Faith + Vulnerability

At other places, Faith + Vulnerability
Making Marriage Beautiful
April 13, 2017 at 4:42 am 0

How do you do more than simply "make do" in marriage with all the demands of schedules, children, and jobs?

Here's a bit of my story:  We were making our sixth home together — after first jobs, graduate school in another country, ministerial internships, and now, after two little babies came whooshing into our life. I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember shouting that echoed off of wood floors, how I didn’t have words for the tail spin of all that I thought life should be and what it clearly was. So instead we screamed. I didn’t have words for all the ways it was easier to blame him than to grow with him— for the many moves, for adventures that took at least two years to feel at home, for our growing family and the demands on me as a young mother.
It was easier to thrust his own issues on him, run and hide from mine, and make him be the scapegoat for all the angst I felt at the hard process of growing up.
No, I didn’t have the words to own up to my own birthright of sin. So we shouted. We slammed doors. We both were so alone. Now, after more than half our lifetimes together and nearly two years into move number eight, we’ve added two more children, we’re planting a church back home in the suburbs, and I’m writing a book. We’re exhausted. But we’re not exhausted in a way that leads to shouting and door slamming. The change gradually seeped in through lots of prayer, counseling, and going through Sonship, an intensive discipleship program. As we do things we have no more energy to do on our own strength like writing books and church planting and raising four children — I’ve seen the sin patterns in my navel-gazing, my own fear of invisibility if I wasn’t out in the work force being productive, and how it’s easier to blame shift than to see the truth of your own heart.
We make our marriage beautiful because we choose, day by day, to be for each other.
... Read the rest at Dorothy Greco's site. ... Dorothy Greco has written a fantastic resource on marriage, Making Marriage Beautiful: Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You. It's relatable, helpful, and filled with stories of people working hard to make their marriage not only thrive but also be beautiful. Buy it here.
At other places, Faith + Vulnerability
5 Tips to Develop a Healthy Habit: Read Your Bible (for iBelieve)
March 13, 2017 at 5:08 am 0
I'm a pastor's wife and I have a hard time reading my Bible every day. There I said it. It's actually the thing I'm trying to focus on during Lent this year -- how to create a small habit that I know will feed me. To that end, I've written a short article on some tips to develop a habit of reading daily. I think I'm still revolting over those little check-boxes Bible reading plans in my youth -- how the boxes became the reason to read through the Bible more than any other love. But we can also make the mistake of waiting around for lovey dovey feelings before we start something new. This is yet another way to fall off the wagon. Sometimes the discipline comes first, sometimes the feelings do. But to start any habit we need to help till the soil for growth to happen. And just like exercise and diet, we make small changes that add up:
I love to fit into my skinny jeans, but I also really love to eat good food. When my pants start to get a bit tight, I’m faced with a dilemma: will I change my eating habits or not? Deciding is never a question of knowledge: I don’t need to know more about nutrition, or even plan out a rigorous diet if I want to lose ten pounds. More information and more advice will never affect change. What I need for change is to be captured by a greater love. I need to want to be healthy and fit into my jeans more than I want to eat chocolate cake. Being physically healthy is made up of a thousand small decisions about how I talk about my body, what I put into it and how I exercise it. We change when we are captured by a greater love. Our spiritual lives are no different: to change we must pay attention to what we put in to our souls. If we say that God’s Word should shape our lives, then we need to move around in it. It needs to shape us. And it can’t shape us until we’ve first developed a healthy habit of simply reading it.
  I'm over at iBelieve with "How to Develop Healthy Bible Reading Habits: 5 Tips." And don't worry, they're fun.   
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Faith + Vulnerability
When our Suburban Homes are Large, our Hearts are Small, and Refugees Forgotten
January 31, 2017 at 7:17 am 1
This post originally appeared in November 2015 at Erika Shirk's website.    Welcome home, gather round all ye refugees, come in. Oh refugee, I did not cast you out In death and broken ground, Salvation springs My body and my blood, the healing that you need Come and receive” Sandra McCracken, “All Ye Refugees” // I’m sitting quite comfortably in this warm home of mine. It’s newish to me. The pangs of moving 1000 miles away from the longest place we’d ever lived since we became a family still, always, linger. And yet here I am, doing all those routine things: walking my children to school, going grocery shopping, shouting too much at my boys’ soccer games. In the throes of transition, I feel like I’m living in two universes, where home is both here and somewhere else. Home feels a bit like putting down my phone or glasses and being unable to find them. I don’t know quite where I belong without either. I wander around trying to find something I have no definite memory of letting go. I’m watching the United States map change colors: each state colored to oppose or welcome the new plan for the US to help resettle refugees. Twenty-six governors vow to tighten their borders like cinching in their belt. It’s too dangerous, they say. It’s not our place. It’s a Trojan horse, letting them in like that. Them. I realize of course that immigrant policies, national politics and international crises are things much more complex than I am making them here. But I do know this: problems only magnify when we start to see us as somehow wholly different from them. And must we surround our nation, our homes, with watertight walls? Are we so very scared that we cannot let them in because they might hurt us? But, we must ask, who are they? They are the poor, the needy, the fatherless and the widow. They are at the very heart of the gospel. Jesus gathered a rag-tag group of fishermen, he did not run from women of disrepute, he did not turn in disgust from our disease, or dishonor or shame. He saw the widow, the child, the orphan and the leper. And he had compassion. His heart saw that we were like sheep without a shepherd. We are the homeless, the refugee. It is Jesus who comes from a far-off country and made his home with us. It’s a fact that’s at the heart of the Bible. Giles Frazer writes for The Guardian that “For the moral imagination of the Hebrew scriptures was determined by a battered refugee people, fleeing political oppression in north Africa, and seeking a new life for themselves safe from violence and poverty. Time and again, the books of the Hebrew scriptures remind its readers not to forget that they too were once in this situation and their ethics must be structured around practical help driven by fellow-feeling.” The Bible is clear: our homes cannot be castles. Our homes – whether our nation, our physical dwelling place, our economic policies or any other number place of belonging – cannot be simply about us. For our homes were never meant to serve ourselves. We count square footage and upgrades to garner our worth in the same way we count our kids’ soccer goals and progress reports. We invite others in to our homes to “entertain” rather than show true hospitality. We make our homes all about us. It’s important for our spaces to reflect us and it’s not a bad thing necessarily to upgrade your kitchen. But when our homes stop being a place to welcome the wanderer, I wonder where we think we’ll find home exactly, where we’ll find belonging. Or if we’re just burying ourselves in the trappings of home but never quite belonging. When we wall up our homes and hearts and build castle walls of impenetrable self-centeredness, what use is Jesus exactly when he says he goes and prepares a place for us? That home that Jesus says he’s making for us feels a whole lot less valuable than the granite countertops in front of us. What use is a Jesus who we wall out with economic belt-cinching and say that he (like the refugees) isn’t quite safe to let in and really change our categories? For yes (like Lewis says), Jesus isn’t safe, but he is good. Will our homes be safe? Because as Jesus makes his home in us, he uproots cobwebs of shame and doubt and all the ways we wall others out. He turns over tables and plants a seed of his upside-down kingdom right in our hearts. And you better believe that Jesus making a home is more than a pretty little image, an abstraction that makes us feel good. Because Jesus never does a background check to see if we check out first before building us a home. Because no one measures up. We’re all homeless wanderers, set adrift on the hem of someone else’s mercy. We’re all refugees, wandering around since Eden, trying to make and find our true home. IMG_0926 And Jesus sees us; his eyes warm with empathy, in our squalid, homeless state. He sees us, as devastated internally as the refugees sleeping on concrete are externally. We have no roof over our head either. There is nowhere we quite fit. We, too, are longing for home. This Jesus runs to meet us. He says “My son has come home!” He places rings on our fingers and the clothes of the family and throws a feast. But sometimes that Jesus just feels a bit too unsafe to have under our roof. So home escapes us, like my lost glasses, and we keep searching for the missing thing that promises to make things okay, to feel like we have things ordered, so we can really see. The refugee crisis is complex. Yes, it’s a risk to welcome people, from refugees in a far-off country to even welcoming your neighbor truly into your life. But both are necessary. How could we do anything less? How can we stay walled up and impervious to our own refugee status? How can we ignore that Jesus built his tent right in the midst of our finitude? How can we forget that his body and blood house us, that our experience of the Eucharist welcomes and clothes us, gives us sustenance? How can we turn our backs on those that cry out for home? How can we not do something? Refugees aren’t safe and neither is Jesus. Both are messy and turn our world upside-down. But isn’t that right where we find home, in the mess right in the middle?
Feel free to engage in the comments, send me an email, or I'd love to grab a cup of coffee if you're local (or on Voxer if you're not). If you disagree or have questions or concerns, let's talk. Let's learn civility and kindness here.  Resources: World Relief International Justice Mission International Rescue Commission US Office of Refugee Resettlement
Faith + Vulnerability
A Prayer for Inauguration Day
January 20, 2017 at 9:57 am 0
Dear King of Heaven, On this day when another man takes over the highest office in America, our nation is deeply divided. And all of us have been brought up short by this election. We confess that we have trusted leaders and politics to be our God, instead of you. We have made America our god. Forgive us.  We confess that we are fearful. We are afraid for what policies may be enacted that do not have love and justice as their driving force. We are afraid for those who are weak and marginalized, that the voiceless will not be heard. Oh merciful Father, increase our faith. Show us your light. Help us to see how we can be agents of a Kingdom that breaks every barrier based on race, politics, and socio-economics. Grow our compassion, help us to see the good in all those who are made in your image. Help us work for justice, compassion, mercy, and love for our neighbors, no matter how they voted.  God, your Kingdom is one where the last shall be first. Humble us so that our empathy for others increases. Grow our discontent over injustice so we become good neighbors. Let us be like Jesus: challengers to greed and to immoral ways of living. Both the rule-followers and rule-breakers couldn't understand a Kingdom that said the way up is down; the way to live is to die; the way to peace is not through a sword. Let it start small. Help us to listen to our spouses, friends, children, neighbors. Then, let it grow. Help us to listen to one another. Help us to listen to those who are saddened and scared today and those who are rejoicing. Let us not demonize someone made in the image of God because they think differently than we do. If so, we will have only given in to hate. And, "darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only love can do that." Increase our love. May love keep the revolution you began going.  Oh God, you who set the stars spinning into space, rule over all. May we be faithful agents of your Kingdom. May we take refuge under your wings, knowing you rule, see all, forgive, and comfort. Amen.  
At other places, Faith + Vulnerability
Deliver Us from Christmas Cookies, We Pray (for The Mudroom)
December 7, 2016 at 6:40 am 0
  merry2   It's the season of sweets. As much as I want to indulge, there's often a tug-a-war on what to eat and what not to eat going on under the surface. Or, most likely, I chuck it all and indulge and vow to eat healthily later. I'm finding that eating (like most things) isn't often about eating at all. It goes much deeper. Today, I'm at The Mudroom writing about food, deliverance, and prayer.  
The problem isn’t the food or my inability to eat healthily, to say “no” to what is bad for me and hunger after what is good. The problem isn’t food at all. Like so much else — relationships, sex, church, houses — food is a gift. It is sustenance and grace and provision. Like good gifts it is meant to be received and enjoyed. But when we obsess over it, Gollum-like, through our indulgence or abstention, we’re simply using the gift of good food to say something about ourselves. That I don’t measure up unless I measure up. That I use food to feel my feelings because I’m too scared to feel them. Swallowing them is much easier. That I feel productive when I eat healthily so I’ll beat myself up when I deviate from my plan. That I deserve this coffee or cocktail or this cookie because somehow it’ll make up for hard decisions, tired mornings, and feeling unseen and unappreciated. As if food could solve soul problems. Food is the safest drug we have.
Read the rest here. 
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Faith + Vulnerability
A Prayer for Election Day
November 8, 2016 at 7:06 am 2
Prayer for Election Day -- aahales.com Father in Heaven, You know all things. Nothing surprises you. Today, the world watches as America chooses her next President. Our land is rife with battle cries, with despair, with so many people anxious, worried, afraid about the election's outcome. We confess we have but little power -- over the affairs of countries or even over our own lives. Perhaps this election shows us how very little is within our control. Father, we know that you are good. We know that you are loving. And we know that America is not synonymous with your Kingdom.  God, we praise you that your Kingdom is where the last shall be first. Your Kingdom is equitable, just, kind and compassionate. Your economy is not one where the rich get off and the poor must deal with injustice. Your Kingdom is full of miraculous hope. Forgive us, we pray, for our condescension. For seeing "the other side" as not fully human. For blanketing people made in your image with stereotypes that denigrate the divine spark. Forgive us for seeing only our way as right. Forgive us for not listening, not seeing, not loving those who are different from us. Forgive us for our hard hearts. Forgive us, most of all, for thinking a nation or its leader will calm our fears, perfectly champion justice, and make our lives (or our wallets) have meaning. Only Jesus, who died, suffered, and rose again, can provide us with a narrative that makes this messed-up world make sense. Thank you for Jesus, the King who gave up power so that we can be reconciled to God. I pray that those who claim your Kingdom would find their primary allegiance today: not to a political party but to God himself. I pray for your church worldwide, that we would see how love covers sin. How grace and mercy triumph -- for they are all that will move a hard heart. How goodness -- even amidst great disagreement between persons and platforms -- can make our Jesus look attractive to a watching world. May your people be unified in faith, hope, love and charity today. Amen. And Amen. And Amen.
At other places, Books + Stories, Faith + Vulnerability
#MamaPhD and the Delicate Circles of Relation (for The Well)
September 27, 2016 at 6:00 am 0
writer If you've been reading things I've written on motherhood, academia and this odd confluence of writing/motherhood/research/ministry, then you may have seen me use the hashtag #MamaPhD. It's after a fabulous book by the same name and so clearly encapsulates this life of motherhood combined with scholarship. I'm not in the classroom these days, but I still find that my Ph.D. matters quite a bit. Not just as some pretty letters after my name -- though I've been known to pull that out in conversation to feel "more than just a mom" (here my own insecurities are surfacing) -- but my Ph.D. matters because it is so engrained in who I am, my story, and the fact that I spent almost a third of my life (at that point) obtaining it. Today I have the lovely privilege at being over at one of my favorite new internet spots, The Well. It's a spot just for women in the academy and beyond. It's a spot that says that women can love God with all of their mind. I love that women share their stories there (from graduate school, academic vocations, and beyond), review good books, and care for our souls. We aren't just brains on toothpicks. We are whole people. And that's something that took me a Ph.D. and not teaching in the classroom to learn.  I'd be beyond thrilled if you wanted to read a bit more of my story:
We live boundaried lives. We can fight against the edges of our circles – where we come into intimate relationship with others and are responsible to them, or we can discern how to live faithful lives given those constraints. I pushed at my circle for years trying to expand it ever wider. I stewed like a petulant child — angry that my bright future was now full of dirty diapers, toddler tantrums, and my own inability to take it in stride. It would have been a valid choice to put children in daycare and to go about finding a successful job, but it wasn’t mine. And yet, I couldn’t seem to find God exclusively in the liturgy of the ordinary. Like Brene Brown says, if creativity isn’t used, it festers. I grew resentful, blamed my husband’s ministry job changes, and bought the lie that a tenure track job would satisfy all my longing for meaning and significance. Here I was, Ph.D. now in hand (9 years after I started), not in the classroom, but with three little children, and one on the way. What was I doing with my life? How could this be God’s plan?
And, I'd love to hear how you have both resisted and moved comfortably around in your own circles of relation. Go on over to The Well to read the rest // As always your support by "liking" my Facebook page and subscribing to my monthly newsletters helps. It helps me know I'm not alone and that we can share our quiet stories together. When you sign up for my monthly newsletter expect exclusive content and gifts just for you. Plus, you'll be on the cutting edge of all book-related awesomeness! Thanks friends.

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Faith + Vulnerability, Motherhood + Marriage, We create
Have years of making PB+J meant I’ve lost the woman I was?
August 23, 2016 at 6:00 am 1
Have so many years of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made me number to mystery, to beauty? Ashley Hales: Motherhood and Mystery aahales.com I had a few hours completely alone the other day. I felt torn between working out, sleeping, cleaning and writing. I settled on writing -- the others I can take children along for the ride while doing them. It felt blissful, quiet, with a cup of coffee I didn't need to reheat 20 times in the course of the day. I turned on my favorite Spotify writing playlist and let the notes sink in in ways they hadn't done in awhile. Suddenly I wondered if I was still the woman that could be moved by notes struck on the piano. In college I'd had a CD of Beethoven that accompanied me (along with a Starbucks baroque playlist) on my studying sessions. I'd procrastinate from philosophy and English essays by writing poetry, about musical notes and meaning and depth. All those things that as a mother, I find harder to come by. I wonder if that woman is still in me somewhere. I spoke with my husband the other day about this whole mothering business. That it feels impossible some days to even keep the house in any semblance of order. That my days are spent in the space between children, monitoring homework, breaking up sibling fights and bickering sessions, returning the stolen toy from an offended sibling, and sitting in my daughter's tight embrace while she sits on the potty (apparently, I've turned into her lovey). That it all doesn't play to my strengths. Sometimes I wonder if I exist amidst all the chaos. Or if I'm simply the frayed rope holding it (often hopelessly) together. I tend to explode in a pile of mess (my own and theirs). The emotions become too much, too loud, too rich, too chaotic. I dream about coffee, or the glass of wine, or the quiet home when they're all old enough to be in school at the same time and my days aren't spent in an endless loop of drop-off to pick-up, circling in my minivan. I'm the frayed rope and they all have a hand on me. But in those rare moments of quiet, can I get to that part of me whose soul soars with music, with a well-turned phrase, with the quickness of the Spirit of God? Or has she become numb to mystery after too many years of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, diaper changes, and children's extracurricular activities? Some say those things can usher us into the presence of God. I hope beyond all hope that they're right -- that doing the dishes will help me become more contemplative, that cooking and cleaning will increase my gratitude, that wiping bums will help me to take myself less seriously and learn empathy. I hope. I pray. But I doubt, too. Because I'm just a bit tired of taking on the emotions of my familial world and running alongside them like a parent running next to her child on a two-wheeler for the first time. There's elation, fear, and relief as we carry the sorrows, cares, and anger of those we care about. It numbs sensitive souls, but perhaps it's more useful. Less self-referential. How do I crack open those deep, seeing parts of my being when I'm swirling in chaos? How do I soften myself from the hustle so I can hear those notes again? Beauty is a painful muse and I wonder if I want her enough to have all my self cracked open to her touch. Or, if it's just convenient and comfortable to use my circumstantial chaos to push her away. Maybe I -- maybe you -- are scared to really feel and know what goodness and truth looks like. Maybe. When we crack ourselves open, who knows what can happen? Who knows what can get in.  
Faith + Vulnerability
When There are no Words and the Distance is Wide
July 5, 2016 at 1:46 pm 0
Sometimes grief is an itchy blanket, at other times it envelops with comforting salty waves, and right now, there is just a blankness. How do you walk through grief when it is not yours to shoulder? When you are not the one on the knife-edge of grief? When you are not near to offer a hug that says all the words? Dear close friends have lost a father and father-in-law. A fellow pastor has lost a child. A faraway friend has been told that her baby will not live on the outside of the womb. And the weight of all the world feels crushing. (This is, of course, before one even begins to account for genocide and nameless killings and tragedies we get on every news channel.) But how do we grieve losses well when they are not ours to take on? When there are so many states separately you from someone, you can't just bring a casserole, or a candle or offer to scrub their toilet so they can cry. There is instead so much space to traverse, and the miles between is not even the beginning. So I'm left open-handed not knowing how to be present when there is nothing but distance and yet -- with the instantaneousness of the internet, there is that eradication of that same distance. It feels a bit like tourism in someone else's life, watching signposts of someone else's grief pop up periodically on Facebook. The distance of grief is a type of jet lag, where your body hasn't caught up to the time change. And you're stuck with a foggy head, sore limbs, and not being able to sleep through the night. How do hearts and minds catch up to the distance that grief presents? All I have today is a breeze through the window and prayers on the tip of my tongue -- prayers that feel ephemeral and as inconsequential as wind. They do not feed like a casserole. They do not bring relief like a hug. They do not make one smile with a bit of cleanliness and a comfy spot to rest weary bones. It is hard to see the beauty and power in prayer, at times. But maybe, mysteriously, muttered prayers do feed in ways I just am not privy to see. But for today, I will not figure it all out. I will not discern out how distance and grief live well together as bedfellows. Today is not for the puzzling. Today is for the praying, for groans that get translated. For feeble offerings that don't feel like much. Sometimes grief, even grief at a distance, means sitting in the middle space. That too, is a posture of faith. That underneath all the prayers and waiting, there is a mystery that is bigger than the universe that makes sense of them. Part of seeing my humanity clearly is seeing myself as very small. It is trusting that prayers are offerings that multiply exponentially like loaves and fishes by hands that break and bless them. That, for today, is enough.  
Beauty in the Mundane, Books + Stories, Faith + Vulnerability
We are scared to be human. It’s time to stop.
March 17, 2016 at 6:00 am 2
I live in a world of shiny surfaces -- where the quickest way to get attention is to shout the loudest and work the hardest. I used to climb ladders of success and figured I'd get a terminal degree (a PhD in literature) because surely then, I figured, I'd finally be seen. I'd finally be somebody. I'd be recognized, and published and loved by students. I'd make a name for myself. We're walking in a world of invisible men and women. Women who work harder, try to balance careers and children, and find time to get their abs ready for spring break. Men decompress with video games and sports because relationships are hard and work is harder. We're stuck on a treadmill of busy and it's slowly killing us. It doesn't have to be that way. We think the only way to chase meaning is to work hard, be successful and spend our time however we choose. We think that ease will save us. We think that work will save us. We think that if we could make it to the next rung of the ladder, then the blessings would flow down like flower petals in a silly rom-com. That is not the answer. You know what is? It's something we lost a long time ago and a few wise poets and prophets still chase. It's beauty. beauty is only complete when it is shared It's not the rom-com beauty. It's a beauty born of pain and dirt. It's finding the beauty in the pain, in the shattered or slowly dying dreams. It's finding beauty in being vulnerable, even when you gently open your heart up for hurt. Because, friends, I believe that there is a beauty that is always deeper still. I belive in the power of story. I believe in the power of beauty to warm hard hearts and draw us into life. It creeps up on you, this beauty. It moves slowly and warms your heart. It's in the smile and shaking arms of my daughter as she flings her body down the grassy hill. It's in the hilarity of "potty humor" that cracks up my older boys. It's in the glory of a fine sentence that breaks my heart right open. It's in the shared bottle of wine. And it's in the nodding around the table -- it's someone that really sees you. And we'll miss it if we're always ready to move on to the next thing. This is the beauty I crave. It's hard-won, like a long, hard work out, where the endorphins fly and you're just so glad you made it through. This is the beauty I chase as I type out sentences. This is beauty as I write my own story, again and again. It's not that my story is unique at all, but that in sharing stories, we know more of each other, we know more of ourselves. Self-knowledge, of course, can paralyze. We can get stuck looking inward so that we sit dumb-struck, awe-struck or full of shame (depending on our temperament). But beauty always moves us towards. Beauty does not leave us in a navel-gazing, selfish state, like Narcissus at the edge of the lake. No, beauty is only complete when it is shared. That's why I'm here. To seek out beauty-- ruthlessly even amidst the busyness of raising little children, of writing and church-planting. Ultimately, the source of beauty (I'm convinced) is in the eyes of Jesus. The God-Man who does not shame or condemn us, but the savior who heals, who touches lepers and bleeding women. He sits among the unholy. He sits among those too proud to bow their head, the ones that think they've got it all figured out. And he mercifully meets them, right in our poverty of ladder-climbing, right in our thinking that if we could just do x, y, z, that then we'd have arrived. He smiles at us. Instead of sitting alongside this man of beauty, we scream out our importance or we stay silent. We back ourselves into corners or work out until we're exhausted. We indulge our bodies with wine and sugar and caffeine, or we starve them, because we are desperate for our flesh to say either that we exist or that we do not. We want to use our flesh to say boldly that "We take up space!" or we hide away in too-big sweatshirts and leggings. We are so scared to be simply human. Our bodies betray our souls. Because they are not separate entities. But our bodies (and our whole selves) are more than efficient machines, they are more than ways to get out the underlying soul. They are beautiful sacraments of being. Our limbs proclaim a glory that we cannot know. Our sinews, muscles and minds make us move not only through space, but allow us to connect with others. Our bodies, our words, usher in empathy. They offer us connection. There is more than success. There is more than comfort. Security will not save you. Your 401(k) will not help you sleep at night if your soul is tied up in knots and you are making your body into a product of invisibility. It's time to break free. It's time to reclaim beauty. Right here, right now. It's time to slow down, take a breath, and treat our minds, hearts, and souls with the respect they deserve. It's time to be gloriously human. It's time to sit in the uncertainty, to gather your safe people around you, and chase beauty together. Let's chase beauty together, even though it feels a bit like a fool's errand. It feels like childhood all over again and so we label beauty-chasing with words like childish, juvenile, naive. But it is right where we belong. We never grow old of "fairy stories" to bring us back to beauty and there -- there, we will find evangelium, the "good news,"* that there is redemption. That out of my own sorry, sad, story of twists and turns and the very death of dreams -- out of struggle -- that there is always, forever the hope of redemption. May we hope to spend our whole lives chasing a beauty that we only see fully on the other side.   // *Tolkein, "On Fairy Stories" Do you want to chase beauty and story too? Do you want some practical ways to do it? Then sign up for my secret monthly newsletter, where we get to chat together about what this looks like. I'm giving you a free ebook too -- with tons of tips to help you own your own story. Don't miss out. Life is too short to forget beauty.