Monday, January 24, 2011

Song in My Heart

There is a song in my heart. Drums and sweet voices, words I cannot understand. I hear it. I've heard it before. When I am alone I can sing it. It is Africa. It is risk. It is the life I am meant to live, of texture and color and depth. Rhythm.

I have been up since 3 o'clock this morning. So I am tired.

Winter came early to Kentucky this season. I am genetically predisposed to Seasonal Affective Disorder. And creative melancholy.

Bad combo.

Let's call it what it is. Today I am restless. I have cabin fever. Craving community and starving for spirituality, I found myself in tears multiple times today. Where am I going? What am I doing? Why am I doing this? What's keeping me from doing that?


For a couple of hours this afternoon I contemplated quitting. Quitting school, quitting work, packing a backpack, and joining the others. The others who have found their purpose in a journey all around the world.

This is really not a bad idea. Not the kind of bad idea one morning I'll wake up and wonder why in the heck I ever even entertained it. No. This is not a bad idea at all.

But is it a good idea?

Is it rooted in a call to a life of evangelism? Rooted deeply in my need for community, my need to get dirty, my need for a whole, wide world?

All of the above.

Perhaps, is it also rooted in restlessness?

I am in the very middle of something. In the middle of something good and beneficial and purposeful.

In the middle of something incredibly difficult.

And days like today, when the ice only melts long enough to freeze again, I am all tangled up in the difficulty and blind to the growth.


So I have this song.

And I was born with this incredible, intrinsic desire to do something. Ironically, while I get significantly stressed when something changes, I crave movement.


I woke up this morning with this overwhelming desire to be a part of something large. Something kinetic and dynamic and communal.

I asked God, if He didn't want to me to leave (to just get up and go like I'm sometimes tempted to), would He please take the desire away.

I heard Him whisper about the desire He had divinely placed in my heart. I put that there on purpose, He whispered to me. That's right where it goes. I'm not taking it away.

Wiping tears from my eyes, I went to go meet a few girls to watch the basketball game. As I slid into the booth something settled back into place within my heart.

Something affirming.

Something a bit like common sense.

Something like vision.


Time to get movin'.

I know myself well enough to know exhaustion mixed with a little winter blues only leads to a restless heart.

And that when I get like this... something really does need to happen.

Something really does need to change.


There's this song in my heart.

For a moment I forgot how good our Father is, that He equips those He calls.

That He knows the plans He has for me. Created me the way I am for a purpose.

And if I seek Him, I will find Him when I seek Him with all my heart.

Wholeheartedly I will run this race. I will not miss His calling.

Friday, January 21, 2011

"Writing Down the Bones"

There are just a few writers in my family. And between us, we have a few favorite phrases we share back and forth. Phrases, mantras, only writers will understand. We "write down the bones" (in reference to Natalie Goldberg's book). And we "write drunk, and edit sober".

Whether you are a writer or not, you have heard of the term "writer's block". As writers we have our own ways of dealing with this obstacle. But as a rule... a flexible, personal rule subject to adaption... you are just supposed to keep writing.

Write nonsense. Words. You don't even have to write complete sentences. But there's a blank page in front of you, a blinking cursor. In order to overcome the familiar hesitation, that dreaded empty feeling, as a writer you almost have to trick yourself into thinking there are still words there.

Tucked away behind your ears and under your tongue.

Kind of like facing a snowy, icy hill in a two wheel drive car. Start at the bottom. Gain momentum. And when you hit the icy incline and your tires start to spin... do not slow down.

Until eventually, something will break loose. And I will drown in a deluge of words... poetic and metaphorical and well constructed and emotive. Eventually.

Until then, here I am. Spinning my tires. Writing drunk. Here are the bones.


Lately, I have been strangely fixated on doormats. The kind on the inside, where we first step when we walk through the door. I don't know why I have been so intrigued. But as I sit at my bakery, or at a coffee shop, during this wet snowy season I have watched person after person, of every gender, age, race, and stature walk through the door, shuffle their feet in a funny little dance and keep going. I've tried to extract some sort of parallel, some typical analogy out of this. Usually when I notice something over and over again, there is a lesson wrapped up in it.

But let me tell you. The only thing I keep hearing is my Father whisper, "go ahead. Come in. Leave all that at the door." That proverbial slush and emotional snow, which causes us to slip, sometimes causes us to fall. We carry it in with us. The soles of our boots are heavy. And here He is. Saying, "come. Come into My house. And leave all that right there, you don't need it here."

The funny thing about slush is that it was once snow. Pure and white. And then we got a hold of it. With our asphalt and our tires and our plows. We trod around and stomp around and salt the hell out of it. And it gets gross. He's not telling us to leave it at the door, to wipe it all off on the mat, because He can't handle our filthiness. Have you wrapped your heart and mind around what it means to be loved in spite of what's so dirty about you? He loves you. He also knows walking around with that sludge on your shoes will make you fall.

Just a thought.


I want to learn. There is this growing, nagging realization in me. As if I had an epiphany, I thought, "I have no idea what I'm doing."


I know I've had the thought before. In the midst of a situation, or a problem, have been hit square in the forehead with the truth "I don't know what to do".

On Tuesday I walked into tutoring and felt calm and familiar with the whole situation. I'm not in charge, I really am just there to help. But as I walked up the stairs with a group of little boys and girls, one of the little boys threw a trademark temper tantrum.

I'm talking, started swinging his heavy backpack around his head, like he was David and there was this giant....

Everyone else on the team knows how to interact with him. I love him so much. He is the representation of a sweet lesson God taught me a few months ago. But I'm good with shy children, sassy children, sad children, sick children. I have yet to figure out what to do with an angry one.

The situation was quickly deescalated and efficiently handled... by someone else. But it is Friday and I am still walking around, trying to figure out when I'll learn how to do that.

Insecurity is my weak spot. That may sound tautological... (look it up, it's my new college word). But my lack of confidence is one of the biggest chinks in my armor. I know some stuff. I understand some stuff. I see a lot of things. I hear.

But I lack the confidence to act.

So when I stood in the hallway with a little boy with a flat stare and all I really wanted was to see change, to get through to him, and had no idea how...

Something inside me broke.

I have no idea what I'm doing. Or why I thought I could do this in the first place.

I just want to learn.

In the words of a good friend, "I don't know anything. Teach me."

And not just from textbooks. I want to learn how to do something. Something useful. Something helpful.

I want to be teachable and have a great capacity to learn.

To be brave enough to act on what I do know, and humble enough to ask for help.


And then there is this steady, steady ache in my heart. This desire to be on the other side of the world. Maybe I want it so badly because I know it cannot feasibly happen right now. Leaving is not an option. Africa... is just too far away. In my heart I feel the rhythm still. Secretly I want to swing my arms the way the Gumuz do. Remember what it feels like for time to move slowly. To sit under a yawning night sky, watching the mountains burn.


So here I am. My identity is found within the One who is calling me to risk. Who is calling me to wipe my feet clean. Who breathes hope and promises spring. Words are not sufficient to describe this season. Things will not always be this way. And I will look back and see what I learned and where my heart led me. Eventually I will be able to tell you all about it.

For now, I'm just "writing down the bones".

Thursday, January 20, 2011

just a thought...


My heart is tired.
Here I am, not even thirty days into the new year and I know ... what lies ahead is going to change everything.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I work on the third floor of a red, brick box.

Every morning, Monday through Saturday, I get up before sunrise and drive across town. I park in the back parking lot and walk down to the door, use a key fob to let myself into the building and then (depending on the sounds its making) either take the elevator or climb the stairs (in the equally shady stairwell) to my office.

And every morning without fail, after I've been working for just a little while, I get up to stretch. I am still one of the only people in the office at this hour. So I go and precariously lean over one of my coworker's desks, pull open the blinds, and wait.

And every morning without fail, out the back window of my office and above the industrial, gray boxes and smoke stacks of Lexington's skyline, something beautiful happens.

Sometimes, it is the only beautiful part of the entire day. But it happens. Quietly and forcefully.

This past week I walked to the window and stood on my tiptoes to lean as close as I could to the window (over a desk and a heater and stacks of papers). Bonnie had just sent me a reminder to go and watch the sunset, and the most appropriate Psalm to accompany the morning's beauty.

My heart swelled that morning as I watched the heavy, gray sky being pushed back by light. As if it was being rolled away from the horizon. The morning sky, pink and orange and yellow, began to emerge from somewhere deeper. Somewhere hidden. Somewhere sleepy. But the light was powerful and substantive.

And the darkness was no match for it.

Moments like this, time stands still.

"God's glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
Their words aren't heard,
their voices aren't recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere."
(Psalm 19)

Friday, January 14, 2011


I pulled into the a parking space at the far end of the lot. Put my iPod in my pocket and the ear buds in my ears. Climbed out of the station wagon with an already-heavy backpack in tow. I exhaled and watched as the air in front of me billowed white and frosty.

Press play.

I took one step, wrapped up in scarf and coat and gloves. And as I walked I realized it had begun to snow. I searched my belly for the tell-tale nervous ache. The jittery feeling in my armpits (don't laugh, you know exactly what I'm talking about) or the ragged breathing. Not there.

It was then I knew I had changed. Even if just a little bit. I am different than I once was.

So I walked with more confidence through the snow as Sara Bareilles began to sing,

"Jump start my kaleidoscope heart,
Love to watch the colors fade,
They may not make sense,
But they sure as hell made me.
I won't go as a passenger, no
Waiting for the road to be laid
Though I may be going down,
I'm taking flame over burning out
Compare, where you are to where you want to be, and you'll get nowhere"

This, my friends, is what Olivia and I call a "moment". When all of a sudden you are suspended, hovering over your own world, your own body. Acutely aware and intuitively disconnected. You are made aware of the story you are intertwined in. And colors get bright. Rhythms align.

It is hard when you start a day like this not to expect more. To proceed without anticipation of a pivotal moment, of a change of circumstances. Which was what I did. Which is what happened.

So here I am. Facing a ridiculous amount of course work and a pleasant number of familiar faces. A cohort has developed before my very eyes. Every single class today met me with smiling faces, people I began this journey with. People I'll finish it with.

I am still on that long stretch of highway. I'm wallowing in a shallow pool of discontent and it's taking quite a bit of my energy. There is a temptation to compare my story to others'. To fail to be grateful for what I do have. It is so hard to know the difference between being content and God's gentle (or not so gentle) push for growth.

I've never been here before. Done this before. Words, lately, have been failing me. I have been having experiences, thoughts, dreams, wishes... none of which I can adequately put into language. It's all I really want to do. Create something. But I've been so lacking in words it wasn't until last night when I realized this is what they call "writers block". Well. At least now it has a name.

The only remedy is to live more. To walk around and love big and get all caught up in your own heart and the whole wide world. Work it loose, the bolt that's rusted, the door that's jammed. Keep moving. Keep going. Persevere. Hope.

When words (good words... creative words... effective words) come again, it will be overwhelming.

But I am in uncharted territory right now.

And it's cold.

I know, however, good things happen in the winter time. When it's time to come out on the other side of this strange, slow-moving season I may or may not understand. But as a dear friend reminded me today, it is just a season.

The ice will melt eventually.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


I'm going to tell you a secret. A secret that's been buried deep inside of me for many years. It makes me smile just to think about. Especially now, since it's not really a secret anymore.

There is this boy. With nice green eyes and strong arms. Who used to pick us up and spin us around when we were teenagers. The boy who offered to let me move in with him and his fraternity brothers last year when I had no where else to go. The boy I went and sat with, watching pirated versions of Where the Wild Things Are, while his mouth was wired shut. This boy I love like a brother... who has been around just about as long.

There is this boy. Who loves my sister. And I've always known. It's been the worst, best secret I've ever kept. I sat back and watched as he patiently loved her... waited on her... the most amazing display of love I've ever seen.

So after eight long years he finally told his secret and love began to grow between them. I've been feeling as though it were MY story. Just because of how much I love my sister and my brother. How long I've waited to see this happen. Because all along, I've kept this a sort-of secret, knowing when it happened, it would be right.

I am also watching as my brother learns about our Father God. I've prayed more about that than anything else over the past few years... wanting him to know what it means to be fully known and completely loved. To be romanced by the Creator of the Universe. The Creator of trees and wind. I told a friend (who I'd let the secret slip to) that I had one mission this past summer. Somehow, someway, show my brother about Jesus and His love. I knew.... I knew the rest would follow.

I spent all day yesterday crying to God. Missing Him, missing my purpose. Lonely and tired and feeling worthless.

Tears were all dammed up behind my eyes and no amount of sweating, praying, or asking was shaking them loose. Until my best friend let me know that my sign at St. Luke's yesterday wanted me to know God thought I was of immeasurable worth.

I lost it. In the car. On the steering wheel. God still speaks. In the simplest, most straightforward ways. In His quiet voice during this season, He's been whispering "just keep going. I sure do love you."

So last night when I found out that my brother had been reading the book I gave him, and a door in his heart had opened up to the real love of Christ, I cried again. What my brother doesn't realize yet (because, well, he hasn't gotten all the way to the end of the story yet!) is he's been loving like Christ for years. Graciously. Patiently. Unconditionally. All along.

If I had to give up hearing and feeling God for a while, just so my brother could, I'd do it in a heartbeat. If I had to sacrifice my spiritual ear and the feeling I get when the wind blows, just so he could know what it means to be saved by grace, I would. You see... I know the truth. And I've felt God's presence. He's there and I know Him. I know Him well enough to know, even when He's quiet, He didn't go anywhere.

I also realized last night I would be willing to be alone for a little while longer... if it meant this worked out for my sister and my brother. If this loneliness I am feeling could ever mean hope and a future for these two I love the most... it'd be worth it.

I like being a part of this love story. Having a front row seat and watching the greatest of all fairy tales unfold, intertwined with the Greatest Love story ever told.

Finally. It's not a secret anymore.

There's this boy. And he loves my sister.

There's this boy. And my sister loves him.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

If You Have Not Love

I woke up in a funk.

Smelling like left over Christmas and lingering New Years, tinged with the melancholy of multiple weddings and a rainstorm.

I am so glad the holidays are over. Seriously. I felt a little bit like I closed my eyes and held my breath and ran through the gauntlet this year, barely experiencing it, just trying to get to the other side without injury. So here we are, a day into 2011. And I can't shake it off.

I've had a lot of car trouble lately. Trying to save money has prolonged the whole process, but surprisingly I've kept my patience through the whole thing. Trusted in God's provision. Been grateful for the community He's put in my life to take care of me. I maintained a good attitude. No freak outs. No anxiety. But New Years Eve morning my back driver's side window broke.

And I lost it.

Seriously. That was the straw. I think it's just the mechanism. But hello, there is now duct tape holding my window up. Duct tape.

I had some serious arguing with God for a little while. Didn't He understand I couldn't afford this? Didn't He get that if He wasn't going to provide, I wasn't going to be able to make it?

Then I went to dinner with two beautiful women. Ended the year eating spicy cajun food. It was in that moment God showed up to me again in a new way. In a way my sister had told me about. You see, sometimes you have to be introduced to God. Someone who loves Him very much and recognizes His face must say to you, "to me, this is God". I introduced Olivia to my sunglasses God. She introduced me to our God in a wheelchair not hours before I met Lauren and Cassandre at Bourbon n' Toulouse.

So when I was sitting at our table and someone came over and removed all the chairs so a young man in a motorized wheelchair could pull up to the table... my heart skipped a beat. So close. So real.

I was successfully distracted that evening when my kids all rolled in to watch Despicable Me. Nothing blesses my heart more than these forty-some kids who curl up on pillows on the floor and eat their weight in popcorn and cheeseballs. I was tackled by one of our best boys who rolls his "r"s and has a box cut. But I was still feeling hollow because of the absence of one of my little girls. And then they walked in. Four of them.

I may have given John a high-five. That's how instantaneously I knew God was filling up my arms again. "Shh, Anna. Don't worry. I didn't bring you here to keep you empty."

Two of these new boys immediately stole my heart. One felt sick and I found him in the back, leaning over the sink. When I came up and sat down next to him, he got really close to my face with tears in his eyes. I rubbed his head while we talked... and I just absorbed the trust and smallness of him.

The other walked around with a hood over his head. He was smaller than the rest and ran around like a mad man until the movie came on, and he passed out on the floor. No blankets. No pillows. Just fell deep asleep. When the movie was over I got down next to him and it took me a good few minutes to get him woken up. He looked at me with sleep eyes and wrapped his arms around my neck. So I picked him up, and he fell asleep on my shoulder again.

I'm here to tell you. I could have stayed there with him in my arms all night long. My gift.

We had a wonderful New Years party which effectively helped me forget about my car stresses. Until I walked out afterwards in the rain and found that someone had written something on the tape. I had a panic moment, standing in the dark in the rain downtown. Thrown off for a second, I didn't even read what it said.

God's way of building character. One broken window at a time.

If that didn't hit a nerve, I don't know what could have.

2010. A year of reparation. He had been building my character. He was still building my character. Using every circumstance, every opportunity. Sometimes just to give me a quick swift in the behind.

2011 began with french toast and lots of tears. Nothing like the holiday blues mixed with two weddings back to back. I didn't have a chance. So we got ready and ran to the car in the rain. Kat and I stopped at Starbucks on the way, knowing we were going to need some help getting through the mass amount of socializing, which was about to ensue.

While we were sitting there a father walked in with his son. A dark eyed blonde haired boy who liked hot chocolate. We didn't think anything about them (except for how cute this little boy was). Until, over the music playing and the hum of people's voices, we heard...

"If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;[a] but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing...."

He was reading to his son. And in the moments right before my sister and I went to the weddings of some of our oldest, dearest friends... we were reminded.

That, of course, did nothing for the tears already welling up in my eyes. I was basically a mess for the rest of the night.

If you have not love...

My anthem for 2011.

I've had a year of brokenness, a year of healing.

Here I am. Opening my eyes. Let's see what's next.

Beauty for ashes

She's married. I can hardly wrap my mind around it. One of my oldest, dearest friends. She has a new name.

We've been through so much life together. For the past few years, however, we've not spent much time together. But one day in August our paths began to run parallel again. What a gift. What a sweet, sweet gift.

Tonight I walked into her wedding reception. Tears had been welling for hours already. I was worried about her - her stress level and the burden of a busy, crazy life. But tonight I walked into the large room decorated in the most simple way. And was greeted by her mama who said, "it's about time you got here".

I found her in the middle of the room. And my heart leapt out of my chest. There she was. With light and love in her eyes and a ring on her finger. Bless her... my best friend. A wife.

She was who I grew up with. Not in the chronological sense. But she is the one with whom I found myself. We grew gardens and drank loose leaf tea and burned incense. We hit tennis balls back and forth in Woodland Park and had dance parties in the living room and smoked clove cigarettes. We both were looking for a big, strong man who could handle our boldness. Who would let us be ourselves. Who would love our families.

She's found hers. Her big, strong man. Her husband.

And in her face tonight I saw freedom. Joy. I watched her dance with him and with her nieces and nephews (who she so graciously shared with me since I dont have any of my own). And at one point in the night I watched them as Liza and Nick danced together and sang a sweet song to each other. Then the tears came.

We all danced together before the night was over. More familiar than almost anything, spending New Years Day with this precious girl. What a joy for me to walk away, having seen the way they love each other. Having been assured of God's timing and sweet serendipity.

She is beauty. Pure and simple, at it's finest. God, pour out all Your blessings on your sweet daughter. My dear friend. I am so grateful for her.