Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Unruly Recovery

I like Pinterest. I won't deny it. I like the ideas it gives me and the recipes I see and the escape from the monotony of my days sometimes. I like dreaming about this Christmas and what I could get my sister in law for her birthday and how on earth to decorate my odd-shaped living room that we've basically left untouched for a year and a half now. I like looking at cakes and nurseries and what to grill for the perfect summer barbecue. And I like the quotes. Well, let's get real honest.. I don't like a lot of the quotes. But the ones I like, I like, of course. Do I think Pinterest can be destructive? Yes, definitely. And has it been for me before? Of course. But like most technology things, it's pretty neutral. Whatever you make it. Sometimes, I get money hungry and want to tackle 19 DIY projects at once that no part of us can afford or want to accomplish and I forget to be content with the abundance we have. Sure. I do that. That's when I need to give it a rest. Get outside. Connect with others who keep me humble and grounded and authentic, grateful for exactly what we have. 

And then some days, Pinterest takes on another spin. Some vulnerable human being posts something real and true and it rings my bell in all the best kinds of ways. That's what happened with this post.

And then there's that moment. The moment where I have to make the vulnerable choice to either support or deny the way that picture got me. I can pin it and share or I can pretend it isn't the story of my life and move on. Or, I can do what I consider as the least vulnerable option in this scenario and put it on an all-too-embarrassed secret board. You know the ones I'm talking about. There's no need to call you or me out here!

So I made my choice. I re-pinned it. Because it's real. It's true. It's my story. And my guess is that it's probably yours too.

Recovery is a scary word. It's admitting that something is wrong or was wrong in a very deep way. Maybe it's recovery from a knee surgery like a friend of mine had recently. She wants to be at full capacity now, months later, able to run and play with no tweaks. But it's scary and hard and different now. Or maybe it's alcohol or drugs, a different kind of hard, but terrifying nonetheless. Or maybe you're a recovering gossip or a recovering jealous sister or recovering competitive friend. Maybe you're recovering from another miscarriage or the loss of a friend. Maybe you're recovering from a heartache where someone you love hurt you deeply. I'm here to say that each of those are certainly painful and certainly require healing, no one more or less real than another. 

Or maybe you're like me, recovering from a multitude of things: internal aches, heartbreaking anxiety or depression, struggles in faith, traumas and heartaches, and a sore throat as the cherry on top. Maybe you're like me in that you finally think you've made it, you're free, and then you stumble right back into the pit just when you think you couldn't possibly be THERE... AGAIN.

I'm not here to tell you it's easy. Healing rarely is. It's messy and icky and has so many turns along the way. 

What I know is this: I needed that Pinterest pin reminder this week. That I'm not in control of everything and recovery might not be as seamless as I demand. I might take two steps forward and five back and then one forward again. I might finally get on my feet just to fall back on my face again. I might get cocky and think I'm home-free and collapse, still unable to take on all that I think I want to take on.

I'll say this too. I hate admitting it. I hate admitting I'm weak and broken and need help time and time again. I'm a stubborn three year old at heart, just wanting to stand up tall and say, "I do it myself!" And though I love my spunk, I gotta admit.. There's probably something really sacred in needing to admit over and over that I need a Savior. 

So even on days where He feels far away, I cling to that truth. Admitting I'm weary and need a Savior opens up tremendously more room for Him to come do His work. And my recent weeks of resistance and complaining are certainly not helping the process.

So last weekend, I found myself mid-free fall again, almost on my face, covered in my own worst version of myself asking for grace for the journey. The healing journey. The recovery. 

And I invite you in to do the same. Not only does the recognition that we need Jesus change everything, but the recognition that we need each other does more for the soul than words can explain.

So here's my promise for the week: I'm going to lower my expectations for recovery. I'm going to choose to believe that it's okay if it's slow and trust that someone greater than me has me on the journey and won't let me fall. I'm going to make the vulnerable choice to be honest with myself, my therapist, my mentor, my friends, and even my Jesus that I need help and support for my recovery journey. And I'm going to enlist you all to do the same. 

And I must admit. It feels better than being "perfect" and bitter already. (Did I leave out that I was bitter before? Oops. Yeah, add recovering cynic to my list to.)

So tell me. What's healing like for you? Does your recovery arrow have as many twists and turns as mine?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Won't Go Back

About once a year, I pull out my copy of Shauna Niequist's Bittersweet and start devouring it again. Sometimes I'm in a life slump, sometimes a faith slump, sometimes just a book slump. Sometimes I want to learn what she learned writing it and sometimes I want to learn what I learned reading it. It's marked and scratched and stained, probably from a dozen different breakfasts or lunches on my back porch or bathtub. And it never fails. Every time I start to read it again, I'm drawn back into her story and mine and really the story of life with a good God who gives us both the bitter and the sweet and loves us to the very end and even further. Clearly, if you haven't read it, I recommend it. I'd let you borrow mine, but it's become a sort of journal to me. Sacred and personal in all the best ways.

Today, I decided to read a chapter or two again on that same back porch and again with a fork in hand. In true Shauna fashion, I'll tell you.. My lunch was weird and wonderful. Sautéed squash right from my weed-overtaken garden and chicken salad with italian chicken, apples, sun-dried tomatoes, pecans and homemade mayo straight from my fridge. It's a sick day at my house, and we're in the midst of this crazy/fun/miserable diet challenge with some friends, so I took advantage of my kitchen, my new culinary skills, and my creativity. I even texted one of my friends and told her that if my lunches got any weirder, I would be that kid with no friends in the school cafeteria. (Sorry I told you that you couldn't eat with me in the 9th grade if you brought tuna, Mary Beth! I've grown since then, I promise!)

Anyway, I sat down with a chapter about 3/4ths of the way through the book and the weirdest thing happened. I read this chapter where I had underlined literally almost every single word. And I could literally feel my old self reading this chapter. I could sense the younger April underlining and searching, desperate for some of the words on the page to put her anxious heart at ease.

It's a chapter about all that can change in a year, about how maybe you are broken now but there is redemption, about seasons, about finding your old self again and how amazing it feels. And that's where I felt her. Younger April. Literally thinking she might die if she couldn't find her old self again. And I'll be honest with you. I felt that way for a really long time. All I wanted was to be carefree again. I couldn't imagine moving on in life, unable to be that blissful, joyful, no worries in the world girl. For a while, I think I was resigned to telling God that if I couldn't be her, I didn't want to live.

And here I sit, a full three or maybe four years later, still not the same girl. And what I realized as I experienced the old me's longing today was the most magical thing. For the first time in those long and painful four years, I don't want to go back. I don't want to be her anymore. Was that April joyful and beautiful and exactly who God made me to be for a while? Yes. But this new version of me is better, more. I know pain now. And heartache. And longing like I didn't know was possible. I know that it's okay to doubt and be terrified and want to quit. I know community like I didn't even know was possible, more than just late night sleepovers and hilarious pranks. The kind of community that comes to your house just because they know you can't be alone and the kind that makes you pull your car over when they think you might quit.

Suddenly, all those days and times I longed to go back to have less appeal. Would I trade them for anything in the world? No. I learned a significant part of who I was then. I laughed and rejoiced and worshipped and lived so full and free. I'll carry those memories and those people with me every place I go and cherish every minute of who I was then, who God was to me then, and the path we were on together. The times were sweet. And I am forever grateful.

But now, there's a whole heaping tablespoon (or maybe large vat) of bitter to mix in there with that sweet. And where it used to just tick me off that I had to deal with that, I think it's become a part of me. A very real, living, breathing part of me and without it, I wouldn't be who I am now. And by jove, I like who I am now! What I have to offer the world is different, battered, changed, redeemed, beautiful. Beautiful in the kind of way that my nephew's most tattered stuffed animal is beautiful or my grandmother's handwritten recipes are beautiful or my tear-stained journals are beautiful. They are worn. Loved. Tested. Better.

I had dinner at my friend Maryanne's house on Sunday. We sat at her kitchen table and chatted for a while, as we have consistently done over the last eight years. We laughed about some things and got real deep on others. And she told me something I'll never forget. She said she liked who I was back then okay, but she likes who I am now much better. "You're more real and better to talk to," she said. I just like you like this. Thanks, Maryanne. I think I like me like this too.

So I don't know where you are today. Maybe you're in your sweet spot. Eat it up, sister. It's a good place to be. Or maybe you're where I was for far too long, out of the sweet spot but unwilling to move anywhere but backwards. Believe me, I know it's hard to give it up. But wherever you are, I pray that you know that our God is in the process of making things new, us included. And being the God that he is, I highly doubt new is going to ever be worse. So maybe you'll join me today in celebrating that life and even you yourself are ever growing, ever changing. And if we can just let go of who we used to be, we might all find that we like the new people even more.

Blessings and peace for the new you.

And for the record, yes, I did weep as I typed paragraphs #6 and #7. Just keeping it real :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Vacation Tears

A few weeks ago, my dear sweet husband and I got to take a trip we have been dreaming of for years. It was a trip that was intended to redeem our honeymoon. (You know.. the honeymoon where there was a hurricane and we got kicked out of our resort, moved to another, all the restaurants and room service closed, had to attend resort-wide meetings, and could stand in water that was at least a foot deep. Yes. That was our honeymoon.) Now don't get me wrong. It was actually a really sweet time. Our first time to vacation alone and a sweet week of rest after a busy wedding season. Other than the fact that we were reprimanded pretty intensely by our parents for not letting them know we were alive in the hurricane, it was a pretty good time. We watched the Titanic on Mexican television, ran to the buffet in our rain jackets for our meals, took baths and read books, and laughed hysterically at our misfortune.

Basically, our honeymoon only needed to be redeemed because we got moved around so much that it was hard to settle and because we wanted some good tropical sunshine and lazy days on the beach and by the pool. So we saved up our Southwest points and set out to redeem our trip. The date was set for the day after my grad school comps and we were absolutely stoked.

We headed out at 4 am on a Wednesday morning for Punta Cana. All we had planned was to lay on the beach or by the pool with a cocktail in one hand and a book in the other and eat delicious food and rest. Sounds heavenly, right? We thought so too. And when we arrived, it was bliss. Seriously. No hurricanes, no boarded up windows, the clearest and most beautiful pool of all time, crystal blue waters, the works. We were elated.

And then, we did the unthinkable. Instead of being uber content with the bliss that we had, we got the itch for more. "If we took them up on their promo offer, we could get a free romantic dinner on the beach." "If we'll go stay one night at their sister resort, we'll get free massages when we come back." Etc, etc, etc. We completely lost sight of our agenda of rest and took off like a rocket trying to trade up and get more. Not only that, I think we even lost sight of who we are. Not a good start.

Now, I will insert one paragraph in here that I love about what we did with taking up the promo offer and visiting the other resort. (And it will only be one paragraph because there's only one thing that I love about it!) Josh and I are getting braver. Honestly, we're getting safer with each other too. We are more able to risk and fail and make mistakes (like abandoning our agenda for rest!!!), and I have to admit... I love that about us. Gone are the days where anxiety ruled this relationship and spouses have to be perfect. Praise the Lord, seriously. And hoooooray for secure attachment!

Anyway, in our little healthily attached selves, we totally lost sight of what was important. We traded our room for the promo, spent the night at the other resort which we didn't even love, had to pack our bags up three different times, and boy oh boy, did we ever learn some good lessons. It's ironic, really. I wrote a post three weeks TO THE DAY before we left about how I was leaning into surrender and learning to rest and play and breathe. And I was doing that, at home. And when we stepped on that plane, I forgot. I completely forgot. The Lord had been so patiently speaking to me about resting in His presence and not choosing on-the-go as a lifestyle. And what did I do? I chose on-the-go not only as a lifestyle but as a vacation. What is wrong with me?!

In essence, and I hate to admit this, we became ungrateful people, always wanting bigger and more. We totally outsmarted ourselves in trying to make the perfect vacation and it was approximately day 3 when I turned to Josh with big crocodile tears in my eyes and said, "I just want to feel settled." And he held me and I cried. Big, ugly vacation tears.

Vacation tears because I wasn't settled. Vacation tears because we were reliving our honeymoon (packing, resort hopping, unpacking, packing again) instead of redeeming it. Vacation tears most of all because I didn't listen. I didn't listen to the still, small voice in my spirit telling me that rest and connection were all I needed. I thought I needed more. And if I'm honest, it's the same lesson as before with only a little twist. Still surrender, yes, but add a dash of thankful and a heaping handful of contentment as well.

My Josh, who I'm convinced is a saint by nature, and I were recounting all of the lessons we had learned as we were walking to the pool on day 4 of our trip and he turned to me and said, "Godliness with contentment is of great gain." Luckily, I was done crying by this point so I didn't turn and smack him when he said it. And now, I've been thinking about it ever since. What would our lives be like if we lived with thankful hearts, content in all we've been given instead of giving into the temptation that constantly seeps into my weasel brain that I can trade up, get more, have better?

So here we were, day 5 of our trip, a mere 24 hours before we headed home and I finally let go. I went back to waving my white flag again, thankful for a God who gives grace upon grace upon grace for people like me who need it every day. And you know what? It was the best day of the whole trip. I rested. I sat on the beach in the early morning hours and spent time alone with the Lord. I basked in the sunshine and dominated an entire novel. I ate dinner on the beach with my sweetheart for hours upon end and when we didn't like that food, we had second dinner at another restaurant, complete with the best desserts at the resort. It was a day like we had dreamed of for years. Even in the midst of being stubborn, forgetful, silly people. What a kind God we must serve.

So now we're home again, back to our regular weeks and messy jobs. And here I'm standing, in the midst of it all, vacation tears dried and white flag waving again. Deeply leaning not only into surrender, but into thankfulness and contentment as well. And I have a feeling this next season will be the best yet.

Monday, July 21, 2014

On Sandy Toes and Friendships That Last

Last week, one of summer's sweetest gifts was given to me. I got to go for a long walk on a breezy beach with a dear friend on a beautiful day. We were on a girls' getaway trip, just three amazing women and myself. It was the best kind of beach weekend. We rode bikes with baskets on the front for hours and shopped in the most precious little shops. We ate more than our fill of chips and queso and white chocolate fondue and goat cheese stuffed peppers. We read books until we fell asleep and sat on the beach until the sun went behind the clouds. It was glorious. So much laughter, so much food, so much peace. A true escape from my current reality of internship hours and comps studying and the race against the clock every day. And on this escape, one of my friends and I went for a long walk on the beach. It was one of those walks where we talked, really talked about life and what's going on for us right now. We shared fears and insecurities and joys and pains and tried to choose which of the majestic beach houses would be ours in our highly unlikely millionaire futures. It was one of those walks where I knew we probably needed to turn around for more sunscreen at more than one sand castle, but I also didn't ever want to stop for fear of losing the beauty of that moment of our friendship.

Friendship. That's what's ironic, really. Friendship was perhaps the most covered topic of our walk. You see, we are both at this place between college and kids where friendships are changing.. all the time. Honestly, thinking about and talking about friendship is a commonplace for me right now. Not just on the beach but at Greek restaurants and in friends' living rooms and on back porches and in line at Chuy's nacho car. It's an exciting and interesting time for friendships in life and also a really hard one. It has left me thinking all the time about what makes friendships last and what doesn't. And that's what my friend Kaitlynn asked me about on the beach that day. So I tried out my working theory about friendships on her. I said, "I think the friendships that last are the ones that allow for change. Change in the friendship and change in the friend. Capacity to change, that's what makes a friendship last." And so, as we kicked our feet in the waves and sand, she asked me for an example. I didn't have to stop and think for more than a second before answering... "Mary Beth."

Mary Beth, my best friend of 21 years. She holds the friendship that has withstood Barbie days and puberty and high school boyfriends and college choices and marriages and big moves and all the high points and low points in between. And throughout these conversations with so many of my friends and I struggling to figure out our friend scene in these post-college years, I started to realize that there is a theme running through my friendship with Mary Beth and all my other friendships that are lasting well and that is this: Mary Beth has allowed me to change, to reinvent myself time and time again. She lets me figure out who I want to be and then doesn't hold me to it if I change my mind. Not only that, but she allows our friendship to do the same. There have been seasons where we have been inseparable for weeks on end. In our current season? She lives 200 miles away and I've rescheduled coming to see her three separate times now, if anyone is keeping count. (But she isn't keeping count, God bless her soul.) We keep up through texting and an occasional email or call. And that's it. But there she still is, steady and supportive, knowing that everything changes and nothing changes and maybe so do we and maybe that's okay.

Have we always allowed for that space for change well? I don't think so. I remember at times clawing for things to stay the same and never change, grasping at what we used to have and who we each used to be. But isn't that life sometimes? We grasp and claw and fight for what we used to have when something even better and healthier and more freeing is around the corner if we'll just let go. So, inspired by this revelation of the beauty in this sweet friendship, that's what I'm trying to learn to do in all my relationships these days. Build into each the capacity for change. It feels freeing and real and so much easier than trying to hold on to exactly who we used to be and what we used to have.
So today, whether your mind or your toes are in the sand, I encourage you to take a moment to think about the relationships in your life. Are you allowing space for the people you love the most to change and become who they want to be? Are you fighting for what matters and letting go of the rest? If so, enjoy the freedom it brings to keep becoming and to allow others to do the same. And if not, if you're like me and you have had to or need to learn to like (or maybe just accept) change, welcome aboard. It's scary and daunting, but the reward is sweet. Letting go and allowing for change may be one of the most pivotal elements in cultivating sacred space for friendships that you want to last to truly last.

What do you think? How do you cultivate friendships that last?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Waving the White Flag

Tonight, I want to write. I want to write because I need to learn from and remember.  I want to write because I think maybe what I’m learning is a lifestyle shift I didn’t know I needed until I started to write it and now I’m convinced that you might need it too. I want to write because I want to be quiet, alone, and reflective, at last, deeply leaning into surrender.

And I’m beginning to wonder if maybe that is what my next season is supposed to look like. Maybe it’s time to let my iPhone go to voicemail a little more often, quit making so many plans and dates and meetings, and just sit back a little. Maybe, is it even possible that if I continue living in this drive-thru culture, I might miss exactly what I’m here for anyway? What if the me underneath it all needs to take a deep breath, stretch her legs out, and leave this on-the-go lifestyle in the dust for a while? It sounds awesome and it sounds terrifying. Like I want to sprint toward it and dart away from it all in the same breath. Because choosing to not live on-the-go might mean I miss something. It might mean that some of my colleagues learn things that I don’t. It might mean that some of my friends make monumental memories that I miss out on. And you know, it might just be exactly what I need.

For most of my twenty-six years on this planet, I’ve lived pretty on-the-go. From my earliest memories of my childhood to my most recent hours of this very day, I’ve been never-stopping, grab-food-for-the-road, hopelessly and often happily on-the-go. As a little tike, that looked like being one of four kids, in a blended happy little mess of people. I have an onslaught of memories of more than my fair share of baseball games. And basketball games. And football games. And tennis matches. And yes, even golf scrimmages. I was the baby, the only girl, the not-so athletic one, and the nature of that was ballpark after ballpark, metal bleacher after metal bleacher. It seemed like there were weeks where we had games and events every day and every night, and I rarely missed a second. Now don’t get me wrong. I certainly didn’t hate it. I would pack my toys and dolls in my beach ball bag and meet up with my friends in the dirt under those bleachers and play. And it was good for then. Somehow, amidst it all, my mother kept us fed and clothed and got us back to the ballpark the next night, on-the-go again.

When adolescence struck with all its awkward splendor, I upped the ante a notch in my personal life and had a constant stream of people that I “needed” to be with. Youth group events, movie nights, school functions, last minute trips to Waffle House... If you can name it, I didn’t want to miss it. I lived my high school years running up and down the back stairs, driving my little Nissan Sentra wherever I could convince my parents to let it take me. I remember hearing the words, “Where is she going this time?” and “Is she ever home?” more than once (a week) as I skipped out my revolving back door, ready to be on-the-go again.

I lived college like that and grad school like that and jobs like that. Go, go, go. Don’t stop. Or if you have to, don’t stop for long. “There are people you have to meet up with, events you simply can’t miss, and more more more you always need to be doing,” the voices in my head seem to chant at me. They convince me that scheduling something every hour of every day is somehow a great idea and I definitely won’t be tired at the end of it all. It’s like a warzone. Be here, do this, don’t miss that. You need more training, this friend won’t understand, one more appointment won’t be too much. And today, on the day of our Lord, July 2nd, 2014, I’m calling a truce. Actually, I’m calling it quits. Yep, I’m quitting. Despite the words of my mother in my head telling me that we never give up (Sorry, Mom!), I’m giving up. And here’s why.

I’m giving up because my quest for constant on-the-go is too good. Too perfect. Too much. I’m giving up because if I stay on-the-go, I don’t have to face what’s really going on inside of me. When I’m running from appointment to meeting and on the phone in between, I miss it. I miss everything. And then I get to the end of the day and I’m grumpy and on-edge and have so little to offer to those I love most. And I think that just won’t work for me anymore. 

So I’m giving up on-the-go as a lifestyle. I’m giving up trying to do it all. I’m giving up the need to please everyone and meet more needs than I have the capacity for. I’m giving up the desire to hit up every therapy conference and answer my phone every time it rings. I’m giving up filling my calendar to the point where you have to turn it and start writing vertically. Yep. I’m doing it. Starting tonight, after a day where I fit in one too many appointments and meetings with friends and spent too little time being quiet and listening to what my soul needed. Honestly, I even heard what my soul needed at one point today and disregarded it because I was too busy to really stop and notice. See why I’ve gotta slow down?!

And you know what I’m going to do with that new space that just opened up on my calendar? I’m going to sit. I’m going to pray. I’m going to read books. I’m going to take long baths and cook yummy food. I’m going to go for walks with my husband and hang out with our 19 year old live-in child. I’m going to watch documentaries that sound interesting and find TV shows that make me gut laugh. I’m going to write and reflect and play. And I’m going to look deep into my spirit and its longings and see what feels life-giving and what feels life-draining. (Thanks, Grow Class.) Yeah, I have some responsibilities I’ll have to keep up. Maybe they’ll fall in the life-giving categories and maybe they won’t. But how will I ever know unless I make time to see what God is or isn’t doing in my heart and life? There’s a chance I could keep running on a hamster wheel forever if I never stop to look around to see what’s outside my wheel.

So that’s my vow for the second half of this year. I’m going to give on-the-go the boot and slowing down a chance. Really, I think I’m giving God a chance. A chance to speak to someone who is attempting to step off that hamster wheel and listen again for the first time in quite a while. And yes, I know as babies come and jobs change and life moves on, there will be more on-the-go days and on-the-go seasons. But I’m thinking on-the-go can be just that... A season, not a lifestyle. 

So here it goes. I'm surrendering. I'm waving my white flag. And it looks curiously like the back of a ripped out sheet of my over-filled weekly planner waving high in the sky, a bold display of defiance in my on-the-go world.

Anyone want to join me?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Birthday Toast

Two months ago this week, I turned 26. I happily bid year 25 a farewell and a "don't let the door hit you on the way out." It was a wonderful birthday. One of my favorites of all time. We gathered people in our backyard and ate a huge Italian feast under these gorgeous outdoor lights. My best friend came all the way here from three hours away to celebrate and another of my dearest friends even FaceTimed in from Malaysia. I baked a loaf of bread that looked straight off the Bread and Company shelf and we all ate barrels of pasta and dipped our bread in gallons of olive oil with the perfect spice blend my husband whipped up for the occasion. I'll always cherish the food, but more than that the laughter, and more than that the people. Because, you see, the people were the reason there was even a party to begin with.

This year, this party, it had a specific purpose. It was to gather together the people who carried me through my 25th year and got me to this birthday. So that's what I did. I got as many of them there as I could. And I wanted to make a toast. To let them know what they meant to me and how thankful I was. It was gonna be awesome. I wrote the toast a few weeks before and read it aloud to my husband and we both cried our ugly, thankful tears. 

Then the big night came, and quite honestly, I got scared. I felt my own insecurities come over me like a big giant wave. Suddenly, I wasn't sure how my big brother/friend's boyfriend/co-worker's wife would respond to my vulnerabilities thrown out there for all to see. So I took the half-brave way out and made a short and sweet little statement before the prayer about how thankful I was for these people and their gift of life and friendship to me. To some people, it may have looked like I chose bravery by even saying what a said and being half-vulnerable in front of everyone. But I know me and I know my heart and I know that choosing half-bravery that day was choosing to not fully be myself and even choosing a side of cowardice to go along with my pasta. 

So that's what led me to today. To sharing the real toast. Josh told me I had to. He said Melodye had to read it and so did Karen and Bob and all those other people who stood in the gaps for me and for us. And he was so right. So today, over two full months later, I'm sharing the toast I wanted to give on my birthday. It may be a little belated and a little backward. But I've always been a little unruly and am just learning how to lean into it. (More on that to come.) Anyway, here's a birthday toast, my birthday toast.. and it's to you. 

I want to make a toast. And luckily, it’s my birthday so none of you can argue with me. It might seem backward and to some of you, I know you’re thinking it’s lame, but I’m doing it anyway.

On my birthday, I want to make a toast to you. Each of you. It’s no secret to most of you that this year has kinda felt like hell. And tonight, as I literally stand on the cusp of a brand new year, I know that I’m only here because of you. It’s been humbling and honoring to be carried through life this year by each of you.

So I want to say thank you. To the ones of you who quite frankly packed our boxes and moved our home for us, this toast is to you. To those of you who let us sleep in your beds or cry on your couches because we could find no rest at home, this is for you. For the people who brought flowers to brighten to darkest days and sent letters to let us know you care, this is for you. For the people who wouldn’t let me lie about how I was doing and encouraged me that it was okay to feel whatever I felt, this is for you. For those of you who loaned me your children when I was down or asked me the hard questions, its for you too. For those of you who helped me get on a plane to go across the world when I was scared to death and didn’t even say a word when you saw my tears, this is for you. And for those of you laughed hysterically with me over Cheez-Its in an actual typhoon, this is for you. For those of you who have showed up when I just needed someone, anyone, and for those of you who have given me space, this is for you.  For those of you who have prayed your brains out for me and let me be okay in my faith struggle, this is for you. For those of you who have honestly held my husband up when he thought he might collapse, this is for you. For the people who sent messages that have made me laugh out loud and the ones I have reread with tears over and over, this is for you. For those of you who have held me night after night as I cried myself to sleep, this is for you. The words and the love and the presence and the hot bread on my porch from each of you, whether you knew it or not, got me through this year. Thank you.

I honestly feel like I owe you guys my life. But that’s the thing about each of you. You’d never ask or even want that and don’t feel like you’re out a dime. So thank you. From the very bottom of my heart, thank you. Through the pain and the heartache, I’ve become more myself this year with you than I could have ever imagined, and that is a gift I’ll always cherish. So tonight, we celebrate. We celebrate my last year ending and my new year on the horizon. And we celebrate you, you rockin’ awesome family of mine. And if it’s okay, I’d like to make this toast to all these things and to you... and to your new beginnings as well, no matter where you are. 

It was a very happy 26th to me, indeed.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Light

"Pray for the light, pray for the light, pray for the light." My mentor, friend, spiritual director, second mother's words are ringing loud and clear in my head tonight. "April, pray for the light." And I am. With every heartbeat tonight, I am praying for the light. With every bite of frozen yogurt, I am praying for the light. With every minute that I listen to my husband and his baby brother playing night basketball out my bedroom window, I'm praying for the light. Through every tear on my cheek, every dish in my hand, every breath in my lungs, I'm praying for the light.

Because for me, nothing compares to living in the light. Everything is harder when I can't find the light.

I don't know what it means for you. I don't know what the light looks like in your life. For me, it looks like living with purpose, in the Kingdom of God, joy-filled and free. Struggles still exist and tears still roll down my cheeks. But I never feel alone because the light always surrounds me, envelops me, sets me free.

So tonight, I'm laying in my bed, listening to the boys laughing out my window, and praying for the light. And maybe I should pray too that my eyes could be open enough to see it when it breaks through. And until then, please God, let my heart hold on.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

It's Complicated

It’s Saturday. Maybe the world’s most beautiful Saturday weather-wise in the whole world. Or it certainly feels that way seeing as how it is February and we have had some bone-chilling colds this winter. Regardless, it’s gorgeous outside and Mr. Sun came out to shine today like he was made to do it... and uhhh, I think he was. So on this glorious day, what is it that I find myself doing at 7:45 am, you ask? I’m driving to class. Yes, I have an 8 am - 2:45 pm class for the next six Saturdays. You could say I am less than pleased about it. Anyway, I’m driving to school this morning and testing out some of my favorite worship music from college. And on comes the song that was my absolute anthem through my junior and senior year of school. My internal instincts are immediately at war with each other:
“I love this song.” 
“I’m not ready for this song.” 
“I know every word by heart.” 
“Do I believe it though now?” 
“It hurts too bad.” 
“I want to give it a try.”
“I want to jump out of the car.”
And so on and so forth.
Most importantly, I overcame the temptation to jump out of the car and continued along my drive. Secondly, I left the song playing and decided to sing along, just for old times sake (and maybe because some tiny little light inside of me has just not quite gone out yet). And suddenly my mind landed on an image that best captures it all. Here it is: If human beings had to walk around with Facebook relationship statuses protruding from flashing signs above their heads, mine would read, “April Moseley is in a relationship with God and it’s complicated.” 
Yeah, it’s complicated. It’s not peaceful and easy and blissful. It’s not the first place I run and it’s not the brightest spot of my whole day. It’s complicated. It’s not where it used to be and it’s certainly not where it is going to be. It’s just complicated. I want to spend time with Him desperately and I want to push reminders of our time together as far away from me as possible. I want to cling to His every word and I want to plug my fingers in my ears as it is read. I want to spend every single day focusing on nothing but Him and in the same breath, I want to run away because it’s just too hard. 
Basically, if you read through the names of the songs or the choruses of a good Taylor Swift album, you’d get the picture. It’s love and war, desire and fear, my highest highs and my lowest lows. 
But what strikes me most about this today isn’t the fact that I’ve got a lot of unresolved issues with God. For once in this season, I don’t just see the struggle and I don’t just cry over all we’ve lost. I see relationship. Real, true, genuine, authentic relationship. 
And isn’t relationship kinda weird like this anyway? Aren’t the relationships with those closest to you the ones that make you so mad you could swear you are spitting nails and so elated that you know there’s no greater bliss? Isn’t it true that those few people you let in are the ones who have the most power to hurt and heal you? And maybe could it be because they are the ones that matter most? 
I wonder if it’s the same with you and God too. Maybe today you’re in your car and you have to turn off that darn song that used to make you feel so loved because today it makes you feel so much pain. Or maybe you give that song a chance and sing along just for the fun of it but you make a mental note to Him that you just don’t mean it. Or maybe you even sing it with all you have and cherish that time together. I don’t know. But I do know this, to me, all of those options signify relationship. Important relationship. And those are the kind with the most and best complexity of all. 

So here it is for me today: April Moseley is in a relationship with God and it’s complicated. And that’s enough today.

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Ben Rector penned this beautiful song. It's called Sailboat and it's on his latest album. My husband had downloaded the cd onto my iPod and sent it with me as I flew to the literal other side of the world on a mission trip of sorts. The first time I heard it, I was actually on the plane amidst a long flight from Dubai to the Philippines, and I was stretched out across three seats exhausted, to say the least. So obviously, when I heard it, I cried my eyes out. And I guess you could say that I couldn't handle the way it touched my soul because I turned the album off and couldn't make myself pick it up again for a number of days. The lyrics are as follows:

I feel just like a sailboat
I don't know where I'm headed
But you can't make the wind blow
From a sailboat

I have seen the sun
Felt the rain on my skin
I've been lost and found
But mostly I've been waiting

Oh I'm out in the waves
I'm hoping and praying
Please let this wind blow me home
Night after night there's and empty horizon
And my God do I feel so alone
Sometimes I, most times I, feel just like a sailboat

I'm pretty sure I'm heard
At least I know I'm speaking
But I feel like a fool
Cause I can't hear you listening

But I'm not giving up
Oh I will move on forward
I'm gonna raise my sail
God knows what I'm headed towards

Oh I'm out in the waves
I'm hoping and praying
Please let this wind blow me home
Night after night there's and empty horizon
And my God do I feel so alone
Sometimes I, most times I, feel just like a sailboat

The only change I can see
Lost or found, at sea
The only difference is believing I'll make it in

Oh I'm out in the waves
I'm hoping and praying
Please let this wind blow me home
Night after night there's and empty horizon
And my God do I feel so alone
Sometimes I, most times I, feel just like a sailboat

Let's be honest, the seven of you who are reading this know my life and my story. And you all know that last year wasn't an easy one. You probably all have a guess at the parts of the song that most led me to tears, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. 

The chorus with the empty horizon and the loneliness, that got me for sure. It's how I knew the writer understood me. But more than that, the phrases of hope are what truly did me in. First for me, it was "The only change I can see… the only difference is believing I'll make it in." That spoke to me of pure faith and conviction in the darkest of nights. 

And then there's the line that has become my Josh and I's mantra ever since. "I'm gonna raise my sail." If you're out in the dark scary waters in your life and you feel like giving up some days, you know the way that hit me. It's the way it's hitting you now. Yeah, maybe it's not what the world looks at as the greatest act of faith. But those of us who have been there, we know. We know that it took every bit of strength and every ounce of courage in your being to put that sail back up today. We know you wanted to leave it down and let the waves take you under for good. But we see you. Amidst the thunderstorm baring down on you and the lightning that seems too close and the winds that keep knocking you over, we see you. Dripping wet with tears and sweat and the downpour, we see you. And as you stand up after being knocked down for the 85th time and as you raise that sail high, we see you. And just so you know, it's the bravest and most faithful thing that I think you and I have ever done. Raise our sail. When only God knows what we're headed toward.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Progress is Progress.

If you've never been desperate or never plan to be, this is not the post for you. (Hint: you will be. This is the post for you.)
At the time of year where resolutions and goals are swirling, I want to share with you an idea of mine that is revolutionizing my life and my family. Don't be alarmed at the complexity of it now. It's pretty simple really. I call it "Progress is Progress." It's basically the idea that any step you are making/have made is enough to celebrate. In a world where guilt and shame try to piggyback on our every day with each status update and Instagram we see, what if we took the time to pause and celebrate our progress instead of being defeated by our lack of perfection? I know I'm not alone in this. I know you, like me, saw a friend post something today where they were achieving some grand fitness goal. Or you saw someone who set the goal of being more creative this year and have already pretty much started a new business based on all the creative products they have created in the first 16 days of the year. Or you saw the stay at home mom just like you create 815 mind-enriching activities for their one year old from nothing but a pixie stick and a dirty sock. 

If you're like me in my weak moments on social media, you may have started by judging them but then you quickly turned inward and judged yourself. Because you're the one who has the list of a hundred and twelve things you wanted to do better. You're the one who keeps setting the goal of getting in shape but continue choosing pizza and Chuy's over exercising. But here's what I'm saying… What if today, you still went to Chuy's, but you only ate a few chips or you still ate all the chips but you went outside and ran for just 5 minutes? Should you sign yourself up for next month's ironman and interview to be a fitness instructor? Probably not. But did you make progress? Absolutely! That's one step closer to your goal. And that, my friend, is progress. And simply stated, progress is progress… any kind!

Here's another important tidbit to go along with it. I don't get to decide what progress is for someone else. And if you're honest, you know you don't get to either. Progress for one person may not be progress for another. But it doesn't discount how much it was progress for the other. Does that make sense? How about an example... Progress for me yesterday was getting anxious in my car on my way home and being able to pray, even just for a minute. And because there were days last year or even last month that I couldn't pray or that I immediately needed medicine for anxiety, being able to pray for a minute was progress for me. Was I able to meditate for hours on the goodness of the Lord and rest deep in his presence? Honestly... No. But progress is progress. You see?

My friend Dave said something at church on Sunday (Speaking of progress, I was AT church Sunday. That counts too.)... He called us to being patient with each other in our growth. And even patient with ourselves. That's why I'm starting this year celebrating progress. My own and yours. Because it just isn't fair for our feeble human selves to figure it all out perfectly so fast. I know I need the patience from my loved ones as I grow. And I have a hunch that each of you, if you choose to be vulnerable and admit it, could say you need the exact same thing. 

So let's allow ourselves and each other more grace this year than ever before. Because really when you allow yourself to think about it, any progress you've made today really is a big deal. Progress is progress, my dear friend. Tonight, I challenge you to apply that to your life and let it soak in in all the places you most feel you don't deserve to give yourself such grace. My bet is that those are the places that most need this kind of TLC, you know? 

So repeat it with me now… Progress is progress. Progress is progress. Progress is progress.

Ahh, yes. That's grace for yourself now washing over your soul. You deserve it, my friend.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Tree Dancing

It's January 9th. I know my tree is "supposed" to be down by now. I get it. But for me, when I take down the Christmas tree each year, it feels like I'm pulling away from Disney World at the end of the most magical vacation and I'm watching the fireworks from the ferry and I'm just not quite ready to leave. Like maybe I need to stay right there in the magic just one more hour, one more day, one more lifetime. 
Truth is, I never want the magic to end as a day at Disney comes to a close or a whole month of Christmas ends. So I linger in the moments and pray with all my might that the memories light up my soul til I come back next year. That I'll remember the wrapping paper on the floor and the soups on the stove, the babies snuggled on our shoulders and the warm by the fire. The hugs from my grandma and the light in Josh's eyes. It was a long year of pain, but something special happened at Christmas when we slowed down and shared time and love with those most dear. 
So before we take down the ornaments in tomorrow morning's light, I met this sweet man by the tree and danced through tears as we bid goodbye to another Christmas season, another year of heartaches and triumphs. We kissed and laughed and cried, and with all my heart, I did my best to soak it all in. I don't know what this year holds. Probably some heart ache and probably some pain. Hopefully good laughter and likely a few tears. But all I'll ask as I lay down on my pillow tonight is that God will give us another day, another moment like this one. Where we dance in the splendor of the tree light amidst all of our chaos. Another moment or season filled with such magic and sweetness that it makes saying goodbye nearly impossible. And yet, we will do it. Because the moment we see the castle or the mouse, the moment we put up the tree (in 320ish days) is worth every minute of the longing in between. And you know what our plan is for the year? To keep dancing anyway. Even when there's no fireworks and no tree. I have a hunch that in 2014, that same Disney/Christmas magic might just be lurking in the most unexpected places if only we will look closely...