Ruined, Wrecked, Undone: A Tribute to 2013

In my first post of 2013, I wrote about how maybe it’s best to be undone. I laugh now, not because I’ve changed my mind, but because I should have known the kind of year that would follow a statement such as that.

Stepping out in faith, walking hand-in-hand with tragedy, having my heart broken over and over again… I’m tempted to say that 2013 is a year I could have gone without, but I don’t think that’s true. As much as I feel I would have preferred to skip right over it, I think I needed this year of undoing.

It’s strange to think I didn’t see the theme until I looked back over the last twelve months, but God has been ripping me from my isolation, stripping me of self, forcing me to realize that I am my brother’s keeper and making me realize that maybe, sometimes, it’s okay to let my brother keep me.

I’ve spent years believing I’m strong enough to stand alone, but I’m finding that what I’ve needed most is to be strong enough to say that I need you.

Because I could spend a lifetime alone. I could. It would be easy, even. Much easier than setting my wants and needs aside in favor of another.

But it wouldn’t be right.

Because what is the purpose of a life that is not lived for others? Why am I even on this earth if I was not meant to live for something much bigger than myself?

If I’m only living for me, God can take me home right now. If I don’t have the hope of leaving a mark on the world, I’ve no purpose in this life.

In the last twelve months, I’ve learned to live beyond myself. I don’t have it mastered quite yet, and honestly I don’t hold high hopes of ever doing it exactly right, but I am trying. To live beyond me. To think about how my actions are going to impact the eternal.

To think about you. To live for you. To make every breath I breathe be one that will make the world a more beautiful place for you.

If I were to choose the methods that grow me, I wouldn’t have picked 2013.  Sometimes I think there wasn’t a moment of last year that didn’t feel like a freight train bowling me over.

But, once upon a time, I read a post by Hannah Brencher and made her words my battle cry:

“But if anyone inquires about the humility of a broken heart, I think it is quite worth it at the end of each day. To extend one’s own heart and allow it to be ruined completely, in hope that through the wreckage, someone else’s heart will dance today.”

I’ve been undone in the style of Revolution.
Ruined to the tune of Hannah Brencher.
Finding I’m a soldier in all of this.

But my heart is still dancing. Even through the wreckage, my heart is still dancing.

And that’s why I’m thankful for 2013, trials and tragedy included. That’s why I can look with expectancy to 2014.

Because my Jesus is shaping me, molding me, and sometimes breaking me, until I’m everything I needed to be all along.

I have a long way to go.
I have a most faithful Guide.

Ruined, Wrecked, Undone…

But not abandoned.

Turning the Page

You press the book into your grandmother’s hands and beg her to read it aloud. You’ve heard it a hundred times already, but you will never tire of turning the pages of this particular story: The Monster at the End of This Book.

There’s Grover, telling you that he’s scared of the monster at the end of this book, so please don’t turn any pages. But of course you don’t listen because where’s the fun in that? You know the monster isn’t as scary as Grover believes him to be. So while Grover is begging and pleading, you laugh and turn another page to hear your grandmother’s voice exclaim: “You turned another page!”

Poor Grover. He’s boarding up, tying up, and bricking shut pages, hoping that will keep you from turning another one, but you are simply too strong. You’ve reached the climax. You’re on the page before the end—the only thing separating you from the monster. Grover trembles, sweats, begs, says “please” four times… And you turn the page.

Grover is the monster at the end of the book. He spent the whole story trying to protect himself from, well, himself.

All those years I spent curled up at my grandma’s side, I had no idea that this book would become a mirror of my life. And if I did, I would have imagined I’d be the one laughing and turning the page. I’m not sure when I turned into Grover, but I did.

I’m afraid of turning pages.

I’m afraid of the monster at the end of the book.

Life is so fragile and uncertain that I sometimes just want to stay here where I know exactly what is happening. So I pound in the nails and I stack up my bricks and I tell myself that I’m safe from what happens on the other side of the page.

I turn my eyes heavenward and whisper, “Please don’t turn the page.”

But He does. Because He knows I need to arrive at the end of the story. Because if I don’t get there, the title is all wrong. There won’t be a monster at the end of the book. And this book needs a monster.

I don’t want to spend my story fighting and fearing and trembling and trying. I want to be the fingers fearlessly flipping pages. I want to stand there with arms wide open, ready to accept whatever waits for me on the other side.

I reach for the corner and…

Why, yes, I did turn the page.
I did, and it didn’t kill me.
I did, and I’m not afraid.

I think I’ll turn another.

On the Corner of Boundary and Adventure

I don’t know who named the streets in Beaufort, South Carolina, but I could hug the guy who juxtaposed Boundary and Adventure. In the eight years I’ve been heading south for September I’ve been drawn to that street—Adventure, that is. Funny thing is, I never set toe or tread on it until a little over a week ago.

And it makes sense, I suppose, that I’ve never turned down that road in the past. Because Boundary Street will take me where I need to go. It’s the main drag through town—the road everyone drives in comfort knowing it will lead to all the important things, while Adventure Street is just a little road that leads to God only knows where. Hence the name “Adventure,” right?

I think life is a lot like the streets of Beaufort. Everyone says they want a little adventure, but they’re too afraid to step outside the familiar confines of the boundaries they’ve made for themselves. I’m guilty of it, too. That’s why I made a little detour on the way to the beach last week. That’s why I pulled my car over to the side of the road and took a little stroll that fine Saturday afternoon.

I’m guilty of singing Disney tunes as I go throughout my day. I can’t count the number of times the lyrics, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere” have come out my mouth. And in the moment I think I mean them, but I don’t. Not really. Because I bypass Adventure and keep on cruising down Boundary more often in life than I care to admit. I could have the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack blasting from my car speakers as I sing along with the reprise of “Belle” and still drive right past Adventure Street. Because Boundary is so comfortable and familiar and I never have been one for scenic routes.

But I think we all need a little more Adventure in our lives. I think we all need to take those detours that lead us down abandoned side streets. I think we all need to do a lot more than sing about the adventure we want to live. So get ready to slow down and take a right turn up ahead.

Adventure is calling your name.

boundary and adventure


The Climb of Faith

There’s something extremely spiritual about rock climbing, at least for me. Nothing quite makes me question my faith like dangling from a rope thirty feet off the ground. Yesterday was my first rock climbing excursion since my rather tragic experience as a child, and I will confess that it was not any easier dropping off that wall the second time around. It’s not a trust issue; it’s a control issue. I knew my friend on belay was more than capable of safely delivering me to the ground, but I felt that this whole unsettling falling sensation could have easily been avoided if I could just retrace my steps back down the wall.

How ironic that the path I would choose is actually the more dangerous one. Because if I had tried to climb back down the wall, David would have needed to give the rope some slack. Then, if I would have fallen, the rope—no longer in lock position—would have slipped right through the carabiner and let me drop to the ground (unless my friend has some super-fast reflexes, but I’m not going to be the one to find out).

In any case, rock climbing is a dangerous sport for a control freak like me because, as I was reminded yesterday, it left me with very little control.

And maybe that’s okay. Because maybe I need to learn to let go every once in awhile. And maybe I need to stop depending so heavily on Rebekah and lean on God a little bit more.

Because maybe God is my guy on belay, and maybe I’ve always needed the Voice of Someone who can see the whole picture saying, “There’s one by your right knee. Right there. Yeah, that’s the one. Now put all your weight on your left foot and push yourself up. You can do it. Just push yourself up.”

Yesterday, my friends got to be the people keeping me from falling and encouraging me to try again when I don’t succeed the first time, but that’s what God has been for me every single day of my life. He’s the One holding me up, tugging on the rope at times to lift me where I need to be (thanks, Dave, for that analogy). He’s the One who lets me back down to try a different path when I realize I’m in way over my head. He’s the One who lowers me down gently when my arms turn to noodles and I just can’t—no, I can’t—climb any more. And He’s the One who sits by my side as I catch my breath, patiently waiting until I’m ready to try again.

And if I can rely so fully on my friends during one Sunday afternoon of rock climbing, I think I can trust that God has my back the rest of the week. So here’s to that great climb of faith my life has turned out to be.


“Climb on.”

psalm 56.13

Caught Up in Forever

I could pass entire days dreaming. I mean, I’m a novelist. It’s what I do. I dream up worlds and stories and characters. But sometimes… Sometimes those dreams get a little out of control. Sometimes I forget to draw the line between fantasy and reality. Sometimes I really do spend entire days dreaming, and I don’t feel that my life has benefited from it.

Ever heard the phrase “too much of a good thing”? Dreams can be like that. While they are an absolute vital part of our existence, you can get so wrapped up in them that they cease to be a good thing.

Because it’s hard to dream and do at the same time. If all you’re doing is envisioning the future, but not taking the steps necessary to get there, you have a problem. A big problem. You’re stuck in a rut. Your dreams are stale. And I wonder…

I wonder what you’re doing about Right Now.

Because, once upon a time, I used to wake up in the morning and tell myself to live the journey. I’d whisper the words of a Steven-James-penned poem to myself as I went throughout my day. Live the Journey. Live. Because I used to believe in embracing the moments and grasping the now that slipped so quickly through my fingertips. But then I forgot. I got so caught up in the future that I forgot to leave room for the now.

I tell myself over and over again to slow down and let life catch up, and sometimes I do. Sometimes I stop to breathe and look around me and revel in the beauty of my life here and now. But sometimes I’m too caught up in forever to care about what happens day to day.

And I feel that life is one, endless cycle of me getting it right only to find that I’ve gotten it wrong. And my journals are full of scribbled pleas to remember what is truly important. That I’m going to miss forever if I don’t learn to embrace the now.

Because I realize there is so much I don’t know about forever. It’s unpredictable. Unable to be grasped and labeled and categorized and tucked safely away into a box where I can control it. But right now… Right now is within my reach, and maybe it won’t stay forever. Maybe it will flicker like a firefly–here for a season, gone the next. Maybe it will lift itself up on butterfly wings and float away on the breeze. But maybe… Maybe before it goes, it will first dance its way into my heart, leaving footprints on my memory of a life well lived.

Because, yes, I don’t know much of anything about forever, but I know what’s in front of me right now. And I know I need to slow down and simply breathe in right now. And I know it’s my duty–my God-given duty–to live right now.

So here’s to letting go of forever.

caught up in forever

The View From Right Here

I have to confess that I’ve had sort of a bad attitude about life lately. Because if life is a game of Candy Land, I’ve been stuck in Molasses Swamp for eighteen turns now. And if life is a climb, I’ve been on this mountain far too long and I’m not even sure how close I am to the top.

And when your entire journey has been a heart racing, thigh straining, lung bursting climb straight up the mountain, it’s easy to get discouraged. Even after you’ve finally reached the top, it’s easy to forget the view. Because the climb down isn’t any better. In fact, sometimes straight down is even worse than straight up. Every knee-jarring step leads you farther from the view, and if you get your focus in the wrong place, you’ll quickly forget the wonder of watching the fog part to unfold an entire world before you.

I’ve found myself wanting to fast-forward a year or so—just far enough that I don’t have to be in this rut any longer. Just far enough that I’ve actually got life somewhat figured out. And then I realize how laughable that thought is, because when have I ever had life figured out? Sure, there was a time I thought I did, but when I look at how far I am from that dream now…

And once again, I find the words of Hannah Brencher echoing in my head.

“Life will lose its worth if you are only ripping to find the answers.”

And I find that her words are a reprimand because I’m missing life now, in this moment, because I’m so caught up in where I want to be some day in the future.

And maybe I don’t need to be at the top right now.

Maybe it’s enough to just stop and take a deep breath, filling my lungs with life, enjoying the feel of the mist on my skin.

Maybe it’s enough to know that I’ve climbed mountains like this before and it has always, always, always been worth it.

And maybe it’s time to remember that the view from the top isn’t always the most important one.

Maybe it’s time to take in the view from right here.

the view from right here

Relearning the Song

My dad grew up pretty close to the tracks. To this day, he doesn’t register the sound of a train whistle.

There are sounds we can tune out. Sounds to which we can grow deaf. We do this mostly to protect ourselves. Rather than allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by constant background noises, we simply choose what we want to hear.

But what happens when we stop hearing altogether? What happens when we accidentally start tuning out the important things in life?

I fell in love with Jesus through the analogy of dance (Thank you, Shannon Kubiak).

Jesus and I have “a song.” That song has been the background music of my entire life—always present and always beckoning me to join the dance of a lifetime. Sometimes I can close my eyes, hear that song, and imagine myself twirling in Jesus’ arms. But other times, I stop hearing the song altogether. Because, like everything else in my life, I’ve become accustomed to tuning it out.

I’ve grown so used to doing my own thing. I’ve allowed myself to become distracted by all the other noises vying for my attention, and I’ve forgotten the one song that truly matters. It has been lost somewhere amidst the many background noises in my life.

But guess what?

My dad can hear a train if he chooses. If the sound is observed by someone else, he will often stop to listen. And you’ll see it register in his eyes when that train whistle blows.

That gives me hope.

Because if my dad can hear a sound he has been blocking out all his life in the name of a good night’s sleep, then surely I can recapture the melody that has eluded me in recent days.

Oh yes, when I just close my eyes, take a deep breath, and really listen, I can hear the soft refrains echoing through the caverns of my soul.

And I find that my feet cannot help but dance.

sitting on train tracks

The Beautifully Painful Path

There’s a video that recently went viral called A Pep Talk from Kid President to You. If you have not yet been “pep-talked,” you should stop reading this right now and go watch the video because it’s a great message and the speaker is totally adorable.

Anyway… There are a lot of great quotes crammed into that short video, but I find the one the resonates most with me today is where he quotes (or technically misquotes) Robert Frost.

“Two roads diverged in the woods… and I took the road less traveled.”


I couldn’t help laughing at the dramatics as this child rants about rocks and thorns and glass. (“Not cool, Robert Frost.”) But at the same time I feel the weight of his declaration because I know… I know about those less traveled paths and how they hurt really bad. I know what it’s like to have those moments of doubt where I wonder if the other path would have been a better choice.

But then, I didn’t choose the less-traveled path; I was basically forced down it. So maybe a quote that resonates better with me is the words of the witty Maureen Johnson:

“There are times in life when only one path is presented to you. The path may be rocky, on fire, populated by poisonous cottonmouth snakes… but it’s your path.”

I’ll forgive her the redundant expression about poisonous cottonmouth snakes (duh), because I feel for her main character as I read those words. I know all about that dangerous path being the only one. And let me tell you… IT HURTS, MAN!

It has been exactly one year since I was officially declared a published author. One year since Beyond Waiting became a tangible object I could share with all of you. One year that feels like a lifetime. Because it has been so much longer than a year for me. It has, in fact, been three years. Three years of rocks and thorns and poisonous snakes.

All those months riddled with late night arguments where I explained to God that I am a novelist and will therefore never write anything other than a novel (Ha!).

All those stressful days of computer malfunctions and printer jams and last minute edits that wouldn’t save.

And then there was The Night. The Night I sat in a hotel corridor, waiting to be called in for a meeting with a publisher as my leg bounced frantically from a combination of nerves and the five glasses of sweet tea I was trying so hard to retain. The Night that woman (who has clearly never undergone the pains of presenting a book proposal) said to me in her thick, southern drawl, “It’s okay, honey. There’s nothing to be nervous about.”

I cried tears and lost sleep and threw my body all out of whack from the stress of this journey.

It hurt, man.
Really bad.

But you know something? Even if I could go back and choose a different path, I wouldn’t.

Because the journey was as beautiful as it was painful.

For every tear I cried, there were a dozen smiles. For every minute of sleep I lost, there was a moment when I was fully alive.

I argued with God and I danced with Him.

The computer malfunctioned, but the words never stopped spilling from my fingertips.

When the printer jammed, someone fixed it.

And on that very night I nearly died from a nervous breakdown and/or an overdose of sweet tea, Shannon Primicerio gave me a hug and promised me an endorsement.

I held a book in my hands. It had my name on the cover. I opened it up and buried my nose in its crisp, white pages. I handed it to a friend and watched him bury his nose in those crisp, white pages (because apparently we have the same, odd habit when it comes to books).

I watched a dream come true.

And there are people all around the world who thank me for the words I almost didn’t write.

Because I almost gave up and started paving my own path.


“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

the road less traveled

Your Gift to the World

Every single one of us was born with an innate desire to leave a mark on the world. Like footprints stamped in concrete or initials carved into trees, we need a way of saying to the world, “I was here.”

But what do those things tell us about the person who left them behind? Very little, actually.

The other night, I watched Lincoln for the first time and I couldn’t help wondering, as Daniel Day-Lewis filled the screen, “Is that what Lincoln was really like?”  How much of that story was fiction and how much was fact? I’m willing to bet the director made most of it up. Why?

Because as famous as Abraham Lincoln was, we have no way of truly knowing him. We have the written accounts of what he said or how others perceived him, but while that gives us a glimpse into his life, it doesn’t tell us the heart and soul of him. It doesn’t tell us who Abraham Lincoln really was.

Here’s my rather morbid confession: I. Love. Graveyards.

I love wandering through them in my spare time and considering each headstone—the final mark each person left on the world. It doesn’t tell us much. Just a name and two dates. Just a single slab a granite that says, “Yes, I was here.”

But when I walk through cemeteries, I ask other questions. What did this person look like? What were her dreams? And did she ever succeed in bringing those dreams to life? To me, each headstone marks a story known only to those who knew the person and knew them well.

And I realize that in the grand scope of things—when you consider how many others have lived and died and given their all in this world—you and I will only touch a mere handful of lives. That may sound frightfully discouraging until you realize one, important fact.

It’s not about the number of people we touch, but how deeply we touch them.

I think sometimes we’re so concerned with trying to touch the whole world that we run frantically about, brushing elbows with hundreds of strangers. “There,”  we think. “Now I’ve touched them.”  But if we want to be truthful, we must realize that those people at the supermarket are going to forget our faces the moment we pass from view.

You have been given a precious few lives to impact on this earth. And if you do it right, they will carry your legacy on to future generations. And maybe somewhere along the line they will have forgotten your name and face, but someone will know your heartbeat. And perhaps long after you’re gone, someone else will have a heart that beats to that same rhythm.

And you will have touched the world, my friend.

That heartbeat is your gift to the world.

touching the world

Learning to Share Joy

While reading Han’s Christian Andersen’s The Old Street Lamp, I stumbled across this quote: “Joy that we cannot share with others is only half enjoyed.”

Perhaps the reason it jumped out at me is because I’ve been focusing on community and the importance of sharing our lives with others and I just forced out the most difficult post for Devotional Diva on living together (which you’ll be able to read in a couple of weeks).

And there are those words. Mocking me. Haunting me.

“Joy that we cannot share with others is only half enjoyed.”

I once had a co-worker ask me, “Don’t you get excited about anything?”

My initial thought was, “Well, of course I get excited.” And I do. On the inside. But it takes a pretty big event to get me jumping up and down.

Maybe I don’t share joy very well. And while this frustrated my co-worker to no end, I was never really bothered by this fact until I read that quote.

“Joy that we cannot share with others is only half enjoyed.”

What if I’ve only been half enjoying my life? What if I’ve only been half enjoying yours? And what would happen if I learned to finally, fully share my joy?

Because I’m pretty sure I have friends who get more (outwardly) excited about events in my life than I do. Just yesterday I had a friend ask me what the current word count on my novel is and when I answered him, he smiled real big and said, “Whoa, that’s a novel.”

And I casually responded, “Yeah, it’s coming along,” when the proper response was probably something more like, “OH MY GOSH, I KNOW! Isn’t it awesome?”

Because I have a right to get excited. I have a right to express that excitement.

I have a right to experience joy to the fullest by daring to share it with others.

My joy. Your joy. I’m ready to “enjoy” it.

So please, share your joy with me in the comments so we can both experience the full measure of joy.

"Joy that we cannot share with others is only half enjoyed."