Sincerely, The Supper Club

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After living in the context of close community for four years during college,
I feared the abyss of post-grad life and
seriously questioned if my nights would look like frozen meals in the company of New Girl.

Thankfully, I happened upon a few wonderful souls with similar concerns in close proximity.
We met one Sunday evening in a cozy apartment, tossing salad and trying not to burn pizzas.
We stayed up till eyes turned sleepy, sharing stories, dreams, and our overall sense of aimless wandering (aka: our 20’s).

What I didn’t know was just how much this dinner turned supper club would teach me about the heart of hospitality and sanctification within community. The last six months have brought to life the truth in Bonhoeffer’s statement:
“It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”

From these women, I’ve learned that hospitality is not about matching plates, the square footage of my home, or five course meals.
Hospitality is a place of safety, where grace is extended, and people come to be heard, known, and loved well. 

The table is where fragility and fellowship intersect, where our needs are nourished. We all need this sacred space to come to, a place to have our vulnerabilities welcomed, where facades removed, and we are celebrated and encouraged. I am thankful for this unexpected gift, this instrument by which God continues to reveal to me the beauty of others.

“We don’t come to the table to fight or to defend. We don’t come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come to the table because our hunger brings us there. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel.”
– Shauna Niequist 

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Radio Silence

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It’s been nearly a year since I have published any words I’ve penned.
Our culture is so inundated with opinions, posts, and articles.
The last thing I ever want to do is be another voice that distracts from the whisper of the One we fight to discern.
And if I’m honest, it’s easier to let the world perceive my life as a series of pretty square pictures instead of the mess it often is.

Yet every time I press delete on another draft,
I can’t help but think about the way the Lord has used people’s vulnerability in written words to reach me in some of the darkest days I’ve lived.
And then I’m faced with a question Donald Miller posed in Scary Close:
“What if part of God’s message to the world was you? The true and real you?”
Who am I to let my fear or pride stand in the way of that?
Satan gains a scary amount of ground when he convinces us our silence or inaction does not leave this world void of something.
Our stories are valuable, even when we don’t feel it.

Miller’s conclusion to that question led him to this:
“So I wrote. I wrote as though God thought my voice mattered. I wrote because I believed a human story was beautiful, no matter how small the human was. I wrote because I didn’t make myself, God did. And I wrote like he’d invited me to share my true “self” with the world.”

If I have learned anything in the past year, it’s that grace only sticks to our brokenness.
And if I can’t accept my own imperfections and remove the mask I hide behind, I can’t accept grace either. And God, do I need grace.

So, I write because I wrestle.
I write because flaws are the glue that will bind us to one another.
I write because I have committed grave injustice if I lead anyone to believe I am anything less than desperately dependent on daily deliverance.

In Defense of Downs

With wide eyes, she sat there trying to digest the news her doctor had just delivered.
Her baby boy would probably be born with Down Syndrome.
At 22-years-old, she found herself in that cold, sterile hospital room racking her brain:
would she be adept at handling a child with a severe disability…
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I recently read a report, which sought to call attention to the issues with the new non-invasive prenatal screening tests for Down Syndrome and other conditions.
At the forefront of problems with these tests is the overselling of their accuracy.
This article led me to another regarding the invasive procedure, or amniocentesis, which allows doctors to analyze cells from amniotic fluid.
That article then lead me to countless others explaining that upwards of 90% of women who discover they’re pregnant with a fetus that tests positive for Down Syndrome abort.
There is debate over the exact accuracy of those statistics.
Irregardless, it is safe to say most women who find themselves in a position similar to that of the 22-year-old I mentioned choose to have an abortion.

I could launch into a pro-life, religious, personal, and political rant about abortion.
But instead, I want to tell you a story about a boy I had a standing date with
every Friday morning this past semester.
He is the world’s most handsome blonde haired, blue eyed three-year-old.
He gives the best hugs you’ll ever receive.
He also moves at the speed of light.
He comes alive at the sound of music,
And dances like no other.
His name is Fitts & he has Down Syndrome.
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One hour with him is the most compelling case that can be made regarding the intrinsic value of the lives of children with disabilities.
There is not a room Fitts enters that is not illuminated.
He daily challenges our cultural idea of “perfection,”
by proving that differences are beautiful, relatable, and real.
He is a constant reminder of the Gospel’s message of unconditional love.
His developmental milestones may look different,
but I assure you that I no more rejoiced over his increased use of sign language
than I will when my own child learns to read.
Fitts’ life splashes an array of color all over our dark world.
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As it turns out, that 22-year-old woman bravely chose to give her child life,
staring a sea of unknowns and fears in the face.
That woman was my hero, my mom,
and her “baby boy who would probably have Down Syndrome,”
was me.
Obviously the doctors were wrong on two accounts.

I won’t ever be able to articulate the deepest gratitude I have for her decision,
for the gift of this messy, joyous, painful, and abundant life.
Yet I am just as grateful for Fitts’ life, for Brett Hampton’s life, and for every other child like them.
Each and every one are invaluable and bring something to this world that we desperately need.
So may we forever celebrate the color, the richness, and the depth that their very existence holds.

Resources: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gabe-lyons/raising-children-with-down-syndrome_b_1260307.html
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo0RNd8d1TY

A Newlywed’s Wisdom

993379_10202116248091915_510470575_nIf you would like to quickly stir up controversy, talk to an intergenerational group of people about the recent trend towards marrying at younger ages.
My best friend, Kayla Hoffman, is one of those ‘rebels’ who wed at the ‘ripe age of 20.’
In my opinion, she daily makes a compelling case for why age is often just a number,
when you have two people whose hearts and lives are surrendered to the Lord.
Kayla constantly amazes me with the wisdom she shares and I couldn’t help but pass along the conversation we had over text today:

“I see all of these articles online like “5 Steps to a Stronger Marriage” & “10 Ways To Make Your Relationship Last” that thousands of people have read and shared, including many Christians.

Being honest, going on dates, welcoming him/her home with a hug & kiss,
& giving him thoughtful gifts are all wonderful things and should probably be done in a relationship/marriage.
But why does someone have to tell you to do that before you realize you should?
According to our authority (God/Scripture),
we are to love our spouses like Christ loved us & the church. Which means ultimate sacrifice,
not just when things are pleasant & comfortable,
but also loving them through the pain & suffering.
In fact, it demands a willingness to go through pain & suffering FOR them.
Don’t you think if we viewed our relationships like the Bible tells us to,
there would be substantially less petty arguments/disagreements
& we certainly wouldn’t need an online list to help us have a lasting relationship?

So here’s all you need to know to have a healthy relationship:
Jesus.
Run to Him, turn to Him, lean on Him.
If you’re loving your spouse as Jesus has called you to,
you won’t need to be reminded to spend time with them or to do something that makes them feel special.
True love should flow out of you because it lives inside of you.
And only in Him will we find the strength & grace to love another as we should.”

See what I mean? She’s no rookie.

Her words resonated with me as I recalled similar articles I’ve recently read, including:
“10 Girls Christian Guys Shouldn’t Marry”
(which I obviously read to assure I wasn’t one such girl)
or “5 Qualities You Need In A Husband.”
In reality, the one commonality we all absolutely share is
We are sinners desperately in need of a Savior.

So I suppose we could carry on attempting to become marriage material, righting our relationships,
telling our significant other we love them 4.75 times a day,
and carving out an hour a day to really listen to one another.
Or we could admit that every “how to” guide in the world would fall short.
But the end of our strength is the beginning of God’s and in that surrender surfaces hope.
So may we stare at Jesus, be filled by Jesus, know our worth in Jesus,
and let love flow from Jesus.

We love because He first loved us.
(1 John 4:19)

When I Love Thee

5e51a1e70b44f1c6af69373e2eee87b4Not with doubting, but with assured consciousness, do I love Thee, Lord. Thou hast stricken my heart with Thy word, and I loved Thee. Yea also heaven and earth, and all that therein is, behold on every side they bid me love Thee; nor cease to say so unto all, that they may be without excuse. But more deeply wilt Thou have mercy on whom Thou wilt have mercy, and wilt have compassion on whom Thou hast had compassion else in deaf ears do the heaven and the earth speak Thy praises.

But what do I love, when I love Thee? not beauty of bodies, nor the fair harmony of time, nor the brightness of the light, so gladsome to our eyes, nor sweet melodies of varied songs, nor the fragrant smell of flowers, and ointments, and spices, not manna and honey, not limbs acceptable to embracements of flesh. None of these I love, when I love my God; and yet I love a kind of light, and melody, and fragrance, and meat, and embracement when I love my God, the light, melody, fragrance, meat, embracement of my inner man: where there shineth unto my soul what space cannot contain and there soundeth what time beareth not away, and there smelleth what breathing disperseth not, and there tasteth what eating diminisheth not, and there clingeth what satiety divorceth not. This is it which I love when I love my God

– The Confessions of Saint Augustine

Advent

Have you ever unexpectedly come across a story that fiercely grips you heart?
Six months ago I sat in a Target parking lot mindlessly perusing Instagram
when I happened upon one of those fiercely gripping accounts,
which rendered me in tears in that Target parking lot within a matter of minutes.

The most endearing couple, Billy Jack & Sara, had just delivered their little baby girl.
But Willa Rose’s heart was not beating.
This was the second baby these two sweet souls had to say goodbye to in less than two years.
In the midst of pain I cannot even begin to fathom,
these were some of the words BJ spoke at his daughter’s funeral:

“In my weakness, I began to question all of this. I didn’t get it. It felt cruel, and I was mad. Then I was reminded that if my life seems unfair, I must remember that Jesus’ life was anything but fair. And in the middle of it not seeming so, and our world falling apart, and the chaos and the brokenness and the death and the mourning, SK and I know that God is good and He is kind, and He loves us and He is for us, and that He gives and He takes away, and we are called to bless His name…We mourn for ourselves. But sweet girl, we rejoice for you. We rejoice in the fact that you know Jesus in a way that we cannot even begin to imagine.” 

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I hurt for this couple in a deep way.
And though we are strangers, we have a shared understanding of what it means to cling to hope in the face of deepest darkness and despair.
Needless to say, I was overjoyed to read recently that SK is pregnant again.

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But then just a few days later, there was this…

“We went to the doctor yesterday and saw that Baby Brawner isn’t growing. We’re heartbroken, confused, mad, tired. We hate death. And we hate that our babies know death. We don’t know (and doctors don’t know) why God has given us three babies and then taken each of them away. And at first glance we are utterly shocked at that. We even said things like surely this won’t happen a third time, at least not to us. But when we really look around we can’t be too surprised, because this is the the world in which we live. We live in constant Advent, in waiting, in anticipation, in not yet. Every fiber of this earth knows something of death, and it groans. And we groan with it. And we wait with it for the second Christmas, when creation is restored and all things are made right. 
Sara and I are tempted to feel stupid for getting our hopes up, for letting ourselves get so excited. But then we step back and remind ourselves that we want to be the sorta folks who get their hopes up. We want to feel the weight of this world in its entirety, in its beauty as well as its brokenness. We want to laugh from our bellies and weep from our souls. And we can do that because our hope and our peace and our happiness is not here—not in our babies (nor in each other, nor in our house, nor in good food, nor in travel, etc). These are all good things that, although marred with brokenness and death, serve as signposts that point us back to the King and his Kingdom. We live in Advent for all that its worth, waiting for the Christmas feast when all will be made right. // Also, Sara is incredible. She is so tender and she is so strong. She trusts God like none other. She is peaceful. Her broken heart is full. I am in awe of her. Best mom on the planet.”

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In so many ways I spend my life waiting, for answers, a job, for this trip, marriage, for children, & achieved goals. Yet, what a beautiful reminder that my waiting is truly for something so much deeper, so much more satisfying. We are perpetually and expectantly awaiting in hope the return of Jesus in glory. One day this constant Advent will end in all being made right. Though I grieve for the pain this interim holds, such as it has for SK and BJ, I rest in the promise that our Emmanuel shall surely come.

And in this, I suppose, also lies the mystery and marvel of modern technology.
Two people who I have never known and probably will never know have impacted my life deeply, and reminded me that, in Jesus, there is hope amidst our waiting.

Steady Heart

Steffany Gretzinger’s “Steady Heart” perfectly wraps all of my emotions & thoughts
regarding my senior year of college into one stunning acoustic anthem.
More than ever before, my questions outnumber any answers.
I daily seem to face the question:
“Do you trust that I will lead you on?”
And when my heart & head want to disagree,
the Truths in this song still my anxious heart.


I can’t see
What’s in front of me
Still I will trust You
Still I will trust You

Steady heart that keeps on going
Steady love that keeps on holding
Lead me on
Steady grace that keeps forgiving
Steady faith that keeps believing
Lead me on

Though the sky is dark
And the wind is wild
You’ll never leave me
You’ll never leave me

Though the night is long
There is a coming dawn
The light is breaking
The light is breaking

Steady heart that keeps on going
Steady love that keeps on holding
Lead me on
Steady grace that keeps forgiving
Steady faith that keeps believing
Lead me on

And as the dawn breaks
And the clouds clear
In an open space
Together we will run

{Take heart, there is a coming dawn}