on fences

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I didn't want a white picket fence.

Let me give you a scenario. There's a girl [me] whose just returned from living on a farm in rural Nicaragua. Showers happened when it rained enough, electricity was powered by the sun, and numbers 1 & 2 were done outside. She was also sleeping under a mosquito net, in a bed made of bamboo.

There's a guy who emailed this girl every two weeks and is seeing her for the first time, in a long time, on New Year's Eve.

Any bit of romance was shot with my ranting about what I had done and seen and been exposed too. Nothing says "let's kiss at midnight" than the words - compost toilet. I was completely out of sorts and confused and figured this guy wouldn't understand.

And I figured he was the kind of guy who wanted a pretty house with a well manicured lawn, surrounded by a white picket fence. And at this moment in time, that landscape and lifestyle made me so angry and upset.

I wish I could say I didn't yell, though I think I did. I totally yelled when he said he needed to go the bathroom and I couldn't understand why he wouldn't just go outside beside the tree.

I mean, that's what I had done for the past 2 months.

"It's freezing cold, Maeve. And, there is a bathroom inside."

Mmmm. Yes. You are right.

Though for a girl who had been exposed to a developing country for the first time, my world was flipped upside down and inside out. Nothing felt the same. I cried on my Dad's shoulder when a friend asked if I wanted to get a pedicure.

Travel changes us. I believe that with all my heart. But as time goes on, as we remain "home', it gets easier to settle back in. Suddenly, you don't have a nervous break down in a grocery store. Suddenly, a hot a shower and toilet and pedicure seem pretty nice.

But it's the fences. And here's the deal, I don't dislike fences. I actually find a white picket fence surrounding a garden or patio really beautiful. We currently have a fence.

It's the feeling of comfort, of convenience, of standing still.

Because lately I've prayed a big prayer. I've prayed to be used up, I've prayed for God to hijack my day. I've prayed that He'll make it about Him completely.

But sometimes I pray with hands clenched tight.

I pray to be used up, yes, but in a way that I see fit. My plan's the best plan, right?

I pray for God to hijack my day. But please Lord, don't inconvenience or change my schedule too much. I've got things to do and people to see.

I'll pray for God to use us, on our street and in this world. And yet I see my neighbors sitting on their front stoop; the little girl with curls blowing bubbles. What if I walked over with some chalk and drew a picture with that little girl and talked with her mom?

There is power in the small acts of love y'all. So much power.

I pray to be ripped of my comforts - a hot shower and warm bed. But God, I really love gathering folks in my home, so having enough space to do that would be helpful.

Do you see what's happening here friend? Clenched fists. An inability to truly surrender. A "me" focus.

I hold so tightly to things - a home for gathering, quiet mornings, a busy schedule that I have control of. I set up boundaries without even realizing it.

Be vulnerable but not too vulnerable.

Be available but only when it works for me.

And boundaries are needed, yes. They are good. We can't give to every single person on this planet. We can't meet every need.

But what happens when our boundaries become a fortress? What happens when we've built a fence around our heart and folks can't find a place to come sit and stay a while?

Truth is, this prayer is messy and uncomfortable.

It calls us to conversations that may leave us tired in the morning. It calls us to introduce ourselves to the woman next door with hardened eyes and thick skin. It calls us to get rid of our stuff and spend money on people who may never pay us back.

It calls us to quit our jobs, sell our stuff, say no when we really want to say yes.

And that can be a scary prayer. But in all the mess and awkward moments, it seems worth it too. It's seems worth it to relinquish control, to give until it hurts, to surround ourselves with people in need of community.

I want to challenge us [me included] to step outside the fence. To see what lies on the other side. I think it might be better. I think it might be worth it.

And what if we encouraged each other when we do it? What if we cheered each other on?

So here's my request: Can you share your small act of love in the comment section below? And if you don't want to toot your own horn [though, I think you should] toot somebody else's.

In one week I'm going to pick one person. That person will receive a small gift from me in the mail. Who doesn't love mail?

Share below dear ones. Small acts of love y'all - that's all it takes.

xoxo

saying yes

IMG_2486 It's my shoes. It's got to be my shoes - they're old and completely worn out.

Or maybe, it's my playlist. I can't find the right mix of pump up and push it and lets-get-our-workout-on-lady.

Nope, it's my allergies. Yes, my allergies make it hard for me to run long distances. You have full permission to giggle at this one. [Though allergies, when in full effect, do make it hard to accomplish about any task.]

Okay, back to my original thought bubble.

You see, Matthew and I are in discussion - which really means, he's totally fine with it and I'm not fully convinced, about running a half-marathon. I know, I know, I said I wouldn't be running a half marathon in this post. But, that was last year right?

And here's the truth of it - I don't like to run. It's hard for me, so hard for me.

Here's another truth. I used to purposefully forget my gym uniform in middle school so I wouldn't have to participate. I'd leave it all crumpled up on my bedroom floor, smelly as can be, unwashed and untouched for weeks.

When I played basketball, I used to pretend I was sick - every.single.game.

In high school, I'd beg the gym teacher to please, just pleaseeeeee let me be the ref while everyone else plays kickball today and I'll never, ever, ask for another thing again.

That is until next class.

I'm not sure where this fear of sports or competition or running began. But it has stuck close, real close, like a big ol' wad of bubble gum on my shoe and has made for a habit that I'd like to break.

I'm quick to think no when I really want to say yes. I'm quick to say "I can't" when maybe, I actually can.

And you know what's icky about saying no? It gets so much easier to say no, over and over again, to a lot of other things too.

"Oh no, I'm not really a writer. Yes, I do love to write. I mean, I have a blog. But, I haven't like, written a book or anything."

"Yes, I dream of starting a business too. But, I'm not the entrepreneurial type." 

"We do want to be missionaries overseas one day. But, I'm not skilled in enough areas to really do any good." 

"Yeah, I'd love to sign up for that race. But I'm not in good enough shape."

Have you heard a friend say things like this?

Have you said things like this?

I have and I do.

Matthew calls them demons. And I think he's right. He reminds me to tell those demons whose boss and say, "SCRAM! Yeah you. Get out of here. You aren't welcome."

Don't get me wrong, we aren't good at everything we try. And thank goodness for that! I mean, life would be pretty boring, right? I welcome laughs and giggles when I attempt to play ultimate frisbee or volleyball.

And, saying yes to everything is exhausting, it's unsustainable. It leaves us empty and thirsty and cranky. It leaves us overcommitted and busy and distracted. Sometimes we say no to make space for a yes later.

It's a practice, such a practice, of discerning when to say yes and no. A practice that was seemingly effortless when I was young // take a nap or climb this tree?

Be the blue or red M&M for halloween? [I was the blue]

But, it becomes much harder and more layered as we get older // move to this new country or state for a job where I don't know a single soul? Say yes to this man, even when he's nothing like I pictured? 

And truth is dear one, I don't think I really know the answer to this. I still wrestle with yes and no. Sometimes I say no and think, '"Did I just blow it? Did I miss my once in a lifetime opportunity?"

But what I am learning is this - when I dig deep and tug at my heart, when I talk to the good Lord about my "no", I can hear Him whisper back, "What's your motive dear one?"

"Fear?"

"Have you forgotten that you are fearfully and wonderfully made? So, you're already enough in my eyes."

"Lack of faith?"

"I have great big plans for you, you know. And while those plans might look different than you thought - they are good. Can you trust me on this one?"

"Failure?"

"Put your measuring stick away. Give it a try. You know you want too."

I read in a book, it could have been Eat Pray Love, I really can't remember [forgive me writer] but it was something about being your own best friend. Something about not forgetting that simple truth.

And it really hit a cord with me.

Because, I'd like to think, when a friend comes to me with an idea or plan or endeavor that he or she is really excited about but aren't quite sure of how to do it or when - I cheer them on.

If I could fit in my old cheerleading uniform and find my pom poms I'd do a number just for you. I'd go to all your games, rain or shine, and promise to be your biggest fan.

But, do we give ourselves that same encouragement?

Do we cheer our own heart and soul on too?

Do we give our tired, strong legs a little grace after we attempt a run? Thank you Lord, thank you for legs that move and walk and stand. Let me never forget that blessing.

Do we give ourselves a pat on the back when we set a goal to write a little something each day, to keep those muscles moving and we actually - do it?  So what if no one reads them or the words remain locked in a dairy or scribbled on a napkin.

When it comes to other peoples accomplishments and successes, do we size them up and feel defeated or put our measuring stick away and just choose to cheer them on too?

I'm learning this. I wrestle with these thoughts daily. I haven't arrived or mastered any of it. But, I am walking in it, slowly, sometimes taking one step forward and two steps back.

And sometimes the walk feels more like a climb. A breathless, achy, challenging climb.

And Lord only knows if I'll actually complete that half marathon or write a book or start a business or do and be a whole slew of things. But I'm beginning to wonder if that's really the point.

I think the bigger part, the more meaningful part is this - believing in ourselves and others enough to try. Trusting that a yes or no doesn't mark the end of a chapter. It only marks the beginning of a beautiful unknown.

The beginning of something good and challenging and worth celebrating.

xoxo