I'm grateful Luke and I broke up.

Now, before you get upset, I must also add in that I'm also quite grateful that we got back together. But I'm grateful that our first relationship ended in February of 2013, because it opened up room in my heart for me to move far, far away to a distant land known as South Florida. (Which ultimately opened the door to us getting back together, but that is a different blog post altogether.) Florida was a good move for me because I met wonderful people, got a fresh start, and started a job more difficult than I could have possibly dreamed.

I'm grateful for my difficult job. It was hard because it pulled me in multiple directions, many of which I had never tackled before (including being a boss!), and I had to learn a LOT very quickly. I failed a lot. I grew. I broke down. I grew some more. And, as one of my many tasks in this difficult job required, I discovered the exciting, elusive, curious, predictably unpredictable task that is coordinating social media.

I'm grateful for social media. Sure, it's messy and distracting and has made my love for books and my attention span duke it out on a daily basis. And figuring out how to do it for an organization was a tough learning curve, with my sole teacher being (ironically) a book. But learning to do corporate social media made a way for me to have a reason to turn my face to the sun today as I stood on top of a hill with the wind in my hair, shouting THANK YOU with all of my heart.

Because I'm grateful for my church. I was out in the pavilion reading a book assigned to our Creative Team, and as I closed the cover and stood to walk back toward the building, I was suddenly overwhelmed (as I find I often am) by the fact that I get to work here. Here, where my life was transformed four years ago. Here, where Heaven gets bigger and people encounter hope every single day. Here, where brilliant, inspired people that I love, that I get to call my team, laugh and make great art at stations nearby and next to mine. Here, where my precious Luke works right downstairs. So yeah. I'm glad we broke up. And I'm grateful for the stuff in between. The in-betweens lead to the face-to-the-sun moments. Don't despise the in-betweens. 

You Don't Know What You Need

Luke and I were giggling this morning, talking about what our expectations were for our mates before we met one another. Luke, being older and wiser than me, had a long list of things he had prayed about for years - and he prayed specific things! Exuberant personality, big smile, not-ugly feet. Me, I just had a list of things I thought were important, and I didn't necessarily submit them to God. I just thought it was an empirically accurate collection of descriptors for what my man should be like. 

It's cool for Luke to look back at the list he prayed over and realize that God answered his prayers in the little things. (Apparently I have been gifted with not-ugly feet.)
It's cool for me to look back at the list I created and realize that I had absolutely no idea what I needed or would actually love having in a husband.
Today, I am beyond grateful to have an omniscient God as the One who calls the shots in my life. 

Our relationship has been littered with moments of Luke being a certain way that he is and me being surprised at how important his way of being is to me. Those moments always make me think back over my list and shake my head, laughing at what I thought would be crucial and wondering what else I missed. There are so many things I can tell you that have become non-negotiables for me because of the kind of man Luke is, but today I'll highlight just three. And if these three aren't on your "list," I'd encourage you to consider making another draft.

1. Kindness.
It's a little like niceness, but with a large dose of compassion added to the mix. Trust me - nice isn't enough. Find you someone who is eager to understand you and give you the benefit of the doubt.

2. Generosity.
It's not something many people think about, but man, generosity is HOT. Just think about what it would be like to live with a stingy person who doesn't think about the needs of others. Ew. But a guy who puts a section in the budget specifically for giving stuff away to help other people? Hello, handsome.

3. Gentleness.
Most women highly value words, and it's a rare man who appreciates the gravity of what he says and thus thinks extensively before speaking. Everything Luke says to me is full of thoughtfulness and grace. In three years, he has never hurt my feelings out of carelessness. I don't take it for granted, and you shouldn't take for granted your need to have your feelings considered in conversation.

You won't find these three qualities on any Cosmo Top 10 list. And they might not seem like the sexiest attributes a man can have, to an unmarried mind. But I can't imagine married life without them.

I hope this post inspires you to look for someone who will treat you like gold. And I hope it encourages you to run away from counsel that says your future spouse needs to be 10 out of 10 on your list or you're "settling." In what other area of your life have you always been right? Perhaps it's time to consider that Someone probably knows a little bit better than you. :) And it's ok. I didn't know what I needed either.

The Process

Luke and I are in still very much in the throes of moving me into his (our!) house, only being married for 3.5 weeks and all. My stuff is piled high in the guest room, with boxes of winter clothes reaching the ceiling and books and shoes and pieces of art and sheet music and and and scattered across the floor. My wedding dress is laid carefully across the guest bed next to his wedding suit so that they do not get wrinkled as we continue to not yet have a place to put them. Our kitchen and living room are full of empty cardboard boxes left in the wake of enormous generosity by those who love us. Needless to say, our house looks like a tornado hit, and every day, we attempt to assess and remedy some of the damage. 

Sometimes we just move wreckage from one room to another, but it feels like we're accomplishing something, so we do it anyway. 

One day, all of the cardboard will be in the dumpster and our bedroom won't be full of things destined for GoodWill and our guest room might actually comfortably house guests. One day, it will all be clean. But today is not that day.

I'm learning to be ok with the mess. To be ok with working all day and still feeling like there is a mountain of tasks left to accomplish. To say, "That's enough for today," even when it still looks like we had the Tazmanian Devil over for dinner. Cause that's life, isn't it? There's always a mess. You're always in a process. And you have to be ok with it - and the progress you've made today -  if you're going to make progress tomorrow. 

There's More In You

I just listened to the two college girls behind me in the coffee shop talk about absolutely nothing. For over an hour and a half. It was devastating.

Few realize that coffee is made for deep conversations. The surrounding gorgeous smell of freshly-roasted exotic beans is not meant for "I'm fine"s or "What's your favorite kind of ice cream?"s. (Smh.) Small talk is the great barrier keeping people from true connection. And coffee is designed for connection 

Few also realize that we, too, are designed for connection. We have this need for relationship planted deep within our souls - God created us for each other. But we cover our passions, what moves us, and our yearning desire to find common ground with others with simple answers like, "Everything's good," and rattling off that thing that one girl said today. We dismiss our greatest needs for the sake of safety - cause what if they really see me? - disrespecting both the inherent purpose of coffee and ourselves.

So next time you grab coffee with someone, especially if you're sitting near me, do me (and you) a favor. Ask the person across from you what makes them tick. Find out what's important to them, what makes them who they are. It's far more interesting - and eternally significant - and personally fulfilling - than a nice, long talk about the weather. 

Identity Crisis

Identity is a funny thing. We often define ourselves by the work we do (I am a doctor, I am a lawyer), or perhaps the work we want to do (I will be a pastor, I will be an artist), and somewhere in the defining process, we become very focused on [what it takes] to be the thing we want to be. Students of medicine spend years in school attempting to get A's on ridiculously difficult exams, because that's what good doctors are capable of. Doctors are brilliant information-retainers. So students break their backs under the weight of what the title "doctor" means. The course to becoming a pastor might be the same, with the prospective pastor categorically searching his heart to make sure his motives are pure, learning to communicate with ease, learning to love people - because these are things that great pastors do. 

What is ironically common about these processes is that while focusing on [what it takes] to be what we want to be, many of us end up losing sight of the [work] we wanted to do when we decided to become a ___________ in the first place. The striving to become can rob us of the reason to become, when all we really want to do is work

Jesus didn't do that. Defined, He was God, but He didn't spend His life focused on the things about himself that qualified Him to be God. His eyes were set on the reason that He came to this world. He knew who He was. Embracing that security, He then set His identity aside. And He worked. 

Being in very nature God,
[He] did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;
rather, He made Himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself to death -- 
even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:6-8

You, too, have an identity in which you can be secure. You are a child of God, whom God has said is both qualified and enough. You don't have to strive to define yourself in a certain way; God has already told you who you are. And you have a purpose to fulfill. So as you pursue your calling today, whether you bust your tail for A's or develop your communication skills, rest in the truth of who you are, and, securely, set it aside. And work