Dear Little Gray House

IMG_0060Dear Little Gray House,

I imagine you’ll have a name one day. We’ll affectionately call you by your moniker, saying, “Remember that time the kitchen of the _________ house flooded?” or “Remember that Christmas in the _________ house, when we forgot to turn the oven on?” Or something. I don’t really know.

My point is this: one day, you will be familiar.

As it stands, I can’t remember the precise shape of your bedrooms, so I’m having trouble deciding which furniture to drag halfway across the country.

I am nervous about tripping down the basement stairs, because I haven’t yet memorized the pitch of the steps or the feeling of the railing in my hand.

I don’t yet know which light switch belongs to which bulb, so I won’t be able to find my way in the dark.

All that will come eventually, I know.

In the meantime, there is so much I hope for you.

May your carpets be warm enough and your windows thick enough to shelter us poor Floridians from the Michigan winter.

May I stand on your porch and wave to a neighbor whose name and story are familiar to me.

May I reach into the mailbox and find Christmas cards and letters, return addresses from Tampa and Orlando and Grand Rapids and all over.

May we fill your bedrooms and hallways with the laughter of little ones.

May I look out the back window and watch my son running around, over green spring grass and crunchy fall leaves and icy winter snow.

May our couch and your floor and our beds be welcoming and inviting places for guests who have travelled a long way.

May we enjoy many a college football game and Downton Abbey episode in your living room.

May the bookshelves be overflowing, may the crock pot be warm, and may grace always be prayed aloud around the dinner table.

Can you do all that for me, little house?

Can you be a safe place for my family? Can you help me feel at home within your walls, ugly linoleum and all?

I’m hopeful,

Lindsey

It’s hard to wrap up.

I came to Starbucks this afternoon because I really needed to cross some stuff off my to-do list: write web site content, schedule volunteers, send some emails. I wasn’t getting much done in the office, so I thought a change of scenery might help. Instead, I’m still kind of just flitting aimlessly between browser tabs.

It’s hard for me to focus on much of anything, these days, with changes coming at me from every corner. I move between reading a book, flipping through a magazine, washing dishes, playing with Ian, watching a t.v. show, talking to Evan, texting a friend. I quickly switch back and forth amongst these tasks, forgetting to finish most of them.

It’s not an ideal way to live, but it seems like if I wrap things up, I have to move on.

If I pack all my dishes, it must mean we are actually moving.

If I finalize a dinner date with a friend, it might mean it’s the last time we will sit across from one another at one of my favorite Orlando spots.

If I send all my e-mails today, it will mean it’s the last time I will share announcements with my volunteer team.

My eyes are welling up just thinking about it.

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On Friday, I drove home from Disney World with my dear, dear friends, and we talked about our big dreams. Big dreams are usually accompanied by big fears, I’m realizing, and sure enough–we had ‘em. Each of us wrestled with what it would mean to move on from this place, to pack our bags and go somewhere different, to consider the ramifications of that. My friend Melissa said that when she thinks about God’s people in Scripture, He almost always has them on the move.

I hadn’t thought about it before, but as I’ve considered it, I’m realizing how very, very true that is.

Abraham picked up his family and went to the place God would show them, tents and cattle in tow. Moses & and the Israelites walked through the wilderness, pillars of fire and cloud to mark the path. Noah traversed the oceans when ocean was all there was. The disciples went with Jesus, both rowing and walking across the Sea of Galilee. Peter, Paul, and their friends scattered across the known world. Many of them never knew where they were going. When they worried too much about pinning a final destination down on the map, God reminded them, “That’s really not the point.”

I want to boldly take steps forward, but I admit I leave Orlando timidly. Still, as I’ve reminded myself in the past, I can be brave even when I don’t feel ready because courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to move forward in spite of it. Maybe my spirit of adventure will show up somewhere en route to Grand Rapids. I’m not sure. But I know I can trust God to walk with me along the way, and I know He’s a God who leaves no loose ends.

I don’t know how people can ever stand to say good-bye without the hope of Heaven and the reality of the kingdom we’re all a part of anyway, regardless of our zipcode.

It’s time to hit “send” on some emails.

*image via

On Moving On

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I’ve known for awhile now that writing is how I process, how I figure out what I’m feeling and thinking. Sometimes, when I am not totally ready to deal with something, I avoid writing about it. But, when I won’t write about THE BIG THING, I find it almost impossible to write about anything else. It’s like a self-imposed writer’s block.

I think, “I want to write,” but don’t, and chalk it up to being busy, needing to focus, having no time. Let’s call all that what it is: an excuse.

I haven’t been writing because I haven’t been ready to fully embrace what’s ahead for us.

I’m learning that it’s downright bad for me to do this. (I’m a little slow on the uptake, sometimes.)

So.

It’s time to write about Grand Rapids.

A few months ago, Evan’s professor started pushing him to consider completing his PhD by the spring or summer, rather than a full year or two from now as we had planned for. It seemed like a long shot, but Evan started looking for jobs anyway. At the beginning of the year, he found a job posting that seemed appealing: a primary investigator with the career path Evan hoped for and research he found fascinating. He applied. He heard back almost immediately, completed a series of phone interviews, and towards the end of January, flew up for a face-to-face interview. He spent two days meeting with over 12 faculty members, including some of the biggest names in this field he hopes to break into.

They offered him the job before he left that day.

Before he left for the interview, we knew that if offered the job, he would take it. It was too good an opportunity to pass up. So, in the course of a month, we discovered that we’d be uprooting our lives from Orlando, Florida to Grand Rapids, Michigan.

When people ask me how I’m feeling about this, I usually just talk about the weather, because beyond that, I’m not really sure how I’m feeling. I am feeling a lot of things.

I am excited for Evan, because this is a phenomenal opportunity.

I am proud of him. He has been studying and researching at UCF for almost ten years, and to complete a PhD is a big flipping deal. He deserves this.

I am eager to explore Grand Rapids more. The city is full of local restaurants, awesome coffee shops, microbreweries, and neighborhoods with character. Everywhere you go, you hear “local first,” and I love that. It seems like a city we will be well-suited to.

I am happy to wear scarves and boots with good reason.

I am heartbroken to leave my job.

I am confused about why God would give me the position I had hoped for for so long, only to take it away a few short months later.

I am excited to have an extra 40 hours (or, let’s be honest, 50 or 60 hours…) a week to spend with Ian and on other passions.

I am afraid I will be bored as a stay-at-home mom.

I am all over the place.

I love the life we’ve built in Orlando. We have a community of friends we can trust and rely on; they know us and accept us and care for us well. We have a church in which we serve, where we’ve used our gifts and learned truth and served our community. We have a home that’s cozy and comfortable and feels like our own. Recently, someone asked me to imagine what Ian’s life might look like in light of his faith, and truthfully, a lot of what I imagined for Ian is just what our life looks like now.

Because of all that, leaving feels like a very great loss. Is it right to mourn a city? To mourn a period of time? To mourn something I haven’t even lost yet?

At the same time, I am resolutely certain that Grand Rapids is our next right step. I haven’t doubted it for a moment. Evan has worked hard, he deserves this, and by God’s grace, I will love him well through to process. I also feel the gentle, quiet nudge of Jesus saying, “Time to get of your comfort zone, friend. Time to lean into me.”

I opened up a book today, totally unrelated to any of this, and read this in the very first paragraph: “On this journey I have been regularly accompanied by disappointment and hope, two companions that have worked together to push me onward.”

Yes, I am disappointed to leave my job and leave our home here, but it’s taken me a few weeks to realize that’s ok. It means our life here is full and good. Maybe the mourning is, in and of itself, a manner of rejoicing & thanksgiving. Perhaps if I wasn’t sad, it would mean I didn’t sufficiently appreciate these gifts. At the same time, I have so much hope for what our life in Grand Rapids might be.

Hope and disappointment are not opposites, and they are not contradictory. They can both exist, together, helping me rejoice, give thanks, and move on.

Even if moving on means loading up a U-Haul and heading way, way, way north.

Grand Rapids, here we come.

I Had to Share: February 2015

Evan bought me the most beautiful tulips for Valentines Day. Tulips make my heart happy.
Evan bought me the most beautiful tulips for Valentines Day. Tulips make my heart happy.

Some of the wonderful stuff I read on the internet last month:

On Calling, Direction, and Moving Forward (which I am thinking about a lot lately, because I am leaving my job in just a few short weeks, and I don’t know how to feel about it.)

“The Surprising Truth About Finding My Calling” by Emily Freeman

“When Way Closes” by Parker Palmer

“You’re Never Going to be Fully Ready” by Shauna Niequist for Storyline

On Minimalism & Essentialism & Decision Fatigue (which I have also been thinking about lately, as many of my friends know, but I should probably start writing about it soon)

“Spending Time” from Design for Mankind: “If I have learned anything from the rat race – both our grandmothers’ and our own – it is that I no longer believe time can be saved if it is not later more wisely spent; if it is not kept, and held, and treasured. If it is not carried, weighty in our hands, worn as a backpack for exploration or inspiration, adventure or action, service or surrender.”

“7 ways I’m minimizing decision fatigue in my daily life” by Modern Mrs. Darcy

Miscellaneous:

“Why I’m doing something I don’t like doing today,” from Jon Acuff.  “Want a grateful 16 year old? Teach a 6 year old gratitude and give him 10 years to practice.” Boom.

“26 worst things that can happen to a book lover” via BuzzFeed.  (This is not on the list, but: one time in college, I was eating my lunch while studying in the library, and I spilled my salad dressing into my backpack, which included a book I was borrowing from my sister. Yup.)

Moleskine Photo Notebook from Paislee Press: You guys. One of you out there knew that Moleskine made photo books and did not tell me. How rude.

Psalm 1: Walk, Stand, or Sit

Blessed is the one

who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither–

whatever they do prospers.

     —Psalm 1:1-3

Normally, I get a little bit queasy whenever Scripture starts mentioning “the wicked.” It’s no secret that I’m a grace person rather than a truth person, which I think is a desperate attempt to compensate for the legalism of my past. Admittedly, I cringe when I read “the wicked,” because I would hate for someone to read that and assume that God doesn’t love them, labeling them as a evil with a broad stroke.

But, as always, when I sit down to my journaling Bible with a pen in hand, I pay better attention and realize there’s far more to see and consider than I initially realized. I’ve come to understand that there’s more for me to learn when I stop asking, “What would other people think if they read this?” and ask, “What does God want to say to me today?” And when I asked that question, I found myself reading these 3 brief verses over and over and over again, because they had so much to say.

Walk.

Stand.

Sit.

I’d like to think that I’m not someone who “walks in step with the wicked.” I’d like to think that I pursue justice and mercy and humility: after all, I sponsor a kid and I shop local and I don’t cuss (except for, admittedly, the one 4 letter word I tend to say when I get scared for cut off in traffic) and I try to be nice to people. Walking I understand. It implies action, participation, movement in a certain direction.

But you know what? David doesn’t say I only need to avoid walking with the wicked.

I’m not even supposed to sit in their company. Even my passivity can implicate me in their schemes.

I’m wondering: where am I sitting in the company of wickedness? What areas of my life are ruled by passivity and apathy and ignorance, separating me in some way from the building of God’s kingdom?

When I consider those questions, I know, deep down and with conviction, that YES—I choose passivity often.

  • I don’t pay much attention to where my clothes are manufactured or by whom, almost always choosing cheap over ethical. 
  • I eat chocolate and drink coffee without consideration for the men and women (or, God forbid, children) who harvested it.
  • When grocery shopping, I normally choose convenience and affordability over sustainability.
  • I pay lots of attention to non-profits and organizations doing good work around the world, but I rarely participate, donate, or engage.

And so I wonder: am I complicit?

When Jesus was walking and talking among us, He did not sit around with His fisherman friends philosophizing and pontificating on the injustice and depravity of the world around them. No. He was a man of action. He walked among those who needed to know they are loved, He embraced the ignored and despised. He had dinner with sinners. He healed and comforted and served.

I’m recognizing that my complacency is as meaningful as blatantly walking in the wrong direction. I’m sitting in the company of the wicked, not necessarily intentionally participating but doing little to slow the tide of evil or destruction or injustice.

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Make Space to Rejoice

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“Are you Catholic now or something?”

My mom and I were on the phone a Wednesday afternoon four years ago, and she asked about my plans for the evening.

“Going to an Ash Wednesday service at church,” I told her. Admittedly, it was the first time I was going to attend such a service, and I was uneasy about what it would entail. I grew up in a church that wasn’t particularly innovative —there were Christmas productions and VBS and a sinner’s prayer without fail—but I think, at the very least, they wanted to appear modern. I never once sang a hymn—not even “Amazing Grace”—until I was a college student. A college friend of mine attended with me one Sunday while visiting and after service said, “Well, that was trendy.”

In that environment, no mention was ever made of the church calendar.

I knew of Lent only because of Erin and Amethyst, my two Catholic friends. They abstained from chocolate or soda and the like each spring. Occasionally (though not often), I’d see people walking around the grocery store with ashes on their foreheads. But that was that.

During the spring of my freshman year, my community group leader, Sandy, told us she would be fasting during Lent and asked if we’d like to participate. I remember sitting on the floor, leaning against Joelle’s big gray couch, as Sandy explained what this meant to her. I think she was giving up Facebook that year and told us, “Each time I want to sign on, I’ll pray instead. I’ll think about Jesus and try drawing closer to Him.” This was my introduction to fasting: simple and profound.

Don’t we often overcomplicate these things? We make rules about the days and times when it is or isn’t acceptable to indulge, and we can’t sign off social media without changing our profile pictures and publishing a few status updates first. I overcomplicate things by riddling them with “should” and a fear of failure so strong, it’s easier to never even give it a shot. I choose to give up what makes me feel guilty, and I believe the lie that a “successful” fast will earn me more favor with God. I talk myself in and out of things depending on the day, and I’m rarely motivated by the simple and easy and graceful yoke of Christ.

This year, I’m reattempting the fast I started for Lent last spring. I only made it 2 days last year before throwing in the towel, and in the sense of full disclosure, I’m not doing so great this year either. I don’t think it’s because I’ve chosen something particularly difficult, but it is an area of my life where I lack self-discipline, and it’s an area I’ve felt convicted about for a long time.

Richard Foster says that in pursuing a discipline like fasting, “the primary requirement is a longing after God.” That’s what I’m hoping for this Lenten season: a greater and deeper longing after God. I want to miss Him the way I miss Ian when he’s off at daycare: with an ache in my heart and thoughts that quickly return to Him throughout the day.

Truthfully, though, I’m too easily distracted for this. I’m derailed by to-do lists and push notifications and appointments and traffic. I’m caught up going to work or making dinner or playing with Ian. If I’m not careful, my days get away from me, and before long, entire seasons have flown by.

I love paying attention to the church calendar because it necessitates that I stop and ask, “God, what are You up to today? What have You been using this day to teach me, just has You’ve used it in the Church for hundreds of years?”

Lent asks me to consider my own sin, mortality, and need for the Cross, so by nature it’s humbling, quiet, and downright somber. Still, I love this season because it helps me make space in my life for joy. I can’t rejoice on Easter if I haven’t first acknowledged my very real need for the Cross, the ways in which I’m prone to wander, and the fact that without the resurrection, I’m simply lost. But if I don’t ever intentionally pause, life will keep moving, and I’ll mindlessly flip to the next calendar page without once stopping to ask what it all means.

By fasting, I decide to remove excess and distraction to make more room for Jesus. Less than 40 days from now, He will die a very real death and be buried in a very real tomb of my own making, and I don’t want to forget it. Because then…

Then comes the morning, the rejoicing, the astonishing wonder of a risen Man.

I don’t want to miss it. I’m making space.

I just had to share! (January 2015)

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I’m taking today to share some of things I’ve been loving lately.

Listen:

The Longest Shortest Time: I subscribed to this podcast a long time ago (just before she launched her Kickstarter, and before WNYC picked it up), but I just recently started listening to more episodes. The stories told are universal, and it has super high production quality. But more than that, can I just say HOORAY for parenting-related content that is targeted to both moms and dads, and enjoyable and relevant to parents of kids of all ages.

Spotify’s Winter Acoustic Playlist: You don’t need me to tell you that Florida’s winter is a sorry excuse for the season. The weather doesn’t cooperate, and I catch myself jumping to Spring right after the new year: spring colors, spring decorating, spring cleaning. I’ve been trying to stay more in tune with the rhythm of the seasons, and so I’m trying to hang on to winter. This playlist helps.

See:

ESPN’s tribute to Stuart Scott: I guess it’s a bit late to share this now, but if you didn’t watch ESPN’s 15-minute tribute to the life and work of Stuart Scott, you should.

The Best Photographs of 2014, according to The Guardian: These photos are awe-inspiring and heartbreaking. Come, Lord Jesus.

Read:

Burn the Candles, from Shauna Niequist.

How I Plan to Stay Sane on the Internet in 2015, from Emily Freeman.

A Surprising thing that creates the best kind of freedom, from Tsh Oxenreider.

Geese, by Faith Shearin.

Other Good Stuff:

Ali Edwards’ One Little Word workshop: This workshop helped me keep my word front and center last year, and it pushed my creativity. I’m not taking it again this year because I actually still have content from 2014 I want to work through, but I highly recommend it.

On The Nester’s recommendation, I just ordered these stainless steel drinking straws. I’m taking my iced coffee game to the next level.

Speaking of iced coffee, if you live in Tampa, you need to go to Buddy Brew. They have iced coffee on tap, y’all. I haven’t stopped thinking about it for 2 weeks.