collaborative souls

it was a weekend of process (aren’t they all?) when i went to visit my best friend in her hometown. as we drove through the streets she grew up on, i mentioned in passing that i never took senior portraits. without skipping a beat she replied, “well, now we know what we are doing this afternoon.”

she’s one of those souls where every encounter is a collaboration: whether its working on an art installation or saying things out loud we’ve never been willing to admit to ourselves or driving around screaming our hearts out to a Taylor Swift ballad. she’s a soul that knows mine well and treats mine well, and i’m proud to know her.

thanks for the pictures hollz. & thanks for keeping me honest.

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a week of war-zones & the freedom fighters

today was one of those days where God was announcing in every way: YOU ARE CARED FOR. YOU ARE WORTH FIGHTING FOR. YOU DESERVE JOY.

maybe everyday is one of those days & today i finally tuned in.

this day came in the midst of a week of fear, of insecurity, of wrestling back and forth with a beast i call discernment. you see, he’s a tricky little monster: he seems to shift with the wind-like circumstances and moves quickly and quietly, so that just as you think you’ve caught him he slips out of your grasp. trying to find clarity amidst differing opinions coming from differing backgrounds is like trying to carry a stack of books that just keeps growing: you have the answer you’re looking for somewhere in there amongst the pages but your walk is weighed down and your arms are tired.

the solid ground of wisdom i was attempting to stand strong on felt shaky as emotions battled, opinions roared and fears set up camp. its been a week of war-zones.

i felt like i had to be my own hero, and i knew i didn’t have the strength.

let’s rewind a decade: at the ripe ol’ age of twelve, my favorite song (and most likely my MySpace profile tune) was For My Love by Bethany Dillon. i’ll concede, it’s a tad sappy and romantic, but junior-high Kearci ate that stuff up even more than present-day Kearci does. but i’ll also concede that to this day, the lyrics still strike a cord in me: gaze into my eyes//and let me know you’d fight thousands//for my love. above the obvious rom-com level, i think these kinds of questions have to resonate with every soul: will someone fight for me? am i worth the battle?

for a while now i’ve let myself be convinced i wasn’t worth a fight. i let myself be convinced my feelings were too much, too strong, too real to be understood. i believed the lie that my genuine concern was nothing more than dramatic antics that simply showcased my immaturity, and that everyone around me was tapping their toes, waiting for me to finally grow up and get over myself.

i believed the lie that my pain was my own fault, that since some didn’t understand or feel it with me that i must be making it up. my pain induced shame, shame that my heart was much too sensitive and that the strong were the ones who could move through life without being touched. and thats just silly: those who have done the most good in this world are those who touched the wounded and in that healed them. my Savior did that: He was moved by compassion rather than pride, declaring our pain to be real, binding up our wounded hearts and giving us honor to replace our shame.

but still my faulty solution stood: i needed to simply force myself to be unaffected. & anyone who’s ever been affected knows, you can’t just shut that stuff off. the pain will keep coming, the wounds will still hurt, no matter how much you “choose” it not to. open wounds are open wounds are open wounds. ignoring them doesn’t heal them; ignorance to your pain is no magic balm.

i believed the lie i had to fight for myself, or else no one would. i felt like as much as i was surrounded by spectacular souls, i was still the lone fighter on the front lines. i felt like no one could help me and even if they could, they would read my petty case and dismiss it as such.

this week, God changed all that.

as i shakily stepped out in faith and in what little wisdom i could muster: He showed up with an army. they stepped up and fought the battle i thought i would have to face alone. they scattered the rebels of fear through nods of understanding and through looks of compassion. and the weaponry was just some simple words: “i want to protect you. you’re not alone.” for the first time in months peace reigned in the war-zone and i didn’t even have to draw my sword or tend to a wound. He swooped in and protected me. He gave me purpose and a place, and i was finally worth the fight.

the greatest thing about God victories is they have nothing to do with us. i didn’t achieve anything, i didn’t earn it: but yet i still am victorious. He’s slain sin and worthlessness and shame and fear and i get to stand with Him that triumph. i get to claim it as my own. my pain no longer defines me, i am free… but not without a price, because i was fought for.

He gave me a safe place, a fortress. He gave me joy and meaning. He gave me acknowledgment of my pain and its real-ness, and in that declaration He gave healing. He gave me people who see me and stand with me and fight for me. i don’t feel alone anymore.

i haven’t felt this before, this feeling of “you are enough, and i will fight to protect your enough-ness.” this place of knowing i am deeply cherished by those who have every right to walk past me and ignore my pleas: it heals wounds of misunderstanding and lashes of pride. it brings a deep seated joy where laughter comes like breathing. this joy moves me outward, moves me to share it and fight for others to find it. it’s got me thinking, who have i been walking past who is a slave to their fear and pain? who around me deserves a fair fight but is getting sucker-punched instead? who needs someone to look them in the eye and say “you are enough, and i will fight to protect your enough-ness”???

we live so many days convincing ourself that joy is for everyone but us. that in our brokenness we are too undeserving, too fragile to handle such powerful goodness. but its waiting for us daily.

and i know there are days it’s clouded over, that grace feels out of our reach and we can’t seem to understand why we are standing alone. but i think those are the days we look back on His faithfulness, on the days the battles were won with an army He called up for us. and on those days, i’ve found standing besides others in the midst of their battles strengthens us for ours. it reminds us that we aren’t ever alone and that our pain will not defeat us, because the army that scatters fear is our daily grace.

dispensable Saviors & multiple choice tests

but then why would i need You if i had all the answers?

You’d be dispensable.

i don’t want a dispensable God. 

somedays i wonder why You don’t make things clearer for me. if You want me here or there, just tell me! lay it all out so i can be sure to be faithful! i’m not a mind reader, especially not for a mind of an all-powerful & all-knowing God!

the more messy days i live the more i realize faithfulness isn’t following some certain path i need to know ahead of time. studying You doesn’t mean studying for a multiple choice test: it’s studying You to learn to breathe and be. faithfulness is not that game i played as a child, avoiding the splits in the sidewalk, as if stepping on the cracks on the cobblestone means letting you down. it’s not scaring myself out of beautiful things by saying You might not show up. it’s not letting my fear make a cripple out of me & decide my fate. faithfulness is overcoming the fear, stepping into that terrifyingly gorgeous place because You promised to be there. it’s loving the people around me and reflecting Your strength and kindness in the tasks in front of me, knowing You’ve already been there. it’s simply stepping into the unknown, holding Your hand, terrified but trusting: in that i am being faithful.

i wonder if You gave me all the answers and all the steps to get to those answers before i had to risk: stepping out in faith and taking unsure but steady steps towards Your voice beckoning me into the fog, then why would i need You? if You’d assured me of the intricacies of the future, then i could take it from there, thank you & adieu.

if every answer to every question of the future was laid out before me, would i be more willing to trust? what would be left for trust You for? if i knew exactly how everything in my life was going to play out, then someone please tell me, what would be Your use? all i’d have is a dispensable faith: lifeless, unnecessary and empty.

do i want You in the murky unknown or to be alone in the clarified answers?

i know i want You. even in these murky waters that threaten to drown me.

You aren’t sitting there frustrated with my lack of understanding or tapping Your toes hurrying me to move along. You aren’t leaving me alone in these muddied waters. i will not drown.

You see the answers but you also see my pain. You share in it with me, i know.

for You are good.

i know i doubt that goodness in my pain.

but You are good.

i might be weary, i might feel like You put me through something i didn’t deserve, but then i remember You saved me from what i ultimately earned. a few broken hearts doesn’t change that. i am redeemed from the punishment i should suffer.

You don’t control their actions, just as You don’t control mine. You made us sharp: but with that we can cut each other. Our choices are our own, as much as we call You Lord. 

protect us from bitter hearts and frustrated souls.

life with a name often misspelled

you WILL be misunderstood.

it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when. your motives will be questioned, your heart will be interrogated, your actions will be condemned. people will assume you hate them with the bitterest of vengeances when really your heart is just collapsing, and you don’t have the strength to convince them otherwise. people will demote you to an enemy when really you just wanted to be a friend. people will convince themselves of your faults so they don’t need to remember their own.

you will be labelled, categorized, put into a neat little box and set away in their minds.

and it will drive you to insanity if you let it.

our deepest need as humans is to be seen and cherished, so when someone looks on you and deems you un-worthwhile, or at least simple-minded and therefore simply a subject to dissect and set aside like yesterday’s biology project: our soul cringes. it screams and fights to be understood in its fancies and loved in its faults.

you WILL be misunderstood.

people will think you have bad taste in music. they will stick up their noses at your tacky sense of humor. they will find the beautiful things about you to be your main flaws. they will need you to be who they have scripted for you or else they’ll leave without an explanation.

they will box you up, all the precious pieces of you, and tuck you away in their minds, sharpie marker on the cardboard reading: “too much” or “ not enough.”

and let’s not be naive: we will do the same to others. because reducing them to the way they harmed us is the easiest way to deal with the pain: but it’s never the way to heal from it. because demoting them to a criminal and ignoring all their grandeur makes us feel invincible: but demonizing fellow humans simply feeds our bitterness. it puts our heart behind bars instead of them.

the cure to this predicament of oversimplifying wild and glorious souls? i’ve found it to be threefold.

for starters: there’s a God who understands you to your core. He sees all the ugliest parts of your hidden past and present, yet still plans you a bright future. He finds you in your muck and declares you worthwhile. He created you with that crooked smile that you don’t dare to share and fearless heart that loves too much. that silly taste in music? He doesn’t box you into that. He sees every nook and cranny of you and loves you all the more.

you are precious in His eyes, my dear.

there’s also the chance you will find some rare creatures that find you as you are and declare it to be beautiful. creatures that don’t leave when you’re no longer the fun friend or when the carefree days turn into cloudy ones. the ones that don’t find your worth in your rightness but in your kindness. those who will stand beside you in the bits of passion and the days of rage and the years of frustration. they not only find the gold in you but they stay. they will see you. they will know you. and they will support you.

knowing that another soul sees me as i am and accepts me as i am: it’s akin to the feeling i get when my name is spelled right on that plastic coffee cup in the midst of mornings of horrific misspellings (where on EARTH did you get that z???). finally. someone gets it. the spelling is no longer a cause of confusion, the pronunciation of my name no longer produces blank stares, but suddenly my name fits me, the letters find their place, and i am content in its uniqueness. in that moment i’m not a novelty or a frustration: i’m strong and i’m sure. and i think that feeling of stepping into your own skin and being reminded that you are not a strange phenomena or a exasperated sigh, is what it truly means to be understood and loved.

finally, you need to find a way to deal with those who don’t see you. because, like we said, there will be people who misinterpret your intentions and simplify you into a mold you don’t fit. you can find ways to fight back tooth for nail, belittling their minds and hearts in an attempt to enlarge yours… but really that just causes more souls to feel unheard and unseen. you can fight to get out of that cardboard box, flailing your arms and begging to be known… but exhausting yourself keeps you from giving the gift of being known fully and loved fully.

i’ve found shaking off the misinterpretations works the best, remembering your definition is outside of their control. be someone who refuses to define others as anything less than complicated and beautiful messes and you will provide them room to grow, grieve, and give. let’s be honest: that’s what life is all about.