Let me tell you about living loved.

When I was in high school, I had this friend from church.  We didn’t see each other very often; she was homeschooled and I was at a public high school, but we talked in Sunday School and we visited each other’s houses in the summers and we caught up on life when we could.  Somewhere in the middle of my senior year, amidst all the other stress and strain of college applications, AP exams and normal teenage angst, she started texting me every morning.  Some days it was “Have a good day!” but most days it was just “Good morning Allie!”  It was a little thing, and after a week or so I had to admit I was perplexed and a little bit flustered by the pressure to reply, day after day.  But despite my hesitation, it didn’t take long for that exchange – just that quick little “Good morning!” or “You, too!” – to become a part of my everyday routine rather than another item on my to-do list.  We’ve lost touch over the years and I’m still not really sure why she choose then and there to reach out to me, morning after morning.  All I know is that we settled into a rhythm of supporting each other in the smallest way possible, and every day, it made me feel valued.

Recently I reconnected with a boy who makes me smile and now that we’re dating, he typically texts me good morning, too.  About a month into our relationship, he was out of the country for eight days and I wondered at how quickly something and someone can become a part of the rhythm of your life.

I haven’t written in a long time and there’s a lot of reasons for that, but the most obvious in my mind is that there’s very little rhythm to my life right now.  Senior year is supposed to be the time when you enjoy the ride – I’m not sure what kind of ride everyone else is on, but mine is a roller coaster and I’m clinging to the handles of my seat for dear life.  Here’s the thing though: I love roller coasters.  They taught me a lot about life about a year ago and the context has changed since then, but all the important things have stayed the same.  Life is messy and complicated and I make mistakes a lot, I get scared a lot, I get in scrapes a lot.  But a lot of times the beauty happens when I’m flat on my back, because the Lord uses those moments to get my whole entire attention instead of just a bit of it.

And then those are the moments remind me to give my whole entire attention to the people in my life that are dear to me when I’m with them, instead of just a bit of it.  This coaster might have some loops that tear my sight from one spot on the horizon to another, but the position of the sun doesn’t change and that is the community in my world.  Last week I laid flat on my back under a tree and stared at the sky with my headphones in my ears and I just let my brain think until all the thoughts ran dry.  And by the end of my mental wild-goose-chase, all I had left in me was to thank God that there are sunshiney days and rainy days and that He shows me the beauty in both when I’m on my back.

This is what I’m trying to say, wrapping up all the thoughts I’ve not gotten down on this corner of the Internet in the past few months: When there’s no other routine to follow, we have to find our rhythm in loving the people around us as hard as they’ll let us, as long as we can.  And if we’re going to commit to that, we have to open ourselves up to the belief that we are loved back, and trust God to fill in the gaps going each way with a love we’ll spend this whole life chasing to comprehend more deeply and fully.

It looks like a lot of things, but right now, for me, it looks like jumping out of an airplane or daring to ride the tallest coaster.  It looks like doing instead of analyzing, speaking truth instead of sitting in fear, and writing for myself when I should be writing for school.  It looks like spur-of-the-moment Colony House concerts with brand-new friends, like matching elephant pants, like Oreo truffles, like learning how to use chopsticks, like driving down Natchez Trace with Ben Rector on the radio.  It looks like losing control for the sake of living loved.

When do I feel it?
When do I feel it in my bones?
That kind of breathing
Whispering mysteries to my soul

I think it’s when I lose control
I think it’s when I lose control
We can’t keep fighting for a steady life, so
I’ll ride the wind like a feather toward home

Lose Control // Colony House

It may be a while since I’ve written over here – but I actually had the beautiful opportunity to write a post on living loved for my friend Emily Conrad’s February series! Check it out here.

Let me tell you about Hamilton. 

Songs that made me cry seeing Hamilton Chicago last night:

Burn

Satisfied

It’s Quiet Uptown

Who Lives Who Dies Who Tells Your Story

One Last Time

It was April 2016, and I found myself with a roommate who couldn’t believe I hadn’t listened to Hamilton yet and a half hour commute by colectivo to and from class in Buenos Aires. So, begrudgingly, I jumped on board the trend train and downloaded the soundtrack. And my life has never been the same.

Think about it: music, history, and intricate writing all put together on the same stage (or in the same songs). It unites some of my strongest passions, and it quickly became my soundtrack to the city during my time in Buenos Aires. I listened to it on the busses, as I walked, as I got ready in the tiny bathroom in the morning, and at night when I couldn’t fall asleep. I lived and breathed the characters and the lyrics of Hamilton at the same time that I was living and breathing a new, truer sense of self that God was calling me to step into. My friend Dawson spent two weeks calling me Aaron Burr, Sir. The Schuyler Sisters reminded me what I loved about the city. I listened to Wait For It as I slogged home in the spitting rain one day, and it sums up that moment perfectly in my memory. Obviously, songs like Burn and Stay Alive and The World Was Wide Enough and my all-time, hands-down favorite, Satisfied, pull at the heartstrings.

Yep, the whole album is flawless. But there’s one song that stands apart in my mind. Non-Stop was my song for confidence, because of this one line-

How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive?

How do you write like you need it to survive?

How do you write every second you’re alive?

The music hits its peak here, the full ensemble backs up Burr’s voice, and the words couldn’t speak more deeply to my soul. I am telling stories in my head every second that I move through the world, for better or worse. Writing is the same basic function for my brain as breathing, and I love that.

One song that never clicked with me until last night, when I saw it live, is Hurricane. It’s the only solo song for Alexander Hamilton in the entire production, and it essentially establishes that he’s about to dig himself deeper into a hole he’s already tripped into headfirst. Yet watching it unfold live- with the lights, the pause between each note, and the ensemble’s choreography – it’s really a song about why Hamilton writes. In the face of every obstacle, throughout his whole life, he’s picked up a pen. And when there weren’t even any obstacles, he was so bent on leaving a legacy that he wrote his own problems into existence. It was an escape that only sucked him deeper into whatever was holding him captive.

Maybe that’s getting a little deep for Broadway, but in the moment I processed that, I flashed back to the climax of Non-Stop and wondered – why do I write? Why is this thing so ingrained in the who and how I am in the world?

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t ever written my own problems into existence, or written myself deeper into one, inside my head if not out loud. Yet I don’t think the reason I write is to escape, or to leave any sort of legacy.

I write to get to know my own mind. I tell stories because I believe they matter, and I want to know why and how. At worst I write for the sake of writing, but at best I write for the joy.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of the musical Hamilton, has described it as a “love letter to writers” in its own way. And it is. Every moment has its worth in capturing, in putting words to, and at the end of it all, you have to know why you’re doing it for it to be worth anything at all.

And I know that I’ll see that show a thousand times more in my lifetime. To relive every moment and memory that I’ve connected with the songs – and to remind me why I write.

Huge thank you to my wonderful parents for the tickets!!! 

 

 

Let me tell you about Christmas 2016.

This is joy.  I stand on the sideline, not really sure of where the air in my lungs came from or how it got there, but holding it, harnessing it, hurling it into infinity as my shrill sound joins the cacophonous chord of the rest of the band.  The fans are on their feet, my friends are at my side, and fierce joy tears through me.  Nothing can compare to this moment, it shines sharp enough to cut the fog of time to pieces when I look back on it down the road. Too soon, but not soon enough for my lungs, the note is cutoff and we cheer.  I walk away from my last performance, and my eyes are bright, with pride and maybe, tears.

This is hope.  My eyes are bright, in the pane of the airplane window.  I squint past their dim reflection to the flash of light I caught on the horizon, my forehead pressed against the glass.  Lightening spiderwebs across the sky in the distance, illuminating mountainous clouds as we fly parallel, closer and closer.  My view improves with every moment, and I know they’re slipping by too fast: just as they get better, soon enough they’ll be gone.  I stifle a yawn, but I won’t miss this, not yet.  I watch the lightening strike again and again, watch it writhe across the sky, crack it wide open; watch it spread through the clouds, a muted, fleeting flash.  I think of flying home, to family and future, to finishing one chapter and falling fast into another without knowing much of what to expect.  I think of where I’ve been and where I’m going.  I think of how my God is big enough and bold enough to shoot lightening through the sky, and how good and gracious and giving He is to not keep it to himself, to give me a show on my way home.  I smile, and snuggle deeper into my stiff, narrow seat.

This is peace.  I’m snuggled in a high-backed armchair in my grandparents’ living room, with a book on my lap, hot tea in my hand, and a roaring fire at my back.  Football’s on the television, no one’s really watching; we’ve all taken up positions in various states of relaxed, on couches, chairs and cushions, and we pay no attention to the sound of sports on low, lost in whatever we’re reading and throwing the odd comment to another across the way.  We play Rook, four of us, and despite the fact that half the time I have a hand like a foot and not a clue what I’m doing, Grandaddy and I set them twice and win the game.  We laugh and high-five, then move the chairs back, bring some fudge in from the kitchen, and return to our previous positions, this time, with the news and a dog snoring as the backdrop for the living room to live on.  I curl up in my chair and close my eyes.

This is love.  I close my eyes, and I’m eight years old again, dressed in my best for the Christmas Eve service.  We sing from a blue hymnal, I hold my very own candle as we sing “Silent Night,” a circle of twinkling spheres throwing shadows on the sloping ceilings of the sanctuary.  The next morning, I wake up first and dart downstairs to see everyone’s presents from Santa, neatly arranged by our stockings at the foot of the brick hearth.  I smell my Granhannah’s cinnamon rolls, I take a toy from my pile and make my way upstairs, and we talk while she bakes, or lets me help her roll the sticky dough into shape. I open my eyes and give myself one more glance in the mirror on my way out the door. The same sloping wooden beams still support the sanctuary as we sing from the same blue hymnals.  Five days later, my sixteen cousins and all the aunts and uncles shepherding them will flood my Grandaddy’s house, and we’ll stack food on every available surface, with a person in every open seat.  The whole house will shake with laughter, and the only silence will come just before we eat, when we all join hands, the thirty-something, forty of us, and we pray.

Because Christmas is the coming of our Lord, of my Jesus.  Christmas is about the hope, joy, peace, and love He brought to the table when He was laid in the manger.  But Christmas is also the hundreds of memories that surround the day itself, and they are what immortalize that thrill of hope, that weary world rejoicing, that law of love and gospel of peace.

I hope your heart was full of gladness, and the peace that covered sadness.  I hope your joy was overflowing, and your many blessings growing.  I hope you had the time you’ve longed for, with the people that you love.  And I hope you know that even if you felt none of that this Christmas, you are loved, and this holiday marks the day He came for you.  I hope you had a merry Christmas.

Let me tell you about 2016.

Today marks two years since I started my blog, time that feels very long – stretched thin over hundreds of memories and moments – and very short at the same time.  I’m so grateful I still have words to say that you’re willing to read.  There are more years of this ahead for us, don’t worry.

One of the reasons I started writing was to dive deeper into the person I was becoming, and to create a space to process that.  I’ve found in that nothing can put words to who and how I am in the world the way music can.  Better yet, the right balance of chord and comment can sum up a sequence of events or mark a moment in time with accuracy and resonance far beyond anything I could say or write.  I think God is constantly finding ways to use the things all around us to tell us who we are and whose we are, and music is that thing for me.

Without further ado, here is my 2016 in songs.

1 – Letting Go – Sawyer

Looking up from ten feet deep
Solid ground’s been sinking
I lost you and half of me
This is not an ending, no

Even when I’m left to stand alone
Even if you never come back home
Still, I know I can feel it in my bones
There’s a light at the end of letting go

2 – Deliverance – Strahan

This is my deliverance, hands held high as you deliver it
Oh, you have made me a child of God
My feet on the ground, my heart in heaven
I am bread made without the leaven
Oh, you have made me a child of God

3 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it – The 1975

4 – Hollow – Tori Kelly

‘Cause I’m paper-thin
And you, you make me whole again

So hold me
Wrap me in love, fill up my cup
Empty and only your love can fill up my cup
‘Cause I’m hollow

5 – Wild Horses – Birdy

Our human hearts forget how strong they are
And they get lost along the way, hey
It’s not giving up, it’s letting go
And moving to a better place

I will survive and be the one who’s stronger
I will not beg you to stay
I will move on and you should know I mean it
Wild horses run in me

6 – Non-Stop – Hamilton (Lin-Manuel Miranda)

How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive?
How do you write like you need it to survive?
How do you write every second you’re alive?

7 – Free – Broods

Cause the freest I have ever been
I had nothing to show or be seen

8 – Testify – Needtobreathe

Give me your heart
Give me your song
Sing it with all your might
Come to the fountain and
You can be satisfied
There is a peace, there is a love
You can get lost inside
Come to the fountain and
Let me hear you testify

9 – Waiting on My Time to Come – Colony House

I can give a little time for this dream to grow
So I’ll wait here when my light is low

I’m just waiting on the seasons to change
Waiting for the curtain to fall
I could lose my cool
Like a restless fool
But I’m waiting for my time to come

10 – Next in Line – Walk the Moon

City in the rear view
And nothing in the distance
We laugh at all the talk
What do you think of getting lost?
What do you think of you and me?
This lion is in the garden
Let’s go way back when
Before this ever started

Well push me honey to the up and right
We’ve been waiting but we’re next in line

When the city shines like the sun at night
And I feel it in my heart and my hips, I feel it
Won’t you stay shot gun until the day I die?
Stay shotgun until the day I die

Let me tell you about being single.

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up to a new post from one of my favorite bloggers and opened the email to read: “5 Questions to Ask If You Never Get Asked Out.”

I almost threw my phone across the room.  I have had it up to here.

Because I think we’re asking all the wrong questions about being single.

Because “5 Questions to Ask if You Never Get Asked Out” makes me think that something I’m doing or being needs fixing to be loved.

And at the other end of the spectrum,”5 Reasons to Love Living Single” or “5 Things to Do While You’re Still Single” puts pressure on my heart to make most of the this time and be grateful.  And when I fail, as I almost always do – when I wake up ungrateful, or lonely, or disappointed with my singleness – it creates a chasm of guilt that I fall into headlong, allowing fear and shame to tell me what is true about myself.

We live in a world where being single is hard.  It just is.

Which is why the main question I go to God with when it comes to being single is this-  How is this a part of your good plan? 

I cling tight to stubborn pride that my plan for my life – which would not involve staying single – is the right one.  Loneliness, heartbreak, disappointment – they don’t feel good, so how can their part in my story be good?

I have to admit that in those moments, I am denying God the opportunity to sit down with me and me alone, look me in the eye, and tell me what is true about myself.

Being single is so not about seizing the opportunity to travel or pursue your career or climb whatever other mountain that the world offers.  Those are all great options – they’re just not really the purpose this time is made to serve.

It’s a time to learn what it looks like to live truth.

I know lots of people who can do this in relationships, and I admire them greatly.  I also know that I am not one of them.  I need to be on my own to come to know who and whose I am.  I need my entire understanding of relationships – my expectations, my hopes, my fears – to be entirely shaped in this context.  Because single or not, I want to be ever living not out of a place of fear or doubt, but of fullness and freedom.

Knowing how God has made me lets me live out loud as the person He’s made me to be, with no hesitations, no 5-steps-to-fixing, and no regrets.

So if you’re anything like me, and you find yourself in this time of waiting – don’t miss the chance to ask God to wait with you.  You might be surprised at the conversations you’ll have with Him, and where it will take you.

It’s not deciding in my mind, “I  deserve to be loved.”  Or manipulating my heart to feel loved.  It’s a settling in my soul: “I was created by God, who formed me because He so much loved the very thought of me.  When I was nothing, He saw something and declared it good.  Very good.  And very loved.”

Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited

The song below is my anthem.  When I think about living out loud, about being the person He’s made me to be, and about how to share that with you – this is the song.

It has no words, only a feeling.  It’s me whipping past trees, flying straight and sure through the black night alone in my car, with the radio up and the wind in my hair.  It’s you, dancing alone in your room or stepping into the crowded coffee shop.  It’s each of our stories being written, crisscrossing one another, bringing new pieces and parts to life with every step forward that we take.  Even – and especially – the ones we take on our own.

Want more? Here are a couple of articles that I feel do ask the right questions about singleness.

The Five Main Reasons You Are Still Single

Is Chivalry Dead?

You are loved.

Let me tell you about the Spirit of Gold.

This week is all about breath. How much power can you harness in a single second of time? Can you stretch that second, suspend it until there’s nothing left? Your lungs will burn and your shoulders tighten, but when you exhale, a high, pure note soars across the sky of the stadium. You listen for its impact, only to realize it’s been swallowed by a tidal wave of sound that rushes by you, around you, through you. That second-long breath becomes a roar of sixteen beats, and you give until there’s nothing left. The drum major’s hands stop. The last note dies away, but the walls still echo. You turn in time with the people around you; together, you take the next step.

I always say that I stay in band because I love what I do.  I love playing my instrument, being part of something bigger than myself, I love SEC gameday, and I love putting on a show one set at a time, only to have it all come together at the performance.  And that’s why I’ve stuck with band.

But really, it goes much deeper than that.  Band is a family – especially our band.  So when I talk about taking that next step together, I really mean it.  We’ve been through three director changes in the past two years, but we’ve kept putting shows on the field.  Our alumni came back voluntarily to work the high school marching invitational we host while our band performed in exhibition.  Sophomore year when I broke down crying on the sidewalk after rehearsal, I came home to four or five messages from different people who wanted to know if I was okay.  And that’s what makes the Spirit of Gold so special.

In seven hours or so, I’ll step onto the field for the last time, and that breaks my heart a little bit.  The eight straight years I’ve spent in marching band have utterly and completely made me who I am today.

But I know that with the SOG, even when everything else changes, the people stay the same.  With that in mind –

Ms. Cindi, Queen of Bands, thank you for sticking with us.  Thanks for knowing our names, and solving any problem we could possibly come up with, and being so humble, gracious and kind in every situation.  We appreciate you so very much.

Mr. Murphy & Brad, thanks for taking on this season with us.  You led us so well, and we are so grateful that you are here.

Colin, my little, thanks for being the only other person in the band who takes the SOG Sibling program seriously.  But more than that, thanks for being my friend.  College wouldn’t be the same without you at all.

Piccoloves, past and present, wow.  Y’all are my section, my people, you let me be me, and that means more than I could ever put into words.  To the alums & past piccs – Caitlyn, Emma, Emma, Lucas, Paige, Tricia, Bobby, Catey, Neevi, Zoe and Rachel – thank you for being so sweet to me when I was a tiny freshman, and for being terrific leaders for our section.  Ryn, Bethanie and Barbara – your friendships have been so dear to me every year.  I’ve loved having three whole years to get to know you.  Ethan, Kirsten and Jerico – y’all are so FUN.  You make me laugh and you have stayed positive through two of the craziest years possible, which makes you absolute rock stars.  Erin, Maia, Raven, Braelyn, James, Jessica Jr. and Katie – I could not have asked for a better group to spend senior year with.  You all have some of the brightest personalities I’ve ever come across, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for each and every one of you.  Every single year, I’ve thought that we’ve had the best group of freshmen in our section, and you’ve all been such a joy to grow alongside.  Y’all blow my mind with your community and camaraderie.  Never change.

And of course . . . Jessica, my best friend since day one of band camp freshman year, thank you for being my person.  Thanks for reading my mind and having the same brain as me.  Thank you for being there for every twist and turn in these four years, and letting me come alongside you for all of your ups and downs, too.  The heart you have for the world around you and your determination no matter the circumstance inspire me to no end.  This journey absolutely would not have been the same without you.

Spirit of Gold, I will always love the band.

Let me tell you about glitter in the classroom.

An ill-defined question, my friend Zoe said during our discussion in class today, is important because it doesn’t give the students a box to think in.  It’s like glitter in the classroom.

Have you ever heard a metaphor that just stuck tight to your heart?  This one gave words to a phenomenon that I’d never known had a voice.

Another metaphor that flitted through my thoughts this week: I pull my computer’s charging cord out of my backpack and look at the tangled mess with a sigh of resignation.  I wonder why so many things in my world – thoughts, events, people, places – twist themselves into tangles, forcing me to pick apart knots of worry I’ve woven.

What if the messy, tangled parts of life are like glitter in the classroom?

They’re hard to unravel, and you create more chaos than you control.  Glitter gets everywhere, on everything.  But it also creates the most beautiful kind of mess that you can’t even be mad you made.

My professor has an elementary-aged child, and he shook his head in dismay at her statement.  He knew exactly what it looked like when there was glitter in the classroom, because his student tracked it home.

I always feel like my mess is following me around, waiting to trip me up.  But maybe my mess is actually a glittery cloud that comes with me, so I don’t forget what it is I’ve learned and where it is I’m going.  It sticks to the soles of my shoes and the creases of my coat and it reminds me to look for light in the lonely, shimmer in stress, and beauty in the broken.

Glitter in the classroom means possibility.  It may make a mess, but true to Zoe’s point, we’d rather give our students the freedom of failure than box in their braveness and close the door to their curiosity.

And I’d rather give myself that same permission: to run headfirst into fear, to let creativity take over from control, to see my mess as an opportunity to step deeper into grace.  To see other people’s mess that way, too.

To be generous with glitter.