Rest is spending an afternoon in a hammock. Grace is doing it on a day that looks like this.

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Friday Night

We nestled at the corner bar, throwing off our heavy backpacks and setting the mugs of steaming black coffee on the wooden top. The window in front of us revealed a busy alley, and an even busier Nashville district. People walked the sidewalks in front of the restaurants, and headlights drove by us. My eyes followed a couple walking past the window, and the car bearing a small pink mustache on its dashboard waiting to pick them up. I watched them get in and drive away before I lowered my head toward the screen again. And for the next two hours, I typed hundreds of words and only looked up to sip more coffee.

The world outside laughed and wandered, completely oblivious that I sat just feet away feeling pitiful for doing homework on a Friday night.

I chuckled to him at one point, “So this is our night on the town, huh?”

:: :: ::

One Week Later

The wind blew through the blue, nylon hammock as we tied the rope around the branches and looped it through the carabiners. We fought against it, and we laughed as we wondered if it could be a parachute. Once we secured it, I wasted no time in throwing my comforter in and creating a fortress against the moving winds. I climbed inside, and finally, I felt the wind move and sway me in the hammock. It should have been chilly, but I felt safe and bundled with blankets pulled to my eyeballs.

After the initial moment of relief, it dawned on me: I had nothing to do. No agenda. No plan. No worry. No guilt. I came to this place with the sole desire to rest, and trusting I would know how to do that.

It looks like I’ll be in a hammock in a couple hours, so now what?

I pulled the Mac out of the backpack beside me, and began importing new CDs. While the disk was working, I’d read a chapter in my Bible. Then, I’d take the CD out. Put a new one in. Turn the page in my Bible. Repeat.

And for the next two hours, I rested in that.

Honestly, it took me the whole two hours to figure out that when I had come to this place, I was dry to my very bones. Having been so consumed with hustling to finish a semester of school and ministry, I had walked to a dry and weary land where there had not been much stillness and quiet.

But at some point, while I swayed in a hammock under a blue sky and read truths and promise of grace, my eyes grew heavy and my heart felt saturated, sopping, weighty. My eyes followed the clouds moving above the swaying leaves and branches, and as I tried to memorize the sounds of the busy West End behind me, and as I felt the wind brushing the hair on my face, I knew: Rest is spending this day in a hammock with nothing to do but to breathe, and grace is getting to do it on a day like this.

:: :: ::

Today

I probably shouldn’t lie when you ask me how I’m doing. I probably shouldn’t leave the conversation open and closed at a simple “good.” I should probably tell you instead that I’m walking a fine line between being productive and being burnt out.

Don’t hear me wrong when I admit that to you: I love what I get to do. I get to wake up every day, and live in days packed full of practicing the Truth I claim so dear — meeting people, learning things, going to new places, all of it. I get to do all of it, and it covers me in a purpose that I never could have crafted out of my own hands.

But, do hear me when I say that when I don’t take care of myself in those things, I get tired. Worn out. Forgetful of the core motivation. At this point, I’ve stopped feeling overwhelmed at the coming days because regardless of how I feel, it needs to get done. I can either complain and get it done, or be joyful and get it done. Honestly, I’d rather the choose the former but Truth tells me to choose the latter.

However, beyond the days and plans and calendars, this is the truth that resonates within me: my Father cares for me better than I know how to myself.

That means that when I began telling others that I’m burnt out on the undergrad lifestyle, doors opened and I found out I was just hours away from finishing my degree.

This means that when I worried that I wouldn’t have the energy to fully plan and follow through with hosting a party for a middle school ministry, my teammates showed up and carried the load with me.

This means that when I was tempted to feel guilty for spending a Friday night in a coffee shop, I was reminded: this is the last one. One more.

And when I didn’t have a single thing to do on a sunny afternoon, I was given the time to rest in a hammock under a sky painted like acrylic on a stretched canvas.

These moments weren’t even a part of my plan, but they brought relief I didn’t even realize I needed. As each moment unfolded, my dry, tired bones emerged into a place of new hope and restored purpose again. And I didn’t know I needed to be brought to that place again, but I got there and I knew: I have wandered, and I don’t want to walk through that desert again.

There was a point in the hammock when I had to shove every physical distraction out of my way in order to clear my inner distractions. And that was the moment I watched the clouds roll by, heard the traffic on the street behind me, saw the growing leaves in the branches above me, and knew: rest is spending an afternoon in a hammock with nothing to do. Grace is doing it on a day that looks like this. 

It’s one thing to know that our bodies were designed to stop at certain points. It’s another thing to realize that we are given the freedom to know how to do that and when. It could mean doing things like looking up, noticing the small things, laughing a little louder, reading a little longer than you planned. I think it means living in a way that lets the bones of my body rejoice at the day behind and ahead. I think this idea of moving and resting in beautiful days is completely woven by Grace that cares for us infinitely more than we could ever alone —

oh, let me live moving and resting in days that look like that.

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Do you believe me when I say I believe in you?

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I tore him apart. As we drove on the dark asphalt winding through Nashville, I tore him apart at the name of my own insecurities — not only in and for my own life, but his as well. I had a list of things to say, and as I spoke each one and mentally checked it off, a lingering voice asked me if this is what grace and love look like.

I didn’t answer.

For miles, I voiced my own fears and pretended like they fit his convictions too— Do more. Don’t waste anything. Stop being still. Go somewhere. I told him how to live his life and be the person he’s been created to be. Do something. Do something.

The response was mostly silent, but he never let my hand go.

When we got to Richland Avenue, he walked me to the door and hugged me. He promised he loved me for at least the fifth time in our 25 mile trek, and my heart shattered. I thought back on the graceless words I said. I bit my lip and blinked away tears because he is so good even when I am not.

Sleep was easier to come by than I had anticipated, but when the sun finally arose the following morning, I didn’t know what to expect. I submitted to a cup of coffee and a brush of mascara as my mind ran wild with the possibilities the day would bring once I walked outside. I put on my floor length skirt, slid into my striped backpack, and I went.

:: :: ::

I didn’t say much to my roommate that afternoon. I came to my bed and put my nose in a book. Part of it was a reason to get my homework done. An even greater portion was an excuse to be in the quiet. Reading about Christian ethics that afternoon was a wall I built to keep from saying anything else that I’d regret later.

After she left, I set my alarm and stared at the green eyes on the taped picture beside my bed. I stayed there. Restless. Unsettled. Far from content. It was one of those moments where you just want to be with someone—to hear them and watch the way their eyes move when they’re searching for the thing to say.

I reached for my phone and typed. Let’s go on a coffee date. Like, a real one. Without textbook, a backpack, or a Mac. Just us.

I held my breath waiting for a response. How could he want to hang out with me after such a long drive the night before?

But he responded with 6 yeses, telling me he was ready right then to go.

I had to smile to myself as I turned off my alarm, tossed on my blue jeans, and reached for my car keys.

How could he want to hang out with me after such a long drive the night before?

:: :: ::

We stepped inside a simple, woodsy themed coffee shop— somewhere new we had never visited before. But, as usual, we went through our routine: he told me he’d buy my drink, I told him I could get it, he repeated himself, I asked if he was sure, and then he won. He’s the same, I thought. And soon enough, I followed him to a brown, leather couch tucked away in an alcove were he drank his coffee black, and I drank my salted caramel, feathered latte.

I don’t know how it happened. At some point— as our fingers traced maps and our eyes gazed at the art hanging on the walls— something came together in my heart. The words I have been mulling over all day made sense.

You are indispensable. You are valuable. You are exactly who God created you to be for a reason. Everything about you — from the color you want on the ties at your wedding, to the way you drink your coffee — has been given to specifically make you you. Your favorite song to play with guitar, your favorite person to talk to, your favorite thing to talk about. Every piece of you has been created in special, special places. 

You have been molded and crafted by this all-knowing Father, who knew that one day you would need to hear these words: you have a purpose.

I realized that the entire time I was telling him to use his gifts, he was. Even in the same moment those words ran through my mind, he already was. 

He loved me unconditionally. He thought intently before speaking. He didn’t raise his voice. His hand didn’t leave my side. He loved me in all my flaw and nastiness, void of judgement. He bought my coffee. He laughed at my stupid jokes. He guided me the parking lot we needed to be at. He looked around at this new coffee shop, and soaking it all in. He noticed the details.

“It looks like they burnt chains onto these tables. I thought that was just part of the wood, but it’s actually a burn mark. That’s pretty cool,” he said as we sipped from our mugs.

I didn’t even notice that, I admitted.

“Or those chairs— I bet I could make that. I would love to learn how to weld,” he said. He starting talking about welding and machines and I just watched him. Honestly, I can’t tell you anymore about welding now than I could then. But, I can tell you about how his face lit up. How I could see the thoughts of doing something new flash behind his eyes. I could hear in his voice the hope and curiosity. It was so good to hear.

But, he watched me too. He finished talking about welding chairs, and patted my knee. “It’s okay, I know that probably flew over you. It’s okay,” he smiled.

His eyes moved to the table outside our little alcove — the large one surrounded by 4 chairs. He stared at it for a moment before he said, “I want to make that table.”

I didn’t have to hesitate. “You could make that. I have complete, total confidence that you could make that table if you wanted to,” I promised him.

He looked at me, and I told him it would make a pretty sweet kitchen table and I’m sure we could find some wood at my parent’s house. I don’t think he expected me to say that. To my shame, I don’t know if he expected me to believe in him like that. That’s when it changed in my heart though. That’s when I realized I can’t tell him to be the person he isn’t designed to be. It’s also when I realized I can encourage him to completely, recklessly, relentlessly pursue the dreams the Father has placed on his heart, but I can’t decide what those dreams are. I can’t shape him like a plastic Ken doll. He was never mine in that way. And at some point — this day — I had to leave that idea, and I had to come face to face with the knowledge that he has so much more to offer than I can ever tell him. And even when it doesn’t make sense to me, he’s already living that out.

I forgot about the mug woven through my fingers as I glanced at the table, looked at the boy I shared this couch with, and repeated: seriously. You can do it.

And I believed it.