These are my Rachel stories

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These are my Rachel stories.

*****

In the late winter of 2011, I was neck-deep in my internship counseling college students, finishing my graduate classes, youth leading and teaching Sunday school, and trying my hardest to have a social life. I was spread too thin, and I had no margins for anything “extra.”

Still, my friend Jesse told me to write my way through it. And so, I did.

In that same season, Rachel Held Evans’ writing and speaking were just taking off. She spoke at church in Grand Rapids, and she spent time in my friend Racie’s house after. I was supposed to be there, but my aunt died, which meant traveling to Florida, and then my uncle died, which meant traveling to Virginia, so a solo road trip to Michigan that weekend was out of the question.

I was told later that Rachel Held Evans was as generous with her time and herself as everyone expected her to be.

I was also told that I needed to read her blog, buy her book, follow her on social media. I was told she was someone whose story was not unlike my own, and that I would love her writing. I was told, as they had sitting around the table with her after her speaking engagement, I would find a kindred soul.

*****

I took in Rachel’s words tenaciously because my friends’ were right. Rachel Held Evans asked big questions of God, of the community of faith, of her friends, of herself, and then she read and thought and wrote her way to answers. And it was only to my benefit that she shared both the questions and the answers with the world.

I had long kept my own writing to myself. My questions and thoughts and words had long been held in the pages of my journals, though my friends knew that I was always writing. They would sit next to me in church and watch as I wrote on the bulletin, offering envelopes, and random index cards kept in the back pocket of the pews – sometimes, all three in a single service. They recognized that this was how I was making sense of my evolving faith, though we didn’t know to call it that until Rachel Held Evans gave us the language.

At the time I was given Rachel Held Evans writing, I was also beginning to own that writing was the way I processed the world too. The offering envelopes and index cards gave me away.

*****

That winter, when I was spread too thin and had no margins to write, Rachel Held Evans put out a call for guest writers on her blog. My friend Racie, seeing this, sent me a message and link – “You should look at this. I think you need to submit something.”

*****

I called the post “Always a Bridesmaid” because in that season, I was.

In 2010 alone, I was the maid-of-honor in two weddings. For a non-dress-wearer, I was getting quite the collection. I was also getting really pissed about how the evangelical church talked about singleness, touting from its pulpits that “marriage is the single greatest relationship” and minimizing all the good work that was taking the margins from my life. I wasn’t dating, but I was counseling and teaching and mentoring. I was creating long-standing friendships with my girlfriends, and I was giving all I had to support them in their new marriages.

So, I asked big questions of God, and the church, and myself – and I wrote.

I sent Rachel an email with the piece. I was expecting a kind rejection and instead got back:

“This is exactly what I’m after. Thank you! I’ll follow up when I post it, but I think this is going to land well.”

Rachel was right. It did.

*****

Rachel kept writing, and so did I.

I finished my internship and graduated, I kept youth leading, I wrote a blog post here and there. Rachel spent a year studying biblical womanhood, and wrote another book. She left the evangelical church, and wrote another book.

After she published Searching for Sunday, she went on a speaking tour. She packed a church in Lancaster, PA with people who, like me, needed to be reminded that there was space in the community of faith for them. We were people who needed to have Rachel speak over us:

“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of oddballs and outcasts gathered at the table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.”

I found myself sitting in the front row of her talk after a traumatic experience at my church of twenty years left me homeless, left me battered, left me angry. I was told there was no place for me in the community of faith as a single-educated woman; that all my work was appreciated, but only so much; that I needed to stop asking questions and rocking the boat. Rachel Held Evans, though, reminded me that those who said those things weren’t God, and that God said, “Come to the table. Come find rest.”

*****

I hung at the back of the church with my mom and my friend, Nickie, until the line died down to visit with her. We were three of a handful of people left, and my voice cracked as I introduced myself to Rachel.

“I’m not sure if you remember this, but four years ago I wrote a guest post for you on singleness and the church. My Twitter handle is @AmberWack.”

She yelled, though I don’t think she meant to, “YOU! I KNOW YOU!” then she hugged me as hard as I’ve ever been hugged in my life. She looped my mom and Nickie into the conversation, sure to make space for everyone, and my mom – ever proud of me – told her I was working on a book.

Without pausing, Rachel grabbed my mom by shoulders, looked her dead in the eye, and said, “You’re a really good mom.” And she hugged her, and my mom cried.

With her arm still around my mom, she asked me to tell her about my book. I told her it was a mess of manuscript (it still is), but the ideas were all there. I told her I have always seen God most clearly in the love of my friends, and that the story in Mark about the paralyzed man who lowered through the roof by his friends to get to Jesus is maybe my favorite story in the whole of the Bible. I said that I think that story is a testimony to the reality that sometimes our friends actually save us.

Rachel didn’t take her arm off my mom’s shoulder when she said, firm and kind, “Write that book. And send it to me when you finish. That’s a book I want to read.”

*****

I haven’t finished the book. It’s still a mess of a manuscript. And I’ll never get to send it to Rachel. Because Rachel Held Evans died Saturday morning at the age of 37.

*****

My friend Megan texted me today to check in on me – “I super love you. I know you lost an inspiration and a sister in the writer fight for Jesus. Proud of you, and I’m hopeful that her words and faith will continue to change people’s hearts.”

I have no idea how to make sense of the loss of her. I have no idea how my faith will evolve without Rachel’s words to always point me back to hope and Jesus, although I know I will keep going back to her books as a touchstone – just as I have since I was neck-deep in graduate school. And I will borrow from her faith in the written word to inspire, help, and change people.  I think this is, as my friend Megan says, “the writer fight for Jesus.”

So, I will finish my book, the one Rachel wanted to read. I will continue in the work of asking big questions of God, and the church, and my friends, and myself.  I will write my way toward answers, and I will share both the questions and the answers with the world.

But, when I don’t have answers, I’ll tell stories. And I’ll start today, telling my Rachel stories.

What I’m Into – May 2017

Hi all! Happy almost-June to you!

For the first time in many moons, I feel like I’m truly on summer vacation. This is the benefit of working (mostly) according to the academic calendar. And having a second job that means I can sit in my favorite oversized red chair in my living room with the balcony door open and stay in my sweat pants.

My roommate’s first question when she gets home from her nine-to-five job every day is, “Did you leave the apartment today?” It does not sadden me not at all that most days I can say “no” before we change and leave for the gym. Bonus: I’m saving a ton of gas money because I never go anywhere.

But, I’ll be honest, I feel super conflicted about this time that I have on my hands. I could find a third job, something part-time that could bolster my savings account and help pay for all of the lovely wedding details. (Side note: My impulse there is to say “stupid” wedding details, because wedding planning is so not my favorite thing and the expense of the wedding is STRESSING ME OUT. But, I’ve been told that I need to, in Jesse’s words, knock it off. And it occurs to me that calling the wedding stupid might just be hurting Nick’s feelings, so I should probably, you know, knock it off. So, “lovely” is the word I’m going with. If it comes across as sarcastic, well…there’s only so much a girl can change.) (Side note to the side note: I am more excited to marry Nick than I have been about just about anything else in my life, which is a weird thing to admit out loud for this girl who always prioritized school and work, but there it is. My goal for the rest of the summer is to try to get that excitement to translate to excitement about the actual wedding. I’m sure I will be perfectly lovely as I attempt this.) (Side note to the side note of the side note: Nick is saint.)

The other thing I can do with this summer is…write.

If you’ve been around here at all in the last few years, you know that I have been kicking around the idea of a book. You may even know that I have a shitty first draft of a manuscript on a hard drive buried in the back of my TV cabinet. (Another side note: If you’re a student and you’ve been in my freshmen comp class, you just caught that reference to Anne Lamott. I want you to note that all writers start with shitty first drafts, and then we do the work to make it better, usually with an editor. The best lesson you can learn as a writer is to love your editor. Also, hi students!) (Another side note to the side note: I can’t not teach. It’s in my bones now. Enjoy.)

My editor-friend, more friend than editor, is so committed to my writing that she has arranged her schedule so that we can work across from each other most Friday afternoons at Grand Rapids coffee shop. She does her editing and emailing for her real job, while I try to stay off Twitter and try to get some writing done. This is what happens when you have good friends who take you seriously when you say, “I’m really poorly self-disciplined. I need someone next to me to yell at me to stop getting online and baking cookies.”

I’m grateful for good friends. And because of just these Friday afternoons, I have at-least-they’re-started shitty first drafts of six essays wanting my attention to be finished. I’m hopeful that these are the bones of a better book than the one that’s on the old hard drive.

I suspect if I buckle down, I might be able to knock the thing out before school starts again in the Fall. But, that assumes I can get over the guilt of not taking on another job. (My best people are already championing me and yelling at me to get over myself. Don’t @ me.)

Doing

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I gave my final the first Wednesday in May, and within three hours of the last student putting the last period on their last essay, my bags were packed and Joy and I were headed to the airport for a week in Portland, Oregon. I graded on the plane, and I suspect that I was kinder in my marks than I would have been had I been at my dining table. That’s just what vacation does to a teacher’s mood. (Students, hi again. And you’re welcome.)

I won’t repeat what most of you have already seen on Facebook and Instagram, but let me say – I think this really was the trip of a lifetime. Not because I got to see a part of the world that I hadn’t seen before, or because we did a lot of really cool things and ate a lot of really good food, but because these friends who went through college with me are still my friends today, and there’s something special in spending time together as adults. There’s something sacred in knowing each other so well.

Also, we met Megan Rapinoe, and no one else in my world would nerd out even half as hard as three of us did over this photo with the US Women’s National Soccer Team’s corner-kick queen.

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Photo credits to Betts, for the selfies, and Joy, for everything that isn’t a selfie. 

Watching

 So, Joy and I have been working through Grey’s Anatomy on Netlflix for…way too long. It’s become even longer because we hopped over to the least-known Shonda show, Private Practice, which was a Grey’s spin-off. We saw a note pop up that it is leaving Netflix June 6, so we’ve been taking it down hard this month.

Frankly, it hasn’t left a lot of room for anything else. No shame.

Listening

I have discovered that I like running at the gym a lot more when I’m listening to a book or a podcast. You know I’ve been listening to Harry Potter for, like, the last two years. But, I’ve hit that part in Book 5 where Harry is a whiny little baby and I threw the book across the room the last time I tried reading them. I can’t afford to throw my phone, so I just stopped listening. I’ll get back to it again, but when I’m trapped in the car with hours to just power through and finish it. Next month I’m road tripping home again, so I’m hopeful for that then. (I’m sure it will be lovely.)

Instead, I’ve discovered that listening to the Popcast is a great way to distract myself at the gym. I’m now the idiot laughing on the treadmill with my ear buds in, but oh well. It’s, in their words, “delightful idiocy” that is “committed to educating you on the things that entertain but do not matter.” Yes, Lord. I am in.

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Also, Sheryl Crow released a new CD this month, and though I have not purchased a physical CD in years, I ran out and got this one. Sheryl’s music was the soundtrack of the year that Joy, Betts, and I all lived together in college, so it seemed only right to get it before we left on our trip to Portland. I’m not sorry. It sounds like a re-visit to the old Sheryl, like Tuesday Night Music Club Sheryl, which means it’s roll down the windows and sing along music. Which means it will also be a great soundtrack for this summer.

 

Reading

Basically, I sent a frantic text to Jesse and Nickie that said something along the lines of, “If I can’t check out of wedding planning every once in awhile, I’m going to elope and tell no one. I may not even tell Nick. I need a novel, what’ve you got?”

85990Nickie responded by buying and shipping me a copy of a Brent Weeks novel that is HUGE, and I’m glad I’m in summer hours and have the time to read it. Jesse, in typical Jesse fashion, offered the cheesiest of fairy tale stories. But, they weren’t available via my library, so I opted for a series that was suggested based on my search. Do not judge; it has a terrible title – The Princess Academy. It’s a trilogy, and it follows this one particular girl from a mining village where the next princess for this land is supposed to have been prophesied to come from. But, she’s kind of, as you would expect, the anti-princess and she does everything wrong. She’s not couth enough, she’s not pretty enough, and she’s not educated enough. She doesn’t even really want to be at the Academy where these miner girls are being trained to be a princess. She just wants to make her father proud, which of course she does, as you would expect.

I’m not saying it’s great literature, but it was a fun read, and I took each of the books down in an afternoon. Yay for middle-school age young adult fiction when you need to check out from wedding planning before you stab yourself in the eye with a fork if you have to look at one more Pinterest board!

Next month, I’m aiming for that Brent Weeks novel, S by JJ Abrams, a lesser-known JoJo Moyes novel, and a smattering of spiritual memoir. Because that is my favorite genre.

Kudos if you hung around to the end of this thing. I am, as I always am when I do one of these posts, linking up with What I’m Into at my friend Leigh’s.

If my life were a bullet journal entry…

  • May 2015 – I’m offered a job working at a ministry in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • August 2015 – After several weeks working remotely, I make the move to GR fulltime. I move into my friend’s guest room while I get settled and find an apartment.
  • August 2015 – Only four days after landing in GR, I go on my first date with Nick. He would tell me later that he knew I was a keeper because I ordered fancy mac and cheese and not a salad.
  • September 2015 – On the way home from a baseball game, Nick asks me if it would be weird if he told people I am his girlfriend. I tell him no, that would be alright.
  • September 2015 – I text Jesse and freak out about being a girlfriend to someone again, because my track record leads me to believe that I am a terrible girlfriend. She tells me to knock it off; I’m going to be fine.
  • November 2015 – I move out of my friend’s guest room and into my own apartment with Joy. I rejoice (legit, that is the only word for it) that I have the opportunity as an adult to live with my college roommate again. Because who as an adult ever gets that chance? Joy tells me to calm down and pare down my coffee mug collection because it is taking up too much room in our limited cabinet space.
  • December 2015 – Nick travels home with me to Maryland for the holidays and to meet my people. Everyone loves him. My friends hesitate to say it then, but later report that they could see then what would come a year later.
  • February 2016 – I’m called into the HR office of the ministry that moved me across the country and I am dismissed from my job.
  • April 2016 – I attend the Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing, where I get to hang out with the people from the ministry who still like me and fangirl over a bunch of writers I have admired for years. A friend of mine suggests that I start working as a virtual assistant.
  • May 2016 – I start working as a virtual assistant. This means that I am still maintaining social media accounts, but I’m doing it for individual bloggers and not for a ministry. It also means I get to work at home in my sweat pants most of the time.
  • June – August 2016 – I work, I date Nick, I go home to Maryland twice because my job allows me to work from anywhere. It is by all accounts a very good summer.
  • August 2016 – Five days before classes start, I get an email from a friend who teaches at my alma mater to let me know they are in need of professor for a section of College Composition immediately. He says he already gave the head of department my name. The next day, I get an email from the head of the English department asking for my CV and references. The next day, I get a call from the head of the writing faculty explaining how the class is structured and which textbook to use. I interrupt her to clarify that I have been offered the class. “I’m sorry,” she says. “I thought that was clear.”
  • August 2016 – I start teaching College Composition at the college I graduated from many moons before, thus fulfilling the prediction of my former advisor who said I would teach one day. (Sometimes professors are prophets.)
  • September 2016 – Nick and I celebrate one year together. It is officially the longest I have put up with anybody. It strikes me as really something that I do not want to bail, and in fact would say yes if he proposed.
  • October 2016 – My class evaluations are such that I am offered classes for the Spring semester and the following Fall. I am grateful. I feel at home in the classroom talking about writing.
  • December 2016 – The semester ends, and I have not only survived, but have flourished. I am grateful to have been fired earlier in the year because it gave me the freedom to say yes to the right job that came after it. I am grateful to be out of a cube, and out from under a boss who didn’t understand me. I am grateful to be back in the company of young people, grateful to be back at a white board, grateful to be invited into the space of helping college kids become their adult selves…even if it involves a heck of a lot more grading than youth leading, and a heck of a lot more talk about comma splices.
  • December 31, 2016 – Nick comes home with me again for the holidays. My people still love him, and unbeknownst to me have been in cahoots with him to pull of a pretty perfect proposal. He takes me to my favorite bay town, talks about how excited he is to keep building a life together, and drops to a knee by the lighthouse. We celebrate with my family and my best friends, who were all present for the moment he asked me to be his wife.
  • January 1, 2017 – Wedding planning craziness takes over my life. We set the wedding date for December 2017, and planning will be the joy and bane of my existence for the year, I can already tell.
  • January – April 2017 – My whole world is teaching writing and planning the wedding. Sometimes I eat. Sometimes I go to the gym. Mostly, I Google ways to avoid spending a crapton of money on wedding stuff. Jesse tells me to knock it off and start enjoying myself before I rob all the joy out of this season.
  • April 2017 and on – I promise to continue to enjoy myself. I have all the makings of a really good life right in front of me.

Shared in Common

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Every once in awhile a piece means something a little bit more than others. This would be one of those pieces.

Shannan Martin is a writer I have admired (and Twitter-stalked) for years – which all started because my BFF texted me one afternoon and was like, “I found a blog I love. You’ll love it too. Get to reading!” (Or something like that. She likes to boss me around like that when it comes to things that are good for me.)  And Jesse was, of course, right. Shannan’s words have been invaluable to me.  So, when Shannan emailed and invited me to write for her about what it has meant to me to be a single woman in church, I enthusiastically accepted.

I can’t tell the story of my singleness without telling the story of how my friends have loved me.  (I can’t tell most stories without telling of how my friends have loved me.) Because that is where I see God most clearly.

I’m grateful to Shannan for the chance to tell this particular story. I hope you’ll join me in her space.

*******

After I was fired at the beginning of last year, I went home to Maryland for a couple of weeks. I needed to hug my mom, pray with the ladies from my Bible study, and eat at my best friend’s table.

Years before, when I was in my last year of graduate school, finishing classes and interning, my best friend, Jesse, worried about me. I had mentioned offhandedly that my days were so busy I didn’t even have time to eat a sandwich, and she immediately bought protein bars for me to keep in my desk and insisted on making dinner Tuesday nights before we went to Bible study.  I didn’t have to do anything, she told me, I just had to show up and be okay eating whatever she was making.

Because of this invitation to simply come, their table became for me a place of sanctuary. It was a respite from the craziness of that busy season. I was allowed to come stressed. I was allowed to be tired. I was allowed to talk about work or school, or I was allowed to not talk about work and school. I had all permission in the world to just come; to not take care of anyone, and instead let my friends take care of me…

To read the rest of it, you’re gonna have to jump over to Shannan’s site. Then stay there awhile. Shannan’s words are life-giving. 

 

Why aren’t you writing more?

I have a writer I do some work for. We had a Skype call a few weeks ago to get to know each other, and she didn’t waste anytime. She started, “I have just one question. Why aren’t you writing more?”

That, of course, is totally loaded.

I’ve been actively avoiding writing for the better part of the week.

Although, to be fair, I think I’ve been actively avoiding writing for the better part of ten years.

A year ago, I did a big scary thing and I packed up all my clothes and a handful of books and a couple of photos of my family and my best friends and I moved halfway across the country into my friend’s guest room for a job I thought was the job.

 I found an apartment, and met a guy, and have been, for a year, building a life in Grand Rapids. I do not, however, have that job anymore.

The job that I thought would be the job was far too short-lived. And I can’t pretend even now to understand exactly why that job didn’t work out, why that ministry dismissed me, why God called me here for a reason that we all thought so clear that would turn out not to be the reason at all.

My guess, though, is that the job was a means by which to: one, get my attention and two, move me to the place that I am needed.

I confessed to my Bible study a few weeks ago that I understand the story of Jonah differently now. You know the one with the dude who gets told to go preach in a city he didn’t want to go to, so he ran away and found himself in the belly of a great big fish? I told my Bible study that I have known that I was called to writing, that I recognized even in elementary school that words came easily to me when my friends really struggled, and that struggle never made sense to me. I told them that writing makes me dredge for the truest things that I think and realest things that I feel, and sharing that with the world is scary in ways I can’t find words for.

And I confessed that I have tried to do everything but write for ten years. Social media management, therapy, youth ministry – while very good and (mostly) noble professions, I think for me they have always been me trying to be anywhere but the place I was called.

If I am Jonah, then writing is in my Nineveh.

And I think maybe that getting fired and the months that have followed have been my in-the-belly-of-the-big-fish-what-are-you-doing-to-do-with-your-life wake up call.

The writer who I do some work for told me to read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, the women who sold millions of copies of a different book on her quest to find herself by eating gobs of pizza and meditating in the Far East. The writer I do some work for said, “I’ll be honest, I didn’t love everything about this book, but I think you need to read the first section on fear. And then I think you need to get on with writing.”

I read it this morning, although I don’t think the section is really about fear, it’s about bravery. I can see why this writer I do some work for made me suggested I read it:

Around the age of fifteen, I somehow figured out that my fear had no variety to it, no depth, no substance, no texture. I noticed that my fear never changed, never delighted, never offered a surprise twist of unexpected ending. My fear was a song with one note – only one word, actually – and that word was, ‘STOP!’….

For the entirety of my young and skittish life, I had fixated upon my fear as if it were the most interesting thing about me, when actually it was the most mundane…My fear wasn’t some kind of artisanal object; it was just a mass-produced item, available on the shelves of any generic box store.

And that’s the thing I wanted to build my entire identity around?

The most boring instinct I possessed?

The panic reflex of my dumbest inner tadpole?

No.

So, that’s the thing, isn’t it? I could keep running, but that now feels much harder than actually doing the thing to which I have been called. (And hey, it only took me ten years to get there.)

Batman_quit procrastinating

 

What I’m Into – June 2016

Faithful blog readers and those who’ve stumbled here accidentally, hello!

I’m not going to give some big long explanation of why I haven’t been blogging (again), but I will give you a very short one – I just didn’t feel like it.

I think 2016 has marked one of the greatest years of change for me, and so much of the writing that’s been coming from what’s been happening has been reserved for my journals. (Plural, yes.) (Jesse, I’m counting on your to burn them should I meet my untimely demise. Please and thank you.)

What I'm Into

Even writing the What I’m Into posts for Leigh, which I usually have a lot of fun with, felt just a teensy bit too vulnerable. Because it’s not super fun to say month after month that what you’ve been into has been a lot of sitting on your balcony staring off into the trees watching the birds. (A friend reminded me recently that some might call that “being still,” but whatever. Let’s not split hairs.)

But, June 2016 has been a gift. So, let’s just take a hot minute to celebrate that.

Reading

I’ll admit that my actual ability to finish a book this year has been…uh…not so good. I am currently somewhere in the middle of – The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, Night Driving by Addie Zierman, and The Alphabet of Grace by Fredrick Buechner.

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And I feel like I will always be almost finishing Ann Patchett’s Truth and Beauty: A Friendship. I started this one back in the Fall, and I’m pretty committed to seeing how the friendship between Ann and her friend Lucy plays out, but I’m just going to say the unpopular thing – I think Lucy is kind of a terrible human being and not a very good friend, and I think I may feel too much for Ann, and reading this book makes me tired. I might just finish it by this Fall, but really, the jury is out.

Listening

I may have struggled to read, but audio books have been my jam this month. (A lot of hours in the car will do that to a person.) In the, like, 400 hours I spent in my Vibe this month, I have listened to in their entirety – Sophie Hudson’s Home is Where My People Are and A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet (which are read in all of her Mississippi-accented glory and I laughed out loud multiple times), Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs (which I then texted my best girlfriends and said, “Listen to or read this one to hear only how she talks about her friend Nicole. I love you!” Because I’m nothing if not a little sentimental about my girlfriends, and Annie is too), and Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban. I also made hearty strides in Goblet of Fire, but since it takes approximately half a lifetime to listen to each of the Harry Potter books (they all sit around 20 hours listening time), I will approximately finish the series on my deathbed. There aren’t enough hours in the Vibe, but like I said, I’m making hearty strides.

The soundtrack of my summer has seemed be the favorites – The Indigo Girls, A Retrospective; Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, Live at Luther College; and a smattering of Ben Rector. Because really, with all that Harry Potter to listen to, what has time for anything else?

Doing

Of course, we all know that my favorite thing about June was going home for a couple of weeks.

So, I hung out with these goofs, who are my favorite people on the planet. Abby rocked a nice little head cold most of my trip, but that, of course, doesn’t stop aunt and niece-in-love from enjoying an afternoon or two together.

And the neph-in-love and I went on a fun little ice cream date.

*Quick story: On one of the Sunday nights I was home, Jesse and I planned a BFF date. When I went to pick her up before we went out for dinner, Noah was super sad he wasn’t going with us, as much as we assured him that we were taking him and his brother on a breakfast date just a couple of days later. To which he said, adamantly, “No, Mom! A date is two people!” And then told her he wanted to go on a date with Aunt Amber (which she immediately said yes to and may have welled up a little), and is exactly how we ended up eating ice cream that turned our tongues blue a couple of days later.

Also, it was wicked hot so we played at the pool at Nana’s house. And by “play,” I mean the boys had way too much fun splashing me.

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These kids, man. I don’t think I could love them more.

Also, I went out and stood in a wheat field with one of my best pals. Because why the heck not?  And because I feel like we all need to be reminded that I don’t go home just to see the kids. (Yes, I absolutely do.)

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The end of June and my return to Michigan was marked with a baseball game with my favorite. (Sometimes you have to leave home to end up where you need to be.)

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July will bring with it more travels, more chances to hang with my people, and more time to listen to Harry Potter.

This summer is undoubtedly way more fun than sitting on the balcony, staring at the tree line, watching the birds.

Things that make a tribe

***This post originally appeared on the blog’s Facebook page on April 12, 2016***

About once a week, maybe once every other week I get a text message from a friend of mine who lives not near me at all – “Just checking in, friend. Doing okay?”

In fact, for most of our friendship now we have lived not near each other, both of us moving to different parts of the country after college and both us getting busy with those adult things that make being friends who live not near each other difficult. Most seasons don’t allow for such constant contact, but I’ll admit that I’m glad for it now. I need all the people I can get who ask, “How are you doing?” and won’t settle for less than a real answer.

I met this friend in the back row of a neuropsychology class my sophomore year of college after she hit me with the power cord of her computer and offered no apology, only saying, “That was an accident” and scowling. “No problem,” I said, intimidated a bit by this upperclassman who had spent the class hour building SIMS houses on her computer and then bulldozing them down.

The next week, in the middle of a lecture of about serotonin and its place in brain function, she looked up from her SIMS house and asked if I wanted one of the Pixie Sticks she had brought with her. Hopped up on sugar and bored of neuropsychology, we spent the rest of the semester trying not to get in trouble for laughing from the back row.

You just never know what is going to become the foundation of a good friendship.

Laughing. And candy. And a lot of grace to be who you are.

This friend who lives not near me, who texts often and wants to know how I’m really doing, is in a tough season too. And while I’m glad we are able to text and be real and talk about these things with each other, I wish for her that she had people in her town to talk to too. Because she’s an incredibly generous person, loyal and funny, and quick to dive into the messes with her people. She’s not afraid of a challenge, and brings a lot of strength with her into her relationships. She’s a friend who’s going to show up. And I have no doubt that her wife is built of the same kind of stock. And they need people to show up for them too right now.

My friend who lives not near me, who knows God and lives graciously and is devoted and loyal, has been rejected by the tribe of Church.

My friend who lives not near me has been let down by other people who know God.

My friend who lives not near me is in a rough season and she’s mostly alone and she’s sad.

And I hate that my friend is sad. I hate that this person who bought me the DSM-IV when I went back to grad school and who wrote a note that falls out every time I pick it up – “You are going to do great things. Love you, friend.” – is feeling alone in the world. I hate that when she thinks of Church now, she feels pain and condemnation instead of grace and love. I hate that her tribe failed her.

I want us to do better than that.

We can do better than that. We can offer more than running away or hiding from hard conversations. We can offer more than trite answers and quick responses. We can offer ourselves, our listening ears and our humble hearts. We can sit down sinner-to-sinner and find grace and God together. Because that’s the best part about our tribe. It’s the very thing that make us a tribe.

And we can do better.