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 >>

When you need to remember how to dream

December 12, 2016

For someone who finds herself in an anxiety-induced frenzy during the changing of seasons of life, I absolutely adore the changing of the seasons of weather.

I love the thawing of the earth as Winter moves into Spring and new green life peeks through the mud when the rain finally stops pounding the dirt. I love Spring leaping into Summer with magnificent thunderstorms and steamy days spent sweating and smiling and running, determined to soak up every second of sunlight and every minute of the still lengthening days. I love Summer fading into Fall, falling back in time, remembering that sleep is important and watching golden wheat be run down to feed America.

Where I’m from, where people rise before the sun and work straight through lunch and dinner because crops don’t pay attention to the time of day, Harvest is a sacred season. 

There is something beautiful, holy almost, about mowing down still growing life to feed Human Life and it reminds me of a Savior who laid down His life for ours – and I find Love and Grace and Peace in the fields. 

But my favorite season change is Fall into Winter. 

Winter is a quiet season. It makes time and space for reflection and planning and just being. Snow falls thick on the ground and covers the earth like a protective blanket, encasing what creates Life in every other season for a Season of Rest. The dipping temperatures and the low-hanging clouds and the bare tree branches against pale gray skies invite us into a Season of Rest too.

Let the world keep its frantic shopping sprees and jokes about awful in-laws and stressful holidays. Let the world burn with envy if it insists, but give me Rest. 

When Winter blows into my corner of the world, I build a fort to keep me warm and quiet until Spring showers come knocking.

My fort is built of yarn and knitting needles, of twinkling lights and old Christmas records, of blue pens and crinkled paper inked with words that feel too personal to speak aloud, and of hot food cooked in a crock pot and peppermint coffee.

And every year, as I finish my fort and step back to examine my work, I’m reminded that forts are only helpful in the cold and bitter seasons when they are shared. 

So I tidy up a bit and I boldly write the words I want to share large on the walls of my fort. If you were to come visit, you would see them.

Across the door, it’s loud with joy: WELCOME.

Inside, it’s written daringly, scandalously: LOVE RESIDES HERE. PEACE ABOUNDS HERE. GRACE OVERFLOWS HERE.

And I would invite you in. I would wrap you in a hug and a quilt stitched with love from tiny scraps of fabric I found under my bed, like a mosaic of shards from a broken heart sewn into something new. I would stoke the fire and it would roar wildly to remind us that Life does not die in the Winter. 

I would let the tea kettle screech as I whisper the words you need to hear and then pour the hot water into colorful mugs and we would watch the steam curl into the air, like our dreams rising out of the dust.

“Tell me yours,” I would ask, searching your eyes with my own, as if I could use them to peer into your soul. You would whisper softly everything you long for in life and I would smile at your courage.

“Anything is possible,” I would say, daring you to believe.

We would begin speaking it into existence, splashing our dreams bright against the white walls, our voices growing louder and the words coming faster with excitement. We would get caught up in the magic of believing in what the world claims is impossible and suddenly we would look up and see the lives we dream of painted on our hands and engraved on our hearts. 

We would grow quiet again and marvel at the beauty of where we are and where we’re going.

“I can see it!” you would exclaim in surprise.

“So can I,” I would reply, a smile stretching across my face. “This is why Winter comes around every year. To remind us how to dream again.”

Holiday Gift Guide 2017

One of my favorite things about this time of year is getting to pick out Christmas gifts for the people that I love. Over the past few years, more and more people have begun to compile Gift Guides, which feature ethically-made gifts and/or small businesses that empower people who are oppressed and marginalized. Everyone from Sarah Bessey to Glennon Doyle to Ann Voskamp have published blog posts filled with links to businesses and causes worth supporting.

This year, I have done the same.

Here are a few businesses I believe in and who I am giving my money to as I buy my family and friends Christmas gifts which they will love and which will empower people instead of Corporate America:


Mercy House

My favorites:

How they empower & support women:

Mercy House empowers women in maternity homes in Kenya by providing them with a sustainable income through jewelry-making. When we buy the jewelry the women make, we help them raise their children into a brighter future!

JusTea

My favorites:

How they empower & support people:

JusTea makes fair-trade, ethically-made tea by hiring tea farmers in Kenya. So far, they have created over 200 sustainable jobs for working youth aged 15-24, whose work is often casual or not sustainable.

The Bud Co.

My favorites:

  • Sow + Dew Journal — This is a journal designed to help women live out their true identity in Christ.

How they empower &  support women:

The Bud Co. was created by two women who believe that women are at their best when they are living out of their God-given identity. Ashley and Shannon launched The Bud Co. with their mission “to equip the everyday woman to live her everyday in a manner worthy of the calling she’s been charged with (Eph. 4:1).”

(Plus, I’ll be featured in the Sow + Dew journal, along with dozens of other exceptional people you will definitely want to hear from!)

Do Good Shop

My favorites:

How they empower & support people:

Do Good Shop is a nonprofit, social enterprise marketplace whose proceeds “benefit vulnerable people who are escaping injustice & poverty through safe and ethical artisan employment.” Use your money to vote for ethically-made products!

Thistle Farms

My favorites:

How they empower & support women:

Thistle Farms employs women who are survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. They even go one step further and provide safe housing, sustainable income, and a community of advocates and peers. Support the farm to help them empower more women!

Starfish Project

My favorites:

How they empower & support women:

Starfish Project helps exploited women experience freedom, establish independence, and develop careers. 100% of proceeds are invested back into the goal and mission of the organization: to restore hope to exploited women and girls.

DoTERRA

My favorites:

How they empower & support people:

DoTERRA is the leading essential oils company in the world and is helping people revolutionize their healthcare by providing more affordable, natural healthcare options to families. By working with farmers around the world, doTERRA provides them with sustainable income to raise their families and support their community. doTERRA also provides sustainable income to their Wellness Advocates like me (and you!), who help get the word out about their amazing products!


I hope this list has helped you and you find that special something for all of your special someones!

What are your favorite ethically-made products and/or small businesses providing sustainable income to people who are oppressed and marginalized? Let me know in the comments section!

 

Five Truths We Need to Hear When We’re Depressed

I am honored to be over at Pursue Magazine today talking about the truths we need to hear when we’re in the depths of despair.


The Psalms are full of times where David pleaded with God to relieve him of the darkness which threatened to overtake him. He talks about his heart growing faint (Psalm 61:2) and about proverbial waters of despair nearly drowning him (Psalm 69:1). And if we are honest: we sometimes feel that way too.

It’s comforting to know we are not the first ones to experience intense fear and anxiety in the depths of despair.

For us, it may look like…

pervasive sadness we cannot seem to shake.

deep apathy for things we used to love and find joy in.

sleeping much more or less than usual.

intense feelings of guilt or shame.

eating much more or less than usual.

 an inability to get out of bed some days.

Whatever it may look like, there are five truths rooted in Scripture we can cling to in times we feel like we may not survive the week, the day, or even the moment.

Continue reading this article at Pursue Magazine here >>

Glory Happening (in my kitchen)

I got it in the mail the week before we moved from our tiny, cramped one-bedroom apartment into our new three-bedroom house: a book full of the exact words my soul was longing for.

glory trees

We were moving from the little apartment Sarah had agreed to rent without ever even having seen it as she had tried to coordinate a move across the country two years ago. That apartment had welcomed me when I moved from the state I had been born and raised in to a new place, full of promise and hope, joy and love–and also of fear and too much expectation. Those walls kept me safe as I navigated a new job, new friends, new culture of the northeast.

And now, suddenly, we were moving into the house we had been longing and hoping and waiting and praying for.

Days before we moved and settled into this new, seemingly-huge space, I sat on the cold hardwood floor in the empty dining room and prayed for our life in this house. Pulling my sweater close around me, I took from my bag the book I’d just received in the mail: Glory Happening by Kaitlin Curtice. Her words were like a balm to my fragile heart in this tumultuous season and I soaked in them.

At the end of each chapter, there is a poem-prayer and I recognized it as I continued to read: these were the prayers I wanted to bless this new house with.

I began in the kitchen, where I believe life is lived best and where I am drawn most often. “Lord, help me to nourish people well here,” I prayed. I stood at the sink, imagining the walls painted yellow, and begged God to remind me here that communion is not only given at the altar. My voice joined Kaitlin’s as I prayed her words: Jesus, It will take us our whole lives and all of eternity to understand how exactly you came to be the bread and the wine–and our hearts beat together, yearning to know God more.

I moved to the living room and smiled at the thought of all the traditions we will begin here–Rummy, maybe–the ones that will remind us that, though the world is dark, we can be human to and with each other in this sacred space.

I slowly meandered the hallways, asking God to show us how and where and when to find rest and truth and peace.

I knelt on the floor of what was to become my study, my little space in the house to think and pray and read and write, the room Sarah insisted I use to write that book I’ve been talking about, and nearly lost myself in the hugeness of this dream. “Free me from a life ruled by fear,” I cried to Jesus as I flipped back to the chapter called Laboring, the one about hiding in our fear, avoiding the uncomfortable, and read Kaitlin’s words aloud, claiming them for myself: Lean us into our pain, lean us into our strength, lean us into spirit and soul and life.

In the basement, I sunk to the cold cement floor and begged God to show Himself to me even here, among the peeling paint and dust: Gather yourself into the corners of our homes, into the spaces we inhabit every day.

Tears welled in my eyes and my soul marveled at the ways I have found myself and God in the words of another woman in another state with another life story whom I’ve never met. I found her on Twitter and now she ministers to me in my living room in the evenings. Her words remind me that we belong to each other, all of us together, and I find Jesus in that realization. I want to tell her what she wanted to tell the people who ushered God’s presence through the written word into her own life: God speaks through books filled with prayers.

God is so good and His glory is everywhere–if only we can learn how to recognize it.


Glory Happening is out today! Find Kaitlin Curtice‘s first book here. (Trust me, you want it.)

Glory Happening