July & Fireflies

July is one of those months that always seems so hazy with heat. You can fan yourself half to death and still be hot. July breezes are more like being in a convection oven – they cook you faster. I don’t remember a July in my life that didn’t feel overwhelmed with heat in a fearful sort of way. Even torrential downpours haven’t cooled this little mountain oasis off in the last month.

I love to look back over the years and see how I celebrated July 4th, my favorite holiday. This year was incredible and one I will always remember. I had the opportunity to design some pretty great shirts for our crew at Chickfila that worked the Rome Braves game. I threw a t-shirt from the dugout to the 200s, which made me feel like a boss, and at one point we ditched the game for Cookout because the lines were too long. The fireworks were amazing as always, full of those weeping-willow ones and the super sparkly ones. I am in love with fireworks. Maybe I’m a slight pyromaniac, but I think it’s the light in darkness – the glimmer of hope in the midst of nothingness. A spark. I love them with the fascination of a child even at the age of 26.

I’d be lying if I said the rest of July wasn’t filled with coming up with ideas to escape the heat. It baffles me that I don’t know more people who have swimming pools.

I spent a couple sabbaths in Woodstock with my little nugget, Isaac, and his great parents that I love. Here’s a tiny glimpse at him because he is irresistible. I’m sorry in advance for what his little eyes will do to your heart:

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Somewhere in the last week of this hot month I finished my fourth list of 1000 Gifts and had a deep heart moment over the smallest little things in the last 8 months that have been reminders of God’s constant presence.. little grace notes everywhere. Friendships springing up out of empty wells and moments when He forced me to rest. Gratitude has trained my mind to whisper to my heart that this is enough. He is enough.

In the end, someone told me that my heart is that of a 90-year old; deeply rooted is the wisdom and scripture inside it. But I still have the brain of a 26-year old that has trouble keeping up with the heart knowledge of who God is sometimes. I feel like Mulan training to be a warrior, in the thick of learning so much about who I am and who I need to be, not strong enough but learning to be stronger and walk taller and push harder. It has been a Romans 5:4 season.

we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character,and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us…

We did manage to find a sweet place to dip our toes in this summer heat, a true mountain oasis, and it was wonderful. That’s how I spent the final day of this mid-year month: floating in mountain spring water with tiny fish all around (then we ate McDonald’s..so it wasn’t all Thoreau quotes and hipster photos and modern-day Little Mermaid).

There were some hard parts tucked in there, sandwiched between an adult decision or two, but it was such a wonderful month. And I learned that there is some kind of significance to the bitterness of wine taken during communion that grape juice just doesn’t convey. I could go on for days about Passover and broken bread and eucharisteo and poured out wine, but I won’t. I’m still mulling over this wine significance, but there’s something there, some shock to the senses that’s important.

Count it all joy, James says, because the trying of your faith produces patience or completeness or stronger character. It makes a thing happen that’s important. This month has been joy-filled, both in the hard moments and the bright ones. I’m still thankful for every moment spent laughing to tears and every moment learning from my mistakes.

Don’t tell summer, because I love it so, but I am so thrilled at the prospect of cool evenings and apple pie that will fly toward us in just a few short moments. I love summer and I recognize that fall is always so unbelievably packed full, but I anticipate it in a big way. I love the smells it brings and the deep hunter greens and rust reds. And what girl isn’t secretly waiting for pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin bread and everything else pumpkin you can imagine? But I digress. August has already proven itself an interesting month, full of surprises and sweet changes. I can’t wait to tell you what’s next.

Hey June, if we’re honest

Let me paint this picture for you: It’s Friday night. I’m sitting in the floor of my bedroom eating mashed potatoes and fried chicken from Publix while Parenthood reruns play in the background. I’m surrounded by dirty clothes, water bottles & gatorade bottles, bottles of essential oils, vitamins, nail polish, and a few random purses and bags (I’m such a bag lady). I was sitting here trying to figure out how to start this and realized how much this random assortment of things represents my life. I’m going to hit the hard stuff first, then I want to tell you a few things that have been beautiful about June, okay? So, bear with me through the rough stuff. I promise there’s celebration at the end.

I keep hearing this song by Francesca Battestelli on the radio that says, “bring your brokenness and I’ll bring mine; Love can heal what hurt divides” – it’s all about being honest and vulnerable with our people, especially our spiritual family, and watching God heal what hurt and brokenness divide. Here’s my honest:

For four years I have been riding waves of change and chaos in pretty unhealthy ways. I graduated from college in May of 2012 and have experienced so much life. I’ve visited 16 different countries, lived in six different houses in Georgia, visited almost all the states on the eastern coast plus two in the midwest, changed jobs 3 times, lost two grandparents, wrecked a car and bought a new one, and so much more that I can’t even begin to put into words. My life has been an adventure, which I’m thankful for, but one that has left me with little understanding of what living in stability actually looks like. I’ve struggled with anxiety for a while, but in the last couple months, and maybe even longer than that, it’s become something that overwhelms me on almost a daily basis, messing with my physical health in such a way that seems insurmountable at times. When you walk one path in your brain for a long time, you create ruts (I read Switch on Your Brain last year and you should, too – it’s incredible) that are hard to get out of without serious work and aggression to fight the hard things. I heard God specifically tell me in January that this would be a season of rest, but I think He’s having to teach me how to rest because I’m clueless.

What I’ve learned about myself in the last four days is undeniably of the Lord. I can’t get over the way He is kind and patient with me, even in my stubbornness and weakness. I wrote and rewrote Psalm 103 yesterday and kept getting hung up in two places:

verse 13 and 14 say God has compassion on His children because He knows what we’re made of – remembering that we are dust. He’s mindful of our humanity and He chooses us anyway. He doesn’t impose impossible standards on us because He knows our little lives are fleeting and our eyes can only see such a small portion of what is happening around us. He is mindful of what we can carry and what we need.

and verse 4 where He crowns us with compassion and faithful love. I imagined flower crowns in the middle of summer, but that’s just me. We are royalty in the eyes of the Creator, but we so often walk in denial of the power we have, leaving us in such unhealthy places. God wants us to know in the deepest parts of us that He crowns us and covers us with His hesed – covenant love – the kind that redeems us. I don’t know what else will make you feel more like a princess than that (okay, *maybe* Disney World, but it’s a stretch). A pal told me once that life isn’t a fairytale, but we’re royalty. We have the crowns to prove it.

So, that’s my honest and that’s my struggle. That’s where I am: broken, usually in a lot of pain, and just really holding out all hope that God will show up and rescue me. I’m like Paul and the guys on the ship in Acts 27: dropping anchors & praying for daylight.

 

I wait for Yahweh; I wait and put my hope in His word. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning— more than watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6 

 

I promised you celebration, so here it is:

Summer is my favorite season. I love autumn and spring as well (winter and I.. we struggle except for Christmas, twinkle lights and sweaters), but there’s something about just sweating half to death five degrees from Satan’s kitchen that warms my heart. I love the sun. I love afternoons at the pool or the lake (or the beach, of course). I love summer hikes and afternoon naps in my hammock and having to power through an ice cream cone so it doesn’t melt down your arm. I love the way peaches taste in the middle of summer and the way grass feels on the bottom of barefeet. I love flip-flops and that new OPI color on my toenails. Most things pale in comparison to freshly cut watermelon, tomatoes straight from the garden, and potato salad the way your family has always made it. I love the southern sayings that all stem from summer heat and the way the first heat makes folks crazy and all the fans needed to keep cool when the air is as thick as a sweater. I love parties where everyone brings a dish and playing outside is normal. Few things make me feel as lighthearted and joyful as driving around town with all the windows down and the music up loud. There is something about a southern summer.

Speaking of music, The Tony Awards happened early in the month and they were wonderful. As if this isn’t always the case, the talent was overwhelming this year. If you haven’t listened to music from Hamilton or Waitress and haven’t signed up to see She Loves Me live thanks to technology and Broadway, you are missing out on some greatness.

Rome held a new Shakespeare Festival early in the month where the town green was covered by a stage and the sunset cast the perfect lighting for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The rolling thunder and distant pops of lightning from coming storms only added to the aura. We sat on blankets and watched the story unfold around us and the part of my heart that loves the arts and all things literature was full in a deep way. Sometimes I blink and almost think this place is Stars Hollow. As difficult as learning hard lessons can be, this life I get to live is overflowing with little joy moments that I can’t get enough of. I am forever thankful for the little things and for the glimpses of God I see in those around me.

Dear May: We’re Late

We’re five days into June and I’m only starting to unpack what happened in May.

Here are some of the little victories and moments that broke me to pieces:

I finished reading Z is for Zelda, which was incredible. If you’re a fan of Gatsby, the early 20th century, and great literature, check this pseudo-biography of Zelda Fitzgerald. It’s an incredible glimpse into life during the early century and just an incredible read.

My sweet college girls and I started this Bible study called Looking for Lovely by Annie Downs and it’s been great so far.
God taught me what hope means in the middle of week one. I’ve always thought hope was a weak word. That verse in Hebrews says that faith is the substance of things hoped for. I always took that to mean that faith was the meat – it was the substance, the good stuff, the part you really needed, and hope… hope was just like a cloud or a whisp of something in the air; flighty and not dependable. But I’d avoided all those verses that say we have this hope as an anchor. If hope is an anchor, it’s pretty important, because I tend to be tossed. So I’ve realized that hope is where you’re rooted. It’s what holds you down.

I went to my first Rome baseball game of the season with some great pals. We spent most of the time under the rain of peanut shells and such because the people around us were all about ’em. But, we had fun. We made jokes and watched the Braves lose, which is typical, and then talked in the parking lot for a while because that’s the most fun.

Early on I decided to do this 30-day yoga challenge. I made it about halfway through before life decided to spiral out of control, but I discovered that I love yoga. I don’t understand why all my yogi pals in college let me go without this for so long. It’s silly, honestly. But also, through yoga, I learned that I lack patience in a fierce way. I mean, really. I would watch these videos online and they would show you how to do poses in easy ways or in the real intense ways. I would always try the real intense way first and if I failed, then I would do the easy way. I’m sure that’s not how it’s supposed to be done. Sometimes I would succeed, but most of the time I didn’t. I fell a lot and managed to make a muscle in my back hurt pretty badly, but also started to gain a little upper body strength. I’ll call it a win.

One day, about halfway through this May month, I had an anxiety attack and took my first xanax ever. It was awful. I described it this way: all my fears and insecurities rushed at me like a tidal wave and if I didn’t get to a safe place, I would have died. It was awful, but I’d rather have panic attacks than be nauseous all the time. What happened? Well, everything. When friendships & family fall apart, work gets stressful, your grandmother dies, and the little church you’re invested in is nothing but chaos… it feels like the world is spinning out of control. It was a cracked dam waiting to burst at the seams, really. In the midst of all of that I let satan creep in with his little lies and voies and fears until I was sinking. It was a little at a time and then all at once, like Peter when he was walking on water.

And really, since then, I’ve been reevaluating all of the things in my life right now and thanking the Lord for time spent in counseling last year that gave me bearing enough to process through this heart and brain of mine, even in chaos. “You need to learn to be kind to yourself,” a friend of mine told me, so that’s what I’m doing. I’m spending more time in my hammock and less time going to places I only feel obligated to be. I’m taking time out for afternoons at the pool with great pals, game nights where all we do is laugh, car dance parties, and catching up on all the movies I haven’t seen.

(Like The Notebook. I watched it for the first time since middle school and ugly cried – snot and all. Terrible decision. But, admittedly, it’s a great movie.)

I’m stepping outside my actions and pinpointing why I do what I do. For instance, I overcommit myself because I love people in such a loud way and I want to love them well, but also because I am terrified of being alone & losing those I love. In light of that, I’ve been seeking scripture, because there’s nothing as comforting as a love letter from God to me and knowing that He is faithful like the sunrise. His plan is right and it is good and He has my best in mind. I’ve also been writing a lot of letters – letters to mail and letters to save for the right time to share – and learning to let myself dream a little and feel a little more in areas that I haven’t ever. The hard part about that is… there are feelings and dreams to be processed through and the weight of that can be overwhelming.

Regardless, summer is here and I’m excited about it, even though humidity in Georgia is like wearing a winter coat when you aren’t cold and it is awful.
I still wouldn’t trade hazy summer days for anything.

I counted a lot this month, but here are a few of my favorite things:

Pretending to play baseball in the kitchen with Ali, Christy, & Deb – I laughed the hardest at this and how we inhaled those donut holes.
Watching The Holiday on tv at least four times this month. Absolutely no shame.
Seeing sweet friends outside of random taco-night dinners and catching up.
Poolside with Christy & Alison
The tired that comes after a day in the sun
Justin Timberlake’s new song & the feeling you get when your best pal meets somebody really great.
Beach hair
Sandwiches, Broad Street walks, car dance parties, antique shopping, & random phone calls with my best pal.
The way watermelon tastes when you’re fresh out of the pool & still dripping wet
Driving with all the windows down
When God takes time to remind me of things because He knows how much I need help remembering.
Donut floats & pizza floats that we really all need in life.
The ways we laugh so hard at work sometimes and find the joy moments in the midst of the grease, knowing we’re doing this for something greater than what it seems.

Even when life is most overwhelming and nothing seems secure enough to stand on, my heart still sees the little moments and overflows with gratitude that God would choose me for such a life as this with such a hope as Him.

 

I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:18-19