the wonder of it all.

today is the day that families come together. they attended church in dressier clothes than usual, typically in a pastel shade, and remember what Christ has done. how He defeated death and made us alive in Him. how He defied a lot of odds and fulfilled a lot of promises that day. its an astonishing and moving reality if you choose to feel it.

i think we can all agree that there’s something special about Easter services, much like christmas. maybe because there’s extra care and detail put into the planning. or maybe because your friend or relative wouldn’t attend with you otherwise. perhaps holidays hold their own bit of magic.. or maybe there’s something greater going on.

and i choose to believe the latter.

i think easter (and christmas) services are so special because they’re times when we finally slow down long enough to look at Him. i mean really look at Him. because i think when do, it can’t do anything other than change us. when we remember who Christ is, what He did for us, and who we are because of Him… we are filled with wonder again. and those who don’t know him, realize they can’t live without him. and those who do know him, are stunned by his love and grateful to be a part of his grand story.

we are filled with wonder again.

this weekend i stood on a stage 6 times and sung songs that spoke about truths I’ve only begin to scratch the surface of owning. we read passages of scripture on events that changed the face of humanity and the weight of those words haven’t sunk down deep enough. but i looked at Him. and was stunned by the beauty i saw.

if there’s anything i fear most, its being numb. because losing the power of sensation means i’ve lost it.
lost the wonder of this new life in Christ i’ve miraculously been invited into.

this easter has been special and moving for many, i hope. but monday will be here tomorrow. and the routine of life will set in quick enough. but the pursuit of wonder has just begun.

keep looking at Him. and when you feel like you’re losing the wonder Christ, look at Him again. you’ll be reminded

of love you so terribly dont deserve. a love that was demonstrated by the relentless pursuit of a man who took on flesh, lived a sinless life and died a gruesome sinners death. and was raised from the grave to mercifully unite perfect and imperfect together.
i hope tomorrow you look at Him with the same wonder that you did today. and every day after that.
“Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” – Romans 6:8

penelope.

My little sister Hannah is 5 months pregnant right now with my already adorable niece, lyla ray.
When we first found out she was pregnant, we were obviously thrilled and after we remotely came down from baby high, we all dove head first into the name game.
And that’s always an interesting conversation. Not because you’re coming up with funny names like Apple or Lion – even though there’s sadly HUMAN beings out there that have to carry that weight of a name until they’re old enough to legally change it.Penelope_name_on_brick_bldg

…ok im getting off track…

What’s intersting about those conversations is being reminded of the names you don’t like and particularly why you dont like them…  I’d say 9 times out of 10, we dont like certain names strictly because there’s someone you don’t exactly care for, that happens to have that exact name.

Don’t act like you’re exempt from these global feelings, because we’ve all thought it.

“so what about  Penelope? I love that name and the nickname penny is really adorable.”
“no way. I went to school with a girl named penny and she was so ugly to me my junior year. I’d be reminded of her every single time I said my daughter’s name…”

It’s wild how that happens, isn’t it? How one person can literally ruin a name for you when that name is attached to a not-so-pleasant experience or memory. So in turn, we throw the baby (name) out with the bath water immediately.

:::::::::::::

I was thinking about that earlier today and in parallel, i wonder what other areas of my life I’ve let “Penelope” ruin it for me. What other places I’ve allowed previous experiences of pain, mistreatment, or disappointment dictate my decisions or keep me from participating and moving forward.

For me personally, the first area i thought of was:: Community

Never before in my life have I experienced the kind of authentic community that I have the pleasure of receiving from and contributing to, like I do right now.
And what’s strange is that I didn’t realize how much I needed it, until I was a part of it.
Until I felt what it was like to have friends with wise hearts turn their chair towards me and one another, because we didn’t want to do life alone. because creating a safe place where all that is true – both the ugly and the beautiful – can be faced together was desperately needed. To say that it’s unbelievably special to me would be an absolute understatement.

But that wasn’t always my experience…

:::::::::::::

I grew up “in church” with parents who were heavily involved in children’s ministry. Because I have a horrible memory, I don’t have heaps of memories from that time in life, but I have a few… I remember songs and puppets and a few faces. Certain rooms with felt boards and interactive bible stories being told. I feel rather lucky though, because in my lack of memory, I don’t remember the hurt that my parents experienced from Pastors and staff members alike. The devaluing conversations and mistreatment that I later heard about were enough to crush anyone’s ideals of what they thought church and its body would look, sound, and act like.

We took a few years off from church after that.

It was safer to pull away and not be a part, rather than expose ourselves to potential hurt and disappointment again. We needed a break. And maybe you’re thinking “well understandably so!!” and i would absolutely agree with you.
I would just be careful that our “understandably so” doesn’t take up residence longer than it should.

  :::::::::::::

Im pretty sure we all have stories like this in one way or another. Mostly because we’re all living and breathing in a world where :: pain :: mistreatment :: and disappointment are undoubtedly inevitable… but how do we respond when pierced by its arrival?!

How long do we let “Penelope” dictate theoretical outcomes?
How long do we let pain keep us from risking
from dreaming
from living fully
?

if we ask the tough questions today, maybe tomorrow can look different.

-S


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

failures of kindness.

graduationGeorge Saunders recently delivered a really wonderful graduation speech at Syracuse University this year, and it was so great the New York Times recently published it. His speech had this wonderful balance or wisdom, intellect, and humor and what was most intriguing was how it centered around this one theme :: KINDNESS ::

You can read the speech in its entirety HERE – but here are a few of my favorite excerpts that really stood out and reminded me of the massive force that  simple acts of kindness can contain. Kindess truly is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.

 _______

So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.  Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.  That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been.  Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s.  Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place.  Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been.  I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.

Congratulations, Class of 2013.

most assuredly.

I think we can all agree to experiencing feelings, at multiple points in life, where we’ve thought “this is definitely not how I pictured things panning out.”

 
I’ll be turning 26 in a little over a month. *selah*

I’m inching in, ever so fiercely, as someone you’d describe as “that girl with the brown hair (that desperately needs to be trimmed), short, mid to late 20s, but still dresses like she’s 18.”

Emphasis on the mid to late 20’s part………..
(cue everyone over the age of 26 rolling their eyes in utter disgust)

Recently i had a conversation with a friend of mine about our ages and how much has changed over the years. When we first met, we were both at the ripe age of 17. We had eyes full of life, ridiculous wardrobes and horrible haircuts. I guess that’s beside the point, but pretty honest picture nonetheless.

Fast forward 9yrs:: and our conversation a few days ago was about how we would’ve never thought back then, that we would be doing what we’re doing, now.
Certain areas of life aren’t at all how we pictured them being or how we saw them playing out. We talked about the past 9yrs and the times we felt most rescued and known by God and also the times we felt most confused and disappointed. In the midst of processing  we realized how seamlessly these times were all tightly wound together. The good the, the bad, the ugly – they were all knit together with the same thread of grace and mercy, extending an opportunity for character to be refined, hearts to be humbled, and goodness to be seen and leaned into.

We found that His leadership created boundary lines in our lives that fell in much more pleasant places than we initially thought and also in places we wouldn’t expect. Because when he works “all thing together for the good” – it doesn’t always mean the kind of “good” you and i had in mind.

Our conversation reminded me of something I heard Beth Moore say in one of her messages:

“Out of God’s astounding grace, a very imperfect person can still receive a delightfully perfect gift precisely because it’s perfect for them. God’s gifts are given with goals. They’re perfect because they’re perfecting.”

I love that reality and perspective. That God’s gifts and His leadership aren’t perfect because they’re exactly what we want when we want them, but they’re perfect because they’re given by a God who knows exactly what we need we when need them. He knows exactly what will benefit our hearts most assuredly.

And today i am hopeful and reminded again, that His gifts aren’t given for my temporal satisfaction and enjoyment alone, but they’re given for the perfecting and refining of my heart, so i can love Him and serve Him more recklessly today than i did yesterday…

They don’t just give today.
They give toward every tomorrow.

most assuredly

find the gold.

I can easily forget that people are valuable and I don’t just mean in a relational way, although I can forget that too.
I’m talking about real meaningful value:: the gold and worth that are hidden in the hearts and personalities of everyone walking around us.gold

The issue is that our propensity and natural bent is to always be consumed with self and how we’re projecting or being received. So we walk into a room full of people and think they’re just bodies taking up space and oxygen. Using up our words and sucking up our time and energy and we forget that there is something on the inside… maybe its deeper down for some, but regardless, there is something of deep and meaningful value within them.
And that value may look like someone with kind words, or positive attitudes or helpful hands.. the shape matters not, because the worth is still great.

It may take a little digging and our hands may get a little dirty, and we’ll have to stop thinking about ourselves for a few moments, but I’m determined that there is gold waiting to be discovered in everyone around us. I mean, everyone.

I think about how God says that he would leave the 99 just for the 1 (Matthew 18). and I know He desires that none would perish, but I also know that He created and fashioned us in His image and likeness and He knows more than anyone, the immense value and gold that is hidden in the heart of the 1, just as He sees in the 99.

I don’t know that I’ll ever truly see people the way He does. But if I can slow down enough to recognize and call out the good in another.. well, I think that’s a great place to start.

I say we dig deeper.
and look harder.
and care enough to find the gold in someone else.

Then let’s take it a step further and remind them of their worth and value. Not because it’s the good and moral thing to do, but rather, we know how meaningful it is to have someone take the time to dig and uncover something of value in us.

gold that is hidden needs to be found.

in all things.

Gratitude is the main character trait of those with quality lives.

Nothing is more attractive, more inspiring, and more contagious than those that live a life of thanks.
Just reading that sentence im sure you can already think of several people in your life that fit such a description. They’re the people with the most joy, that get offended the least, and are the quickest to serve another.

They stick out like a sore thumb. Marked by something greater than just being the person that’s nice, but are clothed in a nature that comes from another place.

They don’t need a tragedy to mark their lives or a holiday on a calendar to teach them what to be grateful for…Because the leaves that change hues with the turning of a season and the air-filled with the scent of burning firewood triggers fond memories, and something as simple as a ‘thank you’, all has a way of holding a heavy weight of lasting value to them.

I’m pretty sure it’s because they’re the ones that remember what they have, and mostly, how they don’t deserve it.
Entitlement to wealth, health, and happiness is foreign and unnatural because those who live a life of thanks realize the gift that is life and all that unfolds within it.

This thanksgiving day I want to slow down, take a long deep breath, and not only be intentional in recognizing all the miraculous and beautiful around me, but be active and vocal in my gratitude and thanks of it.

I hope on this day we would squeeze out every ounce of lasting joy from the moments we share with those we love, and that we would see in all things, the immeasurable kindness of a loving God who willingly gives us what we have not earned and will never deserve.

We have so much to be thankful for.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving.

our souls are sick with it.

We sat around the living room, just the five of us. Feeling a touch of anxiety, but more so, resorting back to those comedic jokes you use to lighten the mood when you know that vulnerability is knocking at your door.

We talked about being discontent and what that means to us, what it looks like, and how it makes you squirm and fearful and jealous all in one breath. We all talked about how were unsatisfied with some of the cards we’d been dealt and the steps we found ourselves routinely and mundanely taking. It has this unexplainable way of weighing you down till your knees start to ache. And that’s just how I felt.

 “Discontentment is plaguing the souls of women.”

 We read aloud from our study guide.

Our houses are too small; we wear the wrong size; we can’t get pregnant; we can’t get married; we can’t afford the right jeans. We need kids that obey and hair that obeys and husbands that obey, and we need jobs that are fulfilling and enough money to do it all. We need the big things and small things because we want something more, something different. And our souls are sick with it.”

After those words were spoken, we all just sat there… Trying to find the words to convey just how much our aching hearts could identity with a single paragraph. And I identified with it greatly… feeling as if I was spinning my wheels at a unfulfilling job that sucked up most of my time and energy that i wanted to use for things that mattered and held more value to me than punching the clock. I realized how little i had left to spill over to my friends and family and how discontent these circumstances made me feel. I wanted something else.

Something more, something different.

It’s what we all want.

What we all aim for in one way or another because we’ve been convinced that who we are, where we’re at, and what we’ve been given is not even close to being enough.

A restless longing for better circumstances” is the very way Webster’s dictionary defines the word discontentment.

And in some ways, id say that’s true and a very common theme found woven through the fabric of our human hearts.

My only thought is::

when is better circumstances
and better locations
and better jobs
and better
and better
and more
and more
ever enough?!
will it EVER be enough?

::::

Around that living room we sat, pouring out our aggravations and our growing pains. Listing ways that we wished things were different. And after hearing us share our side of the story,  i began to realize that we each have pictures of how we think our lives are supposed to be, if we build them just live we envision. And its inevitable we become disappointed when things don’t turn just out just like we planned, when our story starts to unfold in ways we never intended on writing… and its there we are typically found, too busy being discontent and complaining about what should be, to be grateful for what already is.

::::

There’s more i want to share on this topic and will plan my next post to dive into scripture about it.
Because there has to be hope for that restless longing we feel and there must be something we’ve missed along the way.

I hope we can learn together.