Digging for gold in the valley.

I’ve been helping a man named Kevin write a book.

For the last two months, we’ve been meeting up in coffee shops across Atlanta to flesh out his stories. I’ve given him writing homework. He shows up with chapters written and stories half-constructed. We edit his words line by line. We toggle back and forth in Google documents. It’s humbling and good work for me. I like being around people when the lightbulbs go off in their heads.

Today we mapped out Kevin’s story. We spread index cards across a communal table and we put his story together, piece by piece. If you’ve ever done the index card method then you know the process is hard work. You’re forced to look at all the details of a simple story you’ve lived, dust them off, examine them from different positions, and extract the gold. This is what the reader wants, whether you make them dig for it or not: gold.

 

Kevin and I talked for a long time today about the valley. People in the church use this term a lot. You’ll find that “valley” language hidden in hymns and scattered across commentaries because we love a God who loves to use the valley. I like to refer to the valley as any “less-than-hoped-for circumstance” you find yourself in. When you’re heartbroken– that’s a valley. When you’re in a pit of depression that seems endless– that’s a valley. When you’re stuck feeling like God’s not moving and God’s not speaking– that’s a valley.

Maybe you’re nodding your head now and saying, “Oh, that’s the valley these church people talk about? I’m a regular visitor. I actually have season passes to the valley.”

In response to that, I give you a big, fat ME TOO. God basically mails me my valley season passes before the season even begins. He sends me travel brochures for what’s to come. It’s like a rainstorm I can smell in the air. I expect to mark weeks and months of the valley in my planner.

The reason for so much valley isn’t complicated: God grows me there. The more I press into my faith, the more valley I come across.

I am learning to rejoice in low-to-the-ground terrain because so much growth waits for me there. I need only lean into it.

 

“I love the valley,” Kevin tells me today. There’s a smile constantly plastered on his face and he loves to learn and grow so I know he isn’t kidding. The man loves valleys. “That’s where your heart gets tested.”

You see, Kevin believes this whole life is about the heart. The bible talks a lot about the heart and why a healthy heart will affect your whole being. If life is all about the heart then that means we have to take our issues seriously. We have to work through them. We have to find the gold in the hard and painful stuff we walk through. Otherwise, we harden. We grow bitter. We fail to learn. We withhold forgiveness from the very person who needs it most in order to thrive: ourselves.

 

He gets it. Kevin surely gets that we are valley people living in a mountaintop culture.

We are faulty, messy beings trying to navigate through a culture enamored with highlight reels.

Hate to break it to you but we are not mountaintop people. We weren’t designed to always be front-and-center, curated and in control. Life is far too hard and weird to ever extract the idea from it that we are always meant to be constantly inspired or constantly praised. There’s going to be hard, break-your-heart moments. They’re guaranteed. They’re our rites of passage in this club called humanity.

The question isn’t: Gosh, will there be hard stuff to come? The question is: how can I embrace the pain that makes me grow? How can I say “yes” to the tests that make me a better human?

 

I’m not saying you won’t get mountaintop moments from time to time. I want to believe we all get a good-sized stack of them and they shock our shoes off. I’m saying the valley isn’t something to ignore, it’s not the time to get down on our knees and beam up the “please take this away from me” prayers. Trust me, you’re going to want to go through the painful stuff because that’s where the gold comes in. That’s where your faith becomes gold. That’s where your heart becomes gold.

I’m not saying it will be pretty. I’m not telling you to pray for more valleys. In my own experience, going through is better than being teleported out of a valley though. You learn more when you walk through something as opposed to only ever grumbling, “Just take it away. Just take it away.”

Mind you, I’m a frequent pray-er of the “take it away” prayer even though I know it rarely works. When I walked through depression in 2014, I was clogging up God’s voicemail with “take it away” prayers. At some point, I wised up to what God was doing. I could almost hear him saying, “Can you please stand up for five seconds? Just five seconds. I want to release you but you have to get up and walk through it with me.” The valley does not mean you’re on lockdown, it means your growth is precious to God.

The prayer is simple though no easier to pray: “Lord, place me where I’ll grow the most. Teach me to love the dirt that transforms me. Give me eyes that see the golden threads in my pain. Let me be a lighthouse in this valley. Let it be so.”

Kicking fear off the platform.

In 2016, I spoke at all four of the Propel Women conferences. It was a pretty big honor for me, something Lane and I both agreed was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Confession: we actually postponed our wedding by a week to make room for this opportunity.

I just remember calling my mom up when it became official and I signed the contract. I remember rambling on with fear and excitement and I just remember her saying into the phone, “Imagine the things you’re going to learn. Just sitting beneath these women at all these events, imagine what you are going to learn.” That’s my mom- she pushes Fear’s scrawny butt out-of-the-way to make room for Wisdom. And, let’s be real, Wisdom always has more junk in the trunk than Fear.

My mom was so right though. For years, I’ve looked up to people like Christine Caine, Priscilla Shirer, and Beth Moore as epic communicators. It was a humbling honor to share the stage with them. That year, Propel wanted some millennials to take the stage. Yes, I am a millennial but I never anticipated God would use someone like me for that job.

When I say “someone like me,” I mean the young woman who never thought she’d be a communicator. I thought I could and would gladly write all the words from behind a desk. I thought I would be a writer, not a speaker. Someone like me being up on a stage is a true testimony to God using the most unexpected souls to complete his missions. It’s comical really to use the girl known to dry-heave in the toilet before giving a speech and put her on a stage in front of 7,000 people to communicate a message.

Before the first conference, I was asked to write my talk and mail it over to the team at Propel for review. I remember how nervous I was to put that talk together, continually thinking to myself, “God, I just want to get this right. Please give me the right words.”

The feedback from the talk was limited. Actually, only one big suggestion was made: change the beginning of the talk. Introduce yourself differently.

Here’s what I originally intended to do with the beginning of my talk: I wanted to walk out there, introduce myself, and then also tell people about the anxiety I was feeling. Without a doubt, I knew Anxiety was going to be up there on stage with me. I figured if I give this thing some breath and acknowledge its existence then I will be able to move forward. I will be able to really nail the talk knowing I called out the biggest elephant in the room.

They were asking me to eliminate the part of the talk where I introduced myself by saying, “Hi, I’m anxious.” They wanted me to be bolder, to step forward, introduce myself, and really walk in confidence that I was supposed to be up on that stage. This, for me, is a pretty tall order.

I wanted that crutch. I wanted to make excuses. I wanted to give my platform away to fear.

I’ve always given Anxiety room and breath. I’ve often introduced us at the same time because it has been my way of apologizing in advance, like, “If I mess this up then you will know why.”

I’m learning it is one thing to know your weakness and another thing to project your weakness out of fear that you don’t add up. At the end of each day, I am not my anxiety. I am not my depression. I don’t need to walk out onto a stage and let everyone know I am nervous. Anxiety is something I face but it’s on me if I use it as a crutch or I choose to limit what God is already doing by giving it undue credit.

I’m trying to think differently now, say more things like, “If I am out here on this stage then that means God is with me. I am qualified to do this. I am equipped and ready to do this. So just do the dang thing and don’t make excuses where they’re not necessary.”

I think we waste so much time wondering why we are where we are. I want to look through a different lens. I want my life to be efficient yet purposeful. I want to be able to say I am qualified for this day and I refuse to let anxiety be the thing that holds me back from it. That begins with what I say and how I speak about myself. The words coming out of my mouth at any given moment play a huge role: they will determine whether I am grateful for the opportunity I’m standing in or not.

I am not just processing this when it comes to stages and arenas. I think it’s better that I become grateful in the smaller stuff: the grocery store, the weekly trip to Target (oh, how I wish it wasn’t a weekly trip), dinner dates, and parties we attend. Am I grateful to be here? Am I acting like it? Am I speaking like I am grateful?

 

You’re going to face crazy, hard things. This is a reality. And I know I am not the only one who has battled something significant like anxiety, depression, or another kind of mental illness. But, in the moment where you’re called forward to shine, are you going to give the credit to God or your weakness?

It is possible to let your weakness shine brighter than your character.

It is possible to be stepping up onto a platform and kicking yourself down from it at the same time. I don’t think God calls us to these moments so we can boast about how weak we are, I think there’s a real opportunity to exclaim how far we’ve come and how many victories we’ve experienced with him.

I want to speak the right words into the microphone. I want to give breath to the good and lovely things of this lifetime. I appreciate my anxiety because it has taught me to fight like hell to get past the hurdles but no, my weakness does not need its own microphone.

I will walk with you through the woods.

January is a month that hoards memories for me. I can hardly look at the word “January” scrawled thick across the banner of a new calendar and not remember all that happened in this month three years ago. It’s all still with me.

I remember the plane rides back and forth between Atlanta and Connecticut. I remember the multiple doctors, all with their differing opinions about treatment moving forward. I remember the hotel rooms, sitting on the phone for hours with friends because I didn’t want to be alone. I remember the drowsiness of sleeping pills and the feel of the carpet against my cheek as I got down on the floor once again and begged God for a shred of hope, one small poke of light through the thick fog of depression.

Depression is never an easy topic to write about but I know it’s necessary. Today, as I was reading in Isaiah, I noticed the words: I have been anointed to bring good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners of darkness. 

There are prisoners of darkness. This is an accurate description of how depression feels. Sometimes you feel like you are in this small, stone box. You’re stuck at the bottom of it. There’s no light pouring through the cracks. You can’t find a window or a door and you’re gasping for breath, pounding on the sides of that box in the hopes that someone would just hear you and let you go free. You’re stuck. It’s scary.

I get emails all the time from people asking me to write about how, just how, to walk with someone through the woods. Through the pain of depression. Through a dark valley of an unseen illness that steals sleep and daily ambition.

I’m writing now but with great hesitancy. Mental illness is such a tender topic and it’s important to just come out and say it: there is no one-size-fits-all treatment. Each individual is different. Each experience with mental illness is unique. I don’t possess all the answers. Not even close. I am simply one person who deals with depression and it would be wise to gather the stories of others to make this narrative more complete. So here’s the little prayer I said beneath my breath as I wrote this: God, help me to be wise when writing about such a tough topic. Give me grace in the areas where I get it wrong. Highlight & amplify the places where I speak your truth the loudest. 

I’d so appreciate your grace on this topic too!

You are not a lifeboat. The signs of depression may be pretty straightforward. However, figuring out how to respond to those signs is a different beast. You love this person. You naturally want to make it better for the one who is stuck in a thick fog. The first thing to remember: your presence is appreciated and essential but you can’t heal a person of their illness. That’s not your role.

Don’t get frustrated by this. You have many other roles you can take on. You can make the tea. You can let them crumble into your arms and hold them why they cry. You can listen. You can learn.

More importantly, depression is a heavy thing. It can feel burdensome. Depression, itself, is the burden. The person who is suffering is just the host of the burden. Burdens, however, are not meant to be shouldered alone. Be mindful of your limits. Don’t try to hold this all on your shoulders. It is possible to be crushed under the weight of trying to show up for someone you love. 

Be mindful of your limits. Don’t try to hold this all on your shoulders. It is possible to be crushed under the weight of trying to show up for someone you love. 

Stay surrounded by a support system if you can. Be plugged in and be in communication with the other friends or family members who are walking alongside this person. Sometimes it takes a small village and hey, sometimes you may need to pull over on the side of the road and take a pit stop. That’s okay. I say this because it’s easy to start a journey with people but it’s harder to finish it. Take care of your health. Lean hard into your people as someone with depression leans into you. Exercise boundaries. Be aware of how you’re feeling as you offer another support.

 

Be a truth-teller. Much of depression is like hearing a soundtrack of lies blasting loudly in the background of everything you try to do yet being helpless to find the knob that turns the volume down. We need people to reach in and say, “Hey, I see you. I know the things you are believing right now but here’s some truth to sustain you.”

Remind that person of who they are. Remind them that they are not an illness or a failure. Depression is not a weakness. Remind the person you love that they are a fighter and that they, too, will come out of the woods. 

It might be tempting to say, “Snap out of it. Get yourself together and just move forward.” You have to remember that the person battling this mental illness wants to believe the same things as you. They’ve tried to snap out of it. They are likely trying as hard as they possibly can so coercion to “get over it” won’t work. Be kind and graceful.

Sometimes it won’t seem to make any sense. And that’s okay, too. Depression is a hard thing to understand and the best thing you can say sometimes is, “Hey, we both don’t fully get this but what is more important is getting through this.”

 

You’re okay. These are my two favorite words in the English language. I use them constantly to remind others of how strong and brave they are. This is a big one: help is sometimes necessary and there doesn’t need to be a glowing orb of stigma around getting it. Doctors exist for a reason. Medicine exists with a purpose. Not everyone needs medicine but it’s okay if the door gets flung open.

It’s one of the most powerful things in the world to remind a person who is fighting through the dark: you’re okay. You’re okay and if you need me to, I will go to the doctor’s office with you. I will hold your hand. I will help you pick up the medicine and take that first pill.

Again, treatment is not a one-size-fits-all thing. I reached a point in my own journey where medicine was the only option to recovery and I still remember the friend who dropped me off at the doctor’s office. I remember her bringing me back to her place, tucking me in on the couch, and going to Target to pick up that first prescription for me.

It’s tempting to want to think you are crazy for having to take pills to make your brain better but that’s the last thing you are. You are not crazy. You are not a lost cause. I had to remind myself that each small pill was a step towards recovery. It didn’t mean I would take the pills forever. It simply meant that, in this moment, there was a little extra assistance and that was perfectly okay.

Another thing you might have to say: you’re okay. And it’s okay if you need to go somewhere like a hospital. It’s okay if you need more help.

It was two weeks into my medicine that my community and I made the decision to go to the emergency room. I wouldn’t have gone if people hadn’t surrounded me and said, “It’s perfectly okay to go where there is help. Don’t be afraid. Don’t believe the lie that you are broken beyond repair.”

“It’s perfectly okay to go where there is help. Don’t be afraid. Don’t believe the lie that you are broken beyond repair.”

Thoughts of suicide are a reality for some of those battling mental illness. It is imperative that we ask the hard questions and we follow-up with help options: Are you thinking about hurting yourself? Are you thinking about hurting other people? These are not silly questions and they need to be asked sometimes even if it feels uncomfortable.

 

Little victories. I owe so much of my recovery to a small band of women who surrounded me and refused to let me be alone. There were days where I just wanted to be left alone. They would invite me over. They would call and ask me to join them for errands. This is huge. Really huge. It would be easy enough to sit with a person experiencing depression and let them talk all day about their worries and fears. This won’t always be helpful though. Instead, plan something active. Propose going for a walk or doing a yoga class together. Ask them to join you on a trip to Target. These activities help a person get out of their own head and enter into the world. The depression will likely scream, “No! Just stay home. Just stay alone!” but it’s okay to be a little insistent. Even if you don’t feel it, your presence is a breath of fresh air to someone who is worn down by the prison in their brain.

There were days where all I wanted to do was run myself in circles around lies I couldn’t piece together. I wanted answers but that’s the thing about depression: it wants you to obsess over things you cannot change and it wants you to be helpless to move forward.

I wanted answers but that’s the thing about depression: it wants you to obsess over things you cannot change and it wants you to be helpless to move forward.

One of my girlfriends, Chrisy, stopped me in the middle of obsessing one morning. She said, “Okay, we are not going to wallow in this anymore. I want you to get up and I want you to do something.” She instructed me to go to Target and buy a pack of thank-you notes. She told me to write a thank-you note to any person who’d been with me in this dark pit. She asked me to write down every tiny thing I did from now until the end of the day, in monotonous fashion: Went to Target. Wrote thank-you notes. Took a shower. Met with Heather. 

Little victories are one of the best things you can point a person towards when they are in a pit. Little victories, stacking upon one another, help a person climb out of themselves and see the world once again. Depression is an illness that wants you to focus inward but action steps propel you forward. This is also a great chance to encourage self-care. It’s easy to neglect things like bathing, working out, or eating right when you are depressed. Just the thought of a shower can seem so overwhelming but breaking the self-care into baby steps, little victories to be met, helps a person feel empowered and capable of trying again the next day.

Help the person in your life count the little victories, no matter how small. Write them down or track them in a phone. Rejoice with them. Celebrate the smallness. Grab their hand and assure them, “Little victory upon little victory, I will walk with you through the woods.”

 

I would love to read your words and thoughts on this topic in the comment section below. The comments section is often a bright light for others, all on its own. I invite you to contribute- your words are appreciated in this space. 

Single for the season.

I spent the last hour googling “single during the holiday season” and clicking in and out of articles. The stories were pretty much all the same. How to survive the holiday season. Things to do when you’re single. The articles start the same way, with cheesy puns about adding extra fa-la-la-la into your season. The slew of articles is really pretty pathetic for how weighty this feeling of “singleness” can be when December rolls around.

So you’re here. And you’re reading this. And maybe you’re the single one.

Valentine’s Day is one day on the calendar but, for some reason, the holiday season feels like two long months of social awareness for the single people in the room.

And maybe Hallmark Movies don’t make it any better because all these fiercely handsome men and seemingly perfect women keep colliding into one another in the old haunts of their hometowns while you’re just shoving more cookies into your mouth and ordering pizza from UberEats.

Scoot over on the couch, pass me a cookie, and let’s do this thing. 

 

First things first, you’re fine. If I had a quarter for every person who tried to tell me to be jolly about my singleness then I wouldn’t be writing anymore. I would likely be retiring and celebrating my newfound wealth on a beach in Mexico.

Reminder #1: Don’t cut the person who tells you this. 

Reminder #2: you don’t have to be jolly. It doesn’t have to be a thing.

People mean well when they say this sort of stuff. But if the awkwardness were to be stripped from every
“single at the holidays” conversation then I would just come out and tell you this: Hey, it’s absolutely okay if you’re hurting. You can be disappointed. You are allowed to want to shove couples frolicking together at the mall. Your rage is welcome here.

It’s okay to think it should be your turn by now. No one is going to hate you if you turn off the notifications this Christmas Eve. If seeing pictures of rings at Christmas is going to make you go ballistic then let’s take a step back and go from there.

You are allowed to grieve for what you don’t yet have. Singleness sometimes looks like mini skirts and cocktails. Sometimes singleness feels like grief and longing we haven’t learned to manage yet. We need to have better conversations about singleness. It’s okay to be single and yet waiting to not be. Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean life hits the pause button. There’s a difference.

 

Your singleness is not a scorecard. It doesn’t have the permission to rate you or degrade you. You are not defined by a ring-less left hand. I’m married now so maybe you think I don’t get to say these things anymore but I’ve been taking notes. I took notes throughout my singleness and now I am taking notes throughout the marriage and I can tell you one thing that never changes, no matter how your marital status may shift: a person never fills the holes only God, himself, was made to occupy.

In some ways, I believe God made the holes on purpose. Chiseled them deep. Dug them wide. Gave us a spirit to want, so badly, to fill those holes with something of value and worth. When we see the holes, we realize we are in need of something. We are in need of something better than this mediocre world. I think we were created with a need to taste heaven, even in the smallest doses.

 

There was a time when I thought a guy would change that. I thought the right combination of blue eyes and 5’8 stature would fix me. I found myself craving all the attention I could get. I found myself wanting to be wanted. I thrived off of desire. It didn’t matter to me if I wasn’t planning longterm with the man, I just wanted someone to see me, call me beautiful, and hold the door open.

Wanting isn’t wrong. Where I went wrong was picking any man, any guy off Tinder, to make me feel valuable. I could never stand in front of an imperfect man and ask him to give me worth. Your value, dear, will never come from someone sitting across the table from you. A person can accentuate your value. A person can call you to a higher confidence in yourself. A person can call out your greatness and make you feel beautiful. But a person cannot hand you all the validation you so desperately want.

I would learn eventually– after a series of bad dates– that another person could never complete me. We were made to complement but not complete someone else. That’s too big of a role and our backs would break trying.

 

I’m not going to jettison a list of 5 activities you can do while being single this season because, honestly, reading a list like that when I was single would have depressed me. I was single out enough already. I didn’t want to be singled out by stigmas too.

So here’s all I’ll say: wallow if you want. Cry if you need to. No one is going to stop you. The greatest freedom I ever claimed from the most wonderful time of the year was the ability to say, “It’s okay if I don’t feel wonderful. I’m still here and that’s what matters.”

Your purpose isn’t on pause just because you’re single this year. You could be single your whole life, and still, this world would need something from you. It would tap its worldly foot and look at its worldly watch and wonder, “Is that person still waiting for the relationship to come? There was so much we could have done in the meantime.”

The world still needs you to pick up the phone and do your thing. Not an inch of your passion need be drained away based on a relationship status. There are still cards to write out and people to encourage. There are still shelters in need of extra volunteers and people who feel so heartbroken they aren’t sure if they will be able to handle the season this year.

Whether you see it or not, you’re like this tiny gold thread that’s bobbing and weaving through the stories of other people. You might not be in every story but, if you keep your eyes wide open this year, then you won’t miss the ones that need your touch. Your golden thread.

 

Eyes wide open. No matter what. Whether you are single or married, dating or engaged, we all need a reminder to have eyes wide open this time of year. The season will go by fast. I’m probably the 12th person to say that to you this year. But I think back to the reason why I celebrate Christmas. I tell myself, don’t miss the point. Don’t miss the point of this.

I’ve lived too long at this point– seen too many things– to believe in coincidences and accidents. I know there is purpose here. I know God is at work. But I also know that every conversation I avoided could have taught me something and every event I go to has the power to change me. That’s what happens when you step out into the world and you look around– you start to change. You morph. You become someone new. And maybe, just maybe, that “someone new” is the person you were meant to be when you meet the “someone new” who ends of wanting to partner with you. You never know. I know it took a lot of fights, battles, friendships, and moves to get me to the place where I met Lane and felt ready to love him with all the selfish and unselfish parts of me. I had to let the world change me before I could change the way I loved someone else.

We get this one chance. It’s this one, rare chance to be living, breathing creatures for a little while on this planet. And as we go, we get this chance to love people until it breaks our hearts and we go mad for one another. We get to scour the planet for treasure. We get to make bucket lists. We get the chance to commune. We get to define the purpose and make plans. There is a massive list of “get to”s that we get to do and we waste so much of that time on feeling like we are incomplete. Feeling inadequate. Feeling underqualified.

This is it for me. This is it for you. We might not get this season again so we should try to shake the fear off our shoulders and get busy with love. Fear wants to keep us isolated. Love wants to keep us busy.

Tis’ the season of joy. And maybe you won’t feel it the whole way through. Maybe it will only come in quick spurts. But calm your little, worried heart and keep on the lookout for peace and light. Repeat this truth beneath your breath as you go:

you’re not missing any piece of you. 

you’re not missing any piece of you. 

you’re not missing any piece of you. 

 

And that’s how you grow up.

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I’m growing up a lot these days. It’s painful, weird and kind of beautiful.

I used to think growing up was just a matter of paying your bills on time and figuring out how to properly clean a bathroom. These days, that’s just the tip of it. Within learning how to cook and clean, I’m slowly learning that growing up is the realization that other people hang in the balance of your own life. Growing up is the process of taking the world’s spotlight off of you. It’s the process of seeing people. It’s putting your selfishness on the back-burner to make sure someone else feels like they can conquer something today.

When waiting.

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When I used to live in New York City, there would be days when I would meet up with my friend Libby in the middle of Grand Central Station at the end of our workday.

We would climb the stairs up to overlook the grand foyer, right where the Apple Store now sits, and we would not say much for a little while. We would just look down at all the people rushing to get home. We’d point out all the ones who were waiting for something. Specifically a someone.

“That one,” she’d point out to me. “Him.”

“He’s waiting on her,” I’d connect the dots, finding the girl in the red tights from across the way who would soon be running up to him to pull him in closer.

We’d point them out from a distance. One by one. A guy and a girl meeting up after a longer day.

I don’t know how many times we did that. How many times we sat and we talked about our days with one another while we watched other people waiting. Regardless, it is still one of my favorite things about Grand Central– it’s a reminder of how there is something terribly romantic and awful about waiting. And the two feelings seem to exist at the same time.

I didn’t date much while I lived there.

Not that year. I cried too often and figured therapy was a better option than dating ever could be. I kind of tortured myself thinking. “I’m too broken to be date-able.” And while I don’t think dating is the key to not being a train wreck (one must be willing to pull themselves out from a wreckage), I also think we are too hard on ourselves sometimes. Life is really short. We can be super dramatic. Perhaps sometimes we are supposed to wear the red lip stick, go out, and meet the cute boy.
So I signed up for a dating site. One of those free ones where people seem to sit on the Emoji button a little too much. And I went out with an extremely sweet bagpipe player who also played rugby (I still don’t know if there is a better combination than that). He had the kindest eyes and his texts made me feel seen. He didn’t ever know my heart was already broken and trying to put itself back together daily.

But I remember there were a few times when we would meet up after work in the middle of Grand Central. Him and I– by the big clock. I have to be honest– I haven’t really found the feeling that is better than the one that comes from knowing someone is waiting for you. Wanting you. Hoping you’ll show.

It’s a waiting game.

A lot of us are waiting. For answers. For people to love us. For someone to change. A lot of us are waiting on love. It’s like we grew up into a world that promised us one day we would get love- our missing piece of the puzzle. And I guess I still want to believe in that. I want to believe that hope isn’t just something that got me through high school, and got me through college, and pushed me to stay optimistic. And while I no longer believe that there is just one person in the world for us, I still want to believe he’s out there.  (Hey you– I still think you’re out there.)

So we get a lot of choices. And sometimes those choices look like waiting. Sometimes those choices look like being wild. Spontaneous. Deciding to step forward and into the woods– facing our fears and deciding not to talk of them any longer.
Life isn’t a waiting room and yet so many of us are waiting. We can’t help it.

And I guess we could either feel gutted or hopeful. Gutted or hopeful. There are the two options. We could either trace people in Grand Central that are getting what we want or we could see the truth: the ones who have that “one thing” are probably often waiting for something else. We won’t always know what that is. We are all waiting on secret things that we neglect to write in our diaries at night.

Maybe it’s for the fog to lift. Maybe it’s for someone to finally leave us. A lot of us are waiting on disaster. I am not certain why but too many of us are waiting for God to give up. Like he’s gonna turn around, see our crying face, and finally whisper, “Enough. I am through.”

But maybe, just maybe, the opposite could happen in our waiting. A miracle might come. A blessing might show up. Maybe God is gonna be the one who scoops us up–  as if he saw us helpless and doe-eyed in Grand Central that whole time– and finally tell us the words we need to hear, “Little one, the waiting is over. The waiting is over.

Come on, we’re moving. It’s gonna be so good.”

 

You know, even in those times where I knew no one was going to meet me by the clock, I had someone right beside me who asked me about my day. She would meet me in the middle of any day when everything felt like it was falling apart. When I stopped seeing myself and the good in who I was as a human being. She’d be there– whether I was crushed in spirit or ready for another round of resilience. And together we could pluck the people from the crowd who were waiting, just like us.

We wait. That’s certain. We wait for things.

But we never are waiting alone.

Please proceed to step out of the woods.

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You are more than the things you tell yourself on repeat. 

My god, you have no idea how badly I want to believe in those words. I want to say them on repeat. I want to grab people in public places and just shake them real good while those words shoot out of my mouth like promises I know I can keep.

You are more than the things you tell yourself on repeat. 

I wrote them in my palm. I kept opening and closing up my hand just so I could see those words, suck them in, believing for longer than a second that the words are true. They’re written in ink. I never want to stop reading them. I keep thinking they’ll act like a cloak that hangs over my shoulders and keeps me protected from the doubt and the insecurity that try to come crawling beneath my door at night.

You are more than the things you tell yourself on repeat. 

A friend of mine sent me a text the other day. She told me she’d had a dream about me. In thedream she saw me standing in the middle of a dark alleyway. I was hesitant. I was scared. I was unable to put one foot in front of the other. I could see the light that was waiting for me just outside the alleyway– so much light just waiting for me– but I couldn’t step out. And she told me, after she had that dream, that I needed to step out. Whatever was holding me back, I had to let it go. Whatever fears were burrowing themselves into my spirit, I had to find a way to let them go. She found me out. She found me out in that dream and she was telling me straight: you need to stop holding yourself back. The pity party must cease and you must de-invite everyone to your darkest parts. You need to stop thinking you have never deserved good things for your life. 

 

Just typing those words– you need to stop thinking you have never deserved good things for your life— makes me feel like I am the one punching my own self in the stomach. Again. Again. Again. But they’re true. They’re true on Monday mornings. They’re true on Wednesday afternoons and Friday nights and weekends that are packed with plans. We all, at some point or another, live with the lie that we don’t deserve good things. And it makes us hostile little creatures who don’t know to love things with our whole bodies.

You are more than the things you tell yourself on repeat.

Someone needs to read that today. Just that. Maybe it’s you. Someone needs to know they are not the lies they’ve told themselves.

You aren’t the sob story. You’re not the victim. You’re not the one who always gets left behind. You’re not forgotten. You’re not second-string. You’re needed. Can’t you just accept that? You are needed. 

 

 

This world needs you. It’s scary, crazy-broken and it needs you. And let me be clear– it needs all of you. And that means you must be willing to backburner your own insecurities so that you can become who this world so desperately needs right now. It needs the strongest version of you. The kindest version. The most refined version who is willing to go through the woods and out of the woods to ensure that someone else, someday, will be able to come out of the woods too. 

We all want to be out of the woods— have we forgotten that we were supposed to help one another find the way out

The world needs all of you– in your bravest skin. Please don’t let the doubt that’s falling on your shoulders keep you from your purpose. Maybe it’s been a while… maybe it’s been a while since someone came up to you and told you that you count. That you matter. That you play a role. We all play a role. And the point of this lifetime is not to look at other people and wonder why they got what you wanted.

The point of this lifetime isn’t to belittle yourself. It’s not to wait for the day when you feel worthy and good enough. It’s not to mark some date on a calendar when you’ll be a better version of yourself or a time when you think you’ll actually be able to look in the mirror without wishing someone else would stare back.

No offense, and not to be harsh, but we all need to step up and set expiration dates for ourselves. Expiration dates for the fear. For the doubt. For the lies we tell ourselves to convince ourselves that someone else is always going to have it better than us.

You’re here. You are here right now. And do you know how much that matters? Do you know how much that counts? Please– for the love of lovelier things– do not fling away your life and feed it to the lions in your head that tell you you don’t add up. You do. And the sooner you tell yourself that– whether you believe the words or not– the sooner you will find the backburner for yourself. And the sooner you find the backburner for yourself, the sooner you’ll understand what this life is really all about: helping others come out of the woods.
The stories you tell yourself– they’re lies. Lies meant to keep you in one place. Never moving. Never making the impact you said you wanted to. Those lies don’t have an expiration date… That should terrify you.

No one is going to change a thing for you if you don’t do it first.