The Miracles & The Mess.

thrifted desk - messy miraclesA few months ago, on an unseasonably cool Saturday in September, I bought a desk at a thrift store for $30. One drawer doesn’t quite close, and it bows slightly in the middle, signs that its previous owner weighed it down with too much junk. But it was sitting there on the thrift store sidewalk, full of potential, and I had just enough cash to take it home with me. It sat in the basement for weeks, holding several unpacked boxes while we worked out a rental agreement, an all-too-accurate reflection of the utter chaos of the last several months.

By some haphazard, messy miracle, we find ourselves living in a sweet little brick house in east Nashville. The rent is affordable, we have a wonderful twitter-friend-turned-housemate, and we get to have an office/guest room, a basement where my husband can host weekly band practices, and a yard for gardening. It’s everything we wanted but thought we couldn’t have right now. This miracle was born of several months of messy, unpredictable circumstances, including a brief (48 hour) stint in a cockroach-infested apartment, six weeks of crashing with generous friends, and moving all of our worldly possessions three times in four months. Oh, and my car broke down. Oh, and my blog, this very one that you are reading right now, broke down too, thanks to some shoddy coding and wonky, outdated plugins. (God bless my dear friend Sarah Joslyn for getting it up and running again.)

I’ve not been my best self through all of this, to put it mildly. During move #4, in which we transported approximately 672 boxes full of stuff that I could no longer remember owning into a house that we hadn’t yet signed a lease for – in the pouring rain, of course – I picked a fight with my husband and collapsed onto the floor in tears. He continued carrying boxes to the car while I scrolled through my Instagram feed, torturing myself with photos of other people who had houses to live in and furniture to sit on.

When we finally signed the lease and had permission to settle into our new space, my husband asked if we could move my thrifted desk into the office. I refused. I didn’t want to set it up before I’d made it perfect with a new finish and fancy desk chair, which at that point we couldn’t afford. When I finally sat down to my desk, I wanted it to be a clean slate. I wanted it to be freshly painted and bathed in sunlight, inviting me to sit down and crank out the next Great American Novel, or at least finish that memoir proposal I started almost two years ago. And so for weeks our office was a random pile of boxes, a waiting room of unresolved chaos while I held on desperately to my vision of perfect circumstances in which I’d finally be allowed to have the workspace I longed for.

I’m not sure what prompted it, but one day I finally let go. We moved the desk upstairs, sans new finish, with a chair we borrowed from a friend.

It’s not perfect.

Neither is my in-transition blog from which I write to you. Neither is my life right now.

But I believe in owning my circumstances, the miracles and the mess.

It’s who I am: bent, but not broken. Unfinished, but full of potential. A work in progress bathed in light.

For When It’s Too Late to Turn Back.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetIn May 2007 I found myself climbing the side of a mountain in Northern Ireland without being entirely sure how I got there.

I had joined a missions team at my evangelical university, and we planned to spend two weeks ministering to local youth in Dundrum, a little bayside town of Northern Ireland. The climbing-a-mountain thing was one of those spontaneous group activities that seemed like a fantastic idea until I was actually doing it. The mountain peak didn’t seem so, well, vertical, when I was admiring it from sea-level.

But suddenly there I was, fingers gripping rock with every last ounce of strength I had. I didn’t know if I could make it to the top without killing myself. I didn’t know if I could make it back down without killing myself. I had to decide which would be the more honorable death.

I usually tend to dwell on that euphoric moment when I reached the peak of Mount Donner with pride, but today I reflect on the in-between moment, when I was clinging to the side of the mountain and had a singular thought running through my head as I looked back down the steep incline of how far I had come:

“Shit. It’s too late to turn back.”

In September 2008 I found myself embarking on a semester abroad alone. I was sitting on a flight I had just boarded by myself after tearfully saying goodbye to my fiance for the next three months. I had been anticipating this experience since high school, had been planning and saving for this particular trip for more than a year.

To this day, I still say that it was the best decision I ever made for myself, choosing to study abroad. It widened my worldview by thousands of miles and it helped me grow in a million important ways. My memories of that time are still so vivid – – the sights, the smells, the sounds, the memory of good meals and remarkable moments.

But I also remember that in-between moment, after I left and before I arrived, when the wheels went up and Chicago shrank to a spec outside my airplane window and I was all by myself. All of the anticipation I felt, all of my bravery and courage and motivation, felt like it had been sucked out of the plane. I could hardly breathe.

“Shit. It’s too late to turn back.”

There is this hard, messy part of every adventure that no one wants to talk about.

The part where you realize that you are very far away from home, and you’re really on your own. The part where your expectations meet reality. The part where it gets frustrating and expensive. The part where the plans you make collapse into one another like a stack of dominoes. The part where you have to tell yourself, “it’s too late to turn back now.” The part where you say a few swears because you’re scared.

I don’t think this feeling can accurately be called regret.

I don’t regret moving to Nashville.

Just like I didn’t regret climbing that mountain in Northern Ireland.

Just like I didn’t regret boarding that plane to Europe.

What I’m feeling is anxiety, and I know that this anxiety I feel doesn’t mean that I made the wrong decision. I don’t necessarily want to be in the position I am now, broke and struggling to make things work, but I also don’t want to be anywhere else. I just want to move forward. I’m under no illusions that I would be any happier or more fulfilled if we had stayed in our rundown, overpriced, single-bedroom apartment in the Chicago suburbs.

In fact, I knew that it was entirely possible that there would come a point about six weeks into our new life here when money would get tight and plans might be out of sync and I might miss my support system back home. If you’re at all like me, you spend a lot of time trying to prepare yourself for every conceivable consequence before embarking on adventure, but in the end it doesn’t save you. The inevitable moment will still arrive when expectation meets reality and you have to keep going, no matter what. Even if you do feel like a chicken-shit.

And just like all the adventures before this one, there will come a day when I remember this with season with gratitude, pride, and fulfillment. And maybe even a little compassion for whatever in-between moment I find myself in then, too.

#FaithFeminisms : Bearing the Fruit

Screen-shot-2014-07-22-at-10.32.11-PMToday I’m over at #FaithFeminisms, sharing part of my story of coming to feminism after growing up in white evangelicalism.

I am on a journey. It is a journey of faith, it is a journey of feminism, it is a journey into the Kingdom of God. Like every journey, it is both a walk away from something, and a walk toward something. It bears the tension between the now and the not yet. (Read more here.)

I’m so excited and honored to be included in this series. When we started dreaming and scheming this over a week ago, led by the fearless and badass Mihee Kim-KortJes Kast-Keat, and Suzannah Paul, we could not have predicted just how positively people would engage it. I hope you’ll take the time to read and process the stories being shared there this week.