Devil May Care

“i make really good first impressions” is a joke i tell a lot.
my friends roll their eyes,
new friends laugh awkwardly.
at this point even i am curious if it is a joke.

it is no secret i have trouble sticking to the rules,
to adhering to the unwritten rules of society.
for awhile i wondered if something was wrong with me,
like:
i should go see a doctor kind of wrong with me.

i’ve learned since those days that i don’t have a problem with social comprehension,
but instead the implied rules without having ever questioned them.
i don’t understand why i must leave a party,
say goodbye to every. single. person.
when it is much faster, more efficient, and less disruptive to “irish goodbye” it.

alas, i’ve learned to pick my battles,
and i hug people goodbye against my will.

these rules generally seem to make people happy.
they make people feel at ease when everyone is following their social cue.

whenever i open my mouth the usual responses are:
a “you can’t say that”
a “you’re ridiculous”
a “don’t let them hear you say that”

i’m no stranger to these remarks.
the awkward side glances to others in the group,
the shifting of bodies in order to find comfort when someone has made the situation uncomfortable.

most things roll off me like water on a duck,
but so often i’ve heard this response to my deepest revealings of trauma:

“it will help you to forgive and move on.”

a lot of assumptions in that sentence:
1. that i have yet to move on.
2. that “moving on” looks like dropping the subject.
3. my healing is dependent on silence.
4. forgiveness is a one time ordeal.

forgiveness is a choice.
one made every day, sometimes hourly, sometimes every ten minutes.
it is an acknowledgment of a trespass against you,
and a perpetual notion that you will not see the person simply as their wrongdoing.

this is not to say that we cannot take this anger and turn it into something productive.
anger can drive us to do powerful things.
what we have to decide is what kind of impact we want to have.

we can take very personal pain and allow it to fuel the fire in us to make change.

just because a subject matter is personal does not mean we are exempt from talking about it.
i am not only a suicide attempt survivor, but also a survivor of suicide.
i had a brother who took his own life.
friends, students, acquaintances.
does that mean i need to “forgive and move on” in silence?

i believe it makes me uniquely qualified to speak on the subject matter of mental illness.

i have experienced spiritual trauma.
i’ve been banned, shunned, and vilified by church members.
ones i worked with, ones i did ministry with, ones i called friends.
i have forgiven my personal experience,
but that does not mean i will be silent in the wake.

i refuse to see anyone else experience what i experienced,
and so that means speaking up against respected leaders.
it means i will call for action to the church and the church.
it means speaking truth to power,
because what is done in darkness will be brought to light.

it does not make you “obsessed” or “stuck in the past”
for speaking up against misconduct, abuse, or trauma.
the “devil may care” attitude i was born with makes speaking up easier than not.
still, sometimes i am insecure about using my voice.

if someone is uncomfortable with the truth you have to tell,
that is on them.
and most likely, some responsibility lies in their hands,
and guilt on their conscience.
it is not your burden to carry.

i hope through whatever storm you’ve experienced,
you came out the other side stronger and bolder than ever.
in the words of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:
“the choice isn’t what i’m breathing in, it’s what i’m exhaling.”

let’s exhale boldness, truth, grace, and justice.
and always love.

Talking About What We Don’t Have Words For

’twas the night before election day,
when all through the house,
the committees were stirring…

just kidding.
i won’t finish that poem unless literally 1,000 people ask for it.

this really is not another election day/vote post.

this is a post about what i’ve seen across
newsfeeds, texting, messaging, tv screens, newspapers, etc.

everyone is telling us to do something.
to vote red.
to vote blue.
to vote third party.
to leave it blank.
to riot.
to put on a face mask.

and then i saw a post, just like thousands of others out there,
of a mother sad about her child’s safety precautions at school.
she said “i can vote and i can pray,
but society, we have a sickness”

it made me take a second to pause.
the first feeling i had was anger.

i was angry because i do have an illness.
one that i’m not shy about.
one that many people in this world share,
and one that is stigmatized even still.

and then i was heartbroken.
because the people out there who are undiagnosed,
the ones not on medication,
the ones not in treatment,
the ones who don’t feel safe in their own skin.

sick people are not the cause of all destruction.
sick people are people who have an illness, not a malicious heart.
people with mental illness are so much more than their diagnosis.
people like me have hopes and fears, dreams and stories.

using language that is dehumanizing
makes it that much harder for our teenagers,
young adults, fellow humans,
to come out and be honest about how they are feeling.
who would want to be the cause of all the bad things in the world?

when i was a kid,
so many adults in my life would point out my failures.
it only made me angry.
i didn’t know how else to behave.
i didn’t know how to communicate my feelings.
all i knew was that i felt like a disappointment.
so i played into that role.
i became exactly who they told me i was.

see, we are the sum of who people tell us we are.
if someone tells you every day that you are difficult, you will start to believe it.
if someone tells you that you are sick, you will believe it.

what i needed as a kid was for someone to show me how to get better.
if all we do is point and say
“you’re sick.”
what good does that do?

if someone is struggling,
if they are seemingly “failing”
if someone is not their best,
chances are,
they already know that.

pointing it out will only make them feel ashamed.
and shame is a dangerous drug this society is addicted to.
we do anything to avoid it.
including lying, hiding, and faking it.
and we shame people into being who we want them to be.

it is time we stop pointing out sicknesses,
and start showing people the road to recovery.

even if you know nothing about mental health,
all we have to say to one another is:
“i don’t know the way out, but you are not alone.”
and then stick by them every step of the way.

in my own recovery,
my therapist has asked me to do homework.

to any teacher of mine out there reading this,
be surprised:
i do it every week.

some of it is hard:
writing about certain things, entering spaces i haven’t been in awhile.
some of it is really hard:
talking to other people about my feelings.
some of it is super fun!!!!:
watching A Million Little Things.

if you haven’t heard of it,
AMLT is about a life after the unexpected suicide of a friend.
the premise is that friendship is not one big thing,
friendship is a million little things.

i get goosebumps every time.

the most recent episode shows a scene
where a character’s wife finds a suicide note he wrote.
she’s distraught. angry. confused.
the wife, through tears, yells:
“how could you not tell me? how could i not see it?”
the husband is crying and yelling
“i don’t know, i don’t know.
that’s what i’m saying.
i don’t know how to talk about it.
i have a great life, but sometimes i get sad for no reason.
and then i start to wonder
if this is the happiest i will ever get.”

my heart.

talking about mental health is hard.
talking about suicide is damn near impossible.

we have to have this conversation though.

it will be clumsy, and awkward, and difficult,
but it is the most important conversation we will have.

if you get sad sometimes even when life is really, seemingly good,
if you can’t help but cry even when nothing seems to be wrong,
if getting out of bed is hard, if having friends feels hard,
you are not alone.
i’ve been there too.
i carry the same disease in my cells.
while it will forever be a part of me,
it does not define me.

i started going to therapy.
i have a therapist i trust,
who makes me do hard things
(and yes, we can do the hard things)
and she reminds me that no matter what my brain says,
i am resilient, brave, and powerful.
that i matter.

the same words should be spoken to you.
even when your brain takes over.
depression is a liar. anxiety is a thug.
you are a superhero.

friends and family, strangers and patrons,
if you know someone struggling,
or even if you don’t know.
your words matter.
tell someone they are important.
let people know their presence is essential.

our language is important.
what you post, say, text,
can change someone.
don’t point out someone’s insecurities or shortcomings,
show them their strengths.
let what you say change someone for the better.

we all have a place at the table.
we all have a story to tell.
you have to choose to show up,
and it will be painful for a minute.
no sugar coating here.

but it will be worth it.
oh boy, will it be worth it.
take it from me.
we are so glad you are here.
i can’t wait for you to see what is in store for you, my friend.

listen, it’s time to talk.

in the last decade suicide among young people ages 10-17 have increased by more than 70%.
globally, more than 800,000 suicides occur each year.

-these numbers are taken from jamie tworkowski at to write love on her arms.

every day i talk to students.
every day i am thankful for them.
i see everything they are.
i see everything they will be.
i see everything they could be.

in my twenty four years, suicide has affected my life more than any other tragedy.
this includes friends and family who have attempted suicide.
this includes students.

i could outwardly wonder why this is happening.
i could pretend that i don’t know.
but we all know i’m not about to do that.

the truth is,
there are a million reasons why,
but it starts with us to answer how we are going to change this.

it’s kids reading stories about parents threatening a twelve year old’s life for being transgender.
it’s hearing that anyone in the current administration “made a deal with the devil.”
it is the “jokes” about the gays, and their “choices”
it’s the hatred of police officers and naming them all murderers.

these kids have dreams.

dreams of being open about the transition they need to make.
dreams of serving in public office.
dreams of a family.
dreams of being police officers, secret service, military.

every time we attack the “other side”
they take that to heart.
they become scared to show who they are.

we should be providing a safe space for our young people
to be who they are,
even if we don’t agree,
even if we think they will change their mind,
even if it is foreign to us.

it is time to embrace the students.
honestly, it’s not like us adults are doing much better.
the only people doing something right are the parkland students,
and glennon doyle.

these young people shouldn’t have to worry that the adults in their life will be cruel to them for being honest.
the more we strike down the other side the more we isolate them from us.
we can have different viewpoints and still be respectful.
at the very least
we can remember that every human is deserving of love.

because someone is listening to you.
someone is hearing you put down what they believe in.
someone is internalizing what you say.
someone is feeling devalued.
someone is hearing something is wrong with them every time you throw insults.
someone is wondering if something is wrong with them because they are different.

we should be telling our young people that they matter.
that being different is okay.
that they are important.
that their dreams are worth pursuing,
and their fears can be overcome.
they should know today is better because they are here.

mental health is so important.
while brain chemistry has so much to do with mental illness,
making medication important,
surrounding yourself with things and people that heal you,
people that allow you to grow,
hearts that love you unconditionally,
and voices that encourage you
are all essential to healing.

let’s start being those kinds of humans.

we all deserve the freedom to be exactly who we were created to be.
we all deserve to exist.
and we all deserve to have our voice heard.

we can listen.
we can encourage.
we can ask questions.
we can engage.

this is how you provide a safe space.

these lives don’t have to be lost.
these voices deserve to be heard.
these hearts don’t have to suffer in silence.
and they don’t have to suffer alone.

together we can start changing the statistics.
if the problem begins with us, it can absolutely end with us.

these young people need us
and we need them.

we have a lot of work to do.
and as much as i believe in them,
i believe in you too.

//

if you’re feeling isolated, stuck, surrounded by hate
know that there is a place for you here.
you belong here.
if secrets make you feel ashamed,
there is freedom waiting for you.
you are deserving of this life and all it has to offer.
tomorrow is waiting for you
with hope, healing, and a sunrise unlike any other.

there are enough resources for you.
and if you need help, please reach out.

you are not alone.

this is a place for you.
this is a place for the wilder.

name your storm.

i’ve always found it interesting that we call storms names.
that we personify such a destructive force.

we name them to avoid confusion.
if we name this thing,
then we can communicate effectively about it.

in therapy i’ve learned to do the same thing.

you can’t move forward until you know some sort of truth.
you can’t leave it in the past
you have to acknowledge what’s in front of you.
you have to call it by name.

only then will things start to change.

the truth doesn’t have to remain the same.
storms that were categorized as a “5”
can weaken as they hit cooler temperatures on land.

in our heads
things that were once catastrophic
can weaken once we give them space,
once we make them tangible.

if i never tell people how i’m feeling,
how will they ever know how to care for me?

if we don’t know a storm exists,
how can we ever prepare for it?

if we ignore the storm,
it does not make any less of a mess to clean up.

when the world seems like pure chaos,
at hurricane speed,
you have to hold onto something.

whatever it is.
whatever it takes.

and that can come at a cost.

things you once knew could be swept away,
people who once stood steady
now gone with the wind.

but holding on is better than standing on unsteady ground.
holding on is better than letting the storm take you down.

for me,
i hold onto the hope that tomorrow is coming,
and it holds greater joy than today.

statistically speaking,
we’ve made it through every day at a 100% success rate.

i remember nights I played Beyoncé at 3am,
not caring if the neighbors woke up,
because i was so. in. love.

i remember students who ask me questions about Jesus,
and make fun of me for dabbing,
(yet still continue to teach me new ways to do it).

these memories make me hopeful that
if they happened once,
they will happen again.

and i am here for that.

you can’t outrun the hurricanes that are in your past.
the destruction is far too great for that.

you can’t just walk away,
because this is your home.
this is the space you exist.

what you can do is start by naming the storm:
depression. anxiety. addiction.
insecurity. fear. shame. guilt.

from there you can find ways to move forward.
therapy. medicine. grace. apologies. change.
real heart work.

it is hard, but not impossible.
as Glennon Doyle says,
“we can do hard things!”

and as Brené Brown says:
“give yourself permission.”

whatever it is you feel you can’t do,
allow yourself to do it.

even if it is out of character.
even if it is new.
even if you never have.

you still can.

if yesterday you were a liar,
today is a great day to tell the truth.
if you’ve never let yourself dance,
turn on the new Nicki Minaj album and get to werk.
if you’ve always been tempted to skydive,
let’s show the world our courage.

these storms won’t be the end of us.
you do not have to face them alone.
in fact, it is impossible to do alone.

so let’s take them on together.

wherever you are in life,
whoever the world has made you to be,

i stand with you.
i believe in the person you are
and who you are becoming.

this is a place for you.
this is a place for the wilder.

one year later.

lately i have been thinking a lot about this last year.
how my recovery journey began.
how it continued.
what it took.
and why i even did it.

stories inspire me a lot.
seeing another person go through something relatable gives me hope.

if you are struggling with something.
if you are wrestling,
if you are striving,
may these words find you,
may these words give you hope.

—————————————————————————————————-

june 20th, 2018 was the day i was going to die.
good way to instill hope in people, huh?

this is now one year and some change from that date.

so, i started by adding new people.

ones who built me up.
slowly. slowly. slowly.

i was hesitant.
people are everywhere.
i have been hurt.
no one wants to be lonely.
you don’t need any superficial commonalities, you just need to show up.

honestly, we have more in common with one another than we do differences.

it didn’t end there.
people were essential, more than that,
honesty was the most important.

for years i believed that keeping it together was normal.
i shrugged off the things that happened to me,
abuse, death, failure, depression, anxiety.

i went through therapist after therapist as a teenager.
i passed with flying colors every time,
because i know the game.
tell them what they want to hear, make them feel good,
checkmate.
you’re out. i’m done in that office.

you can’t play chess with demons though.
they cheat. they lie. they steal.
the demons i carry with me are nothing short of the best conman.
always one step ahead, always ready for the offense.

when i made it to my breaking point i had this very clear moment.
i stared at my therapist and realized i wasn’t going to win.
and even though she knew what i was thinking, planning,
she made me say the words.

it was right then that i realized i was standing on the precipice.
i am no stranger to cliffs, i am no stranger to turning points,
there was no other way this time.
the wolves had caught up to me and it was time to trust what was below.

it was time for me to jump.

the fall was terrifying, for sure.
i winced every step of the way.
not because the fall broke me,
but because i had forgotten what freedom felt like.

i said the words out loud over and over.
slowly, shyly,
with my arms around my torso as if i had to hold myself together.
i felt weaker than i ever had,
those secrets had a hold on me like no other.

the moment i gave a voice to them,
the moment they became tangible and shared,
i suddenly could see how i could conquer them.
i could grab hold of the hands reaching out to me this whole time and be lifted up.

when the world had felt like it was crumbling,
when every lie i had told
“i’m fine” “i’m okay” “i’ve got this”
shattered and i was in the middle,
the collapse didn’t break me.
i was surrounded by a world i once lived in, now in shambles,

and i was able to walk through it.
it took time, it took steady hands surrounding me,
there were moments i had to walk without anyone,
but make no mistake they were there on the other side.

though this year felt like freedom,
there were times i still hadn’t figured myself out.
i listened to voices i thought were right.
and in fact, they were very wrong.

there were times i got sad,
and i relapsed.
i stopped taking my medicine.

but that doesn’t mean my journey ended.
it doesn’t mean that this is any less of a success story.

mental health is the most difficult beast of any.
even with the right medicine,
even with the right support system,
even with everything in place,
your brain is in control.
we can’t always win the battle.
but we can allow ourselves to heal.
get back up,
and get back at it.

when i made the choice to get better,
it was out of necessity.
i got to the point where my once very safe (ha), familiar demons,
were killing me. they were annoying, tbh.
i wanted to shake them off and rid myself of every piece of them.

that is, in fact, not how healing happens.

it happens by embracing them.
by having a very real conversation with them.
you basically invite them to dinner with you for months,
they show up very confused,
eventually you figure them out as much as you figure an old friend out.

for me, i was told, they will never go away.
now, i have made friends with them,
when they go back to their old shenanigans,
i know what to do.

it starts with me being very aware.
then i utilize my resources:
my rockstar therapist.
the notes that got me through when my community was gone.
memes can help me escape myself as well.
(thank you internet)

remember when i mentioned i started adding people that were good to me?
they are one of my favorite/least favorite resources.
they are the hardest for me to use,
but possibly the safest.

my people are honest, stubborn, loving, and uniquely kind.

i have been truthful about my journey with them,
in turn, they didn’t get scared,
they took my hand and walked with me.

i never knew it was possible.
i felt i had no one, just one year ago.
maybe you feel the same way.

what i’ve found is the more secrets i keep,
the farther away people are from me.
but we need one another.
as close, as messy, as real as possible,
those are the relationships we need.

the journey to recovery starts in a million different ways,
in a million different spots.
i hope yours begins now.
there is still some time.
to begin. to be surprised. to start over.

i have to be honest,
when faced with the decision of jumping off and getting better,
or being eaten alive by wolves,
i almost chose the wolves.

i was terrified that the love i wanted most in the world wouldn’t follow me.
i was scared i wouldn’t know love again.

i had to trust that something was on the other side.
that love, laughter, kindness, and everything that i was filled with,
would be there too.
and this time i would feel it.
maybe it wasn’t the exact one i thought it would be,
but love would greet me nonetheless.

it was the biggest risk i have ever taken.
it was the greatest reward i have ever received.

i now see that i have created a safe space within me for love to grow.

recovery looks different for everyone.
the fears of starting are different for everyone.

i belong nowhere,
yet i feel comfortable everywhere now.
because the harbor that i find refuge is at home within me.

what we share is the same need for safety.
we share the undeniable reality that we deserve love,
not because of where we have been, or who we are,

simply by existing are we worthy.
we are enough.

it is not
“once i change, people with love me.”
no, thank you.
life is not a conditional statement.

you are loved now.
you are enough now.
you are deserving of safety.
hope is yours for the taking.

for all the people you think are so different from you because they are loved.
you are no different than them.
all the messages of hope you have delivered,
or the ones you have so longed to hear,

they are yours.

humans have more in common than you think.

every person has experienced heartbreak.
that alone should make us compassionate.

you, my lovely friend, have experienced heartbreak.
you deserve compassion.

i guarantee if you heard your own story told to you,
you would rest your hand on your shoulder,

and tell yourself to breathe.

you are as worthy as your best friend, your favorite human
of rest.
of love.
of friendship.
of kindness.
of laughter.
of hope.
of healing.
of being seen.
of compassion.
of feeling.
of good things.

you and i are no different, you see.
your story and mine have different details.
but we get the same ending.

we don’t have to try for anything.
this life wasn’t given to us so we can achieve anything.
we were here to enjoy the land,
take care of it, and each other.

we are here to love.
we are here to rest.
we are here to make life the best possible for each other.

my story may look different from yours,
my hope is that you know we can find the same peace.

that if no one has told you,
you hear this now:

recovery is possible.
it is hard, it is scary,
it is life giving.

you are deserving of this freedom.
love is out here.
let it consume you.
let people hold you close.
for every minute that you are scared,
you will feel comfort multiplied.

i cannot do the work for you,
but i can offer you my hand.
should you choose to take it,
i will walk by you the entire way.

i know people who will join me.
i know there are others longing for you to take the step.
take it from someone on the other side, yet still in it with you.

this is a space i hope you feel welcomed.
this is a space for the wilder.

attention.

pay attention to the world.

you may see hard things.
you may see beautiful things.

every picture that’s been painted was inspired by something real.
to opt out
and view only part
of the picture would be a disservice to you,

and in turn,

the world.

because you see things in a way no one else can.
the flowers are a color only you know.
the notes can’t be played the way you play them.
the words are yours to string together,
and they can be spoken a million times,
but only you know the way to speak your voice.

and isn’t it beautiful?

you hold infinite creativity just by being.
someone may hand you the paint, but you get to design the canvas.
someone can teach you how to dress, but style is all your own.
we can show you how to walk, but the path is yours to create.
and no one’s feet have travelled the way yours have.

what lives in your heart has only been created once.
a thousand year old song,
vibrating through lifetimes.
sung in the voice you own,
the one that exists only in you.

“if everyone is special, doesn’t that mean no one is?”

but two candles do not cancel each other out.
life is more poetic than that.
we light up rooms together.

show the world who you are.

we are waiting for you.
the invitation is here.
take my hand, we can do this,
together.

we will see hard things.
the scary things.
politics, religion, murder, thievery, and chaos.
love, rescue, redemption, peace, chaos.

heavy and light.

in order to see the rescue of a child,
you must see that they are enslaved.

in order to see the response team,
you must see the crisis of a hurricane in Puerto Rico.

in order to see kids holding town meetings,
you must see the headlines of school shootings.

in order to see clean water getting delivered,
you must see the grief of Flint, Michigan.

light and dark coexist.
there is not one without the other.
while it is hard to face the pain,
unbearable, even,
we have to keep our eyes open to the bad,

so we can see the beauty in ashes.
through cracked sidewalks, grass still grows.
life may be easier through rose colored glasses,
but what about the sunflowers?
and what about the ocean?
the color of a lover’s eyes,
the storm rolling in over a mountainside.
a sunset through the hills,
a sunrise worth waking up for.
if those things were rose colored,

wouldn’t life be so boring?

each of those things are so perfectly styled,
infinitely unique.
just like you. just like me.

the flower doesn’t try to change to be our favorite,
it just exists in a field and blooms for itself.

pay attention to the world.
the heavy. the light. the sunflowers. the chaos.

you will find it strenuous,
it is better shared.
see the demons your friend carries,
remember the spark in their smile.
the world was meant for technicolor,
for the shadows that allow relief on a summer day,
contradictions that pair perfectly.

life is not a play. you have no understudy.
no one else can play your part.
did you catch that?
we need you here.
no replacements.

you are the missing piece in this place.
whatever dreams are in your heart are there for a reason.
the song you can’t stop singing must be true.
the whisper telling you to do the impossible.

there may be cages to break,
walls that have to come down.
fires to walk through,
wilderness to search.
it is worth every price you pay,
to find the soul within.

you are already free.

so shake off the devil on your shoulder.
and show us what you are made of.
the darkness will never overtake the light.
so do not be afraid of yours any longer.

pay attention to the world.

the beauty is undeniable even in the shadows.
undeniable in you.

you are welcome here.

if you want to be fully you,
all of your pieces must be present.
i’m here to say they are welcome here. 
the broken,
the jagged,
the missing,
the dark,
the blank,
the mismatched,
 
the whole of you is welcome here.
 
do not let shame rule you. 
the pain that shame has given you does not have to be your daily.
if no one else tells you, you are wanted here.
all of you is enough. 
you deserve to feel fully alive. 
the full you is good. 
so good.
let the world see you.
“shame thrives on secrecy silence and judgment”
shame needs to be voiced.
give it a name so it is tangible and we can walk away from it, together.
hand in hand.
your scars do not define you, but they do shape you.
you did not choose your demons, but they do accompany you.
if the world is cold to you,
if the darkness is all you can find,
and trust is nowhere to be found,
 
i hope you can find refuge here.
in these words.
in the stories.
if you feel a little wilder than the rest,
welcome.
 
this place is for the wilder.

awkward sundays.

sundays make me feel out of place.

i don’t belong at brunch.
or in a pew.

even if you don’t practice religion,
the day seems to be off limits to any real work.

the rest of the week i feel i have a place.
work. friends. students. dogs. home. outside.
anywhere feels holy and good.

yet sunday comes and this shift happens.
it feels as though i’m supposed to be doing something,
but i can’t figure out what it is.

i’ve searched for sunday in other places.

i’ve been open about the church abandoning me.
because of this, i’ve heard endless stories of people being hurt.
stories of people like me,
who invested their heart into a place
only to be met with locked doors.

granted, i might be the only story that has a
“i’m not legally allowed on the property” story,
but hey, go big or go home.

people have told me about
the ways a space created for worship turned unsafe.
a place meant for a deep breath, and people choked on the air.
people who claimed to love you, turning their backs.
a table where “all are welcome” suddenly has no vacancy.
an open door to all, is now sealed tight.

the church is now closed to me.
the people gone without a trace,

but that doesn’t mean god left.

in fact, god does most of the work in the wilderness.
rarely does she follow the rules we give her.
never does he fit in the box we design for him.

in the bible there are countless stories of the biggest leaders being abandoned by their tribe.

the hot shots, the pharisees, the government, the religious;
they have a tendency for kicking out the ones they feel threatened by.

it’s understandable.
when we are comfortable, we will do anything to protect ourselves.
that is how we become liars, cheats, and thieves.

we weren’t meant to be comfortable though.
we’d be fine to stay within the boundaries,
but hopefully you have bigger plans for yourself than living a
“just fine” life.

you were made for adventure.
for a whimsical, magical life.
you have gifts the world needs,
and ideas that haven’t been shared.

this is your life.
and that is no small thing.
in fact, it is the biggest of things.

it takes courage to step outside of the ordinary.
only the brave challenge the status quo.

in order to do this, we risk our safety net.
humans need one another,
and we are wired for connection. literally.
we are designed to be social creatures.

it is why we don’t speak up,
it is what makes us fall silent to injustice.

we don’t want to lose our place.
we don’t want to be tossed into the unknown.

how crazy it has been to discover what happens when you’re on the outside.
the people, the community, the love is so different.
the people there invite do not you because it is convenient,
maybe because they know the importance of inclusion,
they invite you because you are wanted.
there is no agenda, they just want to break some bread with you.

i found that god comes in many forms.
in a monday night bible study,
in a sand volleyball team,
in coworkers,
in coffee communities,
in a bar,
in a coffeeshop.

i’ve had my most meaningful moments in those places.
i think there is something beautiful on the outside,
something that can not be recreated.

there is a story in the bible i love,
but i prefer to put it into my words instead of quoting scripture.

this dude named jacob was the world’s best con-artist.
he did a bunch of shady things,
his brother wanted to kill him,
normal family things,
then he ran away.

as he was attempting to come home
a stranger wrestled him,
you know, as you do with strangers,
jacob demanded a blessing.
the stranger obliged only after destroying jacob’s hip,
causing him to limp for the rest of his life.

the text refers to the stranger as God.
i have come to realize this stranger may have just been a man,
and because God is who he is,
he uses us as the blessings.
and the divine is to be found within one another.

Jacob gets renamed after the wrestling match.
he struggled with god,

he was abandoned, ashamed, scared,
he made countless, life altering mistakes,
and even though,
he knew he was meant for a life far greater than a wasteland.

jacob was changed, not by the leaders of the church,
jacob was blessed by god, not in the pews,
jacob built a nation, not by being in the right small group.

it happened because he knew who he was.
that there was a bigger story he was a part of.
he faced the reality,
he accepted the limp that came with it.

healing hearts find refuge in the shade of the trees,
and in the sunlight.
in the once unknown wilderness,
a bunch of outsiders come together
creating the most ragtag group of rejects you’ll find,
and the most loving, authentic misfits to date.

maybe you don’t think you belong anywhere.
maybe you think the church has no home for you.
maybe your family has painted you as the black sheep.
maybe you don’t always understand social cues.
maybe your friends don’t encourage you.
maybe your friday nights are spent online.
maybe you have lots of circles, but don’t fit into any one of them.

while the wilderness is painful,
and at times torturous,
i can promise that you will find rest.
you will find others.
there are tribes that will welcome you.

let me repeat that:
there is a place for you.
right here. right now.

just as you are.
not for the person you will be,
but for who you are right now.
for the person you are becoming.

we all may be different,
you could very well be an outcast,

but we are also the same.

we are struggling to love,
failing at it, and trying over again,
finding out how to belong.

if you have found yourself on the outside
and the maps you have are now void,
the familiar faces have disappeared,

there is hope in tomorrow.
you were made for a wild, whimsical, adventure.
it is okay to take it.

there is beauty waiting for you to discover it,
if you are willing, you will find it.

you might have to wrestle through the night.
and
you will walk with a limp after the wilderness.

but.
i promise you the glory comes.
the sun rises.

the sun rises.

the wilderness surrounding you,
the unknown now familiar.

and you will realize it is sunday,
and you will look around
and realize you are home.

and that you belong here.

you have the whole time.