Making Room for Grace

I’m a goal setter. That’s how I get from point A to point B. That’s how I stay motivated and keep my feet moving when everything in me just wants to stop. The goal was straight As at the end of this insanely difficult semester. And so my feet kept propelling me to the library, or a coffee shop – wherever it was that I could keep working towards that goal.

Over the last few years, I’ve learned that the process is worth far more than the end product. I’ve learned to honor the journey as a beautiful gift, just as worthy of celebration as the destination. But I can’t deny that I’m a goal setter. And once again, confronted with the endless possibilities of 7 weeks of school-free summer, I have decided who I want to be, come August 26th.

I want to be in a healthier state than I’m in right now. That means picking up where I left off about a month ago at the gym. It means sitting at that one spot by the river at the same time every morning, coffee and journal in hand, fighting to mend my broken relationship with God. It means going back to therapy, even though those dollars would make for many fun trips and copious amounts of goat cheese always residing in my fridge. It means doing something that scares me every week, like my dear old friend just challenged me to. It means reading a lot, and dancing a lot, and biking a lot, and loving a lot. To borrow the words of my new favorite author, Shauna Niequist, “I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift.”

While all of these things are reasonable and commendable, the most important thing I’m certain I’ll forget most days this summer is to give myself grace.

On the days when I skip the gym cause I’m feeling lazy and hormonal, or the mornings when I feel like God’s a no-show at our spot, or the weeks where I choose cowardice instead of bravery, I want to remember that grace applies to me. That grace is for me, and not just the people around me. That grace doesn’t keep count of the many times and ways I mess up, or the terrible decisions I make. That grace is limitless, boundless, offering chance after endless chance. That grace doesn’t demand perfection. That grace unravels the threads of shame and weaves together a story of beauty and freedom and joy.

I want to be fully present wherever I find myself this summer – in sickness and in health, in plenty or famine, in community or lonesome. No beating myself up for not being where I think I should be, at the expense of embracing where I am. At the end of this summer, I’ll ask myself – like I so often do – if I’m proud of the life I’m living. I hope I can say yes, not just because of my list of achieved goals, but because I never once left empty the space where grace should be.

Gardens in the Desert

Every day of this brand new year, I’ve marveled at the person I’ve become in comparison to the person I was a year ago. The differences are outstanding. Remarkable. Almost unbelievable. 2012 was the hardest year of my life in terms of the challenges and pain it brought me, and the relationships it cost me. But the character it wrought, and the growth it brought are things that have marked me irrevocably. And I am wildly excited about this new year simply because I am such a new person.

I start my first semester of graduate school in twenty-three short days. I admit that I love school and acquiring knowledge, but I’m not counting down the days because I’m a nerd. I’m counting down because in twenty-three days, I’ll be one step closer to making the dream in my heart a reality.

I’m going to be a therapist. If accurately transcribing the smile on my face were an option, I’d do so.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher. Then, I fell in love with the idea of being a musician. Soon after, I was determined to run a successful event planning company. It took me twenty-three years to find the purpose hidden within the fabric of my story: I was born to work with women who’ve suffered trauma and abuse. Nothing breaks my heart more. Nothing makes me want to wield a sword more. I feel powerful and broken, helpless and capable. I am the most beautiful oxymoron.

Maybe it doesn’t come up in every single conversation I have, but I am the most passionate about helping people find their worth because I never knew mine. Only within the last year did I accept at a heart level that I am worth knowing, worth choosing, worth loving. Nothing strips you of your sense of worth like sexual abuse. Nothing makes you feel unheard, unwanted, unknown, unclean, and unloved like having your innocence stolen from you. I would know – mine was stolen at thirteen by a trusted family member. So even though I wasn’t sold into sex slavery, I know the damage just one encounter can have on your soul. I know how hard it becomes to trust anyone ever again, I know the feeling of being constantly on guard, I understand the temptation to appear hard and untouchable, I’m well acquainted with the lie that it was somehow your fault, and that you’ll never be good enough for a good man. I understand the difficulty of the path to healing, and the allure of the old chains when freedom seems unattainable.

But I’m also well acquainted with the unrelenting, infinite Love of a good God who sought me and brought me from darkness into marvelous light. One who taught me to breathe again, to feel again, to trust again, to live again. This journey didn’t happen in isolation; rather, it involved many people who showed me time and time again that I was worth choosing, knowing, and loving until the truth sunk into the depths of my soul and echoed loudly from within. I know how glorious it feels, having walked through the hardest months of your life with a therapist, to hear him say, “Your heart is healthy and beautiful and free.”

So that’s all I want to spend the rest of my life doing – partnering in this redemptive work, watching brokenness be transformed into beauty, and documenting the phenomenal stories I get to be a part of. To have found my purpose so young is a blessing I do not take for granted. To have the opportunity to begin pursuing it full-time without the constraints of a husband and kids or enormous student loans, I can’t even fathom.

I believe that beautiful things can arise from even the hardest earth. I believe that everyone’s story is worth telling. And I believe that no one is beyond repair. I’ll gladly give the rest of my life in the pursuit of creating and telling beautifully redemptive stories.

So while I think new year’s resolutions are laughable, I’m setting a goal for this year: to live an incredible life, because I serve an incredible God who has wrought an incredible work in my heart. 2013, here I come.