What did you do to me?

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“What did you do to me?”

It’s the question I’ve found myself asking for months. I didn’t have the words to ask it out loud. I didn’t have the words. 

That doesn’t happen to me. I am a writer. I always have words. They may not be the right ones, but I’ve got some offering of nouns and verbs always at hand. But not lately. Not over the past six months.

What did you do to me? 

I wanted to ask it to anyone. The barista who made my coffee. Did he add an extra pump of hazelnut to my latte? Is that what threw everything off? My friends. Did we have some sort of rift I wasn’t aware of? Was my soul picking up on tension which bled to all the parts of me? The clerk at my grocery store certainly didn’t have the answer, but I would have loved to ask anyway.

I was desperate.

I asked God. He met me with grace but not any answers. Which was probably gracious of Him at the time.

Eight months ago life was good. Not perfect, but good. I was launching a business and in talks with an agent about a book. Dreams and goals spewed out any time I opened my mouth and my fingers couldn’t type fast enough to catch up with all that was going through my brain. I had a plan and clarity. I was going somewhere. I was getting ready to say something.

September rolled in and with it came the panic attacks. Out of the blue and unwelcome. Two weeks later, a doctor told me that he suspected a heart defect. For five months I talked to cardiologists in four different cities trying to piece together the diagnosis of this apparently broken heart. January came with a clean bill of health, but that brought no relief.

My laptop would open about once a month and I’d sit for hours. Trying to slice together thoughts and words. But really? There wasn’t anything to say. There were no words. No thoughts. Only sudden sensations of panic and dread.

The undeniable sense that something was wrong.

I’d watched friends walk through depression, but this wasn’t depression. I’m sure in the coming months I will begin to unpack further all the things that rolled through my mind. For now though, just know it was hard.

What did you do to me? 

God, what is happening? Where did I go and who came in to take my place? Who is this frantic person that can’t stop with all the wrong thoughts?

I started meeting with a therapist and my physician. Turns out my life has had significant layers of stress these past four years. My family, friends and God were solid. Everything else was huge question marks. I have been unable to plan beyond three months in advance because every variable in my life was constantly up in the air.

The past four years we have lived in three states. Our adoption has shifted for five years and we have been waiting for that “life changing” phone call. It still hasn’t come. I’m still not able to plan much more than three months ahead.

Add some health scares into my inability to live beyond short-term plans, and my body made its home in the flight-or-fight mindset. Living there for so long created a form of addiction to that level of anxiety. And that is what happened to me.

Anxiety. It had become like a drug of sorts that my body craved. It took over. I had literally lost my ability to live outside of flight-or-fight mode.

Yesterday I had a phrase rolling through my head : This isn’t your story. It is just a chapter.

And today – at 4:45 am – I woke up with words stringing themselves together and arranging themselves into ideas. For the first time in over six months, I felt compelled to write. I finally had something to say.

You come here, to my corner of the web, because you are a dreamer. An idealist. The kind of person who knows in your gut that you were made to be a part of something great.

So, dreamer.  Know this. Your story will have really hard chapters. You will feel jumbled. That breakup may send you spinning. Being passed over for the job will make you question if you really have it in you. And sometimes things will creep up inside of you that begin to choke out the very things you love most about yourself.

You will look around asking God, yourself and everyone, “What did you do to me?”

But it is just a chapter. It’s not your story. And we are gonna get through it all you and I. ‘Cause we will hold on to the faith that made us want to step out of the boat in the first place. And we will extend to ourselves a rich grace in our most frustrating moments.

Don’t lose heart when you catch a glimpse of yourself on the ugly days. And when those days turn into months? Don’t walk away. Stay. Fight the urge to run away from all the things you carry in you. Stay. Wait for the storm to pass. You are in good company here. We are all blends of dreams and reality.

This is me looking you in the eyes and saying, “Me too”. I am a jumble of imagination, ideas, hope, fear and failure. And we will get there. Grace has got us.


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The Beautiful Breakdown

Sometimes the healthiest thing we can do is to let ourselves break…

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If I’ve learned anything over the past few years it is this: the beauty and the ugly come together. One tangled knot and try as you might – you can’t deny the presence of either. So often we wait to live the lives we want until we have it together. Until our embarrassing weaknesses are controlled and easily kept away from the view of our life’s company.

Last year I found myself sitting on a mountainside deep in the upcountry of Burundi, Africa. The dirt was bright red and the smiles of those around me a bold white against their beautiful dark skin. We sat waiting until we could hear them coming in the distance. The villagers and I. Waiting for the faint pounding we felt coming up the mountain.

It grew louder and ever closer until the men broke through the bushes into the open space before us. Twenty or so men carrying barrel sized drums on their heads. The mountain pulsated with the rhythm of their drums as we watched. The beat was inescapable. As if I was wrapped up in it’s echo that surged through the hills below. It was all I could feel and think about. The deep thudding almost seemed as if it was coming from inside me. In that moment there was no getting away from the beat. Everything I felt and thought was permeated by the dominant pounding.

And I find myself craving the simplicity of that moment again and again. No matter what thoughts tried to creep up it was impossible to think them through the drums. Their pounding was the boss. I long for that overwhelming beat because so often I feel the music at war within myself.

A gracious tune of inspiration and wonder. The kind of music that accompanies majestic and playful things. And then the suspenseful melody rivaling it as fear’s soundtrack. And there is no beauty in this place.

Today I cried in the car on the way to write this. I was listening to Bethel’s new song “No Longer A Slave” and I could. not. contain. it.

The pain. The weariness. The shadows that make their ways into the sunniest of my days. Fear. It unhinges the deep peace I have been promised.

Lies have tricked us into believing that we cannot be great until we are whole.

But our offerings which are healing to others are often given from the midst of our own pain.

In the midst of our lack, we can offer a blessing. From our own brokeness we can offer strength to another. While we fight our own battles we can love with passion. The dreams and the fears – they are a messy lot. 

And you know what? I did a poll with my Baller Status crew and the thing they said held them back the most was fear. How do you move past it?

How do you walk through fear?

It is as simple as it is hard.

You just keep walking. On the days that make you freeze in your tracks. During the conversations that make the tears flow. Through the nights that grip you with their loneliness. You keep moving. Clawing your way along if you have to. Being dragged by the friends brave enough not to leave you behind. Even if it is only by an inch, you keep moving.

In the moments when the lies taunt you with the most dreaded of your thoughts. When the ugliest parts of you seem to tattoo themselves to you for all to see – keep walking.

Walk toward the mountain – toward the One whose beat can drown out all of your thoughts. That will overpower the negative emotions plaguing you. Tune your ear. Listen. Let yourself be wrapped up in it.

In Him there is no darkness at all. In Him there is no darkness at all. In Him there is no darkness at all.

How do you stop the war of melodies in your mind?

Introduce a new beat. A stronger beat.

Even if you are lost beyond all measure. Not even sure which way is up anymore. Lean in. His song will carry you up the mountain – up to the high ground – when your own feet can’t carry you.

Just move. On the hard days when you betray and battle yourself to believe the best. Have hope. Listen for the beat.

For all of us up on the mountain or deep in the scratchy and dry valley – my prayer is that His pulse becomes our pulse. Just like on the African mountain. He will carry us. And with Him, we can walk through the fear. We just have to keep leaning in.

I’ve had a hard week. An embarrassing and raw realization of my own desperate need for a Savior. So here I am saying to you, “Hey guys, I’m a little broken.” And you know what? I see you in your ugliest places and I value you right there.

You and me? We may have seasons that leave us bruised and battered. But we will make it through and live lives of neon hope to the world around us. How do I know? Because we’ve got a God who makes broken bones dance.

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Werewolves and Talking Drawers

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I received an email from a werewolf once.

At least she said she was a werewolf. Leanara was her name and her story rattled me in all the uncomfortable ways. As I scrolled through the message, the lines told of her dreams and her pain. Abusive father, a lost lover and the scars on her heart that remind her of the reality from which she comes.

Now I’m no werewolf and I’ve got my money on you not being a mythical creature either, but our own story lines run parallel to Leanara’s in a lot of ways. We’ve got dreams in our hearts. Things that keep us up at night and inspire colorful ideas that define our passions. Along the way though something went wrong.

Life happened. Our dreams met reality and they didn’t get along. In fact, they have grown into enemies.

A week ago I sat myself down at a coffee shop here in town. It was buzzing with conversations and people hammering out some work on their computers. My seat was at a worn old desk. Covered in scratches and no doubt saturated with a history of people who have occupied this seat before.

The best stories being told that day weren’t from friends gathered around the tables. The best words spoken were from voices in the drawer next to me. For years people have been leaving notes in this desk drawer. Notes filled with encouraging messages, funny sayings and their hopes for the future.

A pile began to form on the desk in front of me as I made my way through each piece of paper. This was one of the first ones I read and it struck a chord in me.

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I breathed it in because I needed it to sink deep. So often I feel the incomplete. I can see the gaps in my desire and my ability. Try as I might no bridge seems to work. It’s just what it is. Too short. I keep coming up too short.

I observe my incompleteness hurt people as I flounder to love others. Sometimes I am just downright selfish. Hoping to love deeply and yet I can’t seem to color inside the lines when it comes to relationships. They just get messy from time to time.

These words though. I’m good. Incomplete yes, but that’s okay. Because God isn’t done with me yet. He hasn’t given up or fallen short. I’m learning, growing and becoming. Every day. It’s baby steps sometimes. But even baby steps lead somewhere.

I thought of Leanara’s email. Her pain in seeing the brokeness around her and yet trying to believe for something better. And that’s where we all are. Werewolf or not.

I wish I could grab Leanara by the hand and bring her to this place. To this coffee shop and let her read the notes herself.  She may not be where she is going yet. She may be incomplete, but she is good. It’s okay to still be in the works. I wish we could sip coffee and talk about each note as we read them together.

I’d tell her I don’t really believe in werewolves, but I believe in her. 

Over the next few weeks I’ll share a few more notes from the drawer. But this is where we are starting. Here at the crossroads of reality and hope. So often these things are at war with each other. As of today, we are calling a cease-fire.

No more fighting and frustration between our lack and our dream. We are good. Incomplete but good. And that’s what we’ll stand on.

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Covered in war paint and breaking up with a bird

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It came on like an albatross. All Rime of the Ancient Mariner like.

Hanging heavy around my neck and pulling me down, down, down. Deep into the places I never wanted to go. Holding me further underneath the surface of what I feel like I can handle. It was a slow kind of sinking. The type that creeps up month after month. An inch at a time dragging me out to sea.

And we’ve all been there – or still are. Waking up from a dream to find that we are drifting somewhere in the deep. Unsure which way to the shore. Oh God, don’t let me die out here. Not like this. Not me and this curse that seems to hang around my neck. Don’t let the bird win.

Ahh, that bird. The anxiety, the worry, the insecurity, the broken-down relationships, all the reasons we have been told that we can not or should not. Fear masquerading as wisdom. All the excuses told in place of following destiny. Alfred Hitchcock was right. The birds are after us.

Today is my birthday. And I have decided I’m not inviting the albatross to the party.

In fact, I have hired my friends as bouncers to make sure he doesn’t try and come. Emailed some of them a few days ago and said, “Look. I’m not bringing this into 33 with me. “. I am breaking up with a bird. Never thought I’d utter those words, but I’m throwing the deuce and saying peace out. I hope I never see you again. In fact, I hope you rot in hell where you belong.

It’s a messy breakup if you can’t tell.

I’ve never been the best swimmer, but you better believe I am getting out of this ocean that seems to swallow me when I come up for air. This isn’t my home. I am made for extensive waters and brave things – but not like this. Not on these terms. I want to walk on the deep waters ,not be submerged in them. Jesus style.

So, me and you? We are spending this year on the shore. No more drowning.

This is my online birthday party where we celebrate a new beginning. I’m passing out glitter and war paint. ‘Cause we are those kind of people.

The kind of people who with unsteady hands paint those bright streaks across our forehead. Beams of color covering our chapped cheeks. Reminding ourselves that we are the brave kind of tribe. Those meant to carry dreams not birds. We are the wild ones who will interrupt shadows with neon lights.

You who may be sitting there. Feeling like you are sinking alone with a weight around your neck. Get your war paint and confetti. It’s time to walk into the sun.

Heading back to our homeland. To the One who puts our feel on solid ground. The One who is a rock for us in the midst of our deepest waters. Trading in our shaky sea-legs for feet that dance to the rhythm of hope.

Impossible things are ahead for us. In the best kind of way.

So, take my advice friend. Break up with the bird. Paint your face and head into the blinding sun. It’s the only place we belong.

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BIG NEWS – A Dream. A Risk. A Leap. Now we’ve landed.

 

 

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I packed the bags up in the middle of the night while you were sleeping.

I have moved us and I hope you don’t mind. See, I spend so much time talking about dreams and all the ways they spin inside us – twisting and turning with the beats of life. Over the past few months I’ve gotten pretty clear about something.

There was one thing I dreamed of doing. Of being. But I just couldn’t muster up the courage to take the leap. I’m not graceful by nature and knew if I jumped there is a good chance I’d break my ankle. But, this is life and trips to the ER can’t be avoided. I’ve got to live it out and jump with the energy of a Beyonce concert. So, I did.

I have started a new website, and this place will soon be no more.

This is a place I’ve been dreaming of for awhile. I started blogging seriously about three years ago. And in that time I’ve realized so much of what I am passionate about. Most surprisingly you. I’m passionate about you and those crazy ideas that bounce in your head. And that destiny in you? Gosh, it gets my blood pumping.

That got me thinking. How can I turn this passion into something bigger than a blog? Well, by starting a business to make sure that I have the time and opportunity to help pull those things out of you.

I’ve built us a bigger house friends. Let me break it down:

  • Blog -this new website will house a blog just like Lark & Bloom. About once a week I’ll post same as I always have.
  • Baller Status Club – a new couple-times-a-month email for you movers & shakers. Where we get down to the nitty gritty of life and seeing these dreams unfold.
  • Shop – I wish I could sit on your couch every morning when you woke up, hand you a cup of coffee and make sure you started the day with a pep talk. But I can’t. So I have designed some prints you can scatter around your life to help you remember you were made for big things.
  • Storm Sessions – Basically, I wanna be your wingman. One-on-one mentoring sessions with me via skype. This is where I get to hear about the things rolling in your head and get down to business helping you figure out how to let these dreams and goals gain traction.

I’ve taken what we already had going and took it up a notch or twelve hopefully.

And you know what? I’m terrified. As we all are when we step up and say, “What the heck. Let’s do this.”. Maybe I’ve laid out a picnic and no one will come. But I’ve got a feeling.

I’ve got a feeling that life is about to break wide open for us. Big things are ahead and this is the place we can gather to talk about them.

‘Cause we are the dreamers & doers. We don’t play small.

Welcome home friends. Go ahead and browse around OUR NEW HOME! 

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upside down glitter punches

Dear God, get us out of here.

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 Ain’t nothing good coming down these streets.

At least that’s how it seems. Waiting on crappy benches scrawled with the wise sayings of 17 year olds and trash left over from the people who waited before us. Litter on our landscape. Gee, thanks. But we’ve got our shoes on and our bags ready because we know that we are going somewhere.

Busting out of this joint. God said good things are ahead and we believe Him. So we check the schedule for when our bus is gonna show up. When the phone call should come in, the decision is scheduled to be made or that magical moment when our special someone realizes that we are their only someone. Here comes the offer, the hire, the proposal. Here comes the future.

It was the best day of our lives until it wasn’t.

Knocked off our emotional high out of nowhere. Like the girl who shoved me down the slide when I was a little girl and a beautiful evening in the park ended with butterfly stitches on my quivering chin. Below the belt, girl. Not cool.

And here we are today. We’ve lined out our Sunday best, hired the band and roped off the sidewalks. Floats with our dreams about to make an entrance down the boulevard. Then we hear the thunder in the distance. We think to ourselves, “Don’t make me say it. Don’t make me say those words.” As the wind picks up, we watch the clock hoping that we can start soon and beat the bad weather. The words drop from our lips. “Don’t rain on my parade.”.

Waiting, waiting, waiting. Wondering which will come first. Our plan or the storm. Dear God. Get us out of here before it hits.

Life is the simultaneous celebration of glitter cannons and below the belt punches. All rolled into one like an upside down day.

So we live our lives waiting on the benches. Sometimes getting wet and other times escaping the downpour just in the nick of time. Either way, it is up and down. Up and down. Up and down. If we aren’t careful then our soggy dreams build up into bitter hearts. Criticizing everyone who plans their parades and even worse – watching in horror as the sun shines and everything goes as planned for them.

Or we stop dreaming and scheming all together. Can’t handle another disappointment.

These bus stops turn into our homes because we secretly stop believing that we were ever meant to go anywhere at all.

What in the world is God thinking? Sending us out full of hope when there are storms nearby?

I’ll tell you what He is thinking.

He is thinking that no rain can get you wet enough. No wind can knock enough power out. No lightning can send people running too far.

We may be waiting on these benches. Feeling the sunshine and the rain. Seeing our balloons wilt with the passing of time. Then – sometimes at the very last second – we hear the music in the distance. A colorful parade in a world of grey. A world that is in desperate need of celebration and big hopeful ideas. A promise fulfilled at exactly the right time.

You’ll probably get wet in the waiting, but God won’t rain on your parade. I promise.

 

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The War of 100 Adventures

A late night ramble.

 

They made it sound easy through all the tears and muddled congratulations. Parties were thrown and cards were given telling me all the tales that my life would hold. The world was at my feet they said. Life before me with a merry greeting just waiting to see what I would do next. Gosh it sounded so romantic at the time.

I was 18 and had just graduated high school – I remember what I felt like it was yesterday. The deep hope  and vivid imagination that unpacks brilliance in a series of vibrant daydreams. Slideshows flew through my head of love, foreign countries and legendary adventures. Like life was gonna be one big road trip.

Then I started college. Suddenly I was faced with a million decisions. What was I gonna do? Who would I date? What were the goals and next steps? I went into college as a neuroscience major and left with a degree in political science. If I had no respect for reality, I would still be there racking up degrees. ‘Cause its hard to rule things out. How can I be a modern-day version of Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa’s Smile without an art degree?

But that’s just it. I will never be an art professor. I will never be a lawyer or doctor. Not a historian featured on documentaries. The Food Network will never make a pilot episode for me and medical school? That ship sailed long ago. My life isn’t big enough to hold each single dream the way I see it this side of heaven.

Maybe I can be whatever I want, but I can never be everything I want.

At some point I had to choose.

Telling me that the world is at my feet does me no good if I don’t know how to walk. Opportunity means nothing without vision and purpose that point these little toes in the right direction. Even now I can easily lose track of where it is that I am supposed to be going.

There are hundreds of adventures in life that vie for my time. From dreams to careers to families. Some days I totally sit unsure of what move to make. What if I make the wrong choice. To say “yes” to something requires a “no” to another thing. Juggling all the bits works for a while but then my hands cramp and I let it all fall apart like a teenage romance. Good for a while, but it could never last.

I struggle with what I assume most other millennials do as well. Endless opportunities and options from growing up in an online world. Constantly reinforced with the idea that my destiny is hyper-individualized and my path can lead me anywhere. Except I don’t quite know where to head at times.

Options are like currency for us. The more we have the richer our lives feel.

At the drop of a hat, we could pull out and jump onboard with something better. Switch paths based on the most photogenic for an Instagram post. Our online audience needs us to keep things interesting. No sleep till Brooklyn as they say.

So many adventures call our names. Noble ones with a strong sense of duty behind them. Hilarious escapades that generate countless hashtags of inside jokes. Adventures that seem to fit like a glove for one hand but don’t come with a match for the other. Which are we to follow?

A dreamers dilemma.

A million places I’d like to go, but no certain guidance. That’s the problem with options I suppose. And while I am thankful to have the privilege of so many choices, I have recognized that what I am after isn’t really choices at all.

What I crave is consistency. A sense of mission that follows me through each choice and helps me navigate this war of 100 adventures. ‘Cause they are fighting for my time, attention and committment. Try as I might, I can’t live them all.

I can’t tell you which adventure to choose, which calling to obey, or dream to pursue. I do know that in the noise of the process and the ideas that heckle you when you put them down – I do know that there is a hand we can hold.

The hand of the One who is prompting us to step out in the first place. It’s okay if we slip up and don’t get it right the first time. There is more Grace than we know for the decisions we navigate.

In the war of 100 adventures not all dreams make it out alive. And that is how we live. How we live the things we are meant to. A courage to stop being afraid of missing out, of not picking the attractive thing, or worrying that none are the right fit. We hold the hand of the One who guides us and trust that close to him is where we are to be.

And He will guide us. Like He always has.

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