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Who decides what a significant life is anyway?

All I wanted was a donut.

On a rainy Saturday morning, Sarah was attending an association conference for the United Church of Christ and I decided to tag along, thinking that we could spend some extra time together (hello, Pastor’s Wife life) and then go out to lunch afterwards. We ran the block from the car to the church’s front door, shaking off the cold rain as we stepped inside. After signing in, we wandered deeper within the church as Sarah stopped every few feet to hug someone, always asking, “How are you?” (and she actually meant it every single time).

We finally made it to the table filled with coffee and donuts and my eyes lit up. (Early Saturday mornings are obviously not my idea of The Best Weekend Ever.) As I reached across the table for a sugar-encrusted donut, a man appeared next to me. He introduced himself and I recognized his name from stories Sarah had told me about him. I shook his hand, greeting him warmly. We made small talk as we stirred cream into our coffee and then came the question I always dread most when meeting new people: “So, Bailey, what do you do?”

I paused, chuckling, because I never know how to answer this question. Which part of myself did I want to highlight this time? The Bailey who works in a third-grade classroom with kids who have behavioral concerns? The Bailey who still doesn’t know what she wants to major in at 25 years old? Or the Bailey who is in the midst of hustling for her dream, working full-time while writing two books?

But this time, I didn’t even get a chance to choose.

Interrupting me as I began drawing out the first word of my sentence (“well…”), he chose the narrative of my own life for me.

“It’s okay if you aren’t doing anything of significance.”

It took me by such surprise, I barely responded. I was astonished by the level of assumption and the condescending attitude.

As the conference began, I found my way to my seat, still seething. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. Sometimes, it feels like all of my whole life is being narrated by someone else. And I’m over it. SO.OVER.IT.

Friends, we are all significant, and I need this space to tell you this:

The single mom working three jobs to feed her children is doing significant things.

The elderly grandfather who watches his grandchildren every day while his daughter goes to work is doing significant things.

The 22-year-old college graduate who is finally leaning into the call of God on her life as she moves into an apartment down the street from a seminary is doing significant things.

The young father taking time off from work as he brings home his newly adopted son is doing significant things.

The aspiring writer who is fitting her dream into the margins of an already too-busy life is doing significant things.

The nurse working 13-hour shifts and literally saving people’s lives is doing significant things.

The stay-at-home mom whose work is never done is doing significant things.

Significant is a relative term, and no one can tell us whether what we do is significant or not. We are all doing huge, life-changing, significant things. And don’t you forget it.

What huge, significant things are you doing these days?

Drop me a comment below!

Holy Saturday: The Waiting Period

This morning, the church sanctuary was filled with a chorus of Halleluiah!’s as the choir rehearsed for tomorrow’s Easter worship. Joy was nearly tangible, as violins soared through scales alongside bold trumpet blares. Children’s squeals of delight rang through the air, floating in from outside where they were hunting brightly colored Easter eggs stuffed with sweet treats.

This is it, I thought. This is what church is: Jesus manifested in joy and life and love.

But then I looked out across the pews and remembered–not yet. It’s still only the day after Good Friday. Heavy black cloth still hangs over the windows, blocking out the array of rainbow-colored sunlight that should be scattered across the crimson carpet. Jesus is still laying lifeless in the tomb. The world is still dark and quiet, grieving a separation from God.

We are still in the In-Between, in the Not Yet. We are still in the Waiting Period.

I found myself asking it then, as I sang Handel’s Halleluiah: What does it mean to live on Holy Saturday? There are no sermons given today, no pastor is standing up to explain to us what we do here in the waiting. Instead, we go on Easter egg hunts and have dinner with those we love. We don’t know what to do with this extra day, so we just start the Resurrection joy early.

And it feels good, but it separates us from those first-century followers of Jesus who did not have the understanding of this day that we do. We rehearse with trumpets and take pictures of our kids with the Easter Bunny, but they were in agonizing pain.

Having just seen the worst thing they could think of happen right before their eyes, some of them even participating in it–the betraying kiss, the three denials–I imagine joy was far from their emotional vocabulary. I can see them, huddled around a small table in one of the Twelve’s home, tears blurring their vision. I can hear them, asking it softly: “What do we do now?”

The worst has happened and they don’t know what is coming. It feels like the whole world is holding it’s breath, feeling the weight of Jesus’ death all around.

And we, too, know this feeling all too well. The breathlessness when a loved one draws their last, the white-hot anger of a community when the police shoots an unarmed black man in the back 10 times, the confusion when a woman is told to shut up and sit down (in nicer words, of course) because 2,000 years ago Paul said she was unfit for leadership.

Oh, yes, we know it. The fear of the LGBTQ+ community of being beaten to death in the name of Jesus if they walk into the wrong church, the fury in the remembering of indigenous people’s land stolen by the Colonizers, the injustice of an innocent person executed at the hands of the State.

We each have our own story of how this darkness has crept into our lives, don’t we?

Just like the disciples, we can’t see past our suffering yet. It’s only on Sunday that Friday makes sense, and it will only be someday that today makes sense.

Maybe we forget this dark, grief-filled day so easily because it feels just like every other day. Perhaps we have gotten so used to the pain that our tolerance has risen. Maybe we don’t need one day each year designated to sit in this nearly unbearable pain because we feel it every single day, whether we want to or not: fear, death, the worst of humanity on display.

If we are honest, most of our lives are Holy Saturdays. Most of it is lived here in the in-between, waiting with baited breath to see if Good will win out over Evil. This day is for Jesus, and for all of us. This day honors our suffering, whatever that may look like, gently reminding us that we are bound together through pain just as much as joy.

When I look at it that way, I don’t want to rush through today quite as badly. I’m okay to sit in the quiet darkness–just waiting upon Jesus. Each of us stands in our own form of the gap of darkness that bridges old life to new. We stand, exhausted but hopeful, waiting with outstretched arms raised to the heavens–crying out for our Savior.

And today, that is enough.

How to Know the Truth About Our Spiritual Health: The Fruits of the Spirit

“Are you growing in your faith?” my pastor asked the congregation. “Are you actually moving forward in your walk with Christ?”

He paused, giving the crowd a chance to reflect on their own lives, and I frowned.

What does that even mean? I wondered. My mind spun and I found it impossible to refocus on what was being said from the pulpit. I know my pastor finished his sermon that Sunday morning, but truthfully I do not remember any of it. I was still stuck on his question. How was I supposed to know if I was growing in my faith? How could I measure that?

I found myself pondering these questions for months afterward, asking the same question one hundred different ways, but I was still unsatisfied with what I had found. I wanted a way to really measure my growth in my walk with Jesus and had found none.

Finally, during a Bible study on the Gospel of Matthew, I found my answer.

Continue reading this article at Pursue Magazine here >>

Let’s follow the kids: 3 ways to enact real change

I’m sitting on my couch, staring out the window as I watch the melting snow drip from the tree branches. It’s like the trees are crying, I think. They’re weeping right alongside all of America.

It’s only been four days—how has it only been four days? Four days since 17 children lost their lives in a school shooting. Another school shooting. There have been 18 this year, and it’s only February.

And we have refused to take action on gun reform, so now our children are doing it for us. They’re organizing marches and appearing on national news circuits, showing up and speaking out for what is right. They’re calling out politicians and raising money for victim’s families, refusing to bow to fear. We could learn a thing or two (or one million) from them.

They inherently know what we are trying to forget: it’s all about connection.

Violence happens when meaningful connection is severed, and the kids are banning together while the rest of us are distancing from one another even further.

We are not the real leaders of America. They are.

So the world can keep it’s theories about why gun reform won’t work—but I’ll be following the kids.

Here are 3 ways to stand with the kids and enact real change:

1. Listen to the kids.

Follow them on social media. Watch their interviews. Pay attention because they have important things to teach us.

Start here:

“My generation won’t stand for this” by Cameron Kasky

“We call BS” by Emma Gonzalez

2. Call your legislators.

Demand action. Let them know you will not stand for apathy any longer. We cannot afford to continue doing what we’ve always done while expecting different results.

Find your Senate representatives here.

Find your House representatives here.

3. #MarchForOurLives

On March 24, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end this epidemic of mass school shootings. The collective voices of the March For Our Lives movement will be heard. Join us in DC or march in your own community.

Are you angry? Upset? Frustrated? Scared? Good.

Do something about it.

How I Discovered the Secret to a Fully Inclusive Church

I read the tiny words on my phone screen and my breath caught in my throat—they were the words I had been waiting for. For years, I had hoped and prayed and wished for this, and now suddenly it was all happening at once: my family wanted to meet the woman I love.

In the LGBTQ community, we joke that “queer culture” is really just people whose families know nothing about them or their lives. As heartbreaking as it is to say, it is so true. Because when we cannot be honest about who we are, the people who love us cannot understand all we are.

But here she was—my grandmother—throwing the door wide open and inviting us in. So we booked plane tickets and packed our bags and showed up in my middle-of-nowhere, Ohio hometown. I was nervous and terrified it would be awkward, but it turned out to be anything but. There were hugs and kisses and excitement and good food and good conversation and seemingly never-ending visits from friends and family.

And it was during that visit that I discovered the secret to the full inclusivity in the Church that so many of us have been searching for…

Love.

(Yep, it’s really that simple!)

Love over legalism. The End.

Choosing love over the legalistic Law Jesus came to free us from completely negates the need for full inclusivity—because it is inherently fully inclusive of all people. All we need to do is simply choose love over anything else:

Love over racism.

Love over sexism.

Love over homophobia and biphobia and transphobia.

Love over everything else—every. single. time.

For this is the way of Jesus.

So this is how I’m choosing to live 2018: all my love, fully extended to every single person every single day.

Join me, won’t you?

3 Ways to Set Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

It seems to be the most popular New Year’s Resolution of all time: to lose weight.

We watch countless weight loss ads on television in between our favorite shows, and we see them in magazines. You know, the ones that shout at you: “Energize Your Weight Loss!”, “Lose Weight and Keep It Off!”, and “Reach Your Weight Loss Goals!”. Apparently, the right way to ring in the New Year is to join a gym or make an appointment for liposuction.

We cannot avoid those advertisements, but the danger ensues when we begin to believe that those ads are right. When we start believing we have to be smaller to be happier, we buy into a life-threatening lie.

Don’t fall for it.

Life does not begin when we reach that desired number on the bathroom scale. Life does not get better when we can slip into a Size 0. How much we weigh does not determine our happiness or our worth. Don’t let someone else mandate your goals for the New Year.

Here are 3 things to remember while creating your New Year’s Resolutions:

Continue reading this article at Pursue Magazine here >>

Are We Allowed to Ask God Questions?

In high school, I was on the tennis team. Shortly into my first season, the coach gave me a question limit: I was only allowed to ask five questions each practice. After just a few weeks of answering what probably felt like an endless stream of questions everyday about the sport of tennis, our match schedule and how the scoring system works, I’m sure he was almost at his wit’s end.

For those who know me, this is not surprising. I have always been full of questions. Even from a young age, I was intensely curious: Where does the sun go at night? Why do people speak different languages? How do horses talk to each other? As I grew and matured, so did the nature of my questions.

When I started to think more critically about my faith, I began peppering my parents, my pastor, my Sunday School teachers and my youth group leaders with complex questions about God, the Bible and theology. They patiently answered me the best they knew how, but I was never quite satisfied with their answers.

CALLED TO A BLIND FAITH?
Somewhere along the way, I started taking my questions directly to God. I asked Him which way of baptism and communion was correct, how He could send a flood on the earth to wipe out most of humanity and if creation and evolution fit together. I asked hard questions and hoped He would give me the answers for which I was searching. I came to Him boldly, but humbly, and I learned that God wants dialogue with us.

I have been berated by a lot of Christians for bringing my questions to God. I have heard a lot of well-meaning people say we should just trust God and not worry about the questions that plague us day after day. But I don’t think God calls us to a blind faith. I believe He welcomes our questions and wants to work through them with us. I have found that God enjoys journeying with us.

I don’t think God is angry when we ask questions. In fact, I believe He invites us to ask Him questions.

Here’s why:

Continue reading this article at RELEVANT Magazine here >>

Fear Not: How We Should All Be Living this Christmas

She climbed up on stage, a bright-eyed three-year-old, and said it so softly, full of wonder: “Jesus!” And it was all I could do not to cry. If only we all approached Christmas the same way: eyes wide open right up to the edge of the manger, peering into the face of God.

I’ve been asking it all season this year: what is Christmas all about anyway? Courage, the Spirit whispered in my ear. Christmas takes courage.

Ann Voskamp and A Charlie Brown Christmas taught me all about it yesterday:

The spirit of Christmas—is about not having a spirit of fear.

It was the very first lesson of Christmas: living courageously. The angel appeared to Mary and the shepherds—proclaiming both times, “Fear not!” Over 2,000 years later, we’re all gathering in churches and homes, all around the world, waiting to celebrate again that miraculous Thing that changed the world forever.

And we’ll never forget it, not til the end of time: that God so loved us all that God pulled on human skin and entered the world through the holiness of a woman, lowering Godself to save us from ourselves.

Jesus killed Death when he rose from the Tomb, and I’d argue that Fear is a form of Death, wouldn’t you? Jesus came and lived and died and rose again, so that we could live unhindered by all types of Death.

So, this Christmas—let’s live into the Spirit of Christmas. The one Ann Voskamp told us about:

Maybe the Christmas Spirit is letting go—to let the Spirit move.

Maybe the Christmas Spirit—is about letting the Spirit heal you.

Maybe the Christmas Spirit—means: Reconcile for Christmas.

This Christmas, let’s let it all fly into the face of Fear and reconcile—to each other, to ourselves, to the Church and God.

 

My Top 5 Books of 2017

I love the end of the year! Or maybe it’s the beginning of the year I really enjoy. Either way, this time of year—as we say goodbye to one year and hello to the new—is one of my favorite times of the year.

One of the reasons it’s my favorite time of the year is because everyone begins posting their “Top 5 Books of the Year” lists. These lists fascinate me! Not only are they are great ways to find new books to read, but you can always get to know a person better by the books they love.

Here’s the books I’ve fallen in love with this year:

  • Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans — This was the exact book I needed this year as I moved from my huge, non-denominational Evangelical church into a small, progressive mainline Protestant congregation. Everything was so confusing and messy and I was convinced that I would never find a home outside of Evangelicalism. With these words, Rachel Held Evans ushered me into a bigger, better world of faith.
  • Glory Happening: Finding the Divine in Everyday Places by Kaitlin Curtice — This book is a game-changer. I prayed it over my house days before we moved in, blessing this new home with Kaitlin Curtice’s powerful words. If you’re looking for God, you’ll find the One you’re searching for in these pages. You’ll start looking and, before you know it, God will be everywhere: in your morning coffee, on the wind, within each and every person you meet.
  • Of Mess & Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker — I’m not sure I have awaited the release of any other book quite like I did this one. I don’t know about you, but I needed to be reminded how to live this life with joy. Let these words remind you that there is glory and delight even amidst the wild and messy. Don’t let it scare you: we are all full of moxie.
  • Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Davis Majors — I had the incredible privilege of being on the launch team for this book, and it definitely did not disappoint! I laughed and cried through the entire thing, learning more about God and God’s character than I ever have from one single work. Is God really good? Does God really love us? If you’re finding yourself asking questions like these, this book is for you.
  • You are Free: Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons — I heard her say it on a podcast and I knew I needed to read the book: “Anxiety had become my fancy word for fear.” I’ve been looking back on 2017, reflecting and remembering, and the word that keeps coming to mind is fear. This year was so full of fear for me. If there’s anything I want to embrace in 2018, it is freedom. This book is honest, compelling, encouraging—pushing us all to be more fully who we were created to be.

What books have moved, changed, or challenged you this year?

 

 

 

How to Survive the Holidays with an Eating Disorder

Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional and I strongly urge anyone who is struggling with an eating disorder to get help by confiding in a parent, trusted friend, pastor, doctor or counselor.

Can you believe it? Here we are, already in the midst of the holidays again. Having Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years all lined up in a row always feel like a one-two-three punch, each holiday following just a few weeks after the other.

And we all know what that means: food, food, and more food. American culture has fused holidays and food together. Between family gatherings and church potlucks and school parties, we end up stuffed by January 1st.

For those of us who struggle with an eating disorder (about 20 million women in America), this time can be especially uncomfortable and anxiety-inducing. It can seem like no matter where we go, we are assaulted by turkey, candy, and beautifully decorated Christmas cookies.

We cannot avoid food (and we shouldn’t!), but there are a few ways to reduce our food-related anxiety and minimize panic:

Continue reading this article at Pursue Magazine here >>