Sunday, May 2, 2010


I've been living in slow motion, making myself aware of every moment as it passes and reaching out and claiming it for my own. So this is a slow motion account of the last few days.

This was the last weekend of freshman year. (And what a weekend it was.) Two finals, dinner date with Shannon, stretching out on the Quad and talking with Morgan, Alice, Claire, and everyone else who passed by, techno party with the Delts, dancing one last time with Morgan and Taylor, art, ramen and coffee, watching the moon like it's a drive-in movie, taking a Saturday mini-road trip to South Haven, donuts and coffee, homework on the beach, onion rings from Clementine's, coffee and burgers, pulling off the road to watch the sunset, taking 25 minutes to get from Simpson to Olds watching the clouds and trees and wind and rain, talking with Anne on my floor for an hour, brushing my teeth with Roomz, tucking each other in and then my favorite thing in the world: "Goodnight, Roomz." "Goodnight, Roomz." "I love you." "I love you too."

(I love the whole concept of roommates. It's like automatic family. Married or not, I never want to live alone. Ever. I too much enjoy cleaning out the fridge and brushing my teeth with another human being.)

And this is the last Sunday morning of freshman year. Woke up early, prayed, stretched, made coffee for me and Roomz, brushed my teeth for forever, studied until Roomz woke up, hung out in the bathroom (in Olds this is a completely legitimate way to spend one's time) talking to Mabs and Mary, packed away the hundreds of notes that I've received and saved this year, watered the sunflowers on my windowsill. And I'm listening to the Avett Brothers and the wind's in my hair blowing through the windows and Roomz and I are drinking coffee.

And I love this.
I have loved freshman year, the newness, the new faces.
I have loved Olds.
I have LOVED my chill, funny, friendly, generous, cuddly roommate.

And I have loved living slowly.
I think Jack & Dorothy would be proud.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


I have a poster hanging up in my dorm room that I made a couple months ago which says: "MAKE ART as an outpouring expression of God's grace in your life." Tonight I turned my dorm room floor into an art studio: And made strong coffee: And made some sad art: And I made some happy art. Art like this: This one says "but you will find slowbreathing sleepyhappy REST." And more consolation art like this: Which says "And REAL God-breathed inspiration." And I made funny scatterbrained art for a friend. And I thought much about future art projects and the fact that people here constantly ask me why I'm a political science major instead of an art major. And I thought about self-expression and how "eros" means oneness and about two toothbrushes in a single cup on the sink. And I thought about The Republic and grace and words and Uncle Jack and Aunt Dorothy and ripples in lakes. And Megan sang me songs. And I defined myself in color.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wednesday morning without classes.

I woke up at 9, sun streaming through the windows, my little sunflowers growing toward it on the windowsill, tangled in a sea of white-and-orange sheets and blankets. I threw on my favorite roommate hoodie (Roomz and I are practically married and we share clothes like none other), made a huge pot of coffee, carted my Bible and weathered copy of The Republic and my laptop and my coffee down the hall, and snuggled up in the nook. All morning I've been digging deep into the 6 pages of The Republic that provide the basis for my entire philosophy paper. Sunshine + Coffee + Plato. I love it. Tonight, after dinner with Megan (every interaction with Megan feels like a visit to the New York City MOMA), Shannon and I are doing our collaborative art project: I make the art, she photographs the art, and our friends are the canvases. Pure magic. It's going to be beautiful.

I thank God for this day.

Monday, April 26, 2010


"I like the way you see, the way you connect things and express yourself. I like your consciousness of 'man standing in need', how comfortable you are with human finiteness and the grayer areas and the commonplace and The Real. And I like what you're seeing in all of that. I know that all of this seems like a mess right now, but you know where you're going and what you want this to look like and where you want to bring it to rest. Just keep pushing it toward that point, toward your vision. You always have a great vision. Just be confident, Caroline," said my English professor this afternoon.

He was talking about my final English paper.
Or I think he was.
Maybe not.
Either way: it meant a lot more to me than simple editing advice.

He said it again as I walked out the door: "Just be confident, Caroline. Just be confident in what you're doing. You know where you want this to lead."

"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need." -Hebrews 4:16.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The moon and things.

Tonight the moon swept me off my feet. I thought about my love for the moon and stars and my preoccupation with incorporating both into my art. It got me thinking more about what my art/words/relationships/daily life says.

There is a photographer whose work I really liked until about four months ago. Four months ago was when she started compulsively posting photographs of her and her boyfriend. Don't misunderstand: they are beautiful, envy-inducing photographs of their very sweet, deep relationship.

(And that is a huge however.)
She used to photograph things: rainy days, grocery stores, homeless people, patterns of light on the floor, old radios, people jumping, little girls laughing in red wagons. She used to say things. Now all I see is the same pose, the same cute expression, the same hands holding the same hands. I don't get it. After all, I'm guessing that he fell in love with her for the same reasons I fell in love with her photography. Those photographs--before Boy took center stage--spoke of simple grace, deep wisdom, love of Christ, hope, joy, whimsy, everyday adventures. As soon as they started photographing themselves holding hands, her photographs stopped talking. Her art stopped saying the things that brought them together in the first place.

I want to say things. I don't just want to throw words and colors and emotions and actions out into the cosmos. I don't want to splatterpaint my feelings and impulses like meaningless abstract art. I want to do more than word vomit. I want to live with intention. And as much as I love holding hands, I don't want a single one of my relationships, platonic or otherwise, to stop saying things either.

I want my art to speak. I want my music to speak. I want the way I interact with strangers to speak. I want to say things worth the words I use to craft them. I want relationships (and, eventually, a marriage) rooted on a mutual passion for the real, the true, the bright, the bold, the meaningful, the brave, the lovely, the Cross. A relationship based on things.

Yes, someday I will likely make art influenced by my inloveness with someone. I'm not belittling that. But inloveness is not something worth dying for, worth living for, or worth photographing for four months straight. Hold hands, sure. But say things too.

And take a look at that moon.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I will appeal to this.

After 4 hours and a restless night, I had already started to cry on the walk to my 8AM class this morning. Yesterday was filled with tough decisions and today was bound to be tougher. From the moment I finished breakfast to the end of my 10AM philosophy class, I read and reread Psalm 77:

I cry aloud to God, aloud to God and He will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I will seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints.
You hold my eyelids open, I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old, the years long ago.
I said, "Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart." Then my soul made a diligent search:
"Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased? Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His compassion?" Selah
Then I said: "I will appeal to this: to the years of the right hand of the Most High."
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

Now I'm drinking chai tea with soy milk in a leather chair next to the fireplace and writing papers like it's my job. Funny how things can turn around without turning around: I still have just as much work to do but after meditating on God's faithfulness all morning I am determined to live this day fully. He has been faithful in the past to His people through war, through storms, through death and loss. Won't He be faithful in my life for the next two weeks? God works wonders.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Come away with me.

My roommate and I escaped to the leather couch in the back corner of the lone coffeeshop in downtown Hillsdale. I needed a break, and she needed a break, and both of us have been struggling to minister to people because of profound restlessness and frustration with the fact that we're. still. here.

I need summer and I know it. I need my job back and my workaholic tendencies and I need to be uncomfortable in a place where I don't know everyone. I need to be stretched and I need to mature and I need the chance to be an adult. So I'm glad for summer and excited to see God's faithfulness through all the bleak spots. I crave perspective and distance and time and space and open air.

But right now, I need to be here. Here on the couch with Roomz listening to Norah Jones and thinking cozy, peaceful, sleepyhappy thoughts as term papers spill out of my fingers.

God give me the grace to keep loving this place for as long as I'm here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Sister Winter.

Shaped, Coloured from VsTheBrain on Vimeo.

"All my gifts, I gave everything to you /
Your strange imagination /
You threw it all away /
Now my heart is returned to sister winter /
Now my heart is as cold as ice."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


City has lately become its own language for me. In almost the same way that music can wordlessly express and define thoughts and emotions, I've been speaking and hearing more and more through cityscapes. If Plato was right, and city is the soul writ large, then all of this makes sense. This past weekend I took a walk by myself through Chicago and stood staring for long stretches of time at the angles of the streets, the curves of the crowds, the way buildings connect and disconnect. Sometimes I see emptiness in the city, sometimes light, sometimes all I see is hand-holding couples, sometimes all I see is people walking alone. Cityscapes are fluid and expressive. For this reason city has dominated my art lately. (More on that later?)

This one line from Scatteredtrees has been repeating in rhythm with my heartbeat lately: "You know I'm trying to love beyond my years / Saying no to things I was always meant to need / Like saying what we mean." My little lovable liberal arts college has me worded-out sometimes. City has become a new form of expression: a way to express what I'm too tired to say outloud.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I am growing sunflowers on my windowsill. Just now I discovered that two of them sprouted over the weekend. If that isn't an example of God's grace in our lives, then I don't know what it is.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Before I forget.

Tonight was just beautiful. I watched the stars come out one by one, then watched my friends walk back into my life one by one. Every star and every hello caught me by surprise. After thinking about interpersonal grace and everyday beauty for an entire week, it was indescribably good to watch everyone click back into place like puzzle pieces. A single thought kept washing over me, each time I hugged another person back into my life: "You are worth every risk I've ever taken." Now I'm sitting in the dark with my roommate watching the lightning like it's our own personal fireworks show.

Could life get sweeter?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Oh the times, they are a-changing.

As I think about next year and its future changes, and how this summer will change the people I love best, I am challenged to remember what’s most important. Yesterday I found this song by Katie Herzig that I like, but I started thinking over the implications of the refrain: “I pray no one will find you / Oh I’ll stay right where I am / Until you come back / Don’t let me lose you / Before we have a chance to begin.”


How tempting it is for me to have this attitude. Change means risk. It means potential loss. It means potential awkwardness come late August when we all sit down and talk about how we’ve grown, explain our mistakes, apologize for long absences without any communication, rave about how our opinions have changed. It means (and I hesitate to write this because it makes me nervous) that I might come back to find that my friends have outgrown me. It is altogether too easy for me to wish that my friends not change over the summer, that everything stays easy. It’s too easy for me to pray for static relationships.

It’s clear where I’m going with this. “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” -Ephesians 4:15-16. If I--my interests, my security, my emotions--were my primary concern in life, maybe I could let myself fear change. But because Christ is my primary concern, I am praying that my friends and I will grow this summer. Even if it means they outgrow me.

For this reason, I have lately been signing many of my notes of encouragement “love unconditionally.” After all: I don’t love you because of the promise that I’ll get something in return, or the promise that we’ll be together forever, or the promise that you’ll love me back. No, I love you for your own sake and for Christ. I want you to grow, flourish, learn from your mistakes, pursue Christ at all costs and direct your daily life appropriately.

Yes, it still leaves a lump in my throat to say goodbye and leave you to God’s unknown plan that, for the moment, doesn’t include me. But He is a skilled potter, and He will mould you into Christ’s likeness, and it will be a privilege for me to watch--even from a distance.

Therefore, friends: I pray that the loveliest of strangers will find you and steal your heart. I’ll run relentlessly after Christ until you come back and even if you never do. And I want God to take you places even if I lose you, and despite all the awkward conversations that might result.

(Love unconditionally.)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Take a deep breath and.

After 11 weeks of school, I was subconsciously desperate for a break. Just a breather. To gain a little perspective. To reassess habits that I've been forming, intentionally or accidentally. To decide the right way to finish out the rest of the semester. To realize that I am unsure about a lot of things. To acknowledge again that I am finite, vulnerable, breakable, not in control, and completely--completely--able to get hurt.

Yet: I've been relentlessly flooded with inspiration. I visited Philadelphia, said hello to Baltimore, and spent 27 hours in DC, and ended up clutching a vision in my hands, sitting there restlessly and spilling through my fingers. It's a vision for post-college life. A lot of it is made up of things I've said before: City. Local church. Urban ministry. Job out there in the big world that takes passion and perspective. Fostering a deep marriage if it happens. Loving a couple of crazy roommates if it doesn't. Throwing my life at something--something big--with both hands.

I've also been filling in a lot of the outlines: What exactly I want to be doing. The kinds of organizations and companies I want to be working with. Who I want to be. What I want to declare with my life (Behold the man). And I've seen polaroid snapshots of what it can look like: Amy sitting outside Peregrine talking about her art firm and the stresses of the job search and her funny husband who doesn't like ethnic food and can't salsa. Lawyers talking shop, talking politics, talking grace, telling duck jokes. Banana-and-yogurt-and-lukewarm-coffee in the sunny kitchen. Devotions on the fire escape. Early morning runs when 5:30AM is the only time you can fit it in. Traffic that challenges your patience. Just a handful of stars splattered up above city lights. The grace-filled mundane. Beauty in the funk. Hope in the backalleys. The Gospel in the everyday.

And here's the thing. I want to forge my own vision. I've been doing it as an artist for years: taking a vision in my head, working at it with my hands until it is complete. It's never what I expect--it always surprises me--it always takes unexpected turns--but I like using my own hands to make it.

I want to use every day to declare something: For I deliver to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.

Monday, March 29, 2010


Open-faced fried egg sandwich. Grapefruit juice. Front porch. Porch swing with my coma blanket. Writing papers for American Heritage. Margo playing Coldplay on the piano. Justification through undeserved grace. Sending emails in code to Morgan. Telling the Gospel with my life. Cooking lessons from Shannon ("I'll make a kitchen woman out of you yet... Wait, actually no"). Homemade pizza. The Velveteen Rabbit. Writing out my testimony. Jumping into the creek. Twice. Massively cutting the top of my foot. Sitting with Shannon at her kitchen table drinking coffee. Grace and glory. An improv ballad on guitar and harmonica. .:Feeling alive:.

Oh what will tomorrow bring?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Life is one charming rouse for us lucky few.

On Thursday afternoon Bond and I spontaneously had a picnic of banana pancakes and coffee in the courtyard of Olds. Every time a jet went by, cutting a trail across the perfect blue skies, we both started laughing. The beauty of it surprised us. That afternoon it was the same. I watched the ripples of water on the pond and started laughing. Yesterday morning I stepped outside, looked left at the sun rising over the IM fields and started laughing. Everything is glinting and sparkling and glowing and in motion. Even the planet that we're standing on is spinning, twirling in a lilting way through the universe. Even right this moment, on the floor in my messy wreck of a room drinking lukewarm coffee with cold feet looking out at white skies with Shannon and Wesley both sleeping on the beds. (side note: I don't know why, but people frequently show up at my door and ask if they can take naps in my room, and considering how strangely uncomfortable and self-conscious human beings are about falling asleep in the presence of others, I'm hoping that this trend is a good indication of my character. Or perhaps just a quirk. But in truth, odd as it sounds: I have always wanted to be the welcoming kind of person around whom people feel safe falling asleep.) Just think about the complexities and harmonies of human voices! Just the thought makes me laugh in surprise. This weekend I heard the testimonies and asked for the stories of a lot of girls on campus that I don't get to talk to on a regular basis. I wondered how many other stories, how many other souls I have overlooked. It reminds me of that Willa Cather quote: "Sometimes a neighbor whom we have disliked a lifetime for his arrogance and conceit lets fall a single commonplace remark that shows us another side, another man, really; a man uncertain, and puzzled, and in the dark like ourselves." The world is covered in people in a hundred different shades of pride and self-expression and ambition and conviction. More Willa Cather: "The heart of another is a dark forest, always, no matter how close it has been to one's own." My floor is covered in paper and magazine clippings and pictures in a hundred different shades of color. I'm exhausted and haven't showered, yet life never ceases to be beautiful. Things are slipping into and out of place in perfect chaotic order, and every moment of this day has been written into it for all of infinity. Psalm 77 has been on my heart all weekend: "You are the God who works wonders." I heard frogs this week, and flew kites, and made art, and wrote papers, and scribbled in margins, and walked barefoot, and ran through mud, and watched stars come out one by one, and peeled oranges. God worked these things into existence and inwrote beauty and wonder in them. Therefore I never want to take for granted the way you laugh in surprise, the way your hands move, the way the sun feels on my face the second it comes out from behind a cloud. I never want to take for granted color and words and the underlying love and admiration that I can see in your face when you look at me sleepily. I never want to take for granted the relief in your voice when you say hello to me. I never want to take for granted the self-forgetting passion that rises in the voices of my professors when they start ranting on the importance of a single sentence. Grace has taught me to laugh in surprise. I hope to heaven that I don't miss another second of this life. "My hair smells of the wind and I move about this earth with a healthy disbelief." God works wonders.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Life continues to be:
Strawberry popsicles.
The sound of frogs.
Sidewalk chalk.
Waking up this morning to see the sunrise even though I went to bed at 1.
Red fire hydrants.
Jet trails.
Frisbee at Lake Baw Beese.
Lessons about encouraging others even when I am not encouraged.
Reminders about choosing joy.
Thursday morning 7 o'clock peanut butter surprises.

Monday, March 15, 2010

[Clumsily] Growing into grace.

"She loves life and she lives it well / Her Savior shall proclaim Himself forever / I watch her, how she lives her life / So different from how I live mine / No equal in intensity / No rival in her passion / She is different / That smile wins me every time / Her laughter echoing with mine, eyes closed / Good day, bad, I can love her always / Never knew a love like this that never fluctuates." (Megan Moss)

I've been watching and learning from my mentors Sarah and Shannon throughout their senior year: little me walking in their huge footsteps. We've been involved in the Hillsdale Christian Fellowship together, I've had countless coffee dates with both of them, we've prayed together, I've cried with them, we've shared testimonies, they've kept me accountable. I once spent four hours on Sarah's roof with her spilling out my guts and listening to her talk about sovereignty in disbelief. These women have fought me--relentlessly--on every attitude and opinion I ever thought I held. They've challenged me to pursue Biblical womanhood since before I knew what that meant.

It startles me how far God has brought me from the place where I was six months ago. From barely attending church to genuinely thirsting after the Word. From resentment and indignation about Calvinist theology to this newfound humility and acceptance of God's sovereignty. From indifference about marriage and family to actively preparing my heart for my future responsibilities as a wife and mother. From scrambling to figure out "where I stood" on marriage and manhood and womanhood to pursuing the Biblical model that I stubbornly rejected for so long.

I could go on and on and on. I am definitely not the person I planned to become. On the contrary, I still have selfish moments when I wonder whether this is really "me." And, to be honest, it's not. It's not me. It's Christ. But, weighing all my options, I'd rather be like Christ.

Today I realized something: at the close of my freshman year, after six months of watching Sarah and Shannon live their lives, they are now watching me. This afternoon, as I brought Sarah up to speed on everything I've been thinking, out of the blue she told me to start praying for girls that I can disciple next year. She said that God has answered all her prayers for me, that I have exceeded her expectations, and that I inspire her. It blows me away. It's impossible to me that Sarah thinks I'm ready for this. Even after getting to know me and all my faults she still thinks I can fill her role on campus? Impossible.

Suddenly I have found that this mantle of Godly womanhood--something I barely realized only a few days ago that I even want--has already been thrown over me. I'm covered in grace that doesn't fit right, grace too big for me, a reputation too good for me, wisdom too wise for me, grace-filled footsteps that don't make sense when you understand that I have two left feet. I don't know what to do with what I've been given. I don't know how to fill Sarah and Shannon's roles. I don't know how to be like Christ. I am startled to realize who I am suddenly preparing myself--who Sarah and Shannon have been preparing me--who God has been planning for me all along--to be. I am dumbfounded when it comes to how that will look like in my life.

God's about to show me.

"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." -Hebrews 4:16

("She loves life and she lives it well / Her Savior shall proclaim Himself forever")

Monday, March 8, 2010

Be Engedi.

I was reading Song of Solomon this weekend, when the woman refers to her lover as Engedi.

Engedi is an oasis.

That single verse, that single word, knocked the wind out of me and captured my imagination. I want to be that. I want to be a fresh, secure oasis even when the rest of life is a desert. Especially in the context of marriage. I want to be that one safe place, overflowing with grace and laughter and restfulness and respect and wisdom and encouragement and inspiration and joy and and risk and wonder and surprises and adventure. By the grace of God and as much as humanly possible, I want to be his Engedi.

In the meantime, I've been throwing my heart at Christ. Recklessly. Relentlessly. And that is what I want to do every hour of every day for the rest of my life.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What I Thought I Wanted.

A lot of my plans have gone askew these past 10 days. Papers didn't work out so well. A piano performance opportunity that I wanted so much it hurt went to someone else. I got a job as an RA in a dorm that I had never even really heard of before I stepped inside for my interview. Just things like that.

And I will make no pretense that I have been enduring all of these mild disappointments with perfect joy and contentment. I wish I could say that, but I am not sanctified gracefully. However, I've been praying for joy and inspiration and God has given it over to me in abundance. I am genuinely excited for the rest of this semester, my sophomore year, and even this summer. I keep finding myself excited about the challenges ahead, the setbacks that will humble me, and experiences that will test and refine my dependence on Christ. That attitude is all God. Not me. Today I can say: I am thankful for everything that God has handed me these past few weeks. Truly thankful.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Make me aware.

I've been stripped of all distractions.
I am rooted in The Now.
Now I am knowingly and willingly compelled to pour myself into the needs and opportunities and people whom God has carefully and uniquely grafted into my life.
This week, I want to be aware of the beauty, joy, brokenness, wretchedness, opportunities, needs, wonder, deficiencies, abundance around me.
I want to sing and shout the Gospel at everything life throws my way.
Luke 19:40 has been screaming at me all week: "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."
Seriously, with all the talent and blessings and personality and opportunities that God has spontaneously handed me these past 18 years (and these past 6 months especially), when it comes to worshipping God I am not about to be outdone by rocks.

So be louder than the rocks.
Tell the Gospel with your life.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Storms, storms, & being still.

I've been thinking about my fight-or-flight tendency.

Something about me has been really missing thunderstorms. One of my favorite things to do--ever--is run outside in the middle of a really fierce, windy, relentless thunderstorm. I love the wildness of it all. It's untamed and brutal and all it's own. Thunderstorms don't care about you; they rush on in a fit of self-expression. My thunderstorm crush spills out into my everyday life too. I love the struggle. I like solving problems and manning up in the face of challenges. I feel alive when there's a battle to be won, a person to be won over, a problem to be fixed, brokenness to address. But in my prayer life I've noticed how fiercely God's teaching me how to be, not just to do. There's a time and place for fighting, but it's not at the foot of the Cross. God's teaching my heart peace. And I'm learning. Not gracefully, of course. I never learn gracefully. Peace isn't settling in slowly; it's ripping apart huge parts of my life and attitude and rebuilding it into something I've never seen before, at least not up close. I think I've seen this joy in other people's life--this joy dependent on Christ alone and not my own particular brand of happiness--but have never seen it in my own heart. It's there. Tiny, but growing. God's teaching me how to stay, and to fight the battles he gives me without feeling the need to go out and look for new ones, and also a little something about which way I'm running.

Here it is: I want to run toward things, not away from things. I don't want to run from commitment. I don't want to run from the easy path. I don't want to run from security. I don't want to run from consistency. I don't want to run from stability. I tend to, I think. And, yes, God will continue to call me away from those things. But if He's not, it's not my place to reject it. It's not my decision to run away from everything that looks remotely like it could last.

Even at my most unsure, I want to always be running toward the arms of Christ. Toward grace. I want to run into a deeper understanding of the Gospel.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Every time someone else's life falls apart, I go straight to Psalm 61. I've been praying through it a lot, thinking about last semester and this summer and all the challenges that it will hold for my trust and my ego:
"Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! For you, O God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. Prolong the life of the king; may his years endure to all generations! May he be enthroned forever before God; appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him! So will I ever sing praises to your name, as I perform my vows day after day."

This is going to sound childish: For a long time it frustrated me that we, as Christians, are only called to love God and obey His commands. Actually, it still frustrates me. Every time my dad goes on a business trip he says the same thing: "Goodbye. Be good. Use your time well." Once after I read through the Epistles I threw my Bible across the room and yelled "THAT'S IT? BE GOOD AND USE MY TIME WELL? THAT'S CHRISTIANITY?"

I wanted something flashier. Something dangerous. Something adventurous. Saving the world. Martyrdom. Something challenging. Something that suited my personality and fed my ego and made me strong and showcased my tenacity and didn't challenge my pride in any way.

Waiting on God is the hardest thing that my little, gritty, embittered self will ever do. Yes, I still want to get my hands dirty and minister to the people up Capitol Hill and in the backalleys of Chicago. I still want to lead. I still want to fight. I still want to take big personal risks for the sake of something bigger and more exciting than me. But ultimately, my life is not about how much I can handle. In fact, the Gospel itself is about the sin and brokenness that I could not, cannot, and will never be able to handle without the grace and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Every time I hear about more grief, more brokenness, more disillusionment, more despair, I think: "I want to fix this. Yet I'm helpless." And Psalm 61 reminds me: "Duh. That's the point."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Behold, I am of small account.

So often it catches me off guard to learn, once again, that I'm not in control. I'm not in control of the brokenness in the lives around me. I'm not even in control of my own heart. There is a distinction between not being a slave to my emotions and being completely in control of them. I am certainly not the latter. No one is. Yet every single day, I react as though I should be. With me it's always a textbook case of lack of trust in God: I react like a normal person, overreact to the fact that I just reacted ("holy CRAP, I'm human!"), and then slap myself in the face for the reaction and the overreaction. But the real deal is, beneath the insanity of how that just sounded, I need to trust my heart to God. Not just my future. Not just my faith. Not just my education. Not just my relationships. My emotions too. I really get Job in chapter 40: "Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further."

God, I'm all Yours. Including my painfully dumb way of reacting to things on a daily basis.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

I'm being taught the art of promise-making.

(should you be blown back /
know that I will always run to greet you /
still surprised to catch you /
every time.)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

When you get out of bed at 6AM after a night of insomnia thinking "Oh well, I'm too cool for sleep" you know you have a pride issue.

Last night I looked through my journal from highschool and found a 7-page list entitled "Why Insomnia Is A Blessing." It helped calm my heart. Here are some the best ones.
- Have you ever heard silence so deep?
- Ample time to create playlists.
- God is keeping you awake for a reason.
- Time enough to pray for every single person in your life. By name: first AND last. Probably time enough to pray for their moms too.
- Most people live their lives without any appreciation for the art of common things. They rush, rush, rush until the last moments. Only at that final hour do they pause to look at their life and replay conversations and embed faces and memories in their minds. Right now you get 6 extra hours of remembrance that no one else gets.
- After the days most steeped in pride, God's giving you this humbling thought: sleeping is one thing I can't do.
- Your restlessness speaks of dependence.
- In this infinite sleeplessness I am finite.
- O weary head, lean on Christ.

.count it all joy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You know I'm trying to love beyond my years.

Saying no to things I was always meant to need.
(Like saying what we mean.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


photo by Kristin Manson.

Monday, February 8, 2010


(I've been writing mini cop-out posts because I'm still writing out the REAL one. I know...)

Insomnia happened last night.
I didn't sleep even a little bit and read 1, 2, 3 John all night long. My alarm went off at 6:20 and I prayed for joy. I've been praying for joy every morning this semester and I love seeing it grow in my heart. I skipped breakfast to read Plato, and prayed for Jack, Sam, Elena, Shannon, and Mary on the way up from Olds. There was an index card signed "love" at the bottom and a lemon poppyseed muffin sitting on my desk in Heritage. I postponed lunch to have a long imperfect conversation with Travis. I think it will lead to good things. I called my mom to talk about some worries and just to hear her tell me to chill out. (Mom, I love you.) I walked under blue skies to Central Hall to pick up Shannon and found Shannon, Eric, and Jack instead. Jack gave me an orange. Shannon and I had a lunch date and held hands. I waited outside of Mary's class to make sure I got the chance to talk with her. We read 1 John together and were ridiculous all the way back to Olds, where I did a little papermaking. My entire hall has been in and out of my dorm room all afternoon.

I like days like this. Everything happens all at once and everyone is around and I'm doing everything at the same time. I don't have time to second-guess myself or doubt or be tired or take a nap: I only have time to live, and pray, and speak truth, and confess oversights, and make beauty in coffee mugs and envelopes, and then trust the rest to God's sovereign will.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Oh my talking bird, I'll love you all your days.

Somehow I don't think that this--this way that I am living--is what trust in God is supposed to look like.

I'm afraid of losing the people I love. I'm afraid of being broken again. I'm afraid of becoming complacent. I'm angry at myself for my lack of trust. I'm discouraged by this constant. struggle. This. constant. tension. Yes, yes, I know: it's just human nature. My inability to trust God and other people is in-born. Trust and selflessness and love only come through grace. I know all that, but there's a little bitter part of my heart that's telling God that He isn't working fast enough on my stubbornness, on my pride, on my doubt.

Tonight I walked out of Unite, completely out of character, and went to sit in the westernmost stairwell to read some Psalms (46, 55, 61, 62, 86, 130, 131) and think: God, I am not my own.

I am not my own. I'm Christ's. Yours, all Yours. I'm Yours. I'm all Yours. I don't belong to my past or my present or my future. I don't belong to my friends or my family or my future family. I am not owned by my emotions, doubts, fears, worries, concerns. I am not owned by my frustration with my own sin and humanity.

I am not my own.

And I want my heart to know that. I want my feet to know it when I walk and my lungs to know it when I run. I want my hand to know it when it's holding someone else's. I want my soul to know that I am not my own. I want the world to know it too.

All Yours.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My cactus is dying.

This does not bode well for my future kids.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

(Can't get it out of my head.)

My mom mailed me a cactus.

I got it today. It has a few casualties: some missing spines. Jack gave it to me from the top shelf of the mailroom. He knew it was probably my cactus because the box was covered in, and filled with, dirt. Shannon and I had an emergency rescue mission for it. I convinced her to steal some dirt from the poinsettia on the window sill in the Union. There were still gracefully uneven lines of snow on the window panes. She walked up to me with a fistful of dirt and the most sheepish look I've ever seen on her face. The cactus is sitting in its little clay pot on the coffee table next to my feet. Out of all the people who have stopped by my couch to talk to me, not one has asked why I have a cactus on the table. I was holding the cactus in my hand when I ordered my hot chocolate. I always feel as though I'm admitting how childish I am when I ask for whipped cream on my cocoa. I wink at the barista every time I do. It's sunny today, and the light is making patterns in creative angles all over the floor and bookshelves in the library. I like how the snow sparkles like stars.

Did you see all this beauty today? Or am I the only one?

*Revised: Samuel Ashmore asked me about it.

Notice these things.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


And everybody's falling apart,
You said it doesn't haunt you like it haunts me
That everybody's falling apart.
But you said: 'I'll be there when you wake up from this dream,
When you turn your life into a story.
And I'll tell every ghost, everyone that I see
I'm waiting here, I'm ready for you.
I'm waiting here, I'm ready for you.'

(I'll tell you how the sun rose
A ribbon at a time.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Snap your fingers.

Sometimes it unsettles me when things click into place: when no fighting is required.

When your heart is tuned to calamity, stillness can throw you off. I learned a lot about brokenness in high school. Now I am learning a lot about wholeness. But it's not easy. Contentment scratches against something deep inside my heart. And every few days, I get the itch to run. To purposely fail when things get too easy. To distance myself from people for fear they'll walk out on me. To abandon friendships that are growing too close.

I don't know why.

Lately I've been instructing my heart to pay attention to the little still moments of the day, reminding myself that, yes: I like this life I'm living. Doing laundry. Making coffee for my roommate. Editing papers. Checking off assignments. Studying alone and paying careful attention to the words strung together like a spiderweb. Better: studying with a good friend in a quiet library at midnight, punctuating the silence with low-voiced questions and answers. The silence between our individual prayers on Wednesday afternoons in the basement of Lane. Falling asleep to the sound of my roommate and a friend of ours laughing on the floor of our dorm room. Meticulously peeling oranges and the lingering citrusy smell on my hands. Index cards signed "Love" at the bottom.

All these things tell me to stay.
All these things keep me from running.
After all, perhaps God is holding me in this peaceful place for a reason.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I've been learning how to see.

How to see stars in cloudy light-polluted Chicago skies. How to see God's glory in my own suffering. How to see love in other people's criticism of me. How to see beauty in the funk. How to see grace in daily life.

(I was born blind.)

On Saturday night I walked through the streets of Chicago with a song in my head, keeping a conversation running about love and marriage and purpose and grace. And I started to have a vision of what I want my life to look like. I've never invested much time or energy or trust in my future, but everything that I have learned since August has given me something foreign to my skeptic's heart: hope.

So now I'm figuring out what I want my life to look like. Who do I want to be? What kind of woman? What kind of wife? What kind of servant? What kind of leader? I'm also figuring out how best to prepare my heart to become all these things.

I don't know what's in store. I know it will be challenging, full of loss, and full of pain more often than not. That's how life is. But I know that God is sovereign. And I know that He whispers grace to us in order to shout His glory. So I know that life will be good.

And I want it to be beautiful. .photos by shannon mckendrick odell.