my decisions. That has been a goal of mine these past few months. But I never thought about how perfectionism tied into the idea of being present until I started reading 'Present Over Perfect' by Shauna Niequist. The cover itself says, “Leaving behind frantic for a simpler, more soulful way of living.” Sign me up! At one part, the book states:
“Sink deeply into the world as it stands. Breathe in the smell of rain and the scuff of leaves as they scrape across driveways on windy nights. This is where life is, not in some imaginary, photo-shopped dreamland. Here. Now. You, just as you are. Me, just as I am. This world, just as it is. This is the good stuff. This is the best stuff there is. Perfect has nothing on truly, completely, wide-eyed, open-souled present.”
We get so caught up in the idea of perfect, we lose focus of who we are and what we are doing. In the quest to be perfect, we forget to be present. These past few months I’ve tried to worry less about how my hair looks or if I’m saying the right thing or when my next appointment is and more on being fully where I am in the moment. It changes everything. It’s like wearing glasses for the first time. You become more aware, of yourself, of others, of your surroundings and thoughts and behaviors and feelings. It looks a lot like random smiles walking to the mailbox or tears in the middle of a workout class. It looks like feeling deeply and trusting emotions and active listening, to myself and to others. It’s midnight journaling and deep breathing and vulnerable phone calls to friends. It’s a whole new world when you choose to focus on the present, in all of its beauty and mess, rather than the false idea of perfection and the ‘shoulds’.

Friday, September 2, 2016


So often as a society we value busyness and a full schedule. We have silent contests with our friends and family to see who is the busiest, who has the least amount of downtime, who is the most tired. I admit that I have been a part of this silent contest for far too long. We value busyness because we confuse it with accomplishments. However, you can accomplish so much more when you take a minute to pause and rest.

I learned that lesson this summer at Selah House. Selah literally means “an invitation to pause and rest.” I wouldn’t say I had a particularly restful summer, but I learned to value of true rest. Rest that can only be found in the Lord. I found that down times have always been a source of anxiety for me. Free time allows me to rest, however, I rest in myself and get stuck in my head, and it ends up being very unrestful. However, Psalm 37:7 calls us to rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. There is something so freeing about resting in the Lord. It’s the ultimate rest.

This summer, we frequently listened to the song “Breathe” by Jonny Diaz. One of the lines in the song says “Breathe, just breathe. Come and rest at My feet and be, just be. Let your weary spirit rest. Lay down what’s good and find what’s best. Just breathe.”

Lay down what’s good and find what’s best. Lay down our busy schedules full of appointments and fun things and obligations. Find true rest in Jesus. I “accomplished” so much this summer, personally. I took a pause, and time to reflect, and in those 6 weeks, I put the value of “busyness” aside and allowed myself to rest. I did not feel lazy. I did not feel weak. I felt renewed and full and I had time to learn so much about myself and about others and about God.
So as the school year starts up and we all find ourselves in the scramble of busy, remember that God has given us Selah- an invitation to pause and rest. And finding true rest in Him in enough to replenish our souls and strengthen us for the year ahead!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Why I Chose Change.

“And the day came when the risk to remain in a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

I have always liked this quote, but it’s never resonated with me quite as much as it does now. Change is not my favorite thing. It never has been and it probably never will be. But sometimes change is good and sometimes change is everything. I’m learning that lesson, like I learn everything else, slowly. So, metaphorically, I think of before treatment as being in a tight bud. Closed off, taking up the least amount of space possible, walling myself off from the rest of the world. It was familiar and routine and I thought it felt safe. But in reality, sadness, fear, loneliness, rigid rules, and self-hate were what I was feeling, and it got to a point where my feelings no longer felt safe. It came to a point where I had a choice to make. I could stay in ‘comfort zone’, which wasn’t very comfortable and continue to live my life out of fear and sadness. Or I could take a risk and choose to do something different with my life. I could choose to bloom. My comfortable tight bud all of the sudden started feeling claustrophobic. I felt trapped in myself. So I made the decision to take a leap of faith, and what a leap it was. During treatment, I was in a greenhouse with perfect conditions to loosen my bud and bloom. There were definitely growing pains, and sometimes I had to have my petals pried open. And as I began to open up, I felt things I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt hope. I felt unconditional love. I felt joy and laughter and friendship. I felt what it was like to be taken care of. I also felt vulnerable and scared and shame and fear. But most importantly, I felt. I allowed myself to have feelings and I felt alive. If I had remained in my tight bud, I never would have felt these things. I may never have felt such deep shame and vulnerability and fear, but I would have never felt such immense love and hope. So I guess the reason I chose to change was to feel again. In my tight bud I felt stuck in things like sadness, rules, loneliness, and self-hate. And because I was afraid to bloom, I was unable to experience the full range of emotion. The good and the bad. The fear and the hope. The sadness and the joy. The loneliness and the laughter. My “blooming” process has not been easy and I would not say that I am fully bloomed (although, are any of us ever?), but I am in the process. I am feeling. And like a flower with its petals spread open to the wind, rain, sun, and storms, I am open and vulnerable and willing and scared and excited. Because I made a choice and I chose to change.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –John 10:10

Sunday, May 1, 2016

"And if not..."

Hope is a tricky thing. We are called to have hope despite circumstances. We are told that hope is the only thing stronger than fear; that it is the anchor of the soul. And so on good days and bad, we cling to hope. Hope is good. Until the very thing we hope for falls short. They say, “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Really what they mean is, ‘when you don’t get the thing you hope for, your world feels like it’s crashing down around you and nothing will ever be okay again’.

Now this might seem like a tangent, but stick with me. The other day I was eating a chocolate chip granola bar. My sweet pup stood at my feet and cried and whined and looked at me with sheer desperation. She wanted that granola bar very badly. Those of you who know me know that I love my dog more than anything else, and I have a tendency to spoil her. It hurt me to not be able to share with her and to see her look so betrayed when I finished off the last tasty bite. And yet, I know that chocolate makes dogs very sick. I am withholding from her because I love her. Not because I’m mean and greedy and like to see her disappointed.

I often wonder if it is the same with humans. We hope, beg, and pray for what we want and what we think is best for us. And when we don’t get what we hope for, it’s easy to believe that God is unjust or life is unfair, and to run to a corner with our tail between our legs and wave our white flag. But what if God is withholding the thing we so hope for because He knows it’s not good for us and He loves us. What if we could trust that deferred hope might be the greatest act of love?

The other day I was feeling especially anxious. The first thing that popped into my head was, “And if not, He is still good” (Daniel 3:18). So let’s continue to be brave enough and vulnerable enough to have hope, even if that means risking hurting our hearts. Because in the hope, and even the deferred hope, there is so much opportunity to experience God’s love.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dancing Like Nobody's Watching

Last night I went to a concert at a church in Burlington. The performers were amazing, but what struck me the most was the young girl in the front row...

To the (maybe 13 year old) girl at the concert,
You don’t know me, and that’s okay. You were sitting in the front row at the concert last night and I couldn’t help but notice you. Not because of your long, beautiful pony tail, or pretty pink shirt. But because of your joy and reckless abandon. You sat in the front row and you sang and danced and clapped and laughed to your heart’s desire. I never once saw you look around or pay much attention to your surroundings. You didn’t spend all night checking Facebook or Instagram or texting with someone. You danced and sang and participated and took pictures to capture such a joyous night.
Dear girl, don’t ever lose your sense of self, because your self is beautiful. Don’t ever stop dancing to look around. Don’t ever stop singing for fear that someone might hear you. Don’t ever stop laughing in an attempt to shrink yourself down. We were created to experience such joy, and I’m not sure where or when we learned to censor ourselves in order to fit in. But sweet girl, what a beautiful reminder to live in the moment and experience the joy as it comes. And to really experience it, wholly and with every ounce of our beings, no matter what anyone else says or thinks or does. At some point in life, someone may tell you you’re too loud or too outspoken or too big or too dramatic. But the truth is, you are never too much and you are always enough.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Comparison is the thief of joy.

I grew up in dance, so a lot of my memories occur in a room with mirrored walls. It's not a foreign concept to me and it's not something I ever thought twice about as a young dancer. Fast forward 10 years and my relationship with the mirror is very different. I have a very funny relationship with the mirror, like many girls do. I try my best to avoid it all together, but when I do use it to look at an outfit or put on my makeup, I tend to get stuck. I find myself staring at a reflection that may or may not actually match what others see. Some days I can brush it off and move on. And some days I find myself sitting in the floor in front of my full length mirror weeping with frustration. I went through a period where I was obsessed with my distorted reflection. I'd catch myself staring at the reflection in store windows as I'd jog by or in the rear view mirror of my car. I followed myself everywhere I went.
Recently I've been enjoying exercising at Pure Barre. It has been so good for me and has helped me to appreciate my body for what it can do. The room at Pure Barre is set up a lot like a dance class and has ballet bars…and mirrored walls. Most classes I'm able to secure my spot in the back of the room farthest from the mirror, which is the perfect spot for me. It allows me to focus on myself and block out distractions. During class I find a spot on the floor to focus on and occasionally check the mirrors to make adjustments to my form.

Today I decided to face the dreaded mirror wall and make eye contact with myself during class. I think I spent about 45 out of the 55 minute class comparing myself to the other girls and thinking terribly mean things about myself. I honestly don't think I focused on my actual workout at all. I walked away feeling defeated and deflated. I love my 55 minutes of Pure Barre and usually walk away feeling stronger and with a sense of accomplishment. How could I let the mirror steal that from me? How could I, once again, let comparison steal my joy? How often do we let our opinions of ourselves detract from being present? More often than I’d like.

So tomorrow, as I return to my next class, I will resume my spot in the back of the room and focus on moving my body and appreciating it for its strength and resiliency. I will spend those 55 minutes blocking out the negativity and stressors of the day. And I will walk away with a sense of accomplishment and strength. Because I deserve at least those 55 minutes, and I refuse to let comparison steal my joy!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Valentines Day when I almost got abandoned...

Valentines day has never been my favorite holiday. For the most part, it’s a reminder that I’m very single. Superficially, it’s a reminder that I have no one to buy me flowers or chocolates, but deep down, I think Valentines day is actually hard because love is a hard emotion. We were created on this earth from love to give love and be loved. And on a day that celebrates being loved by a significant other, it’s hard to remember that there are other ways to be loved. However, since Valentines day of 2009, I have been reminded that love shows itself in funny ways. Let me paint you the picture:
It was my sophomore year in college and I was struggling physically, mentally, and emotionally. My friends stood by me, prayed over me, and held my hand through so many difficult days and nights. By February of that year, things were not getting better and my support system was at the end of their rope. So with projects, papers, and commitments looming overhead, 3 friends dropped everything they had, packed bags, and put me in a car to drive me to Brevard, NC to find some hope. At the time, I remember feeling blindsided and scared and confused and angry and exhausted (in hindsight, I laugh at the pit stops at Chick-fil-a for a computer plug in or the house tours from Sadie). Their master plan didn’t work out, but that’s really not what mattered in the moment. In the moment I was reminded that love comes in so many forms, whether it be from a significant other or from best friends who drop everything to show they care.

One year after the Brevard incident, we got an e-mail from one of the friends. This is what it read:
“A year ago today, four girls dropped everything they were doing, took off work, skipped class, neglected homework, gave up plans, packed up their stuff and got into a car on its way to Brevard.  Each of us made sacrifices that Friday afternoon, knowing that while we would have to deal the consequences later, none of them would compare to the love we had for one girl and the desire each of us had to do whatever it would take to help her.  In those 24 hours, I think each of us realized what it really meant to love and be loved and what it meant to have friends who really cared for each other, more than any one girl could do in her own strength, through God who cares for us more than we will ever be able to fathom. This trip is one that will stay on our hearts for a lifetime.  A time when we laughed and cried, prayed to God in thanksgiving and in fear, seeking direction and purpose for what we were doing. Here's to learning what love really is on a Valentine's Day that was maybe not ideal but one where God really showed us His abounding love and how to overflow that onto others.  Here's to the pain that each of us felt for each other, for the things we were going through.  Here's to the sacrifices we made, sacrifices that some might have called irresponsible, but sacrifices we knew were out of a care so deep none of us could even describe it, not then, not now.”

So every year, on Valentines day, when all couples are reminiscing about their relationships, I take a moment to remember how my friends kidnapped me, drove me to the mountains, and threatened to abandon me with a hippie named Sadie.

In all seriousness, I make sure to read these words every year on this date. To remind myself of how far I have come. And to remind myself what love can look like if you let it in. I am forever thankful and forever changed by a group of friends who helped remind me that I was worth loving.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Welcome to the rest of your life.

When I was younger, I had a picture in my head of what my life would look like when I was older. Now that I am older, my life is nothing like I imagined. I imagined that by 26, I’d be happily married, or at least engaged, with the thought of children on the not-so-far horizon. And yet, I’m 26 and the closest thing I have to a relationship is my dog. I definitely thought I’d have my life a little more together than this. I was talking about this with someone today and this is how the conversation went:

M: Is this something you want to be doing for the rest of your life?
B: No. I don’t think so…
M: So why are you doing it now?
B: Well, uhhh, umm, I don’t know. I wanna be doing it now. I guess. Maybe.
M: Well, the rest of your life is right now. What are you waiting for?
B: Ugh.

It’s something you hear all the time, but it really hit me hard today. The rest of your life is right now. There’s no before and after. There’s no waiting for the perfect moment. Life is happening right now and when we deny ourselves of living in the moment, we deny ourselves of the best possible future version of ourselves. It’s human nature, or at least MY nature, to procrastinate and rationalize (I could get a gold medal for rationalizing). “I’m tired today, I’ll do it tomorrow. I’m busy this week, but maybe I’ll start next week. There’s a lot going on in my life right now, so it’s not a good time.” All excuses that put things off. We can continue to put things off, but to be completely honest, that doesn’t really help anything. There will never be a perfect moment and if it’s something really hard that I’m putting off, it’s gonna be hard now and it’s gonna be hard later. But there is beauty (and a lot of anxiety and fear) in doing something hard and coming out on the other side.

Ultimately, we are not promised tomorrow. So don’t let “the rest of your life” start after you lose a few more pounds or have a little more time or get a little more rest. Whether it’s what I want it to look like or not, it’s my life and it’s happening right now.