Some Letters Need To Be Burned


I have a strange habit of keeping things. Not in a hoarder way, or a practical mom-always-saves-the-wrapping-paper way. But I like to go back and remember some of my best of times (and occasionally worst - I definitely kept my grade five diary with the badly drawn pictures of my childhood self kissing Corbin Bleu, that thing is gonna be comedic gold someday...).

These things are all mementos - pictures in frames, heart shaped rocks, dirt from places I've visited, shells and seaglass, handmade birthday cards. I keep every one. 

Some of the things I keep aren't just physical objects. Sometimes they're memories. Sometimes they're thought patterns and sin that I let run around aimlessly and destructively in my own head. 

And that's where I am tonight. And where I find myself constantly. What am I holding onto that's keeping me from the arms of Jesus? What do I keep running back to, over and over, instead of running to the One who loves me most? 

You see, not everything we cling to needs to be kept. Some letters need to be burned. Some memories need to be chucked into a lake (SAY IT AGAIN FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK). Because as much as we want to relive and reignite and remember, those things aren't moving us forward. They're not bringing us closer to Christ. In fact, they become a shackle of destruction. A blockage that keeps us from the joy, peace, and hope that we desperately thirst for. And there is joy, peace, and hope in abundance, ready for us as soon as we ask.

 So let's burn those letters, delete those numbers, and put those ex-boyfriend's sweaters in a box. Let go of your bitterness, let go of your jealousy and walk with your head high - free from shame. We've tasted and seen. We know He is good. And now, above all other things, we cling to Him. Moving constantly forward. Let's run to Jesus. 


I Wish Gardening Was Real Life


I have a glorious week off ahead of me. So far it's been spent outside and with good books. Everything I missed about living in the country is now flooding back (did it ever really leave? I'll always be a country gal at heart I guess), and I'm filling each second with all the baking and gardening and hiking I can. It's been a dream. I'm loving the simpleness of these last few bits of freedom - before reality hits and I head back to work and then school and then life.

When I'm working outside, dirt under my nails and big spoon in hand (my fix for a trowel... pretty sure my dad has the good trowel stashed away somewhere that I'm too short to reach...) I love how straightforward and methodical everything is. Once I get into a rhythm - "weed this, plant this here, snip this" - everything just sort of happens. Sure, sometimes I get stumped about what to do and how to do it, but there are books and ancient wisdom (ahem, I mean Google) for that. Problem solving is easy when I have all the resources I need and all the time I could ever want to figure things out. 

But that's not the way things are when it comes to doing life together and living in community as a family (whatever all that jargon means after it's been beaten to death). I wish the cure for sin was just to stop sinning. I wish the cure for temptation was to just stop being tempted. I wish that less things were left to individual biblical interpretation (am I still allowed to write a Jesus-focused blog if I wear yoga pants??? Should I even be asking that question???). I wish I knew how to put "lukewarm" Christians and "on-fire" Christians into boxes so that grace never allows anybody to grow or stumble and I can keep my bias and my comfortable stereotypes. I wish that I could know the right thing to say to every hurting person I have the privilege of sitting with. 

And that's why I need Jesus. Because not everything is going to be black and white. And not every person is going to live up to or exceed my expectations. I can't predict the future and I can't know a person's heart just by looking at what's on the surface. But I can seek. I can place my dependence. I can listen. And you can bet all the fancy trowels in the world that I can always pray about it. I can thank God for his faithfulness in every situation. His goodness and his favour. His never ending grace, and his constant shaping of me and my heart. 

I could never in my pride describe working with people as simple or straightforward, or that you merely need to "have the knack for it". It's complicated. I have no idea what I'm doing. But at the end of the day I have to put my eyes on the One who it's all for. So thank goodness I don't have a handle on life like I do on gardening. Thank you Jesus for forcing me to rely, to rest. He's the one my soul must adore. He has overcome the world. 

Sometimes You Gotta Wing It (+ other lessons)


"It is well, with my soul, here's my heart. Make it whole. For you I live, in You I dwell. Oh my soul. It is well..."

Sometimes, you gotta wing it. I'm learning this more and more. Recently, I had the gorgeous opportunity to speak at my home church's youth group. They had just been finishing a series about identity, and I was about to hammer it home with a practical how-to on what it looks like to put your understanding of Christian identity into daily practice. I was so ready. I had the coolest graphics on my discussion question sheets. It was gonna be awesome. Somebody would cry, I would pat them on the shoulder and give them the "I've been there" nod, and the church leaders would beg me to come back to speak again. Clearly I had this thang in the bag.

And then I got there. 

As I stood in the back and tried to gauge a feel for where each of the kids were at, I realized something. They didn't need a practical how-to. They didn't need a really cool discussion question sheet and a hip and trendy speaker with Starbucks in hand to come and try and explain Spiritual disciplines to them. As I looked around I realized that less than 10% of the teens there actually attended my church, if any church.

They were here because it was a safe place to be on a Thursday night. They were here because there was food to eat. They were here because they could forget about whatever brokenness they were coming from for a few hours and play pool. 

As worship started, I couldn't shake the idea that I needed to change something. And when the chorus of It Is Well (Oh My Soul) started playing, I knew I wasn't about to go up there and speak out empty words. These kids needed to know that here was a place where they could find wholeness. Where peace abounds like a river. Where healing happens. They needed to know that there is a Saviour that loves them more than anything and died just to know them

Those are the sentences I scribbled furiously into my notebook, half panicking, half excited for what I knew was happening. God was moving, and he was gonna use me - broken, sinful, weak sweater girl, not well-adjusted, confident and cool bible student - to do it. 

And those words are what I shared with them. I explained the brokenness that I have come from. I told them how God changed me. Most of all I told them that they are never too much and they are never not enough. I told them that they have value and worth and a safety in the cross. Because that's what they needed to know more than anything else I had to say that night. 

Ministry is not about good coffee and great quote knowledge and having sweet graphics (although I do still love those things, and sometimes they do help). It's not about saying what people want to hear and making them feel all nice inside. It's about doing what's needed. So sometimes, you do need to wing it. Not all the time. But sometimes. Keep your heart open, remember that everything we do when we're trying to serve is about bringing glory to the One who makes things happen. Get out of your bubbles and boxes. Let God work. 


The Sweater


I was an awkward kid.

And by awkward, I mean that I was pretty normal ("awkward" is a word used by your peers to make sure you know that they know that you don't fit in. The jig is up!). I was a kid who didn't know that it was weird to read entire encyclopedias or discuss politics instead of boys while rolling pastry at Grandma's Club. My interests weren't about Snooki or Paris and the words I used were too big. I didn't wear Lulu headbands or own gel pens, I spent most of my time outside or reading, and my mom taught us about healthy eating and fitness long before they became a Pinterest staple lifestyle. That's right, I ate quinoa before it was cool. And heaven forbid, I wasn't allowed to get MSN on my parent's dial up.

The pre-teen angst is too real. (it got worse after this, I've just gotten rid of most of the picture evidence) 

And maybe those things wouldn't have been so weird if I didn't already have acne and braces and bad haircuts - especially in a world where it's expected that twelve year olds have perfectly proportioned bodies, shiny hair, and exclusive use of their mom's Lancome mascara. 

One of the things that shocks me most when I talk to people now is that they assume that I don't know what its like to be bullied or feel insecure and weak. (Newsflash guys: just because I'm good at making people laugh and giving eye contact doesn't mean I have it together)

When I was in middle school, the coolest item of clothing to have was a Bench sweater (I've searched for the last 20 minutes on Google to find a picture of what they used to look like in 2009 - no luck. Hopefully they've erased all evidence that the hideous things ever existed???). And I needed one. So that everyone would like me, obviously. Because that always works. 

For the next few months I worked, doing extra chores or helping my mom out with her cleaning business. Eventually, I saved up the $114 (!!!) it took to buy that elusive Bench sweater. And when I got it, I was stoked. Finally. So I slipped the thing on, as it tugged closely on my pre-puberty love handles, and faced myself in the mirror - ready to be the Amanda Bynes from She's The Man I always knew I could be (after Channing Tatum realizes she's the one he loves, the mysterious and quirky yet effortlessly gorgeous girl that's been under his nose all along). 

And you know what? The group I was trying to be a part of still didn't like me. The guys still made gagging noises when I walked by to let me know that I was undesirable. Unworthy. Not good enough.  I was still the last one picked. I was still the one who hovered around the group near the back, wanting to be a part of it all so badly. One-hundred and fourteen dollars poorer, I went to bed that night feeling just as lonely and ugly as I had the night before. 

Now, in my twenties, I'm not that little girl anymore. I don't have a problem making friends or finding a place where I fit like I did in middle school. When I hear gossip about myself or people put me down, I rarely flinch. And you know what I've learned? Confidence is not being happy with your body, having perfect skin, shiny hair, or fitting into a size two dress. Confidence is not having a boyfriend or a best friend or a talent that nobody else has. Confidence is not being better than or smarter than or prettier than. If it were about all of that, then none of us would be confident or secure in any way. I started feeling confident when I realized that I couldn't find my identity in all those things. Because sweaters fail you. Middle school popularity only takes you so far (thank goodness.)

And all of that doesn't mean I don't still have days where I feel like middle school Beth again. She's come back to haunt me a little bit more than usual these days. But I don't let myself wallow there. When I find my identity in my purpose, my redeemability, and my saviour, that's when all of the things I don't have matter less and less. My ability to comfort and pray and listen has nothing to do with whether I have a pimple on my chin or not. Being kind when it hurts has nothing to do with six-pack abs. And becoming Christlike has nothing to do with how well connected you are to the up-and-coming pastor. 

Your lacking isn't where you'll find your identity. Your achievements still aren't your identity. Your identity is found in belonging to Christ, and that's where unshakable confidence lies.