Thursday, December 29, 2011

And we Groan.

Like an extended breath, I write. Not for the readers I may never have. But for me. For my heart. It is a release of sorts; my words a toss to the wind, a dangerous wind that ravels and spins uncontrollably. This wind knows no time, no limit.

And yet I submit.

I submit my preconceived "control", my pretend "success", my tight reign on what I once thought was My World, My Universe. And no, I would never tell you that. But I believed it to be true when I acted out of my self-proclaimed expertise, my make-no-mistake-about-it certainty that I practically tasted and memorized and mimicked down to the tiniest detail.

The real truth?

I am one broken, messed up human being who aches with a loneliness that sometimes owns me. This loneliness holds an obvious power in my life that carries me through too many nights, too many seasons.

But lately, I have learned a remarkable thing.

This loneliness is a groaning for something much greater. In Romans 8, we are told that our hearts groan because we were meant for something more. The "truth" that we so often believe that completely "fix" all of our problems (you know, the meditation and the yoga and the good wine and the solid conversation with the friend we can always trust...) are actually what keeps us from the treasure our hearts groan for.


Yes, our fixes are often good things. Don't get me wrong, yoga has been a sweet blessing for me lately, one which has allowed me to truly experience the stillness of God in a very fresh and tangible way.


It is only in Christ that our hearts are content. That we are complete. So we long for the day when we will know this loneliness, this groaning no more. We will be eternally with our Creator, the one who loves us more wildly and beautifully than we could ever imagine.

I pray that His love will totally disturb your world, that it will blow up what you once thought to be true. May He give Love an entirely new meaning for you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lend an Ear.

OK so I was reading recently about ears.. I know, so normal... and I thought about my favorite sounds. Here is a start to that list...

Favorite Sounds-
  • Elizabeth Olmstead's laugh (she'll probably never read this, so I can say that...)
  • My church body (Midtown) singing on a Sunday morning, especially the words, "Christ is risen from the dead. We are one with Him again. Come awake, come awake. Come and rise up from the grave." sooo good to my soul. love it.
  • A "nothing but net" freethrow shot in basketball.
  • A horse's hooves galloping up a hill (reminds me of my days with Rocky Raccoon racing my friends on their horses in the pasture)
  • My back door opening to tell me one of my roommates is home
  • Kicking a pile of leaves at the start of fall
  • Rain on a tin roof (I know, so cliche but it specifically reminds me of Camp McDowell during Rest Hour growing up. Loved that time. We never rested. We just sat on each other's beds and told stories for an hour.)
  • At a track meet when the gun shoots and then like lightning, feet burst out of the blocks and pound into a rubber track for the 4x100 race. Ahh... miss those days.
  • Orange Juice fizzling over crushed ice on a blazing hot summer day in Alabama.
  • Fingers typing "mmargrandall" and my password (No, I will not share that with you..) into my gmail account. I am a pretty fast typer, what can I say? I like the sound of my own speed. :)
  • I could make 500 of these lists for music alone, but I decided to just say one of my all-time favorite instruments, (for your sake and mine), the violin.
  • The breeze whistling through my ears at 9,000 feet up in the air while I'm skydiving over the Talladega Race Course in Alabama. Good times. Call me crazy, but I still remember that sound.
  • Ok one more musical reference- The Afro American Gospel Choir at The University of Alabama
  • The Tennessee State University Step Team... or I should say, any step team. They are just the most recent that I saw perform.
  • A sincere "Thank You" or "I'm sorry"
  • An African student at work calling me "Ms. M&M"- this might be my favorite sound of all
  • My name in Spanish, Maria Margarita. I don't know, I just love the sound of the r's as d's. It's so fun to say.
  • Sneakers on a basketball court... makes me want to go to a college basketball game ASAP.
  • A spoken word artist that has mastered the skill of articulation
  • My phone vibrating announcing an anticipated text.. I know, such a jr. high statement but you have to admit... it does bring a smile.
  • Close friends of mine meeting for the first time.
  • Fire burning on Christmas morning

Ok now you do it and send them to me! (if you want... no pressure)

Monday, November 21, 2011

empty gestures

In the words of Henri Nouwen...

"In the morning, long before dawn, He got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there (Mk. 1:35). In the middle of sentences loaded with action-- healing suffering people, casting out devils, responding to impatient disciples, traveling from town to town and preaching from synagogue to synagogue-- we find these quiet words: 'In the morning, long before dawn, He got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.' In the center of breathless activities we hear a restful breathing. Surrounded by hours of moving we find a moment of quiet stillness. In the heart of much involvement there are words of withdrawal. In the midst of action there is contemplation. And after much togetherness there is solitude...

In the lonely place Jesus finds the courage to follow God's will and not His own; to speak God's words and not His own; to do God's work and not His own... It is in the lonely place, where Jesus enters into intimacy with the Father, that His ministry is born.

Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures.

The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the Christian life and should therefore be the subject of our most personal attention."

-Introduction, Out of Solitude

(If you haven't read any Henri Nouwen, go pick up something from him now. Please.)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Theology of Suffering

Yesterday I sat in a membership class for church and there is one thought I cannot escape: A theology of suffering.


That's right, we were encouraged to process how we view and think about suffering in our lives. And the reality is.... I don't. I ignore it. I curse it and move on. I see God as someone outside of that. Of course He wouldn't let me suffer. He loves me. He only works for my good. And "my good" only comes from the beautiful, the victorious, the all-put-together-no-coloring-outside-of-the-lines kind of reality, right?

Ohhh I wish...

The truth is as I was reminded yesterday, Jesus invites us into His suffering. We are told in Matthew 20:23 that we will indeed drink from His cup. The cup of wrath, of hurt, of pain. And He meets us there.

Yes, some day we will dance to a new rhythm as we discover a new reality- a place of no pain, no sin, no struggle. A day when the Church, His beloved, His bride, is at once reunited with her Creator.

Until then, I am trying not to run from every painful experience.

In the words of one of the pastors at my church-

"Most of us often tend to think of our spiritual journeys as God directed adventures until something goes seriously wrong or until certain problems persist past the time we have given God to take them away. For too long we have been motivated by a solution-focused, make-it-work culture. When life gets tough, we think more about solving the problems rather than finding God in the midst of our problems. As a result, we end up focusing more on using God to improve our lives than on worshipping Him in any and every circumstance. And we end up regarding each other as projects that have problems that need to be fixed."

May we journey through this together as the body of Christ. Suffering, like celebration, is not meant to be travelled alone.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

falling for you.

It's FALL yall! Let's rock it in style...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Listening- An Act of Love.

Today at work we had a training on adolescent development and I just loved it. Adolescence is such a sweet time, and this workshop reminded me how much I love working with that age. Truly. This is what I was meant to do, I think...? (among many other things, but this theme bleeds over into so many pieces of my existence; it's hard to ignore.)

So I thought the training was going to be the same ole thing a few of our staff members completed a few months ago with the same instructor, but no-siree. This session was way more in depth and so refreshing and relevant. I must say, my favorite part was when we talked about the value of listening in our jobs. We did an activity called the Peace Circle... which apparently is a well known tool and while I had heard of different forms of it, I had never quite experienced this before.

All 15 or so of us sat on the floor in a circle with a candle lit in the middle and our leader opened up with this quote... and PS. while you read this quote, I encourage you to be completely still, completely present.

"Listen. Do not have an opinion while you listen because frankly, your opinion doesn't hold much water outside of your universe. Just listen. Listen until their brain has been twisted like a dripping towel and what they have to say is all over the floor."
-Hugh Elliott

Our instructor then asked us to describe a time where we felt truly listened to. She then passed a baton/"magic wand" around and you could not speak until you received the baton. We went in the same order each time... apparently, that's important too. It was empowering. And humbling. And eye-opening.

I feel like my heart sincerely comes alive when I am in that sacred space with people, hearing their stories with no distractions, no other noise besides their own voice. It's like pure gold to my ears. All senses are awakened.

And how ironic that we were all being trained on listening when just last week in my small group we were discussing the same topic. Coincidence? I think not. My group of soon-to-be dear friends (we are still developing that, I guess you could say..) sat around a similar, less structured chosen circle (as opposed to mandated and getting paid to be there) and described a situation where we felt truly listened to, validated, received.

I spoke about my experiences with a mentor of mine and how she so intently and actively listens to me in a way that allows me to live in a true and raw kind of freedom, a freedom so rich I can literally taste it. With her, I feel complete freedom to express my emotions, an unleashing of sorts, a release of a language dying to be heard and interpreted. I feel freedom to just be me. And let me tell you, there is nothing better.

This kind and genuine woman ever-so-gently takes all the "should be's" and "would be's" and any and every possible expectation I demand for myself and places them aside. She allows me to recognize these expectations and assumptions for what they are. She even encourages me to give names to them- like "maturity" and "responsibility" and "independence"... characteristics I claim to struggle with as I am learning how to be an adult, at least when I am the judge. But at the end of the day, she interprets, they are "should-be's". They do not hold nor deserve the weight and importance I give them.

And she reminds me of that.

She listens to me for who I am. In fact, she celebrates that with me. When I feel disorganized and scattered, she validates that. She never tries to correct me or "fix" me. She listens. She allows Silence to breathe into our space when it is simply asking for its voice to be heard. And we listen together. What a beautiful voice, like a long and forgotten friend.

Listening. It's a beautiful thing. Question- When's the last time you felt listened to? What did that feel like? Look like? Taste like? Sound like? Smell like?

Live there today.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

OH, for heaven's sake...

So I am not too great at this whole consistency thing. I tend to leave some pretty heavy space in between each post, don't I? But you know, I see it as a good thing in a way... keeps you on your toes, I guess. :)

A lot has happened since I last posted. I feel like my life is spinning and sprinting in circles all around me, and I am just standing still, speechless in the center of it all. I watch with wide eyes and knees nervously shaking together in anticipation as though the earthquake inside of me has finally spilled over into my outer world and I can no longer distinguish one from the other. I am silenced by its irony, chaos, speed, and sluggish-ness... its beautiful, disturbing, and most times frightening unpredictability.

There are so many stories I could tell about tornado damage and family meetings and future roommates and seniors graduating and a Nashville community that I have come to truly love. (It's almost been a year here, WOW.) The funny thing is, though, that pretty much everyone that reads this blog knows those stories, so don't worry, I will spare you... And I am learning that there are really just some emotions and life experiences you simply cannot put into words as hard as that is to admit. I would love to try and I often do. But what is so beautiful to me are those conversations where no words are necessary, and in some odd way, two spirits sing the same silent song. And you just know. No words necessary... I have had many experiences like that with sweet Nashville friends and even a friend in Serbia over skype today. God breathes through those silences. Just because we are silent does not mean He is. In fact, that's when we hear Him best. It is in the silence that we hear Him call our name.


Right now I am listening to a jam session I had back in Colorado with a dear friend, Rachel San Luis (shout out....)! What a fun memory... we set up our keyboards across from each other and just played music for the entire afternoon. I will always cherish that memory. I imagine heaven to be full of grand pianos on top of gigantic marshmallow clouds with choirs of angels singing all around us. And I will probably be a much better piano player in heaven... at least I hope so.

I recently read Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo and I must confess, when my mom handed me that book with strong recommendation, I just could not take it seriously with the title and the nacho-cheese-yellow cover and the kid and the smile and... I stand corrected. I like to think the book is true. And I will continue to trust in that hope. But whether or not the little boy actually did go to heaven, I do believe in heaven and I KNOW that I can trust in that hope.

SO. Here's the deal. That book got me thinking about heaven with the creativity and imagination, yet matter-of-fact reality that it deserves. Why do we never think about heaven? We hear it more on the television than we do in our own hearts. As Americans, (and really, just human beings), we live in a culture that is so draining and short-sighted that it just sucks us right in effortlessly with its melodic and hypnotic techniques where all we think there is to this so-called life is a steady career, a new bike, and a husband... ok so it's different for everyone, I know.

But just for fun, let's dream for a minute...

Will we speak a new language? Will we wear wings? Will we shake hands with Adam and Eve and hear stories of baby Jesus's first steps from Mary? Will we know love so well we can taste it? Will we even remember what darkness felt like on our skin? Will we tell stories to the animals and even listen to a few from them? I bet they have lots to tell us... What will the lion and the horse's voice sound like? Will we meet unborn siblings and dance with Jesus at the Wedding Table? After all, we are His bride.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Lone Ranger

So I was talking to a friend tonight about loneliness... what that feels like, how we try to avoid it at all costs, how painful it can often be. But tonight we tried to look at it in a new light, give it a new name.

Perhaps it is an invitation?

An invitation into weakness. An invitation into dependency, an invitation into the deepest, most intimate relationship we could ever step into. Perhaps loneliness is God's way of calling us to Himself. Perhaps it is God's way of interrupting our seemingly "controlled" lives. Perhaps it is His way of revealing His divine sovereignty and purpose in our every waking second.


Something to think about, I suppose.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

April Showers

I know it's been a while, so how about a list of updates?
  • I got to play my first Nashville show! I played at The French Quarter with my friend Tilly! (See above picture.)
  • I drink coffee now... but don't get too excited... just vanilla lattes. That's a big step, though. Let's be honest.
  • I "officially" know a few chords on the guitar and have written two whole songs just on guitar.
  • I kind of love my job and the students I work with. They make me laugh every day.
  • I am currently reading too many books at once.
  • Tim Keller is one of new favorite authors, thinkers, and teachers.... Although his stuff can be hard to read at times because he is so brutally honest.
  • I would like to plan a trip to Europe soon... soon as in next fall/winter to see some friends! Saving up now...
  • I have rooster feather weaves in my hair now. It's becoming a trend or something. I live in Nashville now. I have to step up my game.
  • I got a Tennessee driver's license :)
  • I have been running more consistently lately, thanks to this beautiful weather! I am reminded how much I really love running.
  • I decided that I really like the age I am right now. It falls somewhere between a college kid and a grown-up.. and since I will never really feel comfortable in the grown-up world, I think this is a good fit for me.

Ok that's all for now folks. More to come...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011

To Infinity.... and Beyond!

As the snow continues to fall outside my windows and I am treated to another day off work tomorrow, I commit to truly enjoying this unique time- time to read, time to write, time for sporadic and much-needed conversation with my roommates, time right here at my fingertips just ready for me to mold into my very own. What a gift. It's funny how in just allowing our hearts to breathe a little bit, we can come upon some real truth that is so easily forgotten when the rush of routine overwhelms us and we immediately go into robot mode.

I am suddenly reminded of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 3 when Lotso, the manipulative leader with his evil southern charm, orders his crew to kidnap Buzz and flip his switch so that he is put in "demo mode".... basically, they un-Buzz him.

What a sad part of the movie. (Don't worry, it gets much better...)

But may I step into your life a little bit and ask, what is your "Lotso"? I know it may be somewhat difficult to take this analogy seriously, but honestly, who or what do you allow in your life to flip your switch and turn you into something that feels so beyond what you know and claim until you become someone so unfamiliar, like an alien in a foreign world? You become like a robot as you mimic the mannerisms that you observe and the patterns that you see in others. And in the process, you barely even know yourself any more. It is as though you walk into a crowded room and cannot seem to stop staring at the stranger with the eyes that remind you of someone until it hits you painfully and unexpectedly like a basketball to the nose. That person is you, the real you. You are living a nightmare in someone else's skin.

...So with all due respect, why the robot? What makes you resort to such lifeless and incredibly monotonous behavior?

Perhaps it is when you feel misunderstood, when you feel trapped inside your own emotions. No matter what, there seems to be no escape, no outlet, no source of common ground where you are free to be you... whatever that means. You feel misunderstood so you stop trying. And you become a robot.

Or could it be when you feel that you are not valued nor appreciated. You feel worthless as you feed into the lies swarming you that say you are not 'enough'... you are not good enough, smart enough, tough enough, wealthy enough. What a painful and soul-cringing word that can be. "You are not enough"... so you stop trying. And you become a robot.

Or could it be when you are running after your own definition of success and you channel all of your emotional, physical, and mental energy into that one prize until you eventually forget what is really important, like relationships. At some point, though, maybe relationships failed you. Maybe they just didn't do it for you.... so you stop trying. And yes, you become a robot.

May I tap into something for a minute? We were not meant to live like this. In fact, we were meant to be everything but a robot. We were meant to taste and feel and experience real freedom.

Now for the Truth.

In Christ, we are understood. In Psalm 139, it says-

"You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways."

(verses 1-3... such a sweet passage. keep reading...)

In Christ, we are valued. In fact, we are so valued that He saw us worth giving His own life. (Romans 5:8) If that does not say that we are valued, I don't know what does.

In Christ, we have the ultimate fulfillment. We do not need to run after anything. If only we could see that God is running after us. We are the prodigal son returning home after realizing how broken and messed up we really are, and yet He is our loving, gentle, and forgiving Father who runs toward us with open arms. (Luke 15:11-32)


Robot...? Or freedom...?

I choose the latter.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010: Rewind.

Today, January 1st 2011 marks a new and fresh beginning. We are entering into a new decade. WOW. That's weird to think about. What will be different about this year, I wonder? What will be the same? What will I fear, cherish, grieve? What mistakes will I make? What small or large victories will I encounter? Who will I meet? Where will I go?

My imagination runs ahead of me. Suddenly, I feel like a kid in a candy store with eyes as big as golf balls and a mouth watering just at the thought of the taste of chocolate... or like a 22-year-old in a candy store. Not much has changed...

I think back to 2010 and I almost literally breathe in lots and lots of of space.... lots of "figuring it all out" seasons of my life, which to be honest, I don't know if that will ever fade entirely. I think we as humans are always trying to figure things out. That's part of life, I guess.

I started the year off in a weird place of being done with school but not starting my first big girl job until a few more months... so I played... and then got bored.... and was soon ready to start moving in a faster pace.

I feel like I have always been comfortable with rest. The Good Lord knows how much I love spending a day in my hammock reading for hours upon hours. But I am reminded in looking back over 2010, that I also really appreciate and sort of thrive off of being busy... and not the overwhelming kind of busy, but the fulfilling, productive kind of busy... the kind where you walk away feeling purposeful and like you made a few friends along the way. That was easy to do in college... just take a ton of hours and get involved in stuff. Easy, right? Will someone please tell me, how the heck does that translate to the real world? All the sudden there is not a handful of clubs you can join without having to cough up some immediate cash. Oh, the joys of being in school....

I remember arriving in Nashville in the late afternoon during the final week of August, taking a deep breath, and then asking myself, "What now?" This time I didn't have classes to fall back on. In this moment, for the first time, I feel like I was in a world beyond myself. I felt like a mere child trying to survive in the Land of Grown-Ups and all I wanted to do was cry... and enjoy doing it.

See, my first big girl job last spring was at Nature's Classroom, a job that was basically like camp and was comfortable and familiar to me... and then I worked at a local restaurant in the summer and lived at home, so I really felt like this was my first real WOW moment... and almost immediately I wanted to return to the comforts of school. College was a cushion for me. It was again, comfortable and familiar... and I kicked myself for graduating a semester early.

I am still learning the rhythm of both being busy and being restful and how each play out in my daily life. I will say, however, that when this rhythm is interrupted and you are forced to engage in a few more restful afternoons than you desire, (or for me, two months of it, thanks to no immediate job), God's voice becomes louder, or really, we just finally allow ourselves to hear it. Our world finally slows down and we become still and there He is reminding us of how much He loves us.

I have to pause here a moment and ask myself a hard question: Why do I enjoy being busy? Is it to drown out the messiness of my life? Maybe if I stay busy, I wonder, I will never really have to deal with the not so great moments in my life... the moments that hurt, the moments that I am not proud of, the moments I wish would just go away. I think that is a huge reason that God gave us rest. We were not meant to push these painful memories under the rug. We were meant to acknowledge them and hand them over to our Creator and let Him redeem our broken hearts, our broken stories, and to make us whole again.

Another reason I might enjoy staying busy and being productive is so that I can prove something, so that I can impress people- my coworkers, my friends, my family, whoever. I secretly want people to look at the work I accomplish and smile and be proud of me. I honestly believe that I and literally everyone craves this attention. We crave love and affection and praise. But may I push a bit further and ask why are we searching so endlessly into the eyes of others? We are children of God. We have gained the ultimate approval. No one else's thoughts matter.

One of the first lessons I learned when I moved to Nashville was that we are not defined by what we do but who we are. We will never do enough. We will never be "good enough" no matter how busy we become. And if that is the only reason why God moved me to Nashy, I will take it. It was a profound lesson that I am reminded of again and again now that the pace of my life has picked up a bit and I have found somewhat of a routine here (and not to mention, a job that I truly love).

So 2011. Here we go. I loosen my grip in attempt to release my expectations for what would make this a "good" year. Who am I to judge?