An open letter to my soapbox

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To my soapbox:

It’s not you, and it’s not me. It’s both of us.

You have become my favorite poison, my drug of choice, what I turn to when I’m angry or hurt. You cheer me on as I shout over the sound of stories and heartbeats, real people with real stories that you’ve encouraged me not to listen to.

When I’m hurt or angry because someone says something stupid (which, on the internet, happens daily), you egg me on. You tell me to monologue. You tell me to preach. And in doing so, I lose the people I want to connect with most.

I have sacrificed empathy at your altar. I have given up listening and compassion to show up at your door. You have allowed me to believe that being right is more important than being kind. And I have become exactly like those I cannot respect.

Whenever I’m with you, I forget that there are real people on the other end of my words. Real people with real stories that really shape them and their entire lives up until the moment they share with me. I don’t know what brought them there, and I can’t assume where they’ve been.

My words need to be less about me, and more about the people I am connecting with. It is less about talking and more about a two-way street. I don’t want to talk at people, I want to talk with people.

In the last few weeks I have seen several people get on their soapbox. And I wanted to criticize them for not even paying attention to who they were talking to, but I remembered: how often do I do that? How often do I just talk, no matter who I’m talking to or where we are?

I. Am. No. Better.

In this season, I am finding that being teachable means putting down my shield and really listening: I’m letting go of the fear that if I listen, I will be swayed by anyone who speaks. And I am finding that I really am capable of discerning the voices in my life – the ones that speak with truth versus the ones that speak out of bitterness. And I am realizing that being teachable is equally as valuable as being the one teaching.

So, soapbox: preaching is for the pulpit. I created you, but now it’s time for me to set you aside and choose to listen rather than rant. There are more important things than platform. Words have no meaning if they don’t have ears to listen.

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Tables in the Wilderness: A spiritual upheaval

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I know very, very little about Christianity. It’s almost embarrassing how little I know. I was raised in a Non-denominational church, memorized the Bible verses, knew the Sunday school answers, and worked the system flawlessly.

I always assumed when I graduated college and settled down I would go to a church like the one I grew up in. I never considered that I would want anything different.

And then I read A Table in the Wilderness. And I was challenged to reconsider.

Preston Yancey is young to be writing a memoir, but that doesn’t mean his words don’t have value. You don’t have to be a Millennial to be moved. He tells the ageless, time-told story of finding everything and realizing you have nothing. Watching it all slip through your fingers, and then rebuilding your life brick-by-brick.

Preston is the most honest writer I know. I am continually moved by his courage to paint himself in a less than respectable light, because that is what makes me trust him. He is a reliable narrator, freeing us to read without doubt. He tells the story of the disenchanted, the hardened, and those who have been wounded by the flaws of the Church. Those of us who have thought we were alone can find a place in his story.

Because of stories like Preston’s, I have been given permission to seek. And I will, until I find the place I’m looking for.

I pray I will know when I get there.

 

 

You can purchase the book on Amazon here.

IFWC, Lena Dunham, and the epidemic of oversharing

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I had the privilege of attending the Indiana Faith and Writing Conference last weekend. I’ll be honest – I went into the conference expecting to get very little out of it, since I assumed the conference was for writers of fiction. It actually turned out to be a great conference and well worth my time (thank goodness!).

The very first session I went to was with Nate Pyle, a fellow blogger and thinker, and with him I found a kindred spirit. He had my attention with some of his earliest words: authenticity is the new Christian buzzword. AMEN AND AMEN. I think vulnerability and authenticity are not just Christianity’s new buzzwords, but our entire culture. Just look at Lena Dunham.

I know everyone has something to say about the chaos surrounding Lena and her story. Several bloggers have written great articles on why oversharing is so dangerous, and I don’t want to regurgitate their words to you. But I think this is a conversation we need to be having. Why is there such a pull to tell too much online?

Another thing Nate said was protect the stories of others, and I think that should be in some kind of blogger manifesto. It is our responsibility as storytellers to only tell the stories that are ours. Even if Lena got her sister’s permission, the story isn’t really Lena’s to tell. It was her sister’s. And that story should have been gently cared for and protected, not laid out under a microscope for people to analyze and evaluate.

I think Nate said it best when he said this: take where you are one step further. And that doesn’t always mean sharing more – sometimes it means being challenged to share less. We hide behind our strong opinions and make them our mask instead of saying I just don’t know; I don’t have all the answers. I might not be interesting enough for the internet if I don’t tell you about what makes me cry at night or the last date I went on, but I have to be willing to risk being boring if that means I can be a safe person and a good friend to the people I know offscreen. Because if I don’t, my online presence might flourish but my real life friends won’t.

The people you love are worth the risk. Save your stories for them. And by doing so, you invite them to love you better than any Facebook friends or Twitter followers can.

Exclamation Point, Question Mark

They sit proud and tall at their table

oblivious to the others around them.

They know their place.

They do not bend themselves around things

that have no answers.

It is their job to speak with power.

 

The Exclamation Points always knew how to end a sentence.

Life was a fact.

The world was a speech to be made.

But despite their supposed confidence,

Their ecstatic enthusiasm,

they never did know how to interact with uncertainty.

This is how it is! Accept it.

Stop asking so many questions.

 

But across the hall,

at another table

sits a different kind of Exclamation Point.

He is older than the others,

a little wiser,

shoulders hunched from age.

He has learned that

life is not a textbook of rules

or a shouting match

and you cannot thrive if

you are unwilling to ask questions.

Why do we hate?

How can we love?

What do we fear?

He had learned when it was time to bend

himself into a Question

and when it was time to stand tall

with conviction.

 

I

am a tired exclamation point

who is learning how far I can bend

before I snap.

I will love.

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I will love. More. So much love that no

one will have any idea what to do with me.

They will watch with a confused look and

wonder why I give so much and do not ask

for more in return. I will give it because

giving is getting and there is nothing

quite so important as emptying your heart

every single day and leaving nothing

undone, no declarations of it unsaid.

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I will not only stop and smell the flowers,

I will plant them myself and watch them

grow old with me. I will pull over and

dance in every single rainfall, and I

will make snow angels even when there is

hardly any snow left for the wings.

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I will never, ever believe in the words

“too late” because it is never too late

to be exactly who you wish, do exactly

what you should, say exactly what needs

to be heard, and live the exact life

you should be living.

Tyler Knott Gregson

My heart, in parts

1. pie for breakfast

2. the 21st of September

3. rain boots

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4. floppy hats

5. raspberries

6. slow dancing on summer nights

 

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7. late night drives

8. letters in the mail

9. sleepy ‘I love you’s

 

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10. that one happy song that always makes you sad

11. the beach at sunrise

12. bookstores

 

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13. toddlers with sunglasses

14. black pumps

15. saxophone players on street corners

 

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16. airports

17. the city at night

18. that second kiss

19. knowing that I have 3/4 of my life still ahead of me

 

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Chicago at Night from the Hancock Building

I learn that friendship happens offline

I haven’t been posting very much lately. I’d like to say I’m sorry about that, and I am a little, but I’m mostly not. I’m thinking just as much as ever, living just as much as ever, but differently. More quietly.

I’ve been online a lot less because I’ve been spending time with people a lot more. We have adventures, laugh hard, play cards, have “sharing circles” late into the night. And I love them for what happens off the screen, who they are behind the closed doors of their hearts. They are souls, wrapped in stories, tied with string. They are living and breathing, more than a profile picture, more than a quote or comment on a status. There is more to them than what you can see on a screen.

Friendships don’t grow when you sit next to each other in front of your laptops. You don’t learn to make eye contact when you’re looking down at your iPhone. And you’re doing something wrong if you feel like you have to update your Facebook status or post a picture every time you hang out to prove to the world that you have friends.

If they’re really your friends, you shouldn’t feel like you have to prove something.

Why do we do this? Why do we attempt to fit our 3-dimensional, incredible relationships onto a 2-dimensional screen? Why do we feel as though our only worth is determined by the impact we have online? Life is so much more than what we can fit into an 140-character tweet or a caption on an Instagram photo.

I’ve been feeling guilty as I check my blog and look at the number of weeks it’s been (yes, weeks) since the last time I posted. And then I wonder, why in the world do I feel guilty? Do I really think I’m a failure as a writer if I don’t blog more often?

It’s hard to find time in college. It’s hard to write for fun when you’ve been writing papers all day and you don’t want to look at another Word document ever again. And it’s hard to say yes to writing when you want to say yes yes yes! to other things, spending time with people you care about, taking the time to be present and sink into your real, offline life.

Abby P is so funny she makes me cry, and one of the nicest people you will ever meet. Austin is snarky but secretly really kind, and wonderfully strange. Abby F is clever with a little bit of sass, and can break it down on the dance floor with the best of them. Logan is sarcastic, thoughtful, and will stick with you until the end.

And the best thing about these people and what I know about them is that I didn’t learn any of it from a computer screen or a Facebook page. I learned it from their hearts.