Why I’m Listening to Jerry Seinfeld

With barely three weeks left until school is out for the summer, many of us will begin transitioning into a different kind of daily schedule, one where the day-time agenda shifts. I will still do my work, but the pace will slow and we’ll all settle into a new kind of rhythm together.

New Rhythms

I wish I could say I glide gracefully into the summer schedule, but the truth is I limp and fight my way through this transition every year. This year I’m accepting that it will take some time to settle in to the slower pace and the constant presence of small people. But I’m also going to learn on purpose in whatever ways I can. For example.

As a writer, a part of my self-imposed job description is to pay attention to the world around me and the world within me and then to see how they connect.

I am always listening for reminders about focus, about saying yes to the right things, about remembering what I do and, even more importantly sometimes, what I don’t do. Teachers are everywhere as long as we’re willing to learn from unexpected voices. Yesterday I found a teacher while listening to an interview Alec Baldwin did with Jerry Seinfeld.

Alec points out that, with the success of his TV show in the 90s, Jerry could basically do anything he wanted to do now, be as big as he wanted to be. Here’s a peek into the conversation. (From Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwinoriginally aired October 14, 2013 on WNYC 93.9 FM)

Alec Baldwin: You could have your own channel. The Jerry channel.

Jerry Seinfeld: Yeah, but I didn’t take that bait.

AB: Why?

JS: Cuz I know what it is. I know what it is, that’s why.

AB: What is it?

JS: You can’t pull that over on me! Cuz I’ve sat in all the chairs, I’ve been in all the rooms. I know what it is. Look, Alec, you’ve been there, right?

AB: Yes!

JS: You can’t trick me into thinking…

AB: Thinking what?! Share with the people.

JS: …that that’s good.

AB: That’s not good why?

JS: Because most of it is not creative work. And not reaching an audience. You wanna be on the water? How do you wanna be on the water? You wanna be on a yacht or you wanna be on a surfboard? I wanna be on a surfboard. I don’t wanna deal with a yacht. That’s a yacht. Some people want a yacht to say See my yacht.

***

This morning, I read an article by Dr. Shelly Provost called How to Tell If You’re Following Your Calling or Just Feeding Your Ego. It’s good, you’ll want to read it, but the gist is here:

“Your ego fears not having or doing something. The lifeblood of the ego is fear. Its primary function is to preserve your identity, but it fears your unworthiness. As a result, ego pushes you harder in order to achieve more . . .

A calling expresses itself quietly, through the expression of subtle clues throughout your life. It is unconcerned with you attaining or accomplishing anything. Its primary function is to be a conduit for expressing your true self to the world. What you do with that expression is less important.”

And then, the most revealing statements from the article: “Ego needs anxiety to survive. Calling needs silence to survive . . . Listening to your life and discovering what it’s asking of you is your calling and it requires more silence than most of us are comfortable with.” (read the whole article here.)

In other words, your ego reacts to fear while calling responds to reflection. Both can be important, but the question is which is moving you forward? Which is motivating you in your work?

***

The connection of these two ideas is loose in my mind and given more time, I’m sure I could flesh it out fully. But blogs aren’t necessarily for fully-fleshed out ideas, at least that’s not what I do here. As I consider these two teachers, Jerry Seinfeld and Dr. Provost, here’s what comes to mind today.

Ego always has one foot on the shiny deck of an imaginary yacht, the promise of power and acheivement holding her strong above the water.

Calling takes off her shoes and stands barefoot on the wet top of a surfboard, where the risk of wipe out is great but so is the opportunity to ride the waves.

Here are some questions I ask to find out if I’m letting my ego get carried away:

  • Do I know I need margin but am afraid to take it?
  • Do I want to say no but am afraid of what I’ll miss?
  • Do I want to say yes but am afraid I can’t pull it off?

Ego speaks loud in the chaos — impatient, competitive, and scared. Calling rises up from the silence — focused, generous, and free.

Marking Storms and Making Choices

Fourteen years ago this week, I’m working at a local high school as a sign language interpreter. It’s morning and the bell rings to end the first class of the day.

I gather my bag just as the student I interpret for motions that she’ll meet me in the next class. Thankful for the few minutes, I make my way to the teacher’s lounge for a quick phone call. My sister is in labor and I want to call Mom who is with her to find out how it’s going.

The phone rings on the other line and Mom tells me there’s no baby yet, but soon. Just as I’m hanging up to rush to where I need to be, the principal’s voice comes over the intercom, announcing a tornado has been spotted in the area and everyone should stay put. I instinctively turn to look out the window behind me, surprised to see my own reflection staring back instead of the front lawn of the school. Outside is dark as night and it’s not even 10 am.

chatting at the sky

Later we’ll learn the storm that May morning wasn’t necessarily impressive according to the F-scale, wind gusts reaching just above 80 mph, but it still comes in as the worst the city has seen in 20 years. My drive home that afternoon is careful and filled with detours – around downed trees and power lines, the aftermath of the day the sky turned black.

My apartment wasn’t damaged and neither was my car. The school day eventually continued and my nephew, born later that day, is now almost fourteen. There isn’t any reason in particular I should still think of that storm often, but I do. Because of this.
chatting at the sky This tree in our neighborhood bears the mark of memory. I don’t know how the storm affected the person who carved the wood that day, but it was enough for them to take the time to mark it.

When I walk past this tree on the trail near our house, I think of that day still – how the principal had to make a choice for the sake of safety to keep the students inside, how the sky turned black and ominous, how we couldn’t change the weather, only try to stay out of its way.

That’s the way to handle yourself in a storm, take cover and wait for it to pass over.

But it’s possible to live like a storm is ever brewing just outside the door even when the sky is clear and bright. It’s possible to take cover even when there’s nothing to take cover from, except for a heavy idea or a recurring thought in the night.

It’s possible to live as though every move you make is an anxious attempt to avoid an unwanted consequence rather than a thoughtful decision to move toward life. And this life becomes one marked by hiding from the potential storm of loneliness, failure, isolation, invisibility, or insignificance. Take cover or the storm might overtake you.

Avoid danger. Sit under the banner of fear.

photo 3-2I’ve done that. When the kids were little I lived in fear a lot – of them getting sick and it never ending, of me getting sick and not being able to take care of them, of making the wrong decisions about where we should live, how we should school, if I should take a job or not.

When my first book came out and speaking opportunities started to roll in, I said yes more than I maybe wanted to because I was afraid of missing out on something. I also said no a few times because I was afraid I couldn’t pull it off. Fear works both ways, you see – keeps you from doing things you might want to do and convinces you that you have to do things you don’t want to do.

I still make wonky decisions based on fear when it comes to my work and my writing, my home and my life, but I’d like to think I’m doing that less.

Just two weeks ago I was wrestling through a should-I-or-shouldn’t-I scenario as to whether or not I should make a phone call. A phone call, you guys. It wasn’t something I had to do, just something I felt like I should do.

But when I took a few minutes to think about the reasons why I felt like I should make the phone call, none of the reasons were rational or good. Each one of them had to do with avoiding a consequence. If I call, then this person will be happy. If I don’t call, then this person might be mad. Love was never a motivation in this scenario. Only fear.

Storms everywhere, on every side.

I decided in that moment to do what I thought was best. I didn’t make the phone call and chose to believe whatever storm might come as a result, well. I’ll be okay. And guess what? I was.

This will probably always be something I need to walk through, making decisions out of love rather than from fear. I can’t prevent storms from coming, but I can decide not to invent my own. I like the idea of marking a storm like the tree-writer did. This happened, it was bad, and we lived through it. But I want to let go of the habit of making them.

What are your experiences with marking vs. making the storms in your life?

What My Sister Taught Me

I’m firmly convinced our genius is at least partially coded into our childhood play. Want to get an idea of how those first graders will change their world? No need to read their spelling words. Just show up at recess.

But I don’t know about all that yet, because it’s 1985 and we’ve got the day ahead of us, no plans but the Barbie world. We huddle over the pile of pink goodness ready to piece out what belongs to whom today. I’m eight and it’s my big sister’s turn to pick first.

myquillyn and emily

I study her choices carefully – the pink cabinet, the blue and pink pillows, the cushy sofa. These three must be the top items in the pile since she chose them first. I end up with a lopsided table I don’t know what to do with. Barf me out.

Days later, it’s my turn to pick first. I know just what to do! Pink cabinet, blue and pink pillows, cushy sofa. Yes!

I look up at her after my clean sweep, unable to hide my victory smile since I obviously just chose all the best stuff. Instead of reacting, she ignores me, and picks the table with the uneven top. Wait, is she trying to psych me out?

What is this? No anger? No you just got all the good stuff lecture? Not only that, she just chose the worst thing in the pile.  The worst thing!

How am I supposed to know how to make my Barbie house beautiful if my teacher keeps picking different furniture?! How am I supposed to know the best stuff if she keeps changing her mind on what the best stuff is? I am having a total cow.

Look at her over there in her corner, busy setting up her awesome space. I lean to one side to watch her work and notice she has that crooked table looking just fine, using it as some kind of loft-like bed for Skipper. I look back at my first-pick choices and they don’t look so great now.

I vow to choose the lopsided table next time. But next time always comes and no matter how I try to catalogue and then copy her choices, it makes no difference. It didn’t matter what she has to work with. She will make it look great, no matter how imperfect the pile.

And while it may on the surface seem like an older sister’s evil plan to make her little sister crazy, I think it simply comes down to this: her gift is that she sees differently.

The Nester's House

That feeling of discontentment, of missing out, of not having something vital I needed to make beauty showed up during those long days of play. I blamed it on the lopsided table and my lack of first pick, but these weren’t my problem.

My problem was I didn’t yet know how to trust my own ideas, couldn’t see beyond the obvious, and wasn’t willing to take a little risk.

My sister had eyes to see the usefulness in the mess and the beauty in the lopsided. Part of her art, even back then, was her eyes could see potential.

As I’ve grown up, I’ve learned I can have those eyes, too.

Myquillyn didn’t immediately apply this to her real life. But it was always in her, this ability to somehow see beyond the obvious and envision something no one else could.

The Nesting Place

What my eight-year-old self would’ve have done to get my hands on some kind of guidelines for how to have a Barbie house I loved. If only she could have written down her secrets!

Well now she has. And the best part is, her secrets aren’t as secret as you think.

She finally wrote a book is for all the little sisters of the world who doubt they have what it takes to make home (or life) beautiful, waiting for permission and courage to create, take risks, and be ourselves.

Over the years I’ve learned these things from her, valuable lessons practiced in my own home that spill over into everyday life.

The Nesting Place Contentment

She didn’t teach me the best color to paint my walls. She taught me it’s okay to paint my walls the wrong color.

She didn’t teach me where to put my furniture. She taught me it’s okay to move my furniture around.

She didn’t teach me the right way to hang a curtain. She taught me there isn’t only one right way to hang a curtain.

She didn’t lecture me on the latest trends. She taught me how to discover what my own trends are, that’s it’s okay if they’re different from others, and it’s okay when they change.

She didn’t point out what’s wrong with my house. She taught me how every house has a silver lining and home is wherever we are.

homeShe taught me that my house isn’t just about a house. It’s about trusting yourself, making mistakes, trying new things, inviting others in. It’s about community and communion, healing and wholeness, memories and tradition, love and loveliness and hope.

The Nester's House

I truly believe what I said before, that hints of our personal genius hide in our childhood play, what I also like to call our art. I’m so glad my sister had the courage to hold on to hers, to listen to what makes her come alive, to ignore the naysayers who said she was doing it all wrong.

You have a genius art too, and it doesn’t have to be the e equals mc squared kind. It might be the relational kind, the insightful kind, or the kind that moves in the midst of fear. Whatever it is for you, it’s evidence that you are made in the image of God and the first step to uncovering that could simply be finding freedom in your own home.

The Nesting Place

This lovely book – The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful - is finally available everywhere today! Get yourself a copy, your mom a copy, and don’t forget your little sister.

Love you, Sister Girl. So happy you said yes to writing this book. I don’t know how people get on in the world without a big sister to teach them things. I’m so thankful for all you’ve taught me.

nesting place

Tuesdays Are For Living

It’s dark in the sunroom this morning, hours before the sun comes up. The wall of windows reflects the light from my lamp, the end table, my own face. I come here in the early quiet, pour the coffee, let out the dog, sit with a blanket, and listen as the yard wakes up behind me.

What stories will I tell today?

light at chatting at the skyToday is finally April but most of the trees don’t know it yet. A long winter has kept them sleeping right on through March. The little ones wake up first,  shooting out flowers at the end of skinny sticks, coloring the cul-de-sac in light pinks and yellows.

It won’t be long now.

I think about those of you in the southern hemisphere, how your April season is our October. Is that right? Are you heading into cooler weather, watching as the trees close their eyes for a season?

Even the most predictable process to me is the opposite somewhere else. We all have our perspectives, don’t we?

This year’s (in)Real Life theme comes to mindWe Need Your Story - And we do, whoever you are. Because it’s different from ours, from hers, from mine.

We are all telling our stories everyday we live. Some do it with words like our friend Lisa-Jo - attorney, mother, writer, superhero – with her brand new book releasing today, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom

Some do it with their crazy ideas, like  my friend Haley who launches a children’s clothing line today – Wildly Co. - and I can’t even get my mind around this girl and her fun, thoughtful, wild ideas. If someone dangled me over a cliff and said they would save me if I would launch a children’s clothing line, I would just have to go ahead and fall because how in the world do you do that?!

But Haley tells this part of her story because it’s hers.

Then there is my son at the breakfast table this morning with an endless string of Your shoe’s untied APRIL FOOLS! You have something on your nose APRIL FOOLS! The sky is falling APRIL FOOLS! 

He tells his stories, too.

Each of us will speak today, some into microphones, others near the microwave. We will speak with our movements, our meals, our routines, our laughter, our compassion, our grief, our to-do lists.

What will we say?

Will we speak hope, love, fear, or truth? Will we say it to thousands or only to one? Will we say it out loud or only in secret?

Maybe we’ll say it all. Maybe that’s alright. Maybe we’ll learn something or teach something or remember something or surprise ourselves. Maybe today will be the same as yesterday. Maybe that’s alright, too.

Let’s respect the loud and the quiet alike. Let’s not elevate the big stories over the small ones. Let’s honor, celebrate, and speak in whatever ways we can today.

Today, on this regular Tuesday, what is the story you’re speaking with your life?

The Most Revolutionary Question You Can Ask

morningI recently watched a four and a half minute video where author and pastor John Ortberg remembers his friend, Dallas Willard. (I’ll embed the video at the bottom of this post). One quick segment shows John and Dallas on stage together having a conversation only a few months before Dallas Willard passed away.

John: “How do we help people – if somebody wants to think about how is my spiritual life going or how is my soul doing – how do we help people ask and answer that question?”

Dallas: “Well, very slowly. One at a time, we listen to them . . . I think the next thing is a question and not a statement: What’s bothering you? Start there.”

They talk some more and then John makes a joke.

John: “What’s bothering you? could be an interesting liturgical question – to start the church service asking, What’s bothering you? and the people could respond back, And also you.”

I laughed out loud when he said it and so did the audience. Then, as the clip ends, Dallas can be heard saying, “That would be absolutely revolutionary.”

I had to pause the video at that moment, three minutes and fifty-five seconds in, Dallas’ deep voice and thoughtful statement hanging there in the air over my desk, That would be absolutely revolutionary.

My head couldn’t nod big enough.

It’s true, my instinct is to not be bothered because it just doesn’t seem right. To ask myself or someone else what bothers could be seen as self-focused  or as an opportunity to rant or complain.

But what if we looked deeper in? Instead of manufacturing peace by shooing away my frustration or smoothing out my ruffled feathers, I am learning the importance of getting quiet enough to honestly consider what bothers me – not just on the surface, but deep within my soul.

Sometimes what I learn is ugly or uncomfortable. But there are other times I discover right next to my frustration lives a drop of passion I didn’t realize was there and a spark of hope I didn’t realize I needed. This is actually how all of my books were born.

Admitting what bothers me exposes what I most deeply long for. When I know what I long for, I become more fully alive.

What if we began to ask ourselves on a regular basis, What’s bothering you? What if we asked this of one another?

Is there anything bothering you today that you’d be willing to share?

For When You Feel Restless for More

shadows

In January three years ago, I wrote a post called How to Live Big. You can read the whole thing, but here’s a blurb:

God writes big stories, stories that seem impossible. And they are, if you think about it. He seems to take great interest in impossible stories, and I think they’re interesting, too. But I rarely raise my hand to live them.

I write small stories. Everyday, I write stories for my life that include comfort and fun and entertainment. I live inside my little story like coloring a sunshine yellow – I stay in the lines and keep to the plan. Suns are supposed to be yellow, right? I am a rule-follower.

I wrote those words before my first book came out, 25 days after that email from Annie when she declared 2011 the year of making art. It was a time when I was wrestling with my own fear, a time when I was stepping out of my own small stories. Looking back on that time now, I would replace the word small with the word scared.

In those days, I used those words interchangeably. Not so anymore.

It’s true, God writes big stories. But we can only see that from here looking back. His big stories started with smallness: five loaves, two fish, a foot washing, a mustard seed, a fisherman, a shepherd boy, a baby.

But I felt restless in those days, wanting to write words that mattered, wanting to parent in a way that meant something, wanting to have a voice, wanting my life to count for something beyond myself. If I’m honest, I also wanted to be successful, the definition of success changing for me depending on what success looked like for my peers. I still struggle with the definition of success, actually.

Last year when we were brainstorming titles for my third book, one of the phrases I tossed into the pile was the title of that post, How to Live Big. You should know that it wasn’t a serious contender, but in titling discussions, anything goes and you can’t be afraid of bad ideas.

When I said it, I was sitting in my parked car in my driveway on the phone with Esther, my agent. We talked for an hour, trying to find just the right phrase. When I said this one out loud, her response was this: ”Meh. Do people really want to live big?”

I had to think about that for a while. In fact, I’ve thought about it now for a long while.

I don’t know if I 100 percent disagree with that post I wrote, but if I were to re-write it, I would word it differently. A lot differently.

Now, my restlessness feels different. I am careful not to color the word small in negative shades, as if it were something to run from or escape.

It almost seems like an oxymoron, but these days I’m feeling restless for smallness – not out of fear of man but because of my union with Christ.

I want to start small because I’m human and dependent, not in hopes that my small will grow into something bigger. Maybe starting small will remind me that is what I am – and Jesus will give me the grace to stay there – even when it hurts and even when it’s hard.

I’m restless to stay small in His presence, not because I’m scared, but because I’m His.

I want this to be a relief rather than a frustration.

I’m restless to accept  the beauty of smallness, hiddenness, and the secret work of Christ in the deepest part of who I am.

I’m restless to let Him come out of me in any way He wants, no matter how big or how small that may seem to me – whether that be in one big way or in a million little ways.

I’m restless for believers to see, as my dad often says, beyond what is to what could be. And this doesn’t mean I am to dream big and amazing things for God. Rather, it means I am to believe in a big and amazing God, period. I can trust Him to be Himself even as I dare to be myself.

And maybe as I do that, I’ll realize that starting small isn’t a means to a bigger end, rather I start small because it’s what I am.

And this is good and right and holy.

***

restlessMy friend Jennie Allen writes in her new book Restless: Because You Were Made for More, “We are called to dream but we’re afraid to. But because we are called, when we don’t act on it we become restless—restless to find purpose, to make a difference in the world, to matter.”

She urges believers to pay attention to what causes our restlessness, as this could be the very doorway through which the Spirit is urging us to walk.

During the month of January, we’re talking about some of these same concepts, what I like to call making art with our lives – this week specifically, what it means to make art in little ways. Maybe one little way you could make art today is to consider this question: Can you name the restlessness within you? What is pulling, tugging, and causing a bit of discomfort in your soul?

If you have an answer and would like to receive a copy of this new release, simply leave a comment telling us of your restlessness and from those we’ll pick five of you and share the winners on Saturday, January 11.

one question to ask yourself before the end of the year

As many of you know, my small group girls graduated in May. They’ve been in college now for a week. I wanted to see them before they left but I knew they were busy packing up and spending time with their friends. walk to school

In the end, five out of the ten texted me seperately to get together. So the week before they left, I was squeezing in coffee and frozen yogurt and a few hours of conversation on my living room sofa.

During the course of my one-on-one conversations with them, I asked them all the same question before our time was over – When May comes and you look back on your freshman year, what do you hope you’ll be able to say about it?

They all had a little different answers depending on their goals and personalities.

But not one of them said, You know Emily, I really hope I’ll be able to say that I was anxious, worried, and fearful the whole year.

We don’t plan for anxiety and we don’t hope for it, either. It tends to show up without an invitation. Same goes for doubt, procrastination, comparison, and defeat.

Walking our fourth grade girls and our first grade son to school this week, I’ve been thinking about the end of the year – What do I hope they’ll be able to say about this year when the end of it comes? What do I hope to say myself?

Maybe a better question is this one:

What can I do today to practice the future I hope we’ll have?

I wonder what it is for you – when this school year is over, what word or phrase do you hope you’ll be able to use to describe it? Is there any way to practice that future today?

a sending prayer for college freshmen

prayers for college students

Dear Lord,

They move in to the dorm this weekend and will bring their bags filled with clothes and their boxes filled with books. But you see what they bring in their hearts – anticipation, adventure, love, regret, anxiety, motivation, and hope.

They are a mix of excited, ready, terrified, and wide-eyed freedom.

As he looks for a fresh start, remind him of your faithfulness every morning no matter where he calls home.

As she looks for community, remind her you are always with her no matter where she may go.

As he looks for adventure, remind him how you walk on water, turn water to wine, feed thousands from just a few pieces of bread. Remind him how you bring life straight up out of death, beauty straight out of ashes.

May she have the patience to believe even when she doesn’t see results.

May he know the greatest adventures are found in your presence, the greatest love comes from your heart, the greatest hope is that you’ve made his heart your home.

When insecurity, comparison, disappointment and failure knock on her dorm room door, may she turn to you with her questions rather than run the other way.

Weave your wisdom into the fibers of his soul, bearing the fruit of confidence, clarity, contentment and a light heart.

May he not despise his humanity, rather may he embrace it.

May she not despise her body, rather may she learn to receive and respect her shape as a gift.

May he not despise his weakness, rather may he see how weakness brings a daily reminder to trust.

May they not fear failure, rather may they thrive in the midst of it.

May they not be quick to judge, rather may they be patient and curious.

Help them to find true friends and be a true friend in turn.

Help them find their voice and to use it to be an advocate for themselves and for others.

Replace her shame with courage.

Replace his confusion with peace.

Replace her fear with a love that moves within her beyond her ability to understand.

May your grace surprise them kindly.

Amen.

simple thoughts on faith and leaving

Many of you have written me kind notes of encouragement since I first shared with you about why my husband is quitting his job. Your emails, comments, (and even some letters!) have been cool water on dry days for us. Today, five days before his last day as a youth pastor, we are encouraged, thankful, and filled with hope.

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I have wanted to update you on how things are going as it relates to John’s job and what comes next, but before I do that there is something that has been rolling around in my soul and I’m unable to move forward in writing or in thinking until I find the words to express some thoughts regarding this transition.

Since we announced to our community and to the public that we have made this Very Big Decision to quit our perfectly acceptable job with our perfectly regular paycheck, we are never sure exactly how people are going to respond. But there are some common themes to most of the responses we hear:

You have so much faith.

You are brave.

You are an inspiration.

And every now and then, we also hear what people say behind our back to friends and relatives: What in the world are they going to do?!

I think I love that one the most, because I know that’s really what many are thinking but they worry it will offend us if they say it to our face.

I understand where people are coming from when they say all these things. I’m deeply grateful for the encouragement and don’t want to take away from the genuine and heartfelt support people so kindly offer. But I wanted to take a few moments and point out some of the unspoken assumptions that might hover invisibly over words like “you’re brave” and “you have great faith.”

There is a part of me that gets a little squirmy with the implication that we have faith in greater measure just because we are leaving a job.

It’s true, faith is often required to leave a job.

But faith is also required to stay at a job.

“I’ve never attended a ‘steadfast obedience’ party at work. I’ve never been invited to a ‘staying put’ get-together. I’ve never heard of a ‘sticking around forever’ shindig. And I haven’t for one simple reason: We live in a corporate culture that celebrates people who leave and ignores those who stay.”

Jon Acuff, Quitter

We have to be careful not to point to outward actions as the only implication of an inward reality. You can’t always tell from an outside glance what is happening on the deep level of the soul. Over time, theses realities become clear. But be careful to elevate those who seem to be making noticeable decisions that have obvious impact over those who make small decisions in quiet corners with little noticeable impact at all.

All movement requires faith no matter how big or small it may look on the outside – whether you’re stepping into the unknown or stepping into the same thing as yesterday.

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John and I have have been praying for over two years about what might be next for us. For two years, we have quietly waited, listened, and stayed right where we are. During that time, no one said we were brave or had a lot of faith because there was no action to point to as proof. But those years of waiting and listening were necessary for the movement happening right now – the kind of movement people can see.

Maybe your movement is small right now, too. Maybe you watch as others around you seem to be making “big moves” and have “great faith.”

Take heart, friend. The size of your faith isn’t really the point; only the size of your God.

So yes, we are leaving a job. And over the next few days, as kind friends and curious bystanders send us off and say some of these lovely words, John and I will receive them with gratitude and beg God to filter words of praise for us through the person of Jesus who did only what he saw his Father do and said only what he heard his Father say.

May it be so of all of us no matter how big, small, or ordinary our next steps might be.

3 words for the graduates

My small group graduates this weekend. From high school. As in, they’re going to college. We celebrated a few nights ago with a fancy dinner out and then a FroYo dessert. And they surprised me with a scrapbook of our four years together. Stop it.

small group

I can’t talk about it. You guys, they are growing up. But I also am so happy for them and also for me because from now until forever I have 10 hilarious, brilliant, beautiful, and wonderfully weird little sisters.

small group

small groupI wasn’t even supposed to be their leader. The leader who started with them had to back out half way through their freshman year. So I told John I would be willing to “fill in until they found a replacement.”

Yeah.

So here we are, three and a half years later and they are all driving and half of them have boyfriends and none of them have braces anymore. They are beautiful and learning to be independent, but they are also still terrified on the inside and small and wanting to be seen and loved for who they are – the part no one can see.

I’ve written them little notes and we’ve had lots of conversation but nothing I’ve said so far seems adequate compared to what I want to say. And so I’ll take a little space here on the blog to give the best three-word advice I can think of right now.

Go make art.

Make art with the way you live in your house until college starts – the way you hang out with your mom, the way you laugh at your dad instead of roll your eyes, the way you choose to listen to your baby sister who is going to miss you more than she can possibly put into words right now.

Whether you’re taking a gap year to work or travel or spend time with YWAM, make art with how you enter in – not like a tourist who watches from behind a camera lens and insists all of your usual comforts are close at hand. As best you can, enter in to your new situation ready to be creative and make art with the circumstance you are given no matter how crummy it might turn out to be.

If you’re headed off to college, be it close to home or a day away, make art in your dorm room – not just with how you decorate, but with how you exist with your roommate or suite mate or friends. Be curious. Be open. Hold fast to your confidence when you are among many but remember to share your vulnerability when you are among few.

Learn, not just from your professors, but from your classmates. Be slow to judge, slow to speak, slow to anger. Be quick to listen, quick to pray, quick to look for the hope in dark situations.

If at all possible, laugh until you tee tee in your pants.

Bring your giftedness as well as your insecurity with you as you go.

Bring your story, the one you’ve already lived and the one you want to live. You’ll be tempted to leave out the boring or embarrassing parts as you tell it. Don’t. Every bit of it counts.

small group

Practice thankfulness, silence, and discipline.

Don’t light candles in your dorm room or get in cars with strangers.

Don’t forget who you are.

Remember Jesus. Remember family. Remember love.

And be sure to call your mom.

If you had only three words to tell a graduate, what would you say?

Want to explore more of what it might look like to make art with your life? I wrote a book about that. It’s called A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live. It releases this fall.