Taylor and I are moving into a house this weekend.

Naturally, I’ve been thinking about how I want it arranged, what pictures I want to have printed from our life the past year, how I want to decorate the guest bedroom, and what I want my writing nook to include.

But, I’ve also been thinking a lot about the word “home.”

My life has been full of transitions and big seasons of change. I’m an all or nothing girl, and typically that’s how the change comes. All at once, or not much at all.

Right now is one of those “all at once” stages, and things feel a little crazy and out of control. Yet, in the midst of the storm, my heart has centered around the word “home.”

Home has never been simply a physical place to me. My personal definition, the way I understand home goes deeper than that. For me, it’s more about the people in a certain place, and what God did while I was there.

I spent two summers as a backpacking guide at a place called Wilderness Ranch. Six months total out of my life. The friendships I formed there are life-long ones. The community I experienced there is unlike any other I’ve experienced to this point. The way God spoke to me there changed me. He used that place to heal me during my most broken times. It is home more than almost anywhere else.

I spent nine months living in Puerto Rico. Not even a full year. Yet, the friends I made there are the only people on earth who really understand the fullness of what those nine months were like. They know that part of my story on a level that can’t be matched by anyone else. And I will, as long as I live, look back on that time as one of the most sharpening, shaping, molding times of my life. Those nine months changed me forever. Puerto Rico is home.

Almost every summer I can remember, my family has spent a week in Ocean City, New Jersey. I have memories of yelling at the TV during Phillies games, three day long battles of Monopoly, our annual basketball game and boogie boarding until I had no energy left. There were nights on the boardwalk with Mack & Manco’s pizza and Kohr Bros. ice cream that will forever be imprinted in my memory. The house at 5041 Central Ave. will always be home to me.

The apartment we live in now is home- not because we love it, but because this is the first place where Taylor and I began building our life together. It was our first house, and we made it into a home.

Austin, Texas however, for all it’s parks and lakes and festivals and delicious food and live music, has taken a while to grow on me. During college, it felt like home: I had sweet community, was going to school, volunteering for Young Life. I had people and purpose. But, in the last 3 1/2 years since I’ve graduated (WHAT), I’ve struggled with calling this place home. I started over with community when I came back from Puerto Rico. I’ve worked jobs that didn’t fulfill me. In short, I didn’t feel like I fit.

As Taylor and I were talking through a possible move, and places we might want to go, I was excited. I was ready to leave. I felt like God had been slowly moving us to this point, and now it was time to jump off on our own into a new adventure.

And then, God reeled us back in. At first, I resisted. I fought. I lost hope. I didn’t want to stay here. And then: a job opportunity, a house that we have vision for, a community of friends that is so so rare, a band of newly married couples that meet together, taking little steps in dreams, and before I knew it, Austin transitioned from just the place I live, to my home.

As I think about our move this weekend, more than any decorations, I’m thinking about how to press in to this city, to this house, to our community, to our jobs, to our neighborhood. I’m thinking about what it looks like to really invest in a place- not because I feel obligated to, but because I feel ownership.

This is my home. This is one of the places on this planet that God has imprinted on my heart. It’s where he’s put us right now, and I’m going to start believing that it’s exactly where we’re supposed to be. He has work for us here; he has purposes for us here. My actual life is happening here, and I don’t want to miss it for fear that I’m missing out on being someplace else.

I am choosing to say that this is my home. I’m glad to finally be here.

people-filled days

The past five days have served as a reminder of how much I need people.

For an introvert, and an independent personality, that’s not an easy thing to believe. It’s an easy thing to say and know on a shallow level, but it’s a hard, humbling thing to really grasp on a heart level. 

What sounds easy is to hide from people, and give surface-level answers to questions about my heart. It sounds easy to do it all on my own, without having to worry about what other people have to think or say. It’s harder to be real, to ask for help, to put yourself out there when you don’t know all the answers yet.

But in the last week, God has been doing some things. Some things that feel huge. That feel too big for me. That I can’t possibly imagine doing without the support of the people I love. And because of grace, I was simultaneously handed a stark set of reminders that this life was never meant to be lived alone.

Last weekend, our missional community went to a lake house to just be with each other. There were no plans, no schedules, just being. On Saturday morning, the girls got together to share about what we were going through and pray for each other. It was a simple act- us sitting on the bed, talking, laughing and encouraging each other. But there was freedom. The amazing freedom that comes from saying words out loud, and not allowing them to live and grow and morph inside your head. From sharing your burdens and not trying to carry them all yourself. We need community- our burdens were not meant to be carried on one set of shoulders.

On Monday night, we had a few of our closest friends over for dinner. We crowded in our tiny apartment, sipped on cinnamon-whiskey-cider cocktails, burned our mouths with dove jalapeno poppers and just were. There was no agenda other than being together and sharing a meal. Intentional conversations happened. Divine appointments happened- not because we forced them, but because we were faithful in gathering together as a community. Two of my closest friends confronted me on my anxiety about these big things God is doing. They encouraged me to stop living the story of my past and walk trustingly  in to a different story. It was hard to hear, but they were right. We need community to speak the gospel to us when we can’t speak it to ourselves anymore, to believe for us when we’re struggling to muster the courage, to fight for us when we don’t have strength left.

Tuesday night, I got the privilege of seeing this happen with my college small group girls. We talked about friendship and why God created us to go through life side-by-side. Then, I read them this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

But God has put this Word into the mouth of men in order that it may be communicated to other men. When one person is struck by the Word, he speaks to others. God has willed that we should seek and find His living Word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of a man. Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he can’t help himself without misrepresenting the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation. He needs his brother solely because of Jesus Christ. The Christ in his own heart is weaker than the Christ in the word of his brother; his own heart is uncertain, his brother’s is sure.

After discussing it for a few minutes, I gave them an opportunity to be vulnerable with each other, and in turn, to speak encouragement to each other. For the next 15 minutes I got to see girls share their fears and anxieties, and watch their friends cry with them, read scripture to them and speak compassionate words. For some of these girls, it was the first time they had met one another. Their courage to be honest, and risk looking silly for the sake of being real moved my heart. The way they went straight to the Word for encouraging words was incredible, and convicted me of too often settling for the world’s wisdom in an attempt to comfort. They reminded me what it looks like to let someone in, to hurt with someone, and bring them to the only place that can offer true life and comfort. We need community because we are the Word of God to each other.

Yesterday, my introvert was worn out but my heart was full. I can claim independence all day, but the reality is that I’m healthier when I operate as a sister in a family instead of a lone ranger out to prove herself. Sometimes, I just need a few people-filled days to remind me that life is better when we live it together. 

why i write

One Saturday about three weeks ago, my husband Taylor and I had a day off together. It was one of those gorgeous spring days in Austin- 80 degrees, not a cloud in the sky- and  my unsatisfiable itch to be outside was going crazy.

My mind was also going crazy.

See, the night before my friend Amy and I had a pretty truth-filled, mind-shattering, lies- exposing conversation. The “hard, but good” conversation. You know… the kind where your best friend is looking you in the eye, not holding back punches, telling you what you need to hear and it’s all at once the most refreshing and freeing and acutely painful thing. If you’re anything like me, your brain stops working in the middle of the conversation. Not that you stop listening, not that you’re putting up walls, but you just. can’t. handle. any. more. Thoughts and feelings and beliefs are pouring in, yet my ability to pour them back out has ceased. My ability to process completely goes out the window, I feel like I’m drowning in my own thoughts, and I’m stuck. Here’s the thing- I’m a deep thinker, extremely introspective and as a result, I typically process slower. So at this point, the point where my brain is on overdrive, the point when my thoughts are beginning to swirl and resemble a very large, nasty-looking hurricane cloud, I have only one choice. I must find my way to the eye of the hurricane. To the place of rest, peace and quiet- if only for a few moments.

For me, that place is writing. 

So on that Saturday, I wrote. I sat outside and played frisbee with Taylor. We ate lunch in the park and laid in our hammock and soaked up as much sunshine as possible. We read books, and I wrote.

That's me, on that Saturday, in my happy place.
That’s me, on that Saturday, in my happy place.

Almost instantly, I could feel the storm easing up- after having its way in my mind for 24 hours. There were still remnants of course- some ideas where shifted around, some trees I thought were solid knocked over. There was still wreckage to clean up, feelings leftover that I wasn’t sure what to do with, but I was at peace. And the anxiety, the restlessness, the shame I had been fighting against the night before all washed away with the storm.

Later that evening, as Taylor and I were debriefing our day, I was sharing with him all that I had written earlier-  the fears, the feelings, the confessions, the lies, the truth. After  I finished talking, he said,

When you write for a while, I can tell. There’s something different about you…it’s like there’s more to you than there was even a few hours ago.

And that, in a very profound, succinct nutshell, describes my relationship with writing.

I have to go pretty far back in my 24-year-old memory to remember a time when writing wasn’t a substantial part of my life. My first memories of writing my thoughts down was in middle school. I was far from consistent. I would write for a few days, fill a few pages, and then get bored with it. There were more exciting things going on like basketball practice, or family beach trips, playing in the pool or arguing with my brother and sister. Then, high school hit and writing became a chore. Essays, book reports, annotations. While I devoured any book I could get my hands on growing up- namely Nancy Drew mysteries- it took discipline to finish books in high school, much less analyze them and produce 3-5 page, single-spaced essays.

Then for some reason that I can’t really put my finger on, I picked up a spiral notebook in college and started journalling. It started as an outlet. As a way to get my thoughts and feelings on paper. I was growing in my relationship with Jesus like never before, and it became a way to process through scripture.

And soon, it became a LIFELINE- absolutely necessary to my well-being, to my sanity, to my growth spiritually, emotionally and mentally.

It became where I would run when I felt the world crashing in on me. It became a way the Holy Spirit moved in my heart. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started writing about one particular thought, and landed about 34,897 miles away on a completely different idea. As I read back through what I wrote, it’s evident how the Holy Spirit brought to mind thoughts, verses, and experiences that led me to where he wanted me to be. Each time spent writing, I would walk away knowing God a little more deeply, and as a result knowing myself a little more deeply as well. My journals- I’ve written through 19 in seven years- are the truest form of myself. They are raw and uncensored, and the most accurate picture of my story. Specifically, they are the most honest depiction of my relationship with Jesus, and the seasons of life he has brought me through.

I wasn't kidding. If you look closely, I bet you'll figure out my favorite style of journal. (Hint: Moleskine)
I wasn’t kidding. If you look closely, I bet you’ll figure out my favorite style of journal. (Hint: Moleskine)

More often than not, I’ll finish a journal and start a new one at exactly the appropriate time; when one chapter of life is ending, and another is beginning. If anything, that is proof to me that the Lord’s timing is perfect, that he’s completely in control of my story.. and also that he has a sense of humor. Sometimes, the transition from one journal to the next is easy. Sometimes, it’s painful. I don’t want the chapter I’m living in to end. I don’t want to move on. I’m hurt, or angry or confused with the Lord and I don’t want to go to him. I don’t want to process through anything with him. When I’m angry, when I’m hurt to the depth that words can’t describe, I push him away and the dates between two journals have more space between them. But then, there are those transitions that are hopeful. With a new journal comes new days, new life, a breath of fresh air, blank pages with stories just waiting to fill them. Regardless, how much I’m writing, what I’m writing is the most accurate gauge for me on my relationship with Jesus. I might not know all the answers, I might not know every verse in the Bible, but I am being gut-wrenchingly honest with my Savior.. and I believe with all my heart that that counts for something.

Every once in a while, I’ll read back through old journals. It will make me laugh, bring me a profound sense of thankfulness and remind me of pain so vivid it brings me to tears all over again. But most of all, it gives me faith that God knows what he’s doing with my life, with all of our lives. He is an incredible author, and a wonderful storyteller. And that is what motivates me to write. I write to find a place of peace, rest and truth with my Savior in the midst of a chaotic world.

I write to remember the faithfulness of God.

I hope this little piece of my world helps you remember too.

I’d like to know.. What helps you remember the faithfulness of God? What is the thing you turn to that helps you process? How do you find peace and rest in the midst of chaos?