You are here.

Sometimes I just feel a little stuck.

Do you ever look around you and realize that nothing in this time or place feels the way it’s supposed to? Do you ever feel stuck, immobile when all you want to do is loosen the reigns and run? Like you’re made for so much more than the life you’re living, but you don’t even know where to begin to change it?

If you would have asked me three months ago what my summer would look like, I would have said that I had no clue. With internship opportunities falling through left and right, I was frustrated to a point I’d never been before. I was feeling anxious and I doubted that anything worthwhile was going to come through in time for summer.

Then, all at once, internship things started to line up, and I’ve found myself working for an arts and education center in New Castle. My internship perfectly aligns with the things I like to do; I am planning and promoting an arts festival, writing blog posts, managing social media and other nerdy PR tasks that no one really wants to hear about. I have a bright little office with a window that overlooks a pretty view of the courtyard. Everything worked out just fine in the end.

Yet, some days I just can’t shake that feeling of restlessness. Without realizing it, my mind falls into the “grass is always greener” mentality until I am staring out that little window wishing I were looking out on a beautiful city skyline or a Mediterranean coast. On the drive to and from work every day I find myself lost in daydreams about what this summer could have looked like, if only it had worked out the way planned it.

Maybe you can relate to this feeling, too. Maybe you sit at your desk staring out at a big city skyline wishing you, too, were somewhere else. Maybe home for you isn’t a respite from a busy workday, but a reminder of more responsibilities and the baggage that is weighing you down. Maybe you feel a little stuck too, and it takes everything in you to get through the day, just to keep up with the world that is spinning madly on around you.

As these thoughts rush in and out of my consciousness, my soul becomes burdened by the weight of my own discontent and ingratitude. As the lies of that hypothetical “something better” strangle me, I hear a voice whisper you are here. 

You are here. And it may not be the “here” you wished it were. Maybe it’s not the “here” you thought you would end up at, or maybe your “here” isn’t a place at all, but a circumstance, a situation. The truth is, you are always going to be “here,” whether that’s exactly the place you wanted it to be, or somewhere that feels miles and miles off track.

But no matter where you are, there is not a single place that is out of God’s reach. There is not a single place that He is not using you, sometimes when you don’t even realize it.

What we often forget, when we are “stuck” and dissatisfied with our circumstances, is that there is always work to be done. Even when we feel too small, too insignificant, unable to make a real difference, God chooses us for unique purposes and places us exactly where we need to be to fulfill them.

We can’t let discontent be our excuse for doing nothing; instead, we can use our unrest to empower greater things, and it starts with  relinquishing our supposed “control” over our lives and succumbing to God’s purposes here and now, instead of waiting for that nondescript point in the future when we think we will somehow be better suited to serve Him.

Even in your unique “here,” God is moving. And while He is, you need only to be still– to be here, and allow Him to use you however and wherever He will.

I’ll end with this quote that I heard from a sermon recently to prove that nothing we do is insignificant when it is done in faith:

Never underestimate the power of a small contribution in the hands of a mighty God. –Phil Bartholomew 

The Legacy We Leave

On an ordinary summer evening, I went for a walk.

From my house, my feet marched a familiar route up the hill behind the grade school to the cemetery that sits atop it. It’s one of my favorite places to walk when I just need time alone with my thoughts. The quiet is different here, not the absence of noise but like the fullness of holding a breath, punctuated only by the birds chirping overhead or the leaves rustling in the breeze. Some may find the whole place eerie, but I feel only peace there. Maybe it’s strange that in a place marked by death, I could feel so much life.

As I wove through the narrow pathways between graves that mark the memories of loved ones, I was thinking, unsurprisingly, about death. Not in a morbid way, but with fascination, a musing at the finite-ness of our time here on earth. Is this really all our lives would come to? A stone in the ground nestled in between a thousand others just like it, a few words etched into a rock to encompass years of memories and experiences?

I refuse to think of it that way. It’s not the time we lived but the legacy we left that determines our impact on the world, and that cannot be contained on some rock in a cemetery. On each headstone, two dates sit like bookends, separated by a line that seems to say, “you fill in the rest.” But it’s precisely this dash in between that matters. It’s in this dash where we live and breathe and love.

I believe each and every life tells a story. And while these graves seem to mark “the end,” I think to God they are nothing more than a page break for an epilogue like we could never imagine. Just as our lives cannot be defined by a dash between dates, our deaths are not finalized by a rock in the ground. When we look at death we aren’t getting the whole picture; we see an end where God promises a new beginning– one more wonderful than we can imagine.

Surrounded by so many reminders of the lives that have come and passed in just this little sliver of the world, I began to form a new perspective on death. See, I am not afraid of dying. What does scare me is not living– missing out on this one life, this one little dash that determines the breaths we take.

So on this particular night, I focused on fully embracing the moment, however slight it was. Instead of thinking about the next thing I had to do or whatever had just passed, I meditated on the present moment which I would never get back. It was a practice in awareness I need to do more often, honestly; life has been moving at incredible speed lately, and I’ve been feeling more than ever like my dash is growing shorter and shorter while I toil away, caught up in busyness and schedules, rushing and waiting.

Those moments in the cemetery were my attempt at pushing the pause button. And while my mind focused on the present, I knew time would not cooperate in its constant journey into the future. Even the sun was low in the sky at this point, daylight running out; the wind blew a pleasant breeze just enough to make the leaves sing and ruffle my hair, but it carried with it the coolness of night approaching. The warm air and clear sky reminded me summer was here in full. It was, by all accounts, the grand finale of a perfect– and perfectly ordinary– day.

Still, the melancholy ran deep. Somewhere in my bones was the nagging feeling that, though the day had been beautiful, it was waning. Already June had slipped through my fingers like sand; soon July would be here in a matter of days. I knew if I wasn’t careful, summer would be gone in a flash. It would be August and classes would start once again, burying me in mountains of homework while I stared out the library window wondering where summer went.

I don’t want to do that with life, too. I never want to look back and wonder where my time went, nor to forget all the ordinary moments in between the monumental ones, days just like this that too often go unnoticed. I want to remember a life rich in love, full of meaning and experiences, memories that cut deep through the years. I think we get caught up in a fear of dying, but what if it’s the living that we really miss out on?

And while I get the most out of my dash, however long it may be, I do not dread the day my memory is forever memorialized in a hunk of granite, because I can hope that my impact on this world will be more than a couple of numbers on a stone. And I am assured that my story doesn’t end in a cemetery, but rather in the arms of the Author who promises another chapter with no ending.

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

You probably knew this was coming. Since Mom got a shoutout for her day, it seems only right that I would do the same for you. So, on this day that is all about you, I want to take the chance to reminisce a bit.

Two decades ago, your father’s day present was a long-awaited screaming, squirming bundle of joy (that’s me!). Last week, that infant grew up and turned 20. In the years in between, we have created an unmatched father-daughter bond for which I will always be grateful.

When I was little, I can remember playing “doctor” with you, giving you fake shots with my plastic toy syringe and flinching when you pretended it hurt. I remember playing “school,” when I was the teacher and you were my troublesome student. I remember “cooking” for you on my plastic kitchen set that you spent a whole Christmas morning putting together, serving you plastic pizza slices and empty glasses of juice. I remember going crazy over the littlest things—everything from Webkinz to a special pencil that you home from work one night or fun-shaped erasers (gosh, I was such a nerd). In all these little obsessions, you always fed my habits with random little gifts that you went out of your way for just because you knew it would make me happy.

And in between, the years have been peppered with bike rides and Disney movies, countless games of Monopoly, Checkers, Life, and one game of Chess that I never actually made it through (maybe someday, Dad). Not to mention the endless memories made over family vacations that replay over and over like a highlight reel in our family. These memories of the four of us are some of my most cherished—Friday night “parties” with a log in the fireplace and “camping out” in our own backyard or living room. Throughout them all, your personality has shaped this family with your constant support and comic relief.

So why do I bring all these silly memories up now? Because I don’t know if you realize how not silly those moments really were. Every board game that you endured for my sake, every whim or act of imagination that you went along with was wrapping me tighter in your fatherly love and shaping me into who I am today. Now, instead of plastic pizza I can cook you meals that keep getting tastier with practice (thanks Pinterest); and though I have (mostly) grown out of my imaginative tales of play-pretend, I still know I can always talk your ear off about whatever is going on in my life. And as for the board games… well, I’m still not ready to finish that game of Chess yet.

Even though I may not look like the same curly-haired little girl whose hand you held and tears you wiped, I want you to know she’s still in there. Every memory that we share is ingrained in who I am and has molded me into the woman I am today. But just because I am independent, that doesn’t mean I don’t still need my dad.

I still need your quick wit and humor to color my life; I need your sense of direction (because I clearly have none) and your expertise when it comes to technology, cars or just basic life skills. I still need to know that I can bring up a random reference from my childhood (like Black Market Minerals, Candy Kitchen, the list goes on…) and know you will know exactly what I am talking about. I need your random trivia knowledge about virtually any subject, your love of the Italian culture which you’ve passed on to me, and your appreciation of fine coffee and good food. I will never stop needing you, Dad, and I’m pretty sure you need me, too.

You need my sass and sarcasm that mirrors your own. You need my bubbly personality to brighten your mood, my excitement for life to keep the boredom away. You need my endless chattiness and lightheartedness to keep you young.

So I think it’s fair to say that, even though I’m growing up, nothing is really changing between us. Underneath it all, I am still the same curly-headed kid that looks up to her Dad as the coolest man she knows. And though the years pass, some things will never change. Cheesy as it is, I’ll always be your little girl.

Love,

Ness

Lessons in Leadership from PRSSA Rally 2017

Chicago O’Hare, 4:47 a.m.

Here we are again. I blinked and the weekend was gone, a blur of guest speakers and networking, cacti and desert. I met so many new faces, gained so many new ideas, and am heading home brimming with anticipation for all the lessons I can bring back Westminster’s chapter of PRSSA. It’s weekends like these that make me so excited for my professional future and remind me I am on the right track, despite the doubts and frequent stress I have come to expect from my field.

Like the end of any good trip, I still haven’t quite processed all the information yet. My mind is foggy, running on less than 2 fitful hours of sleep during my flight and an overpriced cup of weak coffee from the airport. I am exhausted and honestly just really, really cold (because when you’re going to a place with temperatures in the 100s, who would think to pack a jacket and leggings for the air-conditioned plane ride? Not me.)

You’d think I would learn by now not to book overnight flights and to always pack warmer clothes when traveling, but here I am, drained and shivering on an airport bench. The excitement I felt Friday for this trip has been replaced with exhaustion and slight annoyance at the hassle of traveling; I just want to be home already. It’s always the same for me with traveling—I start out all energized and ready to go, overlooking irritations because I am blinded by excitement. Once it’s over, though, I burn out and become bored. Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Now I am not just talking about travel. I think this same scenario plays out in a lot of aspects of our lives, from careers to personal lives. The sad truth is that when things are no longer fun and new, we become bored and lazy. It’s so easy to get excited about something, to attend a conference and leave feeling energized and eager to get moving, start doing. But under all that there is a twinge of anxiety when we think of just how much there is to do, and when the excitement fades, that’s the sentiment that remains. What starts as passion can so easily end in overwhelming exhaustion.

So how do we light that fire within ourselves and keep it burning through the undulating seasons of our lives?

Our passions will change as we do, and I certainly don’t feel as strongly now about some things as I once did, but new aspirations have taken their place. In the midst of our ever-fluctuating obsessions, the important thing is that we are always striving for something better—for ourselves, for our families, for the world.

This does not mean we drop things and pick them up as we please, but evolving our focus and energy is how we grow as individuals, and our latest fervor can still be meaningful as long as we pursue it with all we’ve got.

That is one thing I am taking away from my weekend conference in Scottsdale—as great as it is to bounce around ideas and talk the talk, we need to have follow-through. This concept applies to every aspect of our lives, from careers to relationships and everything in between. When we decide we want something, we strive toward it, we push on and don’t give up.

It’s when we stop accepting average that we start achieving greatness.

When we get excited about something—whether that’s a new project or passion—we have to commit to the momentum we created and promise ourselves we will strive for it with equal vigor in a few months, whenever we are facing the inevitable “post-trip burnout.”

As college students or newly-hired young professionals, I believe we each have so much passion welled up inside that just needs an outlet to be released. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of beef with my generation, but one thing I’ve noticed is that we’re all dying for a cause to get behind. It’s not just about money anymore, but about our impact on the world beyond the bottom line. I, for one, think that’s one pretty amazing step for us millennials.

So let’s find that cause we love, let’s actively seek to use our strengths and gifts, and let’s unleash a passion so strong the world will have to take notice.

 

 

Thoughts Take Flight

So here we are again. Another airport, almost a year since the last time. Different destination, different adventure. Instead of a red eye flight to another continent, I’m keeping my travels stateside this time. I’m headed to Scottsdale, Arizona for the weekend for a PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) conference. I’ll spend the weekend with fellow PR majors from across the country, gaining professional skills and hopefully squeezing in a little time to explore Arizona while I’m at it.

This trip pales in comparison to my month-long adventure in Peru, but still my mind returns to that day last June when I left the Pittsburgh airport, unaware of the incredible experience before me. Maybe it’s just the airport culture that has me feeling nostalgic, but there’s a certain melancholy feeling that comes from looking back and realizing almost a year has passed.

And oh, how quickly that year passed.

Like the planes that come and go in a steady stream all day and night, life is speeding by on its own strict schedule. In the past year, I’ve learned more than ever that time flies (pun intended) and life isn’t slowing down, whether we like it or not. Still, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes from going full steam ahead, isn’t there? Careening down the runway with a full sky before us… I suppose always running forward can make us forget anything that lies behind.

Unlike most people, I actually like airports. They’re kind of this hub of adventure to me. They are the starting and ending points, a necessary (and sometimes annoying) first step in any journey. As I sit in this one, Chicago O’Hare, solo traveling again, I watch my fellow travelers pass by. I wonder who they are, where they are going, where they’ve been. So many people from so many places all converging in this place for just a moment. Airports are a good metaphor for life like that; we all come from different backgrounds, living for different reasons, and sometimes we get the unique privilege of crossing paths with these strangers, if even for a second.

This concept is so lost on us today, as we bury our faces in our phones and avoid eye contact as we pass. We rush through terminals to make our flights, much in the same way we hurry through life to make the next meeting, appointment, or whatever. Yet if we stop and look around once in a while, we would see that we’re all rushing in the same direction.

So chalk these words up to the ramblings of a bored traveler, or perhaps they mean something more. Whether it’s a quick weekend trip or a long adventure abroad, every journey is a chance to step out of your comfort zone and explore this beautiful world that is growing both smaller and larger by the moment.

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

This post is so overdue. I know I don’t voice my appreciation nearly as much as I should, but in honor of Mother’s Day, I am taking the chance to say the words I so often forget: Thank You.

Thank you, Mom, for your selflessness. Thank you for always putting others before yourself, and for taking care of our family with your gentle and loving touch. Thank you for your servant leadership and for teaching me how to put others first.

Thank you, Mom, for being my rock and support system. Thank you for believing in me in the way only a mother could, for encouraging me to follow my dreams, no matter how crazy they seem. You have always supported every whim and aspiration I dream up, and I thank you for allowing my free spirit to soar.

Thank you, mom, for worrying about me. Even when it drives me nuts and I tell you not to, I know you worry because you love me. I am sorry for my wild dreams that sometimes take me out of your comfort zone and cause you stress. I only ask that you trust in the woman you have raised me to be, and know that I would never do anything you wouldn’t do (probably).

Thank  you for being my shoulder to cry on and listening ear, for always having enough time to hear my problems, no matter how minute. Thank you for making it through the teenage years with me– all the awkwardness and hormones and angst. Thank you for boring the blame of countless things that were never even your fault; I am sorry for my sassy younger self, and even more so for my sassy current self! Thank you for putting up with the tantrums I never truly grew out of.

Thank you, Mom, for leading our family in faith. Thank you for living out Christ’s love and teaching us to do the same. Watching you follow Jesus in your life has lit a fire in my own faith, and I have you to thank for first introducing me to my Almighty Father.

Thank you, Mom, for your eternal optimism and positivity. Thank you for being who you are– the lady who dances around the grocery store aisles to 70s rock music and sings off-key show tunes as she cooks. Thank you for encouraging my imagination and creativity with your own. Our home would have a much different vibe without your lively energy.

Thank you, mom, for being a little more like your mother every single day. We joke about it, but I am secretly glad for the constant reminder of the woman who made you who you are. Her strength and spirit have not skipped a generation, and I pray that I can follow the example set forth by both of you. (Side note: I am convinced that everything I have ever made fun of you for will someday come back to bite me, just for karma’s sake, so I am trying to be a little more careful about that.)

Annnd a few randoms: Thanks for not naming me Olivia or Francesca or Patience (I mean seriously, what kind of epidural-induced brain fog were you under to think that was a fitting name for me?) Thanks for countless years of embarrassing haircuts and creative Halloween costumes that enabled a lifetime of jokes at my younger self. Thanks for teaching me the art of bargain shopping and how to always find a good sale. Thanks for sending me cards randomly throughout the school year just to let me know you’re thinking of me. I don’t always express how much these little notes mean to me. Thanks for your brutal honesty– whether it’s fashion or life advice, you tell it like it is and always keep me in check, and we both know I need that.

Most of all, thank you for being by role model, my advocate, my biggest fan, and my mom. For years you have endured, without complaint, every undesirable task of motherhood– from changing dirty diapers to handling whatever latest crisis I am freaking out about. Your selfless love never ceases to amaze me, Mom. Even when we bicker and don’t see eye to eye, you are still the person I want to be when I grow up. Thank you for being the best mother any daughter could dare dream of.

Love always,

Your Daughter

The Problem With Someday

I think we’re all living in a someday mentality. Let me explain:

Each of us has those dreams we’re hanging onto in the deepest parts of our hearts, the ones that live in the corners of our minds and the forefronts of our imaginations. For some of us, it’s that hope that keeps us going, the goal that gets us up in the morning and pushes us through our toughest moments. For others, though, someday can be an escape from reality, a distant dream that we have no real intention of pursuing. And that’s the problem with someday. 

I think someday is kind of a cop-out.

Sure it’s great in theory; someday is a far-off place full of possibility and hope with a sense that anything can happen. But while we’re busy imagining this distant future, we aren’t taking accountability for what is in our power today. We relegate our deepest desires to this nondescript moment in time because saving them for someday is a lot easier than taking action today.

I can’t recount the number of times I have heard someone with such passion describe their lofty ambitions for life, only to finish the sentence with a wistful, “maybe someday.” It breaks my heart the way we limit ourselves and allow the world to talk us out of our aspirations. How we have the audacity to decide for ourselves what’s realistic and what’s not when the truth is, the only impossible dream is the one we’re too afraid to pursue.

All too often we put off the most significant dreams of our lives for a later date. We come up with reasons that the timing is wrong. We convince ourselves that what we want could never happen– or if it did, it would be by some divine stroke of luck rather than any real work on our part. To avoid failure or disappointment, we bundle up our dreams–all neat and tidy– and tuck them away like fine china, to be admired once in a while but without any real purpose. We tend to play it safe with the things we want most because, in them, we have the most to lose.

But what if today was your someday?

We’ve got to stop playing it safe and get in the game. Life might beat us up a little in the process. In fact, I’m sure it will. But here’s the truth: life is gonna beat us up anyway, so we might as well have something to show for it. I would rather live a life striving desperately toward my passions than just dreaming desperately for something better.

Maybe you’re saying it’s not that simple. Maybe the timing really isn’t right, or your someday just isn’t entirely in your control. I’ll admit, I am young and optimistic (maybe even a little naive) and it’s a whole lot easier to write about following your dreams at all costs than it is to actually, ya know, do it. But there is always something you can do today that puts you one step closer to achieving your someday– even if that is learning the art of waiting and how to find joy in the life you’re living right now.

I truly believe we have got to be more proactive about our dreams. It starts with acknowledging our that passions are not just silly or unrealistic. And then, we go out and start making things happen. Wherever you are with everything you have. We all have something calling us, and I think it’s about time we respond.

Your someday starts right now. Your someday is today.

When Did We Lose Our Voices?

We pride ourselves on freedom of speech here in the United States. What we don’t mention, though, is that really this freedom of speech is really just freedom to speak whatever the majority opinion is. Say something that deviates from the current accepted norm and you just may find that you’ve begun your own downfall.

I was disgusted this weekend to learn that the famous sports brand, Under Armour, is facing backlash and legal issues because of a comment its CEO made in favor of Trump. The CEO’s harmless statement supports Trump’s work ethic and ideals; basically, he said he respected the President of the United States. And now, people hate him for it.

Since when was respecting our nation’s elected leader a thing to be hated for? Even if you don’t agree with Trump (and believe me, I sure don’t on a few issues), he still deserves our respect. But that isn’t the issue here, so I digress. The issue, really, is that Under Armour athletes and endorsers are now speaking out against the brand, calling the CEO’s statement divisive and lacking in perspective. In the days since the statement, famous athletes like Steph Curry, Misty Copeland, and even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson have publicly bashed the brand and its values because of its association with Trump.

In response to the public criticism, the CEO held his ground, refusing to apologize and saying only, “We engage in policy, not politics.” Personally, I commend the CEO for his response to this crisis and I am glad he did not back down from his original opinion. I do not believe his statement was lacking in perspective, but was rather his perspective, and he is allowed to voice his opinion. Whether you agree with his statement or not, the thing is, he still has a right to say it.

When did we start forgetting we are all humans? Our political viewpoints do not define us, and differing stances on certain issues is what makes this country so diverse and amazing. Why should we conform to whatever latest political movement just to avoid making enemies?

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” –Voltaire

In these times of political drama everywhere, there is nowhere we can turn to escape it. But from a business standpoint, a CEO’s personal opinions should not matter as much as the brand’s values and policies as a whole– and in the case of Under Armour, these things have not changed. So why are people so angry? If the CEO had come out saying in far less eloquent terms that he hated Trump’s guts and all he stood for, sales may skyrocket among self-proclaimed Trump boycotters.

It may not seem like a huge issue to you yet– just one brand and one CEO facing a bit of criticism that will all be out of the news by next week, overshadowed by the next big story. But this is really only the beginning of a much bigger problem. Despite what they try to tell you, as Americans, we are losing our voices. And the ironic part is, it’s not the government that is taking this right away from us, but the citizens. Sure, you have the right to say whatever you want, but be prepared to face public shaming for it if it’s not the same opinion of the latest protest group. Instead of facing legal action, the people will reject you and encourage others to do the same; Twitter fights will be trending, and pretty soon you are all over the news for all the wrong reasons.

Maybe we didn’t lose our voices. But the problem is, there are just too many voices out there, and the shouting has left us deaf to actually hear any of them. We get so stuck in our own views that we rarely even attempt to see what the other person sees. Before that person even finishes talking, we’re already shouting our own disdain.

Don’t let that quiet you. Be unwavering in your beliefs and steadfast in your opinions, not afraid to voice your beliefs. And most importantly, remember that behind every opposing argument is a real person who commands respect. I think the one thing we can all agree on is that we want to make this world a better place, but that’s not going to happen when we are too busy arguing with each other to make any real progress. Change starts with our attitudes and radiates outward.

To read more about Under Armour’s story, click here.

Handing Over Your Heart


If you heart is broken, cracked, bruised, or hardened, you are not alone.

Especially in a world wrought with so much sadness and hurt and hatred. It isn’t easy to give your heart away, but that is exactly what we tend to do. Love in its truest form is best shown not in the big displays of affection, but in the subtle, genuine moments that often go unnoticed; it’s sacrificing a fraction of your time just to help out a friend; it’s allowing yourself to be real and open with someone you trust; its a warm smile or an unprompted act of kindness. In all of these things, you are giving pieces of your heart away– and no, sometimes you don’t get them back.

You might have scars. Your heart might be shattered or fragile or pieced together haphazardly from the last heartbreak you endured, and if it is, I am sorry. Pain may pulse with every beat and maybe you’ve given up a little. You gave your heart, entrusted it to someone or something that didn’t treat it with the caution it so deserved, and now you lock it away in its broken state to save yourself from further damage. Maybe you’ve lost a little faith– in love, in people, in God.

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it. [Proverbs 4:23]

So this is where Proverbs comes in. When we talk about guarding our hearts, we really need to guard our hearts in Christ. We don’t have to protect our hearts from potential damage, but rather hand them over to the only One who will take precious care of it, who will never let it break. After all, our hearts are not our own. It belongs to the One who created it and who put in it the ability to love.

Once we have rooted our hearts in Christ, it doesn’t end there. See we are called to loveI think we were made to love, that there is something inside of us that is screaming to be released, like a wild force of kindness and compassion and love, love, love. But all too often, we tighten the reins; we hold back from the kind of love we could be radiating because we are too afraid. Afraid of what people might think and most importantly, afraid of getting hurt. Because there is vulnerability in love; to put your heart in the hands of another is the purest form of trust. And the sad truth is, sometimes you will be let down.

Give your heart away anyway.

Root it in Christ, and share with the world that love that He first showed you. I’ll tell you a little secret that isn’t really a secret at all: the world will let you down. If you search for love in this place you will find nothing but glimmers of hope that often end in disappointment. But in God, we have all the love our souls thirst for– a love that pursues us, that never gives up on us, that died for us, that will never disappoint.

And if our hearts are guarded in this perfect love, that is all the power we need to unleash into this world the beast of love that is in every single one of us. Your heart may get broken a thousand times along the way; I can’t promise that it won’t. But maybe our hearts aren’t supposed to be shiny, fresh-out-of-the-box clean. Maybe the best hearts are the ones that are worn, bruised, cracked and mended, covered in scars and bandages and wounds that never quite healed. Each scar is a lesson, and maybe the prettiest hearts are the ones that are a little messed up.

“The world will break your heart ten ways to Sunday. That’s guaranteed. I can’t begin to explain that. Or the craziness inside myself and everyone else. But guess what? Sunday’s my favorite day again.” –Silver Linings Playbook

 

7 Pounds of Heaven

I think we can all agree that as we get older, Christmas loses something each year. As the years wear on, the magic slowly slips away, excitement turning to stress and annoyance, even boredom. We’re not children anymore; expectations of Santa leaving the toy you’ve begged for all year gets replaced with hopes that the sweater Grandma bought comes with a gift receipt. We distract ourselves with material things that should make us happy– like a dusting of white snow on Christmas morning or a tree decked with lights and surrounded by presents or our favorite Christmas movies playing on every channel– and then we wonder why those same things somehow don’t bring us joy anymore. Like Cindy Lou Who in The Grinch, we ask ourselves if Christmas has changed or if we have. So often we say that we’ve lost the “magic” of Christmas.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think we’ve lost the magic of Christmas. I think we’re just looking for it in all the wrong places. All around us they’re taking Christ right out of Christmas, placing a big fat X where His name should be like He’s uninvited to our party this year: Merry X-Mas. Often, we forget that Christmas is a celebration, not just of the miraculous birth of a baby, but of the One through whom we have eternal life. The One who healed the sick and heals our brokenness, who died so we can live. How can we not see the magic in that?

The best part, though, is that it’s not magic at all. This is real. That far-off manger scene that sits on my mantle is a depiction of a real event, not a fable story in a land far away. No, it was here, on this earth, that God himself in human form walked and preached and healed and died and rose. Christmas is about more than the virgin birth of a tiny baby– it’s the beginning of the most magnificent story that ever was: it’s the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah. Seven pounds of Heaven, sent down to a lowly world full of lowly sinners to grow into the Savior of many. God Himself, who always was and who will always be, came to this broken, messed-up world for us. This is the magic of Christmas. And the best part? It doesn’t end on December 26th; the same Jesus that was born in a manger and walked on this Earth is still alive and with us every day.

Unfortunately, the sorrow and hatred and pain of this world doesn’t cease just because it’s Christmas; the troubles that plague us still find us through white snow and holiday music and Christmas cookie baking. Evil still makes itself known, committing violent acts of hatred against the innocent for the whole world to see. The reality of our broken race is more recognizable than ever, and it’s enough to make our souls sick during a time that should be joyful and festive. But then I look at the Nativity scene on my mantle (my favorite Christmas decoration) and I am reminded of an incredible love that is more powerful than all of the hate and pain and sadness in the world: the love God showed in sending us His son, offering a path directly to Him.

This year, I’m not putting an X over Christmas, and I’m not going to forget that this miracle– and the magic– is still alive today. Let us celebrate Christmas with the wonder and awe that it deserves, knowing that the magic lies not in the presents under the tree, not even in the manger, but in the empty tomb and in the scarred, outstretched hands of the One who welcomes us into His kingdom.