First of all, I should be asleep.
Second of all, this all culminated with Samantha’s blog of the same title, which you should read.
Gritty. That’s how the last two years have felt, especially with God. I’ve fought crowd anxiety (that has surfaced out of nowhere since returning from the Race) and the weirdest isolation from church that errs too closely to how I felt as a child – in the wrong place, maybe? awkward and just confused? Why even do this? All of the above.
I haven’t wanted to pray elaborately. I pray in black and white: ready acknowledgement of my failure, immediate reminder of scripture, concise gratitude, amen. All of this completely lacking in ornate adjectives and rambling psalms.
Two years ago my heart broke a lot. God closed the door on Africa, where I felt planted but also my escape route, and soon after that my church crumbled. I lost my place and my people in one fell swoop. I have been angry. I have been processing. To be completely honest with you, I don’t remember much else of that year without glancing back at pictures. I know my sweet nugget was born- we just celebrated his second birthday- and I probably did a lot of yoga. The rest I avoid.
God — we’ve talked, but mostly out of necessity. Motions. Not without sincerity and truth, oh no, but without extravagance. After everything fell apart I pushed forward until I emptied all I had and the words stopped, but the motions did not. For that I am grateful.
We often sweep aside the Old Testament out of pride in our new covenant, which I understand, but I think we miss the good parts. The word “remember” occurs 133 times in the Old Testament:
Remember this covenant
Remember this day
Remember the commandments
Remember that you were a slave
Remember the Lord
Remember the Passover
Remember the word of Moses
Remember your faithful love
Remember your congregation
Remember Mount Zion
Remember my song
Remember my name
Remember the wondrous works He has done
in wrath, Remember mercy
And again over 30 times in the New Testament, often being, “remember what I told you” but most strikingly in, “as often as you eat this bread or drink this cup, do it in remembrance of Me.” Bread. Wine. A motion full of heart.
I have never in my life been more grateful for the cadence of liturgy, the simple rhythms that beg us to remember, remember, remember. There’s no coincidence that ‘practice makes perfect’ and recitation commits to memory songs, poems, monologues, passwords, birthdays. He knew we would struggle, met with heartbreaking years full of grit like sandpaper that would rub us raw so He created a rhythm. We fight our flesh for control in gritty seasons, seasons of messiness, but the cadence holds us together.
One of my favorite Sunday morning moments comes at the end of the service: “raise your hands and receive the benediction,” he says, motions, followed by the words of Aaron:
may the Lord bless you and keep you
may He make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you
may He give you His peace
Remember, remember, remember.
Remember Aaron. Remember the covenant. Remember the blessing. Remember the words are already written. Remember whose you are.
This week I rushed to church to be on time. I scurried through the Great Room, as I always do, grabbing only coffee on a direct route to my seat where I would typically sit until it all began. This time was a little different. I got up, walked across the sanctuary, and talked to two different people. It’s a small thing that went unnoticed and everything still feels gritty, pulled up by the bootstraps in a way, but I have not forgotten who He is or who I am. I remember. We are made of tougher stuff than we allow others, and ourselves, to speak of us.
In the last five or so years I have had the opportunity to be involved in one of the most incredible organizations: More Love Letters. This little movement was started by a dear friend, Hannah Brencher, and aims to write love letters: letters of encouragement for others. It could be an anonymous letter left on a subway seat or the hood of someone’s car, or a letter to someone you love and cherish simply to tell them they are golden, living their best life, and dearly loved.
From December 4-15, TWNMLL is rolling out its biggest, grandest, most festive love letter writing campaign of the year (and it is the most incredible thing)!
They have facilitated this holiday cheer for the last six years by rolling out 12 letter requests over a span of 12 days in December.
These 12 days are the perfect way for you to pause, reflect, and show up in this season whose heart really is all about showing up (thanks, Jesus).
Grab friends, classmates, students, coworkers, or just yourself and a cup of hot cocoa and help bring some goodwill to the world this December. All you need is stationery and a few stamps.
More Love Letters will post a new letter request on their blog each day. Write one letter or write 12! Letters will be bundled up together and delivered by the new year.
Grab your festive cards, your Christmas hats, and join us on social media for this love letter writing marathon. This has been one of the most humbling and fulfilling experiences of my life over the last few years, causing me to really pause and make this busy season meaningful.
Below you will find today’s letter request. This particular request moved me because our younger generations desperately need us to pour into them. I’m a huge advocate for sitting around a table with people from multiple generations simply because we have so much to learn from each other. In this season of our cultures, countries, and lives, it’s hard for adults not to be discouraged. I can only imagine the stress and anxiety this produces in our youth. Please join me in writing to these sweet students and encouraging them to keep pushing forward against all odds because they are worth it.
Wednesday, December 6
More Love Letters received a request for a bundle of letters for students at a school. One of their behavioral specialists wrote to us:
“REAL school serves middle school students who require structured therapeutic school-based supports and are at-risk in the areas of academic achievement as well as emotional and behavioral development. Most are dealing with challenges at home and in the community–trauma, abuse, violence–as well as mental health disorders. They and their families oftentimes lack access to effective resources and lack exposure to people outside of their communities, city, and the world around them. Research shows that these types of disconnections lead to ongoing struggles: incarceration, homelessness, a lower lifetime earning potential, chronic difficulty getting and keeping a job, living in extreme poverty, lack of health insurance, substance abuse, and chronic depression.
Our students (we currently have six boys in the program, ages 12-14) are resilient, vibrant, creative, outspoken, musical, funny, caring, curious, resourceful, athletic, and often, overlooked. They love to rap, dance, play sports, do arts and crafts, and learn about others. They deserve to feel appreciated and supported. They deserve unconditional positive regard. And, most of all, they deserve to feel connected with others.
I’d love to share letters of encouragement and motivation, of overcoming tough times, and of different life experiences (cultures, cities, people) with our students as well as our amazing REAL School staff members.”
Grab your pens and join us in writing letters to these fantastic students this holiday season! Please address all letters to “Dear Students.”
PLEASE MAIL ALL LOVE LETTERS BY DECEMBER 20 TO:
Students of REAL School
℅ Elizabeth L.
12 S. Stafford Avenue Apt. A,
Richmond, VA 23220
My past has occupied most of my brain space over the last month and, honestly, over the last twenty years. I can’t remember a time since 8 years old that I was not preoccupied by a mistake, a failure, an unfulfilled dream or desire. My greatest dream at that point was to be a cheerleader in high school (which didn’t happen, by the way), but I never fought to dream beyond pom-poms and tumbling practice — sad to say the least.
Since graduating high school I’ve had short term dreams: Dreams about designing t-shirts or going to the beach or one day writing a book. My journey on the World Race wasn’t even a dream. It was placed in front of me and I leapt after it, hoping I would find this illusive dream hiding somewhere among the passport stamps and bowls of rice along the way. Not so. Even then, even still, I was overcome with these holes in me: holes from being unworthy, making poor choices, feeling isolated in my sin and suffering, and holes from an overactive brain and words too full of feeling.
I’ve gone through seasons where I live more in the present than in the past, but rarely do I dream. “Strong desire” is as close to “dream” as I would ever come, perhaps out of fear that dreams would never come true, but more likely because the weight of my past still quietly held my arms by my side, unable to reach up for the whispy, dreamy things, those world-changing dreams we may whisper from now and then but rarely speak with any power, and sometimes even the simple dreams: marriage, family, community, stability.
A dozen times a week someone says the word “legacy” and I immediately sing Nichole Nordeman’s song in my head, always challenged by her words, but rarely in a place to explore them. Tonight on the way home from work it happened again- “it’s amazing the little legacies people leave behind,” somewhere between a story about a man and his mother and a song about change and I began to unpack.
I want to leave a legacy. How will they remember me?
How will they remember me? I told a story last night around a table full of strangers, one that rolls off my tongue with ease, about a worship night in a hostel in China and “but what does God really call you?” Amy asked, followed by nights and days of journal entries asking God that very question – what do You call me? What’s my name? – to find the answer written in the very evidence of who He is, whispered day after day to my heart:
Beloved, the I AM loved, a literal outpouring of holy, faithful, uncontainable love.
Lionheart. Brave, courageous, generous.
How will they remember me? Right now, not as the physical representation of a holy love. Right now, more as broken and needy, selfish and conflicted. These holes in me hold ownership over me. Joy light doesn’t shine through them because I’m too busy covering them out of shame, regret, and self-doubt.
I don’t want to live life in a pattern, in repetition, season after season the same pain, the same mentality. We are bread and wine, broken and poured out for those around us, not for our own endless cycles. There must be growth, even in the midst of hard things.
Beloved doesn’t run, doesn’t hide, doesn’t wrap herself in scarves of shame and adorn with the jewels of pain.
Lionhearted doesn’t cower timidly in the corner of a room full of success and truth because she sees only lies.
Beloved is rooted, grounded, in Truth and faith. Beloved is a strong spine and she has open hands. Beloved comes alive with joy.
Lionhearted is wild and free… free. Lionhearted dances and sings; She is always in the presence of the Most High. Lionhearted praises and walks through fire upright, confident. (Read: The Lord is within her; she will not fall) Lionhearted comes alive with destiny.
That is the legacy I choose to leave. Today. I choose that today. And tomorrow, again, that is what I will choose. Yesterday is gone and matters no more.
In light of eternity I am this: lionhearted and beloved.
I want to leave a legacy. How will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough to make a mark on things?
I want to leave an offering: a child of mercy and grace who blessed your name unapologetically
I want to leave that kind of legacy.