never fully learned.

I want to live a full life. Joy tucked into smile wrinkles and grace that drips like jam, leaving sticky grace moments all over this life. I want to live my life with the words of Jesus echoing off my tongue, forever learning how to love.

I’m learning. I’ll never be fully “learned.”

During this period of being home, I’ve been learning how to still myself. Slow down and see the little treasures that surround me.

I saw it before, but now I feel like I am seeing this life with new eyes.

I see the stillness in my mother’s hands as she prepares strawberries for jam. A simple act of homemaking, and yet one of the biggest gifts she can offer her family. A home.

I see the stillness in my Dad’s voice as he reads about grace to us out loud. The wonder in his voice carries past the walls of this home and into my life. The wonder of grace installed deeply in him.

I see stillness in morning coffee, beans chosen for their notes of dark chocolate and vanilla.

I see stillness in words that I chose, even in the silent battle of my mind to choose the right ones.

I see stillness in friendship. The knowing, but also the loving.

I’ve had to slow down, in order to see the stillness.

The way the trees shake their leaves in praise and flowers open with new life.

I want to live a full life. A full life meaning that I slow down to see the stillness.

Allow it to be etched onto these bones and be tucked into these smile lines.

Learning, but never fully learned.

Oh Lord, may I never speed up to where I miss the stillness that surrounds me.

njl.

The between good and hard.

I walked into this time knowing that it was going to be long. I knew that there were times where I would be impatient. I knew that there would be times when my anxiety came in waves and days that didn’t go well. I didn’t know how much my faith would be tested. I didn’t know that those days where the anxiety spoke loud, that peace would yell louder. I didn’t know that I would still be in the thick of it, praising Jesus for what He has done. I didn’t know that the nanny position that I interviewed for, offered the position and turned down, would become my job for the summer after my camp job fell through. I didn’t know that my patience would be stretched. And then stretched some more. Leaving me to remind myself, that I will learn what I need to know, when I need to know. I’ve had to remind myself that before I was even formed, even thought of, even named, that He knew this would come. It would come, and last, but not stay.

I’ve opened and closed my corner of the internet multiple times now. Afraid to put these swirling thoughts onto the page, and yet wishing I could.

There has been a lot of mundane. And yet, beautiful things have come to be. Coffee early in the mornings, and movie nights late into the night. Family time. Beautiful family time. Oh the facetimes and phone calls. Writing letters, a cramping hand and cups of tea drank. Tears. Angry words spoken, and forgiveness asked. Preparation for things that are coming. There has been rest had. Going to be had.

This time has not been easy. There has been loss. I’ve been angry, screaming into the sky. Wishing it was over. The tears spilled onto my cheeks, and I’ve struggled to find the words that don’t exist for a time like this.

I recently wrote a piece on lament, while in a season of some pretty heavy lament.

“Good and hard meet there in the middle of it all. They sit with each other in the long nights, and the days spent questioning. Lament is this. Good and hard. The clash of two opposites into something that is, because what was to be isn’t anymore. Lament is part of all of this. The raw yet beautiful pain, good and bad. The deep need within us that knows that this is not the way that this should be.”

Good and hard. Two simple words, I couldn’t come up with anything else that fit this better then these two words. Good. Hard. Because this, all of this, is not how it should have been. It’s not the way it was planned. It’s not the way that God poured over his plans for this world to look like. When He spoke it into motion, commanding life, he wanted life. He chose life. Until humanity chose the fruit.

So I speak peace over this time. The knowing of good and hard, and choosing to sit in the middle of it. The glory filled moments found in the mundane. Choosing a thankful heart, and for more patience when it wears thin.

Until next time.

njl.

hope gets the last word

When this year started, I felt the Father tell me that I needed to hold onto the words “even if.” I don’t tend to choose a word every year, but this year I felt like that was something that I needed to hold onto, unknowing of what this year would bring.

Even when the anxiety comes back, He is still good.

Even if all of my plans are cancelled and I don’t know when I’ll be able to continue, He is still good.

Even if I haven’t hugged my friends in over two months, He is still good.

Even if my job doesn’t work out the way I thought it would, He is still good.

For even if, He is still good.

I had no idea, even when He was telling me “even if.”

This is the thing though, regardless of everything that is going on right now. He is still good. I’ve seen His hand in my life more than I ever have. Just a few weeks ago, I wasn’t sure if I had a job this summer. I’m beyond excited to share that I have been hired as a nanny, a job that I can work amidst a global pandemic. I had gone to this interview, already planning to work another job. There was something in me, that knew I should drive the hour and a half to go to an interview. Because of that interview, I now have a job, and my other (previously) planned job isn’t happening due to COVID. I woke up to an email about that job and promptly cried. Because even if, He is still good.

These weeks haven’t been easy. There’s been a lot of questioning and a lot of time sitting with the Lord. Asking about next steps, when I am unsure when I’ll even be able to take the next step.

These weeks have also been beautiful. I’ve cooked and laughed with my Mama. I’ve taken countless walks, at least once a day. Learned more about chicken farming with my Dad. My family is all under one roof, something that may never happen again as we move out and spread these wings. I’ve realized how funny my brother is, and how much bread we can consume as a family.

These weeks have also been full of learning more about myself, but also who Jesus is. A side of Him that I’ve never really seen before. Learning that I will never grow tired of who He is, and that’s a beautiful thing.

I’m learning that hope and fear can’t coexist in the same space. That Jesus loves to leave hope bread crumbs sprinkled around me. That Jesus gets the last word, hope gets the last word, for death lost that opportunity when He went to the cross.

For even if, he is still good.

njl.

so i say amen.

I’m trying to hold my hands open right now. There’s a part of me that wants to hold onto all of my plans as tight as I can, even though I know that I have zero control over what happens, and what has happened.

I’m trying to hold my hands open, because holding onto these plans is going to lead to more disappointment if I don’t let it all go.

I’ve been in seasons of unknown before, unsure of where I want to go, or what I want to do. This is the thing though, I’m in a season of unknowing, and I have no idea what is next. I had plans, I thought that I knew what was going to happen. Now, I don’t even know what I’m going to do tomorrow, let alone this summer for a job, and what about september?

So, I hold my hands open. My plans laid out on my palms, free for the taking.

This hasn’t been easy, getting to this point of opening my hands. There has been a lot of questioning, a lot of tears. There has been a lot of prayer. And I’m still in the thick of the unknown. I’m still here. I’ll be here for a while yet.

There’s something that needs to be said about this time, is how it shows that we never actually held the control. I never once held the controls to my future, even if it felt like that sometimes, and an invisible virus woke me up to this fact.

I’ve sat with this page open for a while now, the blank white staring back at me. Reminding me that the next few months of my life look a bit like this white page. Me, begging Jesus to pick up the pen and write it. Put something down on that page, something concrete because nothing is concrete in my life right now. He reminds me through my asking of Him to pick up the pen, is that He is just going to write of His love for me all over these pages because that’s the only thing that is concrete. For His love never changes.

My prayers have been messy, often uttered under my breath as the bad news threatens to take over. The words spilling out of my lips, knowing that He’s still listening.

Knowing that He’s picked up the pen, and He’s writing of His love for me.

I don’t know what I am doing this summer yet.

I don’t know about next year.

I have a friend who reminds me that these “I don’t knows” are okay. You don’t need to know. It’s okay to sit with them, and not get an answer. These “I don’t knows” are okay, and I need to allow them. I know that I am not the only person walking through a forest of “I don’t knows” right now, most of the world is, and there’s something oddly comforting about that.

So I say amen. For He knows. For He’s still sitting in the “I don’t knows” with you.

Holding my hands open, allowing His breath to blow these plans into the wind. I can’t hold onto them anymore, for they were never mine to hold onto in the beginning. I was never in control, but now I reminded who is in control, and who always was.

So I say amen.

njl.

processing grieving

I put together a list of twenty two things I have learned, over the past twenty two years that I have been earthside. One of those things on that list, was that I have learned to grieve lost experiences. I rang in my birthday at 4:30AM in the morning the other day. I had to take one of the girls that I was living with to the airport at 5AM, and my alarm went off at 4:30. I laid in bed for a moment, and whispered happy birthday to myself, knowing this was not the way that I wanted to spend my birthday – packing and cleaning and avoiding friends. I cried while scrubbing the kitchen floor, so many memories came flooding back from conversations we had while perched up on the counter. I realized that I was beginning the grieving process of lost experiences.

The world has found itself to be in a state of chaos in the last two weeks. All of a sudden, schools are closed, weddings are being cancelled, we are now told to social distance, amidst everything else that is going on.

All of a sudden, everything that I knew and was looking forward to, was ripped from my hands. I was left crying on the couch of a friend, unable to process what I had to do next, let alone the next number of months that hung in a balance that nobody, absolutely nobody knows how long will last.

And I am back, living with my parents. Learning how to grieve something that wasn’t exactly physical. There was no warm body for me to hug, to experience things with, memories to be made, before that person died. It is rather things that I won’t be able to experience now, these are the things that I find myself trying to grieve.

I know that I need to give myself the space to grieve, the space to sit with the Lord about what I have lost.

The light is still coming. I believe that.

I don’t know what it means to grieve like this, I don’t know if I have ever had to – at least to this extent. It comes in waves, hitting me when I least expect it. I think that I have come to terms with what is going on, and then I am reminded of something else that I will be missing out on.

To whoever reads this blog,

You are allowed to grieve. It’s a process, not one that is done overnight. You need to allow yourself to feel the sadness that is welling up inside of you. Take it to Jesus and sit with him about it. He wants to process it with you.

It’s a process. Know that.

This all being said, there is now a lot more time on my hands to write. I will (hopefully) be blogging more, showing up more to my writing account on instagram, and so forth.

If you need some encouragement in this time, send me an email – joysoakedwords@gmail.com with your address for some snail mail.

njl.

trust falls, sourdough bread crumbs and the valleys

I’ve written these words down. Then I delete them. And rewrite them. I think it’s time that these words stand as an anthem for myself, but for who else will read these words.

Last year, I walked through one of the lowest valleys that I have ever experienced in my life. The darkness seemed to come in from every side and I didn’t think I would ever find the light. I slowly found the light. It came in forms of calling my mom upwards of 15 times a day. It came in forms of pounding my fists against the bathroom floor, the voice of peace washing over me. Knowing that even though I could hardly see him, he was still there. Kneeling beside me and wiping my tears.

I don’t remember it being good one day, and bad the next. There seemed to be a slow descent into the darkness and then all of a sudden, it was bad and I didn’t know what to do.

I withdrew, and hid. I struggled to be an RA to the girls in my dorm, because I could hardly take care of myself. My marks dropped, and I felt like I had forgotten what it meant to be “Nat.” I felt fake. Emotionally empty. I was exhausted to the point where I was napping all of the time (and I never nap). I was putting on a mask to get through the day, through my classes. I didn’t know how to tell people that I was struggling. That I needed help. I felt lost and didn’t know which way to turn. I was in a couple of leadership positions, and I was worried about how people would view me if I opened up about how I felt, because I felt far from normal.

I was scared of the label that people would put on me. I was afraid to be diagnosed with depression, so I never went to the doctor. I was afraid, that if I would talk about what I was going through, that it would marr people’s view of me. I lived in a constant state of fear, and it took absolutely everything from me. Fear robbed me of everything, and I’m slowly beginning to find everything that Fear took.

I started to talk about it. Slowly. I started to sprinkle the breadcrumbs of hope as I walked through that season. The more I talked about it, the lighter the dark got. All of a sudden, it was a “hey, I’ve been there too” is what I was hearing from other people as I shared about this darkness that was enveloping me.

As I began to open these wounds that I was trying so hard to cover up, I began to see that I couldn’t deal with the wound on my own. I needed help. I needed people to come alongside me, and love me through that trial. As I began to realize this, I began to get random messages from people, telling me that they were praying for me. That Jesus had put me on their heart, so they reached out to tell me. These messages stood as beacons of light for me. Over and over. These messages just kept showing up in my inbox.

I’ve written about breadcrumbs before. The sprinkling of these metaphorical (sourdough breadcrumbs because that’s my favourite kind of bread) that mark where I’ve come from. They stand as a reminder of what was behind me, and when I look back, I can see how far I have come.

I’m still here. Those three words tell of the battle that I walked through.

I learned a lot about myself and about God through this low season, but I also learned how to pray. I felt like David, when I was flipping through the psalms. The lament, the asking of where God was. I learned how to pray when I didn’t know where else to turn. The prayer that I would whisper into the quiet of the night, in the early mornings when I would lie in bed and try to gather enough energy to get up.

“God, show up. I can’t keep doing this.”

He showed up. Everyday. Even when I didn’t see him in the moment. He was right beside me, sprinkling bread crumbs alongside me. I look back now, and can see him in those moments.

I have put off writing about this for a while now. I haven’t even looked back in my journals that I used during that time. I walked out the other side, and packed it all away into boxes. I taped up those boxes with hazard tape and tucked them back on the shelf. I didn’t have the emotional or even physical energy to try and get through those boxes. I had spent the better part of four months with a constant prayer on my lips, and I was ready to walk away from the pain that I had gone through.

I’ve began to take the boxes off the shelf and pull off the hazard tape, I know I need to make the time to sit with the journals that marked an incredibly painful part of my life. Writing this blog post was one step towards the processing and healing of that season.

Opening these boxes feels a bit like a trust fall between me and Jesus. If I lean back and allow myself to fall, I also have to trust that he will catch me. When I rip off that tape, he’s going to be there to catch me. Even though my humanness doubts that He will catch me in the 0.2 seconds between falling and being caught.

I have hesitated writing about this, because it was a really messy time in my life. I was hurting, and as the saying goes – hurting people hurt people. I cancelled plans without explanation and tried to push people out of my life so they wouldn’t see the rawness of my wounds. Instead of listening to my pleas to leave, these sweet friends came into my corner and rallied for me. They came into the valley, and took my hand. They told me that they were praying big prayers for me, and that they weren’t going anywhere.

Tears leak out of my eyes when somebody tells me that they’ve been praying for me. I’m humbled by the sheer love that I feel in that moment. That people are communicating with Heaven on behalf of me.

I’m sure I’ll come back to this topic again in the near future, it’s apart of my story and who I am. The sourdough breadcrumbs have been sprinkled alongside the two pairs of footprints that walked out of that valley together.

It’s a piece of who I am, that is shaping me into the person that writes this post now. Sitting at a table in the commons at my university, reflecting back on those months.

I carry the wounds and the scars of that valley. Of all the valleys that I walk through. They speak to the beautiful faithfulness of who Jesus is.

Here’s to life, valleys and mountains. Wounds and scars. Sourdough breadcrumbs. The need for corner celebrators and banging on heaven’s doors. Trust falls and the ripping off of hazard tape.

I’m still here.

njl.

woundedness

I learned something beautiful the other day. The greek root of the word vulnerable, is vulnus – which means wound.

If you have kept up with this blog, you know my deep love for words. It makes me fall in love with words even more when I learn the root of them, the base of where these words have come from.

We all carry wounds. I’ve written about these wounds before, but I was reminded of them once again in class the other day when I my professor taught us the root word of vulnerable. We were learning about the myths involving love, which led to a conversation about woundedness and our vulnerability surrounding these wounds that we all carry.

In chapel on Wednesday, the topic of feet washing, the bringing low to serve was taught. This poem that I wrote on wednesday came out of both of those teachings.

scandalous love 

to love is to open the wound

the vulnerability of showing up 

knowing the greek word for vulnerable 

is Vulnus

a wound 

wounds on Jesus’s hand and side

the wound of rejection 

cast on him from one he loved 

the betrayal of a kiss 

wounding deeper than 

lips to cheek 

shown through foot washing

the bending of a knee 

before those he loved

graphic humility 

shown through 

a basin

a jar of water 

and a towel 

revolutionary   love 

through the act

of serving

a showing of 

scandalous 

sacrificial 

radical 

love 

that sets us free. 

I was sitting in a meeting the other day, and we were talking about what it meant for vulnerability in leadership positions. What would it look like for me to share at the ministry that I run, these wounds that I carry? The beautiful thing about this idea of vulnerability is it allows people to realize that they might be carrying the same type of wound. For instance, I know what it’s like to be really hurt in friendships. This is one of many wounds that I carry within, but I have also been able to see how this wound has connected me with some incredible people who have shared similar experiences with friendships.

All of a sudden, you begin to realize that you aren’t the only person carrying wounds. You realize that you are not alone. That people too, have been where you are. All of a sudden, it’s a “hey, I know what that’s like, because I have experienced that too.”

I don’t know what kind of wounds you carry. I do know that each and everyone of us carries wounds because of our humanness. You aren’t alone in your woundedness.

njl.

i am more than ‘just’

I was sitting with somebody today, who was asking about my experience as an RA, and things that I have learned while doing this job. I was reminded of a conversation that I had had in the past, that has changed the way that I view this job. Any job that I take, or will have in the future.

I think we need to remove the word just from our vocabulary, or at least become aware of how we use the word.

I was standing in the kitchen of the camp that I was working at last summer, when the new executive director walked in and introduced himself. I introduced myself as well, and the fact that I was just the head cook.

“You are never just anything” he said back to me. I don’t think he realized the significance of what he said to me in that moment.

In that moment, I became aware of the importance of the words that we were speaking over ourselves. I had taken myself down to the very role that I was occupying – I was just the head cook. When I thought about what this meant, I realized that I brought so much more to that role then just the title that had been given to me.

How often do we speak “I am just” over areas of our lives, without even realizing it?

If we take the word just out of our sentences when speaking words over ourselves, we are taking out the title and box that we are trying to fit ourselves into when we say we are just.

I am so much more than just the title that I put myself under, and so are you.

Something that I have been working on, is my self confidence. I second guess decisions and don’t have a lot of faith in who I am. I have no issue believing in and building other individuals up, but within myself is where I fall short.

I didn’t realize that I was putting myself into a box under the title just until somebody called me out on it. It was apart of my normal vocabulary, it was normal for me to say I was just (and then the title of what job I was working)

I prefer to work in the background, I don’t like to be in the spotlight. I’m a quieter person – until you get me laughing. I like to be apart of a team, where we can work on things together. I never really got involved in things until 2nd year university, and now it feels like I am involved in more things than I can count.

I catch myself using the word when describing what I do.

“I am just the digital editor. I am just an RA. I am just the identify leader.”

What if I said: “I am the digital editor, and an RA. I also lead Identify.”

These things are some of titles of things that I am involved in, titles that have the potential to define me if I’m not careful. These titles are jobs, but not who I am on a deeper level. They have the potential to define me, but within these titles, I am also so much more than just.

Within these jobs, I am a leader. A community builder. A dorm mom. A giver and a receiver. These titles are more than a just, but there’s also an understanding that these jobs do not define who I am.

I’ve got so much more to bring to this metaphorical table – more then the titles that attempt to define who I am, when I throw in the simple word just.

I need to be careful of how I use this small but powerful word in my vocabulary.

njl.

have you prayed?

A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with a friend over a steaming cup of coffee about something that I wanted to get better at. 

this whole thing called prayer. the prayer from the mountians praising him for the goodness. the prayer from the mud where we start begging to see him. 

Prayer helps us to see what is going on. 

I know that I’m not the only person that says “hey, I’ll pray for you.” 

and then I forget. 

I love the early mornings, where I get up and make a coffee. I sit in my favourite spot in my dorm – the corner seat by my plants where the light shines in, in the morning. I grab my journal and I spend some time with Jesus before starting my day. These are some of my favourite moments in the day. But in that time spent with a Jesus, I don’t spend a lot of it praying. I journal and read my bible and think about what he’s trying to teach me in that season, but I often forget to pray. 

I started carrying around a piece of paper in my back pocket with a list of prayer requests on it. Whenever I pull it out, I pray for those on the list. It’s a physical reminder to pray – because I’m human, and I fall short. I mess up, and I forget. 

He still wants to hear our prayers. Paper prayers and prayers whispered into the silence of the morning. 

I want to get better at prayer. A couple of days ago, a big decision regarding the next couple months was dropped into my lap. (well into my inbox) 

I wish that somebody would tell me which job to take. I wish that it would be made clear, which one I should take. 

Both are good jobs. 

Every person that I’ve talked to about this decision – hoping deep down that they will tell me which job I should take says the following. 

“Have you prayed about it?” 

And it feels like the air is knocked out of my lungs. I’m trying. I’m trying to pray about it, but I catch myself forming words to make this prayer sound good. I know I’m not praying about it as much as I should be, and when I am – I’m crafting the sentences to sound really good when I talk to my Father. 

I’m an English major. I spend my days crafting beautiful sentences. Choosing the right words to fit in perfectly next to other words. 

Jesus doesn’t ask for that. He doesn’t ask for the perfect grammar or the beautifully crafted sentence. 

He’s asking for prayer. For communication. 

“Jesus, I need you to step in. Show me.” 

It’s a simple prayer. 

I’m learning – I’m never not learning. I’m learning that prayer is a constant communication between me and my Father. Both in the mud and the mountains. 

It’s where my humanness really shows up. The reminder that I need Him. More than I think I do. Way more than I think I do. 

There are people in my life that I consider to be prayer warriors. These people have been in the battle, and they’ve come out the other side knowing what it takes to have prayer on your lips at all time. 

I want that – to be in constant communication with my Father. The world gets in the way, time and time again. Netflix. Social media. Things that waste my time. 

It’s about putting these things aside and coming back to him. Time and time again. Morning after morning. Afternoon after afternoon. Evening after evening. Day after day. 

Putting the work in. Fighting the battle to come out the other side knowing that I’m learning how to pray. To be in constant communication with him. 

This all being said, I know I’ll fall short. I’ll forget to pray. But He’s still listening. Waiting for my voice to pierce through the silence of the everyday. 

njl

even if

The words “Even If” have been my mantra over these past few months. I whispered them into the air of my silent bedroom in the moments after the countdown of the clock sent us all spirling into a new year. There was a lot of moments in 2019 that broke me, until I felt like I had nothing left to give. There were also moments where the Lord began to reveal some of his promises to me – promises from years ago that were now in fruitation. By the end of 2019, I was ready to wave goodbye to a year that took everything yet gave so much to me.

I don’t usually spend the time thinking about a word that I will carry with me throughout the year – because like the resolutions we all vow to keep, I’ve forgotten what that word is by the time we hit March. Except for this year. It has been a constant reminder, it’s been popping up everywhere. People will remind me. That even if, he is still good.

Let me break this sentence down for you, because there’s a lot of truth in just a few words.

Even if – These words follow an idea things are okay regardless of what happens. Even if you don’t get that job you want so badly. Even if your boyfriend breaks up with you – when you thought you would get married. Even if your grades are not as high as you would like.

He is still – A reminder that we follow a Father that loves us regardless of our accomplishments. There’s no “I have to all of this to get into heaven” rather he takes our hands and reminds us that his grace is enough.

Good – I’ve been sitting with this word for a while now. Good, the same word that God used when he described the work of His hand over creation. The same word that is used to describe him, stands as reminder of His faithfulness even if.

I don’t know where you have found yourself today reader. I don’t know what kind of mud you are walking through, but I’m here to remind you that even if, he is still good.

njl