An open letter to summertime

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Dear Sweet Summertime,

The ease of waking up and the welcoming presence of a new day give me peace.

The freedom of laying in bed for way longer than necessary and no pressure to get up at a certain time.

The collection of colorful mugs of cold brew each morning, not those evil travel mugs and their symbols of hurry and busyness.

No make up, no hair brushing, and no contacts for as long as I want.

The uncovering of emotions that I forgot I had because it was nestled safely underneath the more glaring issues of children and parents and learning.

The space in you brain to adequately reflect on the other areas of my life, such as the church group I lead.

The slow walks with Franklin and the quiet mornings watching him on the patio bark on birds.

The energy to enter hard conversations and let it take up my entire brain space.

The capacity to love others with greater awareness and intentionality.

The blank white space on my google calendar.

The quiet music playing from speakers filling the living room and dining room with its’ melodies.

Slow and careful handwriting across pages of journals writing whispers of prayers, shouts of joy, hidden dreams, and anything else that I want.

Hot summer afternoons spent by the pool with a good book and the smell of sun screen.

Vacations spent connecting with my husband and the memories to be made.

Sand between my toes, rhythms of ocean waves crashing with no plans of stopping, and a summer rain shower that makes sure you know there’s no such thing as a perfect day–but it was pretty close to perfect.

The constant process of relearning to relax, slow down, be still, and be present in each moment.

Summer, these are the reasons I love you.

But, I know you can’t stay forever.

Just, please go slowly.

 

You Have Nothing to Prove

Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard
Jennie Allen

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“The constant feeling that no matter how hard I try, I cannot be enough.”

You know a book has the potential to really wreck you, when you are looking at the cover already questioning the idea that is possible to NOT try so hard. This idea is so contrary to what I so often think and believe. I’m always trying to figure out ways that I can try harder. It’s in my nature. It’s who I am. Simultaneously, it plagues who I am and keeps who I am from actually living.

“I am not ________ enough.”

I remember uncovering this at my college ministry’s winter conference, Epic Anthology, my freshman year of college. The more I reflected on my life long walk with God, I realized how so much of my story was written with these words.

I remember sharing this visual as a youth leader, literally unpeeling the sticky notes of all of the traits I so easily grasped for and eventually revealing that I am actually not enough. In sending this message to teenagers who probably held some sort of idea that I had it all together, and to a group that I was constantly trying to prove my enough-ness to, I experienced the power in being transparent in my journey of letting Jesus be my “enough.”

“We strive to be seen, to be known, to matter.”

This could hold no more relevance to what I continue to struggle with. In my real life career, in my writing endeavors and passions, and in my relationships/friendships – I want to be seen, to be known, and to be matter. And, when I feel like any of these tenants are withering their way out of my hands, I feel a low grade anxiety that fizzles into panic the longer that I let it fester.

“Jesus is better than happy stories that work out perfectly.”

From my lengthiest memories dating back to childhood, I always felt like the stories that played out in my life fell short of a happy story that worked out perfectly. Although I got by, this falling short of perfection that my life seemed to have continued to nag at me. Why didn’t I have that picture perfect best friend that I could confide my adolescent years in? Why didn’t I have that picture perfect ugly duckling turning into beautiful swan story by the end of my high school years?

What I continue to see time and time again, is that I don’t need to have that picture perfect story. I don’t need to have a happy story where everything works out perfectly, because Jesus is better than all of that.

This is a truth that I am speaking to myself in depth today, as I battle what the future holds in these next months for Josh and I. This is a truth relevant to me each day as I wake up and wonder what the day will hold as a teacher – it certainly hasn’t been a perfect story working out perfectly like I had imagined. And you know what? That’s okay.

But, that’s so so so so so hard to believe.

This book spoke to me in ways that I am constantly trying to speak to myself.

Jennie’s words are the words of truth that myself and countless other people throughout the course of my life have been trying to tell me.

It was incredibly life-giving to have a book speak to me in a way of prose that my heart needed, and in a style that my literary brain is drawn to and appeals to.

The idea that I am not enough is indeed crushing at first, but freeing in my exploration of it. Jennie repeats the message of Jesus’ enough-ness on every page of the book, poignantly pointing to the cross with every word she speaks. Jesus is enough, so we don’t have to be.

This book is for the girl sitting on the sidelines, feeling invisible. It’s for the girl striving to be her best, but never actually being THE best at anything. It’s for the girl constantly trying to do better and be better, but never getting noticed. It’s for the man who feels like he doesn’t have enough ______ to support his family and be the leader, strength, and head that he is called to be. It’s for all of us who are clamoring to be heard, seen, recognized, significant, known — to matter.

I know this because I am this person. And if you’re being honest, you are probably this person too. 


I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers  book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

W is for Words

Words come slowly sometimes, and sometimes you have to let that happen. I can’t expect myself to crank out words on demand. They will come to me when they’re ready. Sometimes you can’t demand them to come two weeks before the deadline, and sometimes you have to wait until the night before your writing assignment is due to realize what you have meant to say all along.

Words come when they need to, often with a deep pounding of my heart, a tension in my shoulders, and a chill that run from my lungs to my mouth. My body steadies as my fingers race across the keyboard, desperate to record the words on the page before they run out or run away.

The real, true, good words that I need to come out of me will always come. But, not always (or ever!) right away. They come after I wrestle with others words that I force to come out of me. They come after I’ve sat through this struggle.

And, when the words come, they flow. Like an overflowing lava pit of feelings and insight. Like the swift overflow of tears that come upon you after you watch a sweet, sweet video of reunion and love. These words come quickly and swiftly and it’s a joy to be a writer in these moments.

It’s a gift to be a writer in these moments.

It’s a privilege to be a writer in these moments.

I never knew myself to be a writer until I realized that these moments come. They always come. I will them to come and they don’t. I pray for them to come, and they don’t. At least, not right away.

But, eventually, they do come. And all is okay. And the struggle was worth it. And posting something that I didn’t love writing or reading was worth it. Because the worth comes from not giving up. The worth comes from knowing that my best work is always ahead of me and that the work I’m doing today is today’s only chance of doing work.

V is for Victory

I wrote this sometime last year. I’m not sure when, but it must have been during the spring of my second year of teaching. I like this version of myself because it shows the highlights of the year and it shows me that life is not all bad. It makes me remember the small victories, and those are the most important of them all.

TLDR; Claim victory anyway. Search for it, find it, and claim it. You can find it in almost any situation.

Can we just be real for a second? There were and there are days where I resent God for this calling. I remember crying hysterically days before my 2nd year of teaching began, just realizing how upset I was that God gave me this calling. I’ve questioned it. Mentally run from it. Lashed out in anger because of it.

But, in the past few weeks, I seem to be finding my footing again. Inspiration is on the horizon. Dare I say, even excitement?

Today, I praise God for this calling that has stretched beyond what I ever imagined, challenged me beyond my own strength, convicted me of the sin within, shown me parts of myself I never knew existed, given me a good dose of reality and awareness of my smallness. I praise God for the fire and how He’s walked me through it, despite all the kicking and screaming I’ve done. And, that is more literal than one might expect. What an honor to be disciplined in this way, said my friend Sharon. And maybe God’s not taking this trial away anytime soon, but maybe I can walk in peace & joy in that anyway. Do I want my life and my days to go back to being easy? Stress-free? Relaxing?

YES. YES FOR THE SUMMER. But, for the other 9 months of the year. My days are filled with tears that aren’t my own, shouts for approval, acceptance, and love. Repeating myself for the hundred millionth time. Demanding that kids take risks, while also quietly knowing that I must do so also.

So, today I walk forward in victory because I know that at least in this one snapshot, I am rising above the waters. I have built a small kayak for myself and I’m ready to start paddling. I’m ready to start dreaming, vision-casting, and hoping. I’m ready to take steps of inspiration & risk. I’m ready to map it out, dream it up, and live it.

I hope that today you are able to see the small victories in your life. Maybe it looks like being happier today than you were yesterday. Maybe it looks like going on a 1 mile run even though you always swear that you hate running, but at the same time you know that it’s the only thing that is going to make your body feel better. Maybe it looks like going the extra mile in your job even though your job is kicking your butt already and you feel nothing but tired of it. Maybe it means texting a friend and connecting in a fun and surprising way. Maybe it means doing those small responsibilities that you’ve been putting off.

I don’t know what it looks like for you today, but I know it’s there. Somewhere. Hidden away. Waiting for you to find it. Go find it.

Q is for Quiet

My clarinet teacher used to tell me, “You’re so talented, but nobody would ever know that.” Or, some variation on that message.

I think this was a compliment, but also a comment at my lack of confidence in myself. Josh and I recently had a conversation about this, too. He mentioned that the reason that I don’t receive as much recognition as my colleagues is probably because I don’t draw attention to the things that I do. And, it’s true. I don’t draw attention to what I’m doing, I mostly hide. And, I mostly hide because maybe I fear criticism more than I long for praise.

Josh mentioned this again when I was sharing an idea that I had. He encouraged me to tell the other people involved, but I told him I didn’t want to. I told him that I’d rather him just suggest it. And, he brought back to my mind the words of my clarinet teacher. He told me that nobody will ever know of the good ideas that I have unless I’m the one sharing them.

But, I mostly want to hide. It’s safer to hide.

Growing up, my family thought that I was the loud, outgoing one. But, I always remember being the quiet girl at school. I was quiet because I was scared of other people and what they might think of me. I was quiet because I was scared to be wrong. I was quiet because it took so much energy and nerve to speak out.

I’m not always quiet, but it is a comfy, security blanket that I often pull over me when I get scared or tired. When I get scared, I get quiet.

I don’t think being quiet is a bad thing. I think there is strength in being quiet.  Susan Cain delivered a powerful TED talk about this idea of the power of introverts. She has also written a book about this concept. She gives way to affirming the style of thinking, processing, and connecting that an introvert has juxtaposed to a world that is made for extroverts.

I don’t think that being quiet is bad thing, and I don’t know that my talents remaining hidden or out of the spotlight is necessarily a bad thing. I don’t want to share my ideas, talents, or gifts for the sake of recognition. I also don’t want to hide them for the fear of criticism. And, I certainly don’t want to be in a state of hiding that the ideas, talents, and gifts that I have are not maximized to their full potential.

I think that there is a way to use my quietness as a strength, but I’m just not sure what that looks like yet. What do you think?