When It’s Time to Go Home Again

When It's Time To Go Home Again

Years ago, in 2008, I quoted Donald Miller in a blog post about leaving home. It’s still one of my favorite pieces of writing on life and finding its meaning and finding its adventure. It ends with this: “It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out. I want to repeat one word for you: ‘Leave.’ Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn’t it? So strong and forceful the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don’t worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.”

On Tuesday morning I’m going to pack up my car and drive from middle Tennessee to South Texas. I’ve not driven that bit of highway since I moved to Nashville five years ago. This time, I’ll drive it in the other direction. I’m not moving; I’m just going for a little while. I’m just going home, for a little while.

The desire hit me two weeks ago. I was sitting at my desk, writing and suddenly, I needed to take a road trip and that road trip needed to be to my home state and it needed to last longer than a week.

Traveling, wandering, exploring—that stuff has always been a part of me, but usually in the way that takes me away from home. Now, I’m desiring for the wandering and exploring to bring me back home.

I’ve always thought life had two options: settle in or near my hometown or move far away, far enough that I could only afford to return on major holidays. I’ve taken much pride in doing the latter, the type of leaving I quoted above. I’ve studied overseas, lived overseas and have lived a few states away for several years. And now, I can’t wait for Tuesday to get here. I can’t wait to see the familiar things and faces. It’s like I just want to sit in Texas’ lap and curl up in it for days. Odd imagery, but it’s how I feel. It’s how much I’m needing home.

I think my extreme ideas of life and where it should be lived are trying to find middle ground. I think I put “leaving home” and “coming home” at odds with each other when really, I should let them work together. The Bible says He has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and I’ve become really fascinated with that phrase. If eternity is truly in our hearts, then we’re longing for home, yet, we are longing to leave. Maybe our pull toward and away from home is simply an echo of this desire that is in us. Maybe we should give ourselves grace to be where we need to be when we need to be there, whether that be far away or close by.

They say you can’t go home again, but sometimes you have to. For me, I know it’s a job transition and a bunch of change around me that’s beckoning me back for a taste of familiarity. For others, it’s a tragedy or hardship or a celebration that’s making them long for the place they call home. I think it’s important to go (if you can) when you feel those longings. It’s important to remember those places and to reconnect with people you’ve slowly been letting go. Sometimes it’s time to leave and sometimes it’s time to go back.

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Kicking Your Critics Out of the Arena

Kicking the Critics Out of Your Arena

Brene Brown, much like Taylor Swift, really speaks to my soul. I talk about her here a lot, and a friend recently introduced me to a fabulous talk Brown gave at a conference for creatives. You can watch it here.

In it, she uses the metaphor of a coliseum-type arena as the place where we display our work, art, ourselves. The place where we must be vulnerable and put it out there. Whatever “it” happens to be. In the audience of the arena are many people, including the critics. Brene says that there are always four internal critics present in our arena:

  1. Scarcity – which asks, “What am I doing that’s original?”
  2. Shame – which says, “You’re not enough. Who do you think are trying to act like you belong here?”
  3. Comparison – Does this one even need an explanation?
  4. Fill in the blank

Only you know who occupies seat number four, and I think the critic in this seat rotates depending on what you’re up to in the arena. I imagined one particular person in my fourth seat that I had almost completely forgotten about. My 12th grade math teacher.

I went to a small Episcopalian high school and one of its (many) traditions was The Senior Chapel Talk. The entire school attended chapel every day at 10 a.m., and at some point during the year instead of our chaplain speaking, a senior would get up and give a 15-minute speech. I was very nervous about my chapel talk. I liked theater and choir and performing, but when it came to being on stage and acting like myself, I was terrified and had little to no experience.

I remember my dad sat down with me at our kitchen table and helped me write my Senior Chapel Talk. Then I practiced saying it aloud in front my mirror about 17 times. When the day came to give my talk, my mouth was dry and my hands were shaking, but I got through it and was so relieved when it was over. After chapel I had math class, and the first thing my teacher said when she saw me was, “Wow, I’ve never heard anyone give a speech so fast!” I was mortified. I was so nervous I didn’t even know I had talked fast and flown through my speech. Her comment echoed in my head for a long time, and since that day, I’ve always told people I that hate public speaking and I’m terrible at it.

We have so many voices like this don’t we? Maybe we have some we’re not even aware of that are taunting us from the nosebleed section, and we’re listening to them even though they’re mean. In her talk, Brown suggests replacing these voices with kind, trusted ones. With the people who love us and cheer for us no matter what and with a picture of the strong person we know deep down we’re capable of being.

One way of conquering my math teacher’s voice was volunteering to do chapel for the company I used to work for. I had 15 minutes (again) and the crowd would be 20-30 people. It sounds small but it was a really big deal for me. And you know what? I was ok. I received kind feedback and I even enjoyed the experience.

Sometimes you have to do the thing that one person told you weren’t good at in order to kick them out of your arena. They don’t belong there. Don’t let them have a seat.

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Why Men Don’t Tell You You’re Beautiful

Why Men Don't Tell You You're Beautiful

I read this post by Matt Walsh a while back. It was a letter to his daughter, who is still very young, about her beauty and how he hopes that the magazine rack and social media will never convince her she isn’t beautiful. He’s knows it’s wishful thinking but it was a very well-written and honest piece from a father to his daughter. I’ve thought about it a lot. Partly because I get it. I have a dad who feels the same way about me and my sisters and made it clear to us growing up. He knew it was important for a father to tell his daughter he loved her and that she is beautiful. Many days I remember this and am so so grateful for it.

But I’ve also thought about this letter a lot because it fell flat for me. I wanted to love it and agree with everything he said but something about it sounded hollow. Reading it not as a letter written personally to me (I think this will be a whole different story for Walsh’s daughter one day, and it will be treasured by her. I have not doubt of that.), but as a woman in general, I didn’t walk away feeling better about myself or my appearance, reminded to ignore the messages on the fashion websites and Instagram accounts I follow. Instead, I felt confused by the message.

Walsh talks about the standards of beauty in our culture and how they warp the young girl’s mind into thinking she isn’t good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, all that. This is true. I agree that the media has not been the best for our self-esteem, but it’s more than the images themselves that confuse girls, and women, about what we’re supposed to look like. It’s deeper than that. When I saw cover girls and Most Beautiful lists growing up, I made the connection that whatever girl was being splashed across various media avenues was the girl that was desirable to a man. It’s a subconscious connection I think we all make. She is being upheld as beautiful = she is what men want.

This is why it’s hard for me to listen to a man talk about the wrong message the media is sending women about our bodies, because for as long as I can remember I have associated women in the media as the women men want. It’s confusing to hear them say otherwise. It also confirms something I’ve been suspicious of for a while now that most of you probably figured out a long time ago, men are not able to make women feel beautiful. Temporarily, yes. Long term, no. That is far too heavy a load to bear and too high an expectation to put on men anyways. And because of this, I don’t think it has to be their role to convince us to ignore the media either. As long as the convincing is coming from a male voice, we will be confused.

I think it’s why I almost ignored the beautiful letter Matt Walsh wrote, and I think it’s why I ignore most guys when they speak out about beauty standards. It’s too confusing for me and by default I don’t absorb his message. When I do perk up, is when a woman I respect writes or speaks on the topic. I perk up when the focus is on my innate worth that is in Christ and focused less on working to ignore the messages that have always been there and always will be there. It’s a conversation every woman should have with every woman, and it’s a conversation that needs to go deeper than the media and its messages.

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Why We Create Out of Brokenness

Why We Create Out of Brokenness

I’m in a women’s class at my church on Thursday mornings. We’re studying the book Waking Up Grey, which is all about waking up your creativity. As I sat in class last week, I looked around and noticed several women crying. They were just sitting there, letting tears run down hardly wiping them away. They looked like the broken kind of tears. You know what I’m talking about? The times that you cry at little to no prompting but you can’t stop it because you just feel mushy inside and like nothing is working and you’re questioning everything? Who you are, what you’re doing. Seriously, am I headed anywhere in this life? That kind of crying.

I’m not a big public crier but even I have teared up in this class while sharing parts of my story. Last week as I looked at the other women crying, I wondered why we all felt the need to take this class on creativity in our broken states of self. Why do we feel the need to create out of brokenness?

I posed this question to my sister and her/our friend who stayed with me over the weekend. My sister made a really good point: Creating your art takes a ton, like, all the vulnerability you can muster, and when you’re in a broken phase of life, you are at your most vulnerable.

I lived in denial of my own brokenness for a long while, until I was 26 years old. Then, I went through a hard time. It was similar to other hard times I’ve had in which I was trying to fix my problem by doing and remaining busy. I went home for Christmas in the middle of this and during our Christmas Eve service at my home church, my other sister (I have very wise sisters) leaned over to me and said something simple that changed it all. She said I didn’t have to be strong anymore. That I didn’t have to hold it together and I could just rest in God’s lap, take a deep breath and rest.

That was it, the beginning of my broken journey. The first time I cried broken tears was right there smack dab in the middle of the church I grew up in yet never allowed myself to be vulnerable or honest in. I cried for the rest of the service and my extended family was concerned and people were looking at me funny because it’s Christmas and everyone is happy but God was breaking me and I couldn’t stop the tears.

Coincidentally, or not coincidentally, this was when the desire that I’ve always had to write began to overwhelm me. So much so that I knew, finally, writing was what I needed to pursue in a serious way and not in a dabbly kind of way. Many of the women in my creativity class are feeling this overwhelming desire too, though, to different degrees of seriousness. This is completely fine because creating is something we all must do whether we’re making money at it or not. Creating is spending an afternoon decorating your living room as much as it is writing a book. It’s making a card for a friend and it’s performing spoken word poetry.

I think I have so much more to learn on this creating out of brokenness thing. What I’m seeing in it now is that creating is best and most natural when it comes from the vulnerable state and true vulnerability isn’t possible until you’ve felt that broken mushy feeling on the inside, until you’ve realized that you are indeed nothing and can do nothing outside of Christ. It can make us feel so weak, but I think what can come out of it is stronger than anything we create from a place of certainty and confidence. Rather than waiting for the brokenness to subside, use it, and see what comes out.

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He’s Not the One That Got Away

The One that Got Away

This phrase has been running around my head lately: He’s not the one that got away. Did you catch that “not” I slid in there? I thought about it one night when I was cooking and listening to the Civil Wars. Their song “The One that Got Away” came on and got me thinking. The song talks about forbidden love, saying “I wish you were the one that got away” and what it’s like to not be able to let go of that person. As I peeled my carrots and listened, I realized I’m fortunate that I’ve never been in a relationship like the one the song describes, wishing that person had gotten away. Then, this truth struck me: No one in my life did get away, at least, not in the sense this phrase entails.

Saying “he’s the one that got away” is like saying “he’s the one I should have been with and then something went wrong and got us off track.” I’ve wondered this before of course, and I’m assuming most of us have when a relationship ends. Did I miss something? Was that a mistake to let him go? Did I do enough to keep him around? Will he be the one that got away?

These questions can make you absolutely nuts. And they don’t apply only to relationships. We ask it about everything. I remember taking forever to decide where I was going to go for graduate school. I was choosing between two schools that were basically exactly the same, just located in different cities. And when I finally chose, I immediately wondered if the one I didn’t choose would be the school that got away. If not going there meant missing out on God’s blessings and will for my life.

Maybe you’ve wondered if that was the job opportunity that got away or the move that got away or the apartment that got away. Whatever it is, I stand here today (because who knows how I will feel about this tomorrow) and can confidently say to you, it’s not. He’s not. She’s not. Whatever it is, if it is no longer a part of your life or an option for you, it didn’t get away; it went away.

In the Bible, we are taught about seasons in life and God’s sovereignty in the same scripture: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

The best way to attempt to overrule God’s timing and plan is to say that something in our lives got away, as if it were a mistake or an accident. I think we can really mean it when we say this. I know I have. I have felt so ridden and full of regret I was certain I had made a wrong decision. I was certain he/it was the one that got away and that I had derailed myself too far this time. But never has this thought brought me peace and never has it propelled me forward, and this is how I’ve grown so convinced that he, it and they did not get away. Because even in stating that, we stray. Even in wondering and questioning the past, we got lost in it.

The people and opportunities in our lives didn’t get away; they went away because it was time for them to. Our job now is to keep our gaze forward. The light, as they say, is at the end of the tunnel.

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Pity Parties on an Airplane

exhausted traveler

Do you know what it’s like to be on that last leg of a long journey? When you’ve forgotten how many flights and layovers you’ve had? All you know is that wherever you’re going, it is taking a really long time to get there? It’s always the very last, brief flight the gets me. Not the hefty, ten-hour one or the three-hour one after that, but the final one- or two-hour flight from Dallas to Nashville or from Atlanta to Nashville or, like yesterday, from Detroit to Nashville.

This Delta Detroit flight was a whopping one hour and eight minutes long, but before that flight was a 4.5-hour one and before that a 5-hour one and before, after and in between those was walking through terminals like a zombie looking for coffee and a grouping of chairs I could spread out on and contemplating asking a complete stranger what city, time zone and state I was in.

By the time I boarded my Detroit flight around 3pm, I had been flying traveling since 10pm the night before. I was in a state. Not only did I not want to talk to the people sitting on my right and my left, I didn’t want to look at them. I had no energy to acknowledge the existence of other humans. I was tired, I was hungry, I was achy and I refused to engage in the lighthearted attempts next to me to make conversation. I spent my hour and eight minutes with my eyes closed pretending to sleep and hating my life. If only the guys next to me knew how exhausted and ready to be home I was. I had been away for ten whole days.

When I don’t speak to those around me, I get very caught up in my own head. My problems become the worst problems anyone anywhere could ever have. I have the worst pain. I am the most tired. I’ve been traveling the most. I want others to know my story, but I do not want to hear theirs. So for one hour and eight minutes I blew up my tiredness and problems in my head until I was most certainly the one on that aircraft suffering the most and I believed everyone else should be catering to my needs and feeling sorry for me.

Because I refused to speak to the men next to me, I didn’t learn until we were landing that their exhaustion was actually worse than mine. The guy to my right had been flying for 23 hours (ten hours more than I had) and the guy to my left had been on the road for 18 days straight, was about to be home for two days, then hit the road again for another 18 days. Because I refused to speak to the guy on my left, I only overheard this information as he, without complaint, detailed it to another passenger. I only heard about the guy on my right who had been flying for 23 hours because he made a second attempt to engage me in conversation as we were landing, and I finally listened. He had come all the way from Manila, twice as far as I had come, and was in Nashville on business. This wasn’t even home yet for him.

This is what always gets me in trouble. I would rather sit and wallow in my pain than go out and listen to someone else’s story. As long as I don’t hear it, mine is worse, but every time I break out of the pity party—every time—I come out of myself, just far enough to get perspective on my “difficulties” and “hardships” that seem much less difficult and hard after I’ve listened. It’s not about comparing your problems with another’s; it’s about seeing yours in a different light, a more realistic and less doomsday shade of light. I wonder if the solution to our problems isn’t fixing them, but instead, is putting others’ stories before our own. I wonder how our perspectives would change if we began to listen less to the voices in our heads and more to the voices of the real people around us.

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The Parts of Us That We’ve Forgotten

The Parts of Us We've Forgotteb

I continue my time of rest from a place my family has returned to almost every summer since I was 15 years old. This place, oh this place.

I got to thinking as I was walking on the familiar beach path a few days ago that I’ve walked that path as many different girls: a teenage girl, a college girl, a girl in love, a heartbroken girl, a confused, sad, joyful and excited girl. A girl arm and arm with her mom, her dad, her best friends and her sisters. No matter who happened to show up as me that summer, I consistently walked or ran that path by the water and the lava rocks and the giant sea turtles as many times as possible before the sad departure day arrived.

It’s strange how a place can remind you of who you once were and what you once were like. I’m laughing now at how timely it is for me to visit that path at this point in my own path when I’m starting a new career and hoping for the best and trying not to be terrified of the worst. This path has been good for me these past few days to remember why I’m doing this, to remember the parts of me that love and have always loved to write. The part of me that told people at age five that I was going to be an Author. The eight-year-old me that made up stories and read them aloud to my class. The college me that competed in a slam poetry contest (yes, yes I did that).

Those parts of us. Remember them? They’re still there, but sometimes we quiet them and hush them until we convince ourselves they’ve gone away. We do this because we are clinging to the reliable things like schedules, and financial goals and to-do lists and things that aren’t bad but when they are our rock, we feel no need for anything else—a hobby, a passion, a savior.

On my beach path, I’ve been assured the parts of me I’d forgotten have not actually gone away. Neither have yours. I’ve also been assured that we owe it to ourselves to be honest about who we are. To let what we’ve let die a little come back to life. This often means taking little steps like signing up to be in the chorus of a community theater production, taking a substitute teaching gig, knitting a scarf for a friend. Whatever it is that taps into that part of you you’ve been keeping under the surface, into that thing you once loved and were good at and others told you so.

Find the walking path, or the city, or the house or the park that will remind you of this. Go there, walk around and remember what it was. Remember who you were.

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