These words make my heart soar.

Romans 8 has always been one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. (By “always,” I mean “in the relatively recent period of time since the Bible started seeming like something alive, instead of a dusty book from my childhood.”)

It is lovely in the NIV and the other translations I read frequently growing up, but it takes on a new, wing-sprouting, soul-soaring life in The Message. If you’re not familiar with the translation, Bono (of all people) summed it up pretty beautifully in an interview with Rolling Stone:

“There’s a translation of the Scriptures — the New Testament and the Books of Wisdom– that this guy Eugene Peterson has undertaken. It has been a great strength to me. He’s a poet and a scholar, and he’s brought the text back to the tone in which the books were written.” (x)

Below is the Message translation of Romans 8:12-29, with some (bolded) emphasis of my own.

There is joy beyond anything I can describe in this new life, adventurous life, free of grave-tending and expectant before God.

There is more in these verses than I can comprehend –every time I read them, something new rises to the top. And I’m moved — moved like a revolution, not like a Hallmark card. I read these words and something shifts in me. Living and active.

“So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent? There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! 

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike ‘What’s next, Papa?’ God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us — an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him.

That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens.

All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. 

Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. 

God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored.

None of my words could follow that up. Glory.

About these ads

mountains, cities, glory

Screenshot

It’s fall, but the leaves only burst into color, into fire, into flame in the mountains. I’d forgotten that was true.

The trees outside my apartment started turning and a small, hill-bound piece of my heart recoiled and said — there’s something wrong with them, right? The leaves all turned the same color of rusty yellow-brown, and crumpled, and fell.

Sometimes I have a perverse desire to take people by the shoulders and yell. You don’t understand, I’ll tell them, the day that fantasies become real. I lived in the most beautiful place in the world. Do you understand? 

I don’t know how to describe it, but Halloween is a good time to try, because it helps to draw on some October imagery. The southern Appalachians have a magic hold on me, a witch’s-cauldron hold, a sorcerer’s.

I got to have them for six years, to chase after them and find, over and over again, in a thousand little aches, that they couldn’t be grasped. There is none of that in Atlanta, no leaves glowing gold, no mountain laurel making the air smell like earth and laundry.

But. In the mountains, I never got to crane my neck and strain my eyes and feel, pressing down on me, the power of a human race that manages to stack buildings toward the sky. The mountains don’t glitter with the lights from workaholics’ windows as dusk falls down.

Here, I walk through markets, streets, parks, paths, cataloging everyone around me, making up names and stories for all the faces I see. There’s no exhausting the supply of things to explore, no need for new to give way to familiar.

I walk until my calves ache; I run my hands along brick walls, knowing I should be hand-sanitizing like crazy but not caring at all. I burst through days feeling, quietly, the surge of energy that comes from drawing a paycheck, and doing what I love, in the same place.

My heart is split in half, between places, between people. It’s an embarrassment of riches, an outpouring of grace, this getting to love so much that I’m always missing somewhere and somebody.

And I didn’t deserve any of it.

And I don’t believe in accidents.

Glory.

Currently…

…in the best freaking mood because it’s a three-day weekend and I have absolutely nothing on my plate but wandering around Atlanta all weekend.

But I’m these things, too!

Reading Peachtree Road by Anne Rivers Siddons. In the mornings, the She Reads Truth “This is the Gospel” study and the book of Exodus.

Watching Parks & Rec reruns still.

Trying to walk more, to ask more questions instead of pretending to know, to be thoughtful without wanting “credit” for it.

Eating nada, but I had pizza for dinner which is embarrassing because the last time I wrote one of these, I’d also just had pizza.

Pinning quotes about faith, a thing or two for work, cool cities.

Tweeting politics, cities, nostalgia.

Going to find somewhere cool along the Chattahoochee to take a walk tomorrow!

Loving Exploring. Music. Change.

Discovering that I need to slooooow down and make decisions that aren’t based on ego.

Enjoying anywhere I can shop or eat outside, YA fiction, and a three-day weekend.

Thinking about said three-day weekend and the song I’m listening to.

Feeling wonderful. And a little chilly.

Hoping for wisdom to make the changes I need to make, and growing friendships.

Listening to so much Outkast it’s ridiculous.

Thanking God for the sweet, slow glory of walking with Him. Who am I to be blessed with You?!

What I’m learning lately

I’m learning to ask for virtues instead of things. For so much of my life, I’ve made prayer a wish list: God, give me money. God, give me health. But the book of James says we should ask for wisdom — “boldly, believingly” — so, slowly and grudgingly as always, I’ve started doing that.

I have such a mean streak, so I pray and ask for love.

I’m embarrassingly quick to slam my hand on the horn of my car, or roll my eyes and shove past slow walkers, so I pray and ask for patience.

And steadily, those gifts of wisdom have piled onto me, heavy, and they’re better than health and money. It’s the kind of thing I’d normally say because it sounds good, but this time I’m saying it because it’s all over my life. It’s true.

I’m learning that there’s time. I want so badly to live in the heart of everything, to walk or take the train everywhere, to (yes) live in a cool neighborhood.

But I can’t afford it. And there are people in every cool, walkable, middle-of-everything neighborhood who couldn’t afford any better than the ‘burbs when they were 24.

I’m doing what I can. And I’m lucky. And there’s time.

I’m learning that “people are complicated” does not translate to “stay away from people.” Even though I’m such an introvert that I search for reasons to wall people off. Things they messed up. Things I messed up.

But that’s so wrong-headed, I’m learning, because if you wait for people who fit the criteria in your head, or hold out for the exact behavior you want from yourself, you will end up with no one.

And we weren’t meant to live like that.

Octobers

1376562_10200848181555375_1533572513_n

I walked outside tonight and smelled food grilling, mixed with October air. The first one’s not unusual; my neighbors always have fresh tortillas and vegetables and all manner of deliciousness on the grill. Nothing, on the other hand, smells quite like October.

That smell (sap, chill, crumbling leaves) brings me back to Halloweens and church carnivals. In the deep South, where I grew up, it heralded the first chill strong enough for a sweatshirt; in the mountains, it often brought the first snow.

When I try to break down the source of October’s scent, I ruin it a little…but I’m willing to pose a theory on why October itself is so lovely.

I think it’s because it’s so distinct.

The particulars of October are lovely on their own; they’d probably retain some of their thrill if they were more common. But I think our joy in Octobers (and our allegiance to them, spawning soliloquies like this and this) is found in their uniqueness.

The end of April and the beginning of May feel more or less alike. As soon as November pulls itself out of the gray-rain doldrums, it’s not dissimilar from December. Late July and early August? Please.

But what other month has frost in the air, but not so much you need a jacket, has the festivity of a childish holiday, but not so much you’re sick with stress?

Only October. So much is reserved — only for October. So by virtue of distinctness, we can clearly link the first frosty air and the first pumpkin-ed porch to all the Octobers of the past.

We need those links to leaves crunching under kid-sized light-up sneakers, and college football games in terrible costumes, and (horrible) clunking our chins on cheap metal bins as we attempt to bite apples out of bobbing water.

Our memories need enough strength to grab us, to get in front of us in the same air, the same sappy smell. We are built on the past.

We are built, in a way, on Octobers.

Missing.

ScreenshotA small-town newspaper, propped in the blue folds of Appalachian hills as they flattened toward the Piedmont, ran my life for one year, one month and nine days.

So I was there for a year, and then there was this three- or four-week whirlwind of applications and interviews and calls, and a whole new life swallowed me up. I was covering Valentine’s Day weddings at city hall when I got the offer; I had to duck outside and keep my voice down. Then everything that was about my life, suddenly wasn’t.

It is so strange to miss something when you were anxious to leave it. Even stranger to miss something when you don’t want it back.

But I do miss it. I don’t miss the constant, low-level longing for city noise, or the job, or the shallow things, like driving 30 minutes for Starbucks.

But I do miss the people who surrounded me, and I wish I’d accepted more invitations, walled myself off less. I miss the possibilities, all the things I could’ve done. In a town that small, I should’ve made it to everything. Instead, I tried a fraction, and spent the rest of the time in my apartment or up the mountain in Boone, wishing for something — somewhere — else.

So I’m writing my advice to someone else in a similar situation, or maybe to myself, in this one:

Savor it. Whatever it is. Wear yourself out with experiences; exhaust every possibility. Be afraid, but don’t let the fear consume everything.

Whatever this is, you only get to do it once.

blogtember 13 | joy alone

Your current relationship status. If dating/married, give us a glimpse of your story! If single, share about this special season.

25e479bc775ce134a2d697439ed171f8

I am single. No significant other, no kids.

In some ways, I’m alone. It’s not anything cosmic or melodramatic, just the reality of a new-ish city…seven months in, you’re still easing into friendships and, you know, you’re never around someone you’ve known for more than seven months.

And I am relishing it. Every second. Glorying in it.

Whenever I take stock of this season of my life, I realize how much I love it. I will love it as a season, or I will love it forever.

I’m thinking of how people will process these words, and I feel pretty certain they will come across as whitewashing, or badly disguised sour grapes. But it’s not either.

I absolutely get lonely sometimes, the kind of lonely that goes on a caving expedition in the middle of your chest. But disparate facts can exist at once, and I am also grateful for this time to just be me, alone, to talk to myself in my apartment, to buy symphony tickets on a whim, to choose.

The future is misty to me. Maybe it holds little souls to mend and mold (and perfect baby hands), and wedding rings, and an SUV and a (gulp) mortgage.

Or maybe it will be like this forever. Pinterest doctrine holds otherwise, but God does not promise or mandate marriage. Paul says it in plain language, in his first letter to the Corinthians: “God gives the gift of the single life to some, the gift of the married life to others.”

I’ve gotten in the habit of trusting His gifts.

blogtember 12 | traditions

Tell us about a favorite tradition. It could be a family tradition or from a holiday, university, you-name-it. What makes it so special?

fair

There are a few “real” traditions in my life.

Coffee cake on Christmas morning. Crowding into a house by the lake on Christmas Eve. Chinese food and rented movies for New Year’s.

But my favorites are the traditions that develop without anyone noticing. Ones that slip into the fabric on their own, instead of waiting to be woven in. Unengineered traditions, you could call them.

Like having more copies of National Lampoon’s Vacation around the house than any human ever needs, because my dad likes buying my mom reminders of their first date.

Like mom noticing, usually at the last minute, that we’re all wearing sorta nice clothes that sorta coordinate, and corralling us together for a Christmas card picture in July.

Like the hill a short walk from my freshman-year dorm, the one that overlooked most of campus and the crumbly, sparkly buildings downtown. Like sitting there and not reading, just thinking and being home.

I love all the miniature traditions of my changing day-to-day routine. Loved walking down King Street and half-smiling at the hippies stretched out on the sidewalks, and smiling at their dogs and their guitar cases, too. Loved breaking for lunch in my favorite lonely parking lot in Lenoir. Love dusky evening walks down to the train, especially tonight, because the wind whipped almost cold on the almost-first day of fall.

Making traditions is wonderful, but my favorite are the kind that happen to you.

Brave Love Blog

blogtember 11 | inspired

How do you stay inspired? Who inspires you the most?

costa brava

(source)

I’m inspired, primarily, by words and writing. I find ideas and motivation and the more ephemeral kind of inspiration — that kind of push to keep thinking of your life as something meaningful — in books and poetry and essays and biographies and news.

I am really inspired, millennial as it may sound,  by social media. Seeing what makes people tick — and often not in the grand, sweeping, this-is-my-manifesto-for-life way, but in the simple, everyday sense — helps me understand life and understand people.

I’m inspired by beauty, both natural and the kind of beauty that happens when people crowd together in a city and project themselves onto slopes of homes and awnings and bricks and walls.

And I’m inspired by people who are inspired themselves. People who are passionate about things. People who don’t do things the way they’ve always been done, unless that’s the best way to do them (and sometimes it is).

I’m inspired by people who throw themselves into life, caution aside, consequences aside.

blogtember 10 | ten things

List 10 things you love about yourself! Let’s kick that negative self-talk outta here!

Instead of doing what I really want to do — prefacing this with a paragraph about how uncomfortable it is to say you like something about yourself, and how I hope this doesn’t sound arrogant or silly — I’ll just go ahead and jump in.

t

I like my independence. If I want to go to a restaurant, and no one’s available to go with me, I’ll eat there by myself. If I want to see something, and no one else is interested, I’ll see it by myself. If I want to live somewhere, I’ll live there by myself. I like the fact that I don’t need a buffer of people to enjoy my surroundings.

I like that I read and type fast. I can gulp down words quickly, and burn them into a keyboard quickly, too. Both convenient skills when you can’t get enough of them.

Similar but not the same — I like that I can write. It’s a good thing, because (unless it’s an actual speech and I had the chance to write it out before) I am no good at expressing my thoughts any other way. Writing has opened up a lot of doors for me. I’m grateful for its portability, too. Who can take it from you, when you can take it with you anywhere?

I like that I can be at home anywhere. I really believe that you could dump me anywhere on earth and I could make a home of it. It may not be my ideal (if it’s not a city, it probably won’t be), but I could find something I loved about it, something that made it worth being there. Likewise, offer to take me on a trip just about anywhere and I’m on board. I’m not adventurous at all, I just like places.

I like my work ethic. It really only applies to actual work (I wish I had applied it to school). Actually, if we’re being honest, it applies disproportionately to work I enjoy in some way — but I’m lucky enough to’ve felt that, at least a little, for all but one or two menial jobs. I like that I enjoy working and I like that I’m willing to overdo it a little.

I like my hair. I spent most of my life hating it because it is 100 percent insane and uncontrollable. I finally decided to just embrace the madness, and that’s made my life better.

I like the fact that I’m not afraid to have feelings. And, yes, let me tell you — I have a lot of them. If I’m not feeling some kind of overwhelming emotion, I’m probably asleep. But I think that giving in to those emotions — not allowing them to control me, but allowing myself to really feel — is such a key part of being alive. I have no interest in pretending to be on a cool, even keel.

I like that I am growing. This one varies depending on the season I’m in, but I generally refuse to be stagnant, and I like that. It was hard to think of ten discrete things I like about myself; this one was easier: When it comes to all the things I don’t like about myself, I know I’ll work to change them.

But really, everything good in me is Jesus. Those aren’t empty words. I have tried to develop good in myself independently, but I’ve found that I’m in constant, desperate need of a hand to pull me out of the muck & mire (and the more earth-bound parts of me want so badly to call that muck and mire home). I owe everything to Jesus, who makes me new.

Brave Love Blog

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 79 other followers