faith like a child

As a child, I was spared much pain and disappointment. Spared loneliness and judgment, heartache and anger. I was clueless and carefree; climbing trees, imagining, inventing. I lived in the place between fantasy and reality, where faith is plenty and failure is none.

I wrote all the time, poetry and prose. Words came often and quickly, and I frantically penned them… Even through college and for a while after. Then a couple silent years, and I returned to writing with my newfound voice: the discovery of grace and how it broke me, recreated me.

So here I sit broken again, in need of grace so that I may give it. But in need of answers because: no longer a child. Harder to make space for faith — less fantasy — more failure.

And yet.

Grief has a cruel way of helping us feel more human. Disappointment often lends itself to realization, and devastation precedes hope. Where faith can’t be found quite yet, grace painfully holds a place for it.

My new home.

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a year for the books – or the blog

In the year of 2012, I traveled, danced, got engaged, left my job, (slowly) moved out, got married, (slowly) moved in, taught dance, started a new job, started another new job, and learned a lot. I even blogged a few times. Following the lead of a couple sweet friends I treasure and admire, I decided to reflect on the year and jot down various (with no rhyme or reason) observations I’ve made about myself and my life.

// It has become clear to me that I only have 2 gears. I am either nonstop… or all stop. My dog and I are similar in this way. No, really. My husband often compares us (our personalities, of course), and he is not exactly wrong to do so. I am easily excitable and usually full of energy. Until I’m not. Until I’m exhausted and good for nothing and passing out curled up in a ball somewhere – anywhere.

// Longtime friends of mine may disagree with me on this next one, which is understandable, because it’s taken me 26 years to figure this out for myself. But, extraverted: I am not. I am finally sure of this and okay with it, too. I may appear to be such, around certain people given certain circumstances, but I am very much in need of alone time and space to regroup and refresh. The older I get (sooo ooollld!), the more I feel quiet, shy, and serious. Very much the opposite of how my personality is usually perceived, and yet, very much the honest truth.

// It is rare that I start a project and finish it, too. At some point this year, for about a week, I wrote some movie reviews that I was really proud of. I decided to continue doing this, as I am quite a movie snob – sorry, film snob – but I churned out a few good ones and then never again. When Richard and I tied the knot, I decided I should start to tackle this thing called cooking. Richard has since said that “the first few days of marriage were really awesome!” Meaning, the cooking thing didn’t take. If it weren’t for my mom and Tracey Rouse, I am not sure I would have even finished planning my own wedding…

// In 2012, I learned that the word “fiancé” is a really weird word to say (and I studied French for 5 years). Then I learned that “husband” is weird, too (and I’ve spoken English my whole life). But most certainly “fiancé” is weirder.

// I used to constantly write. Poems, journals, short stories, goals. You name it, I wrote it. When I recently wondered where that part of me ran off to, I realized I now only think best in inconvenient places: the shower, the car, the bed. Never, when I’m in a position to pen brilliant thoughts and ideas, am I near a computer or notebook. I think this has a lot to do with being nonstop/all stop. What happened to pause?

// I have tried and tried, but I’m hanging it up, folks. I do not enjoy beer. Thanks for the clarity, 2012.

// I do enjoy champagne. Very much.

// If someone had accused me a year ago of being a worrier, I would have vehemently disagreed. But I now know very well that there is (and has been) a huge, scary monster inside of me called WORRY. It rears its ugly head much too often, mostly when I haven’t heard from Richard in a while, when I know Richard’s driving somewhere, or walking, or breathing. I’ve joined heart and home and bank account with this man, and now suddenly, every move I/we make and decision I/we face is first met with much worry. Just as I’ve learned of this beast’s existence, though, I’ve learned its hold on me is but a nasty lie. From the devil. Or TV. I’m sure it will be a daily battle now that I feel responsible for more than just my-selfish-self.

// The past year has confirmed my belief that the best relationships happen naturally. Growing up and getting jobs and dogs and second jobs, and getting married or not, it all just means time with people you love is limited, and thus, those people are even more precious. Friends to whom I’ve become very close in the last year are the friends with whom I share something really significant, that connects us deeper than coffee talk. Moreover, I’ve learned that if it’s not working out, that’s okay. Not everyone is going to be my best friend… Which simply means, I’m clinging to my real best friends even tighter. Those I see often and those I never see. Soul friends, they’ve become.

// Speaking of friends, 2012 taught me that I have officially hit the Friend Jackpot. That is, in fact, a real thing. And I won. (Which has absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with my rock star friends.) From the night Richard and I got engaged, to the night we got married (and since), I remained/remain overwhelmed by the love of dear friends. From phone calls and cards and gifts in the mail, to throwing showers, attending showers, traveling to showers, traveling to The Wedding, being in The Wedding, helping with The Wedding, (and the list goes on), people had my BACK. If I didn’t know it before 2012, the whirlwind year made it undeniable: I have the greatest friends in the world. Soul friends, indeed.

// Speaking of rock stars, I am now aware, more than ever before, that my family is full of them. And now my family has doubled, maybe tripled! (Richard’s family is big, y’all.) Talk about grace on top of grace and more grace. Over two years ago, I lost my last living grandparent, the one to whom I was the closest. My dear, sweet Mamies would not be physically present when I walked down the aisle to commit my life to another human. But God and Mamies sent me Mom Mom that day. Mom Mom is Richard’s last living grandparent and maybe the most precious person alive in the world. We shared very unexpected tears just a few hours before our ceremony, and this memory will be with me forever and ever. Thinking back on our rehearsal dinner, ceremony, and reception, of all the faces I remember, so many are incredible people I get to call family, “old” and new.

I could go on.

In summary, 2012 was a year of affirmation and celebration. I am loved, blessed, and all that. And so much more. Maybe I’ll write more often this year. Maybe I won’t. No matter what, though, I’ll continue dancing, traveling, working, learning, and simply enjoying and being grateful for each moment as it flies past me.


thoughts on grace

I have a story.

It’s not the kind of story I would ever tell at a party. Or around a campfire. I wouldn’t tell my story upon first meeting someone or even disclose to my best girlfriends over coffee.

But I have told it – to only a handful of people. There are two, in particular, with whom I felt a prompting in my spirit to do so. Somewhere or Someone deep in my heart was urging me to open up and be vulnerable to these two specific people on these two separate occasions: a longtime friend, and the other, a brand new one. I never knew I was going to talk about it until I was opening my mouth to speak. Words would fall out, and I’d feel my stomach tighten in expectation of regret, of judgment. Instead, my narrative was met with tears and relief. In just a few breaths, my friends discovered they were not alone, and so, neither was I.

Maybe they had told a few people – maybe not. It was there, though, in that very moment, that we found solace in each other. Hope in each other.

Redemption.

It’s a scary feeling: that nudge. That still, small voice urging confession. I often want to ignore it, because it’s easier; less humiliating, vulnerable, whatever. When I do choose to respond to it, though, I am always covered with grace. I immediately feel lighter, breathe easier. And with whomever I’ve shared it – an instant connection is made. Our stories will forever entwine. We are strengthened by each other’s weaknesses, because we are not alone. We will be okay.

I have a story.

But it’s a blip on the map, thanks to Grace. Regret and shame are daily battles to fight… But I am victorious because of Grace. Grace puts a period on a hard chapter, turns the page, and I continue writing…


identity crises and hot husbands

Within about a month, I had left my full-time job of over 2 years and married my boyfriend of 4 years. That’s some big change back-to-back. Both were excellent decisions, for different reasons; and yet the former, as it happened first, brought much unanticipated identity issues.

In the month after leaving my job and before marrying the man of my dreams, I met many people who would love to ask, “So what do you do?” … … … Crickets. How to answer? Hmm, I can tell you what I used to do… Oh you mean, what do I do now? Well, that’s a great question. I got some pretty funny looks in response to being currently unemployed and having no plan (other than to plan a wedding and spend the rest of forever with Richard). It was becoming almost hilarious how often the question was posed, seemingly more often than before this life change. It felt like I was moving backwards, back to the insecure college grad who had no idea what life had in store or where to start. Just waiting for a move of God to put me in the right place, steer me in the right direction. This idea that what I do (for a job) determines my identity, I couldn’t shake. In fact, it was shaking me.

It’s true that when we work 40+ hours a week at a job, that tends to be the thing with which we most identify. I was a Digital Media Coordinator. That was what I did more than anything else – what I was – and so, it must have been who I was as well… If suddenly 40+ hours a week were spent working as an extra on a TV show because I had the free time, going out for coffee with friends, sleeping in, running, dancing, planning, reading, sunbathing; what could I then say I do; who could I say I was?

Upon returning from our amazing Jamaican honeymoon (thank you, in-laws!), it wasn’t back to life as usual. Everything was different. Home, roommate, income, schedule. I had gained a part-time job before the wedding, but my coworkers were gone and off the radar for two weeks, and I sank into a pity-party slump. When anyone else would have been at the pool, working on art, or just reveling in all this free time…. it was a good day  for me if I showered and got dressed. The highlight of my day was what I would try to make for dinner, and if you know me well, that’s just funny. I struggled with feeling like a failure, a loser, a waste of space. My hot husband was getting up and going to work each day to provide for our little family; meanwhile, I couldn’t get an additional job to save my life, and I gave up on the creative cooking thing one week into marriage (sorry, Husband). It probably goes without saying, but money was tight. And I love to worry.

But, as usual, in times of crisis, Richard was my anchor. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive partner. He loves me well anyway, but he has a way of loving me even better when I can’t love myself. My eyes are welling up just thinking about it. I am someone who prides herself in being able to do it all – and on my own. The thing is: I can’t. I never admit that until I hit the ground, but Richard is always there to pick me up and help brush off my knees.

When I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, when I can’t figure out who I am, my Creator chases me down and reminds me. And because I’m so stubborn and clueless, He likes to get creative with me. So clever. I don’t know why I felt peace about leaving my job and then struggled with being jobless, but I do know He is using this time to remind me I am His. The picture of marriage as Christ and His Church may not have been as real to me in the beginning of my own marriage without this healthy dependence on my husband that I felt. Not necessarily in a, “I’m your wife, and I need you,” kind of way, but in a, “You’re my partner in life, and you make it more beautiful,” kind of way. Through Richard’s encouragement, I felt loved by the Father. Richard never pressured me or made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough; instead he listened to me, gave me room to go through it, and was there for me every step of the way.

So yeah… What do I do? I live, learn, and love. I’m a wife. I’m a dancer. I’m a production coordinator – part-time. 🙂 Some days I change diapers, some days I teach dance, other days I just watch movies. Each day looks different from the one before it, and I’m learning to be okay with that. Eventually, I will look back on this season of life and be even more thankful for it than I am today, because I will see clearly all that God was doing in me and in my marriage, and I will know exactly who I am.


Coffee Talk

We’re in a coffee shop, my friend and me. It’s been months since we last saw each other, since we had a real conversation. This moment seems insignificant; we may only be passing the time. There are others around and it’s near time to leave, but we hit the big stuff, the life stuff: wedding plans, grad school, career, family.

She’s reflective about the last year of her life – the scary year – the first-year-out-of-school year. She’s putting pieces together. Maybe she was in this position, this job, this singleness, to better understand there’s life outside of school before returning to the books in the fall at a graduate program.

I know I have assured her of these things before. But it was before she entered the season, when it wasn’t quite real to her yet. It occurs to me then, at this seemingly insignificant moment, that the seasons of our life have to be lived by us. I know well that it’s not enough to hear advice or heeding from those who’ve gone before me. I can try to learn from others’ mistakes or digest the lessons of loved ones. But, it may not nourish me quite the same as living the mistakes and receiving the grace for myself. Hearing about it and understanding it are two very different experiences, and the experience of stepping out in faith – of living – is too precious to forego.

This moment in time inspires my own reflection of the past year. The extreme highs and depressing lows. It’s exhilarating to look back and relive the best parts of the year but painful to recall the worst. Had I been given foresight into decisions I’d make or wouldn’t make, I would refuse to believe. At the same time, my belief or unbelief may not have changed the outcome; however, the practice of reflection may be the very thing that saved me. If I merely plowed through that time in my life, rather than feeling each blow, I may still be stuck in a dark place. But, because I stepped outside of myself for even a moment – to look inward, around, and ultimately, up – I found purpose.

A hard fall doesn’t impress as much without the scars. To have no memory, no evidence, surely enhances the probability of recurrence. So, the story is in the scar, and its healing brings the next chapter. Reflection has power to restore and renew, to redeem. Seasons come and go; leaves will change and fall, regardless. But the beauty is in the changing and in the falling. I cannot begin to understand the season I’m entering without acknowledging the one I’ve left behind.

This is the stuff that sticks. That cleanses, grows, and transforms. Each season I enter brings its own insecurity, doubt, and discomfort. It also brings its own beauty. I don’t have to go there alone, but I must go. My life depends on it.


Open Doors

Not sure why, but I always associated college graduation with closing the chapter on the huge chunk of my life titled, Dance.

I didn’t earn a dance degree; I figured I would enjoy the break from an intense dance schedule, and it’s not like I was ever going to be a professional dancer. Wasn’t born with the right hips or arches. Just for fun, I participated in the dance concert my freshman year at Berry College, and by the end of the year I’d committed to the dance team as well. Junior year I would increase the load, as I took a choreography course and began to further explore this passion through the vulnerability of asking gorgeous dancers to move and express as I do. I couldn’t have been more proud of this experience as a story I had to tell turned into choreography and took the Rome City Auditorium stage for the 2008 spring dance concert.

In my last season with the Berry Dance Troupe, I lived and breathed dance once again – performing in nearly every piece that took the stage that weekend, including two of my own. I mourned the loss of my greatest love, assuming that once the curtain closed on our final performance, it would be my last bow as a performer and choreographer.

Graduation. Move to Charlotte. Real World.

I taught ballet and tap part-time at a YMCA, so that I could stay connected to this thing I loved so much. Seemed the most practical thing to do, being that my own dog days were over: I would teach. I held onto that job for a couple years even after I was hired for a full-time position with benefits. The dream. Right? I had made it. It was time to grow up and put fantasies behind me.

Until…

In May of 2011, Pastor Jonathan Martin gave a message to Renovatus (my church home in Charlotte) called, “A Door No Man Can Shut,” based on Revelation 3, and specifically focusing on 3:7-8,

To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

I won’t re-preach it; I will simply share what I received for myself…

Too often, I will wonder if an opportunity is from God or something I dreamed up on my own. If I have options, I dwell on them, rolling over pros and cons, allowing multiple voices to speak into the decision; when all along, I know the answer. I’m just too scared or insecure, too hesitant to admit the truth and then act on it. But.

Dance is a gift. To me. From God. He has opened the door, and no one can shut it. Not even me. The door had been wide open, my heart was aching, but my knees were weak. To quote Pastor’s  message, I could quite literally “feel the hand of the Lord stirring me up,” inviting me to walk – no, dance – through the open door; to forget rules and insecurity; to simply live and move in the space and time given to me; to receive this gift and run – no, dance – with it.

That same month, I was promoted at my full-time job, leading me to leave my part-time teaching gig behind, and ultimately, prompting my return to dance class as a student at none other than (drum roll, please): Open Door Studios in Charlotte. Coincidence? Maybe. Confirmation? Definitely.

So, I danced through the door. And I haven’t stopped dancing since.


As you get older…

My brother Nathan, seven years my senior and twenty-five years my friend, coined a saying my freshman year of high school, the year of all new and scary things:

“As you get older, you’ll find…”

And he would continue with whatever wisdom was most applicable for the specific lesson being learned.

This saying was first uttered around the time when a boy on whom I had a crush – who supposedly reciprocated these feelings – very suddenly and meanly cut things off with me. This was a terrible thing for a girl at the impressionable and insecure age of 14… or was it 15? Either way, I was straight out of middle school and braces with bushy eyebrows and a perm in my not so distant past. My crushes until this point were on the cover of Teen Bop and singing Mmmbop; and they definitely weren’t hurting my feelings. Also, despite the aforementioned middle school physical features, I managed to move on from that phase of my life with little emotional scarring and a few bosom friends. Point being: boys and humiliation? All fairly new territory.

Nathan took me out to El Vaquero (a Columbus GA favorite) to cheer me up and wise me up. There really is nothing that overeating chips and cheese dip can’t fix. “As you get older, you’ll find…” How must he have finished the sentence then? What was my lesson? Boys are dumb, probably. People are mean. Hearts are fragile. But resilient. This too should pass, and I’d be fine.

As you get older, you’ll find that you are more sensitive than you want to admit and stronger than you could ever imagine.

It’s life lessons like these, yes even this seemingly small one, that we can stuff into our pockets and then lift our heads high, ready to crack the next curve ball out of the park.

As you get older, you’ll find that no amount of learning from others will prepare you for your own mistakes. And it’s only your own pain that will break you down just enough to improve you, mature you, complete you. Impale you for just long enough to feel the sting and adjust.

As you get older, you’ll find life is all about adjustments. That boy was not the first or last to hurt, and I didn’t learn well enough then that I am not defined by the hurt, but rather, how I respond to it. But the experience did cause me to make an adjustment – to evaluate relationships and priorities and my own self-esteem. To decide who I am and who I want to be. To be fully human is painful and uncomfortable; but the sky is always clearest after a hard rain. And life is always more precious after the decision to press on.