my back stoop

I crunched the numbers. I compared.

Wait, that can't be right.

I did it again.

Mmmk, it is right.

I let out a breath and looked down. I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. If I do this [I'll get to this later, another time, another post] well, we can't save up for those things we talked about. Suddenly the thought of me making it difficult because of my silly dreams - became too much.

I can hear my heart shouting - you're dreams are never silly.

Maybe I was a wee bit dramatic. But if you know me at all, if you've been reading my words [thank you by the way] you've probably learned I am FULL of emotions, it's who I am.

It's who I've always been.

Matt went up to cut his hair. Yes, he buzzes that head of is, saving us 20 bucks a month. Love. that. man.

I grabbed my glass of wine and went to sit on our back stoop.  It had just rained.

I love the smell of rain.

Fresh bread from the oven and rain - two of my favorites.

It made me think of those times when I was little and I'd sit at the top of my driveway in the rain. I'd grab a lawn chair and umbrella and my stuffed animal or baby doll and watch the cars go by (disclaimer: there weren't many kids on my street to play with).

I'd pretend I didn't have a home, that I was wandering and stumbled upon this pretty house with well manicured bushes and wondered if they'd let me come in and have dinner.

In so many ways, I am still that little girl. A little lost, so very curious, and aching to be found.

I looked out and saw twinkling lights and our neighbors backyards. I wondered what folks were doing at this very moment too - cleaning up from dinner, bickering over taxes, cuddling on the couch?

Were they sitting on their back stoop like me? 

The door creaked open.

Babe..what are you doing? 

I needed some fresh air.

Do you want someone to sit with? 

This is one of those new marriage moments. One that feels so sweet and lovely and other days - incredibly uneasy and awkward. Because you see, when I was sad or angry or annoyed before, I could just sit in it and it didn't bother anyone. But now, it does. Now, someone aches to be part of it because they live in it too.

Now, someone so deeply desires to help and hold and carry the burden.

It doesn't really matter, I said back. 

It wasn't a yes or a no. Decisions have always been hard for me. I thought, if I left it open- the right choice of sitting and staying or going upstairs to bed would sort of just, figure itself out.

He sat. Of course he would. He's sweet and caring like that. 

One step below me, arms folded on his knees, eyes looking out at our little, tangly, messy backyard.

For a moment it felt like sitting on the stairs of his parents lake house - early in the morning, coffee mug in hand, watching dew lift off the water. It's one of my favorite views. It silences my soul in a way only nature and creation can. We'd sit and sip and be quiet. And I remember thinking, in that very moment - this is love, isn't it God? Sure, it's other things too - kisses and sacrifice and truth. But I think this is it too - sitting side by side in silence and feeling more safe and known than ever before.

This moment was not as romantic dear ones. This moment was annoyed and hurting and teary. I wanted him beside me but then again I didn't.

It felt like there wasn't enough space on our stoop for my worried, anxious heart and our two bodies.

I think, I actually do want to be alone.

He stood up. I could tell it hurt. I can always tell when my words cut deep and feel like a punch in the stomach. Because all he wants is to help and fix things.

And I resort to retreating and turning inward.

And I think friends, that sometimes, it's okay to do just that. There's a time for talking things out, for laying it all out there. But for me, this was not that time. Because as much as I wanted to say every little thing on my mind and heart, I couldn't.

I don't process things that way. I crave time time alone first. I sort of love time alone sometimes.

It feels crazy when I consider all the relationships I crave and need. All the dinner dates I love to plan and host.

But that's just it.

When I am with you - I want all of you. 

I want every nook and detail. I want to remember the part of the story when you stopped talking, looked down, and started folding a napkin in your lap.

My grandma Jul had this incredible way of making anyone feel as if they were the most important person in the whole world. In that little moment, nothing else mattered, nothing other than you and her and a cup of tea- no sugar, just milk, leave the tea bag in.

I want to know the sound of your laugh - each laugh you have. 

I want to see the shades of color in your eyes, and the way they change when you talk about your Dad.

And in return, like a good friend, I want to give you me too.

I want you to know that I love God and most days, feel so close to Him.  That this whole relationship over religion thing is all I need. But there are other times, when it's hard. When doubt and fear seep into my pores and all I want to do is run - run from this whole faith thing.

I want you to understand why I get awkward when asked "tell me about yourself " or "how are you doing". I want to give you an answer, trust me, I really do. I just struggle to weave it all together - to put in a box.

You want to know about me and how I'm doing?

Like, the real me or the person I sometimes fall into, when being honest and open is tough?

I want you to know that I find you fascinating and strong and full of light. 

I want you to see that I am trying to be better a human today than I was yesterday. I think we're all trying. I want you to know that I choose joy and gratitude every morning but the actual living it, the walking in it, yeah, that doesn't always happen.

These interactions, as sweet and hopeful and life-giving as they are, can be exhausting - in the best possible way.

So I sat alone, sipping my wine, closing my eyes, and humming along to "Oceans" by Hillsong.

It's easy to feel guilty for this. It's easy to feel like a big ol' jerk when I say to my husband, or friend or sister, "I think I just need to be alone."

But I think we need it y'all. At least I do.

Sometimes, to be the best lover and friend, it requires us to recharge, reboot and turn in. And that doesn't make us awful. It doesn't make us hopeless.

It makes us human - broken, thirsty, beautiful humans.

And trust that on your stoop or porch or coziest place in your home - you aren't ever really alone // the God of the universe holds you tight.


A letter to us

With currently working at a college and the semester coming to an end, it got me thinking about myself senior year.  My arms wide open and ready, but also trembling.  I couldn't help but write a letter. To the person I was then, who some days feels so far and different from the woman I am now and while others, feels exactly the same.

So this letter is to you college grad, but really, it's to all of us, it's to me, because we're all students - we're all learning how to patch up skinned knees when we fall and ask for forgiveness.  

We're all just trying to find our way.

Dear you,

You're okay.  You know that?  Yeah, you are okay.

All those answers you think you need to figure out - the answers to life's big, big questions - what I want to do, where I should go - you don't need to have those answers right now.

And if I am being really honest, you might still be asking those questions five years later at age 26. And, if I am being really, really honest, we might not ever have the answers to those questions.

Because life isn't one big question to figure out. It's a constant unfolding and folding of experiences, of heartbreak and job offers and coffee dates and choosing to wake up early to see the sunrise.

It's a mosaic portrait, the one where you stand real close and see lots of shiny, colorful tiles - blues, reds and yellows. And inch by inch, as you step back, a picture unfolds. And suddenly, you don't see each individual tile anymore.

You barely see them at all.

I know that seems crazy.  What, with everyone around you finding and landings jobs. With some folks having a great big plan already.

You don't have to have a great big plan.

Celebrate that the next step you take, might look different than everybody else. And you know what? That's a good thing.

Ask yourself, what is it you want, right now? Not what do your parents want or your best friend or even your significant other.  What do you want dear one? Because this is the time for that.

And to ask yourself that question doesn't make you selfish. Oh no, it's so far from that.

I wanted new community, a place to start fresh, a brand new beginning. I was tired of the person I was in college. I wasn't a bad person, I just grew tired of the charade I kept on. I felt like there were parts of me, way down deep, aching to break through and shatter whatever shell I was wearing and be free.

And I just couldn't do that somewhere folks knew me by name.

So I moved to a new state, to pour my heart into service I believed in. And I couldn't have asked for a better year.

Was it hard? Heck yes.

Did some days I want to be back in college, laughing in the dining hall, taking naps on the quad, living only a dorm room away from my dearest friends? Of course.

Heck, some days I still want that.

But you are brave and bold and courageous. You know that right?

There isn't a wrong choice here. This isn't a multiple choice test with one right answer. I know you've been taught that for a long, long time. But this time, there are many doors to walk through.

And for me, that was the hardest part of all.

And it still remains the hardest part.

Because for the first time, in forever, you don't have to do - anything at all. For so long, you had to take this class, pass this test, follow this procedure.

But you don't have to do that anymore.

I had a hard time swallowing, "you can do anything."  I know, that sounds awful. Shouldn't those words be sweet and romantic and hopeful?

But to me they were completely overwhelming. For me, a gal who can barely pick two at Panera without having a nervous breakdown, it felt like a test I couldn't pass.

A mistake I made, even before making a choice.

So I'm not going to say that to you. Even though you can. What I am going to say is pick a direction, just one, and start walking in it.

Don't remain motionless. Don't wait to do the thing you really want to do. Don't wait for the right person to do it with.

And be patient with yourself as you think things through, be kind to yourself, be gentle on your heart. It's not a race. It's not a race. 

There is never the perfect time to do the things you love. There will always be walls and discouraging words and barriers to hop over, to push through.There will always be bills, family gatherings to attend, weddings to be in, grandparents passing away.

You might not make it to everything.

I remember getting the call that my sweet, Irish grandmother passed away while I was working on a farm in Nicaragua. And that broke my heart y'all. I hated that I couldn't be there to hug my Dad, cry at her funeral, eat cake and drink tea to celebrate her beautiful life.

I wasn't there for any of it. I was on an island in another country that took a bus, a boat, two taxis and two plane rides to get too.

But God shows up in those moments, you know? A sweet man from Ireland and his wife came to work on the farm during that same season and I'll tell you, his voice and jokes and energy made being away not so hard. It made being away bearable. And that man helped me heal.

I hope you don't get sucked into making lots of money and working your way to the top. Because some days you're just going to have to do the dirty work that no one else really wants to do. And it's important work you know, really important. It counts. It matters. It plays a big role. I know it's hard to see that.

I can hear my Dad saying, "You aren't above any work. You just do it. You clean toilets and take out the trash, not because it's noble and good, but because it's the right thing to do. You aren't bigger or better than any of that."

I can also hear my Dad saying, as he reads this, "I said that?"

I hope you don't spend every hour scrolling through facebook and instagram wishing you were doing what she or he or they are doing.

It'll rob your joy, it'll suck you dry. Trust me on this one.

Pick a path and walk in it, with your chin up, choosing gratitude and joy and intention each and everyday. Because pretty soon, little miracles will start to unfold. Little moments of grace and new friendships and finding that you aren't awful at running will start to unfold.

Little moments of breaking bread with strangers (who are just one meal away from being friends), picking and tasting fresh strawberries, finding that passion and character can land you a job, instead of a fancy resume.

Build who you are. Build all the many parts that make you whole. Become the best version of you in anyway you can. Be bright eyed and bushy tailed and don't apologize for that.

Try new things. Make a meal from start to finish from scratch. Go on a walk and write down every little thing you hear. Play on an intramural team even when you're downright awful at sports. Say yes when a really nice guy asks you to dinner.

Hug the people around you and rest easy in knowing that the friends you're meant to keep, they'll stay close, no amount of miles or time will take that away. You'll be surprised that some friends, who you barely knew in college, will become family as you part ways.

Write letters and schedule Monday morning chats before work. Because we're all busy, but we can always make time for others - if it's something we really want.

But don't hold on too tight.

Make room for the folks who should join this new chapter too. Welcome friends whose story you're hearing halfway through because I tell you - it's such a good story. Make friends with people who think differently, act differently, believe differently. Surround yourself with people who push and challenge you to be authentic and raw. Who push you to answer more questions, instead of merely asking them.

And when you think you have this whole life thing backwards, when it feels like everything is falling apart and nothing is working out just as it should -  run to the ones who think you're gold.

Find your tribe who'll remind you, "You're okay."

I'm rooting for you dear one.