That One Guy Named John

That One Guy Named John

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.

1 John 4:16

Sometimes when I read the Bible my mind likes to pretend that it was written by a ghost or a robot or, I don’t know, some disconnected monk somewhere. And I forget that it was written by normal people, just talking about everything they experienced, and how they met God in a way they never planned.

This verse was written by a guy named John, and talks about how somewhere, somehow, he came to know and believe the love that God had for him. I find this intriguing because, well, want to come to know and believe that God loves me. I want to sit down with John and look him in the eye and ask him the entire story, because surely he was just like me. Surely he doubted his lovability, surely he faced hardships, surely the world around him absolutely screamed the opposite claim – that love is earned, not given. That love is conditional. That there is fear in love.

But that’s not what John says. A few sentences after this claim, he then goes on to say that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear”. Ok, scoop that up on a plate and serve me dinner please, because I want that. (Whoops… is it showing that I live in the South now…?)

What in John’s life convinced him so thoroughly that it’s true?

 

I don’t know much about John, and Biblical scholars surely know way more than me, but the Bible tells us that he was a fisherman. And one day, he was sitting in his fishing boat with his brother, James, and their dad. They were mending their nets, as I’m sure they did often, when a man named Jesus walked by and he told them,

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Which, honestly, is kind of a weird statement. But the Bible says that John and James left their father immediately to follow Jesus. They vacated their fishing boat and profession and started a brand new life. Just like that.

What was it about Jesus that made them do that?

It must have been the same “thing” about Jesus that caused John, years and years later, to write about how convinced he was that God loved him. The things he experienced while following Jesus changed him forever, and what I believe he experienced above all else is love. He became convinced of the love Jesus had for him, and consequently, the love God had for him because Jesus is God.

And so I believe that the only way to understand how loved we are by God is to understand who Jesus was. Not who our minds make Him out to be, because our minds often lie. But who was Jesus really? What did John see Him do and hear Him say that convinced him of His love? Maybe you’ve read the gospels before, and you assume you know who Jesus is, but I know I need a closer look.

So this month I am going to use John’s gospel as a tool to finding God’s love. Every day, together, we will crack open the stories John tells and look at them from new angles. Not as people sitting in our living rooms reading about them, but as the people who were really there.

And I pray that, by the end of the month, you and I can both come to know and believe the love that God has for us.

You Are Loved

You Are Loved

This February, I need to remember how much Jesus loves me.

 

I first realized my need to understand the depth of God’s love for me early on in this endeavor to move to a new state and do a new thing. I moved to South Carolina last September, and it didn’t take long for me to have a really hard time looking myself in the mirror, the level of self-loathing growing exponentially by the day. Because when you do something really hard, you start to realize all of the really bad things about yourself, and you are absolutely drowning in your inadequacies.

And that bar you set for yourself at some point looms over you, and you fall short. every. day.

The world tells you to practice some self love at this point. You know, do a few sit-ups to make yourself feel better or eat a banana or get a manicure or journal some more. And while these aren’t bad things, the question stood unanswered for me. Am I worth loving? All of this effort to make myself feel better… for what? The journey of my next year loomed dauntingly ahead of me, and I wondered if I could ever get that voice out of my head, the one that reminded me over and over that I never measured up.

 

This series is not about practicing self love. It is not about some self-improvement program that will make you feel better about yourself. And it’s not about being the caliber of person that makes someone want to love you, or being the “kind of person the person you want to marry wants to marry”.

This is about unconditional love. This series is a chance to join me as I learn about how much Jesus loves me. Because at the core of it all, I realized that all I really ever want is to know I’m loved not for what I do, but simply for waking up in the morning and being me, whatever that means today.

And honestly? I haven’t been reading my Bible a lot lately. I think there’s a part of me that fears the kind of Jesus that’s in there, like maybe He’s not as great as everyone says He is. But I want to find out.

So this month of love, this February, I’m going to ask the Bible what it says about a loving God who died for me, and I hope you join me. Because I know Jesus loves me, but I so easily forget, and I start to live like I’m not loved at all.

My prayer is that we would all leave this month with settled hearts and clear minds, not because we took more vitamins or plucked our eyebrows to perfection, but because we realize how loved we are by the One who will never let us down.

Honest Thoughts from a Recent College Grad

Honest Thoughts from a Recent College Grad

I’ve been told that as a writer it’s my job to tell the truth.

Which, of course, I rarely do because it’s terrifying. I can only hope I’m not alone in that. Because I can’t write what somebody else finds true. I can’t transcribe thoughts out of somebody else’s mind. And with every word I type I become more naked in front of you because you know that there is only one way for me to draw emotion on a page. It’s because I’ve felt it, because I’ve been there.

I haven’t written a lot this fall and that’s why. If emotions were an animal then mine would be those bulls that they ride for 8 seconds and then get bucked off. Most days I hardly recognize my own name so how could I possibly fashion 900 words into something comprehensible enough to post on the internet? I’m the young adult who, until a few weeks ago, left her spare car key in her car. And who spent an ungodly amount of money on Tropical Smoothie Cafe in the month of October. And who read an entire Captain Underpants book the other day because my brain can’t seem to handle anything heftier.

But alas, here we are. And you’re reading what I’m writing, so I’m going to try to be honest.

I am terrified of being an adult. Like, can’t see straight most of the time kind of terrified. I was just figuring out how to be a child and next thing I know I’m at my old college buddy’s house and we’re discussing budgeting. Budgeting. Also, I have “old college buddies”. Because I’m done with college.

It seems like a cruel joke sometimes. All our lives, we’re in school. And when we finish at one school, we go to another school. 5th grade to 6th grade. 8th to 9th. Then we’re in college. Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior. And then you’re done. And then next thing you know you’re sitting on your friend’s couch talking about budgeting and you have this powerful urge to either curl up into a ball and cry or run into the front yard and do cartwheels and pretend that none of this “growing up” nonsense exists.

And yet, despite all efforts, two days later you find yourself googling budgeting websites because you really do have to buy a car. And save up for rent on the apartment you’re getting soon. And you sit on your couch, wearing a bath robe and drinking a smoothie, typing numbers and pretending like you have any hint of an idea what you’re doing.

 

A month ago I was in one of my best friend’s wedding. It was beautiful. She was beautiful. And it gathered together all of my favorite people at my favorite place, in my old college town.

The entire gig was over by 2:00. Reception and all. The new bride and her husband ran out the door and drove off and the day was still young for us un-married folk. Me and two of my best girl-friends ended up across the street from the church, warming seats in one of our favorite old coffee shops.

We had been there a million times. Doing homework on a Sunday afternoon. Grabbing cinnamon rolls with our hallways. That one time I sang at an open mic night freshman year. Just being anywhere near that coffee shop makes me feel like I’m home and that everything really is going to be ok. And in that moment, I was so glad to be back in Ohio, if only for a weekend.

My friends and I currently occupy three different states, but for an hour or so we simply occupied the same table. Together again. These faces that filled my college years. Every day, for 1,000 days, eating dinner together, walking the sidewalks of campus and filling each other in on what boy we liked that week. Treating each other’s rooms like our own.

Until, of course, we graduated and were sent off to budget.

But for an hour, we were together again. And I wish I could tell you we laughed and reminisced and tucked our good ole’ college days into convenient pockets of memory in the plushiest parts of our brain. I wish I could say we all confidently left that day in pursuit of our new endeavors, excited and ready to tread our new paths and kick down some doors.

But instead, we cried.

“I don’t mean to be dramatic. But honestly, you guys, these have been the hardest 6 months of my life.”

They were the first words to come out of my friend’s mouth as we grabbed our seats. And I felt myself lean into them. Finally, some honesty. I thought, maybe all this time, I was the only one who had no idea how to do this whole post-college thing. That maybe I was the only one who cried for two months when I started off in my big-new-city because I have never tackled something like this before.

That maybe I was the only one who missed my college friends so much it hurts like a cruel joke that should be over right about now.

But I realized that day. I’m not the only one. We didn’t have any answers for each other. We still have absolutely no flippin’ clue what we’re doing. But we’re not the only ones who have no flippin’ clue what we’re doing. And, in a powerful way, that changes things.

 

I’m back in my South Carolina town for the spring. Pretty much everything about that sentence terrifies me. But, I’m realizing, it terrifies me less than it did in the fall. And that’s pretty cool, I’d say.

It’s not a straight line, this stage of life. It’s a roller coaster, a zig-zag, a house of mirrors, a wrestling match. It’s figuring out a million things about yourself. It’s deciding to read your Bible not because somebody told you to but because you realize you don’t actually get along that well without it. Even though you have a billion questions. It’s about asking those questions and then putting them to bed. It’s about looking yourself in the mirror and not being sure what you see, and just letting that be what it is. You’ll know, in time.

At least, that’s my prayer. For myself. Because these days I’m not always so sure.

But for now, college-grad, just know you’re not alone. Whatever you’re feeling, be sure that I’m feeling it too from my basement bedroom in my new South Carolina town. And I guess that’s the most honest thing I can say right now.

 

 

30 Days of Celebration: Old Friends

30 Days of Celebration: Old Friends

Today I’m thankful for old friends.

In a season of new friendships, there is so much power in seeing an old one. This morning, I drove 30 minutes through the freezing rain to meet an old friend. We met on the stoop of a storefront, shivering against the cold, to find our chosen cafe closed. So we did what you do when you don’t know where to go – we went to Starbucks. We turned two armchairs so that they faced each other, and as the bitter wind hit us every time the door opened, we sat knee to knee and talked about our lives.

3 hours passed like it was 20 minutes, and I bathed in the reality that this person knew me before this stage of life and she knows me now. She was able to shed light on my tendencies, on my struggles, on why my mind reacts to these changes that way it does.

And we talked about her, and the college she still attends, the one I’ve left behind. I told her what I wished I had known as a sophomore, and we reveled in the fact that we’re learning the same life lessons at the same time.

So many “you too?” moments. And that’s what friendships are for. It’s realizing you’re not actually as crazy as you think you are, and sharing laughs over our misfortunes, accepting the reality together that life hasn’t turned out the way we thought it would. It’s a place to admit that you have a broken heart, and to say it plain, the way it has been begging to be said.

And new friends can be good for that, but there’s nothing quite like old friends (like Ben Rector would say). Tomorrow I go back to my new friends, and I’m thankful for them, but I’m also thankful that it’s okay to revisit where I’ve been.

I think I’ve been viewing this transition out of college as a thick black line, where college was on one side and my new life in South Carolina is on the other side, and they can’t touch, and I must leave the past behind. But I’m learning that it doesn’t need to be that cut and dry. Instead, this change can be like various shades of grey, and it can take time. I can give my heart time to move on.

And today, it was ok to meet with an old friend. I’m really glad I did.

There’s nothing quite like it.

 

30 Days of Celebration: Tree Farms and Traditions

30 Days of Celebration: Tree Farms and Traditions

I come from a live Christmas tree kind of family.

This means that every year, usually the day after Thanksgiving, we load up the mini van and head out to the Christmas tree farm. And we walk around all the trees and choose the best of the best of all the Douglas Firs. And we load it up, on the roof of our car, bring it home, and listen to the Steven Curtis Chapman Christmas album as we hang our extremely home-made ornaments complete with macaroni hot-glued onto pictures of us in 3rd grade.

Today is no exception. And the traditions remind me of the great story written for me, the one I don’t deserve, but one that begs for celebration.

And today, after a bumpy season of transition in so many ways, the tradition is especially powerful to my heart. And though I’m tempted to question it and wonder why I was given so much when so many have so little, I am reminded over and over that it’s ok to just take it for what it is. It’s ok to laugh with my siblings, to take pictures with my sister, to enjoy the day given to me.

And so today, I drink hot chocolate and watch Elf with the people that mean the most to me, and I draw the line at anything short of celebration. It’s not my job to understand. It’s my job to celebrate.

Sometimes, I get really caught up in everything I can’t control or change, and therefore wonderful realities and gifts are overlooked because I’m so caught up by my lack of control. But I’m learning, my lack of control is a gift, because I can’t bear the load. It’s not my job to control things, but to appreciate the way God does.

I asked a mentor of mine recently for one sentence of advice. If she could give me one nugget of wisdom in this season, what would it be? She told me that where I am, whatever season of life and whatever situation I find myself in, to trust the One who brought me there. To trust that He knows what He’s doing, that He really has the best for me.

And that’s what I remember this tree-cutting day. I remember that I’m a part of something bigger than me, and that the Great Author is writing the story. And I rest into that, no matter how impossible it seems at times.

30 Days of Celebration: Rest is Okay

30 Days of Celebration: Rest is Okay

I’m thankful today, on Thanksgiving, after 6 months of absolute insanity in my life, that I don’t have to be anything I’m not.

My mind has literally not been able to keep up with it all, but I’m learning that that’s ok. I didn’t realize, growing up, how much pressure I put on myself all of the time to be a certain version of myself, one that’s capable and goal-driven and gets things done on the daily. These days, I just can’t. It takes all of my energy to transition my entire life to South Carolina, and in the moments of rest I’m just tired. 

But of course I’m tired! I slave-drive myself into thinking that tiring things shouldn’t make me tired, but they do, and that’s ok.

And today I’m thankful that’s it’s ok. It’s ok to need to rest, and it’s ok to rest.

It’s a bit of an act of humility, I’m learning. The world will keep spinning if I take a day to read a novel for fun. Why do I think I can’t?

 

So today I celebrate because I don’t have to take myself too seriously. God just doesn’t require from me what I require from myself. So I can rest, and breathe, and be thankful for the woman I am today, even if she’s not always the person I would choose to be

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.

Micah 6:8

30 Days of Celebration: Home

30 Days of Celebration: Home

Home. Today I celebrate home.

After 3 months in South Carolina, the car rolled back into my Pennsylvanian driveway last night. It’s a weird feeling, to come back to your family’s home when you’re making your “own” somewhere else. This in-between time can be so overwhelming at times (ok, pretty much all the time), but now I’m home. And I pray that I can take it all for what it is, not what I expect it to be.

But today, I guess I celebrate the things that don’t change. Same house on the same street in the same town in Pennsylvania. Same grumpy old dog. Same floor lamps and bar stools and bed that I’ve slept in since I was 8. Same crazy family with the same inside jokes, and the same way they always have a way of reminding me of my story, just being near them.

New is good, but old is home. New will become home, over time, but I’m learning that it’s ok that it isn’t yet. It will take time to make my South Carolina town home. More than 3 months, and that’s ok.

But old is familiar, and it helps me breathe and think and laugh in a way that the new can’t all of the time. It helps me figure out how I feel, what parts of my heart are still broken over all the change. What parts of me are changed for the better.

It helps me be honest with God, to cry out as the disciples did in the boat – “Do you not see? Do you not care that we are perishing?” Do you see my broken heart in a new state? And I know He does. Home reminds me of that. Home helps me remember.