On Staying

Avellino Wedding by Hilary Hyland Photography

I'm staring at boxes.

I think now is when we decide to become minimalists. Minimalism sounds so romantic when you're packing.

But back to the boxes. They are covering the floor, our bedroom, and hallways. Our roommates dog is scared, he runs quickly through towers of boxes to get his breakfast. I'm scared too buddy.

They're staring at me to fill but I just had to come here first. I had to come to you. A few words on planting roots, settling down [why has that always sounded so boring to me] and staying were pressed on my heart.

Buying a house doesn't mean you're stuck [thanks Dad] but it does mean you're sticking around for a bit.

And this place wasn't where I wanted to stick around a year ago.

Sure, I thought it'd be sweet to begin our marriage in a small town, a place Matt had grown familiar to. Plus I was tired of the hustle and bustle of a city and wanted a change of pace. And as a lover of travel and new places, I celebrated the idea of starting somewhere brand new. So we moved.

But on one stipulation, I'd gently nudge and throw at Matt through the course of that year, nearly everyday - after this it's Africa.

After this we're doing something radical and different and not so vanilla.

I've always been a wanderer. I've always had a restless spirit. Committing to anything past college threw me into a frenzy of anxiety and worry. It's why marriage was so terrifying. It's why signing a lease always felt like all bets were off, life as we knew it was over. Dramatic? Maybe a little.

But the truth is, I'm not very good at staying. I haven't lived anywhere longer than a year in the past 6 years.

I stay long enough to share all the parts of myself, to be open and vulnerable and then I run. It's like the honesty and rawness becomes too much and I have to go. I have to start somewhere fresh again because I think I am locked into one identity. I think settling is lame. So I leave, ripping up roots, yet clinging to them with all my might.

I land in the next place - wherever that is - dreaming of back there, the place I was before, the place I felt known and accepted.

It's a cycle I've lived for years.

For as long as I can remember, I've dreamed of place - living out west, the town my grandparents were born in Ireland or a village in Africa. Place has always meant purpose. It's meant a cool story, exciting pictures to post, adventure, and thrill.

But God wrecked me this year because he gave us people.

He surrounded us with community and friendships so deep and thick that it feels as though we've known each other way before this little town. He's laid the art of neighboring on my heart in a way it's never been done before. He's shown me, through others, what being a good neighbor really means.

What being a good friend really means.

So as we rounded out our first year here last September, instead of talking about where we might want to move, we looked at homes. We decided to plant our feet and heart. We decided to give it our all and love people the best we could. We decided to be honest with any pain, regret, or shame with friends who deserved to hear that part of our story.

Running away just wasn't an option.

Staying was.

Don't get me wrong, I wholeheartedly believe in travel and exploration. I believe moving to a place just to move is great. There is a big, beautiful world to see.

But I also believe in seasons - a time for staying and going. A time for planting and uprooting. A time to plow and harvest

And right now is a season of planting. 

Because I think something is being built here and I want to see it through. I bet you see it in your towns too. I think God is doing something powerful in folks homes and around their tables, in coffee shops, and our Wednesday dance class.

I think a movement and awakening is rising and I don't really want to miss it.

I suppose these words are to thank all the people who've made our town home. It's to celebrate every coffee date and walk and dinner and yoga class and tear that has taught me how good it feels to stay.

Even when it's hard and a little terrifying.

Because it's worth it. It's worth digging our toes in, feeling the dirt between our fingers. When we put our blood and sweat into something we come out braver and stronger and sturdier than before.

And truthfully, I'm a little tired of running. I want to learn how to stay and commit and celebrate even in the mundane. I want to dream right here with what we've got and stop thinking there must be some other place that will make things easier and more exciting.

I want to stop craving more and be grateful for what is.

Reader, you are so dear to me. Thanks for helping me stay here on this little space too.

I hope you decide to stay in something or somewhere. I hope you stay connected to the vine or your own source of grace and truth, even if you don't see the fruit quite yet.

I hope you feel the love from a tribe of people who care so deeply for the person you are and becoming.

p.s This is also an invitation to come visit & stay with us. xoxo

We're all a bunch of signs

I saw him standing at a stoplight. There was a white poster in his left hand and a rosary in his right. He wore a hat to shield the sun. I couldn't see the front of his sign because his back was to me and my curious nosey self fidgeted in my seat, wondering what it said. I've seen plenty of folks holding signs. But the sheer fact I couldn't see his, made me want to park, get out of the car, and go take a look.

FOMO is real.

He turned when the light turned green.

"Is it a choice or a child?" That's all it said with a picture of a fetus.

I was impressed by this man standing all by himself in the hot sun. He didn't have a big crowd rallying behind him. He didn't even have a chair to sit down in when his legs got tired.

It made me want to write a sign too. Particularly now, as debates run rampant on the internet [I've learned to stop reading the comments].

I think my sign might say, "You are loved. Like, all of you. That bag of junk and mess you're carrying? He loves all of that."

Truth is, we all wear signs.

Some are more visible than others - things like mother, married, white. Those ones are easy to point out.

But what about the ones we don't wear written on a t-shirt or wrapped around our finger? The ones that run deep in our veins and are embedded in our story and history and experience.

Things like survivor, adopted, addict, lonely.

////

Our church had a women's night a few months back. A chance to go beyond the weather and what you do, to the things that make your heart beat.

In all honesty, I was reluctant to go because small talk really drains me. I've never been so good at it. I get awkward and uncomfortable and way too emotional.

It's the reason I stopped asking "How are you?" in college because I always got the same answer, "Great!"

And maybe, more than half the time people really were great. But it made me empty and tired because we're not always great, we're not always good. So I changed the question. I started asking, "You doing okay?"

I have those three words to thank for showing up late to many classes senior year. I always left those conversations uplifted and encouraged and not so lonely.

Because some days, I wasn't okay and it scared me to think I was the only one.

Of all the parts of that night, the moment that stuck were the signs. Women held large poster boards, walked across the stage, turned to the audience and showed their sign.

"I had an abortion."

"I struggle with an eating disorder."

"I lost my child in a car crash last year."

"I have an anger problem."

The posters kept flashing, one after the other. A guitar played softly in the background.

These women ripped of the facade, giving you a glimpse into the deepest, darkest, most heart wrenching parts of their story. The facade we so often wear for protection, particularly at church. The very place we're told and tell others to come just as you are.

It had to feel like standing in front of a crowd completely naked while you give folks permission to point out the parts they don't like.

I remember such tension in my heart because I'd see a sign, look up at the woman's stoic face and think, her? I thought I had her all figured out.

We think we have folks figured out real quick. Sometimes, we'll judge way before an actual interaction. Simply by the way they order their coffee.

I remember wishing that we always wore a sign.

Even though there is a reason we don't divulge every little thing to every single person. But I couldn't help but wonder, would we be less inclined to judge? Less inclined to compare and choose jealousy?

Because we are all fighting a battle. Each battle is different and unique but each is heavy and significant. Each deserves someone to grab your hand and say, "Hey, I see what you're carrying. And even though my battle looks different than yours. I promise to fight with you and for you if you want."

We are all a bunch of walking signs.

And I want to be better at this friends. Because it's so easy to choose judgement. It's so easy to look another woman up and down and think we have her all figured out. That we know the threads that make her whole.

And I think all of this is heightened with the way our lives are compressed into pictures with captions and hashtags and filters.

But I don't blame social media for this. At our core, instragram or not, we'd still judge.

So maybe it starts with sharing your sign. Maybe it starts with celebrating the sweet and the bitter.

I'll go first.

I quit my job. I quit a full-time with benefits job to do something weighing on my heart to try and give in too. And that terrifies me because it feels so counter-culture. It feels wrong. It feels like I should constantly be striving for more, reaching up high, gaining a new title, striving for new benefits and perks. But there goes that ugly game of comparison again, you know?

And truth is, I hate quitting things. It makes me feel like I am letting people down. 

I quit for a lot of reasons. One was to try a new role in a profession I've felt pulled towards. Another was to provide more time, right here with you, in this space. And to some, this is just blank white space. But to all the writers out there, you know it's so much more.

It's where I find purpose and direction. It's where I find God. 

Some days I get scared that I made a huge mistake. While others, I feel so good and hopeful and filled up in a way I haven't in a very long time. Truth is, I've talked to God more in the past two weeks than I have the whole year. And He's stripping things away. He's helping this restless beating heart grow. He's making it less about me and more about Him. And that all seems worth it.

////

Some days, things are really great. I'd rather choose joy and gratitude than heartache. But we can't deny the heartache.

And I think something happens when we share. When we turn our sign around and give folks a chance to read. Because chances are, there are words written on their sign too.

Words that need to be shared and heard and felt.

So, what would your sign say today friend? What might it look like to share that with someone?

xoxo