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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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Living in the tension between dangled carrots and spray painted grass

 

Four o’clock rolled around and all was well. By five o’clock it had all fallen apart. 

I was happy at four-thirty today. Giddy even.

For the past several years I have been working really hard towards a specific thing. You could even call it a promise. Hours have been spent researching the best way to go about pursuing this promise. Pens have run out of ink as I have taken detailed notes and filled out all the required paperwork. Scribbles on paper with charts and lists have covered my dining room table late into the night as I look over my plan.

You have no idea- seriously no idea – how many questions I have been asked and answers I’ve found as I have plotted the path for this big dream of mine to come to pass. It was starting to grow legs and arms and come to life before my eyes.

After holding it with cautious hope, I have recently begun to embrace it. Own it and let the excitement of its existence seep into all the little bits of me. At four o’clock this afternoon, I was talking to someone involved and the details were starting to come together. Ideas were bounced around and getting polished. Life was good at four o’clock today.

Then the phone rang. It was 5 o’clock.

I answered it. On the other end was the woman who held the keys to this little dream of mine being born. Not just in my mind, but in actual life. The kind of life you can photograph and share beyond the limitations of imagination.

It wasn’t good. She informed me of some news that changed the plan. In fact, it kind of erased the plan, burned the paper it was written on and then scattered the ashes somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. At least that is how it felt by 5:05pm.

The dream doesn’t have to die, but it does have to wait. And it goes to being a bit of a lottery when it comes to how it will work. There are no guarantees really.

The worst part? I started to scold myself for actually letting myself get excited. Chasing this promise has been years of ups and downs. Dangled carrots dropped in front of me and actually believing that I was finally going to get to eat them. I’d lunge to catch the dream between my teeth, but it always pulls right back up out of reach. Sitting there taunting me, but too far to have for myself.

You know what I am talking about. Falling in love only for the other person to back out. Working long hours just to watch another person end up with the credit. Finally saving enough money for a backpacking trip with friends but having to drain your account to pay a car repair. And now you are using your newly fixed car to drive your friends to the airport. Carrots dangled.

Sitting here tonight, I still choke back the tears of disappointment and frustration. This isn’t my first rodeo with “almost but not quite” when it comes to promises. And I’ve come to know what will pop up next.

Spray painted grass, that’s what.

I see the other side where the grass is greener. The side where everything went as planned. A field of grass that grows bright green and beautiful. That piece of earth where the money never ran out and the world is fair. Where people get what they have worked hard for and the rain falls with perfect timing.

I know you know exactly what I am talking about because you have had to live in the tension between dangled carrots and spray painted grass yourself.

The truth about that grass? It isn’t really green. It has been painted with idealism, envy and a good old-fashioned dose of imagination. It is the futuristic version of what would have happened if everything would have gone our way. The perfect interpretation of our plan before real life happens.

And just like that, we are discontent with where we are. The trinkets we carry as our own are no longer valuable. Our relationships don’t sparkle with endless perfection. Our romances are tarnished with human flaws. Promotions at work that went to another suddenly make our job seem insignificant.

And that’s the biggest problem with chasing dreams, promises and grander plans. Sometimes they don’t work out the way we want and we see our own grass as the enemy.

The other grass surely would have been softer, never needed mowing and would naturally repel all insects so you could picnic in peace. The people who live there are faultless and easy to love. At least it looks that way from here.

But this place? This place is work and pain. Trying and risking over and over. It’s loving the person in front of you when you have a very specific person in mind you’d rather be loving. This grass embeds thorns in your feet if you try to run through it carefree.

Right now at 9pm? I don’t really love my grass. It is poking me in all the wrong places and isn’t growing the way I want it too. But, I am trying to remind myself that the other grass isn’t real. It is spray painted with deceiving filters and all the unwanted parts have been cropped out of the picture.

It’s like Instagram grass. Perfected by perception.

This little patch of field I will go to bed on tonight? It is my home for now and I will be thankful for it. The people parked on this side of the fence with me are my neighbors and they are just as worth loving as the people on the spray painted grass. I’ll wake up in the morning and will choose to enjoy and cultivate the land I have been given.

Continuing to work towards the promise, but choosing to live my life with gusto right here until then. I’ve learned that here in this tension. We’ve got to live settled. Not the kind of settled where you compromise for something lesser. The kind of settled where you find contentment where you are while still working toward something else. That is a thing fought for and hashed out over late night conversations with friends.

There will always be a tension between the carrots we chase and the fields we sleep in. Even when it stings us to the core, we have to let go of our plans and believe the promise.

On the days when a late afternoon phone call crushes you, God has given you a place to sit and rest while you catch your breath. It might not be the perfectly manicured grass you were hoping for, but it is your place for now. And there is a grace to make it home.

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When It’s Not Safe To Be You

 We have learned to be the greatest pretenders from the moment we wake till the moment we lay our head down.

photo cred: Art of Street

photo cred: Art of Street

On some days I let myself go there.

I unwind all the pretense and crack open the door to fresh air. Crisp thinking that hasn’t been judged by years of experience and well-meaning advice. All the voices along the way who have confirmed to me what I always suspected. What I always dreaded.

It is not safe to be me.

A scene went down when I was fourteen and it replayed through my mind for years. I was on the lawn of my church with another friend who happened to like the same boy I did. Let’s call the boy we liked “Josh” and my friend who liked him too “Amy”. We were outside obeying Josh’s friends who told us to go wait for them because they had something to tell us.

I remember standing there on the grass trying to stomach what I knew was probably coming. In true teenage fashion, some of our friends had taken it upon themselves to mention to Josh’s friends that Amy and I thought Josh was cute.

Now, let me say this. I wasn’t even allowed to date. I just thought the boy was cute. Which was big for me to admit because I was never the girl picked. I stood on the sidelines of my eighth grade dance never – not even once – being asked to dance the whole night. I’d like to submit a motion that we do away with junior high dances altogether.

When our friends mentioned that we both thought Josh was cute and told his friends not to say anything, they didn’t exactly follow instructions. Off they went to spread the word of our attraction to none other than Josh himself. Which can I just say, in hindsight is hilarious because Josh wasn’t really attractive or cool. I prefer to chalk that crush up to groupthink gone wrong.

Next thing we know, Amy and I were outside waiting to meet with Josh’s friends. Awesome.

A crew of boys came bounding down the stairs with smiles on their faces. “We talked to Josh.”, said the ring leader of this motley crew. ” Told him that both of you think he is cute. And guess what? He thinks one of you is cute too. But just one.”

I’m sure you can guess where this is going.

“So, Josh wants to talk to the girl he thinks is pretty.”. Josh’s friend continued, ” …and it’s not YOU!”.

As the words fell out of his mouth, he turned to me and his finger pointed right at my face. It wasn’t me.

Just like that my friend Amy squealed and ran inside to meet Josh. I stayed there on the lawn alone watching the swarm of them rush back up the stairs. I didn’t cry. I just swallowed it. And then – as easy as that – those words became something I carried around in me for a long time after.

It’s not me.

The sentence rattled through my mind over the next decade. Who I am is not enough compared to who they are. It isn’t safe to put myself out there because it will neither be wanted nor valued.

Fast-forward to college. I had a friend who I had been close to for years. Hours of conversations about dreams and hopes had been invested into our friendship.

One evening she sat me down and told me something that shocked me like nothing else had.

She thought I had a mental illness. I had let someone into the inner workings of my mind and instead of seeking to understand, they judged. And I felt betrayed in a way that shattered so many things I once had thought to be stable. I was embarrassed and exposed.

I bawled for days.

It’s not me. I’m not the one with the beautiful ideas or creative mind. I am the girl who sounds crazy – who no one will ever believe in. It isn’t safe to be me.

There are few things which can create such a desperate feeling inside as when being yourself doesn’t feel safe. If your ideas scare people, your motives are misunderstood and your actions continually rejected then you slowly begin to morph into something that feels less painful.

Something other than yourself. It holds the illusion of safety. Like an internal Switzerland.

And so all the walls go up to shut out the haters. We put on masks so the one pointing the finger saying “It’s Not You” can’t find us. We put our best foot forward trying not to mis-step and bring attention the person that actually lives inside of us.

It is in that place of hiding the miraculous happens. God seeks us out. He finds us. He heals us. Our terror is exchanged for a holy confidence. The whispering lie of  “It’s Not You” is replaced with a steel reinforced truth. That you are fearfully and wonderfully made. That you have in fact, been chosen.

To all of you, who like me, have learned to wear the disguise and cover up the authentic. Who are afraid that the things inside you are not enough or the way you think is overwhelming.

Those of you who don’t feel like you have an invitation with your name on it… Welcome to the world of doers and dreamers.

It may not be safe out here this side of heaven, but we can’t let the words of people shut us down. The world needs people who are willing to take risks and love even when it hurts. Don’t back down. Light up. Dream harder. Go bigger. You’ve been created by a Maker who has your back. With Him you are always safe.

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