for the graduates

My small group girls graduated college this weekend.

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… what?

I can barely take it. My heart is the definition of bittersweet – I am swelling with pride of how they’ve grown into young women, I’m sitting-on-the-edge-of-my- seat excited about their next adventures, and I’m also aching at the end of this season.

It’s been four years of Tuesday nights at 8:30. It’s been countless cups of coffee and salty oat cookies to go with our highs and lows. Each week we piled on couches and looked each other in the eyes and shared dreams and asked hard questions and prayed.

We laughed and went to concerts and had sleepovers and ate meals together. We fell more in love with this man named Jesus, and eventually, we fell in love with each other.

We became a family. All I know is that I now have eight really wonderful, hilarious, amazingly weird, and passionate sisters and friends. And all I did, all any of us did, was choose to show up for each other. Week after week, for four years.

What a gift.

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***

I’ve written them notes and we’ve been talking about this transition for months, but goodness, it feels like such a big one. And, I have a few things left to say – for them, for myself, for anyone walking into something that feels big and uncertain and exciting and terrifying all at the same time:

It is all of those things: uncertain, exciting, terrifying.

And I think it’s supposed to be. Such is a life of faith.

When the disciples asked Jesus where he was going, he didn’t give them a roadmap or a 10-step plan. He offered Himself.

“I am the Way, the Truth, the Life.”

He is the best thing. He is better than accomplishments or getting your dream job or life working out exactly as you plan. He is your ultimate reward.

Follow Him. Walk with Him, and He’ll lead you right where you are, right where you need to be.

Once you’re there? Dive in.

Just like we did with each other for four years, show up. Fully, in your right-now, daily life. Right where you are, for the people you’re with, for the work God puts in your hands.

Don’t wait for your real life to start once you’ve got it all figured out. No one has it all figured out.

Your real life is happening, go live it.

Remember where you true identity lies.

It’s not in performance, success, failure, relationship status or titles. It’s not in approval, number of likes, or possessions.

You are Beloved. You are a daughter. You are His. You belong.

Choose compassion over comparison. Don’t look to the right or to the left – everyone is on a journey. Fix your eyes on Jesus.

Remember that everyone is carrying a story. Be kind – to others, to yourself.

Take risks, see the world, dance in your kitchen, laugh often.

Look others in the eye and listen. Let them teach you, mold you, grow you.

Love Jesus with all you have, and empty yourself to love others.

This is life, in all of its beauty and wrestling and mountain-tops and valleys.

You’re gonna love it.

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a prayer for the in-between

Today is the day in-between. In-between the trauma and the triumph, in-between death and life, in-between “it is finished” and “he has risen.”

A group of my close girlfriends were sharing what was happening in our lives this week, and as we prayed for each other I couldn’t help but think that maybe we’re all living in a season of in-between. The in-between isn’t pretty. It can be muddy, confusing, and hurtful. It’s so easy to be paralyzed by fear here. It’s so easy to lose hope.

In the in-between, in the middle, we don’t know the full story. We don’t know that redemption might be just around the corner. In the middle, it can seem like God forgot. It can feel like this life, this pain, this struggle is for nothing. We start to believe that we’re going to live in a Saturday world forever; Sunday is never actually coming.

I’m in the in-between, too. I’m feeling and navigating my way through the confusing in-between, carrying my questions and fears, daring myself to hope that maybe, just maybe, there is true life somewhere in the middle.

So today, a prayer. A prayer for all of us in the in-between, all of us clinging to the glimmer of hope that Sunday is, in fact, coming.

You came to give us life to the full. Let us accept the fullness of joy you offer alongside the fullness of pain. Remind us of the sacrifice you made on Good Friday, and the victory you won on Easter, but let us not miss Saturday. May we trust you with the messy middle. May we fix our eyes on you, and not on our circumstances. Remind us that You are the answer to our deepest longings. When we’re tempted to give up hope, to believe that you forgot, remind us of your humanity, of the suffering you endured on our behalf. Remind us that you are here in the in-between, so we need not fear. Give us the strength to take the next step forward, to follow you even when we can’t see where you’re leading us. Let us trust you with the middle, and cling to the promise that a new day is coming. Indeed, it has already come. 

 

the hope of spring

Spring couldn’t come soon enough this year.

Sometimes, in my life, the physical seasons line up with the seasons in my heart. My heart walked through winter this year. Winter was months of watching one of my closest friends walk through one of the hardest periods of her life; months of watching as God asked her to die and surrender over and over again; months of living with my own low-grade level of anxiety, of walking through circumstances that left me feeling confused and desperate. By the time March rolled around, the cry of my soul was, “enough.” I’d had enough of death, of watching people I love reach a point of empty.

Honestly, I’d love for it be springtime all year round. I’d love to skip the winter, and just move straight from fall to spring. But, that’s not how seasons work, is it? There’s an intentional order to things that I often forget.

I forget that every season – especially winter – has its purpose. I forget that the death of winter is necessary to pave the way for new life to spring from the ground. I forget that you can’t have the hope of spring without the longing of winter. I forget that it won’t always be like this. I forget that no matter how long and cold the winter feels, spring always, always shows up.

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Spring never fails; just when I start to fear the branches on the tall oak tree in my backyard will never sprout again, I spot the tiniest light green buds pushing their way into the light. Just when I fear I’ll never be able to go outside without a jacket again, the warm sunshine hits my skin and soothes my soul. Just when I start to think that God forgot, he reminds me that He is here, in the winter with me.

………

This winter reminded me that life with Jesus is backwards.

It makes logical sense that life comes before death, that to die is the end of life.

But Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

In other words, to really gain true life, you have to surrender it first. Jesus gives us a perfect example of what this looks like: He walked to the cross, to his death, and surrendered his entire life to pay the debt for my sin, so that I might have full life in return.

The life of spring doesn’t happen without the death of winter. As the seasons have an intentional order, so it is with my heart. If I want full life, I don’t get to escape the winter. But, I’m walking through it with the One who endured death to be with me. I’m walking through it with the One who controls the seasons of the Earth and of my heart.

And I’m reminded the order of life with Jesus:

Life from death.

Hope from despair.

Joy from longing.

Spring from winter.

Happy Spring, everyone.

 

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