Get out of the boat – let me tell you.

John 21 is about another time that Peter jumped into the water, this time not in the middle of a storm, but in the middle of an unknown, which is almost scarier sometimes.  I do really well with planning ahead.  It freaks me out on a semiregular basis right now that my planner is a clean slate past June.  The latest date that’s set in stone in my life is my 22nd birthday.  After that, who knows? And that’s a little scary.

When Peter jumps into the lake, all he knows is that it’s Jesus on the shore.  Not how Jesus got there or why.  Peter doesn’t stop to ask questions – he just jumps in and starts swimming.  This is the same guy who started to sink in the middle of the storm, with Jesus strolling right towards him on the waves.  You can almost HEAR John rolling his eyes as he writes “For they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.” That Peter!

There are a lot of thoughts I have about this passage and the ways in which Jesus meets the disciples, and us, right where we’re all at.  But I keep coming back to Peter.  I like that the first time Peter encounters Jesus, Jesus renames him from Simon to “Rock.”  Actually, before he even renames him, Jesus first names him.  “You are Simon, son of John.”  He identifies the name he’s known by, and who his family is: two of the primary things that defined an individual in Jewish society, and in our world today.  Jesus always tells us who we are first.  Sometimes that’s hard to hear, because the names the world call us come with expectations and labels and responsibilities to live up to.  Sometimes the names the world identify us by bring out the sin and stresses, the fears and failures that sting and smart in old wounds.  In this case, it was just Peter’s name and his dad, but we don’t know what that brought to mind for him.  Jesus wants us to know who we are and where we started before He tells us who and how He’s making us to be, which is why he proceeds to name Simon, “Rock” with little explanation as to why.

I like the care with which John traces Peter’s transformation from Simon to Rock throughout his gospel.  It’s never the focus, but it’s consistent, a little side narrative.  It’s even the note John’s gospel ends on in chapter 21.  I appreciate that because I think John knew a lot of us would see ourselves in Peter.  When I was little, if my family could have renamed me, I’m pretty confident it would have been “bossy.”  Somehow as I grew up that lent itself to skills like teaching and babysitting and having sixteen cousins, and I slowly but surely learned to temper that spirit when it came to what came out of my mouth.  I grew to see these traits as “independent,” but if I were to identify those same traits for you today, I would call myself stubborn.

I’m a huge fan of discussion and disagreement and debate when it comes to the issues of life we differ on, so long as it’s positive.  And you can probably sway my opinion of anyone or anything with enough time and a solid argument.  But my interpretation of truth and my expectations for myself are two things you will not touch.

One of these is positive.  I took a survey last semester that told me one of my top spiritual gifts was wisdom.  I don’t really understand spiritual gifts yet so in the humblest of ways – because what I do understand is that it’s much more a gift to me from God and not something I intend on showering on the world without solicitation – I think that’s true.  I think that God makes certain pieces of truth very clear to me at particular times and other times He brings me back to the Word and the counsel of others.  But either way, I am very stubborn in keeping my interpretations of truth and my conversations with the Lord my own, because I believe that is absolutely what defines the relationship between Him and me as a relationship – something living and active – instead of a code or a creed that I follow.  Because life in Christ is a bit of both, but one is more important than the other.  The relationship is the context in which the rest unfolds.

Every now and then, or maybe every other day, I forget that while my interpretations of truth are my own and God’s, they are only His to orderI love control, friends.  Like a lot.  We’ve already discussed this with the planner issue.  The point is, I become very stubborn in my own head when I encounter some truths, or maybe most of them, that it is my responsibility to live up to them.  Wisdom falls somewhere to the wayside in these moments, I’m afraid, and I take it upon myself to paint truth across my skies.  The nice way to say this is that I am solutions-oriented; the honest way to say this is that I’m stubborn.

Let’s take teaching for example.  Some things about student teaching are just true.  There’s an established order for the classrooms I find myself in and there are certain requirements and expectations I’m obligated to meet.  There’s nothing wrong with these statements.  It’s when I start taking them as an ultimatum that I create a twisted truth and live by it.  And then I do the same thing in my relationships, and in my faith.  What’s more, these ultimatums start to cost something that’s worth more than the expectation, and I willingly sacrifice it.  I give up being genuine for the sake of appearing strong.  I give up who I am for a version of what’s expected of me.  Eventually, I give up what I need for the sake of what I should be.  A part of me knows that there is more to that truth than what I’m letting myself believe, but figuring it out feels hard and finishing the job feels easier.

The only way to not do this is to stop trying to paint my own skies with truth and start looking for the truth He’s already painted.  The only way to not do this is to weigh truth in my heart and not my head.  The only way to not do this is to speak the word “grace” over myself until I start to see it all around me.  Because when I feel like a failure from all the weighty expectations and obligations I’ve willingly tied myself to, it comes from this: I want so badly to believe truth that I being to work for it.

In this way I see a lot of myself in Peter, or maybe a lot of Peter in me.  He doesn’t crop up again by name in the book of John until 6:68, when he is the first disciple to call Jesus who He is.  The Holy One of God with the words of eternal life.  That’s truth.  That’s reaching out and claiming it, calling it true and speaking it out loud before God and others.

But goodness, is God funny!  We keep reading along and lo and behold, at the last supper, what does Peter do?  He pitches a fit when Jesus goes to wash his feet.  Yep, he’s up on this Holy One of God thing alright – that must be why he thinks he knows better than Jesus what’s good for him.  (Is the sarcasm coming through here?  *taps mic* Is this thing on?)  I can hear him now because I’ve thought it myself before.  He watches Jesus wash the feet of a few of the disciples, and thinks “No way. I can do this one on my own.  Jesus is going to be so proud of how dedicated I am to Him, that I won’t even let Him near this mess of mine.”  It’s literally contradictory as I write it, and still I have said it before.

To his surprise as well as mine, Jesus tells him, straightforward but not unkind: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  Translation: unless you are steeped in grace, the work you work so hard to do is not mine for you, because I am not in it with you.  The more you try to take care of your mess on your own, the more messy you will feel, apart from me.

Peter’s response is wholehearted, and mine is, too.  “Wash my hands and my head as well!” Fix it all at once, Lord!  Make me whole.  Quicken the process.  My cry is always focused on the immediate solution, never the ways the process solves the problem in a far deeper way.

Jesus’ response is a little weird, but reassuring.  Just your feet, he says, you’ve already had a bath.

Then why do I still feel like a wreck, smudged and spotted, head to toe?  I can feel Jesus want to laugh and console me at the same time, moved by my magnificent misunderstanding.  Remember Peter’s earlier recognition of truth, when he calls Jesus the Holy One of God?  You know the truth, Christ responds, and I have named you as my own, and you are clean.  But this is still a road we’re walking, you and I, and you have to learn to let me wash your feet.  You must be firmly steeped in grace for you to see yourself the way I have made you.  And that looks like letting Jesus in, in the most simple, mundane, and grimy of ways.  Like my roughed-up, ragged feet that have wandered down all the wrong paths.

The storms and the simple: it’s where he finds us best, or maybe where we find Him.  But what’s the why?

“Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.”

In John 13:31-38, Jesus predicts Peter’s denial.  But before that, he clarifies something for the good of the group.  All of this, this pain, this suffering – it’s for God to be glorified.

All for the glory of God.  We get to be vehicles of God’s glory, even when we’re more stubborn than the dumbest rock, like I am some days (most days?).  We get to be where the world sees Him act.  Steeped in grace.  Stepping out in storms.  That’s what gets me out of the boat, following Jesus to the shore.

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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!!! 

 

 

New Creations – let me tell you about identity.

Happy Friday, friends!  I’ve talked about and around the concept of identity quite a bit in past posts, but today I want to invite you into my story of searching to secure my identity in all the wrong places, and how rooting my identity in my faith has changed that for good.  This summer, I met sweet Lexi through Instagram and as we started swapping pieces of our stories, we couldn’t help but notice that God has been making identity a tremendous theme in both of our lives recently.  From there, we decided to collaborate on our content and came up with the questions you’ll find below together.  We’ve decided to call this project “New Creations” in reference to 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  In Christ, the most important thing about our identity and the way we see ourselves in the world is new – we are transformed in Him, and we don’t have to hold onto the heaviness of the past any longer.

Read on to find out more about this freedom and its impact in my life – but first, please hop over to Lexi’s beautiful blog and check out her post!  I can guarantee that you’ll find more powerful truth about who and whose we are in her words.  The beautiful thing about the blogging world is the opportunity to step out in faith and be vulnerable with someone who shares your passions and interests, even if they live far away. I’m so excited to be partnering with this friend and her Rubies ministry to dive into this truth with you today!

What’s a significant experience that shaped your perception of identity?

Two years ago, I ended a relationship with my boyfriend of three years because we didn’t share the same faith.  When I came to college, my faith was a big part of my world, but not at all a part of my everyday life.  Through the transitions college brought first semester, and the ministry I joined, I learned more about what it looked like to let God into those spaces, and He began to work in my life in a completely new way.  Our God is not a god who distances himself from our messy or mundane moments – instead, that’s where He loves to share His truth and grace the most.  And when the person you’re closest to doesn’t understand or perceive life in that same way, it’s impossible to continue walking the same direction with them.  That was a decision I came to with a lot of prayer and strong encouragement from the Spirit, but it didn’t make it any easier.  It was hard to understand why something so good had to end – or if it was going to end, why it had happened in the first place.  Yet once we broke up, I realized how often I defined myself as “the girlfriend” in my mind – and that drew my attention to all of the other roles in life I use to define identity.  These are all roles that require me to do or be something – to keep trying, to meet expectations, and to please others.  Some of them – daughter, friend – are no less important, but they cannot be the pieces that define my view of myself – and that gave me my answer as to why.  God has been calling me to place my identity fully in Him, and learn what that looks like as I go.

How do you define your identity in Christ?

Free.  It is the freedom to be, not do, and it is the grace to let myself step into who He is making me to be right in this moment.  It’s a curious combination of salvation and the Spirit, constantly transforming me into something greater than what I could ever achieve on my own, while leading me to remove the responsibility and role-playing from my shoulders and step into a place of trust, dependence, and grace.  And as those things not only fill me up, but they overflow, and I am able to step into the calling God’s laid on my life to pour them out onto others.

What scripture guides your identity and how do you live that out?

Ephesians 1 is my favorite passage when it comes to identity.  It speaks of us as believers as being blessed, chosen, holy, blameless in His sight, predestined, loved, adopted, sons & daughters, redeemed, and forgiven.  What beautiful words to sum up what God sees when He looks at us – and that’s without us having to strive or stretch ourselves to meet any expectations or fulfill any obligations.  That’s just because of who and whose we are!  Living out scripture is always a challenge, but I find that preaching these verses over myself in a specific moment – taking my failure and, instead of holding it over my head or giving myself a hard time, reminding myself that God calls me blameless, forgiven, and redeemed, and even when I mess up, He calls me daughter.  That’s another of my favorite verses – 1 Peter 3:4 speaks directly to women about rooting their identity in the things that matter, saying “But your beauty should come from within you – the beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that can never be destroyed and is very precious to God.”  This verse reassures my soul in so many ways on my worst days.  My beauty is more than my appearance.  A gentle and quiet spirit can be a beautiful thing, but it has a certain strength to it – it can never be destroyed.  And why all this?  Because my spirit is very precious to God.  What stunning truth to meditate on – and what a powerful way to define my identity.

How has God reminded you of the freedom you have when your identity is in Christ?  How does He continue to do that today?

God has put incredible people in my life to speak words of truth over me, and to encourage me to pursue Him ever greater to receive that life right from the source as well.  Through the encouragement of my friends and family, God has reminded me who He is making me to be and continued to call me into the freedom of that promise in new ways.  One thing I am continuing to wrestle with today is giving up control for the sake of freedom.  When I take it upon myself to wrestle the many facets of my life under control, it feeds a false sense of pride in my accomplishments that will eventually devastate me when failure, brokenness, and struggle inevitably comes into the picture.  Yet it’s SO tempting to get sucked into this pattern of thinking that assumes power, implies responsibility, and views my identity through a lens of self-sufficiency.  Thank goodness that God works through the little things, like a word from a friend or a bright sunny day, to simply remind me of His presence.  Sitting still in God’s presence reminds me that my carefully controlled plan is no match for the plan the Orchestrator of all of creation has for my life, and that is where freedom is found.

What is an everyday struggle for you concerning your identity and how do you combat that on a daily basis?

I am so hard on myself!  I constantly want to reshape my identity to become a “better” version of the me I was yesterday, and I have a tough time leaving the mistakes and missteps of the past behind me where they belong.  Sometimes that looks like putting extra effort into my appearance in an attempt to look put together to the rest of the world, sometimes it means working harder on an assignment ahead of time to save myself stress at the last minute (or try to).  But it’s a vicious cycle – when my perfectly straightened hair curls in the Tennessee humidity, or I get behind on other work in a desperate effort to stay on top of responsibilities for something else – I beat myself up even more, and I hold myself to an even higher standard. This is NOT the way of life that God has for us though, sweet friends!  The only way I can combat this on a daily basis is by taking off my mask of independence, capability, and confidence – one that feels good at first, but quickly lets me down and burns me out – and allow myself to be full by simply knowing that I am a daughter of God, and every day, regardless of what happened yesterday, that makes me a new creation.

If you haven’t already done so, please hop over to Rubies and check out Lexi’s post answering these very same questions!  I just can’t wait for you to read it!

newcreations

 

 

Put it in park – let me tell you (Day 21: Park)

Call me crazy, but driving is one of my favorite ways to relax.  When the weight of the world starts to close in on my head and my heart, I get in my car, find some back winding roads, and turn up the dial with my favorite Taylor Swift album in the stereo.  All of my responsibilities, roles, and records – I hit the gas, and I leave them far behind.  Give me some sunshine and take away the traffic – I’m the happiest you’ve ever seen me.

Sometimes, though, I can’t drive away.  My health has demanded I get some extra rest lately, even thought staying in and sitting still don’t usually feel restful to me.  God’s got a sense of humor – He consistently surprises me, nudging me to press into the uncomfortable to find Him.  This week, I took a step back.  I rested.  I gave up some pieces of my time that I’d been holding myself accountable to for too long.  God has been saying to me ever since: you don’t have to drive, or dare, or do to find Me.  Sometimes, you just have to put it in park.

This month, I’m challenging myself to participate in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes – composing a post in five minutes flat based on the one-word prompts the lovely Christina at Creative & Free has designed.  While I won’t be posting every day, I hope this will motivate me to share small snapshots of my walk and wanderings more often in this space.  To see all of my posts from this series, click here.

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Let me tell you about the ten minutes before class begins. (Day 19: Notice) 

The sun is shooting rays over the roof of the library at just the right angle to trickle through the yellowing leaves and sink into the bare skin of my legs, stretched out in front of me on a creaky wooden bench.

The heat soaks into my bones and stays there as a cloud blows across the sky and a wall of shade falls across the esplanade. I flick my thumb back and forth across the top of the page, smoothing the creased corner in and out of place.

Time seems to drip by at a delightfully slow, sticky pace, and I soak in every second, because nothing will ever be the same as this one, and I would hate to be so swept away by the busy not to notice.

This month, I’m challenging myself to participate in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes – composing a post in five minutes flat based on the one-word prompts the lovely Christina at Creative & Free has designed.  While I won’t be posting every day, I hope this will motivate me to share small snapshots of my walk and wanderings more often in this space.  To see all of my posts from this series, click here.

Little by little: let me tell you. (Day 16: Little)

Though the long path is uncertain, You are so faithful to shed just enough light for me to see the very next step.   I now understand that this isn’t You being mysterious.  This is a great demonstration of Your mercy.

Too much revelation and I’d pridefully run ahead of You. Too little and I’d be paralyzed with fear.

So, I’m seeking slivers of light in Your Truth just for today and filling in the gaps of my unknown with trust.

Lysa TerKeurst, “Uninvited”

Keep your eyes on Jesus, and you will do everything right.

It’s simple, but it’s not easy.

I’m the kind of person who needs a plan simply to get out of bed in the morning.  Outfit laid out, bag packed, to-do list on the table.  As much as I want to step into the truth of this statement – and as simple as it sounds – the how is hard to find.

I want to generate a step-by-step, systematic plan of attack for my right now from these words, but I know myself too well.  Before I know it, I’ll make “eyes on Jesus” a series of boxes to be checked: read my Bible, listened to a podcast, prayed while I walked to class.

That’s why this quote from Lysa TerKeurst’s new book lodged deep and heavy in my heart when I read it this weekend, borrowed in bed on a mountain of pillows with pneumonia. Sometimes the Spirit speaks a phrase into my life that lingers for awhile, even if I may not know why at first.  One day at a time were the words I heard on my drive down to fall semester, and I think I finally understand that the why behind these words is the how in the hard task of keeping my eyes on Jesus in the right now.

Because in the right now, the direction I am walking is draped in darkness, but I see Jesus up ahead, burning up the blackness so I see just enough to stay in step, free from my fear and fueled by His fire.  It’s no longer a mystery: it’s mercy.  It’s not easy: but it’s simple.

Little by little, He is lighting up the unknown.

This month, I’m challenging myself to participate in 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes – composing a post in five minutes flat based on the one-word prompts the lovely Christina at Creative & Free has designed.  While I won’t be posting every day, I hope this will motivate me to share small snapshots of my walk and wanderings more often in this space.  To see all of my posts from this series, click here.