courage on display.

a few years ago i found myself at a conference in ireland with a few hundred other crazy people.  i’d just gotten home from that time i traveled the world and i didn’t have a clue what i was doing with my life.  i remember being in that room; confused, angry, heartbroken and overwhelmed all at once.  transition was happening so fast around me i felt like i was spinning.  one morning during worship the lord prompted someone to do some declarations.  one declaration in particular.  “i am a woman of courage,”  i stood on a chair and screamed.  over and over and over everyone in the room chanted.  courage.  courage.  courage.

i was laying in bed tonight thinking of that moment.  i was thinking about how i am certain i became more courageous in that space.  as i was reflecting i decided i don’t think it came from some big announcement to the world.  courage took hold inside of me because of the small act of standing on the chair and opening my mouth.  it’s in the day to day things.  it’s in the moments when we quietly choose.

lately, i’ve seen courage on display.

courage

but it hasn’t looked like giant gestures and loud proclamations.  nope.

it’s looked like telling roommates they are settling in that relationship.

it’s looked like the middle of the night text messages that say “i messed up.  again.”

it’s looked like circling yes on the survey and admitting for the first time “that happened to me.”

it’s looked like speaking up in a meeting and stepping out of your comfort zone.

it’s looked like accountability and repentance and the receiving of grace.

it’s been saying yes to that date and no to that ice cream.

it’s looked an awful lot like emails that just say “help.”

it’s looked like break ups and changing majors.

it’s certainly looked like hard conversations scattered with tears and laughs and sighs.

lately, courage on display has mostly looked like a new bunch of crazies.  a slew of incredible, beautiful, wide-eyed college women.

how blessed i am by them.

home again.

homei left friday morning to make the two hour trip to atlanta.  there wasn’t much on the agenda.  i just wanted to be with my people.  oh, how i have missed my people.  i pulled up to the familiar house on branch bend road.  i’ve worshipped, cried, slept, laughed, dined and celebrated in that place.  it’s familiar.  greeted by hugs and how are yous i sunk into the couch.  patti made me a sandwich and mike insisted on checking the oil in my car.

exhale.

it felt good to be home.

 

 

i invited myself into a previously planned dinner.  we squished seven people around a table and enjoyed a meal.  we reminisced on what has been, speculated on what’s to come.  decided to be thankful for what is now.

exhale.

it felt good to be home.

“brunch in the morning?”  yes.  i sat across from one of my dearest friends for nearly two hours.  conversation came easy – there was no getting to the real stuff because it’s just there.  laughing about the imperfections that surround us and exist within us, sharing about work and our lack of social lives.  brunch turned into a few more hours of snacking on popcorn and continued chatting.  it was just what i needed.

exhale.

it felt good to be home.

birthday celebrations with favorites and ones who happened to be around.  walks in the park with hundreds of lantern holding friends.  a perfect summer night.  a breakfast of cinnamon rolls on that all too familiar red couch.  laughing and crying.  the crying comes on that couch one way or another.  a slow morning of goodness.  lunch with the birthday girl.  a quick trip to see a new home.  the place they’ve been waiting for.  one more time, helping to unpack a box – at this point, we’re all pros.  we sat in the garage for two hours because i couldn’t make myself leave.  hugs and see you soons and holding back the tears.

exhale.

it felt really, really good to be home. 

as you come home. (a letter to my favorite squad).

dear brian, katie, elliot, ryan, jayda, kristen, nikki, kevin, stefan, andrew, abby, riely, andrea, kaci, karson, laura, arielle, kaitlyn, krista, cherub grace, carly, kacey, and sami :

tomorrow you’re boarding a plane and you’re coming home.  you’re coming back to all of the things you left behind.  you’re trading in your backpacks for full closets and you’re broken mattress pads for queen sized beds with fresh sheets.  you’ll hand in your less than stellar diets of mostly rice and beans for an equally less than stellar diet but now it will consist of whatever you want.  don’t try to make up for all of the chick fil a you missed your first week home.  just don’t.

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you’re returning to see all of the friends and family you left behind nine months ago.  you’ve missed holidays, birthdays, graduations, babies being born.  you’ve had days where you wanted nothing more than to be on your own couch, eating your mama’s home cooking and clicking through the channels with your closest friends.  and you’ve had days where you forgot you were sleeping on the floor with people you barely knew.  because somehow, it all starts to feel like home.

right now, you’re caught smack dab in the bittersweet.  i get it.  really, i do.

as you come home and you transition into whatever the next season is, let me offer you a few things :

you’re not the same people you were.  you’re not boys and girls wandering around the world.  you are sure footed men and women who have unveiled a bit more of their identity.  don’t forget that.  and walk confidently in who you’ve been made to be.  but keep in mind that everyone has been watching as closely as possible, which is still from a distance when you’re on opposite sides of the world.  have some patience with your friends and family and don’t become arrogant because “they just don’t get it.”  give away the same kind of grace that people have given you.

generally speaking, people here practice pretty good hygiene.  please jump back on that wagon.  the showers are hot now, so there is really no excuse.

focus on what you’re thankful for.  as you process the last nine months; the places you have been and the people you have encountered you’ll realize that not every bit of it was a bed of roses.  that’s okay.  that’s life.  don’t dwell on all of the things you wish had been different.  don’t wonder about the what might have beens.  take your entire experience and be grateful.  while you’re at it, stand on some chairs and shout about what you’re thankful for.  we’ve all learned that it makes all the difference.

get some sleep.  seriously. you’re tired.  take a nap.  or two.

remember that you are not alone.  jesus is with you and all of that. yes.  but you are each surrounded by friends and families that love you and have missed you like crazy.  and now, as cheesy as it sounds, you’ve got a whole slew of new friends and family that also aren’t going anywhere.  you’re not abandoned or forgotten.  you are loved.

okay, i’m out of wisdom.  at least for today.

i love each of you deeply.  i am beyond proud of you for how you have served the nations and each other so well.
you have two days left.  don’t get into any trouble now, kapeesh?

unanswered prayers.

at the risk of sounding cheesy and cliche and potentially making someone gag at my christianese :

have you heard that country song about unanswered prayers?  i couldn’t tell you who sings it, but the line has been on repeat in my head for several days now.  “some of god’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

last year around this time i started looking for a new job.  i felt like i needed to begin exploring options outside of aim, outside of what had become really normal and comfortable.  i looked and looked and prayed and cried and looked.  and finally i found it.  it was the perfect job at what seemed like the perfect school.  it was far enough away that i would be on my own, but not across the country from my community and my people.  it was the ultimate blend of discipleship and administration. it was flexible.  it paid well.  it would offer me a chance to continue my education.  it was exactly right.  and i wanted it.  i really, really, really wanted it.  more than wanting it; i was absolutely, positively convinced that it’s what the Lord had for me.  every door opened up.  and i knew that in august i would be starting a new job in a new place.  and i was thrilled.

and then the door slammed right in my face.  

and i didn’t get the job i had dreamed about, hoped for and begged for.  i was upset, confused and spinning.  i had no idea what i was going to do.  and then i showed up to training camp.  and you all pretty much know what happened there.  the lord said that if i wanted a gift, i could have it. so i said yes.  mostly because i really wanted it.  partially because i didn’t have a better option.

i can promise you that the last three and half months have been one of the best gifts the lord has ever given to me.

it’s been an emotional and exhausting few days as i’ve wrapped up and said goodbye to my squad.  i’ve handed things over and worked really hard to not enter this transition kicking and screaming.  i’ve been sitting alone in the beijing airport for the last twelve hours and as weird as it is to be boarding a plane again, my heart and my spirit are really at peace.  if i’m overwhelmed by emotion it’s just because i am so very thankful for what this season has been.

thankfuli’m thankful for the ways i’ve come alive.  for the passions the lord has reignited in me.  i’m thankful for the way my kids have opened themselves up and let me be a part of their own processes and journeys.  i’m thankful for the fun i had on busses and beaches and malls.  i’m thankful for honduran street kids that reminded me that kingdom living doesn’t have to be complicated.  i’m thankful that i got to be a part of walking people through freedom…even if it was in the middle of the night.  i’m thankful for conversations and tears that came in my tent, for every coffee date i had and for furniture to stand on when i taught 23 timid people how to do declarations.  i’m thankful that they aren’t so timid anymore.

i’m thankful for people at home who love me and support me.  for instagram likes and blog comments and emails and facetimes and text messages.  i’m thankful for the ways he showed up when i needed him most.  i’m thankful for a new season of rest and celebration and provision.  i’m thankful that i’m more settled in who i am today than i was yesterday. or two weeks ago.  or six months ago.  and i’m thankful that as good as this was – it’s not the best thing or the only thing he’s ever going to give me.

i’m just.  yes.  thankful.  that he works all things together for the good of those who love him. and that despite my begging and hoping and praying – he had something good in store for me, even in the midst of my disappointment and confusion.

and at the moment, i am most thankful that even though i’m not there anymore, i get to cheer and pray and encourage and remind and blog stalk and visit the 23 kids i fell in love with. that now i just get to sit back and watch what they do and what the lord does.  it’s been a privilege to be a part of it.

she taught me how to run.

i’ve been in a reflective mood lately.  it’s probably all of the nostalgia of training camps and the whole ‘being home one year’ thing.  maybe it has something to do with the places the lord has been taking me in my own heart lately.  anyways.  i’ve just been thinking a lot.  thinking about how things have happened in my life, the people that have been around, what god has done.

last week i got to see some dear friends in atlanta, which got me reflecting on these friends and what they’ve meant in my life.
i met coach lacy when i was twelve years old.  i walked into kennedy middle school the “new girl.”  i was scared, shy and all kinds of awkward.  over the next few years i had a few classes with her.  she taught my aerobics class, my multi-media classes and coached volleyball.  volleyball was definitely not for me.  but i think maybe my knack for media started in her class.  i remember how in our aerobics class we’d take friday’s off to have “girl talk.”  we could write down secret questions and she’d answer them.  she shared parts of her life with a room-ful of girls in hopes that we might learn something about  ourselves and about life.  apparently i did. she was the teacher everyone wanted to have and the kind of person everyone wanted to be.

 i always admired her.
eventually i hit the milestone of eighth-grade graduation and moved up to high school. she coached track there, so it was then that our relationship really began to blossom.  i started babysitting for her girls; kelsey was just six or seven and bailey was still in a crib.  at first i’d just spend a friday or saturday night hanging out with the girls, watching bring it on and having killer dance parties.  somehow, though, as time went on i found myself with them more and more.  by my sophomore year i was spending afternoons and evenings in the lacy home multiple times a week.  i ate dinner with them and attended family functions.  i found myself immersed into their lives and into their family.
looking back, i can recognize that i was so drawn to them because it was the only place i really felt safe.  in so many ways it was the only refuge i had from the mess at home and my chaotic, dramatic, ever-changing teenage life.

coach lacy taught me how to run. she always challenged me to do better and to be better.  running away was never an option.  making excuses was never an option.  at an early age, out of necessity, she taught me to run straight into whatever life was throwing at me and to make a decision on what i was going to do with it.  she expected great things from me.  but she was always proud of me.  and she never hesitated to express it.  i remember the first time i ran a sub-six mile.  she ran back and forth my whole race, spurring me on.  when i crossed the finish line she was there, crying with arms open.  she saw good in me when i was blind to it.  she loved me well.
she threw me a surprise birthday party when i turned sixteen.  she braided my hair for track meets and sat with me on bus rides.  she often cooked me my favorite meal [grilled salmon and cheesy green beans for anyone out there wanting to get on my good side].  she hugged me. she got me out of class to have mid-day snack breaks.  she stayed up late with me and taught me about life as we ate nachos and watched golden girls.  we ate ice cream for dinner and went to tcby almost every week for waffle cone wednesday.  she drove across town to pick me up when i called in the middle of the night and she was there when i felt like my life was literally crumbling around me.
when i moved across the state at the beginning of my junior year she kept in touch. the emails and the phone calls still came.  she never forgot about me.  she drove through a snow-storm to watch me be on homecoming court my senior year.  and she drove back to watch me graduate.

she has been every example of friendship, sacrifice, and hospitality that i could ever hope to display.  as the years pass by, coach lacy and her family will continue have a special place in my heart.  we’ve laughed too many laughs and cried too many tears for it to ever go away.  i have always loved and appreciated the role she’s played in my life.  it was never something i took for granted.  but in the past week or so i have just been so overwhelmed by what her presence in my life really meant.  i absolutely believe i am who i am today in large part because she took a chance on me.

she loved me and took care of me when no one else would [or could].  she helped me move, in some ways, from being a kid stuck in sucky circumstances into being a capable woman, the world at my fingertips.