Ashes

Walking along a rocky shore.

Shadows trailed and vanished as the sun came up.

Pale ice of winter wasted away and warmth came to my skin as I kept walking.

I’d been wanting to run, but my legs stayed locked in a slow pace, but I kept moving.

This walk felt like it had lasted forever, and there I was, reaching the breaking point.

Tears flooded my eyes and my breath had caught in my chest.

Scars burnt to life again and reminded me of journey’s hard times.

I looked up to the rising sun, listening to the waves beside me for comfort.

At last, I reached my spot.

I looked down at the urn I carried in my arms.

Letting out a heavy sigh, I opened the lid.

Memories flooded like a broken dam into my heart and mind.

The pain was more than I expected, but I was not devastated.

And that in itself, felt like a healing balm.

I closed my eyes, and tossed the ashes into the waves.

The ashes were gone in an instant and I dropped the urn onto the shoreline.

The tears came. They came slowly but steadily.

Yet as they fell, a smile broke out from my lips.

Peace wrapped around my being and I felt new strength pulse through my soul.

A milestone was reached, but the journey was far from over.

He wrapped His arm around my shoulder and kissed my forehead.

“Let’s go, brave one.” He said.

I followed Him down the shore. Tears fell for a while.

But the sky never looked more beautiful.

 

Why I Don’t Celebrate Single Awareness Day

Every February 14th, social media explodes with pictures of gifts, chocolate, engagement rings, and statuses proclaiming and declaring love. It also explodes with “Single Awareness Day”. Memes about being alone, eating chocolate by yourself, posting about all the things you’re going to do while you’re on your own. It also explodes with “Dating Jesus”, sharing Bible verses on Love, and people reminding us we are loved.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve shared those “single life” posts, and liked them, laughed at them because I feel the same way. I also think it’s grand for people to proclaim Jesus’ love on that day, and share their happiness that someone is loving on them.

What I don’t like is the complaining. I don’t like how people go into this binge of “woe is me, I’m single and I hate everyone posting about their awesome love life, because mine sucks!”

I don’t like it when people do that….because it hurts.

Instead of making me feel like I’m not the only one not “celebrating” Valentine’s Day with someone, it makes me more aware of my loneliness. It reminds me of how I do hope, and sometimes ache for a relationship, marriage and having a family. It brings all of those heart aches into one day and I suddenly feel like a claustrophobic failure at life. It doesn’t make me go “singles of the world, unite!” to me it says “singles of the world, we stink!”

It also makes me hurt for those people. I’m sorry that Valentine’s Day hurts you so much. I’m sorry it brings it hurt, bitterness and loneliness. Those are awful enemies to deal with. I’m so sorry that right now it feels like no one notices you, or even cares.

I admit that I have those Valentine years when I did go into the “hurt feelings” lonely heart depressive state. I admit that I do joke about my singleness and I also have days when I cry about it.

When things you started to hope for fall to ground and you feel like a disappointment. When everyone is trying to be encouraging and helpful in matchmaking, but it’s only putting more pressure on you. All those things seem to swell and crash onto you on February 14th. Why do we want to celebrate that?

I don’t celebrate Single Awareness Day because I’ve found that it brings me into a dark place. That is not what Valentine’s Day is about. That’s not what life is meant for. I think it’s totally okay to laugh and joke about it, but why linger there in misery?

Bring yourself to the places where you feel loved. Go hang out with your other friends who don’t have plans. Go eat, laugh, watch a movie. Love on your friends and let them love on you. Go love your family, whether it’s hanging out with them or just shooting them a message saying hi. Celebrate with your friends who are being loved on by a significant other. You don’t have to third wheel or anything like that, but show love for them as well.

If you’re a lover of Jesus, be reminded that He loves you. Even if this is a hard day for you, run to Him and just tune the world out for a while and hang out with Him. You don’t have to call it a “date”. But you can love on Him as He loves on you, His kiddo.

Even if Valentine’s Day is not your favorite, don’t allow the loneliness and depression get the best of you and bring you down. When I went through my first ever break up, a counselor told me these three things and I find myself telling these to others and speaking them to myself. Whether it’s hurting from a relationship that ended, or the want of one, or just hurt from other things….

Surround yourself with friends who build you up.

Journal a lot. Write your feelings out, don’t let them bottle up.

Pray. Bring your heart to the Father.

These are not always easy steps, and it’s easy to sidestep them because we just want to pout a little. When my students get upset, I let them cry it out. I give them a space to cry until they’re finished. Once they’re done crying, I ask them “Okay, you think you can get back to class now?” Usually they tell me they can and all is well. Not everyday, some days are just hard. I get that. Little do my students know that I have to ask myself the same thing at times. “Alright, ready to get back to life?”

We have two choices. We can just sit, cry and stay in our hurt feelings. We can give cry it out, take a deep breath and move forward. I guess what I’m trying to say, it that Single Awareness Day puts me in that “sit and cry” state of mind. I’m so tired of being there. I won’t go back to that. I will laugh about myself, I will still have those crying days, but I have to keep moving. I’m not stuck where I am, and neither are you.

We Comfort Because He Comforts Us.

I just kind of sat there for a while. My mind and heart were slowly walking back from the past I had to step into for a recent conversation. Actually, 3 recent conversations. Not one after the other, but in such a consistency, I knew God was pulling something together in His intricate tapestry and I needed to pay attention. 

In these conversations, I heard myself speaking out of their mouths. Their words were words I had spoken once. The tears they were crying, I cried. The truth they were searching for, I had been searching for. The honesty they wanted to hear, but didn’t want to hear, what the same honesty I desired and feared. Their hearts were breaking like mine had once. I knew the truth that I learned wasn’t going to be pretty, but I knew they’d make it out alive. 

Not everyone’s path to healing is the same distance. But healing will come. 

After these conversations, I had to sit down and process the tinge of pain I still felt. It was a reminder of how I felt once, it was also hurt for them, and little confusion on my part as to what exactly God was doing at that moment.

Today I read a verse that really connected all of this for me. A verse that made me go “Oh, wow!”

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

In Christian circles, we’re always talking about how God works out every situation for our good and for His purpose. Which I believe to be true. (Check out Romans 8:28…check out the story of Joseph in Genesis!) Maybe I’ve just missed this verse in the past. But this passage is speaking of God comforting us, and that we should comfort others. I realize that might be a no brainer to some of you, but have we ever thought more about this? 

God wants to comfort us, and through the comfort He gives us, He enables us to comfort others. When we have wounds that are still bleeding, or in the middle of healing, we have the ability to comfort others because of God’s hand holding us. 

There are a lot of things going on in the world right now. There are lots of people around you who hurt with the same hurts you have or have had in the past. They need God’s comfort, and there’s a strong possibility God wants you to comfort them. 

God led me through a tough season of heartache. My heart still hurts at times, but I know that God is still healing me. I know that giving me those conversations were His idea. He knew my friends needed comfort. The same kind of comfort I needed once upon a time. 

The world needs healers. Not haters. 

 

My Own Cup Song: Why this whole red Starbucks cup ordeal makes me angry.

I have to confess that when I read the first article about the whole “Starbucks Red Cup” ordeal, I was furious. I can have a quick temper, and can at times be over-dramatic, but I try my best not to let those things take over social media. (That’s what song writing and blogs are for…right?) 

Now that I’ve had a good night’s sleep and a cup of coffee (okay, two cups…) I have a bit of a clearer head and my feet are back on the ground. Yet what I’m about to write about, I still have a stirred up heart for. You’re welcome to keep reading or scroll on.

What angers me the most is how people have reacted to this choice of fashion. I honestly have no clue if just one person was offended or a whole group. But somehow, somewhere someone was deeply offended by this solid red cup. They take this as a sign of persecution for us as Christians.

Now, we also speak of how not everyone says “Merry Christmas” how that is a sign of oppression.

Tell that to the Christians over-seas who have to hide underground to worship. Tell that to the Christians over-seas who get thrown in jail, beaten, massacred or blown up because they love Jesus. Tell them about how you’re being persecuted by red cups and “Happy Holidays”. Go on…tell ’em.

I couldn’t look those people in the eye over all the petty things I’ve complained and whined about. They are so much braver. So much stronger. Don’t get me wrong, we face tough stuff in our lives as Christ followers. I’m pretty confident Jesus said that would happen. If our brothers and sisters can praise Jesus in their stuff going on, shouldn’t we be able to handle cups…or even social media…?

Another big thing that truly wrecks my heart is this: there are so many things going on in this world…and we’re upset about a coffee cup. We’re upset because someone posted something bad about Christians, someone told us “Happy Holidays” or our neighbor put up Halloween stuff. We’re upset over rainbows, flags, and politics.

We’re not concerned about the refugees calling out for help. We’re not concerned for the people who are searching for Jesus but looking in all the wrong places. We’re not concerned with our job as ambassadors in this world. We’re not concerned about the orphans, the widows, the oppressed, the bound up. We’re not concerned about children being carried off into sex-trafficking. I could go on, but I won’t. I think we’ve gotten the point.

All of this arguing and debating over little things is bringing us harm. (And honestly, some embarrassment.) Being a Christian has never been an easy thing, no matter where we live, past, present or future. But will getting up in arms about what other people choose to do cause us to freak out? Or will we make our own choices, and choose to live as Christ has called us, but also to take up arms against the things that are truly bringing destruction. Sin. Hate. Lies. Bondage. Death.

Are we going to go after those who are hurting and need Jesus, or just be offended and stand-offish because they’re drinking out of a cup that doesn’t have a snowman on it?

“I Can’t Adult.” (Yet.)

I turned 25 this summer. Before my birthday, I asked different people how it felt for them when they turned 25. I got many insightful answers.

“It was filled with transitions, because now you’re really an adult.”

“You’re a quarter of a century old, it’s kind of mind-blowing.”

“It was a really rough year. But it got better.”

I have honestly felt all of these things since that lovely day in August. All of these things since I’ve graduated college have stored up into my heart and mind and have slowly unpacked.

We all know that when you unpack, especially after a big move, you’ve got a lot of sorting, decorating and organizing to do. You just can’t rush that. 

This has taken me three weeks to write. Not because it’s hard, but because it’s a lot. All of my “stuff” is unpacked and scattered across the floor as I sit in the midst of it and think…”okay, now what?” I look around and everything is scattered, unorganized, and some things are outgrown….it stretches across the floor and I quickly realize this: I Can’t Adult.

Somewhere in life, we were told whether out loud or by what we’ve experienced, that we should know how to be an adult. I must have fallen asleep during that class. We feel that expectation that life should be put together now, we should know what we’re doing, where we’re going and maybe even throw a family in there. We feed that expectation by trying to fake our “knowledge of everything.” Or we shrug it off and act like we are fine. We don’t need help.

The truth is we don’t know what we’re doing. There was no class on being an adult. We are all figuring this out and it is honestly okay that we don’t know. We don’t have to know everything and have everything put together at once. It’s OK. 

A close friend and I were talking the other day about this stuff. (When you open up and talk to people about these things, you find you’re not alone.) We talked about how even though we know that we don’t have to have all of the answers, we feel like we’re supposed to. Another lovely thing about talking things out with friends is that when you share, you both end up speaking to yourself as well. “It’s okay to not know,” I had said. When those words came out, it was as if Jesus tapped me on the shoulder and said “Ahem….? Could you repeat that to yourself please?”

I’m speaking to you now, and I’m also drilling this into my own heart. We all have different life transitions at different times. They can be overwhelming once they’re unpacked and distressing as you sort through them. To properly unpack, sort, organize and decorate, you have to give yourself space and time. It’s okay to admit you don’t know, it’s okay to ask questions, to ask for help. The enemy of our souls loves to isolate us and make us believe we can handle all of this on our own. That is a lie. We are not meant to be on our own, and we are not meant to live on our own. Don’t shut down and quit amidst the mess of your unpacking transition. You do have friends and family who will come and help. We also have a pretty awesome God Who never leaves us alone, even when we want to be alone.  He will not abandon us. I’m so thankful He doesn’t leave us in our mess, even when we act bigger than we think we are and try to clean it up on our own.

Take My Breath Away

During this long week of snow, some friends and I went sledding. I haven’t gone sledding in such a long time! We had a lot of fun crashing into the frozen powder and taking in the fresh air. The best part however, was when I almost went into the river…

One of my friends and I took a sled down the hill. Everything was going smoothly (as smooth as you can sledding through huge mounds of snow!) until the sled started veering to the left. One thing you learn quickly when living in Eastern Kentucky, is that on one side of you there’s usually a mountain. The other side? More than likely a creek or river. There was a frozen river on our left side. We neared the edge and both of us bailed from the sled and landed in the snow.

Although we could have fallen into the river and this would be a completely different story…we didn’t fall in, but it was quite an adventure! It was one of those moments when you felt your breath catch in your lungs and your heart pound rapidly. There was a hint of fear, but not enough to defeat the joy of sledding and enjoyment of the moment.

A couple of days before that, I was at a Sunday night youth worship service. I witnessed Jesus moving in the hearts of those students, the staff and seeing a beautiful response to how awesome and good God is. The students started singing, and a few times I would stop singing and just listen to them. My breath was taken away again, this time from a sense of awe and joy. Listening to them sing their hearts out to Jesus inspired and refreshed me. I believe that if we were able to see Jesus’ face on that night, I bet He was grinning from ear to ear, and laughing with us.

These are two moments where I truly felt my heart was filled to the brim. Don’t get me wrong, I’m so glad we didn’t crash into the river! I don’t have a dare-devil wish at all. It was the excitement of having fun and a little bit of adventure to be thrown into it. Like the times when we feel God drawing us out into what He’s calling us to do. It’s going to be a great adventure, and you’re probably going to be nervous, but the ride is worth it! It’s worth being completely dependent on God drawing you out and leading you.

In the worship service, it was like when God draws us to Himself. He wants us close to His heart, and He wants to be close to us. He wants us to delight in Him and what He has blessed us with. To bring praise to Him and just be with Him.

I think God has put “breath-taking” moments in our lives to remind us of two things; Fully relying on Him as He pulls us into His adventure, to delight in Him. He is a good God, and He wants us to delight in the adventure He has put us on.

“The wind and the waves still know His name…”

Have you ever read a verse in the Bible that made you go “Wait…what?” You might have read that verse countless of times, but this time it’s waving its arms and saying “Here’s your sign,” (In Jeff Foxworthy’s voice…)

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me.” (Matthew 14:30 ESV)

Our good buddy, Peter is stepping out of the boat and walking on the water towards Jesus. He’s doing great…until he loses focus and starts the drown. We’ve heard this life lesson of Peter a lot. Don’t lose focus. Keep your eyes on Jesus. It’s easy for us sometimes to read this and just skim to something else, because we’ve heard it before. We can all relate to Peter. Peter would be our best friend.

As I read this verse, I stopped and read it again. Six words kept echoing in my head. Six words I have read so many times, but they’ve never echoed to me like this. “But when he saw the wind..” “But…when…he…saw…the..wind…” “…the wind….” “…he saw…the wind?” “wait…the wind?!” 

Of all the things going on….Peter was freaked out by the wind. Forget the storm-clouds. Ignore the fact that he was walking on water. The fact that Jesus was also walking on the water. Peter saw the wind and flipped out.

I have this bad habit of talking during movies. Not talking to people, but talking to the movie characters as if they can hear me. (I totally have better ideas…) As I read this verse, I had one of those moments.

“Peter, how…how can you see the wind?” “Dude…you can’t. You can not even. The wind?? Seriously!? Of all the things you should probably be freaked out about, you are worried about the wind?”

Now, I have no idea what everything looked like back then. I’m not a scholar or expert on wind or anything like that. All I know is, this verse blew my mind all of a sudden.

After my moment of astonishment, something started to click. Peter was brave. He climbed out of the boat, and headed toward his Master. I wonder if he even thought things through as he stepped onto the water? If I had been in his place, I would have wanted to go out there. I would be shaking. Thoughts would crash into my mind. “What if it’s really a ghost? What if I drown? What if I fail at walking on water? Can I really do it? What about sharks?!”

I would be thinking about all the things I couldn’t see. You know what else you can’t see? The wind. 

It’s crazy how the things we cannot see, the things we cannot control are what shake us up the most. All the what-if’s, the who-evers, what-evers, trip us up and make us feel like we’re drowning. We lose focus, despite the fact that Jesus is standing right in front of us saying “C’mon out!” We allow ourselves to get caught up in the “wind” of our lives and we start drowning.

Funny thing about the wind…it comes and goes. It doesn’t last forever and soon the waters will be still again. Jesus, will still be standing there.

The best part of this life lesson from Peter, is when he realized he was falling. He saw that he had lost focus, he saw the things that scared him and that he was drowning. Instead of letting himself drown in utter failure and defeat, he calls out for his Lord to save him. Guess what?

“Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31) 

Peter did doubt. He lost focus and let things get to him. Jesus didn’t wait until he was halfway under. He didn’t sit there and condemn Peter. “He immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him…” 

Countless times I have let things get to me. I’ve stepped out of the boat and the slightest whistle of the wind causes me to tremble and I begin to think I’m going to drown. Countless times, Jesus has rescued me. He ultimately rescued me on the Cross. Yet every time I fall, He is right there to grab my hand. I don’t want to keep letting the wind shake me up, but I know that Jesus is walking with me, and He’s also standing ahead of me. Ready to catch me if I fall.

“Faith is not believing in my own unshakable belief. Faith is believing an unshakable God when everything around me trembles and quakes.” -Beth Moore