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!

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.

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?

 

 

 

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.”

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

Jesus Called Christians to Be ‘Perfect.’ What Does That Mean?

I am honored to be published over at Relevant Online Magazine today with an exploration of Matthew 5:48.


“Be perfect, or you’re a failure.” — Jesus

OK, obviously, Jesus never said this.

We know Jesus; we understand that He is God wrapped in flesh, kind and ever-loving. And yet, we often become paralyzed at the mention of one short verse in which we assume Jesus says just that: Matthew 5:48. It reads, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

How many times have we heard this? How many times have we wilted in defeat, knowing we will never reach this level of God-like perfection? And why would we think we should be able to achieve this? We have heard it preached all our lives: We are a fallen people. We are nothing without Jesus and can do nothing apart from God.

So, what exactly did Jesus mean? He, of course, knew that humanity is unable to be perfect as God is perfect because He is, you know, God.

Jesus understood, even as He uttered these words, that perfection is impossible for human beings.

This realization brings about the next natural question: Why would Jesus command us to be perfect when He knew it was impossible?

Continue reading this article here >>

Dear Non-affirming Christian: an open letter

October 12, 2017

Dear Non-affirming Christian,
Hi, I’m so glad you’re here. One of the very best things about doing this work is getting to have conversations like this. I know we are a little different—in theology, in worship style, in Biblical interpretation. That’s okay. We have one thing in common: we are all one in the Body of Christ. And I’m certain about another thing we have in common: our life purpose, with every breath, is to glorify God and point the world to Jesus. We are in this together; one big beautiful mess.
I know it may sound odd to you: a gay Christian. I get it. I grew up on a family farm in rural Ohio in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone and nearly all 4,000 people show up in a pew on Sunday mornings. I too come from conservative church and Biblical literalism. In fact, I would be willing to bet that a lot of our theology is fairly similar.
I thank God that He was gracious enough to give me that background, which has become the backdrop for my entire ministry and life work: to reconcile the Church with the LGBTQ+ community. It is hard and holy work: reconciliation. It requires forgiveness, compassion and grace beyond belief. It asks us to lay down our pride, our certainty, our need to be right.
To answer your question: no, I have never felt torn between choosing a life of chasing after God in the footsteps of Jesus and a life of being honest about how God created me.
However, I have felt a lot of tension surrounding my involvement in the Church and my sexual orientation. Several years ago, when I came out as a lesbian, my church asked me to step down from my leadership positions. It felt like such a severe rejection of my God-given talents and gifts, and it left me reeling for years. I had always been very involved in my church and I couldn’t understand how I was suddenly disqualified from serving in the areas which had previously been so enthusiastically affirmed by my pastor and other church leaders. I hadn’t changed at all. I had only opened up about a very raw and vulnerable and significant aspect of myself.
After that, I did what any scared and confused 18-year-old would do: I walked away. It was heartbreaking and so difficult for me to leave an institution I love and cherish and value beyond words, but it was suffocating to try to continue to be a part of something which refused me because of a core aspect of who I am.
But, listen closely Friend, because the next part of the story is so beautiful: God pursued me. He chased me with desperate urgency, undying love, and unending grace. He followed me straight into all the places I thought would lose Him and carefully, slowly, gently called me back into His light.
God, unwilling to let me go, breathed Hope and Life back into my battered and bruised heart. And it was here that I learned He wants to do this for all of His children.
And that’s where my ministry began: taking this message to the ends of the earth, to the people the Church has historically marginalized and oppressed and silenced and ignored.
It is important that I tell you this: there was a period of time where God and I parsed through my life. He showed me what needed to be carved out of my heart and life and graciously poured healing down onto those areas. He introduced new ideas and made room for them. He gently pried my little fingers, digit by digit, off old wine skins which could never withstand the new wine He wanted to give me. During this time, if God had wanted me to abandon this part of myself – the part that tells me my sexual orientation is pointed toward women instead of men – I believe with all my heart He would have made that clear to me.
Instead, this is what happened: God gave me a mandate. “This story is not just for you,” I heard Him say. I already knew I was a writer. God had already showed me I was created for ministry. I had just been waiting and praying for a whisper from God to point me in the right direction. As unexpected as it was, this is it.
I think we learn best through story, so I wanted to share a bit of my story and journey toward Jesus with you. In fact, I realized, as I tried to answer your question, that I could not possibly give an authentic answer without doing so.
I want to tell you one last thing: it’s okay if you aren’t sure yet. This conversation is for everyone who is willing to show up.
It’s for the LGBTQ individual whose heart has been shattered by the conservative Christian Church; the vulnerable soul searching for the acceptance, belonging, and community to which Jesus calls us.
It’s for the LGBTQ-affirming Christian who is trying to reconcile the passionate love of Christ for all people, not despite of, not because of, but fully inclusive of, the baked-into-their-identities aspects of who they are.
It’s for the LGBTQ Christians who are struggling with theology – loved ones’ and their own – trying to find a common ground with their brothers and sisters in Christ for the Gospel, rather than against each other.
It’s for the atheist, the agnostic, the one who chooses a beautifully unique interfaith, curious about the conservative Church and why it’s relationship with the LGBTQ community is so complicated.
It’s for the person who stands up, loud and proud, to proclaim the desperate need for LGTBQ-inclusive theology.
It’s for the one who slips in the back pew and opens their Bible, wondering where the Jesus of the Bible, the One who loves liberally, eats with “the least of these”, and gives all of himself for all of humanity is in this Body in front of them.
It’s for the conservative Christian who looks at the Bible and sees only condemnation for homosexuality and doesn’t know how to act toward the LGBTQ community.
It’s for the one who stands firm in their convictions about sexuality and is confused by the inherent, born-with-it sexual, physical, and emotional attraction to members of the same gender or of both genders or of neither gender.
In short, this conversation is with you and for you. We need you – your beliefs, your convictions, your theology, your heart.
Here, I’ll move over a little, there’s room for you to sit. The pew is big enough—there is more room, more room for us all.
This is not just my work; it is ours—you and I, and the whole wide world. Come with me, won’t you?
In Christ,
Bailey

God of the Secret Places

October 2, 2017

It used to scare me: the idea that God saw everything I did, even in secret.

IMG_5504

When I was little, I thought of God sort of like Santa Claus. He knew when I was awake and sleeping; when I was good and bad. As an early teenager, my image of God morphed into more of a Big Brother Eye-in-the-Sky, waiting for me to do something wrong.

Either way, I was scared of God. I thought He was out to get me.

Somewhere in my early 20’s, my idea of who God is radically shifted. I began to long to spend time with Him in the Bible, learning through ancient stories the goodness of God. During that time, I realized what a blessing it is that He sees me, even in my secret places.

For three years, I lived alone as I worked full time and went to college full time. It was easy to get discouraged. No one saw my late nights and early mornings; the 13-hour workdays at the hospital and classes stacked back-to-back on my days off. No one saw my faithfulness in attempt to build a future.

No one but God—and where I once felt judgement, I suddenly found comfort. He knew my pain and frustration, my exhaustion and every tiny success. During this time, I came to realize that I did not need the world to see me; I just needed God to see me.

In Him, I am seen and known and loved—and that has made all the difference in my life.

Today, I made breakfasts and packed lunches for tiny humans who ran out the door and did not say thank you. This afternoon, I am folding laundry and washing dishes, and no one will ever notice how I spent my day. Later, I will make snacks and help with homework and play tag until dinnertime, and it is all just expected at this point. This evening, dinner will be on the table and reading logs will be signed, and no one will stop to say, “I know how hard you’ve worked today.”

And that is okay—because all day long, I am focusing on the One who does see me. In the midst of the mundane, God meets me. He whispers promises to me over endless loads of laundry and I speak praise back to Him, reciting Psalms from wrinkled pages with soapy hands.

There is a holiness in this space of being unseen, except by God, and I am finding myself resting into learning Whose eyes matter.

Daring to Hope: a book review

September 26, 2017

It came right when I needed it most: this story of God’s unending faithfulness.

Daring to Hope

Katie Davis Majors has been a woman I have looked up to for spiritual guidance and a writer I have read voraciously for inspiration in my own writing journey for years. She first wrote to us in her debut novel, Kisses from Katie, about what she was learning about the relentless and redemptive love of God as she gave up The American Dream and moved across the ocean to Uganda to care for the orphan and the widow, giving up everything to follow Jesus. Five years after releasing that New York Times bestseller, Katie is back in print again with her new book, Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful.

This story still rings with truth and drips with grace but, with less naive optimism and greater faith, allows readers to ask the hard questions Katie found herself asking after unexpected tragedy struck her family: Is God really good? Does God really see me? Does He really love me?

In this incredible book, Katie weave the ancient stories of the Bible into her own. She is Jacob, wrestling with God over the loss of her daughter. She is Abraham as she learns of God’s generous provision, naming the hard places Moriah, meaning the Lord Will Provide.  She discovers how God makes even our very little enough alongside Zarephath, and she identifies with Ezekiel, watching dry bones come to life both in her home and in her own heart.

Here is what God has taught me through Katie’s words: He is faithful to the end.

As I read story after story of miraculous physical healing from God, He healed something in me too. He healed something within me that had broken which I could not name. He healed me, pressing into the hurting places in my life as He whispered of His faithfulness.

Hebrews 10:23 became a salve to my broken heart: Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. I wrote it on a sticky note and taped it to my bathroom mirror as a reminder of who God is. I recite it throughout my day, a constant prayer of praise: You are faithful. You are always faithful.

This story spoke straight to my heart, and I know it will for you too. Words matter, stories matter; and if you are going to set aside time to learn from anyone, Katie should be at the top of your list. No matter who you are—a college student, a stay-at-home mom, a pastor—you will find a way to identify with Katie and her story.

I rejoice again in realizing that God provides the things that we didn’t know we needed in the first place. —Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful