Everyday Grace

Searching for goodness in the ordinary

The Other Couch

Apr
30

Confession: if you look long enough, you’ll notice quickly that this photo is not Instagram-perfect. To the right, you’ll see the bins of stuff still sitting around from when I started Konmari-ing and then life got in the way. A Diet Coke from a drive-thru sits on my coffee table, even though I know lots of folks will let me know about how it’s poison and I should make my own drinks from fermented kale and stevia. And for your own sanity, dear enneagram ones, please don’t glance under the coffee table itself. You don’t wanna know what assortment of vitamins, half-read books, tupperware containers of dried fruit and nuts, journals, bottle of Lysol wipes, and other random crap is lurking under there. Just don’t do that to yourself. I give you permission to look away until I organize it (likely first thing in the morning on February 31).

But, there’s something else in this photo – the reason I paused and took it from exactly this angle, no contorting to hide the mess.

See, I never sit over here.  (more…)

When We’re Waiting in the Top Envelope

Apr
21

Photo: Engin Akyurt

In my living room, next to my favorite bookcase, two envelopes hang on the wall. Nearby is a small stack of notecards. We put our prayers in the top envelope – the little leaf reminds us of hope for the future – and when God answers, we move them to the bottom envelope, our hope having bloomed into joy.

My little prayer corner.

I set this up after reading that Anne Lamott has a box where she keeps her prayers – God’s inbox. I thought this was genius but that we needed an outbox, too, a way to keep track of all the times God has answered – because, if you’re like me, you know how it goes. We pray (and pray and pray) and when God answers, we are grateful. But then, as the storms of life move in and the wind begins to toss us around again, all those filled needs and reassurances fade into the chaos and uncertainty around us. We forget (at least, I forget) how God has shown up for us in the past. How over and over again, when it looks like all is lost, He has come through.

I wonder if Jesus’ friends forgot too, right around this time a couple thousand years ago. The whole world must have looked pretty black this weekend. A Friday that looked anything but good, followed by a Saturday in what must have been utter darkness and despair. For a moment – an agonizing few days – it appeared that the corrupt power systems of this world had won. Goodness and love had taken its last breath and was buried.

Planted.

Just like our envelope prayers. When it has been a lifetime of leaves with what seems like only occasional flowers, too few and far between, and now the whole tree itself looks dead and dry, it can seem impossible that Sunday will ever come. That a dead tree could ever bloom again. That a Man could rise from the dead, resurrecting our hope and faith with Him. The waiting is the excruciating part, when we’re not sure He will come through this time, even if He has countless times before. But may we remember, even in the waiting, even in the not-sure and the not-yet, He is still good.

If you are waiting in the top envelope, hold on. Sunday and flowers are coming. You are not forgotten. You never, ever were, and you can never, ever be. The God of the universe, Maker of oceans and stars, is already whispering to your flowers to go on, unfold. Just wait till you see them. Just you wait.

 

-c

When You’re Feeling Left Out, Unloved, and Lacking

Jul
30

photo: Tobi Dami

The faces in the photo were overcome with joy, smiling big. Four girls leaning on each other, one in a wedding dress. A ton of Instagram hearts below solidified its status as a joyful memory and a lovely photo. But looking at it made me want to cry.

A little over a year ago, I traveled to Uganda with a group of total strangers. Though none of us knew each other before the trip, and we had nothing in common beyond saying “yes” to flying across the world to serve together, we all quickly bonded over our shared experiences in this new place and became fast friends. We worshipped together, cleaned up a library together, planted fields of grass together, ate together, and danced with girls rescued from trafficking together. We were a team, leaning on and learning from each other, and I flew home to Missouri with a deep hope that, though we were all from different states and places, we would somehow stay connected as friends.

I later learned that several of them had the same idea. A handful of times over the past year since we returned, I have seen photos pop up on social media of several folks from our trip getting together at conferences, events, or just because. It hurts to admit this, but I have never been invited to any of these get-togethers. The first few times, I tried to brush it off as coincidence and not take it personally. Later, I tried to reach out in a positive (not a whiny) way and say things like, “So fun that y’all were able to get together! Let me know for next time – I’d love to see you again!” Once, one of the other girls and I actually did make a plan to get together in her hometown, but she later cancelled on me. No big deal…things happen. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t hurt.

I blinked down at this new photo that had just popped up on social media. It was a handful of the girls from the trip celebrating at one’s wedding. It appeared that they all took part in the wedding as her bridesmaids, while I wasn’t even invited at all. To be fair, I fully support her right to have whomever she wants at her wedding. I just didn’t understand why they were all included, and I was left out…again. I thought we were friends, too.

I wish I could say the biggest emotion I felt upon seeing this photo was pure happiness for my friend getting to marry her sweetheart. Instead, tears filled my eyes and my heart cracked open, prayers spilling over. It wasn’t the wedding, it was all of it. All the times I’d been left out by these girls over the past year bubbled up all at once, and all I could do was cry. Lord, I sobbed, I believe you have to be a friend to have a friend. I have prayed over these girls, texted with them in the middle of the night, encouraged them, tried my best. So it really stinking hurts to realize that I have been left out and left hanging these past several months. The only common denominator here seems to be…me. Did I do something wrong? Were we not as close as I thought? Have I not been a good friend to them? Did they just forget about me?  (more…)

How to Talk to People When The Ship is Going Down and Everything is on Fire

Jun
25

photo: Jure Širić

So this week has felt like one long horror movie, only the doors are locked and they’re not letting anyone out of the theater. We’re just forced to watch as thing after thing after thing happens, and suddenly everything is exploding and we don’t even know where to look.

Right?

We’ve watched little kids be separated from their immigrant parents at our southern border and felt helpless. We’ve argued about whose fault it is on social media. We’ve seen the photos and tried to figure out where to donate and listened to the recordings of toddlers crying themselves sick because they just want their mama, their papa. I have felt emotionally exhausted all week, and I’m sitting on my comfortable couch in Kansas City. Trying to imagine how they must feel makes me physically dizzy. We are creating So. Much. Brokenness and trauma. Dismantling families like we sort through old clothes for donation: this one here, that one there. Send this one, keep that one, this one is a maybe. Cages full of kids with hearts full of breaks.

I’ve noticed the same fight break out on social media eleventy hundred times this week.

“They shouldn’t have come here, then none of this would have happened.” (As if it’s that simple when you fear for your life and the lives of your children every day in your own home.)  (more…)