Diapers and Courage.

Photo by TJ Zafarana 

Photo by TJ Zafarana 

“Being uncomfortable will bring blessings,” Denise said. Denise is part of a team that loves teen mamas. Our team is small-ish, 2 years old and feisty as hell. There are four other women who walk this journey with me, they are beautiful, unique and have crazy dance moves.

Denise, in particular, has an unshakable faith. She cries when she tells stories of God’s faithfulness and sovereignty and asks you to do the same. Whenever I tell her this, she says she hasn’t always been that way. She says that, sometimes you have to keep trying to trust God and watch what He does.

She whispered this nugget about blessings and uncomfortableness in the hall before breakfast. I was telling her that I had kept doing things that made me scared and feeling awkward. She nodded, because she knows all about taking risks and being uncomfortable. She uprooted herself to Colorado 6 months ago.

This past weekend, we took the teen mamas to the mountain, where a beautiful, sweet woman named Georgia lavished us in so many ways. We had a meal at the top of Vail mountain, stayed in the most beautiful house and crafted galore.

It was breathtaking.

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But the week before, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go. I love the girls, but was nervous about many things. I was worried about sharing a room and not having privacy. I was anxious about conversations and too many people (even for a TRUE extravert.)

That’s how fear speaks. It makes up stories about the “what-ifs” and “maybe this will happen.” It makes us seek perfection and worry about things we can’t control. Fear stops us at the ledge, at the part of the story that will make us grow and become more courageous.

Fear often times tries to keep us in boxes. I wanted to stay in my tiny box of things I could expect, in sleeping in on a Saturday and deciding the plan.

But God has a way of shaking things up.  

And it ended up being the things that I was anxious about that produced the most beautiful fruit. The lack of privacy created intimate conversations about boys, love and friendship. Sharing a room lead to lots of laughter. Too many people became a blended family of leaders, mamas and babies.

The unexpected things became the stories we told as we drove down the mountain. About how we stayed in the hot tub too late and dared each other to jump in the snow with our bathing suits on. So we all did and our skin burned for 15 minutes.

In the bible, Jesus says “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” I never knew what this meant-- how to “lose” my life. First of all, I didn’t want to and I didn’t want to know this truth in a “living it out” kind of way. But this weekend, I experienced a glimpse of what this look likes. The losing that looks like letting go of fear, expectations and my own comfort.

I spent more time holding babies, asking questions and listening and then I did anything else. I made a fool of myself dancing to “Bye, Bye, Bye” and spent time praying for the girls. And I was surprised, because it was more life giving and joy bringing then I ever could have imagined.

Losing my life, to gain it.

I think this is what Denise was trying to tell me. To stand at the ledge, to be joyfully uncomfortable. To stand in a place where we don’t know what will happen next but we are obedient to the call. Where our awkwardness begins to look like humility, love and mercy.

And then we find ourselves deeply immersed in relationships and joy. 

Posted on February 10, 2016 .

Reconciling.

“That’s the reason I decided to stay,” Megan said about church. The pastor was talking about how as Christians, maybe we should try something different like being nice and normal. “I appreciated that he said that. What a concept, being nice to people,” Megan said and laughed.

Megan is brilliant, the “yes the I have my PhD and I’m only thirty-something” brilliant. But she is also brilliant in a lot of other ways, like the way she asks questions that lead to more questions. The way she understands people and their deep need for being cared for. She is a rumbler, a sifter througher, a let’s look at this again kind of gal. And I have not only appreciated this lately but ached for it.

I needed to be with people who asked the hard questions. People who were willing to sit with me with the ambiguity that not only life brings but Christianity does too.

I always felt like my story was out of place. When I decided to pursue this God thing, and it seemed like things got ugly. I loved Jesus but continued to hurt people around me. And I was hurting too. Then, I stopped going to a church for a year and half because of all the junk. I think we’ve all been acquainted with this junk. The junk that comes with people; the selfishness, the contradictions, the God platitudes. It reminds us that we are all human and flawed, but it still hurts like hell.

So I’ve come to this point where I want to love the church and other Christians but I’m having a hard time. I can’t quite forgive past hurts and am wrestling with accepting others for who they are. I often get annoyed of people who are always talking about “community” but seem to avoid being vulnerable.

In church, I’ve felt the pressure that woman should aim for marriage and babies and a white picket fences. And if you don’t have these things then something might be wrong with you, I have seen the “I wonder why she’s still single look.”  When I know in my heart, Beyoncé would applaud my singleness as being an “Independent Woman” and I think God’s okay with it too.

I know it might sound like I have a laundry list of complaints but as Brene Brown would say, this is where I’ve been rumbling. With more questions than answers about God, church and how we treat each other.  And sometimes, I think it’s healthy for our hurts to have a voice.

So when Megan talked about being kind to people to show them the image of God, I immediately agreed. Instead of persuading and coaxing people to believe in a God where mercy abounds and love is deep, maybe we could start treating them better. We could act more like Jesus. Not in the 90’s WWJD (What would Jesus do) way but the gospel Jesus. The Jesus who listened to people. Who ate dinner with sinners and saints and was intentional.  The Jesus who wants to know the real us, not a Jesus waiting for us to be perfect.

I think this is part of the reconciling, calling things out and taking ownership for our part. For choosing a way that honors people well. A way that mimics a guy named Jesus, who was sometimes kind and other times bold and always a little bit rebellious.

As a Christian, I confess- I’ve messed up big time. I haven’t always treated others in a way that was kind, caring or generous. And honestly, I haven’t always treated myself with that same kindness and compassion. I confess that I need to learn forgive others more and I’ve been angry more than my fair share. I don’t have it all together and am reminded daily that “Yes God, I need you again.”

But this is reconciling. The sacred space that allows us to question and probe and search ourselves deeply. It’s about letting ourselves be angry or frustrated with how things have been and challenging ourselves to be different. Reconciling is a place of healing. A place where we can own our part but know that grace has swallowed the rest.

To answer Beiber’s infamous question- it’s not too late to say sorry. So may this be a season of reconciling, a season that pushes us forward or perhaps that is full of hard conversations that make us dig a little bit deeper. But a season that is rich with authenticity and forgiveness and Jesus.  

Posted on January 12, 2016 .

Mercy, spills.

Photo by Mac Zafarana 

Photo by Mac Zafarana 

The grape juice spilled on my hands during communion. Twice, actually. I could feel its sticky texture and smelled the overwhelming sweetness. Communion is supposed to be a time of remembrance, it offers us a space and an intimacy to connect. But all I could focus on was my sticky fingers and the sweet scent of grape juice.

Kate and I met at the same Starbucks that we usually do. In between work, diapers and grad school, we have a sort of communion here. A time of remembering and connection.  This specific day, Kate knew I needed to be invited to coffee.. I had been hiding out for most of December, surely from friendships but maybe even from truth.

There I told her about my advent season. A season that is should have been rich with expectancy and joy but I had felt anything but that. I admitted that I had been physically sick, emotionally rattled and spiritually dry.

“I don’t even know if I believe this stuff anymore. I don’t get it.”

Kate told me that it was okay to be in this place, the desperate, “I don’t know who God is right now” place. She told me I was a fighter, but for now it was okay to just be still. Then she offered me something different. 

“Why don’t you let other people love you right now?  It’s okay if you are cranky and tired and you just need to talk about yourself. Your friends love you just as you are. I promise.”

It was a gift, mercy moving towards me. It was a grace so big that I started to cry. I cried right in that Starbucks, where I have cried many times before. When Kate told me she was pregnant (tears of joy!), where we untangled a fight, and where she asked me to stand beside her on her wedding day. Moments that marked connection and intimacy. Communion, really.

But now I was given this unexpected gift.  A friend who was bold enough to greet me in a dark place, but generous enough to let me be there. A friend who called out the things that were true about me and offered me love that was unconditional.

In that moment, I knew Jesus would have had a similar response to Kate, as he always met desperate people where they were at, in desperate times. He didn’t try to control or persuade them but offered them another choice. 

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Right before communion today, Jason told us that we should look for grace upon grace. And that our sin and our weaknesses actually qualify us for this grace. The words were a sweet relief to my wandering. They felt sticky like the grape juice on my fingertips.

Could the thing that I thought took me out of the game be the very thing that moved me closer to His love? This is what mercy must be like, I thought. It makes no sense, as it is scandalous, dangerous and messy even. 

Our mind tell us that we should work harder for this gift! DO BETTER, BE BETTER! Don’t let them see you cry or fail. Our mind tells us: Put on your make up, for goodness sake! Hide the fragile parts of yourself. And whatever you do- don’t let them see you sweat. 

But mercy’s tune is much different. It says come closer, you are safe here. You are loved and accepted just as you are (yes, even with that weird pimple and including what you did last weekend). It says, Yes honey, you didn’t deserve this but you are worthy of it still. Love has conquered. 

And so, I am thinking it may be important to pay closer attention to mercy. Maybe it will feel like sticky fingertips or radical friendship. Maybe it feels like we can breathe a little more deeply or rest in this thing that offers us life. Or maybe, just maybe, it will feel a lot like relief and self-acceptance.

Posted on January 4, 2016 .