there's been something on my heart for a while now. boys. they've been on my heart and in my mind but not in the way one would assume. i am friends with them, they know they have my trust. with trust comes vulnerability and heaviness. they know i will hold them at their weakest but who will hold me when i can't bare all their secrets anymore?

let me share something with you that they share with me.

boys are insecure.

like girls they worry about the way they look. it's the little things they do that i've picked up on that have triggered me to point the gun at them and ask if they are insecure. the way they look in the rear-view mirror and adjust their hair as they say, "my hair looks bad." or the way they tilt their face when we're taking a picture together to get the perfect angle. "take it again, i look bad in that one."

are you happy with who you are? the way you look? are you confident in who you are?

their answers are long. always. but more often than not the answer is no.

i've been going to the gym, i want better arms and thicker legs. my body needs to look amazing because my personality isn't that great. society makes me feel like i have to have a six-pack. i wish it was okay and i didn't have to worry about these things. there's a huge demand for girls ages 21-28 and that's a small amount of the population which means I need to step up my game. i know i'm good looking but i'm just okay. nope, im not handsome. my personality sucks. i could always look better and be better. i need to work on who i am as a person.

i've heard it all. it's all sad. before i starting paying attention to this matter i thought boys were confident. i didn't think that they cared as much as we do about self-image.


who can they tell these things to but themselves and the girls they trust? living in fear that their buddies will be boys about these kinds of things, so they don't bring it up. that's why my heart has sunk. boys have all these insecurities they hold within themselves and no one to talk about it with. girls have other girls to talk about these things with but boys don't have boys.

if boys talked about their insecurities they fear they would sound like girls. "stop being such a girl." don't blame boys for being emotionally unavailable and guarded. they have their reasons. but if one of them ever comes up to you and starts talking. listen and support them. that is the most vulnerable thing they could do.

everyone deals with self-image and self-love issues. it's hard to love yourself in a world that points out your flaws and tells you that you can't, and won't, couldn't and shouldn't. but that's what the world does. it points out your flaws, you must yell to the world that you are beautiful, no one else is going to do that for you.

it'll mean more when you yell, "I'M  BEAUTIFUL!" from the mountains than if the world were to say it.

- vanessa 

suffering, doubt, and the peace that surpasses it all

suffering, doubt, and the peace that surpasses it all

It is the first week of October.

I am crying in the parking lot of Whole Foods. My best friend has just lost her infant nephew.

He had made his entrance into the world far too early, but he came out fighting. He was so little, barely a pound, but there were so many people praying, nothing bad was going to happen to this baby. He was going to make it and time would fly and he would be a chubby-cheeked toddler, an absolute miracle, and a testament to the healing power of God. No one thought otherwise.

We were so sure.

He was here ten days, but then he went home.

Beautiful things tend to do that, you know.

My forehead is pressed into the dashboard, body over knees, my whole being a tangle of hot tears and sobbing because this wasn't supposed to happen. The world around me has taken on a daydream feel, but one with nightmare edges that curl and twist with the weight of a broken reality.

My heart is aching. I long to do something, be of some comfort to my friend, but she is hundreds of miles away, but not even the distance can contain the devastation of an outcome that makes you feel like hope slipped right through your fingers and left tremblings whys in its place.

It's been a few months and my friend still hurts because that kind of wound just doesn't heal and I want to hunt down the answers for her questions, but I've walked that road of wondering and wandering and I know it's like fighting the current. Exhausting.

She asks how my sister-in-law and her unborn baby are doing. And I flinch because “They're doing great. Oh, what are they having? A boy. Yeah. I'm going to have a nephew.” We both rejoice in the good news, but my words taste like salt and sting my lips because I remember how excited we were that we both would be aunts at the same time.

My mother takes pictures of twins and their happy parents. I remember when these toddlers came too soon, barely born and yet on death's doorstep. I remember how myself and everyone I knew hit their knees to intercede for these little ones and they made it.

They made it and I'm so happy, but the balloon of joy bumps the edges of a ceiling full of questions.

And my friend still hurts.

There was a time a few years ago when my mind was full of relentless questions. These whys and how comes were all I could see and they threatened to consume me. Through the fog of confusion, I lost sight of the heart of God, started to doubt he was for me, not against me, started to kind of wonder if He was really for and not against anyone. Never stopped believing, totally dedicated to Jesus, but constantly, constantly, spinning the question over in my mind; is God really good?

I searched and read through every apologetic text and blog I could get my hands on, but the brush-away answers never seemed to satisfy, only aggravated me because yeah, they might explain away some scenarios, but they weren't telling me who God even is.

The world's aching and brokenness just left me baffled. Was God an angry tyrant, unconcerned with our wretchedness, distant and far above it all because, after all, we do it to ourselves. Or was He the One so many called Abba Father, somehow both sovereign and intimately involved in the life of even the person considered the least of least? 

When I looked around at the state of the world, I found myself altogether, not sure, not sure, not sure.

From somewhere within my tangled heart, the same refrain:

Show me Your heart.
God, please, please.
Just show me Your heart.

The journey of this was far longer than a blog post could possibly speak of. I can't say that I ever got all of my answers. A few, yes, but there were mysteries that haven't been solved for me. But I found myself quietly seeking, even if it meant accepting that I wouldn't get an answer at that point in time.

I dug my way through Isaiah, discovered this powerful God who never gave up on a faithless and wandering nation, found the heartbeat of the story of the world, one of redemption and love, one that starts and ends at the foot of the Cross. I worked my way through the New Testament, read the gospels, again and again, fell so in love with Jesus, this Son of Man, this Son of God who loved so gently and so fiercely that He let Himself die so that we might live.

And it rang so true that those who earnestly seek God, find Him.

Because a God who has all of Heaven and leaves it just so He can have you is not a God who leaves us to our own devices, is not a God who ignores our pain.

In the gospel of John, we find the story of Lazarus. Most of us are familiar with the story, one of Jesus' more famous miracles. There are a few verses that stand out to me in this passage.

“When Jesus saw her[Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.”
John 11:33-35(ESV)

Jesus wept.

Jesus wept.

He wept.

Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, but He took a moment to step into the pain of those around Him, to empathize, and acknowledge the grief they were suffering. Jesus dignified and embraced that human experience, even though He knew Lazarus would be alive a few moments later. He didn't tell them to stop weeping, He didn't tell them to get over it, He didn't shudder away from their mourning, from their questions. He embraced it. Just like He embraced the suffering and brokenness of the entire world later on the Cross.

I don't know why my friend's nephew died. I don't know why babies die at all. Or why anyone, especially the most innocent, would suffer. I don't know a lot of things.

But I know Him.

I am convinced that a God who bankrupts Heaven, leaves all of His glory behind, to become flesh, walk among us in this bleeding and broken world, and suffer and die on our behalf...that God? He is good. And even when our prayers don't get answered the way that we want, I believe He is kind.

Echoing the words of Bill Johnson, I refuse to sacrifice the goodness of God on the altar of human reasoning in response to seemingly unanswered prayers.

So, even when our question remains unanswered this side of heaven and the doubt is pressing in on all sides, I believe we serve a God who cups our tear-stained faces and weeps with us. That not a single heartbreak goes unnoticed, not one wrong won't someday be made right.

Maybe you're in a dark night of the soul and battling things you can't bring yourself to speak of. Maybe every day is an endless circle of why and the answers just aren't enough. I can't promise that those answers will ever come. There are just some things that human logic can't justify or explain. 

But I can promise you that God sees and moreover, He cares.

Maybe the point of our doubts isn't to receive an answer to the question.

Maybe the point is to receive an understanding of the One who is so much greater than all of our questions.

Jehovah Shalom.


on top of the mountain

on top of the mountain

I am sitting on top of the mountain
looking down at the crowd below
my voice is as raw as the wind as it snatches my words away
my desperate, hopeful, welcoming words:
"please come with me"

But they stay in the valley and wait for my return
they can't even see me from where they stand
they look up and find the fog there instead
the fog of their minds and their thoughts and the words of others
the words which scratched my arms and legs on my way up the mountain
and now I stand on the summit, bleeding
but I'm alive
and they are not.

If only they could see
if only they could come
if only they could understand my words and follow
if only.

But they wait for me
and I might return
but not for long.
Because the mountain is my refuge
the place where I belong
and I don't care that I'm alone up here
at least that's what I tell myself.

"I don't care that I'm alone!" I cry into the wind.
But I do care.
Because I want them to see this view.

I have tears in my eyes
on the top of the mountain
because they insist on staying in the valley
where they can't see.

But I won't stop calling to them.
I won't stop screaming into the wind:
"please come with me"

this one is for all the outcasts like me. 
sometimes it's lonely on top of the mountain.
I just want you to know that I'm up here, too.
- abbie

your lowest

your lowest

I hope you know that your low can't be compared to anyone else's low.

What you know as your deepest pain is valuable no matter the situation. No matter what the story was.

I wish I could hold you.

Tell you that you'll be okay.

Weave my hands through your hair as you let tears form.

Its okay to be sad. There's nothing wrong with embracing that lowest low. But darling, don't stay there. Don't cling to that low. Cry it out but don't hold it close.

Move on darling.

Keep moving forward.

The forest is waiting to hear your cries. It wants to hold your ground while you lean against its trees and dip your head up in defeat. It's okay. It'll be okay. The forest will say.

Feel the dirt on your hands. There's hope. There is hope, Hope is out there.

Move on to your highest high. It may not be compared to someone else's highest but if it makes you grin and laugh to remember then, darling, be happy.

Dance within the forest. Dance like you've been on the top of the mountains but like you have also seen the bottom of the ocean. Let the world hear you laugh and cry. It's okay.

Be a flood of emotions. Embrace them.

But don't compare them.

Only you will understand your wave.

- Vanessa 

i hope you know

i hope you know

there are so many things that i hope you know.

i hope you know
that you are

that you should never doubt your beauty
or settle for being called "pretty"
because when you smile, you, my dear
are as radiant as the sun.

i hope you know
that you are

that no matter how overwhelmed you are right now
or how inadequate you feel
you are so capable
you've got this, love.

i hope you know
that you are

and that you've got to stop comparing everything that you do
to all of the other people that you see
because you are so uniquely created
and you have talents like nobody else

i hope you know
that you are

on the good days and the bad.
you are so so loved.
and that is the thing
that i will forever
hope you know.

- grace anne

center of the universe

center of the universe

From a young age we are taught

That the sun is not worth our time

I know so because we placed him the corner of our drawings as kids

When we get up everyday

We put him in the far corner away from our minds

We don't think about if he's going to rise

Or if he'll fail to set

He is the same

Day in

Day out

Yet we forget

That the sun

That was put there by the Son

Is the very center of our universe

Everything we do revolves around Him

Yet we still draw Him in the corner, as if He's only half there

And not what our whole life should be about

So I ask you

What are you putting at the center of your universe

Instead of the Son?

- jacy rayn

the warrior within [it's not easy]

the warrior within [it's not easy]

sometimes i wish change were easy. i wish that my desire to be a better individual, a more mature adult, and a more competent and disciplined person - i wish that developed in the ways that my gut instinct often wishes it could.

what do i mean by that?

i mean that sometimes i feel discontentment. that's a broad term - i get it. define it however it fits into your life. for me, it usually feels like "i wish i was doing more, producing more, or more disciplined" (negative thoughts, first of all. thoughts that should sound like: i am doing more than i was yesterday: awesome. i am learning each and every day how to be healthier in every way: awesome. ) 

then i think: if i just had more of a handle on my work tasks and finances - i'd be happy with myself. or if i traveled more, i would feel more knowledgeable. i would feel more accomplished. ugh, you know what...? I feel bored. I don't know how to explain it, i just feel bored with myself, i feel like i need a change, i feel like i'm in a rut. i should cut all my hair off. yeah. or color it. i need to do something drastic and different with myself; maybe i'll get a tattoo. maybe i'll start a different project. maybe... maybe... maybe.

everything above? thoughts. thoughts that have ALL passed through my head at one time or another, many of which are reoccurring. each have nuance differences, but all have commonalities: they are easy. they are so easy.

if your work situation was different - easy. has nothing to do with the internal stuff going on inside you. all external. easy.

oh, if only i traveled more. i used to actually think this... and now, standing on the other side of a trip to Europe, I can tell you - easy. all external. does not change you. is it fun and adventurous and in ways educational? sure. very. but easy. does not evoke change. 

i'm going to chop off my hair, or get a tattoo or get another piercing of some kind - that will make me feel more unique as an individual. that will change how i look at myself: nope. been there, done it. nope. it doesn't. you're the same person, and three days later you feel just as discontent with yourself as you did before. it is all external. it is all easy.

sometimes i wish it were easy and external. i mean, wouldn't that be great? if we could all feel better about ourselves if we just had _____________, or just did________. fill in the blanks. whatever. 

am i picking on you? no. no, i'm picking on myself in a loving way - because I have thought every single of of these things, and i have come to understand, now, at the age of 23, that these are lies. i want to reach back through time and whisper to my younger self: that's the easy road. wrong road to be on, girl. wrong road.

i've come to see, through a lot of sweat and tears, that it has never, and will never have anything to do with the easy and the external. are external things bad? some, yes. no, not all. setting high goals, getting after something, chasing your dream, doing the work, working out, maintaining your health - all good things. huge supporter of those things. but do not look to these things to change you. 

the fact is, it's not even that you need to "change" per se. it's that you need to find out who you really are. a character in my book uses this line that's become one of my favorites: there's a warrior within you. i love this line, and i don't take credit for it. God gave me that line, so if you quote it, don't credit me, credit Him, please. but it's so true... and it's something that i struggled with hardcore as a teenager, and still struggle with to this date. every single day, actually. because i always wish it was easy. i wish it was just that i need to workout more, or work more, or not lose my temper ever, or cut my hair, or travel, or get a tattoo. i wish that were the case. because then my ego could at last sit back and say "ahhh, yes. okay, kate. we're good. we're done. we're perfect. no more to do."

haha. nope

the right road is never easy. the righteous path is never smooth and without resistance. none of the people i look up to had easy paths: my parents, Martin Luther King, Jr. Martin Luther, many Navy SEALS and service members who i greatly respect - i look up to these people because of who they are and what they represent - and they did not become those individuals by taking the easy road. they did not become who they are by making easy choices. they are who they are because they looked inward and took the narrow path, day-by-day.

and you know what, i love myself. i love who i am  and who i continue to become and i love my friends, which include you guys reading this, and i love seeing you all grow and grasp and climb and struggle along with me. but if there's one thing i could say that would stick in your mind and stay with you - if there's one thing i could sear into my own head it would be this:

it's not easy. it's not external. it's not any of the things you see OUTSIDE. it's inside you. there's a warrior inside you, and what you need to be doing is getting quiet with yourself and your maker and figuring out more and more every single day, who that warrior is. because that's who you really are. and that's the only place you're ever going to find any sense of contentment and fulfillment. 

that's what i need to be doing. and if this post is nothing else, let it be a reminder to myself to stop wishing it was easy and external. to look inside myself, not outside. because Papa put a lot inside me, and you, and every single one of us, and i've only begun to scratch the surface of that potential. 

there's a deep reservoir of God-given potential inside each and every single one of us - and that, THAT is what makes us unique. that is what makes us continually become better, more beautiful, confident, competent, disciplined, focused, creative, fun individuals. that's what brings out the warrior within. 

nothing easy and external will ever help us to drink of those deep, sweet waters inside of us. you don't need different clothes or hair, or a different job, or a trip to find contentment. find contentment WITHIN you. within that day-by-day, moment-by-moment discovery of who you really are. because all those good things you aspire to? the potential for their fulfillment is already inside of you. trust that it's in there - not out there.

cheers to a good week,