a new thing.

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my shirt reads, I BELONG TO JESUS.

it feels like the most obvious statement i could make. i belong to Jesus. of course i do. i always have. i cannot think of a single moment in my life where i didn't understand this to be true.

but here i am, literally wearing this statement across my chest, getting baptized. again.

again? yes, again.

the first time i got baptized, i was 19. nine years later, i'm circling back around to it.


i used to think faith was linear. that you hit different milestones like rungs on a ladder.

getting saved would be like stepping on the ladder. you move up when you get baptized, when you get filled with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues, when you beat an addiction, when you go through a hard time and come out on the other side still believing God is good. whatever it is, you advance. you move forward. to go back would be unnecessary, maybe even counter-productive.

i was always getting tangled up in this thought process.

i carried a bit of pride for the advances i'd made and would think things like, "i know that" or "i did that." like i was beyond that.
on the flip side, i wore a thin layer of shame for each time i had a new revelation. i would wonder out loud, "why am i just now realizing this? it feels so obvious."

but here is the thing. faith is not linear. the truth is not something you learn once and then move past, on to the next thing. there is no next thing. there is just the truth.

I BELONG TO JESUS.


when i got baptized the first time, i did it because i understood what it was and why a person should do it and i was taking that next step in my faith. at the time, it felt important. and it was. but it was purely symbolic – being buried with my sin; being raised to life in Christ. because He died, for real, so that i wouldn't have to. so that my act could be a symbolic one, in water, to publicly declare my faith.

i knew its importance. i did the thing. i belonged to Jesus. see?

but my faith was thin and frail and shakable. and yet, still enough.

but throughout the past three years, God has been breaking down my linear thought process and taking me in circles. around and around the truth, adding a little bit more weight to my faith each time. i've said "i already know this," "i've already done this," "i thought i was past this," and – my favorite – "how am i just now realizing this?" over and over. i've had to say goodbye, i've had to walk away, and i've had to let go. of things i was happy to part with, and things that felt like they took pieces of my heart with them. things that were toxic, and things i loved – which were, more often than not, the same thing. again and again.

until there was nothing left. until my hands were empty. until it was just me and my praise and the truth.

the truth, which i kept picking up and thinking, "okay, and what else?" or "okay, and what about [this thing i think is also important]?"

but there is no "and." it's Jesus. only Jesus. that's the thing. the same thing. the obvious thing. but it's a weighty thing. keep circling back to it.

I BELONG TO JESUS.


when i got baptized this time, it was for the same reasons, except it carried more weight.

this time, i can name the things that are left, dead in the water. the things that i've given up, broken off and carved out of me.

this time, i have not only been raised to life in Christ, but i'm stepping in that authority. into that freedom. i not only know what i was saved from, but what i was saved for.

this time, i wanted to let you know. I BELONG TO JESUS.

and it may sound like the same, old thing. an obvious thing. an i-already-know-that thing.

but He is doing a new thing. and i want in.

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dancing in the deep.

i have always loved the bible story where peter walks on water because it seemed like such a fun and adventurous thing to do with Jesus. it was a miracle unlike the rest because it wasn't fulfilling a need, like multiplying bread and fish to feed the hungry or healing the sick or even turning water into wine. it was just peter, leaning in, and saying to Jesus, "if that's You out there, then i can do it with You. invite me out." in all my visions of what it would've been like, had it been me instead of peter, i always keep my eyes on Jesus. if you have enough faith and boldness to step out, i thought, then how do you not have enough faith to stay on top of the water once you're out there?

the story is told in matthew 14, but as i read each version (in mark and john) about what happened that night/early morning, i couldn't help but see how much it also tells the story of my real life in this season. it's common to call this type of waiting a 'wilderness season,' but i think it's more accurately described as 'walking on water.' which is not as much fun as i always imagined it would be. it's more of a terrifying kind of thrill, if i'm being honest.


i first stepped out of the boat in september of 2015, when i left my comfortable and secure full time job. although, looking back, i would say it was more of a dysfunctional comfort and false security. i was in a boat, in the middle of the sea, a few miles of course, and straining to row. in the midst of the wind and the waves, i spotted Jesus. like peter, i wasn't looking for Him to come closer, but for an invitation to step out. i had been singing songs like "oceans," which always feel like prayers as much as they are worship.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
let me walk upon the waters
wherever You would call me
take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
 

Jesus said the same thing to me that He said to peter. "come." that's the thing about telling Him you'll go – He always replies back with, "okay then, let's go." so i quit my job and stepped out.

it wasn't until a month later, that i first called it was it was. i sent my mom an email, continuing a conversation we'd had on facetime, explaining that i didn't know how i would pay my upcoming bills, but that i wasn't asking for help because i didn't think i needed it. i had quit my job, but i still hadn't gotten another one (not for lack of trying), but somehow small jobs kept coming out of nowhere and adding together to provide what i needed.

"it sort of feels like i have the opportunity to see what it's like to walk on water," i wrote. "i don't know what i'm doing, or what i'm supposed to be doing, or how i'm going to pay my bills. but God promises i won't drown, so He has to show up."

i went on to say that her offer to help me felt like her coming up next to me in a boat and asking me to get in. let me help you. let me protect you. let me save you. i remember holding my breath as i typed the words, "i don't want to get in your boat." because, as much as i loved and appreciated her willingness to help me, i felt like God was telling me, "this is it." but, quite honestly, "it" looked a lot like nothing.

the thing i'd never noticed about the story of peter walking on water is that it was in the midst of a storm. the same winds that had caused them to struggle and veer of course were the same winds that caught peter's attention out on the water. it wasn't just an isolated gust of wind that caused him to doubt, as i'd always imagined it to be. (listen, i always pictured it to be daytime too, completely ignoring the clear details written in scripture, so. i don't know what i was thinking either.) but that changes everything, doesn't it? i mean, i'm going to be honest, i don't know that i would have even stepped out of the boat if i were peter, let alone remained focused enough not to sink.

when i found myself sinking in march of 2016, there was no confusion about what was happening. i had stepped out of the boat, but i wasn't walking on water. i was treading water, and i was exhausted. Jesus wasn't letting me drown, because of course He wasn't, but He was asking, "you of little faith, why do you doubt?"

i've written about this before, about march, but i eventually hit a point where i had to face that question. why do i doubt? do i trust God and believe Him to be who He says He is, or do i not? it feels elementary, on paper. and i think most people skim right over it because the obvious answer is yes. and yet, when you're in the deep and you're sinking, it doesn't matter what you say. the fact that you're sinking means you're lacking faith and there's no pretending anymore.

after that, my whole situation changed because i chose to completely let go and really believe that God is who He says He is, even if nothing looked like i thought it should. i got a job. and when that one ended, i got another one without even trying. and i thought that was it. but i should've known better, after singing a new song.

set my feet upon the sea
'til i'm dancing in the deep


here i am, two years later, in a parallel season. just like what happened in 2016, i finished out the year before on a christmas tour, and i went home for a few weeks without knowing what the new year might bring, but confident that something would come. after a busy season at the end of the year, it felt like things were finally moving. and yet, the new year isn't unfolding like i thought it would. things have come, but nothing that allows me to see more than a couple days (sometimes weeks) in advance.

i am now, as i was in 2016, what you might call a "freelance" nanny. in quotes, for the way nannies are generally known for their consistent work with the same family. i work with the same handful of families, but the work is as-needed and very much inconsistent. sometimes i'm on tour with musician parents and their babies. sometimes i'm babysitting for toddlers who are too sick to be sent to daycare. sometimes i'm nannying for parents who have temporary jobs. sometimes i'm babysitting for parents who need a date night. it all depends on the day.

the winds didn't die down until Jesus and peter got in the boat, and i can tell you the winds in my life haven't died down either. it's hard. it's exhausting. and i'm tired. i'm ready to be done. watching God move in my life every day is awesome, don't get me wrong. but getting a miracle requires needing a miracle, and needing a miracle means you're in an unfortunate situation, which is uncomfortable.

but the difference between now and two years ago is that i'm not sinking. i'm not afraid. i'm not paying attention to the winds, to the voices that tell me i should be making different or "more responsible" choices. and i'm not saying things like "God has to show up;" i'm declaring the truth that He is already here.

i'm not trying to walk on water; i'm doing it. and i will keep going 'til i'm dancing in the deep.


i know this won't last forever. they get in the boat. the winds die down. and they get where they're going. in fact, john 6:21 says that when Jesus got in the boat with them, "immediately the boat was at the land where they were going." immediately.

i don't exactly know where i'm going, but i know that when we're done having our deep sea dance party, it won't be long.

stepping into 2018 like

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at the start of 2017, i felt overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation and i couldn't let myself think about it for too long because i couldn't sit still. i wanted to get up and get moving.

moving onto what, exactly? i didn't actually know.

it was a strange feeling, to be so excited about something i couldn't name.


in a somewhat slow process, reading at my own pace and flipping back and forth between versions, i've been making my way through each book of the entire bible. a thing i have, maybe surprisingly, never done.

a few months before the start of 2017, i was reading joshua 6 – the story the battle of jericho, a story i'd heard countless times growing up – for probably the first time in my adult life.

at the start of the chapter, joshua is receiving instructions from god about what to do. as the chapter continues, you read how joshua follows the instructions and how it all plays out exactly as god had said. but the part that caught my attention was near the beginning, in joshua 6:2, where god starts talking, but before he tells joshua what to do, he basically says, "okay, listen. you've already won." and then he continues on to explain what joshua needs to do, physically, in order to achieve that victory.

the message version phrases it like this, "i've already given jericho to you." already. joshua hasn't walked around the walls of jericho. he hasn't even been given the instruction to do so. and yet, it's already his.

i wondered what that felt like, for joshua to hear. i kept thinking about the people who were living in jericho, in that moment. already. i pictured them going about their day, eating their meals, making jokes with their friends. and if joshua could've seen the bustle of their ordinary day, i imagined him thinking, "this doesn't look like it's already mine."

and yet, god had said it was. already.


it wasn't until the start of 2017 that i wrapped my head around what it meant to hold that word in my hands. already.

i couldn't see my jericho, or what 2017 would hold. i couldn't see the girl who lived in the apartment i now live in, or the way she went about her day, eating her meals, making jokes with her friends. i couldn't even see the apartment. i couldn't see the places i'd go or the people i'd meet or the babies i'd be taking care of. i didn't even know in which direction to look, or that some of those babies hadn't even been born yet. i couldn't see the way none of it looked like it would be mine.

and yet, i could feel it. already.


i told my sister that it felt like deuteronomy 11:10-12. "the land you are entering to take over is not like the land of egypt, from which you have come, where you planted your seed and irrigated it by foot as in a vegetable garden. but the land you are crossing the jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. it is a land that the lord your god cares for; the eyes of the lord your god are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end."

twenty sixteen felt like crossing into this new land, and 2017 would be a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven. a land that the lord my god personally cares for, watching over it from january until december.

i didn't really know what that meant, then, but it sounded good.

in april, i got a glimpse of it, when i read the chronicles of narnia and thought about how i want more. i don't just want to settle for what i know about god, but i want to keep going. keep saying yes.

in november, i wrote about what pastor steven called "creative collaboration" – what happened when jesus stepped into peter's boat and asked if he would go. this point in his message ("there's a catch") stood out to me for the way it feels like the best way to describe what happened in 2017.

jesus has been in my boat. he has been asking me to work together. but 2017 felt like a year of finding out what happens when i keep saying yes. yes, yes, yes. hineni.

and as i step into 2018, with equally as much (if not more) expectation for this year, i want to look back and point to the ways god showed up in 2017.

because he did it then and he will do it again. because he has more, and i want what he has.

more. immeasurably more. infinitely more. exceedingly abundantly more.


already mine in 2017

completed my first fast.

discovered my love for c.s. lewis and the chronicles of narnia.

had my handwriting printed on a t-shirt. for andrew belle.

donated regularly to charities.

added money to my savings account.

discovered the enneagram.

started writing a book. and talking about it.

watched one of my best friends get married.

created an email newsletter.

traveled to charlotte each month.

attended my first writing workshop.

spent a week in connecticut.

moved into an apartment.

started a new job.

went on tour and traveled to 37 different cities in 19 different states.

celebrated my golden birthday.

saw needtobreathe.

paid all my bills.

hosted my friend and her new husband when they passed through nashville.

read 26 books.

december.

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december is the friday of months. it's all parties and festive snacks and not thinking ahead because it's christmastime. everything else can wait until next year because we made it.

december happenings.

because of the way christmas tour dates were arranged, i got to re-join my connect group in december. we had an ugly christmas sweater/cookie-swap party, during which we went caroling to the neighbors. i didn't know i'd be able to attend until a few days before, when the ugly christmas sweaters were long gone from goodwill, so i wore the one tab had made a few years ago, with the largest gold bow that felt hilarious and appropriate at the same time. #GOLD

i saw needtobreathe play the last show of their fall tour, part of the acoustic leg – which, as you can imagine, was incredibly dreamy. they had drew and ellie holcomb and gavin degraw as special guests, which was so fun.

molls and i met up at crema to catch up and exchange christmas gifts. i ran into another friend as i walked in, holding the bag with a gold bow. "bringing presents to crema?" he asked. but it only seemed appropriate for us to have christmas at crema, after having logged so many hours there when i was unemployed and she was in school.

one of my best friends and her husband (!!) moved from la to new york city (!!) and passed through nashville on their drive. it was such a treat to be able to hug (and host) them.

last, but not least: 6 different cities in 5 different states this month.


THIS YEAR SO FAR

january | february | march | april | may | june | july | august | september | october | november

november.

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in early november, pastor steven delivered a message called "there's a catch," in which he talked about what happened when jesus got into peter's boat in luke 5. creative collaboration, he called it, because the creator was partnering with his creation –– a thing he didn't need to do. he didn't need the boat (because, who needs a boat when you can walk on water?), but he wanted the boat. he chose the boat. i'm tempted to recap the entire sermon for all the little points, but this is what stuck with me.

in the month of thanksgiving, i felt the most thankful for this life i get to live. for jesus getting in my boat, for choosing me, and for the things i get to see and experience because i said "yes" when he asked if i would go.

november happenings.

i opened a print shop.
i saw andrew belle, and got to thank him in person for choosing my handwriting.
i watched miracle on 34th street (1947) at the franklin theatre.
i visited 16 different cities in only 6 different states (because the people of ohio love ccm).


THIS YEAR SO FAR

january | february | march | april | may | june | july | august | september | october

i'm so glad i live in a world where there are octobers.

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it was all a blur, honestly. that's been the theme here, in my little monthly recaps. the first half of the year was so slow moving. it always feels that way, but for me personally, it felt like six months of "not yet."

i once heard my dad say the second half of the gas tank goes faster. i don't remember what conversation we were having that prompted him to say this, but it has stuck with me for the way i cannot wrap my head around the truth of it. why does it happen that way?

the same is true of the calendar year, and i am just as baffled by it.

birthday month.

i turned 28, and am declaring all things golden for this year, not just the birthday.

andrew belle printed my handwriting on a t-shirt again. this time, in blue.

i spent all my free time working on side projects and laughing out loud when i suddenly realized, months in, that my season of waiting is over and my discomfort about life was entirely because my introverted homebody self does not love the life of hustle.

my "books of 2017" list still currently rests at 24, where it has sat for three months.

i visited 19 different cities in 12 different states (if i counted correctly) because i'm on tour again! more on that later.


THIS YEAR SO FAR

january | february | march | april | may | june | july | august | september