Dear Alleyway

“It all counts. It’s all life. And God is with you in every bit of it.”
– Emily P. Freeman on mornings

This summer, the gravelly alley a block south of our house has become one of my favorite places.

The dual-rutted lane is fringed with sunflowers peering up at passing clouds and morning glories climbing lattice. Old bookshelves wait for the donation trucks that will whisk them away to new homes. The sound of kitchen coffee-making spills out of back windows as weeds spill out of cracked pavement. 

As the sun is coming up, our neighborhood is magicals. Tall trees nod gently to dog walkers. Chipped paint scatters under the tiny feet of squirrels and doves, their cooing and clucking murmuring a gentle soundtrack.

On summer mornings, I join this dance.

I wake early, grind coffee beans, sleepily don my shoes and head out into our neighborhood.

I turn down the alley. Driveways and garage workshops and garden beds seem tucked happily on each side of the lane, creating a kind of communal backyard. The air holds echoes of neighbors tinkering with cars and humming hello to one another.

Our stuff tells stories about us, I remember thinking when I first saw the amount of discarded junk dotting the alley. The piles of wood. The old cars. The sagging trampoline.

The stuff of the alleyway is the stuff people don’t want to be displayed inside or out front. It has lost its purpose, or it has been replaced. Maybe it carries a painful reminder or has simply been forgotten.

The stuff of the alleyway is the misfit stuff. The stuff that doesn’t leave, but settles into the dusty background, nestles into the gravel, resigns to be overgrown with vines.

Ever the optimist, I find myself drawn to the misfit things that end up in the alley, in a rooting-for-the-underdog kind of way.

However. It’s harder for me to acknowledge my own stuff that I’d rather tuck into the back of my focus.

I would like my neighbors to see only the things that are displayed in the front yard of my life. I would like to ignore the things I want to hide in the alley. Like the stuff I have equated with shame in my life; the traits in me that have invited heartache or a sense of personal failure; the habits that fester.

I walk the alley, and I am convicted. My love for forgotten things contrasts so strongly with my rejection of my own outcast emotions.

Maybe, the invitation of the alley is to see beauty in the once-discarded, to accept God’s invitation to hold space in me for the things I’d like to toss. To respond to shame with a simple choice to listen to my life. To let the little plot of heart space I’ve been given on this earth to include many rooms, some shinier than others.

If the front yard is for the display-worthy, the kitchen for satisfaction, the table for gathering, the windowsill for reflection and the sitting room for rest, then maybe the alleyway is still for the things I don’t want to make space for.

But they have a place, nonetheless.

It all counts. It’s all life — good and hard, front yard and back — and God is in every bit of it if he is anywhere at all. Building a life, and building a faith, must be comprehensive if it is to transform us at all.

It all counts, my sneakers seemed to say this morning as I entered the alley again. I picked a sunflower and a tangle of wildflowers to take home.

I will pull out a vase. I will give them space in our front room, moving them from the alleyway to the entryway.

As the alleyworks its magic in my life, I will allow myself to be comforted by the familiarity of lawnmowers and laundry lines.  I will feel the grounding effect of gravel under my feet. I will let the corridor of discarded things shed a little light on my discarded stuff.

And I will believe in the space — and grace — for it all.

Dear Breathing Room

Dear Breathing Room,


We haven’t always known each other well, but you’ve become my friend in this season.

Two years ago, we were mere acquaintances. My days were full of hard work and lots of activity. It was good  — sweet and full and just what I needed.

But what I need now is different. What does it mean when we need something different than we used to need? What does it mean when we crave things we didn’t crave last month or last year?

It means we’re human. Our tastes change and evolve, and what a beautiful thing that is.

I have a lot of wonderful friends in my life who remind me that it is beautiful for us to be different. It is rich and good when groups of people are diverse in their perspectives, backgrounds, personalities and opinions.

It is good that one person needs more alone time, whereas another person needs more activity to help them feel alive. It is good that one person needs movement and another needs stillness. It is good that one needs shelter and another needs to not be sheltered anymore.

We can celebrate these differences in ourselves and each other, because the differences make us better equipped to serve others. When we know our own diverse needs, we are better equipped to see and meet the diverse needs of our neighbors. When we are brave enough to say what we need (even if it’s different than what someone else needs), we are better able to receive love and care from God and others.

Like us, maybe seasons are meant to be diverse.

Maybe it’s good for different priorities and rhythms and even appetites to come and go. Maybe it’s good for winter’s needs to be different from those that were true this fall. Maybe it’s good when we allow ourselves to be diverse in our tastes, evolving in our needs and growing in our strengths and weaknesses.

Maybe this is the work of becoming.

One thing I know to be true about my life with God is that he uses words and metaphors to tell me who he is. He uses my love language (words) to teach me and to reach me when I need it most.

He has used the language of adventure to challenge me to try new things. He has used the language of art to show me his color and creativity. He has used the language of legacy to remind me that I am not an island, and that my words and actions will impact other people for better or for worse.

Now, he’s reaching me through the language of breathing room. Not just chilling out about stuff and confessing my perfectionism (which is certainly part of it), but even allowing enough space to feel my lungs expand and contract and let the silence ring a little bit in my ears. He’s reaching me by letting me just be and trust that there’s enough space in life’s long journey for both rest and activity. 

For years I thought I knew how to speak the language of rest, but I think I was keeping up appearances. I am only conversational so far. My vocabulary is shallow.

I didn’t start off 2019 with any goals or resolutions, but I like the idea of walking into this new year with the attitude of learning a new language. Practicing the vocab. Asking for help. Making flashcards. Feeling the shape of the words on my tongue. Working towards fluency. 

This year, whatever our season, may we learn the vocabulary that will help us to own what we need and listen for the needs of others.

This season, whatever our circumstance, may we expand our collective language to celebrate the diversity we see both around us and within us.

In today’s circumstance, whatever it’s flavor, may we be people who make room for God to teach us and reach us in both the joy and the challenge.

Thank you, breathing room, for teaching me to find the beauty as I accept and welcome the change.

Dear Mailroom Employee, I’m With You

This fall, I’ve been taking a writing class. It has challenged me to carve space to write, to take notice of beauty, and to think about the words I say even more intentionally. One of our recent prompts asked us to reflect on a national news story with a personal lens. Here is mine. 

When we’re tempted to hear news from our world and despair, how can we pen letters of hope to ourselves and the people around us?

Dear mailroom employee,

This is just a note to say thank you. We have never met. And yet, our lives are codependent, linked by correspondence not between us, but around us. Thank you for what you do.

My young life has been syncopated by memorable mail. Letters from my grandparents on birthdays turned into my own cards to friends, my own pencil marks on notebook paper.

Postcards placed eagerly in corner blue mailboxes from vacation spots. College applications placed gingerly in our neighborhood mailbox, my own hopes and wishes also sealed inside the brass fastener.

You made it possible for the words of loved ones to get to me, and for my own shy words to find their way into the right hands.

I’ll admit, your occupation has always seemed romantic to me. The daily duties of sorting and stamping and shuffling sound like symphony in a world now defined by soundbites.

I imagine you settling into your station every day, finding your cadence. Pushing carts filled with cards across concrete floors. Touching paper, carrying newsprint, grazing over the texture of stamps and the indents of ballpoint pen on cardstock. Operating sorting machines – buttons, screens, chutes.

Sort, stamp, shuffle. Repeat.

I can only imagine that these instincts kicked in for you, mailroom employee, a few weeks ago when you received that oddly-shaped package. I can only imagine how the air in the CNN mailroom must have grown stale, the hum of machinery suddenly getting quiet in your mind.

I can only imagine how it felt to have your job as a carrier was suddenly catapulted into the national spotlight and transformed into a headline, printed and re-printed on the same newsprint you yourself have handled so many times.

I can only imagine how it must have felt to know you held a weapon, the same one that would be sent to past-presidents and officials across the country, intended to harm.

Memorable mail, yes. But not in the way it should be.

It hurts me that the ancient and beautiful world of mail – this intricate system of delivering words to hungry hands and hearts – was tainted this week by a man who was perhaps starved for some vulnerable human relationship, who perhaps might have benefited from the gift of connection that we know is found in handwritten letters.

You made it possible for his correspondence to stop before it found its intended hands. You saved a life, in the same way that you have helped in the saving of mine.

Do not allow the narrative of this week to make you feel less-than. Do not allow one bad sender to taint your view of all of us who ship and receive. Your role is, and always has been, an important one. Vital, in fact.

It matters that we have responsible hands handling the words we vulnerably share with one another, searching for our own connections, indenting our own paper with ballpoint pens and sealing our own dreams behind brass fasteners.

This is just a note to say thank you. Your job matters.

Sincerely yours,

A customer

Dear Friend, You’re Allowed to Ask Your Questions

 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
John 6:28-29

I think we all tend to ask the same questions, just in our own languages.

We all want to know what it looks like to live life well. To approach our days through the lens of hope. To advance good.

We want the blueprint for that life.

We ask, “what do we do?”

Once, in a library in a small town, as our hunched shoulders encircled a corner table, I asked my college friend this question.

“How do I know if God is pleased with what I do?”

At the time, I was wondering about a big choice that I had to make. In other seasons, I have wondered about my jobs and the duties of friendship and sisterhood.

In the library corner table, I asked, “what do I need to do to know that God is happy with this? That I’m doing the right thing? That I am contributing to God’s work?”

I wanted to know the blueprint – to appease my own anxious thoughts with a plan.

I wanted to know what the crowd wanted to know in John 6. They were following Jesus’ signs and miracles across the region, tracing his steps as he traveled.

In the beginning of chapter 6, Jesus walked on water to join his disciples in a boat. So in verses 28 and 29, folks are figuring out that Jesus seemed to have magically transported himself across the water. They see that his followers departed without him in the one boat that was on shore, and yet he stood on the other side the next morning.

They’re in awe. Maybe skeptical.

When they ask “What must we do to be doing the works of God?” it’s almost as if they are asking: “How can we get a touch of that? What do we need to do to taste the miraculous?”

Like me, maybe they wanted a concrete answer. Directions for this increasingly winding journey. Maybe they wanted to know more of the mystery.

“How do we know that this is the work of God?”

I wonder if they — like me — were asking in order to appease their own need for control.

I wonder if they — like me — were asking because the mystery of not knowing is uncomfortable.

Jesus calls them back to simplicity.

This is the work of God,” he says. “That you believe in him whom he has sent.”

“What must we do?” they ask. “What you ask for is found first in me,” he seems to say.

Jesus doesn’t give the blueprint. He offers leadership, gifts, the Spirit, other people. He gives, he calls, he directs. Of course.

But  Jesus always and first calls us to, before he ever invites us to do.

He always and first calls us to himself, where he longs to show us again how deeply he has loved us before we ever produced anything.

He invites us to keep asking the questions, not to access more of the signs or the perfect formula or the tangible treasure, but to access more of the treasure of himself.

The work God loves is rooted in this – his love. The mysterious, overflowing treasure of Jesus.

Is this the place from which you work? Is he your energy, your hope, your place of purpose? Does your job or your season allow you to serve God and serve other people? 

If so, then I believe you can say a bold yes: God is happy with your work. He’s present with you as you go out and do. He delights in your creativity, your service, your gifts and your perseverance.

This is where we can bring our questions, and where we can rest. God is pleased with the work of his people when the work of his people is an outpouring of his love in the world.

This is how we know the works of God. This is how we know that our day-to-day work has eternal worth.

Jesus always and first calls us to, before he ever invites us to do. But friends, he’s with you in the doing — however that may look for you.

Let him be our pursuit anew this day, and every day.

Dear Margins, Thanks for How You Show Us Hope

I love it when snow falls outside my office window. The flakes flirt with the wind currents between skyscrapers, sometimes drifting both up and down as the breeze catches them.

What might be tumultuous at street-level looks graceful and peaceful from 27 stories high.

And that’s a good metaphor for how 2016 was for me – sometimes challenging in the grit and grind of the everyday, yet so eternally beautiful and good when seen in rearview.

When I walked to work this past week – with flakes stinging my cheeks – I was reminded of how wearying life’s sting can be. But protected by panes of glass, the snow falls silently and without harm. It dances – it shifts.

When I walked through some really hard choices and faced ugly, jealous, insecure feelings this year, I felt despair starting to sting me. Why do I always come back to the same, tired issues? Why does that old, hurtful memory keep crippling me? Why haven’t I learned better by now?

And yet. When time passed and I looked back, things shifted in my view. What felt tough and tired in the moment was – when viewed from a distance – revealed to be eternal, good work that God was doing in and around me.

When 2016 was just beginning, I wrote about hope. It was my word for this past year.

As 2016 closed, I wrote down what happened over the course of the year. I listed the gifts and the milestones in my journal in black pen, and then I went back with a red pen. I read over my handwriting and I scrawled the word HOPE in the margins each time I saw it reflected back at me.

I went to new many cities, and returned to small towns that hold big places in my story. I saw more of the world out the windows of cars and trains and planes, feeling adventure unfold in both new and familiar ways. That was hopeful for me.

I practiced living in messy, beautiful relationships, and saw a little more about what relational wholeness looks like – from my friends and my family, from my small group and my fellowship program, from dating. Hope was there, too.

I learned a lot. I took a cooking class and I took personality tests. I toured the Art Institute to hear about their programs. I wandered libraries and museums. I read. I explored new neighborhoods of my own city, got to know parts of this place that I have overlooked before.

But the best part, I realized, is that hope became more than a perspective for me in 2016.

Hope became a practice – more than it ever has been in past years.

I practiced looking for hope right in the margins of life, where – of course – it is always waiting to be found.

This hope-seeking became crucial in times when things were not easy. In times of loss, in politics and worry. Somehow, by writing down the word, and by looking for it in the margins, God fostered hope in me, right in the messy middle of the everyday.

I saw hope in the midst of hard things sooner and more willingly than I have in past years. I didn’t have to wait to the end of the year to see it. God helped me practice hope and joy in the moment.

So. As one year of gifts turns into another year of opportunity, I’m thinking we all have the chance to see hope more readily in our everyday. Each new day this year is going to give us the gift of seeing, of learning, and of practicing hope.

Hope is always available because God is. His very character is one of hope, and His hopeful presence is always ours as his children.

We get to choose what goes with us into the new year. Let’s invite HOPE to make the list.

I’m praying that we’ll see it this year – together. Whether from across the table, from across the street, from 27 stories high.

Or, maybe, in the margins, where – of course – it is always waiting to be found.

Showing Up

About a month ago, I came home after a long day of work and meetings and to-dos and was met with the most wonderful scene in our kitchen.

Friends. Jammed together happily around our little kitchen table.

A din of chatter echoed through the house, and music played in the background. Homework and water bottles and cookies rendered our table top invisible. Everyone was all spread out, just doing their thing. Grading papers. Studying. Doodling.

The people I live with are also my dear friends, so evenings like these are common. We host gatherings, some planned, some spontaneous. We collapse onto the couch at the end of the day and reheat leftovers side-by-side, celebrating the built-in community we have in simple ways.

I’m more and more in awe of the gift it is to live in a home with this kind of culture. This is something we prayed for. In the car, on the phone, and over text messages last winter, we asked: God, let our home be a place where you are honored. God, let this be a place of comfort and rest, where friends feel welcome just as they are. God, let this be a place where we learn more about your true character through meals and books, studying and conversation, laughter and late-night honesty. 

Our prayers have, undoubtedly, been answered. God is at work in a strong and palpable way in this place.

In our home, we love games and snacks and sweatpants. We make (and drink) full pots of coffee on lazy weekend mornings, mug after mug disappearing. We turn on the football game and spread out around the TV to work and do crafts. Our house is a place where we can relax, but also where friends and family and out-of-town guests can come to rest and play and be nourished as well.

Our house is full of mismatched furniture, but there is a unity there. Two-week-old party decorations still grace the living room walls, but there is grace in the imperfection of it. It’s never a place where I have to put on my best behavior or best outfit, and I pray that others never feel that way, either.

This is place where I can show up, fully.

I’ve been thinking about that phrase lately – showing up. It’s a buzzword in our home, borrowed from a favorite author. When things are tricky or hard or we straight-up don’t feel like leaving the house, we encourage each other with that. Just keep showing up.

Today has got me thinking about that.

I desire for my home to be a place where friends can come in without knocking, can show up exactly as they are.

Do I allow myself and my heart to be open in the same way?

Do I share my true opinions with grace, even if it isn’t cool or in agreement with others?

Do I show up – mind and spirit – in my life and relationships, or do I let distraction get the best of my energy?

I long to show up fully in my life, in this season more than ever. As a person of faith, I want my heart to resemble the heart of our little home. Welcoming. Open. Arms-wide-open. A port in the storm. A shelter and a gathering place. Willing to give and take.

I want to trust my close friends by sharing my full self, trusting that this is a good and sacred practice, and that vulnerability and freedom from me begets vulnerability and freedom in others.

I want my heart and my spirit to be a place where my friends feel seen and rested and known.

On that particular, ordinary Tuesday evening last month, when I came home to our bustling kitchen table, I dropped my stuff and joined right in. And right in the middle of a messy table and a weekday evening of papers and lists and projects, I sorta got it – why the showing up is both good and sacred.

We show up because God does. 

We let people in, we share our stories and we practice honesty, because Jesus modeled these practices in his life on earth. He let people in to his presence with a fullness and an up-front honesty. He kept the screen door open. He invited people around the table on ordinary Tuesdays, welcoming people of all kinds to sit and be nourished.

We don’t have to fear the raw, because God goes there with us. We can show up as a friend’s world is rocked by the storm of grief or confusion or self-doubt, and we can sit with it. We can listen as Jesus listens, his presence ever-close to us.

We go to small group or coffee or that one awful meeting, even if it’s cold outside, even if the couch is calling. Because we trust that our actions and the things we give our time to are eternally valuable and seen by the God who cares deeply for each and every detail.

We show up because God does. 

My friend, I commend you. You are so awesome. Today, you showed up. You opened the door of your spirit to the work of the day, allowing your coworkers and friends and even strangers to come in, imperfect and close to your heart.

You drove to work before the sun came up. You greeted your colleagues with a welcoming smile. You wrote, you called, you juggled tasks. You taught. You cared well for young minds and hearts. You sent the email and designed the flyer.

The Holy Spirit was able to plant more beauty and truth in our aching world today because you allowed him to use you as his vessel.

Today, you showed up. And in that, you lived out the fullness of your beautiful created nature in God’s image. You showed up just as our Father God does – an imperfect reflection, but a beautiful one. This is an honorable thing, my friend.

Thank you for letting others in to your heart, your life, your kitchen table. Thank you for being honest about who you are – more so with every passing day – and for sharing that with others. Thank you for teaching me about God’s faithfulness in the way that you’ve faithfully shown up today and so many days before.

Friends, let us be the people of the messy, weeknight kitchen table. The revolving door.

Let us be the showing up kind of people. Welcoming. Open. Arms-wide-open. A port in the storm. A shelter and a gathering place.

Let us be the people that come together at the end of the day around the table, imperfect but fully ourselves.

Let us show up, just as we are, to the throne of grace each new day, and then again the next.

On Keeping Score

If you’ve ever played a sport or watched a sport or centered your Thanksgiving day snacking around a sport, you know the power of the score – those little numbers that appear next to ‘Home‘ and ‘Visitor’ in the outfield or on your TV screen.

I’ll never forget the summer growing up when I hit my first home run in softball. I was elated as I ran the bases, as my team greeted me with a group hug at home plate, and as I watched the scorekeeper pencil in another run next to our team’s name.

Home: 1.
Visitor: Who cares?! I just hit a home run! 

In moments like these, I learned what a rush it is to be praised for performance. Of course, scoring runs and accomplishing things are not innately bad. These are good and important things. But leave it to our sin-inclined hearts to turn good things into not-so-good things.

Since those days, I have become an expert in the art of keeping score. I’m always running a tab, waiting for the digits to switch on the screen and the scoreboard, waiting for that elusive magic number that will mean I’m finally secure with others and with the Lord.

One more homerun. One more stellar performance. One more gold star. And then I’ll have arrived. 

One more ‘yes’ to her invitation. One more perfect project at work. One more plan on the calendar.

I crave the praise and the applause and the accolade, my appetite only increasing with each hit.

This is my kind of drug.

Recently, I was convicted by some score-keeping beliefs that I’ve been holding on to.

In my life so far, I have pictured my the vault of my heart like a bank vault, full of gold. If I’m honest, the gold stored up in there represents the treasure I think I put in the vault myself through good deeds and performance.

The full vault has a system, you see. In the system, God is simply the giver of gold. The giver of good gifts. The scorekeeper. When I achieve, gold is added. My score increases. When I fail, gold is taken out, or at least knocked around and dulled in its shine.

Bad day: 1.
Laura: 0. 

I also play a key role in the vault system. I am the maintenance girl. I have to keep the gold in there, add to it through my actions, keep it tidy by not making a fuss, and shine it up to look nice from the outside.

I was on a run the other day, my sneakers rhythmically hitting the trail, and I started to think about that image I have held of the gold-filled vault. And it filled me with dread. I started thinking about the bank vaults I have seen in movies – the ones that are full of cash or treasure or the ones that Ocean’s Eleven tries to hack into. I realized that none of those pictures express what I want, nor do they align with my values.

The score-keeping system of the treasure vault is harsh and divisive and unfeeling.

I crave and value rest and simplicity and deep connection and grace.

Then. Like a whisper, a thought entered my mind: what if my heart is like a vault.

But what if the vault is empty. 

What if the vault is clear, lined with cement, and totally hollow? But not in a sad or lonely way. What if the empty vault in my heart is full of peace –  because it reminds me that I am morally & spiritually bankrupt without my Jesus. I have nothing to be gained or lost without Him. What if the empty vault is both humbling and freeing?

Because the empty vault doesn’t keep score. 

The full vault represented my own prideful way of keeping things together for God. It was stuffed with my gold stars and my home runs and my praise-worthy moments. I deposited, and I withdrew, and the whole thing made me view God as a banker, rewarding me for good behavior, and withholding good when I didn’t measure up.

I’m over that.

I’ve decided I want to live an empty-vault life.

The empty vault is a grace-filled system, my way of laying down all pride and coming to the Lord with ever-empty hands, ready to receive from Him. There are no riches or earned rewards or collected gold to stand on. I begin each day bankrupt and I conclude each day bankrupt as well. And here’s the very best thing – there are zero transactions. No matter what happens during the day – success and accomplishment or fear and failure – I am going to trust that I end each day the exact same way that I began. In need of a Savior. There is no gain or loss or math, which feels like true rest to my calculating, perfectionist heart.

In the empty vault, there’s nothing to prove. My God is full of love and compassion, holding my great portion, my great security and the whole of my identity in His strong arms – not associated with the vault at all.

This doesn’t feel like scarcity, either. The empty vault is not found wanting. God overflows with blessings unto us, not in the form of treasure, but in the form of His hand wiring, etched on the walls of the vault’s cornerstone, letting everyone know that Jesus emptied the stone-cold chamber and broke the seal right off. No more transactions were required to earn God’s abundant favor. In Jesus, the vault was emptied for good.

In this image, I walk freely. And I hope that this image frees you up a little bit, too.

The empty vault is good news.We can take each step trusting that our worth is held secure in a Savior, not a score.

The only exchange that occurs in this life with the Lord is the ever-flowing, inward-bound love of God from His heart to ours. The vault remains vacant, not cold or lacking, not prison-like, but rather a beautifully echoing reminder of just how free we are.

The scoreboards. They will probably always exist in this heart of mine. I’ll probably always crave the accolade and the award.

But by God’s grace, I pray that the empty vault becomes the place where I find my rest. I pray that the vault continues to empty throughout my life, the gold stripping away as God’s peace and security crowds out the gold stars.

I pray that the empty vault is the place where I come at the end of each day – the place away from the score keeping and striving, but ever-closer to my heart’s true home.


The Healer & The Fixer

This weekend, I had the privilege of sitting down for breakfast with a dear friend of mine. After many weeks of travel and summer adventure, our schedules finally aligned over coffee and pancakes.

This friend has been through some storms in the last couple of months. We have shared sporadic, late-night text messages about work challenges, family health troubles, and consistent exhaustion.

When I saw her this weekend, I expected to see a girl that was knee-deep in the battle, maybe a little worn out from the brutality of the wind and waves of change and challenge.

But instead, the girl who sat across from me at breakfast was aglow with gentleness and grace.

She did not speak about her challenges with defeat. She was honest and transparent as she shared her recent experiences, but even as she talked about trials, she was filled with hope.

It is so sweet to remember how big our God is,” she said to me. “It’s so important to keep bringing it all back to the foot of the cross.”

As she spoke those hopeful words, I was gently convicted as I realized the worry that was festering in me. I realized that she was speaking comfort and truth over some of my own challenges.

Remember how big our God is,” she said.

Remember how big I AM,” the Holy Spirit seemed to whisper.

“Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.”
– Psalm 104:1-3

Unknowingly, I have been letting stress get the best of my energy in the past few weeks. I worry about the health of my family, God’s hand and purpose in my work, my relationships, and the direction of our nation in this presidential election year.

I even worried as I watched a group of proud and brave refugees represent their own delegation at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games this week. I started to imagine what it would feel like to have no country claim you as their own, and I suddenly took on what I believed to be their anxiety.

Oh, what is the world coming to?

This statement seems to have become a mantra in my thought life.

Unknowingly, I have replaced our big God with my own strength when facing these worries. So it is no wonder that I sometimes feel powerless. No wonder I feel anxiety mounting as I try to fix and heal stressful conversations I face, and even the stress of what I see on TV. No wonder I feel powerless as I try to control these things into some sort of best case scenario.

I’ve tried to be the healer and the fixer that only God can be. 

My friend reminded me this week that God is sovereign. In her gentle way, she reminded me that God is BIG, and that my best efforts to control stress pale in comparison to His strong and unshakable and dependable grip.

Nothing that is happening in our world or in our lives in knocking Him off of His throne, nor is it even knocking his socks off. 

My friend’s demeanor reminded me of a passage in the book I’m currently reading:

“She keeps God on the throne as the ultimate healer & fixer of all things, so she is able to care for people without trying to carry their burdens for them.”
– from Wild & Free by Jess Connolly & Haley Morgan

Isn’t this cool?

A person that keeps God on His rightful throne as the ultimate healer and redeemer is able to live freely, without the need to control or hustle or fix. Because God is doing the fixing.

A person that trusts God as the ultimate healer is able to care for people well, listening to their deep need without feeling pressure to produce the perfect remedy. Because God is their remedy already.

A person that is rooted in The Lord can keep a well-watered hope, no matter what storms are happening on the surface, because their nourishment comes from below. Because their nourishment comes from their rooted foundation in Him.

I saw these truths in my sweet friend as she spoke with hope over her situation and over our stacks of pancakes.

The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly.”- Psalm 104:16

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Let’s trust God at His Word when He says that we are “watered abundantly” when we are in His care. Let’s trust that He knows our deep need, our deep anxiety, and our deeply-wrought worry lines, and that He delights to take it all in his strong and capable hands.

As this new week begins, I’m reminded that my word of focus and reflection for 2016 is HOPE. I am thankful for the many reminders I received this weekend that hope is not ignorant, nor foolish, nor fruitless. Rather, hope is proof-positive of a belief in a big and powerful God of all.

I just love the way the words of Psalm 104 display God’s greatness. I love the illustration of God making his home in the sea, on the wind, and on the clouds, and then giving each of His created beings exactly what they need. It inspires grandeur in my small heart, and makes my worries feel small.

I hope that, on this Monday morning, you feel a little of that, too.

“O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great.
…These all look to you, to give them their food in due season.
When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
…When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.”
– Psalm 104:24-30