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On Inauguration Day: the path to healing

January 20, 2017

After the election in November, I wrote about radical love in a world that’s falling apart.

I wrote about those of us who were – and are – scared, hurting, and confused by the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election.

I wrote about the minorities among a majority which continues to ignore, invalidate, and discredit the ones by whom they are threatened – the ones who challenge the status quo, push the envelope, refuse to bow down to the expectations of society (you are my people; I stand with you). I wrote about rallying together as one people, about choosing to see past our differences, about choosing love, and I meant every word.

But I also meant it when I said that we, the oppressed, are not required to join with our oppressors. I begged you not to ask that of us. We needed time to heal, to piece our hearts back together, to steady our shaking souls. 

But now it’s Inauguration Day and Donald Trump is being sworn into office. I’m not vindictive enough to hope he fails miserably (because then we all fail), and I’m not flippant enough to disrespect him (I respect his humanity, not his ideals).

I am angry enough to join the resistance against the harmful ideas, beliefs, and behavior he has promoted thus far.

The best way I know to do that is simple – and incredibly difficult:

The path to healing is paved with love and lined with community.

I keep seeing my conservative, Republican, often Christian friends and family calling for unity from those of us who just cannot get behind Trump’s message.

They’ve got the right idea – now let’s turn it around. Let’s call for unity from both sides – just because you won an election does not mean that everything you (or your choice of President) has said, done, or believed is right.

Don’t ask us for unity from your side if you aren’t willing to receive the same request from us.

Don’t ask me to join hands with those who were not outraged upon hearing that David Duke supported Trump during the election (“I love it…The fact that Donald Trump’s doing so well, it proves that I’m winning. I am winning.”) if you are not willing to declare “Black lives matter” – because all lives will not matter until Black lives matter.

Don’t ask me to pray with you for our country unless you are willing to protect the religious freedom of those whose faith does not look like yours (you don’t have to agree to defend a principle on which America was founded).

Don’t ask me to stand with you, asking for job creation, if you won’t demand closure of the wage gap for minorities and women.

Don’t ask me to join with you and your beautiful family in celebration if you are unwilling to defend the marriage-rights, family-rights, love-rights for your LGBTQIA neighbors. 

Don’t tell me that my rejection of Trump’s belief’s and actions are anti-American because America was founded by people who envisioned a better way and fought for it.

I think of the people who are standing, and have stood, strong against the culture of society, demanding equality, liberation, and love – and I am reminded of the One after whom many are modeling their peace resistance. 

Jesus was the ultimate Social Justice Revolutionary, and we take our cues from Him. 

It was this God-Man who showed us how to rebel for a greater cause. It was He who spoke out against leaders – political and religious – because He knew of a better way, and we speak out today because the Holy Spirit whispers Love into our hearts and Love without action is dead. 

Yes, now is absolutely the time for unity. Let’s look at our differences, acknowledge them, honor them, celebrate them, and start a meaningful conversation about how to merge into one people committed to America, diversity, life, and love. 

It will be difficult and painful and messy all around. We will have to recognize privilege, lay down defenses, show compassion, shake hands with difference, and choose love when it’s easier to fear. 

But since when has anything worth doing been easy?

Let’s join hands and hearts, make sure we’re on the right side of history, and step into Tomorrow. 

Holy Baptism & the breaking through of life

December 27, 2016

“Nothing can kill my faith.”

She said it softly, fiercely, as her eyes searched mine in the middle of the hospital cafeteria. We were sitting in a building filled with doctors who specialize in cancer treatment, hands wrapped tight around coffee and soup, clinging to what we had in that moment – but she just smiled and reminded me that she was getting baptized that weekend.

She was diagnosed not even a year ago and she’s already in Stage 4.

This year has been one of doctors appointments and wigs and exhaustion. It’s been a year we didn’t expect and we still don’t understand. But it’s also been a year of family and grace and restoration beyond belief – because where Jesus is, there is always redemption.

And we learned this year that Jesus always shows up.

It’s been a year of waiting, hoping, praying, for the breaking through of life.

Now, it’s the middle of Advent, and it’s all about the breaking through of Life into our lives by way of extreme brokenness. And, on the day before churches everywhere began lighting the candle of Hope, she found hers.

She took her last breath of dying-life, of the life that had an expiration date stamped on it, and sank into the holy water that brings about everlasting life. For a split second, she was gone, released from this world, fully submerged in Grace, and then she rose up again – breaking through the surface of the water into Life Eternal. 

It’s all about the breaking through of Life, and what better way for Jesus to break through into our world than to come through the breaking of an earthly body in preparation for her breaking through into Heaven? 

Because, when the Word became flesh, when the Creator of the Universe decided to pull on skin and come into the world through the holiness of a woman, He came to make us whole. Jesus brought grace and truth into the world – not for the righteous, but the sinners; not for the healthy, but the sick. 

Sometimes we need to be reminded that Jesus is always for the broken and on the side of the brokenhearted. He lowered Himself to live with us and walked this earth, dirt caking His heels, hunger pangs through his core, oppression bringing tears to His eyes, and all the while, He continually chose to love us more. 

He sank into the dirt to spend time with the marginalized, the outcasts, to prove to us again that He loves us all – to remind us that we are worthy, not because of who we are, but because of who He is. 

He called out a mob of angry men who wanted to kill a woman and trap Jesus so that we would understand that He believes in second chances – Grace always reigns, and we should pick it up like a holy shield against the poisonous swords of Shame and Hate. 

He healed a blind man to remind us that we are broken – so that God’s glory may be displayed through our lives. 

He lived among us, loving the least of these, dying the most painful death He did not deserve, to rise again, on the third day, to show us His most magnificent love and grace.

He showed Himself to the women and then to The Twelve, probably laughing at Peter jumping into the water, swimming the rest of the way to shore – and then He stopped to reinstate Peter so that we would know that we are worthy, even when we’re sopping wet, exhausted, sitting at His feet, smiling up at Him stupidly because we know that we love Him but we accidentally took the long way there again.

She was baptized on a warm December afternoon, in the middle of Advent and the mountains of Appalachia – and we felt the breaking through of Jesus. There’s a reason John Denver sang about almost Heaven, West Virginia. It’s a state of rocky mountains and wild undergrowth and trees that seem to reach straight into the clouds.

On that day, I watched her die and come back to life through the holy water and the grace of God – and Heaven fell upon us. 

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.”

Radical love in a world that’s falling apart

November 13, 2016

This is not a political statement. This is a message of radical love. 

This world is broken. So incredibly and devastatingly broken.

And because of this brokenness, there are people who are scared and worried about their futures. 

There are Black people who feel invalidated in a society that still clings to white supremacy, even as it declares all people are created equal.

There are people who are a religious minority who feel like our country is no longer one of inclusiveness and unity.

There are people who are part of the LGBTQ community who feel heartbreakingly unsafe in their own communities because people are holding tight to the old status quo for comfort.

There are people who have been sexually assaulted and are laying in bed at night crying, remembering why they never reported it or maybe remembering the heartache because they never saw justice for their perpetrator.

There are women all over this country who are working diligently in a male-dominated field who feel crushed because we’re beginning to think that glass ceiling is even higher and thicker than we originally thought.

In the aftermath of this election, we are shocked, horrified, scared, hurting, and feeling unloved and unlovable. Listen to us. Don’t silence us with pleas of unity, because the oppressed are not required to join with our oppressors. 

And I get it.

Fear is everywhere. It works its way into all of the spaces of our lives, even the hidden ones we claim do not exist. It’s crippling and we know we are not called to live in a spirit of fear, but it grabs ahold of our minds and ends up in our hearts. We must fight it.

This world is filled with hate. Extreme and all-consuming hate which manifests inself in utter disregard for priceless human life.

And this hate has led to a war I cannot even pretend to understand. This is a war on life, love, hope, faith, joy, peace, home – this is a war on humanity. This is a war designed to tear us apart and pit us against one another, to breed in us fear and hate and selfishness. This is a war which seems impossible to fight.

It’s easy to get caught up in the bad, the unthinkable events taking place all around us. It’s easy to forget how to be compassionate. It’s easy to take up arms and declare war. It’s easy to build walls meant to protect us but which ultimately divide us.

It’s easy to allow our hearts to be hardened.

It’s easy to give up hope.

But, in a world at war, in the midst of horrendous loss, there has to be more . . . To choose compassion? To choose to see past our differences? To rally together as one people? To choose love? To continue on?

That’s incredibly difficult. And yet it may just be part of the solution we’ve been searching for.

This is a call to love. Not a pacifistic, apathetic love which allows us to be mown down, but a magnificent love that leads to justice.

This is a call to action. Love openly. Love deeply. Love indiscriminately. Love freely. Love passionately. Love unabashedly.

Love and love and love some more.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll surprise ourselves and, against all odds, crash across the finish line, arm in arm, singing praises to the One who covers us in grace and gives us the strength to continue forward.

Change is Coming

October 11, 2016

I first heard it as the summer drew to a close, as I ordered my textbooks for my last year of college, and as the sunset came earlier and earlier.

I heard the still, small voice in my heart – and I thought I knew what He meant. I thought that He was preparing me for my new internship, for my last few exams, for my occupation on paperwork to change from Student to Social Worker.

But the changes He is whispering to my heart are so much bigger. 

I realized it as some relationships faded and others grew stronger than they have ever been. I realized it as I sought community from friends of my past. I realized it as joy sprouted within my heart in unexpected places at unexpected times as God showed me the things in which He delights. 

I realized it as I was pulled deeper and deeper into the Word and as I fell into Jesus’ heart so suddenly that I am still reeling from it. 

And it is all good. And it is all hard. 

Change, for me, is much like physical illness. In the same way that physical illness wears down my immune system and makes it easier for germs to enter my body, change wears down the guards around my heart and mind and makes it easier for unhealthy things to enter in. 

When I am physically sick, I take extra precautions to protect myself from outside threats. I wash my hands more often than usual and I feed my body only nutritious food, like noodles and orange juice. I drink a lot of water.

When I am experiencing changes in my life,  I take extra precautions to protect myself from outside threats. I read my Bible more than usual and I only listen to life-giving music, like NEEDTOBREATHE and Lauren Daigle. I drink a lot of the water that Jesus says becomes in me a spring welling up to eternal life. 

When I’m writing, I’m very particular about what I listen to and what I read, because it gets inside, you know? I’m a little more permeable in seasons of writing, and so I want to choose stories and sounds that keep good company, that make me braver and wilder and more honest.   — Shauna Niequist 

She gets it.

When I’m experiencing changes in my life, everything gets inside so easily. The emotions are so much deeper and I find myself in tears of sadness from what used to be, of joy from what is to come, and of gratitude that He is with me still. I’m more permeable in seasons of change, and I want to choose books and music that encourages and loves me through. 

My chicken noodle soup during this particular time of change has been very specific. I find myself reading the same stories over and over and replaying the same songs again and again because I cannot get over the messages they whisper to my soul. They’re too good to let go.

What are your stories and sounds you love when you are most permeable? 

Here are some of mine:

Stories:               

  • Philippians (I cannot get over the ENTIRE BOOK) – “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)                                 

  • Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis – “When have you ever read a story of God’s great work that made a lot of sense, a story that didn’t seem a little over the top, a little impossible? Not often. Radical, extraordinary love just doesn’t make sense in a fallen world; that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. But it is the very nature of God … God is the same yesterday, today, and always … We want big things from God and then think it’s strange when He asks us to build an ark, or feed five thousand or march around a building for seven days with seven priests blowing trumpets made from rams’ horns … I serve the God who used Moses, a murderer, to part the Red Sea; a God who let Peter, who would deny Him, walk on water. A God who looks at me, in all my fallen weakness and says, ‘You can do the impossible.'” 

  • How to Survive a Shipwreck by Jonathon Martin – “The bad news is that this shipwreck feels like death because you really may be dying. The bad news is that old and familiar things you love and that made you what you were are slowly passing away. The good news is you’re being born, and this drowning makes possible the moment when all things become new – most of all, you.”                

  • The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) – “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and will all your mind’ and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” And Jesus answers, “‘Do this and you will live.'”

Sounds:                            

  • My Story by Big Daddy Weave – “If I should speak, let it be of the grace that is greater than all my sin. Of when justice was served and when mercy wins. Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in. Oh, to tell you my story is to tell of Him.”

  • Chain Breaker by Zach Williams – “If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain-taker. If you feel lost, He’s a way-maker. If you need freedom or saving, He’s a prison-shaking Savior. If you’ve got chains, He’s a chain-breaker.”

  • Dear Younger Me by MercyMe – “You are holy, you are righteous, you are one of the redeemed. Set apart, a brand new heart, you are free indeed. Every mountain, every valley, through each heartache you will see: every moment brings you closer to who you were meant to be.”

  • Stars by Skillet – “And still You come and You’re calling me by name.”

  • The God I Know by Love & The Outcome – “And then I threw my hands up, worries down. I remember when He showed me how to break up with my doubt. Once I was lost but now I’m found. No strings attached when He saved my soul. I want you know the God I know.”

  • Something Beautiful by NEEDTOBREATHE – “Hey now, this is my desire: consume me like a fire because I just want something beautiful to touch me. I know that I’m in reach because I am down on my knees. And I’m waiting for something beautiful for touch me.” 

  • Wake by Hillsong – “You will never fade away, Your love is here to stay. By my side, in my life, shining through me everyday.” 

  • Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin – “I know Who goes before me, I know Who stands behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side.” 

  • Trust in You by Lauren Daigle – “When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move, when You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through, when You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You – I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You.”

It Feels Like Home

October 4, 2016

If you know me at all, you know that the love I have for The Little House on the Prairie (both the books and the 1970’s TV show) is indescribable. I have read the series multiple times, I have a lot of the TV episodes memorized, and I went as Mary Ingalls for Halloween more years than I care to admit.

I love these stories because they’re about real people, real struggles, real celebrations.

The theme song sometimes moves me to tears and every single time I open one of the books and am tossed into the prairie, loud with crickets and dotted with gophers, I am home. 

And as Laura Ingalls Wilder herself said: “Home is the nicest word there is.”

Home is not always a place; home is a feeling.

My home feels like long horseback rides through the snow, holding my breath because the moonlight makes everything look like glass and I’m afraid to break the night. 

It feels like waking up in my cozy sleeping bag in a mess of family, watching my breath appear in the air and hoping my cousins wake up soon.

It feels like listening to Journey and Tom Petty in my parents’ kitchen as an adult while my dad makes breakfast for dinner. 

My home smells like honeysuckle warmed in the sunshine, sounds like deep belly-laughter, and tastes like butter gravy on a Sunday morning.

And that’s what opening The Rise of the Narcoleptic Turtles, the second book in Emily Humphreys’ series, felt like. I began reading and, as I entered the halls of Desert Academy and sat dreaming in Ruby Fink’s dusty attic and raced toward the Superstition Mountains in a car named The Purple Wonder, everything was familiar and safe, and it felt like home. 

Grab your copy of both The Dark Ferret Society and The Rise of the Narcoleptic Turtles at the link below, and join us on the adventure.

Come see the magic of a perfect prank to balance the scales, find a new love for red balloons, and fall in love with the characters who will remind you of people you know.

Moments like this just hit you. This fuzzy feeling of warmth and the light coming from my house must be the closest feeling to home I’ve ever felt.

— Ruby Fink, in The Dark Ferret Society

Buy Emily Humphreys’ books here and find more of Emily Humphrey’s writing on her blog.

Power Walks & Vulnerability

September 25, 2016

So, here’s the deal: Social work does not mess around.

I had a particularly difficult week, complete with two separate meltdowns – one to my mom and the other to my best friend. By Thursday, I was emotionally drained and mentally exhausted, and I was thankful that I did not have to go to work or my internship that day. “You just have to sit through class,” I kept telling myself. “This will be an easy day.”

It must have slipped my mind that I’m a social work major and we like to have the hard conversations.

And let me be clear: I hate vulnerability. 

“Have you ever heard of a power walk?” my professor asked the class. “Line up one one side of the classroom,” she instructed us, “and walk across the room when I say a statement that you identify with.”

I reluctantly stood up with my classmates, the majority of us rolling our eyes and checking the clock to see how much longer we would be trapped in this classroom.

I wasn’t too worried – I thought they would be easy statements akin to, “You hope to work with children, families, veterans, etc.” and “You played a sport in high school.” 

Oh no. That is not how social workers do this. We go straight to the heart-wrenching things we keep quiet about because we aren’t sure anyone else will understand. 

Walk across the room if you grew up poor.

Walk across the room if you, a family member, or a close friend is living with HIV/AIDS.

Walk across the room if you, a family member, or a close friend is part of the LGBTQ community.

Walk across the room if you have ever witnessed someone being ridiculed or abused, and did nothing.

Walk across the room if you, a family member, or a close friend is struggling or has struggled with substance abuse.

Walk across the room if you, a family member, or a close friend is or has been in jail for any length of time. 

Walk across the room if you were raised by a single parent. 

Walk across the room if you have ever been physically hurt or emotionally injured by another person. 

It was painful. It was hard. It was awkward at times. 

We were surprised. We were anxious. We were relieved. 

This experience was beautiful and amazing and unifying. Silently, I connected to people I never would have guessed in ways I never would have imagined.

I walked across the room with friends and we made eye contact, wondering how we never knew we had this connection. I walked across the room with immigrants from Somalia and China and Ghana and we gave each other small smiles, acknowledging that maybe we aren’t quite as different from one another as we may have thought.

I walked across the room and turned around to see the majority of the class staring back at me and felt even more connected to the few standing with me. 

I dare you to try a power walk and not cry. 

And I hated the entire beautiful thing because I hate vulnerability. I cannot stand it.

I’ve read enough Brene Brown to write my own book on vulnerability and shame, but I’m not sure I’ll ever understand myself enough to figure out how to actually embrace vulnerability in my own life. It’s scary, but it’s also the key to authenticity – and who doesn’t crave authenticity?

“I’m glad you have the same dark and twisted sense of humor as I do,” she said as we walked out the door. “That made that whole thing a lot less scary.” 

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. 

Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead 

A love letter to nurses everywhere

June 2, 2016

My day today involved working on a trauma unit with beyond-stressed nurses worrying about their patients going to surgery and trying to manage pain with Motrin because that’s all the doctor would order and praying for patience and unconditional positive regard for a difficult patient detoxing from heroin.

It was a hard day and we were divided, rather than operating as a team, for much of the day.

I almost cried (because I feel ALL THE FEELINGS ALL THE TIME) and I thought the attacks were personal. But then I realized that it was not about me – it never is. 

So, here is what I want you awesomely compassionate and intelligent people to know:

Dear Incredible Human,

Let me tell you something you probably haven’t heard in too long a time, if ever: You are a truly, no-doubt-about-it AMAZING person. No one remembers to tell you that and everyone takes you for granted. I know.

We’re in this together. 

And I want to take a moment to let you know that I see you. 

I see you paging the respiratory therapist 6 times trying to get them into your patient’s room for a breathing treatment. I see you taking the dozens of calls from nurse practitioners and pharmacists and physical therapists and social workers, and every other person assigned to your patient’s treatment team, and trying to coordinate your patient’s plan of care.

I see you counting to 10 and taking a few deep breaths before responding to that non-compliant patient who is so close to making you pull out all of your hair. I see you struggling to find the words for the mother of your patient who was shot 7 times during a home invasion. 

I see you and I’m with you. 

And I know this job is harder than you ever thought it would be.

I know you never imagined what it would be like to comfort grieving family members as your patient draws their last breath after a long, hard fight. I know you didn’t know how hard CPR is when you first started this job and you had never felt ribs breaking under your hands.

I know you came into this job not fully understanding all it would entail. I know it still surprises you sometimes, even though you swear you’ve seen it all. 

I know because I didn’t know either. 

But let me tell you something: You are killing it. 

You are fantastic. This is what you were created to do. I can see it in your eyes when you’re hugging your patient’s daughter. I can see it in your kind smile when your elderly patient apologizes for making your job harder. I can hear it in your soft voice as you ask if the pain is better today. 

So, Friend, smile and hold your head high because you found your passion, your calling, your life’s work. This is how you make a difference, this is how your impact the world, this is your legacy. 

You are awesome, and you do hard work and you do good work. This work is worth more than you’ll ever know. 

Without you, the world would stop.

Thank you. I stand with you.