Friday, December 31, 2010

End Well

It is the last day of the year. The very last few hours of 2010. There is a lot of pressure on this day.

I woke up with a strange sense of sadness. Reluctant to get out of bed, to start this day. I knew I would spend the day doing just this: reminiscing. I knew I would spend the day recollecting and cataloguing the past twelve months. Deep down, I also knew I'd like what I'd find. But if there's a lot of pressure on today, the pressure on tomorrow is even greater.

I am sitting here in my favorite spot. I could come here alone and sit for hours, never feeling out of place or lonely. Intentionally, I choose a seat facing the door. People walk in and out and every once in a while, someone will catch my eye. Usually a family who has come to share breakfast together. Children with gooey chocolate donuts and parents with Belmont bagels. Today two women have caught my eye. One woman was here clearly waiting on someone who never showed up. I just watched her get up and buy herself breakfast and sit down in quiet defeat, her eyes still watching the door. The other is a tall redhead whose eyelashes and eyebrows are painted on. Her hair is not her own, but most would never notice.

These are the people I come here to see. These people who have stories. Epic, intertwined stories which somehow led them to be in the same place as me this morning.

Outside the big, glass windows the wind is blowing and the air is warm. In defiance of winter I put on flip flops with my sweats this morning. It is warm enough. I believe this is a gift specifically for Rachel Frazier and myself.

This is my safe place. And I have come here today to unpack.

2010 was the year of stories.

Our life is our story. And no matter how mundane, how uneventful, how unfortunate, how lucky or blessed your life so far has been... your life so far has been your story. Your real life began the moment you were born - if not before.

There are moments, however, when everything seems to change. There may come a moment when you begin experiencing life in a brand new way. An instant when the story picks up pace. A pivotal moment, an unprecedented lesson. Circumstances change. The veil is lifted or the scales fall away. You meet him, or her. You will have more than just a few moments like this if you are pursuing a full life, a great story. And even if you're not, even if you have no idea what living a great story even means, you are going to stumble all over a moment before too long.

And then everything is going to change.

In 2010, my story picked up its pace.

Real life had been happening. Real change had occurred. Transformation had taken place within and around me; something had been growing. Something bloomed this year.

For the past few years my only New Year's resolution has been to do better. Steadily, progressively, ever since i made that resolution I really have done better.

2009 was a year of breaking and stretching and growing. There was a lot of pain and uncertainty and searching. This was the year the Father put His hands on my face and professed His love and spoke His identity over me. I stumbled on the Spirit and the beauty of loving Him fully. I walked around with sore muscles and open eyes. The proverbial stitches and bandages on all my wounds were the center of God's attention.

But 2010 came.

A page turned and what had been a story about brokenness and redemption was so suddenly an epic story about adventure and risk and passion. I got a front seat ticket to watch God fulfill promises and connect dots for me. I cannot explain to you the ways in which I've changed. My life has taken a sharp turn, facing me towards more mountains and a new horizon. Forty small children have transformed my heart and stretched my very capacity to love. I don't know how to tell you about the protection God's placed over my life, or about the day when He lifted that - in order to show me how much progress we'd made together. I asked Him to put me back together. And He made that the ultimate work of 2010.

I feel like I've lost a lot of my gifts this year. The creative aspect of myself has dwindled to almost nothingness, and even now I'm grasping for straws. Words are few. You can't explain this stuff. But the Father has introduced a few more, which I never dreamed would be part of my identity. He's taught me what it means to be a leader, and about what it means to use the gifts of His spirit.

Exactly a year ago, I wrote the words "of finishing school, of spiritual gifts, about where to serve, who to reach out to", regarding my thoughts about the upcoming year. I couldn't have known God would be just so good and choose to answer those very questions.

I want you to know what it means to walk down a dirt road in a skirt towards a mud hut, not wanting to be anywhere else in the world. Or watching the sky pour down rain to your right and to your left, while you stand under sunshine. Or to walk into a home and be handed a three week old baby, to have a small boy throw himself into your arms. Or what it means to be stopped in your tracks by what your heart understands to be the manifestation of God. To ask for His presence and have the wind blow.

This year was the year of children.

I went back to school this year. Secretly afraid I wasn't going to make it, I am here on the other side of the first semester, feeling triumphant. I am one of those lucky few who knows what work they've been made to do. With that comes a lot of responsibility and pressure. And a great joy when all else seems to crumble around me. I know my work.

My dad got married this year.

I learned how to listen. And found myself rising up against a glass ceiling.

He decided to teach me how to trust.

I chose singleness.

There were no kisses in 2010, unless little children kissed my cheeks.

There was no hand holding in 2010, unless I was walking down the street with small children in tow.

But God taught me about my worth. Gave me a glimpse of how the world see me. Led others to invest in me.

Actually, I can't believe it's over. I'm so afraid I'll forget.

This year's resolution is the same as the past two: this year I will do better.

Maybe this year will involve more leaving, more staying. More running.

I want to create and listen.

I want to love and be loved. I want to be gentle and gracious and bold.

When I walk through the door this year, I want you to see Jesus. I want His light to shine in my eyes.


I'm going to leave the bakery now. Too bad Bonnie isn't here so we can profess out loud that 2011 will be the best one yet.

Because when you say things aloud here... they happen. Just believe me. Who's surprised I have stories?

There's a lot of pressure on today. The high expectation to end well.

Go. Leave slowly. End well.


Here is a true test of love:

To want what is best for another. Even at your own expense, at the risk of your own heartbreak.

Who knew small children could cause such an ache. With their dirty faces and sticky hands, eyes deep and watery. They throw themselves in your arms or cower far away in the corner. In an instant your heart belongs to them.

I am threatening the next time I see a greasy, playful child, however, I am going to walk the other way. "No, thank you," I will say, holding up my hands and shaking my head. "No more. My heart doesn't have any more room. It's cracked and fragile and can't take any more breaking."

It's my own fault. I have yet to learn how to rationally detach. How to love and then walk away. How to wash my hands at the end of the day and go to bed with an unburdened mind. I have a lot to learn, and I'd better learn it quick. Because my heart's beginning to look like a patchwork quilt.

Tonight I am reminded how easy it is to love the lovable. As a Christ follower I am called to love those who require much more patience and grace. I am reminded how real love is sacrificial. Love is selfless. But despite those attributes, love does not always come without pain.

When the ones I love leave again... I fight the temptation to give up. I battle internally with the defeat and sorrow, which comes right along with empty arms.

I know He told me to take care of her and to love her. It breaks my heart to think I may have waited too long. Then, by His grace, I remember the first day I met her. Hiding in the corner of a sofa, sick and scared and neglected. I remember calling her over to me, feeling the swollen lymph nodes and noticing the deep uncertainty in her eyes.

My mind then races to the most recent time I saw her. She slipped her hand in mine. A mischievous, happy smile lit up her face. Somewhere along the way she had learned to trust me. Oh, how much easier it was for me to learn to love her.

I was told by our Father to take care of her. She was my burden, my gift. In an instant, however, she's gone again. My time with her was short and seemingly ineffective.

I am a transition person.

This is a lonely place to be. Most of the time I only get a little bit of time to love you.

Tonight my head knows the truth, but my heart can't grasp it yet. Tonight I'm tired and I wonder if I have what it takes.

What it takes to trust. To love unconditionally and without fear of loss. To want what is best for another, at the risk of my own heartbreak.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Snowy Day in December

It is Christmas Eve and I am watching out the window as the snow accumulates outside. Like someone pushed a button and whispered, "this year, we will have a white Christmas"...

I am here by myself. Sitting in the dark watching A Christmas Story. I am warm and sleepy and content to be spending this evening by myself.

But in this quietness, I keep searching for the feeling. The feeling, which means "Christmas". It was distinct when we were children. All I keep coming up with are dusty memories. Faint, vague recollections of twenty some-odd Christmases past. Accumulated somewhere in the recesses of my heart.

Memories of a Pentax K1000. And Christmas Eve parties that lasted too long. Kathy Mattea. Cinnamon rolls and flannel boxers. Carol of the Bells.

I cannot describe to you what Christmas is to me, the way Christmas should feel, because I don't know how to describe the music. What it sounds like when Larry sits down at the piano and, by heart, begins to play Carol of the Bells. When I think of Christmas - good Christmases - I think of this.

This year, Christmas has been significantly different than any other. Our baby, Abby, declared at dinner she would be sleeping in tomorrow morning. We all exchanged glances of, "well, she's not little anymore". And I was flooded with memories of waking up to her standing next to my bed. Climbing in and sleeping against the wall, taking up far too much room for a five year old.

This year, we've been expected to be in multiple places at the same time. Despite our frustration, the four of us recognize how lucky we are to have so many people we love and who love us. But when my sister and I sat down for church tonight, in the place I call home, I leaned over and asked her simply why this year had been so much harder than all the rest.

That's when I cried my first Christmas tears. Which, if you know me, is no real surprise. I always cry at Christmas.

This year, we've asked for things like familiarity. For rest. For peace of mind.

Something in us has begun to realize how much we need, which is not at all material. How much we need each other.

We don't need new laptops or new socks. We don't need gift cards or DVDs.


I spent Christmas Eve alone. And woke up alone on Christmas morning.

Like Thanksgiving, I am having to redefine what this holiday means to me.

What it means when you wake up and it feels like Saturday. Instead of Christmas.

But snow fell last night. And I am sitting on my Mama's couch. Not a present has been opened, no stockings are hanging on the mantel. No Christmas movies are playing on the television.

But it is a beautiful, snowy day in December. And perhaps, for the first time, today is about family. The ones my heart loves.

This holiday season has been more difficult than any I can remember before. I've never felt so torn, so confused, so lonely. There is a steady, subtle ache in my heart. Wanting a family of my own, wanting someone to spend this holiday with. But shrouding that ache is the gentle reminder of how lucky I am.

Every time a child wraps their arms around my neck. Or all my sisters are in the same place at the same time.

We asked for rest. For peace of mind. For familiarity.

Because those are the things we really need this year.


Merry Snowy Day in December.

Today is about the birth of a baby who was born to save our lives.

It doesn't have to feel like Christmas to be able to celebrate that.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

High Expectations

Well. I never thought this day would come. The day I would have the option right in front of me, and I would still choose singleness. When I would be so assured of God's plan for my future, I would be content to continue waiting.

I've always said I'd rather be single than be in a relationship that wasn't right for me. But did I believe it? Maybe not until now. Maybe not until today.

I've also always said I would only date a man who loved Jesus. I keep hearing Braeden's words recurring in my head. "I can't wait to meet your husband. He's going to have to have so much Jesus in him...."

I took that for granted.

I have taken that for granted.

Until yesterday. When I went to explain myself to someone who does not share my love for Jesus. And my words got all stopped up in my throat. He didn't understand.

He told me he could see I wanted to change the world. He found this very attractive.

I didn't know what to say. How long had it been since I'd spent time with a man who wasn't running beside me, changing the world right along with me?

I don't want you to watch and admire. There's nothing to admire. This is my life. My love. My passion. My work. I need you to see a need in this world and run to meet it. And I will run into you on that path.

Realizing this, I walked away from yesterday feeling strangely free. Free to move to Colorado. Free to be single. Free to wait a little longer. Free to have high expectations and higher standards.

Free to wait for the big, strong man with light in his eyes and a booming laughter. A man who will push me out of my comfort zone and play with my hair. Who will love children and fall asleep with his head on my lap. Who will climb mountains and go dancing. Who will smell good and have callused hands. A man who will love Jesus more than he loves me, whose ears will be filled with the words of our Father, whose steps will be guided by His will. A man I will respect, a man I can trust.

High expectations.

Expectations God may completely thwart.


What I'm really waiting for is the whisper in my heart. "There he is."

I will hear it. Maybe not immediately. But I will hear it. I will know.

And I can only pray he will be looking for someone just like me.

A short, scarred, tattooed, argumentative, tempered radical.

Who loves coffee way too much. Whose eyes look really green sometimes.

Who will never ever give him a good gift, and may feel really awkward telling him how handsome he is.

But will see him for who he is. And love him as fully as possible.


Today, however, I am free.

Today, my house will be full of children decorating for Christmas.

If nothing ever changes.... if I never get this thing my heart so desires... I am still so very lucky.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Sometimes... I forget about people.
Sometimes... I lose hope in people.
Sometimes... I just get really tired of people.

But then I have nights like last night. Nights I am acutely aware of diversity, of the beauty in each face, in each pair of eyes I see. I get all wrapped up in thinking about their stories - these people who pass by me. And I wonder about just how easily I could step into their stories.

With a simple hello, I could interject.

A kind smile and suddenly, our stories would collide.

I could interrupt their life.

I thought about this as I sat waiting in a car with a little boy who is in fifth grade.
He prides himself in how easily he can change the topic of conversation.
Boasting about how he's not scared of the dark. Not at all.

I thought about this as I sat in Starbucks and watched couple after couple come in for coffee before going to the see the Trans-Siberian orchestra. I wondered about their dates, how they met, and just how awkward each one felt. And how long it would take for them to become best friends. If they ever would.

Each person has a story.

A life they are leading.

A path they are walking.

I found myself watching their body language.
Looking for the tell-tale light, the illumination in their eyes.
Searching for something familiar, something shared.

And I fell in love with people again. This is the pattern. The sequence.
I forget about my love for the creations of our Creator.
Then I see a scar. Gray hair on their head. Or I hear one of them laugh.

I am overcome.



My hope still does not rest in people.
Sometimes I still get really tired of them. Especially adults.
But in a moment, my love for the created is re-ignited. My love for the ones He loves.

The father and son who shared a slice of pound cake.
Big man in his business clothes, leaning in to talk to the small man whose legs dangled off the chair.
They were my love story.

To most of them, I am simply an observer.

I am not here to interrupt anything.

Just as a witness to your existence - to a brief moment in your story.

There are others however, maybe even you, who will be interrupted by me.
I will walk in on your life, open the door to your story, and let myself in.
And I am in awe of how quickly it may happen.

What amazes me more, is when someone walks into mine.
When he came running through the house and threw himself into my arms.
When you came from out of nowhere and made me take notice.

There are nights when hundreds of faces pass me by.

When I am not struck by any beauty.

When I don't feel any warmth.

But there are others when I just wonder...
What just happened?
What, because of two stories colliding, just changed forever?

Divine interruption.
Serendipitous cameo.
Holy collision.

Wake up. This is a part of the story you don't want to miss.