ode to the table

i’ve always known that i’m deeply relational. i crave connection, opening up our hearts and baring our souls, and typically, that happens for me around the table. there’s something about sharing a meal with others that binds you together. the table somehow becomes holy ground, and it’s all i can do to not gulp deep of that sacred air and take off my sandals and bend myself low. people talk at the table, not just formalities and niceties but real, honest, open conversation about how we’re doing, really, and all the things we’ve been too afraid to speak aloud. these; these are the things of substance, of weight, of glory–these are the things that matter.

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Photo by Tim Samoff on Flickr; Creative Commons

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these days i’m thinking purposefully about the hard things, the questions that don’t have easy answers, spending a lot of time in the gray areas. i don’t want to debate, don’t have time to argue. i’m not interested in keeping score, in who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s in and who’s out. i just want to sit with brothers and sisters at the table, to look past our differences and revel in our common ground, for all of us to forgive one another our flaws and embrace who we are in this, the in-between, the not-yet. our stories are still being written; let’s simply celebrate this chapter, shall we?

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lately, i find myself frequently in the thin places. life, seasons, everything–it’s all changing, and i feel wildly unprepared. when i strip away the layers and stare truth in its face, i guess it all comes down to the fact that i’m afraid. afraid of giving up control. afraid of the unknown. afraid of loss, of coming up empty-handed. and i’ve been trying to keep it all inside but then i can’t keep myself from unraveling; and the tears and the stress and the feelings, they all just spill out everywhere. it feels messy; *i* feel messy. and yet:: i consistently am gifted with people who look past the mess and invite me to sit at their table. and there, at the table, i find i can simply be. i can cry and spill and ask the hard questions, without parameters, without rules and regulations:: just me, being who and where i am in this moment, for really, when it comes down to it, this is the only moment that matters.

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i dream of sitting at a table in the wilderness, with the misfits, with the messy, with those of us who have wild hearts and dirty hands. when i close my eyes, i can see it:: all of us, welcomed, seated ‘round a slab of unfinished wood, faces squinting in the sunlight, holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes and getting glimpses of on earth as it is in heaven.

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“i want you to love with wild and gorgeous abandon, throwing yourself into each day, telling the truth about who you are and who you are not, writing a love song to the world itself and to the God who made every inch of it.

we don’t come to the table to fight or defend. we don’t come to prove or conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. we come to the table because our hunger brings us there. we come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. the table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. the table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children…

the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel. if the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.


come to the table.”

(quoted from bread and wine by shauna niequist, emphasis mine)

because the story’s not yet over

it all began with a puddle of tears soaking into the off-white living room carpet.

it was early spring, six years ago now, when there’s still a chill in the air and everything looks dingy and grey in the weak sunlight. i’d just watched Hotel Rwanda for the first time, i remember, and it’d ripped something open in me, something that cried out for justice and healing and peace, some deep part of my soul that ached for africa, though i hadn’t yet been. i sat sobbing on the floor, rocking and praying (pleading, really) for the wrong things to be made right. “send me, Lord,” i wept. “i’ll go; send me.”

and as soon as i spoke those words, i knew, somehow, inexplicably knew, He would.

and then in November, i traveled to Liberia for the first time; a tiny nation i’d never even heard of but felt drawn to nonetheless. for two weeks, i quieted my soul and followed where i felt His leading. and He led me to the children–hungry children; sick children; hopeless children; scared children. the orphan-spirit in me recognized its kindred in the least of these, and i held them and i rocked them and i cried; oh, how i cried. because i knew that feeling; i had felt that ache, the lack. and when it came time for me to get on the airplane, to leave the poverty and return to privilege (guilty and ashamed as i felt for even having that choice), i knew i would never be the same.

so i went back. time and time again, i went back. i gave those children a permanent place in my arms, in my stretched-wide heart; i became auntie, mama, friend. i gritted my teeth and settled into a life lived in the thin places, in the messy, the uncomfortable. and it was hard; truly, so very hard. poverty took on a face. Michael died, and then Buster did, too. girls were raped, and the kids were beaten, and why in the world was no one talking about it? corruption was everywhere, and always–more death, more bodies, more loss. and then i got malaria, and then my health seemed to just deteriorate from that point on. i wasn’t sleeping well, and my body was sore, my heart tired, and in March of last year, i made the unthinkably difficult choice to walk away.

difficult because even in the hard, there was always beauty:: in Jumah’s fat, sweaty cheeks nestled against my neck. in Mercy’s long fingers that intertwined perfectly with my own. in Leemue’s happy smile and bright eyes, and Beyan’s transformation, and the look on Janet’s face when she told me i was her mother. and in the way these little ones lit up when i called them by name, for they knew–they were no longer overlooked or passed over; i saw them, really saw them, and i wanted to give them back the dignity that had been stolen.

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so in the fall, in the midst of changing seasons and a reminder to give thanks in all things, it should have come as no surprise when He asked me if i’d consider going back. He asked if i’d count the cost and decide if it was worth it. because i’ve tasted, and i’ve seen, friends, and i know the price is high.

but i also know:: this life is not my own. it’s been given to me that i may give it away.
and i know:: it’s when you give of yourself that you truly give.
and i know:: the tender heart of the Father aches for these children, so how cannot mine also?

and i guess that’s what settled it, then, when i decided i’d go. i’m currently making plans for a june-september trip, in which i’ll be reunited with my kids and hug old friends and hand-deliver some love letters and help a community center open its doors to be a beacon of light. i’m heart-thumping-in-my-ears excited and butterflies-in-my-tummy nervous, because i know and i’ve learned:: i cannot do this alone.

for starters, there’s a price tag, an actual monetary amount that i need to raise to buy a plane ticket and take three months off work and pay for accommodations and life in Liberia. $5000. i need to raise $5000…in four months.

and i need people to pray, to start praying now, really, for all the steps of this process. because i know this is going to be hard some days, and i’m going to be tired, and i’ll feel like giving up, and it’s then that i’ll need friends to be my Aaron and my Hur and hold my hands up to the hills where my help comes from.

so. here’s where i swallow my pride and humble my heart and i ask. will you help me? in whatever way God leads you, will you help me?

for if it takes a village to raise a child, i can only imagine it takes many, many more to raise hundreds of them. and there are sons and daughters not of my womb but of my heart who are an ocean away, waiting for Auntie Elena to come back to see them. and my heart-cry for the orphan, for the poor and the oppressed, for the discouraged and down-trodden, for the ones who need Jesus in the most desperate of ways–well, it’s calling me back, too.

be careful, little mouth, what you say

i recently read through the book of Job, one i tend to shy away from due to its weighty content. i mean, it’s heavy stuff, the book of Job–laments and suffering, the age-old question of ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’

this time, when i read it, there was one little verse, right near the end, that stood out to me. i’ve been wrestling with it ever since, mulling it over, holding it up to the light, trying to figure out why it hits me with such force::
After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7)

here’s what i notice: God was angry, angry at three men who seemingly spoke truth. i mean, read back through the chapters; what they say to Job is right along the lines of what so many Christians say today. “suffering is God’s punishment for sin; repent and be saved!” we say these things because it seems and sounds like the correct answer, how a Christian should respond.

but God got angry–because they we have not spoken of him what was right.

ohmygoodness. how many times have i done the very same thing, spoken of things which i did not understand?

it saddens me, deeply, and ignites a fire within me at the same time. because honestly, i love the Church, messy and imperfect as we may be. and i think there are a lot of things we’re doing right, things that are beautiful and worthy, like sending out missionaries and caring for the poor and taking communion and 24/7 prayer and worship.

but i also think there are a lot of things we do that shouldn’t be done, things like judging and criticizing and being insensitive to others’ sufferings (even if they are “sinners”.) we’re quick to speak and slow to listen even when the scriptures clearly tell us to do the opposite. at times we hurt instead of heal with our words, and we talk about things that nobody really understands as if ours is the final say. we wield Bible verses as weapons without taking time to dissect the content. we act as if we’re God’s mouthpiece, which is all well and good except what if sometimes what we say is wrong, and we do more damage than good? what if what we’re speaking of God is not right?

do i believe that sin bears consequence and punishment is real? yes, i do. do i believe that true repentance must happen in the hearts of men so that they may be saved? yes, i do. and do i believe that we’re sometimes asked to call out the wrong that needs to be made right? yes, i do.
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                                          [Photo by Mustafa Khayat, Creative Commons]

but when we do so, we need to be careful that we’re speaking truth in love, that our conversation is seasoned with grace, and that our speech is pure. we must be careful to avoid “thus saith the Lord” when in all actuality, we’re not sure that is what the Lord is really saying. we must strive to speak of him what is right–and if we don’t know the answer, then it’s okay to admit that. there is humility and grace in swallowing our pride and choosing to say nothing at all.

…and i did not know it

i’ve never been very good at waiting.

maybe it’s the visionary in me, the one who sees the end before the beginning and doesn’t know how to get there. perhaps it’s because i’m an idealist, with an incredibly strong sense of how things should be in the world. or maybe it’s just because i’m human, messy flesh and a heart that beats and bleeds and feels, feels, feels it all, all at once, with intensity so fierce it can take my breath away.

and so i tend to struggle with the present, with the right here and right now, with digging my feet in and sucking the marrow from the moment. so often i know where i’m going, but i’m weary of the journey. i just want to arrive.

these days, i find myself living in the tension of the in-between. i read the scriptures and i remember the israelites, those who caught a glimpse of the promised land, of their canaan of plenty; of those who were eager to enter but instead found themselves caught in perpetual wandering, year after year in the desert that looked nothing like what they had hoped for.

like when i got news from liberia that janet was quite sick, had been for two weeks, and she didn’t want to take her medicine. and though a friend was there to care for her and bring her to see a doctor, i felt a twinge in my heart, a slight ache, a longing to draw her close and pray for her healing and urge her to accept the medicine that was only going to help, not hurt. i should be there; i want to be there. but i’m not. i’m here instead.

or when i daydream of my wedding day, of a white dress and a man of tender strength and vows under open skies, before a covenant-God. some days, the fairy tale seems so near, so close that my heart could reach out and grasp it. i should be there; i want to be there. but i’m not. i’m still waiting, still in the not yet, and it’s hard.

and i think again of those israelites, of a cloud and a pillar of fire, of water from a rock and manna, the mystery-sustenance from heaven. God inhabited even their wandering. how can i not think he inhabits mine also? here, now. in this place and in this moment. yes, the desert and the waiting and the wandering:: even this is sacred space; even this is holy ground. like scales falling from the eyes, cobwebs from the musty parts of my faith-laid-dormant, the truth seeps in. and i see, and i know.

“surely the Lord is in this place, and i did not know it.” [genesis 28.sixteen]Image
                                              (Photo by Lis Ferla, Creative Commons)

because we all need to know that we’re worthy

hello there. my name’s elena, and i’m a recovering people-pleaser. yes, that’s right. a recovering people-pleaser. the long + short of it is that i used to care so much about what others thought of me that i let their opinions define me and my worth. and now? well, now i don’t.

the journey to get to this place has not been an easy one, the road often littered with unexpected speed bumps, twists + turns i never saw coming. not every day is an easy one. i still have moments of weakness, slightly-hysterical crying fits when i find out someone has said something unkind about me (o. m. g. i am SO DRAMATIC SOMETIMES ALL THE TIME). but the older and wiser i get, i see now that all this life is a continual work in progress, and the journey really is more important than the destination.

because really, the truth is that not everyone is going to be your friend. even when you try your hardest to be accepted. even when you conform in attempts to make yourself fit in. there’s always going to be someone who just. doesn’t. like. you. now, i know it hurts. i spent literally years of my life with a bruised and tender heart because of the words and actions of others. though i tried to kill ‘em with kindness and take the higher road, there were still people who consistently held the sins of my past against me. they looked not at my heart and the growth i was making but only at the mistakes i’d made along the way. they judged. they talked. they rejected me. and it hurts. but let me tell you something.

what somebody else thinks of you or says about you does not, in any way, shape, or form, diminish your worth. sure, you’re not perfect and sure, you’re going to stumble + fall from time to time. but that is the beauty of these messy, human heart-souls we live with. there will come a day when we truly will know perfection, and it will be glorious, but we are not there yet. and still, even in the not-there-yet, in the messy, mistake-making flesh we inhabit, you are worthy. you are important. you matter. despite what they say about you. despite how they treated you. their opinion is not the one that matters, dear heart. seek to listen to the only one that does.

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                                                 [Photo from randallo on Flickr]

because He looks at you with eyes of love, and His heart burns with zeal for you.
because He knit you together in your mother’s womb, declaring you fearfully and wonderfully made.
because He gave you a life of purpose, and He knows every plan He has for you.
because He sees the beginning from the end, and He knew every situation you’d find yourself in.
because He doesn’t focus on what you’ve done or who you were, but instead He looks at the person He created you to be.
because you’re never too far gone, too messed-up, too lost for Him to find you.
because His arm is not too short to save.
because His love for you is never-ending, nor is it conditional. it doesn’t come and go based on the choices you make. it just is.

and once you understand that, once you really get it deep down in your bones, all up under your skin, you’ll begin to be freed from the insecurity, from the lies that say there’s something wrong with you.

and then maybe you can join me + all the other recovering people-pleasers here on the sidelines, where we cheer on each other towards the truth and greatness, where we can we rest content in our messy skins because we have seen what redemption tastes like: a little bit like being known, a little bit like being loved, and a little bit like coming home.

be love

four and a half years ago, i stepped foot on african soil for the first time. i was overwhelmed and unsure, broken and laid bare in a place that would ultimately change + give me so much more than i could ever leave behind.

liberia was nothing that i could have been prepared for, yet i knew i was following His lead. He had sent me to this tiny nation with the mandate to “be love” to the poor, the orphaned, and the voicelessas i held children in my arms and my lap, as my tears fell silently into their ebony hair and the red dust of the earth, my heart felt so heavy and full i was sure it would beat right out of my chest.

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over the years, i wondered, time + time again, if i had made a mistake, if liberia was really the place for me, if the time + energy + tears made any difference at all. and i heard Him, time + time again, always answer with the same two words. “be love.” that’s it. simple, uncomplicated, wholehearted love. that was my mission, is my mission to this day. it’s my purpose, my calling, my ministry, the cry of my heart. “be love.”

be love. to the crippled man sleeping in the garbage pile.
be love. to the thirteen year old girls raped by grown men.
be love. to the hungry boys and girls begging for a dollar, a meal, whatever they can get their hands on.
be love. to the lonely children who cry themselves to sleep at night and wonder if God has forgotten them.
be love. to the neighbors and friends who just can’t seem to catch a break in life.
be love. to the quiet voices that no one listens to, the faces that  fade into the background.
be love. to the women who wish they were better.
be love. to the men who make them feel that way.
be love. to those who know not what they do.

because really, when it all comes down to it, what each of us needs most in this world is loveand love has a face. it has a voice. it’s a bed and clean clothes. it’s justice and standing up for another’s rights. it’s a warm embrace and a kiss on the forehead. it’s giving without expecting anything in return. it’s speaking words of promise and hope over the discouraged and downtrodden. it’s getting your hands dirty and your heart broken. it’s sacrificing that which you barely have. it’s braiding a ten year old girl’s hair and whispering in her ear how beautiful she is. it’s saying, “i will not give up on you even when everyone else does.” it’s teaching an entire generation of forgotten and voiceless children that they matter, that they’re worthy, and that i see them.

though my country of residence has changed, my mission has not. no matter where i find myself in the world, no matter who is set before me, i will choose to be love. truly, there’s nothing that could matter more. join me? get on out there + be love to someone who needs it today.

xo,
ep

when i want to keep saying thank you

now that i’ve been out of liberia for eleven weeks, i feel like i’m finally starting to fall into line with the rhythm of life here at home. however, the pace is much different than that i am used to. days are hurried, though not necessarily busy, people preoccupied, though not necessarily productive. i’ve had to fight for quiet moments + be intentional about filling my time with what matters most. i don’t want to lose myself in the ocean of meetings and appointments, full calendars, full schedules. i don’t want my fire to go out, don’t want to settle for mediocrity or the bare minimum, just to get by. i don’t want to live a life that is anything less than full and abundant. most of all, i don’t want to forget to stop + say thank you.

in liberia, i was completely aware of the gifts in any given moment. never having to go hungry while people all around you are starving? thank you. clothes to wear while the street beggars are dressed in dirty rags? thank you. medicine when i’m sick while children die from treatable illnesses? thank you. security guards and steel doors while the house next to me is robbed in the middle of the night? thank you. and there are more–so many more. for orphans who taught me what love looks like, for a people and culture who embraced me as their own, for the chance to have been a part of something bigger and more worthy than myself, i say thank you, thank you, thank you.

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[Photo by rustiqueart on Flickr]

but now that i’m home, life is so much easier. comfortable. convenient. and yes, i may weep with gratitude every time i take a hot shower, and yes, i may breathe a quiet prayer of thankfulness each time i lay my head on the pillow and pull the blanket up under my chin. but there are times when i feel myself slipping, when the blessings become less about His goodness and more about my entitlement, when i start to look at the gifts as something i deserve, something i worked for.

i seem to forget that “every good and perfect gift comes from above”, and that He gives because He is good, not because i’ve earned it. i forget the gifts aren’t mine to keep, but that He gives so i may in turn give away also. i have spiritual amnesia, and i forget. 

but today, now, from this moment forward, i want to remember. when i remember, i stop. i slow down. i say thank you, and i mean it with my whole heart, tears in my eyes, between shaky breaths. He is good, and He gives, and this is who He is, what He does.

may i never again become too busy to stop and say thank you.
may i never again become too distracted to stop and say thank you.
may i never again become too self-absorbed to stop and say thank you.

amen.

lost + found

if there’s one thing in this life i am well-acquainted with, it is loss. i don’t say that with any bitterness or heaviness of heart; it’s simply the fact of the matter. i have lost my father, my step-father, my grandfather. i have lost a marriage. i have lost a job. i’ve lost friendships + family, opportunities and moments in time, and there are days when i’m hesitant to hold onto anything too tightly for fear it will slip through my fingers.

but this; this cycle of loving and losing, of clenched fists giving way to empty hands–this is the way of life, the shared human experience. the Lord both gives and takes away; i’ve seen it time + time again. i’ve sat with wives who have lost husbands, mothers who have lost children, children who have lost parents. i’ve held their hands in mine and wept silent tears for i can feel their loss, relate to the ache of emptiness.

and i’ve seen–seen that what appears lost forever actually isn’t. the things we lose we end up finding again down the road; perhaps in a different form, a different way, but found nonetheless.

here’s the thing, though: we are unable to receive, unable to find, unable to fill the empty places when we are still consumed with what was taken from us. yes, the loss is painful. it wounds our hearts, and the tears will fall, and we need to grieve and mourn for a time. but the old, at some point, must give way to new, or else we stay stuck. and sometimes, the only thing keeping us stuck is ourselves.

one of my favorite stories in the scriptures is that of Ruth, the foreign widow who walked away from the land she was accustomed to so that she may enter a new destiny. a study i once read on Ruth said that one of the beautiful things about this woman was her ability to “weep forward”. she knew what grieving felt like: she mourned her husband, her homeland, all that had been familiar to her for so long. but she continued to move forward, even in her grief. she worked. she found her way around in a new land. and then the day came when she allowed herself to hope + believe in love again–that what she had lost in Mahlon could be found in Boaz.

so what does she do? taking the advice of her mother-in-law, she takes the brave journey to the threshing room floor–but not before she changes her clothes. scholars have suggested that it is very likely Ruth had been dressed in the garments of widowhood up until this point, which is understandable, taking into account the great losses she had suffered. but before she goes to meet Boaz, she changes into her “best clothes“, which is incredibly symbolic. it’s as if she’s saying she was ready to leave the mourning behind and walk into the possibility of something new.

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[Photo by H o l l y on Flickr]

dear hearts, please know that i am not invalidating the immense impact loss can have on us. it hurts; i know, and you have every right to cry and mourn and feel that pain. but i also believe in God’s goodness, that He does not want us to ache and grieve and stay empty forever. there are some of us who have been in our mourning clothes for so long that they’re tattered + torn, dirty + stained, ragged + coming undone at the seams. but we stay in them because they’re comfortable now; we’ve been wearing them all this time, and they’ve almost become a part of us. we’ve been living in the loss for so long now that we’re actually not really living at all.

i believe that there is a God who wants to fill, to re-fill, and to receive from Him means donning the new in exchange for the old. may we leave behind the rags of what once was in order that we may find what will be.

 

a mother’s song

for the past several years, mother’s day has been a hard one for me. i suppose it’s because it draws attention to that which i do not have, that which i am not. ever since i was a little girl, i dreamed of being a mother. i wanted to feel the heartbeat of life in my body; i wanted to gather my sons and daughters into my arms and rock them and soothe them and love them.

now that i’m going on thirty, and my proverbial biological clock is tick-tick-ticking away, the ache for children of my own grows deeper. so when mother’s day comes around, i’m torn. i celebrate the beautiful mama-hearts of friends and sisters who i am blessed to know, yet i also feel the throbbing of my own empty womb.

and so i open up isaiah’s words, read the promises, the very ones that have comforted my heart and soul so often during the years:
“sing, o barren woman, you who never bore a child;
burst into song, shout for joy,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the Lord. [54.one]

and i remember – the way jumah would snuggle into me and wrap her arms around my neck; the feel of mercy’s hand in mine as we sat side-by-side on the porch; the tears in janet’s eyes when she told me i was her ma; how i would sit and rock beyan, praying and crying for his heart to come alive.

i remember my children, those i was blessed to be a mother to for nearly four years. and i realize that his word is true, that it never returns void.

and it is then that the barren, desolate woman in me begins to sing.

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learning from the hard places

as i write this, i’ve been home from liberia for just a little over three weeks. i am finally getting to the stage where i feel like i’ve actually re-entered life here in the states; at first, though my physical body was present in pennsylvania–as weary, worn-down (and cold!) as it was–my thoughts and emotions were in the land of liberty, thousands of miles and an ocean away. it was like a weird sort of time lag; i guess my heart just needed some time to catch up with my body.

so now i’m here, i’m home, i’m fully present. and reality has set in. my entire life is starting over–again. my world for the past four years has been liberia, the kids, the problems, the burden. and now…well, what now? i have no idea what the future holds for me. part of is exhilarated, drunk on hope and imagining the possibilities. and the other part of me is straight-up terrified. what am i going to do? how am i going to get it together? i’m too old for this.

i’m in a hard place, an in-between place, a place full of more questions than answers, more struggle than victory, more faith than i knew i had in me. i’m broken and messy and shell-shocked. i’m scared, i’m frustrated, i’m confused. but i am also learning, difficult soul-lessons that can only be understood here, at this time, in this season:

one: more often than not, the hard places and the holy places are the same.
there’s a reason why Jesus said blessed are those who mourn, blessed are those who are poor in spirit. it’s because in the pain, in the lack, in the ache, he is there. he chose to enter this crazy-messy world as flesh and bone, as one who bled and got sick and had his heart broken. he chose the mess to be the place of his coming, and he’s doing the same thing today.

two: it is not our job to fix.
people are broken, and they are needy, and as the hands and feet of Christ, our hearts should ache for them and want to ease their pain. we are meant to be love with skin on, those who dress the wounds and kiss away the tears, who put our palms against the gaping heart-holes to stop the bleeding. we are made to show mercy, compassion, love. but we were never supposed to assume the role of savior. so often, we go above and beyond to try and fix other people’s problems instead of pointing them to the One who offers a perfect solution.

three: self-care does not equal selfishness.
typically, mainstream Christianity teaches us to put others’ needs above our own, citing scripture to prove that Jesus doesn’t want us to be concerned with ourselves. and i get it; i really do. i want to prefer others because i know that’s what he did. i want to serve instead of being served. i want a humble heart, pure motives, a life lived selflessly. but i do not believe Jesus wants his beloved to work themselves into the ground, to give without refilling, to wear down and burn out. a letter to his church reads “don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple?” as a holy dwelling, why should we not be intentional about making sure we are healthy and whole? it might mean getting that extra hour of sleep, or maybe another half hour of cardio at the gym. it may mean letting the tears fall instead of holding them in, or taking a vacation, or refusing to stay late at the office so you can eat dinner with your family around the table. it is not selfish to take care of yourself; after all, you don’t really have anything to offer those who need you if you are empty and dry.

four: community is important.
whether it’s friends or sisters, pastors or counselors, a cousin, a co-worker–we need these people in our lives. not just when we are healthy and thriving, but also when we are struggling, especially when we are struggling. fiercely independent and admittedly introverted, i tend to retreat into myself, especially when i’m in my hard place. but i am learning that i need others. i need connection, community, support. these are the people who are going to hold our hands and lead us towards Truth when we’re too weary to get there on our own. they will listen to us, cry with us, even celebrate us. they will love us.

five: not every question has an answer.
i like the feeling of being able to figure things out, so i am constantly observing and asking questions, seeking to learn. that’s not much of a problem, except when i am presented with things that seem to make no sense at all. things like children dying, war and poverty, injustice, trafficking–the list could go on and on. i shake and i grieve and i cry out, “why, God?!” and sometimes he doesn’t answer. sometimes i need to swallow hard and choose to trust him, to keep the faith, to remember that he is still good even in the midst of all that is not. sometimes i just need to accept what is. 

{what about you? perhaps you are well-acquainted with hard places, or you may be in one now. what have you learned? how have you grown? i’d love to hear from you!}