Real Life Lately

This may go down in the books as my worst blog post ever, since I’m pretty sure I’m about to ramble and be all over the place, but I wanted to say something in this space. And sometimes this is just how it goes…

In case it’s not obvious, I’m still on what was at first an unintentional (but I liked it so much that I decided to continue with it) break from my photo of the week 2014 project.

Life has been full lately.

It would exhaust both me and you to try list the specifics of everything going on this side of the screen. Some good things, some not as good things. But overall, just full.

Full of uncertainties and unknowns and changes.

Full of just barely hanging on or just hanging in there for one more day.

Full of so many friends hearing less than stellar news (cancer can just go away. can I get an amen?).

Full of blessed moments of fun and celebration and lightness and rest.

It’s been intense and consuming and draining and exhausting.

And it’s required more of me than at times I thought I had to give.

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And typically, my response to this sort of fullness would be to process through writing. And naturally, some of that writing would end up here. In this space where I try to intentionally process and download and think through what it looks like to walk out the truth of the Gospel in my everyday life and encourage you to do the same.

But this time?

Part of me has wanted to write, to say something, and sometimes that part of me wins, but the other part of me that’s been winning most of the time lately doesn’t really want to sit down and write at all. I’ve been choosing other things in its place … things like reading, cleaning, organizing, and painting nightstands.

And you know what? It’s been good.

That photo of the week project was (and maybe will be again…) all about learning to see and understand and identify and somehow creatively represent rest. True rest. Soul rest. But as I mentioned briefly before, it was beginning to feel very un-restful. It was beginning to feel like a chore. And when your creative outlet becomes less of a challenge to express something creatively and rather becomes just one more thing that should be done, it’s time to step back.

I’ve already learned so much from more intentionally seeing rest. And as I continue to lean further into this season of intentional rest and as I continue to learn as much as I can about what that really means, I may have more to share. But for now, a couple of themes have repeatedly stood out in my photos: home and nature.

And I don’t think either is a mistake.

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As I looked back at this photo that I posted on instagram several weeks ago (a sort of behind-the-scenes of one of my photos of the week), I realized that I hashtagged four words that mean even more to me now than they did then: quiet, simple, creative, rest.

Those words say much about me and the season I’m currently in. And I almost didn’t recognize it.

Sometimes slowing down is a challenge. But I’m grateful for the slow and simple moments. And for the soul space they allow.

And the truth is, I’m feeling a strong pull towards more of those slow and quiet and simple and small moments. And my posting here may continue to be sporadic for a while.

I’m not sure.

But in the fullness of real life, I find myself being ever more careful with my words and my thoughts. And I don’t ever want to force content here just to follow some arbitrary rule of blogging.

So in the midst of the fullness that is this life, I’ve just been hunkering down and holding on and reading a whole heck of a lot.

Because what else do you do when your world quits making sense? Read stories that resolve. Read other stories that don’t. Read novels with happy endings and memoirs with sad ones. And realize that you’re not so alone and most certainly not the only person on the planet.

(Not to mention there’s some really great writing out there!)

There’s a history full of people before you who lived and existed and had lives full of purpose and meaning, but in the middle of their worst days, they didn’t know how to make sense of it all either.

And there’s a future full of bright hope and certainty because there’s eternity with Christ. And likely some more living this side of heaven before we get there that promises to be full of HIS good purposes and plans.

Life is sometimes hard and often full of unknown, but with my head down, I’m still fighting and moving forward.

And I know this fight that’s being renewed and swelling within me isn’t me at all. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit in me and it’s the power of prayer at work.

Because if it had been up to me, I would have quit fighting for light and truth in the murky darkness weeks ago.

But by HIS grace and power and strength within me, I’m still here.

And it is only by the power of the Spirit in me that I keep walking. That I don’t give up, that I don’t give in.

And just to be perfectly clear. This is what was promised. Not that life would be easy, but that those of us who have new life in Christ would never be alone and would never be without hope. And that’s real life.

5 Things I Learned in May

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1. Sanding and painting furniture isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. It probably helps that my amazing roommate helps with all of the things I’m most uncertain about and simply lets me paint. And for the record, chalk paint is awesome. And for the curious, yes, I will post a photo of the finished product (a nightstand) soon.

2. Sometimes capturing rest for a photo of the week project looks like taking a month off from said project when it starts to feel less like creative rest and more like a chore that has to be done out of duty. And then not worrying about it and just letting it go. (My blog, my rules, right?) I honestly haven’t quite decided if the photo of the week project is coming back for June or not. The good news? I’ve got two whole days to decide. And to those of you who sent me YOUR photos representing rest, THANK YOU!! I loved loved loved seeing your perspective and hearing about what rest means to you. Y’all are the best!!

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3. When you help your grandparents downsize to move out of the house they’ve lived in since 1959, you might come across your uncle’s old toy trucks in the attic. And even though your mom (his sister) is convinced he will never part with his fire truck, if he loves you a lot (I love him, too!), he might let you convince him that you should have them. And it will probably make your day. Because ALL the excitement!! My future children are grateful, too.

4. Confidence in my own confidence means absolutely nothing. Confidence in my secure identity in Christ means everything.

5. I suspect that this year of rest will become less of a season with an arbitrary time limit and more of a lifestyle. I’m learning so much on this journey into intentional rest – physically, mentally, spiritually – and have so many thoughts on the subject. But I’m taking my time and processing things slowly. And I’m genuinely ok with that.

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*linking up with Emily P. Freeman at Chatting at the Sky as we all share different things we learned in May*

An Elephant Themed Baby Shower

Life has been full lately. I won’t bore you with a list of all the latest life happenings (though I am working on a post for next week to somewhat explain my absence from this space. and yes, there will most definitely be a five things post the last Friday of the month. I know y’all like those posts!), but I wanted to at least give you something lovely to look at in the meantime.

My crazy talented sister-friend-roommate, B, threw a baby shower for one of her friends at the end of April, and I got to help out behind the scenes a bit and then take photos of the event. I mean, how amazingly adorable and thoughtful are all these elephant details???

And although babies are no where in my near future, I’ve already made her promise to paint some cute canvases for my someday nursery. Grin.

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When Rules Become a Burden … and the Reality of Grace

Some days the rules I try to live under become heavy, weighty, burdensome.

I feel desperate for freedom, for a rescue

And I feel more like a Pharisee than a follower of Christ.

I feel trapped, chained, stuck.

And it never makes any sense to me because I actually like rules. I’m comfortable with rules and their black and white decisiveness. I prefer to be given boundaries … a box of acceptability, lines to color within.

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But lately they just feel like a heavy burden of “shoulds” and expectations that I was never meant to live under.

I may be a rules girl, I may be comfortable there, but what if there’s more? What if there’s different? What if Christ has broken the chains that I’m still trying to live within? What if there’s far greater freedom in this life with him than I ever dared to imagine?

And no, I don’t mean that there’s all of a sudden a license to sin or to break his commands or to live outside of his word.

I’m not talking about the sort of rule avoiding that’s disobedient and separate from God.

I’m talking about recognizing that I’m actually using the rules to keep him at arms length, using the rules as a sort of hiding mechanism, and using the rules to try to somehow earn his approval by my own perfectionist ideals. And that’s just plain wrong.

I’m talking about living in the reality that the gospel is about grace and forgiveness, not hiding in shame.

I’m talking about running to God in surrender rather than running from him or earning my way to him.

I’m talking about following and obeying the rule of Christ in my life and about seeking him first before I ask for any other voice of affirmation or approval.

Because what if I was never meant to even attempt to live under some of these rules and expectations that still threaten to shame and overwhelm me …

the ones that say because I’m not journaling during my times in the word at the moment, then maybe that time doesn’t actually count?
the ones that say because I didn’t complete all of my fill-in-the-blank Bible Studies, then maybe I didn’t really do it right?
the ones that say because community looks different than it has in the past, then maybe I don’t value it enough?
the ones that say because my world is in some ways shrinking for a season, then maybe I’m not following Jesus closely enough?
the ones that say because most of my prayer times are in the car or the shower, then maybe I’m not intentional enough about communing with my Savior?
the ones that say because I don’t have a regular “spot” to spend time with the Lord and it never looks the same day-to-day, then maybe it’s not a priority?
the ones that say because I’ve allowed myself to stay home from church recently when I’ve been moderately sick or even just over-tired, then maybe my commitment to the body of Christ is waning?

And somewhere in me I hear the words that Paul wrote to the church at Galatia … it’s for freedom that I’ve been set free. And echoing louder still the words that Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus … it’s by grace I’ve been saved, not by works.

And I look at all these rules I feel trapped under and they’re all works-based. They all look like items to check off. And how did I get here? And how do I find my way back to the truth? And how do I live in the freedom that’s mine in Christ?

Because it IS mine. Just as HE is mine.

And the guilt and the shame that I heap on myself because I’m breaking my own “rules”, because I’m failing to live up to my own self-imposed expectations?

It’s not of him.

He speaks of abiding, of being with him, of walking with him, of listening to him, of trusting him, of resting in him.

And while those things are not necessarily always simple, they’re not burdensome. Because his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

And as I repeat the truth of Scripture to myself over and over again, I realize my gaze has slipped. Because the works-based rules force my eyes off of Christ and on to self. And from that place, my perspective is just plain off. It’s not right. And it never will be.

And as I look at him again, as I fix my gaze back on him – the one who is author and perfecter of my faith, the one who prepares works in advance for me, the one who equips me for what he calls me to, the one who cares about the details of my life, the one who draws me close and holds me there, the one who knows me and claims me and gives me my identity, the one who makes me more like himself – I realize this is what coming home feels like all over again.

And no, this world isn’t perfect.

I mess up and fail and fall short again and again.

There’s struggle and hurt and heartache, but never despair, because there is always hope. Because there is always his presence in the midst.

He goes before.

He hems us in.

He’s won the victory.

The chains are broken.

The rules have no power.

I am forgiven and I am free.

And I will keep preaching this truth to myself over and over again. I will keep writing it, I will keep praying it, I will keep speaking it out loud to myself in the car.

Even when I don’t feel it … even when it seems like I’m trying to convince myself to believe what I already know in the depths of my being to be true … I will continue to cling to this with every last drop of energy … even if that means giving it my last, my all.

Because this is the gospel. This is the reality of grace.

This is the truth I rest in.