Deflated Balloons.

A red polka dotted balloon, almost knotted at the end to conceal it’s robust filling, slipped out of my hands and emptied itself of the air my lungs had worked double time to inflate it with.

I watched it fly spastically around the kitchen to land defeated on the counter by the coffee maker, and I cried.

I had been feeling a lot like that balloon. Exhausted. Worn. Tired. Full, but quickly deflated. So close to the end – nearly with the knot around this winter season – and then I lost it.

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the purpose and importance of winter. I’ve discovered that pressing in to this vulnerability, despite how uncomfortable it is, pushes me towards healing.

Maybe you’re like me: when things get hard, when winter shows up unexpectedly, I try to run. Not so much away from the problem, but through it. I figure if I pick up the pace, the days will pass faster and spring will come sooner.

But what I really needed to learn in this winter is not how to get out of it faster. No, I just need to know that it’s okay to be in winter.

Did you need to hear that, too? It’s okay to be in winter. 

It’s okay to hurt. It’s okay to want to stay inside. It’s okay to lock the door and shut the blinds. It’s okay to mourn.

It’s okay to cry in the wake of the changing seasons, to petition the earth to stop it’s rotation, if only for a moment, that you might regain your sense of direction.

It’s not just okay; it’s essential. Rushing into autumn leaves something in summer undone. And waiting for everyone else to be ready, or being pulled along by the ones lighting bonfires and baking pumpkin treats in August isn’t fair either.

And sometimes more than knowing that it’s okay to be there, we need to know that it’s okay to let others be there, too. We have this funny tendency to get uncomfortable when the people we love are hurting. And so we give advice and we say, “It will get better soon!” or “We’re here for you!” or “This won’t last forever!”

And as lovely and true and kind those things are to say, sometimes all the ones we love need to hear is “I know that sucks, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry it’s hard. And I’m sorry you’re hurting.”

That’s hard for us, isn’t it? It’s hard for me.

I’m a fixer. I want to make it better. I want to heal. I want to do. I want to say. I want to contribute tangibly to the get-my-friends-out-of-winter endeavor.

I’ve had a lot of beautiful, kind, encouraging, well-meaning folks around me this winter. I’ve heard lots of ‘It-won’t-last-forever’s and ‘Soon-it-will-be-better’s. And ya know what happened? It didn’t bring spring any quicker. It didn’t invoke sunshine. And it didn’t melt the snow. It left me feeling like I need to just get over winter and stop being affected by the cold. And somehow, somehow that made me hurt even more. Oh, the opposite of what was intended became inescapable.

Ultimately, this recent winter season has taught me how to love people better in their winters. I saw how badly I just needed to be validated that winter sucks & it’s hard & we’re not supposed to do it alone. It’s messy, isn’t it?

Sitting with people in their mess is hard and uncomfortable. But may those never be good enough reasons for us to stop.


How can you love your people better in the midst of their winter? How can you fight with them & for them? Do you know someone that needs a “I’m sorry it’s hard. Know I’m always on your team.” text message today? Or someone who needs a surprise white mocha, just so they know they’re loved?

Send those texts. Buy those mochas. It will speak worlds to your frozen friends.






 

The Thing About Seasons.

I feel duped by nature.

Just when I thought I had things under control, I feel blindsided by a reality that somehow slipped passed me:

seasons are cyclical.

Growing up in Florida gave me a fairytale view of Winter, consisting of warm cookies on cold days, pretty scarves, and Christmas day snowfalls. Autumn was a once a year feeling of 60-degree mornings, surely stolen by sunshine in the early afternoon. Spring was what we called autumn days that happened after Christmas, and Summer was every other waking moment.

I studied for exams on the beach in December. I wore sundresses and shorts and flip-flops year round. I owned boots, but rarely ever had a valid chance to wear them.

still my heart longed for seasons in a way that would validate my sometimes-weary heart. Although Summer seemed perpetual around me with the Atlantic just across the street, the seasons were surely changing within me.

My heart felt Winter when a dear family friend lost his battle with cancer months after his eighteenth birthday. Winter came again my first year post-grad when I worked an office job and realized I hated high heels, 9-6, and sitting alone behind my desk while my heart longed desperately for ministry. Winter came and taught me deeply, and I made myself believe I had learned all that Winter had to offer.

After enduring what I considered to be the coldest Winter of my life, Spring came again and it was lovely. I danced in fields of wildflowers and got sunburnt on the beach. Summer followed Spring, as it always does, and I delighted in every moment. I reflected on Winter, thanked Yahweh for the frost, and dug my heels deep into the warm seasons that followed.

But though I withstood that deep, dark Winter, patting myself on the back for surviving and moving on, I forgot that seasons were cyclical. I forgot that Winter would someday come again in my heart and life.

Moving to Dallas and taking a full-time position in ministry left me feeling quite comfortable in Summer. Things were new and fresh and I was feeling more free than ever before. Nothing was further from my mind than the thought of Winter.

But somewhere in the sunshine of moving to a town full of new adventures, Winter snuck in uninvited. A ministry team became me working by myself. Brainstorming sessions and staff meetings were left with my name alone on the attendee list. Event planning, weekly meetings, and overall administration came under my sphere of responsibility. Still barely able to navigate myself around town without my GPS, I was thrown headlong into a season I did not want, and was not ready for.

And that’s the thing about seasons: they don’t work on your time frame.

They don’t come and go when you want them to, or when you think you’re ready. Sometimes you’re thrown recklessly into a season of winter with one brief phone call, or after a marathon conversation that leaves you suddenly, and regrettably, single.

Sometimes Winter lasts longer than you would prefer. You could spend weeks and weeks longing for Spring to come, only for a blizzard to shock you in April. Seasons don’t honor our schedules or desires. They come uninvited and leave only when Yahweh deems it time for change.

And that might be the very best thing about seasons: they always come and they always go.

The sun shines in Alaska and South Florida still gets frost warnings every now and again. Winter will never stop showing up this side of heaven, but you can bet your bottom dollar that Spring will never, ever cease to follow. In the glory of sunflowers and Texas blue bonnets, the snow will melt and your heart will heal again.

In the midst of pain and confusion, hold tight to the promise of restoration. Let Winter heal your heart as it heals the earth and prepares for Spring. And just as Winter will never stop surrendering to Spring, so Yahweh will never stop fighting for your wholeness.

And in the midst of Summer celebrations with water slides and fresh lemonade, thank Jesus for the gift of carefree, giggly days. Recognize that this season is special and hard days will come again. Store the memories of these weekends on the lake knowing that they will be balm to your wintery heart.

Yahweh knew what He was doing when He crafted the earth to need seasons, and He knows your heart just as well. So whether you’re in Summer, Winter, or somewhere in between – trust Him, look to Him, cling to Him. He alone is our hope for spring, both on the earth and in our hearts.






They Went Fishing

In the wake of Easter celebrations, I find myself reflecting on and dwelling in the post-resurrection stories told to us through the four gospels. What was it like to feel absolute and utter despair on that fateful Friday? What was it like to walk away from the cross crushed in spirit + empty of hope?

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” seems to be an offensively weak description of what the friends of Jesus would have felt on that dark, silent Saturday. But that was surely not the end! Pure glory must have overcome them when their broken hope turned to promise and Christ appeared to them once again.

John wrote that “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples” (John 20:30) and Luke tells us that these appearances occurred over the course of forty days (Acts 1:3).

Those forty days must have been hard. Though beautifully exciting and full of wonder and joy, there was the overwhelming reality that things had changed. Having Jesus back wouldn’t look quite like it did before.

It’s always hard when things change, particularly when its unexpected and undesired. But we can learn tremendously from Jesus’ friends. We’re so much like them. Separated by centuries, but lovers of Christ just the same, and desperate to walk freely as we fight for hope and faith in His coming Kingdom.

Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples were together. Peter said to them, “I’m going fishing.” They replied, “We’ll go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

They went fishing.

These men were fishers by trade and by training. It was the heart of what they did in the days before Jesus wrecked them for ordinary living. It was their familiar, their go-to. And when Jesus came He called them out of it. He spoke worth and glory and vision over their lives and called them to walk into so much more. Healing, deliverance, and insight into Scripture like no one had ever known. Jesus had come, lived with them, died before them, and appeared again to them.

Fishing was a thing of their past. Fishing is what they used to do, who they used to be. It seems foolish and nearsighted for them to regress back into this way of living. Did they think Jesus was gone again? Did they get caught-up in town chatter about the man they thought would be King? Did they forget that Jesus had already overcome death? Doesn’t it represent an inkling of what they must have felt without Jesus around like He used to be?

I read Peter’s words with a heavy heart, with an at-the-end-of-my-rope kind of heart. The last three years of his life had been marked by adventure, miracles, and unending truth. Post-resurrection days must have felt so empty, so worthless. And so with nothing else to do, Peter suggests the one thing he knows he can count on: fishing.

What’s worse is scorecard John tacks on to the end of verse three: and they caught nothing. Can you imagine the frustration, embarrassment, and emptiness of this moment? They stay up all night long waiting for even an ounce of affirmation that everything will be okay…

Nothing.

And this is supposed to be their thing! Their reliable Plan B. Their trusty back-up plan. And they caught nothing.

Up to this moment, it’s a sad story of confused identity, broken hope, and empty nets. But don’t we find ourselves doing the very same thing?

Maybe not in occupation, but in the way we identify ourselves. We’ve been set free from so much – anxiety, depression, fear, and the pressure to be like everyone else. We’ve been called out of pride, anger, and self-righteous thinking. And we’ve been called into so much more.

And yet somehow, we find ourselves backsliding right back into our old way of thinking. No matter how great our encounter with Christ or how deeply we feel the Spirit of God. We get stuck one morning and go back to being what we used to be – the Perfectionist, the Pharisee, the Addict, the Sinner.

Our confusion is compounded by the reality that we live in a culture that defines us by what we do, far more than by who we are. We are waitresses, accountants, students, and baristas. We are musicians, athletes, and graduates. We are readers and writers; dreamers and thinkers and doers.

The disciples were fishermen. But they were so much more! And don’t we remember them as more? It’s surely says so by the way we describe them as disciples and not fishermen.

And yet, they went fishing. They went back to what they used to do.

When I think of the disciples I skip right over this in between. I go straight from the resurrection to Pentecost, and I don’t think twice about it. I forget so easily that this time in between left them confused and empty. And though Christ should have been the surest thing they looked to, they looked instead to fishing.

I find such comfort in the way Jesus graciously approached them on this empty-netted morning. It wasn’t condescending or mocking, but graceful and gentle. He didn’t walk to the sea and tell them to stop fishing. He didn’t wait for them to return to the shore empty handed.

Children, do you have any fish? Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.

This strikingly resembles Luke’s account of Jesus calling Peter, James, and John (Luke 5). Another night when they caught nothing and Jesus instructs them to put the nets out again. How offensive to tell a fisherman to “just cast the net out.” As if they had been trying other tactics. As if they didn’t know that to catch the fish you need to cast your net out.

Perhaps it was this command that alerted them to the identity of the mystery coach on the beach? Perhaps Jesus spoke in this very way to subtly ask:

What’re you doin’ out there?

Why are you fishing?

Jesus doesn’t get angry when we go back to those sure-fire, comfortable, reliable things. He blesses the fishing and he fills the net. Hear me, friend – it’s okay that you’ve gone back to fishing. But you must know that Jesus loves you more than to let you stay there. Can I tell you something?

You’re not a fisherman anymore.

You don’t have to do what you’ve always done. You don’t have to retreat in fear and distress and confusion. You don’t have to settle for how it used to be. You don’t have to be who you were.

Jesus knew that the disciples were days or weeks away from witnessing the ascension, receiving the Holy Spirit, and beginning the second greatest adventure of their lives.

You’ve been called out of fishing, and there’s grace upon grace when you go back to it. But be sure of this: Jesus will call you out of it again and He will restore every ounce of broken hope as you endure the dread of the in between.


What has Jesus called you out of? What has He called you into? What do you do on the days where you want nothing more than to get back in that old boat and do the things you used to do?

Lastly, and most importantly, are you listening to the voice on the shore that calls you out of it again + again + again?