Monday, June 29, 2015

Please Stop Saying "We Lost"

This weekend, as we waited to park our car outside of wedding reception hall in Pittsburgh, a man in his twenties paraded past us with the Confederate Flag draped over his shoulders. He smiled, aware of the stares he was receiving, and continued on his way. His statement was loud and clear. I felt my heart drop into my stomach.

This is not a problem that seems to be going away.

But for the last three days, much of what I've seen on Facebook are statements like, "We Lost the Country," and "Don't Worry, We Know What Real Marriage Is." (And yes, there have always been gracious, love-filled posts and articles, and for those I am so proud.)

But just like that, a week and a half after a racially-charged hate crime killed nine people, we're back to politics and wins and losses and finger pointing.

What I've been wondering, mostly, is when our country become a theocracy.

Where, in the Bible, does it instruct Christians to impose our morals on non-Christians? When did Jesus roll into town 2000 years ago, saying he was going to take over everything, starting at the highest levels of government and working his way down to eventually loving the individuals?

Is my Bible missing those pages?

The Bible I read tells us to act justly and love mercy. We're told to walk humbly. We're told to care for the orphans and the widows. To love our brothers more than ourselves. To go and share the good news of the Gospel with the world. And yes, the Bible states that marriage is defined as one man and one woman.

What it doesn't say, is to stand on street corners and declare what are current score is in the great "God vs. World" game.

We're not told to create cultural or physical wars when we could, instead, be praying, and resting in the God who is in control of everything. We're not told to use Jesus as a political bargaining tool. And we're not told to make a whipping boy out of those who are trying to understand feelings of same sex-attraction.

But somewhere down the line, this has become our favorite sin. The best issue for stone throwers.

And I think I've finally figured out why.

Most issues, we know we might all fall into. We all lie, we all struggle with idolatry, we all have to work to protect our marriages from affairs--but because of the nature of homosexuality, unless you are dealing with it, you probably never will. To those who don't understand it, it's a very un-relatable struggle. People don't worry about falling into homosexuality the way they fear falling into alcoholism. For this reason, it just seems like the worst. 

Lord have mercy on us. We are hypocrites.

I sincerely believe it's possible to hold conservatively Biblical view of marriage without taking on the role of the thought-police. I hope I'm able to do this well.

I also sincerely believe it's possible to be hold a more liberal view of marriage and be deeply-loving follower of Jesus. I have too many incredibly Jesus-loving friends who've proved this to me to think otherwise. The conversations I have with these people challenge me to get out of my comfort zone. Their focus is on people, not prescriptions.

And then there are people who are in between, right now, struggling to figure out exactly where they stand. I hear that. 

We are all working out our salvation with fear and trembling--and that means also working out the big issues we face each day. May each of us go to God's Word for ourselves, converse with those we trust, and take our time as we learn to love and understand the world we live in. 

The important thing in all of this, is that the Supreme Court ruling is a federal issue. Unless something has recently changed in our country, I believe the separation between Church and State is still a thing. I think it's a good thing, at that. It means churches are protected by their own bylaws and beliefs.

You know what feels more like a Church issue? The shooting in Charleston, and the hatred that brought it on.

The teenage girl, trying to figure out what to do about her pregnancy.

The kids who are dying of starvation every day, right under our noses.

The women who are caught in a cycle of abuse with no one to talk to about it.

The people who need a voice, who need the Church to stand up in justice in love against the hate that so often colors this world.

The gay man who no longer has a family who's speaking to him.

These are people who need the love of the Church.

Guys, we don't have a high success rate in trying to lord over this world. We have a lot of work to do.

I can't pretend to know everything about this issue--I know there are facets I will never comprehend, and hurts and fears that I cannot address. For now, I just want to remind us all that this world is a broken place, and that through grace and faith in Christ Jesus, this world is not the end of the story. God is sovereign. May we never forget that.

 So please.

Let's stop keeping score.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gap Year

The morning of my first day of kindergarten, I woke up at 5 a.m. I distinctly remember feeling nervous to the point of feeling nauseous, but more than anything, I was ready to move forward. At five years old, I felt I was finally joining the ranks of those who "go somewhere during the day."

But even on that exciting day, I was discontent, because I knew it wasn't as amazing as it would be if it were my first day of high school. Growing up with older sisters, the goal was almost always to be doing what they were doing, and my first day of kindergarten was my oldest sister's first day of high school, so the comparison was very real. I remember standing on the side of my sister's vanity, peering with wide eyes as she pulled mascara and blush out of her Caboodle and sprayed her freshly curled bangs with White Rain. Kindergarten would be good, I was sure, but high school looked glorious.

Kindergarten, junior high, high school, college, summer jobs, teaching, and five years at an online magazine: they all started the same way. Up at dawn, jittery with the possibility of the day, wondering what it may bring, wishing it were something else, but unsure what that "something else" would be.  
Whether I was working on a paper late at night or staying late at the office to finish something up, my schedule centered around what was due, and what was next. Someday I'd be a freelance writer, I'd tell myself, but right now it needed to be nose-to-the-grindstone. I mostly said no to people and yes to projects, because that delicious rush of meeting a deadline felt necessary for my happiness.

But last January, something broke. I felt like I'd been running on a treadmill, and the belt finally snapped. I'd gotten engaged and married in six months' time, and aside from the honeymoon, I'd barely been able to give relaxed time to my husband. Everything from 2014 felt like a blur. My house was a mess, I was always stressed out and sad, and I found myself crying. Like all the time crying.

After 23 years of being a person who "goes somewhere during the day," I decided it was time to become somewhere that simply...didn't. Stepping into the role of a freelance writer and editor was something I'd always wanted to try, and this felt like the right time. The dream of freedom, of setting my own schedule and living that romantic writer life appealed to me deeply, like I'd be Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun, cooking big bowls of Italian food and talking to crazy ladies about ladybugs. Plus, I loved the idea of finding out what I was made of--whether or not I could hack it.

Now, I spend my mornings drinking coffee and eating breakfast in my pajamas at 8:30 a.m., determining when, exactly, I should begin the work I have for the day.

It really does sound heavenly, even when I type it. But honestly, it's been pretty weird.

I go days without showering and sometimes I can't remember whether or not I've brushed my teeth. I get dressed up to go to Target because at least I'm going somewhere. When I pitch an article and it doesn't get accepted, I see my entire career collapse before me. When it does get accepted, I find myself wondering if I actually want to write that article, anyhow. I talk to my dogs a lot because I don't have coworkers, and when my husband walks through the door I practically tackle him because he's ANOTHER HUMAN.

In the loneliest moments, I start looking at job postings, wondering if I should go to law school or go into PR or communications at a big, corporate company. In my most distracted moments, I forget what I'm doing altogether. In the busiest moments, I work late and hard, writing and editing. And in my most inspired, I make something, simply because I want to. Sometimes I desperately missing the routine of waking up, being tired, walking to my office, and being in one place all day. I miss not having to always think about what I'm doing.

I was about to call it quits, feeling like a failure and longing for the regularly-scheduled workforce life, when I realized something:

This is exciting.

Not "wake up early and feel nauseous" exciting, but like, completely different and totally challenging and life-changing exciting. I am in the thick of a new life, and I didn't even realize it. This is a slow season. This time is rich with discovery and dripping with the unknown. This is my gap year, and I was about to go and end it because I got freaked out.

For months, in moments of fear and self-doubt, I've tried to figure out what my next step should be, and what my longterm goals are. But what I'm finally understanding is that this time is simply supposed to be a lesson in enjoying the right now moments--FOR ONCE. A time to be still and let God fight for me. To figure out not what I should do, but who I am. From how I eat, to how I spend my time, to who I want to see, to how I pray, how I want to serve the church, and how I want to love the world around me, I've had to do some real, uninterrupted, uninfluenced thinking. I have options, and I have space. It's terrifying. And it's awesome.

Even the little things things, like how I choose to dress myself in the morning, have become more meaningful.

In this quiet, slow season, I'm learning to be grateful for the beautiful life I have. Instead of coming home from work and crumbling on the couch, I go for walks with my husband. Instead of saying no to spending time with friends, I prioritize it. I read books. Whole ones. Not online articles or excerpts, whole books.

And for the first time I can remember, I breathe prayers of thanks to Jesus throughout my day instead of begging him to bring me peace while I fall asleep.

But in my anxiety and concern over my status and my future, I almost backed out of this beautiful time. 


Yes, I work every day, but I have more time and more emotional energy to see people. For months, that's made me feel weird and uncomfortable, like I'm missing something. It turns out I'm just missing the stress.

I can probably do without that for a year.

So, y'all, it's gap year. I'm declaring it. This is the year before I begin whatever the next big chapter is. It's a time to stop asking for what's next or wondering where I should be or comparing myself to other people. It's a time where when people ask me how I am, my automatic response isn't, "Tired." It's a time to pick mulberries and drink wine and allow silence and just GAP IT OUT.

This year, I will be spend more time looking into the faces of the people I love and feel thankful for them, not stressed because I never see them. I will wonder less about what I don't have, and find more wonder in what I do have. Right now, for once, it's not about what's next. It's about this great big gift of a year, where it doesn't matter if I have a platform or a plan or a next step. I'm thankful.

Have any of you ever taken a year, or just, time, to figure things out?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Why I'm Thankful for My Over-the-Top Adolescent Crush on Leonardo DiCaprio

Last night I watched Titanic for the first time in my adult life.

He saw that in a Nickelodeon and I COULD QUOTE THE WHOLE THING STILL.
The last time I'd watched it I was somewhere between the ages of 15 and 20.

The first time I watched it, I was 11. And was in love with Leo. I mean like, I LOOOOVED him. Ask any one of my friends from childhood and they will tell you that I was obsessed. I was in love with him in Romeo and Juliet (obvs), so when Titanic came out and he started speaking in words I didn't need a Shakespeare-to-adolescent translator for, and then he was all dreamy and not murdery and his highlighted bowl cut was so beautiful I JUST ABOUT DIED. Add a newsies-esk outfit and the charm of 10,000 men and his "make each day count" attitude and his selflessness and love and bravery and I was done for. I remember, I left the theater with my sisters and mom, sobbing "Why does he have *sob* have to die *sob* in every movie I see him *sob* in?" I was inconsolable, but mostly, I just remember leaving the theater thinking, I know exactly what I want in the man I marry. All the Leonardo things. Especially the Jack Dawson variety. I WILL hold out for that. My heart will go on for that.

I spent years living with this mentality. My only super intense real-life crush in middle school was on a boy I met in my Sunday school class in sixth grade (he was in eighth grade, so, you know, mature) who honest-to-God looked just like Leonardo DiCaprio, but with braces. We made flirty eyes with each other across the classroom and I pretended it was the aquarium in the bathroom of the Capulet's mansion. I could basically hear the Romeo and Juliet theme song playing.

You don't even know.
He was so mysterious--the only thing I knew about him was that he played hockey and went to private school. Sigh. I saw him in passing three times, total, and that was that, but I spent three years hoping to run into him because he LOOKED LIKE LEO and Facebook hadn't been invented, so I couldn't look him up and feel all my dreams shatter when I realized that he was just another awkward pubescent boy posting vaguely angry statuses about the Cubs and Halo 3.

Aside from fake Leo, every boy in my middle school, with their fart jokes and their dirty adolescent mouths did absolutely nothing for me. Every boy I met, compared to Leonardo DiCaprio, was not good enough. Leo didn't just set the bar, he was the bar.

I've always thought that this probably wasn't the healthiest way to get through middle school, and I've been surprised my mom didn't stage an intervention of some "my daughter has flipped her lid" kind. But watching Titanic again last night, I realized that maybe it actually wasn't that bad. Hearting Leo meant that I didn't really spend a lot of time trying to impress the boys I went to school with, and anyone who's ever gone through public middle school knows that this isn't an easy feat. I didn't care what they thought, because they were all sooooo lame compared to Jack Dawson. Jack was brave and kind and fun, and he could Irish dance in the third class social hall and make Rose really think about who she was and what she wanted. I wanted someone like that.

Their relationship and that movie as a whole spoke to me during a time when I felt powerless--I was old enough to know some of what I wanted, but too young to have much control over anything at all. Middle school is a weird time for all of that, you know. So knowing there was this idea, this, as my friend Laura called it, "Male version of the 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl'" (you know, let's dance in the fields and I totally don't wear makeup but I'm so crazy and fun) out there, who was fun and free and brave and selfless and cute and innocent and charming and endearing--was a game-changer.

I can't. 
I needed to know that outside of the boys in my school,  most of whom were spending their time trying to figure out how to get to third base, there was a possibility of a boy that would be as amazing as Jack Dawson.  Someone as thoughtful. Someone as kind. Someone fun. Someone who didn't make boob jokes and showered regularly. Someone who wasn't mean to the kids who weren't "cool." This kept me going. It kept me hopeful. It put my head in the clouds in a time when I desperately needed my head to be in the clouds, because being an awkward middle schooler without a dream of something better is just not an option. Instead of feeling like I needed to impress boys that were immature and rude and mostly just, you know, 13 years old, I'd scoff and say, "Ugh, Jack Dawson would never do that." I felt like it was important to hold out for the real deal.

Honestly, I think that idea remained in the back of my mind for my entire single life, and I am so thankful for that. 

So, I would like to take this moment to thank you, Leo, for being that dreamy guy I needed. I wish you'd gotten on that FREAKING RAFT WITH KATE, but still. You were a champ.

Last night, watching Titanic with my girlfriends and re-living a bit of our childhood, I felt very close to my sixth-grade self. I felt like I was able to tell her that her life was going to turn out really well, and that she'd end up with someone even better than Jack (although sixth-grade me would not have believed this, because IMPOSSIBLE). And that she'd be happy, but that life would be hard sometimes, but God would be just as faithful as he was when she was a kid.

And also, I'd want to tell her that Jack Dawson is right--you should make each moment count. That's not something that needs to change when you get older.

Oh, and I'd tell her to never go get her haircut super short between the summer of sixth and seventh grade. It was just the worst haircut in the world. Two years of bad haircut. Don't do it, little Ashley. Do you trust me? Don't DO IT.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Celebrating My ENFP...Self.

I would like to take a moment to celebrate my Myers Briggs personality type. I am, proudly, an ENFP. Not to brag or anything, but so is Ron Weasley. So, Wizard's Chess. Let's go.

A few months ago, a few friends and I created a Myers-Briggs "style" (Hi there, nice lawyers of Mr. Myers and Mr. Briggs) chart to describe how people would experience Holy Week at our church. We posted it on our church's website, and on our social media account, and walked away thinking, People at our church are totally going to laugh at this. We then high-fived each other and went our separate ways, where I suspect we were all in bed by 9:30 because we're a wild and crazy group of lower-middle-class white American Anglicans, most of whom are new parents. Kevin and I have a dog, so we totally get what everyone else is going through.

As it so happened, our congregation did find it funny. And then they shared it with their friends. As a matter of fact, it did pretty well on the interwebs in general; it even got picked up by Washington Post, and a few famousy bloggers featured it.

For a moment I was sure Greg Daniels or Lorne Michaels (who is Canadian, by the way. Of course he is, all the funniest people are from Canada) were going to dial us all up and ask us to start writing for their new TV shows. I just finished Amy Poehler and Tina Fey's memoirs (biographies? memographies?) so the idea of something like that happening feels very realistic. Greg, if you're reading, I'm totally interested.

I loved what we created, but I also felt a little bit rattled by my own description--not because it felt untrue, but because it made me wonder how I function as a  human being in any real, sustainable way.


(I cut this from the whole chart image, I have no idea if I did so legally. Here's the link: If I did it wrong, sorry Trevor. By the way, I did, in fact, feel EVERYTHING during Holy Week, and I was depressed for days once it was over and all our lives went back to normal. I hate it went camp ends.)

Seriously, does that sound like a description of a fully-functioning adult? Does it read like someone who remembers to put on pants and brush her hair in the morning before she gets distracted by second-breakfast snacks and Netflix and ideas and friends?


I still haven't brushed my teeth this morning, on a whim I asked someone to write a sitcom with me an hour ago, and I've spent an inordinate amount of time in the last twenty minutes expressing to my dog just how much I love him. I also drove my husband to work and drove myself back home, all before 9:52 a.m. I know, I don't know how I do it all, either.

So, there you have it. My ENFP-ness.

Now that I freelance full-time, I've been forced to take a good, honest look at this personality of mine. I've learned that I'm motivated by feelings, worries, people, boredom, new things, excitement, and sometimes hunger. And Target aisle-end purchases. I've also learned that my personality is a bit like having a puppy for a brain, and if I don't train it, it will pee all over everything, chew up your sofa, and blame your cat.

Being alone all day as an ENFP with a puppy brain goes like this:

I love Grey's Anatomy. I should be a doctor. I could totally be a doctor because Meredith and Christina look like great people to hang out with all day and fast pace seems so fun. Although they're both so skinny, I'd look like a fat gremlin next to them. But I don't mind that I wouldn't sleep as a doctor. That sounds exciting! But I'm bad at science. And that would take way too long. And oh my gosh what if someone died on my watch??? People are always dying on Grey's. I should be a lawyer instead. Olivia Pope. Her suits. Gimme. Huck scares me. DC is pretty. I should really stop watching Shonda Rhimes shows. They make me feel bad about myself. And also they're apparently not "Real Life." Laura and I should take a tap-dancing class at the park district like a couple of old ladies. I really want to take a dance class, and it would be fun to do with a friend. Or maybe a few friends. We could start tap-dancing. Oh my gosh that would be so fun and a good workout. Except you have to buy tap shoes. And I bet my downstairs neighbor wouldn't love my new hobby. Julianne Hough looks like Ginger Rogers. They should make a dance movie where she plays Ginger Rogers and tap dances. I should copyright that idea.  How do you copyright an idea? Who who would play Fred Astaire?

I bet tap classes cost money. 

I should sign up at Second City for improv. That'd be funny. Wait I'm watching videos on YouTube and it all looks super dirty. I can't be super dirty. Ugh. So unfair. I remember that one drama class I took in middle school--it gave me panic attacks. But that was because my teacher was such as weirdy. She had grey hair and was pregnant at the same time. That was confusing for me. I remember I hung out with the cool kids in drama class, but then when we had to partner up I ended up as the odd man out. Ugh no improv classes, I hate "find a  partner" activities. I'm breaking out in hives.

Oh middle school. I miss Pamela, I wish she'd move back from DC. But also I'm glad she lives there. I'm proud of her. Sigh. I miss Andrea too. Oh man I need to call my sisters. When is April's birthday? It's this month. Crap, when though? The 20-somethingth. Why do I never write this stuff down. I need coffee. The dishes are dirty. I should write a blog post. But what if people don't like it? I am so lazy with my blog, I should really get on it more. I should write a sitcom. But seriously I don't have the discipline to write a sitcom. I need someone to force me to do it. Oh my gosh I'm Nick Miller. But people are always telling me I'm Schmidt. What is that? I just need to write. I love writing. Or maybe I should go back to my idea about selling art on Etsy. Sometimes people make a lot of money doing that. Oh my gosh I need to get to work today, I have editing to do. And I need to write my book proposal about anxiety. Okay but I'm not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Yes but I really should be. But sometimes I'm not so maybe they'll think I'm a liar and I'm pretty sure my doctor is already sick of seeing me.   

Speaking of, I should be a doctor. I love Grey's Anatomy...

And so forth. I am a toddler, living in a cycle of neurosis and possibilities.

Today, in light of all this, I've decided to celebrate my ENFP-ness. The "P" in Myers Briggs is often seen as the stupid little sister of the "J." The J, you see, signals to everyone that a person knows how to get crap done. The P, on the other hand, makes it so that people always want you on a project, but work hard to make sure that there's someone else in the group who knows how to wrangle puppy-brain into getting something done.

But you know what, I bet no J has gone from dreams of stage-acting to the planning out how to be an overseas correspondent who owns a line of high-class whiskey bars on the side within 48 hours. That focus on one thing until it's done thing--it's not me. 

Actually, I like having ALL THE FEELINGS and thinking about ALL THE THINGS and being distracted by ALL THE SHINY because I feel like (of course I do) it allows me to see the world as a place that still has opportunities. I like that right now, in this phase (where I swear, I do actually get real work done, too) of my life, I'm allowed to let my freak flag fly freely. I'm allowed to spend days planning out my dreams of becoming the Iron Chef while I, at the same time, have no desire to go to culinary school. I have an inherent need to let myself dream big.

For years, I've spent a lot of my energy feeling like I need to compensate for this personality of mine. But what I realized yesterday while trying to bribe my dog into going to the bathroom in the middle of the day (it's a whole thing) was that I don't need to. 

I don't need to feel guilty for who God made me or how many millions of dreams I have. I'm not hurting anybody by spending a month pondering whether or not I should be a yoga instructor--as long as I'm doing my day job well, I don't think I need to stifle my imagination when it comes to myself, or the life that me and Kevin are building together. I don't need to feel guilty. I AM A GUILTY ALL FEELS PERSON, so this is big news for me. I DON'T NEED TO FEEL GUILTY FOR HOW GOD MADE ME.

I don't know what your personality type is, but I'm willing to bet that there's something about it that you feel like you need to compensate for. What would it look like for you to just lean into it? As long as it doesn't mean that you're going to pull a Pinky and the Brain and try to take over the world (Kevin) I say go for it. Stop feeling bad for being "too" introverted, or "too" time-oriented, or "too" feely.

You have an important role to play in your life and in this world. Don't be scared to play it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Big Bag of Weird

I swear, I will, I promise, at some point, sit down and start writing beautiful, life-changing things in this blog and you'll all cry and laugh and nod and hug your loved ones because it's just that moving.

Until then, I'm sort of more here-ish:

I blame springtime. Whatever.

Also: can someone tell me where to buy that Christmas sweater? Just planning ahead here. And also procrastinating.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Leaving the Parks Department with Leslie Knope

Last night was the series finale of Parks and Recreation. If you know anything about me, you know that I take series finales very hard, and very personally. I hate it when things end. I get, one may say, emotional. And a finale is never as good as I want it to be, because it still feels like one of your favorite tv shows is breaking up with you.

The only way I could have truly loved the Parks and Rec finale is if once the credits rolled, Jean Ralphio popped out and yelled, "Psyeeeeeeeech!" And then they just kept doing the show for another hundred years.

Or something.

I think this finale hit me a bit harder than others, though, because it was about the end a group of people who work together and love each other.

Last month, I made the decision to leave my job at Christianity Today. My long-term goal has always been to become a full-time independent writer and editor, and that opportunity finally opened up. I knew it was the right time and the right decision to leave my job.

But I wasn't just leaving a job. I was leaving some of my very best friends--people I've seen every day for the last five years. These are the people who've known me since I was 23; people who grew me and had the hard conversations with me. They're also the people who I've gone on ice cream runs and Starbies runs (treat yo' self) and lunch runs with weekly for the last five years.

They helped me leave my college days behind completely and taught me that you can still be yourself when you're a grownup. I moved from early 20's to almost 30 with these people--I went from single to dating to single to dating to single to dating to married with these people, and they saw me through it all. Cory used to send me sassy break-up mixes when I was feeling heartbroken and Laura would come dance around my office with me until I felt better.

And I watched their lives change, too. I held their babies and their baby showers. I felt heartbroken when they felt heartbroken. We celebrated and we prayed for each other.  These are people who I will hold dearly in my heart for the rest of my life--women who are strong and smart and gritty and beautiful, and men who taught me how good-hearted men can actually be.

I cried last night while watching a bunch of my favorite friends and colleagues (I mean, no, I mean Leslie Knope's friends and colleagues) say goodbye and move forward into the future of their lives because Leslie and I have sort of a kinship in that we're very intense people who feel EVERYTHING FOR EVERYONE VERY DEEPLY. I knew exactly what she was going through, wondering what the future would hold and when all of these people would be in the same room again. I cried because it was too recent for me that I did the same thing. I don't live far from CT, or from any of these friends, and I will see all of them regularly, but when you don't work together, you aren't a team anymore. You don't get each other through the day with stupid YouTubes and dance parties anymore.

I liked being a team.

On my last day at work I walked around the building and took it all in. I felt so overwhelmed by the emotions of leaving and who I was leaving that I almost couldn't breathe. I walked past the painting of Billy Graham that I jokingly saluted on the way down the hall to my first job interview (I got caught doing this by the VP and she still hired me. Please recognize how amazing these people are.) I walked by the bathroom I cried in after my first ever work review, the cubicle I started in when I was a coordinator, and all the offices of people who weren't there anymore, who I missed. I walked past the room where a big group of us used to eat lunch together--a room where I laughed so hard that my face would hurt for the rest of the day.

And then I walked by the coffee station where I bumped into my future husband, Kevin, for the first time.

I pictured it all like a movie of ghosts before my eyes because let's be honest, I want my life to be a Nora Ephron movie. I remember him cordially shaking my hand and introducing himself, and I remember being horribly awkward and trying not to stare at him because they just don't make men who actually look and talk like that in real life do they?

I remember thinking, This is it. This is the guy. I'm done. I marched into Mary's office afterwards to inform her that I'd just met the man I was going to marry. Two years later, this happened:

We both had work "colleagues" in our wedding party--people who'd started as acquaintances and became sisters and brothers. The man who married us used to be Kevin's boss at CT.

I know, it doesn't sound real. It sounds pretend and weird. But Christianity Today is kind of a pretend, weird place, with characters you'd find in books and people you'd cheer for in movies.

I love my life now. I get to drink coffee in bed in silence for as long as I want before I'm ready to get up, and I get to write and edit for a variety of people who pay me, regardless of whether or not I'm unshowered and wearing sweatpants while I do it. And other highly professional reasons.

I have more room for more people in my life (and more room for some of the same people, now I just make them come see me on their lunch breaks) and I am certain I made the right choice. God had been asking me to trust him with my finances and my future for a long time, and I finally did. I feel brave and my cheeks feel flushed again. This is an adventure for me.

But I know where I came from, and who I have, in part, to thank for getting me here. My very, very dear work family.

I love you guys very much.

Except for you, Jerry.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Meditation on Psalm 23: Life in Heaven, Life on Earth, Dumbledore

*Note: I have never, ever written meditations on Scripture before, but this morning, I decided to write something out as I was reading a Psalm because it helped me process it. Then I wondered if it might help other people process it, as well. I wrote this with some trepidation because my husband is a huge theology nerd and so are a lot of my friends and they just know a lot more than I do. 

If you are any of those people, please ignore anything I've written that appears incorrect. MMKTHANKS.

Psalm 23
A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.

King David was a shepherd boy before he became king. He calls God a shepherd here, I think partially, because it’s the thing he can relate to most. When life was simple and all he needed to do was care for dumb sheep all day, making sure they didn’t fall in holes or get stuck in bushes, his purpose was clear and his heart was full.

God is the one who leads us and provides for us—he is our relentless Shepherd. He is the reason I have all that I need, and he is the reason I will always have all that I need.

Shepherd: noun

1.A person who herds, tends, and guards sheep.

2. A person who protects, guides, or watches over a person or group of people.

(, because I do deep research.)

In a season of some unknowns and lots of risks, this is what make makes my heart stop palpitating and my hands stop sweating. If a shepherd is willing to go out of his way for his sheep, how much more does God guide and provide for us each day?

He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.

It’s important to God that we rest in his beauty. Life with God is messy, but it shouldn’t be “keep-you-up-at-night anxious,” because his peace is stronger and deeper. I can always tell when I’m moving away from God’s leading because I stop getting sleep at night. I wake up in the middle of the night and I worry and panic and bargain with God to let me keep doing whatever it is that I’m doing. Eventually, this wrestling stops, and he wins. Then I start sleeping again. It’s the most tangible experience I can point to when it comes to God’s leading in my life.

God is leading us so that we can follow him with peace in our hearts. When he calls you to rest, you have permission to rest. Rest and trust go hand-in-hand, so this type of rest means trusting God even when all you want to do is stress and make lists and feel anxious and wide-eyed. Rest is the trust that God is at work, even when you aren’t.

    He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.

God is the place where our strength is renewed. He is where we need to go when we are exhausted. Sometimes that means a simple prayer and a long nap. Sometimes that means deep time in the Bible. But he is our constant source of energy.

With God, we don’t have to doubt that we’re on the right path—God is using our lives to bring glory to himself. And that’s not a selfish thing. The glory we bring points others to him—and that faith is what brings others to life in Christ. This is the greatest gift God offers the world.

Even when I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
    for you are close beside me.

We will go through sucky, horrible times. We will. And that’s not sugarcoated here—David writes “when” because it’s not an “if”—it’s a when. But God is with us. He is close beside us. When we feel like we’re walking through a haunted house and things keep popping out to scare us, God is the body in front of us, behind us, and next to us that lets us know that we’re not alone, and that we have someone to hide our faces in. When things are getting too hard, and too real, God is still there to bury our faces into. He wants to feel our tears on his chest. He is right there.

It’s sort of like how Dumbledore was there in Harry Potter, and it made the kids feel safe. Except for when he died. That was rough. But God is like an un-killable Dumbledore who’s been around since the beginning of time.


Your rod and your staff
    protect and comfort me.

We’re going back to shepherd mode here. God isn’t a pansy. He teaches us to turn the other cheek, yes, but for his own children, he has no qualms about becoming a mad mama bear. Remember the Israelites? Remember the famine and the gross bugs and the dead kids that took place because Pharaoh wouldn’t let God’s people out of slavery?

God has a whole army of angels. Also he’s God so he has other things, like all the power in the world. And I like to think he has lightning bolts, too.

What I’m saying is, God protects his children. We have been promised persecution, but in the end, we will be in heaven with God and with our Christian brothers and sisters for all of eternity. But he is also super not cool with earthly persecution—both now and not yet, God is working for our good. He is not silent. He is here, and he wants us to know, always, that can both offer us comfort and protect us.

I sincerely believe that when we lose the people most precious to us—dear, amazing, beautiful people with big eyes and soft hearts, it’s because God can’t wait to be with them in heaven. Instead of allowing those people to suffer life on earth, I think he fast-tracks them to heaven so that he can look into their big eyes and tell them that he loves them. And they can watch him say it to them, and then can look into his eyes, and they can know eternal peace and joy.

I think about those men who were beheaded by ISIS—21 Christian men with families and children and friends and jobs and purposes here on earth. I think of the terror they must have felt and the fear they must have lived in. And then I think of the news getting to their families. One of the men’s brothers said this: "We are proud that they went to the father in the sky.”

These are now reunited with God in heaven, and he is looking each of these men in the eyes and telling them that he’s watching over their wives and their children, and then he loves them deeply.

Oh, to have a faith so unshakable.

I am working, always, on being less afraid of separation from people, and more afraid of separation from God.

You prepare a feast for me
    in the presence of my enemies.

I think this must be about heaven—God is preparing a place for us. The Bible calls it a wedding feast, and when I think about this I picture God in heaven, rubbing his hands together with excitement and thinking about whether or not he’s going to seat C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien together or if he’s going to ask them to mingle with extroverts. I wonder if he’s going to seat Joan of Arc next to Saint Paul, ask them a question about the role of women in leadership, and then slowly back away to watch the debate unfold.

I just planned a wedding, and I can tell you, the joy in the planning comes from thinking about all of the people who will be there—the people you love the most. And God is doing all of it while Satan and all his little punks are running around this earth, still believing they’ll have the last laugh. And God’s like, “LOLOLOLOLOL.”

You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
    My cup overflows with blessings.

In Bible times, this practice was often done by a host to his guests, as a sign of respect. I’m trying to imagine how God could respect any one of us, but as his children, made in his image, I can definitely see how he’d do it as a sign of love. I feel like this is the “well done, good and faithful servant” moment that we all want to have in heaven.

And the idea of this moment, thinking on it now, definitely fills me up. It makes me see the now and the eternity—and how infinitely blessed I am that God has given me a faith in his son, Jesus Christ, and placed people in my life who have helped me sustain and build that faith when I’ve wanted to fall away. This verse is a moment of thanksgiving.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
    all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord

So here it is—the now on earth (6a) and the forever in heaven (6b). This is, in all it’s simplicity, a picture of the Christian life. What an incredible sentence—David really knocked it out of the park here.

God’s goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life. In Christ, God’s goodness and unfailing love will pursue you all the days of your life, too.

And then, one day, most likely a day we don’t know and we can’t predict, God will bring us home. This is the hope of heaven. The hope that people don’t just die—they move on, and they move up. They stop worrying about mortgages and safety and what-ifs, and they start living the life of praise they were made live on earth. And they live that life with other people.

I wonder what it will be like to live in the house of the Lord forever. I used to dread this idea because it sounded a little bit boring—like if you’re at a worship service and it starts getting too long and you start looking at the clock and you’re thirsty and you’re starving because the communion cracker somehow made you more hungry…this is what I worried heaven would be like. One long, hands-off worship service.

But the more I learn about it, the more excited I get. It’s not an eternity sitting in a pew, it’s an eternity spent in the presence of God’s love and warmth. It’s looking Jesus in the eyes and saying thank you for your amazing sacrifice—I cannot imagine anything better than being able, finally, to thank Jesus for giving his life for me.

And, I imagine seeing old friends and making new ones, and asking Peter what he was thinking and telling Jonathan that he was always my favorite person in the Bible and meeting Mother Teresa and just staring at her beauty and shaking Martin Luther King’s hand and listening to his stories. These are the things I long for.

But even more than that, my anxious heart is excited to be with the people I already know and love. I’m excited to know that they aren’t going anywhere—they aren’t going to move, or get cancer, or face racism, or sexism, or lies, or get in a car wreck, or experience any kind of pain. Sometimes I wonder what kind of unknown weight we all experience each day because of the reality of pain on this earth. I think if that knowledge and pain were removed, I’d be so light, I’d be able to float.

I’ve heard this whole passage a million times—I’ve heard songs written about it, I’ve read it, I think I’ve even spotted it as a cross-stitch in a few homes. But I’ve never really sat down and stared at it, and basked in the warmth of each verse. The hope and the joy and the faith that God’s love is unchanging for us resounds with each word.

“Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.”