Today is Different

Today is different.
It is a rather ordinary day
not appearing too distinctive from the ones that came prior.
A year ago you were overbooked and overwhelmed
Six months ago you were wounded and lonely
But today you are still.
Today brings a breath of fresh air as you begin to remember
Remember the color green
Remember the smell of the dirt
Remember how your feet feel when they get stuck in the mud.
Today is your first reminder of spring.

It’s been a long, harsh, winter.
Each day seemed to have less light than the one before.
Snow buried memories of the past
Winds pushed you in directions you didn’t want to go.
It seemed unrelenting, causing you to wonder
“What if this season never ends?
What if this is the way things are now?”

But today is a new day.
Shed the layers that hold you back.
Wipe the tear stains off your face.
Open the windows once again.
The winter storm is over; step outside again.

Of course there will still be cold days.
There will be moments when the sun seems to forget to shine.
You’re not new to the Midwest and you’re not new to heartbreak:
Unexpected times are still ahead.

As the snow melts, you find parts of yourself that you have forgotten
It’s like the old you, but different this time
She’s changed and renewed from she season she survived

The seasons remind you that you must keep changing
That change is good
That renewal is possible
That spring is coming.
Today is different.
And so are you.

Little Book of Redemption

I bought this journal in a bookstore while I was in the Netherlands. It wasn’t just any bookstore; it was an old church that was renovated into a bookstore. My two favorite things combined, and in it I found a beautiful, small, blank notebook waiting to carry my stories.

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When I first held this journal in my hands, I never could have predicted what stories would fill the pages. I never could have imagined the growth that could come from the six months of life recorded in the tiny book.

I’ve been journalling ever since July of 2008, filling hundreds and hundreds of pages of words, pictures, ideas, quotes, and memories, but this journal was the most difficult one to write thus far. It was in this journal I had to take a good, long, difficult look at myself. I did not like myself on the first page. I quoted the song “Be My Escape” as I wrote:

“There’s no way of knowing where to go, but I promise I’m going because I gotta get out of here . . . I’m begging You to be my escape.” I am coming off of a long, stressful, anxiety-filled summer . . . I don’t like who I am and I don’t know how to get “me” back. I feel like I’ve de-raild and I want to get back on track. Teach me, Oh God, to live into the truth that “the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.”

Through several months of surrender, heartache, celebration, exploration, and growth, I have learned more about what the beauty of grace is. I’m working on rooting my identity in Christ alone . . . not in relationships, not in fear, not in grades, not in a job, not in the number of likes I get on Instagram . . . only in Christ is my hope found.

I found this journal somewhere I never could have expected. When the architects were building the church, I’m sure they never imagined that it would someday be a bookstore. I had designed and dreamed where I would be at this point in my life, but grace swept me off of my feet and brought me to places I never could have predicted. I believe that God is redeeming all things; I’m excited to see where grace leads me next on this journal of redemption.

Mary

Thank you, Mary

for sitting with me this morning.

for asking me in a whisper to take note of the way things seem to be.

To feel the way the sheets feel when I rub them between my toes.

To notice the way the snow presses against the window, holding it tightly.

To take note of how my coffee feels when it passes through my lips, past my teeth, across my tongue and down my throat.

To follow the ink from my pen across the empty space of my notebook.

I suppose by paying very close, close, close attention to the way things are, I am able to find beauty and clarity in my morning.

This morning isn’t any different than any other morning.

But maybe it is.

“The world did not have to be beautiful to work. But it is.”

I don’t know where prayers go,
or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it
crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
growing older every year?
I know I can walk through the world,
along the shore or under the trees,
with my mind filled with things
of little importance, in full
self-attendance.  A condition I can’t really
call being alive.
Is a prayer a gift, or a petition,
or does it matter?
The sunflowers blaze, maybe that’s their way.
Maybe the cats are sound asleep.  Maybe not.

While I was thinking this I happened to be standing
just outside my door, with my notebook open,
which is the way I begin every morning.
Then a wren in the privet began to sing.
He was positively drenched in enthusiasm,
I don’t know why.  And yet, why not.
I wouldn’t pursuade you from whatever you believe
or whatever you don’t.  That’s your business.
But I t hought, of the wren’s singing, what could this be
if it isn’t a prayer?
So I just listened, my pen in the air

Let’s Live Like We’re Loved

Roses, love songs, diamonds.

Pizza, Netflix, #foreveralone.

Valentine’s Day is coming, and I wonder where it will find you.

Our culture is telling us our identity is rooted in others . . . what they see in us, how they value us, and whether or not there is a partner in your profile picture.

Every kiss begins with Kay, okay, but what do you do when there isn’t someone there for you?

We were made to be with other people, I know that to be completely true. At one point, there was just one person, and God Himself said “It is not good for man to be alone.

But if you’re not in a relationship with the boy you’ve been stalking on Instagram, does that mean you are “alone?”

Friend, hold up your left hand and tell me what you see. Is empty? Does it sparkle?

No matter how you answered, that is not where your identity lies.

We’re all broken, and we’re all messy. We all have been hurt and we all have caused hurt.

There isn’t one person out there that you were made for, not one person who will complete you.

but I know someone who satisfies.

I know the Ultimate provider, defender, healer, pursuer, and lover.

He looks past the mess, the lies, the ugliness, and the brokenness, and fulfills every need.

When this love pours into you, it overflows inside the cracks of your soul, seeping into every part of who you are.

So let’s live like we’re loved.

What if we found intimacy in prayer meetings, long car rides, and late night waffles? Morning coffee, band rehearsal, and smiles on the sidewalk? Communion bread, karaoke, and elaborate sunsets?

What if intimacy stretched beyond the romantic and into the everyday?

God promises fulfillment through His grace, and He promises to reveal Himself.

What if that’s more accessible than we ever imagined?

So all of us – the single, the engaged, the widowed, the betrayed, the broken-hearted, the newlyweds, and those who for decades have shared the same bed:

Let’s celebrate love today.

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