Happy To Be Here.

There I was in my cap and gown sitting in between two of my closest friends as the trumpets began to play and the commencement ceremony began. There was an energy in the room that was indescribable. There was excitement, joy, a little bit of nervousness and fear, but overall, the energy was positive. There were proud parents beaming in the row behind us. Professors and mentors standing tall as their mentees received their diplomas and headed off to conquer the next phase of their life. It was a moment that everyone participating in wanted to capture forever. Photographs and videos would try and do it justice, but there was something about being in that moment that we would never get back again. As the commencement speaker stood up to speak, he began with the words, “Hello family and friends of these 2014 graduates. I am sure you are all incredibly proud of the ones who are sitting before me today in their caps and gowns. I want to take this moment to let you all know that I am happy to be here. I am happy that I get to partake in this moment with all of you. I’m happy. Aren’t you?” The room roared with cheers and claps and even a few cowbells and air horns. Everyone there was happy. And for that moment, time stood still.

Lots of things begin with those words, right? “I’m happy to be here with you.” Those words remind those who we are present with that there is a sense of happiness that surrounds the concept of community. There’s a happiness that comes from speaking and sharing our stories, drinking coffee with one another and doing church together. The words, happy to be here are spoken more often than we even realize. However, we associate them the most with formal speeches, such as the commencement speech that was given at my Alma Mater.

However, I want us to move to thinking about the words, Happy to be here, in a way that you have probably never considered before. Instead of a commencement ceremony, wedding or presidential address, what if we apply the words, happy to be here, to life? It’s a little tricky isn’t it? How do we wake up each day and greet the world with the words, I’m happy to be here? For some of us, it seems simple. For others of us, it’s a difficult journey to just wake up each day. How do we as the body of Christ create a space that is healthy, safe, and welcoming to all people? People who are happy to be a part of life and people who struggle to be happy with life, how to we make room for everyone?

I don’t know how many of you know this, but the month of May is dedicated to mental health awareness. This past May awareness swept across the Internet and people finally began having the conversations that have been considered taboo for so long. Celebrities posted selfies holding up 4 fingers as an act of reminding people that 1 in 4 deal with some sort of mental health issue. 13 Reasons Why took Netflix by storm and caused conversations to begin and companies like Beauty Brands, Loki, TWLOHA and so many others have been dedicated to giving back to the mental health community for quite some time and in the Month of May, their support was magnified. This year, there was a buzz within the world and I think it’s time that we as the church have that conversation. So ask you, the church, how do we take the words, happy to be here and connect them to our lives and our role within the mental health community?

I have had the honor of mentoring several high school students over the past several years. I have seen them flourish in their gifts and suffer greatly when moments of deep grief and pain strikes their souls. One girl has been on both sides of that spectrum. I watched her take the lead in her school musical and I also visited her in the hospital just days after she tried to take her own life. There were moments where she was happy to be here. She was incredibly gifted and came to life as she performed on stage. Along with those happy moments, she had deep, deep sorrow in her soul as she dealt with the passing of her dear friend and the crippling effects that cancer had on her toddler aged cousin.

Can you imagine with me for a moment what the sweet 14 year old must have been feeling? The darkness that surrounded her was too much for her soul to handle. Her body tired and weak, her mind racing faster than it ever has before, and her soul so stricken with pain that she needed to feel something. Anything. The loneliness, darkness, negative self-talk, and trauma. They all came together to create a shell out of this 14-year-old girl and they pressed against who she was until she finally broke. The pain was too much. The days and nights spent crying out for help had finally been heard. She was safe now. People were there and ready to listen.

She has been both. Happy to be here, and not so happy to be here. But when I went to visit her in that hospital room, she looked up at me and said that she was happy to be alive. Those moments church, are the moments I am happy to be here for.

Now, just like that high schooler, I know that there are several of you who are reading this that are anything but happy to be here. Anything but happy to show up to life daily. Anything but happy about the current situations that are existing in your lives. It’s hard and it’s okay to admit that in the midst of life and all of its happenings that you are not happy to be here.

1 in 4. That’s the statistic. Look around the coffee shop, the church, the gym, and your favorite restaurant. You see men and women, young and old, short and tall, loud and shy and the list goes on and on. There isn’t a typical person that this feeling belongs to. It’s your sisters, cousins, husbands, wives, children, grandparents, teachers, pastors, and lawyers. It’s not specific. It affects all of us in some way.

This reality that so many people are living is one that is hard to understand. If you have never been in that space before, you may find it hard to understand what someone with depression, anxiety or PTSD is feeling. Imagine being in a crowded shopping mall. There’s music playing in every store, there are people talking, store registers beeping, babies crying, carnival machines making noise and then there’s you. Those noises that don’t seem to bother anyone are ringing so loudly in your ears that you are paralyzed by the reality that you are living in. The music? It’s the voices of people who have spoken terrible words over you your entire life. The beeping of the registers? The trauma that you are faced with daily. The baby crying? That’s your friends and family crying at your dropped plans, lack of motivation and sleep patterns. It’s swirling around you and everyone seems to be opposite of you. It’s dark, it’s loud and it’s incredibly lonely. However, there is a role for the church to play.

People dealing with mental illness need someone who will show up. People who press firmly against your wounds and remind you that you are worthy of love and care. People who sit with you, hold your hand, keep you safe and offer you life. People who are daily inviting you in to community. Daily asking what you need. Daily extending life vests when the waters are drowning you. Those people are the ones who save lives. Those people are the ones who show up, love hard and remain constant. My person has done those things. My person exists in the church. There’s 1 in 4 looking for a person, will you be there? Will you sit in the darkness with them and offer the little flicker of light they have been hoping for?

If you see yourself in that loud shopping mall or whatever it may be for you, I see you and I hear you. I see your strength and your unbelievable willingness to try each and everyday. I hear you as you talk about the pain and trauma that causes you to respond differently in the world. It’s okay, you’re teaching the rest of us and that’s incredibly important. I’m glad you’re here. I hope one day you are happy to be here too.

This road hasn’t always been easy and I’ve struggled more days than I would like to admit, but there have been moments where I have found deep happiness in the world. The way the sun raises over the lake in Chicago, the way babies grip onto our fingers and the deep green color that spills on our fields as summer crops begin to grow. These moments where I am reminded that happiness exists in the mundane are the moments that I cling to when life isn’t so easy and I am not always happy to be here.

For now, I’ll rest in those mundane moments that remind me how important it is to show up, love and exist in the world. My hope is that you, the church will exist in those mundane moments and offer support and love to those who are dealing with mental illness.

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Recovery is a process.

 

Over the past semester, I’ve learned that recovery is a slow mending process. A process that has no final destination, but rather a journey that follows an imperfect line of growth and process. A journey that leads you in and out of the darkest and brightest moments of your life. A journey that will grow you, break you and put you all back together in the same week. Along that path, that little thing you call your eating disorder will make its presence known, whether you want it to or not, screaming at the dinner table or whispering as you brush your teeth in the morning, however, there are also moments where you celebrate small victories and she’s nowhere in sight. You know, the days where you eat chicken nuggets, ice cream and sweet potato tots or the days where dress shopping with friends doesn’t end in tears? Those moments will all exist and how you listen will be a sign of your recovery. You know when she’s screaming and when she’s whispering, but when you’re on top of the mountain, the only thing you will hear is the encouragement and cheers from those who have been in your corner all along.

The past several months have been filled with large victories and small bumps in the road. I have counted the days, 250, 275, 300, 320… and I have stared in the mirror crying over all the things I want to fix. I’ve been in the darkness and in the light. I’ve walked away from meals with tears in my eyes and celebrated the end of hard days with ice cream. It has been a path that twists and turns with each passing day, but that’s all part of the process.

I always thought that passing day 200 would be the point where I would be “fixed” or “healed” from the past. I thought that I would walk away from unhealthy habits and thoughts and live a life chanting recovery mantras and sharing my story as one of hope. What I didn’t realize was that just like most things you learn in seminary, recovery is both and. It is both the chanting of mantras and asking for help when the urge comes flooding back. It’s both and when the numbers keep climbing and a bad day is thrown your way. It’s both and when you are crying over ice cream, yet celebrating a victory all at the same time. It’s both when you are sharing your story on one of the hardest days you’ve had in almost a year. It is all a part of the juxtaposition that exists as recovery.

I’ve learned more about who I am, who I have been, and who I want to become on the hardest of days. I have learned that sharing meals with people you trust is important and avoiding certain situations is key. I’ve figured out that healthy exercise and control are important and compulsive behaviors are not necessary. I’ve come to realize that people truly care and want to remind you that you are worthy of health, love, and to belong.

I thought that at this point in my journey I would be telling stories about when I used to struggle, but more and more I am realizing that it’s in the thick of the struggle and pain where I find the greatest story that I can tell. When I speak about the hard days, the triggers and the moments where I don’t feel okay, that’s where I see the growth happening, even if it’s small.

It’s a process. That’s the only thing I know for sure. In the midst of counting days, I have forgotten what it’s like to count calories and that to me has been the greatest accomplishment so far. My focus has been taken off of numbers that destroy and kill and placed on numbers that give life a meaning and purpose.

I’m not there yet, but I’m 320 days closer than I was several months ago. I’m closer to that one-year mark than I ever imagined I would be. As the number of days continues to climb, I remind myself to give myself a break, ask for help when necessary and live and dwell in the juxtaposition that is recovery.

It’s a process, my friends, may you find peace in knowing that you are not alone.

Empty spaces, vacant hearts.

We’re all thinking it, but no one is ready to say it yet. This holiday season, there’s an empty space in our hearts and a vacant seat at our dinner table. This year, we will gather to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas without the one who has kept us together for so long. There have been moments throughout the year where I whispered to myself, “you should be here”, but this week and the next month more than ever; I am wishing granny could be here.

 

To fill just a little piece of my heart, I decided to write a letter updating granny on what is happening in our lives. I’ve missed so much, but I think I highlighted what I could remember.

 

 

 

 

Dear Granny,

I want to start by saying I love you and miss you dearly. What I would give for one more Sunday dinner, one more trip to St. Louis, one more holiday. For the past 9 months, I have caught myself on several occasions remembering you and wishing you could be here. At first, I caught myself driving down your street looking for your wind chimes blowing in the wind. Then I became Sunday afternoon and I was upset that we couldn’t argue over who ate more. Then it became last week in class where the room smelled like your house. And now we are here. The day before we are to gather together to eat food and be thankful. I still miss you, still wish you could be a part of the holidays and the things that are happening in our lives. Yet, we gather to be thankful.

 

However, this year we are thankful for 91 years of laughs, meals and holidays. We are thankful for the days we spent packed into your house sitting on top of one another because coming to your house always felt like a homecoming. We are thankful for holidays spent at Tammy’s and grandma and grandpa’s where we have room to move around, take tons of pics and laugh and smile over what Brookie and Jacie are singing in the middle of he room. We are thankful that each of us has a memory that carries us on the hard days.

 

We are thankful for the past year, all of it! The good, the bad, the celebrations and the mourning. We are thankful that we have had moments of great joy, but also moments of great loss. Even when the moments are hard, we are thankful.

 

There have been several high school graduations, dances, new schools, a new baby and milestone birthdays this year! With each passing milestone and event that happens in our lives, I know we are all thinking to ourselves, you should be here. We want you to see how proud we are of Nick and David for graduating high school. How fast time is flying now that all 3 Dublo girls are in high school. How well Taylor is doing is softball. How Samantha is still rocking nursing school. How Brandon is awesome at playing football. How well Tyler is doing in college. How incredibly precious baby Owen is. How much your kids are sticking together and celebrating birthdays and holidays together. How well your grandchildren are doing and what they are doing in their lives and community. The list goes on and on. We are good, we are okay, and we are blessed.

 

Blessed that while we still grieve over the empty chair at our dinner table this year, there is new life and celebration. Blessed that while we grieve that there’s going to be an extra piece of pumpkin pie, there are kiddos ready to eat pie covered in whipped cream. Blessed that while it seems like it has been forever, we know we will see you again one day.

 

This thanksgiving and Christmas season, may we remember what is truly important. May we keep your memory alive in the simple ways and gather together to celebrate the new life and celebrations.

 

We are thankful for you and the values that you have instilled in us. Family is important, meals together are the best and time is precious. May we remember those things over the next few months, as we gather to celebrate the holidays.

 

Until I see you again, granny! We all miss you. This holiday season will not be the same without you.

 

The seat is empty and the void in our hearts is still there, but when we gather together this holiday season, may your memory be kept alive.

 

Love you,

Brittney

An open letter to our beloved, the church.

Ever, Only, All for Thee

This is the time for us to get it together. Whether you stand with her, or want to build a wall, the church has always been a place of refuge. The church has always been a place for enemies to sit at the same table. Our whole lives we have been told to shoot for the stars, stand up for what we believe in, to fight for what is right; we have been told what to buy, where to buy it, what to wear, how much weight to lose, and how to cut and style our hair. We have been talked about as if we are not in the room. We can not gather at the same table of the generations before us, despite them being the ones who introduced us to the church, to the faith. No longer can we sit idly by while our voices, decisions, and opinions…

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And So I Kept Living

This past week, I have been turning pages of my old journals, clicking my way through my old blog posts and looking at pictures that almost make me unrecognizable. I’ve read the words of a broken and hurting soul that was longing to be loved, longing to be heard, longing to be healed. I’ve sifted through fake smiles, insecure stances and goofy face pictures; all hiding something deep inside that was too dark to speak of.

 

I’ve watched social media explode with suicide awareness week posts, stories about recovery, and pictures that show just how far people have come. I’ve read the #ikeptliving tag on all forms of social media and have been moved to tears on so many occasions. I’ve seen genuine smiles, transformed hearts, and the words of close friends and family speaking about what suicide awareness week means to them specifically.

 

But what about now? It’s Monday again and the posters have been taken down, my timeline isn’t filled with #ikeptliving pictures and quotes and the silence around suicide and mental disabilities is deafening yet again.

 

That dear sweet younger Brittney that poured her heart out over journal pages and awkwardly tried to not be at war with her body would have slid under the radar during last week. She would have kept things to herself, closed herself off, and allowed the harmful words she spoke to herself control her.

 

However, that’s not how the story ends. Little Brittney grew. She grew up physically and within the past year, she has grown spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. She has learned about freedom and forgiveness, recovery and grace. She has reconciled herself with her body and the past that distorted how things really were. She sits in seminary classes, drinks pumpkin spice lattes, and laughs without a care as the waves crash against the rocks while the sun beams down overhead. There’s something so different.

 

I still carry that little Brittney around with me. Every once and awhile I let her have her way, but always reminding her that tomorrows are real, forgiveness is real, and grace is extending far beyond the borders that contain my faith.

 

So this week, after all the posters have been removed from the walls, posts on social media are no longer directed at recovery and freedom and #ikeptliving, I celebrate and honor my life.

 

I honor the parts that shaped me, molded me, and transformed me into the person I am today. I honor the tears, the empty prayers, and the long nights praying for drastic changes.

 

I will celebrate me and where I am in the current moment. All the things I am learning and in some ways unlearning. I am celebrating shorts weather, community meals, classes, and a new life that began the moment I was facedown on my floor week one of seminary.

Sometimes we need reminders. We need little glimpses of hope in the midst of struggles and dark moments. While the week may have ended and social media doesn’t have such a large platform this week, I’m still celebrating, still living, still offering hope.

 

I pray that this week you find yourself celebrating, living an offering hope as well. Suicide awareness week is over, but the struggles that exist in people’s lives are not. There are people hurting; people who you wouldn’t even expect to struggle. Be that beacon of hope, the ray of light, that smiling face that looks them in the eyes and says, “me too.”

Labels Mean Nothing

1 Corinthians 12:12-27

“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

 

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Each person plays a valuable part in the body of Christ.

We all make up the body of Christ and we play a valuable part in what God is doing in the world.

 

But what happens when we let labels get in the way of that calling? In the way of that unity? In the way of the goodness of God and all that God has to offer this world?

 

Watch this video as an intro to what I will be discussing in this post.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0qD2K2RWkc

 

 

My friends, we live in a world where labels are second nature.

 

Married or single,

gay or straight,

black or white,

poor or rich,

Christian or none-Christian,

liberal or conservative,

too skinny or too fat……..the list goes on and on.

 

In a world where we are all labeled on the daily, it’s easy to get caught up in what others are saying about us.
It’s easy to lose sight of what God believes to be true about each and every one of us.

 

I want you all to know that every part of you, every single part of you, is valued and has meaning and purpose. Things that are visible or things that are hidden in your heart are all unique and special to you. Those things that cause you to look at the world differently, that cause you to have compassion and love, that cause you to see things in a different light, they all make up you and that’s exactly what God intended.

 

You see, while we as a society spend so much time placing labels on one another, God is busy calling each and every one of us His. Calling each and every one of us worthy, loved, and valued.

 

The body is made up of many parts; each part playing a specific role that makes the body function properly.

 

Think about the relationships that you have. The friends, family, acquaintances that you see regularly. Those people are shaping you and sometimes you don’t even know it.

 

There are people who look at you and instantly make judgments about who you are and what you stand for, without even knowing your name. They judge you because of who you are. Things that are a part of you that you can do absolutely nothing about.

 

With a world so full of judgments, people are desperately looking for a place to call home. A place to be safe. A place to call a family. People search until they find that place to belong, they search until their hearts are satisfied and their lives feel safe and at home.

 

What if we started loving instead of judging?

 

What if we started serving instead of shutting our doors?

 

What if we chose to do good rather than join the noisy crowd?

 

The church would be where people come first. A place where they feel safe and valued and nurtured, without having to pretend.

 

My friends, that is our job.

It’s our job to knock down walls, break chains and roll away the barriers. It’s not solely the pastor’s job. It’s a job for the whole body of Christ.

 

We have parts that are missing. Eyes that see better than ours, hands that serve in a different way, feet that are willing and ready to be on mission wherever God leads them. But before they even darken the doorways of our churches, we have to stop judging, stop hating, stop building walls.

 

We have to choose to love, we have to choose to stop labeling, we have to choose that love is greater than hate, every single day.

 

Let’s take that one step further.

We are the body of Christ. A family of believers committed to doing good in a world that is sometimes so incredibly dark and scary.

 

We are the body of Christ and we must stop with the labels. Stop with the groupings, stop with the “us vs them” mentality.

 

My friends, Jesus came so that you and I and our friends in Ferguson, Orlando, Dallas, Portland and Chicago can have the same freedom in Christ, knowing that each of us are perfect just the way we are.

 

We are claimed and owned by the God of today, tomorrow, and forever.

 

I know that your hearts and minds have wandered. Wandered to a place that has caused you to hear the labels that you are called daily. They are ringing in your ears.

 

I hear them screaming in my head. I hear them closing me off, turning me away and making me want to run.

 

But my friends, there is a greater label that I want to put on. It’s a label that claims me and allows me to be free. A label that allows me to love and serve and sing and worship in whatever way I see fit.

 

It’s a label that people all around the world long to hear.

My friends, Jesus looks at each and every one of us and calls us enough. We are enough because when Jesus hung on that cross, he uttered the words, it is finished.

 

If the labels the world places on you are weighing on your heart, know that you have been redeemed and forgiven. You have been called worthy and enough.

 

Spend time searching your heart for the words that Christ calls you. Words that are uplifting, loving, and encouraging.

 

My dear brother and sisters in Christ, you are not your label. You are a valued part of the body of Christ.

Amen.

 

 

Exactly where I’m meant to be.

So, how are things going at seminary? Are you enjoying classes? What church are you attending? Have you grown spiritually and personally? What about the city? Does it make you feel out of place? I have frequently been asked these questions over the past several months. At first I would give the typical answers that you would expect. I love school, I’m growing a lot, I am in love with the church I’m attending, and the city has allowed me to see that there is so much more beyond the limits of the 618.

While all of that is true, I feel as though I haven’t given justice to the experiences that I have had since I have been here. I’ve lost who I was and became who I always wanted to be. I’m a girl that has a past, yet not letting it define her. I am a girl that has gained emotions, feelings, and opinions that have helped to communicate how I feel about it all. I am my own person; a person with convictions and values that are shaping the way I interact with the world and how I do church.

I am not going to lie; week one of this journey was by far the hardest. There were more tears than I ever imagined, my pastors were on speed dial, and I was convinced I wouldn’t make it to the final few weeks. I didn’t have friends, no church to attend, and a big city that made me feel like a fly. I was so overwhelmed with the silence that I was living in. Who I was began to stare me in the face and I was forced to deal with it all. I was out of place and I didn’t belong. Something didn’t seem quite right.

Yet, here I am. Sitting in my regular Sunday spot at the local Panera (yes friends, they call it Panera here, I’m learning to adjust). Drinking my usual Sunday coffee and watching the locals interact over their Sunday lunches, and suddenly I realized I have become a local too. This is my space, my place, my environment and it’s shaping me. I do belong, I am supposed to be here and the fear of silence no longer causes me to tremble.

I have fallen in love with life in Northern Illinois. I’ve become captivated by the way the waves crash along the shoreline and have had honest conversations with myself about who I want to be when I leave this place. I’ve never lived away and the little country girl in me is in love with the vastness that exists in this part of the state. I have dwelled in the silence, examined my life in ways I never imagined and realized that I deserve to live in peace. I deserve to live in freedom; I deserve to exist as Brittney. A human that is broken, scarred, and fragile, yet redeemed by Christ and living in the reality that the cross is more than enough.

Seminary as a whole has been so incredibly good. I have grown in my knowledge of scripture, the church, and God. I have studied under some of the most brilliant minds and have met people that live in love and walk in truth. It’s a new environment that has proven to be so incredibly healthy and enriching. I can’t help but geek out over the knowledge that I have gained. It has expanded my vocabulary and has caused me to look at the church in different ways. It is a growing experience, that’s for sure. I forgot how much I love filling my head with knowledge and writing papers that explain why I believe what I believe. It has stretched me, molded me and transformed me. I’m not ready to leave for the summer, and that my friends is a sure sign that I am learning to love the scary and new experiences that God graciously hands to me.

As far as growth, I would say this is the biggest way I see God showing up in Evanston. I have had to sit in silence, pray, and confront the deepest parts of my heart. I have had to write pages and pages in my journal, cry as I walk along the beach, and accept that I need to let go of who I used to be.

As most of you know, I have been in an ongoing relationship with things that have controlled me for far too long. I have reached for control in the unhealthiest of ways and because of it, I’ve built walls, shut people out, and lived in a dark place masked with glitter, smiles and fakeness. Since being in Evanston, I have lost control to gain freedom. I have intentionally placed myself in situations where eating is a must and purposefully kept sharp objects out of my room. I have been intentional on how I treat myself on my hardest of days. I have given myself space to heal and deal with why I do theses things and accepted that it’s who I was, not who I am. I’ve walked in that freedom for almost 90 days and I have never felt so peaceful. It’s a process that I am constantly learning how to live in. I have given myself grace on the days I don’t feel like walking in freedom. I’ve seen myself release a grip and break the walls. I’ve seen the need for Jesus in a whole new way and I want to extend that same grace and love to everyone I meet. People all bring something to the table, why not make that table a little easier to exist at?

Speaking of all people, I need to tell you all how incredibly thankful I am that I have found the church that I have been attending since I got here. Before coming to Evanston, I was so incredibly hurt by the church. Rumors, hateful words, and accusations that simply weren’t true caused me to want to run from the church and keep running until I wasn’t near it. I slowly learned to like the church again while attending Immanuel, but here I have fallen in love with the church all over again. I’ve watched barriers become broken, people experiencing acceptance regardless of who they are, and have broken bread with people who are so different than I. This morning, Northbrook UMC voted to hold same -sex couples weddings in their church building. That my friends, is where the Gospel comes to life. Christ died for all. Yes, all! Not an all with a star next to it explaining the exclusions that the word has. The breath of relaxation and joy that filled the room as the word yes was spoken, filled the room with peace and the table that we gather around for communion suddenly got a little more crowded. Crowded in the good way, you know, the kind where so many family members come to thanksgiving dinner and you all have to squeeze together because there’s so much love in one place. I’ve seen the good that can come from the church. I truly believe that Northbrook UMC has been the place ordained and set aside for me to fall in love with the church all over again. It’s so good to see growth happening and people being included in all actions in the church.

I love this place, I love the city and I love who I am becoming. I have never loved the person I am, until now. I’ve never loved the church as much as I do right now. I’ve never experienced freedom and growth quite like this, until now.

So, to answer all of your questions, I love this place, these people, this church, and this city. I have found a whole new meaning to freedom and have loved dwelling in it. I have found myself somewhere between classes, church, and hard conversations overly thankful for the grace that is extended to me and the nudging of the people in my life that got me to say yes to this scary and new experience.

It has been the most beautiful 4 months and I wouldn’t trade the painful silences, hard conversations, and new girl stereotype for the world. I’m exactly where I am supposed to be and for that, I am thankful.