for the times I want to hide, a joy report

It seemed like a silly thing to organize from the passenger seat of a Ford Fusion en route to Brooklyn from Iowa. We had just spent the strangest week of our lives mourning loss and rejoicing victory with some of our favorite people on the planet. No one would have faulted us for wanting to hide. But the group text messages went out and a small tribe agreed to gather for prayer and a potluck dinner in our apartment.

We had never hosted a grief party before (has anyone?), but our friends seemed to understand the necessity because they accepted the invitation to mourn/rejoice with us. They came, our patchwork Brooklyn family of transplants, one by one in the late summer rain. They dripped into the apartment with all the potluck fixings for barbecue tacos.

We opened leftover wine from our wedding and accepted rainy hugs. Everyone was sweet and none of us knew what to do because grief is terrible. So, we shared the details of the past week’s events as we topped tacos with cilantro. The Christian camp culture in us formed a rough outline of a circle as we mechanically and emotionally shared our purpose in inviting them in. But they were not confused and they did not come to mourn with us in despair.

They came to mourn with us in hope.

So, we celebrated and laughed and prayed and cried and poured more wine. And I realized that joy is not a Heisman situation in times of sorrow. There are no bootstraps to pull up, not even if you grew up Midwestern. The joy is already claimed in Christ, apart from our strong-arming efforts.

Before Tuesday night had ended, our friends’ 11-month-old, Reed, learned how to walk (and then run). I believe it is God’s grace that laughter sounds so similar to tears and it was God’s grace that Reed made us laugh so much that night, with his wobbly steps and with his face full of achievement.

There is joy to report, like the adult lunchable my friend made for my first day back at work and like finding out all the days I was gone from my job were paid. There is joy, like provision in apartment searching and seeing familiar faces in my neighborhood. There is joy, like wise words from friends and strangers who know grief well. There is joy, like bike rides and fresh flowers and salvation stories.

I’m the kind that wants to hide. I want everyone to think I’m with someone else when I’m really hidden, anonymous in a coffee shop or on a patch of lawn or in the corner of my bedroom. When I need to think, I like to disappear.

This would be one of those times I want to hide, but God is inviting me into His presence where there is joy. Fullness of joy, even. He will not forget us, for He has engraved us on the palms of His hands and invited us to find joy and pleasures forevermore in His presence. We are not alone in the dark with our demons.

Grief wants to push back – to reject that joy can live in the same space with sorrow. Grief wants to refuse me laughter and sunshine and a face curved with delight.

But it is okay to stretch with tension. It is okay to have joy to report. It is right and good to believe the promises of God will find me in the times I want to hide.


Find all the writings on grief at this link and join with us as we mourn in hope.

claiming the abundance I cannot feel

This post is part of the Skinny Dip Society Blog Tour, scroll down to find out more!
This post is part of the Skinny Dip Society Blog Tour, scroll down to find out more!

I moved here in the sweltering heat of August for all the wrong reasons. Well, for the one main reason most rational people would caution you against moving across the country.

I moved to New York City for love.

It happened fast, but it had been building for something like 10 years so it didn’t feel completely irresponsible to fall in love with my best friend who showed up on my doorstep in Des Moines, Iowa after a year of not speaking to say “I love you.” (Yes, he led with that.)

The excited mess of planning over late night skype calls felt very silly and romantic. I flew out to visit and again for job interviews – a guest in his high-powered and hipster concrete city. I sold my car and purged my belongings, keeping important things like handmade crafts from high school and souvenirs from service trips. I finagled vacation time and work schedules and organized all the little roots I spread out in the two years of life in Iowa. I held my breath, quit my job, bought my ticket to La Guardia, and then found out I had an offer to start on the exact weekend I would be arriving in Brooklyn.

In March, it will be a year since that cold, brown night on my doorstep on Dunham Avenue. I feel pretty reckless and young and silly sometimes, but I am not a stranger to adventure. I chase it and it chases me, on the regular. That’s part of what makes Patrick and me a pretty perfect pair. We both love adventure.

But this is different. 

There is something very vulnerable about involving another person in my adventure – something unnerving about another someone walking through the good days and the bad days and caring which kind of day it was. I slip into silence often. I shake off questions I can’t give good answers to. I stack my schedule with good things. I slide into smiles when I can’t find anything better to do.

This year I learned I am picky about my adventures and selfish about how I would like them to play out. When I’ve had enough adventure, I want the freedom to hide away without anyone wondering why I’m hiding or where. I want to be reckless on my own schedule and I moved to a city where it could be done. Selfish recklessness. Self-centered, ambitious adventure. 

Sometimes, inside adventure, I am especially aware that nothing can be poured out from emptiness. No matter how many times you tip over an empty cup, nothing will always come out. Because we cannot make something from nothing, only God can do that.

Only God can take what is empty in me and fill it with abundance. But He is not just able, He has promised. Christ came to bring life abundant (John 10:10). God loves to give good gifts to His children who ask (Matthew 7:11), because He is the only One who can give good gifts (James 1:17). These truths remind my soul I cannot conjure up abundance on my own.

God promises to fill me up when adventure has left me empty and when I want to hide away. And I believe it. He promises that in His presence there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11) and He will give us the desires of our hearts if we are delighting in Him (Psalm 37:3-4).

I can choose to believe the abundance I cannot feel.

And the most beautiful thing about abundance (apart from the miracle that it can happen in empty space) is that it cannot be contained. Overflow pushes out beyond boundaries. An abundant life reaches beyond self and into the lives of others with the good things I cannot own or create.

I am daily aware of my emptiness in Brooklyn and the emptiness of selfish adventure. But the bigger adventure and the greater delight is in adventuring while believing God for the next step. I can claim His promises of abundance when I feel most empty, because He is a promise keeper. He will not only fill me up, but He will overflow my life into joyful relationship with neighbors, friends, co-workers, and fellow adventurers. He is abundance and today I am believing.

Patrick is still my favorite person to adventure with. Heck, he is kind of my favorite person all together (I don’t know anyone else who would consistently walk me home at 2, 3, and 4 am). But this empty-to-abundance thing is something only God can offer and we both need that on a daily basis. Knowing and claiming God’s promises means I am not asking Patrick to be the miracle I need for emptiness.

Only God can do that.

I kind of feel like I should be in a good place, a better place, to write a blog post for the Skinny Dip Society blog tour. I should be more positive or more focused or more free. But it is winter in Brooklyn and I don’t feel those things and I refuse to be dishonest. I am in the place I am in today. Profound, I know.

Right here is a good place to claim the abundance I cannot feel.

I am a work in progress, but I am learning to believe abundance is something that can overflow every moment, even the forever winter Brooklyn moments. I am shaking the should be’s and the more of’s to believe abundance can happen here, where I am.

*****************

This post is part of a series of 25 bloggers over 25 days sharing as part of the Skinny Dip Society Blog Tour, hosted by Katie Den Ouden. Be sure to check out Lauren’s post from yesterday, on Forgiveness, and Bonnie’s post tomorrow. Katie will also finish up a 21-Day Freedom challenge tomorrow, but don’t worry you can still get in on some of the wild and free action! Find out how you can enroll in her 12 week immersion program. She is a beautiful inspiration, so you won’t regret spending time checking out her stuff. You can catch up on the past few weeks of her blog tour–over here

 

amid the cold of winter

The weather outside is legitimately frightful.

I stuck my frozen toes inside the warmed oven several times because there is a north wind creeping through all the farmhouse cracks around kitchen windows. And, obviously, the kitchen can’t be avoided with Christmas baking and coffee making and cookie decorating to be done. The winter struggle is real and it’s about to get more frozen when we go Christmas caroling in a few hours.

There are perks to living in an apartment in Brooklyn – and one of those perks is that the heat is regulated for the whole building and always cranked high. But we find other ways to keep warm here – like chasing caped superheroes, putting out pretend fires, and running from sock hand monsters. There is a lot of commotion, but it’s all the good kind covered in giggles and belly laughs.

Tonight is Christmas Eve and we’ve switched up all our traditions this year because of sibling schedules. We are foregoing the three ingredient potato soup that we’ve had every Christmas Eve since I can remember and we already opened gifts yesterday while one of the little ones took a nap.

And, well, some traditions are not as important as Tevye’s deep, throaty voice belting out rolled Rs in Fiddler on the Roof. Some traditions are like frosting or gravy or jam – not the main dish. Today’s deep breaths are about holding on to the main thing – God’s great tradition of peace.

“We are invited to know the peace God extends to his favored ones, those established in a relationship with him through Jesus Christ. This is the soul-satisfying peace of God.” Joann Jung, from The Advent Project

This soul satisfying peace doesn’t look like a certain Christmas schedule or a table spread a particular way. This peace is way, way bigger than that. This peace is about identity – our identity that gets wrapped up into the splendor of a baby King who would later invite us into adoption, as co-heirs of his inheritance.

Identity has been more of a fight lately, which maybe surprises me more than anyone else. I am not timid or insecure or self-conscious, at least that has never before been the case. I’m not too concerned about thrifted fashions and keeping up appearances, but NYC is a sneaky devil about these things.

I have noticed a crack in my armor – a little voice that makes me doubt old shoes and my non-profit destiny. The subway stares and coffee shop conversations are a slow fade and Iowa is different enough to make all the colors clear. I would like to give more gifts to more people. And I would like to look more put together and I would like to have more established things to say about my career.

I guess I would like to have a better identity and maybe that’s the root of it all. That’s the sneaky devil and the crack in my armor, because there is not a better identity to be had.

This Savior I am anticipating and celebrating is my identity. God speaks worth and life into my fumbling limbs the same way He spoke life into His Son’s. Not only that, but my future is tied up in the glory of the Son of God, who lived and died and rose again to secure my redemption.

Pardon me, I’ve got to go warm up my vocalizer so I can match the alto pitches on these Christmas carols. The cold really does bite into a good harmony and I’ve got to be prepared.

when you are a regular wanderer

Everyone has a “lost in Manhattan” story… That’s what they tell me, anyway, and it’s meant to be some consolation.

I wasn’t exactly lost last night, but I don’t exactly mind when I am. Most people regard wandering as accidental and unfortunate – because accidents shouldn’t happen on the regular unless your life is Amelia Bedelia (ahem).

I am a regular wanderer and last night my wandering footsteps were chasing the colors in the leaves and the warm light hidden on the horizon. After work, I blitzkrieged my friends to see if anyone wanted to suck the marrow out of the autumn day and several responded. So, I said yes to plans in Manhattan and yes to plans in Brooklyn with more optimism than is New York appropriate.

I ended up at Madison Square Garden on quite the transit detour on the A (where I sat beside a tired looking middle-aged cosmetic surgeon who had obviously had work done on his cheekbones). I heard about his 14 hour work day and his second home in Conneticut and his 3 day work week. After a few loop-de-loops and train hops, I successfully toasted Oktoberfest beers with Ashley on the High Line, where we giggled at the people gathered for stargazing. We wanted to say, “We’ll save you the trouble: you can see about five, but there is a star-studded blanket beyond these city lights that is very visible from Iowa.”

From there, I navigated another underground maze to catch a train back to Brooklyn. Except I didn’t look at the sign on the train I ran down the stairs to catch.

After I sat down in a huff, a curly haired hipster smiled and said, “Well, that’s the most graceful near-miss if I’ve ever seen one.” I kind of just sighed and said, “Yeah… now to head home.” But as I said it, I looked up to realize I was on the wrong train headed in the wrong direction.

“This train isn’t going to Brooklyn, is it?”
I could tell he wished he had better news, “Nope.”

So, I scooted out and caught another flying metal bullet to meet up with group number two in Brooklyn at Alice’s Arbor, where the wine was already poured and a girls night was underway. After the right amount of laughter and story swapping and dessert devouring, we parted ways and I waited for yet another train to see Patrick and marvel, blurry-eyed, at the thoughtful gifts he brought back from Europe.

And THAT, friends, is how you stretch a day from 5:30 am – 2:00 am. Start unnecessarily early to catch the Autumn waking up on Eastern Parkway and then let the day roll out in front of you until you’ve tucked it in on the other end.

That is how it’s done in NYC, at least by this Amelia Bedelia character. Say yes to things, chase autumn to pieces, sit on park benches, wait for trains, take the wrong trains, laugh at misfortune, and always be willing to toast.

That’s how yesterday went down for this regular wanderer.
Today, I’ll turn in early.

when you’re in an earthquake, sing

God provides.

Sometimes, He provides less than what we ask because He wants to give more than what we think.

That’s what happened tonight, anyway. My new roommate and I plodded our way to the 5 pm service, weary of apartment hunting and feeling like the persistent widow at the Lord’s door. “Please, Lord, provide!” We thought we were asking for His provision of an apartment today. We thought that was the only way His provision would happen.

And He did provide, but we’re still without an apartment. Instead He gave us Himself. We sat and drank in the words of the sermon from Psalm 77 and then we broke bread and drank the wine of communion.

He provided Himself and we got filled up.

He provides always, because He is a Provider. It is not in His nature to do anything else. Today His provision was Himself – which is not technically an apartment – but is more than abundant to meet our needs.

This is the firm foundation I can sing upon when there is an earthquake underfoot.

joy falls like confetti

“The Gospel changes what I fundamentally boast in – it changes the whole basis for my identity. Nothing in the whole world has any power over me – I am free at last to enjoy the world, for I do not need the world. I feel neither inferior to anyone nor superior to anyone, and I am being made all over into someone and something entirely new.” Tim Keller

I probably could not have chosen a better book of the Bible to study leading up to my New York move. Galatians is freedom’s anthem and I’m loving it’s accompaniment to my new Brooklyn steps.

Freedom.

Nothing like couch-hopping to remind you of all the reasons you don’t have to boast. And in this beautiful in-between place before I find an apartment, I feel crazy freedom to enjoy my new “home.” Because the world does not have power over me – to make me less secure or less approved or less stable or less free.

The world cannot make me less free.

Even in the most in-between of places and most uncertain of phases, freedom means joy. The sun streaming in the window this morning, the breeze sweeping through Hawthorne Street, the full Saturday stretching out it’s weekend arms – in everything joy falls like confetti. This is a freedom the world cannot steal, a freedom hidden so deep and kept so safe because God has claimed the sacred space.

I am free to enjoy the world because I do not need the world. It’s really a very fabulous thing – because need means dependence. If my freedom depends on the world, I’m like a runner in a race without a finish line. I’m desperate to get to a place where I can be free of all the running, but the end never comes – the distance looms ahead of me and always increases.

But I do not need the world for freedom or fulfillment. Because Christ already crossed the finish line for me, I am free to enjoy the race. I can run with abandon and determination and the kind of joy that makes me giggle. I can run without worry or fear. Because I know Christ is for me, my footsteps are light and my eyes are open. This is my freedom in Christ – to enjoy the world because I don’t need the world.

I am being made over into something and someone entirely new and I am not in charge of that process. I’m just running with my eyes fixed like flint on the One who granted the grace for me to run at all. As I run, I will boast in Him.

And it is for freedom that we are set free.

this tree grows in Brooklyn

What happens when an overflowing cup is set outside in a downpour – can it get more overflowed?

I don’t know the logistics or the practicalities of that question, but I can tell you that, yes, a cup that “runneth over” can get caught in a mid-summer downpour and that, yes, the overflow can grow. I can tell you this because it happened yesterday.

It was a quiet day – too quiet. I interviewed for a job last Monday in Brooklyn and they said they would let me know “by the end of the week” and it was already 5 pm EST. Somewhere in the middle of the day I realized I wasn’t waiting for the call. I wasn’t out-of-my-mind anxious or afraid or weary.

I was full to brimming with joy. With or without this job, I was moving to NYC on August 25th. With or without this job, I was trusting God to provide. With or without this job, I was enjoying God’s presence.

I didn’t need this job to confirm my cross-country move because the Lord already confirmed His faithfulness in my heart.

I didn’t need anything to be figured out before I got on the plane. I didn’t need this job to feel peace about moving. I was already overwhelmed with peace in the middle of all the madness.

But, God granted such a special grace yesterday when he unleashed the heavens on my already overflowing cup. I had just finished writing a blog post about this excitement being like jumping on a hot air balloon ride without a destination. I still knew nothing about the next month, but I was giddy with anticipation.

That’s when the downpour happened – a call from NYC and the invitation to join the team in the Cypress Hills neighborhood. I felt like my heart said, “Really, Lord? I was already all in, job or no job… and then you provided way before I felt desperate. This is too much.”

Anything else I write today will just sound like mush because I’m swimming in abundance. Why would God grant more when my cup is already overflowing? I don’t know, He’s just that good I guess.

This tree is going to grow in Brooklyn and I can’t wait to spread my roots! I’m super pumped to share Brooklyn space with one of my favorite bands, The Lone Bellow, and this is one song I’m sure I’ll be singing on these same streets. I’ve posted it before, but it’s too good not to share again.