I’m Cranky And I Know It

If I were to describe my relationship with faith and the church in this season of my life, I think there is an overarching theme that would emerge: I’m cranky.

There are parts of what I’ve grown up with that feel like a sweater I’ve grown out of—the hem doesn’t meet my jeans any longer and the sleeves are tight around my upper arms and it just feels uncomfortable. I read a book on spiritual formation for women and I wonder why so much of it is based on feelings and why it had to be directed at women instead of all of us. I leave a church service feeling grippy about the amount of first-person-personal-pronouns used in so many Christian songs today. I cross my arms feeling like I will never be respected or taken seriously in an evangelical community unless I am married with children.

Mostly, I notice my brokenness in all of this complaining and discontent.

A cycle of frustration and guilt, frustration and guilt, frustration and guilt has marked my days and I have had trouble reconciling the tension. So many prayers asking for contentment, or better attitudes, or anything to resolve the itchy, too-tight feeling I feel in my faith communities. Because, let’s be honest, I am the common denominator in these spheres.

It wasn’t until listening to two friends talk through one’s frustrating family situation that I began to find some hope.

“I’m just becoming so aware of my brokenness in all of this,” my one friend said, a little teary.

“But just think,” our friend responded, “He loves you too much to not make you aware of this. He wants you to know this is in you, and he’s singing over you with grace in this struggle. He won’t leave you here.”

I almost started sobbing right there. Because I felt this—I hadn’t known it before that moment, but this was what I had been aching for.

God loves us so much that he has covered us in his own righteousness that we can come before the Father without fear. And how much more does he loves us that he takes us just as we are, but also steps in to heal our broken places.

He is not looking for me to heal my broken, cranky places. Of that, I am incapable. He is making me more aware of them so that I bring them to him. To sit with him, seeking more of him. To behold over behave.

My purpose is not to fix the church. That is for God to do. I am part of the church—a very broken part at that. My purpose is to sit and let him work on me, surrendering how I think things should be—how I think I should be. To let him sing over me in grace so that I may walk out into the world with that same grace to give.

He confronts us with our brokenness not to shame us into submission. He wades into our broken places to demonstrate his grace and sing over us with love. It’s through grace and love that our broken places are made whole.

Your Gift is Not Broken

So most likely you had an experience involving a gift in the past week. You tore into the paper and revealed some new something that someone who cares about you chose for you with care. It was a great moment. You’ve been using it all week.

And it probably wasn’t broken when you received it.

I mean, at least in my experience- unless it’s a white elephant gift exchange – you don’t usually unwrap a Christmas gift, look at the giver and say, “Thank you!… Now you’re sure this isn’t broken?”… At least I hope you don’t.

I’ve talked about my involvement with the Breathe conference in a few previous posts. This past year, I sat in a session by the fabulous Tracy Groot and was given a gem of a thought that I’ve been chewing on for the past couple months:

“God has not given you a broken gift.”

Think about the power of that statement. But before you even do that, think about how you view the gifts God has given you.

If you’re like me, you may have been told you are gifted in a certain area, or even many areas, but you don’t quite believe it. I’m not a prodigy. I’m not famous. I’m not perfect. So my “gift” isn’t super great or anything. It just kind of is.

We act as if the gifts given from God are the ugly Christmas sweater great aunt Pearl made us… The one we’ll never use, tucked back in the crevasse of the closet.

But get this: God is the giver of good and perfect gifts! (Matthew 7:10-12)

To discount the work and the passions he has given is to discount the gifts he gives.

For me, I am not a perfect writer. By any means. (If you’ve stuck around Bohemia long enough, I’m sure you’ve noticed.) But I have a gift and a calling and I must be faithful to that because it is not a broken gift despite my brokenness. It is a gift I have been given to cultivate and grow in.

What gifts have you been given? Have you been believing the lie that that gift is broken? What does it mean for you to dwell in the truth that you have been given a good and perfect gift?

The Monday After Graduation

So I officially graduated this past weekend.

I’ve been done with school for a year–save a left over class this past fall–so it felt a little weird. Throughout the weekend I was asked by friends “Can you believe this is really happening?” and I wasn’t really sure how to respond. It didn’t feel like my graduation. It felt like I was there to support my friends and I had to wear are really weird hat as I did so.

Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to get some closure and walk with the people I started school with. As the provost announced “I present to you the class of spring 2014” I could only feel a little saddened because that wasn’t me. It was odd and detached, but still emotional and I really haven’t processed through that if you can tell from my rambling…

But as I was thinking yesterday afternoon, I realized that there are now hundreds of people in that class who now don’t know what’s next. They reached the point of the map I did last year and realized they have to chart the rest of the journey.

That all said, this is a open letter to those who woke up this morning realizing that they have no idea what to do with the rest of their lives.

Hi, friend.

This post is going live at noon. I’m not sure if you were up before then… probably not. Good for you.

Now you probably aren’t sure what to do now that you’re at your parents house. With no job. No money. No idea. I hope this doesn’t bring on too much panic. If so, go get a paper bag. Breathe into it.

Alright. You good? Good.

Know that even though you don’t know what’s next, God does. This season is going to require a LOT of trust. And trust is hard. It means you’re not in control anymore. It means that you recognize that your way is not the best way, but that the will of someone else is greater. It means you’ll probably walk down some hard roads, take some rough spills, have to look around and wonder where on earth you are in life.

There will be plenty of rejection letters and interviews that lead no where. Plenty of bills coming and not a lot of cash. Plenty of pressure felt but the question of ‘What are you doing now that you’re done with college?’ I hate that question. I think it’s safe for you to hate it to.

Know that it will take time to get your feet under you and get established. Know that it’s okay that you’re not using your degree as you act as a barista, a sales person, a factory worker, a whatever-you-need-to-be-to-pay-back-the-loans.

Also find a way to do what you love. Spend your nights doing that thing. Pay the bills and live with passion. Don’t waste this season because despite the confusion, the sense of being lost, there can be great beauty. Find community, talk with a mentor, be known. Learn who you are and spend time in the word.

Live big, feel small, and keep your hands open for what God may bring your way.

This is a hard place to be, but you can thrive here. I know it.

Praying for you, friend.

Congratulations on your accomplishment! Here’s to the hope of your next one.


The Pep Talk You Didn’t Know You Needed!–Susie Finkbeiner Guest Blogs

I met the wonderful Susie Finkbeiner through the wonderful Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing (April 10-12) and have loved getting to know a small bit of her heart for writing and her wonderful sense of humor through the Breathe Conference, her splendid blog, and her first novel, Paint Chips. Her latest novel, My Mother’s Chamomile, was released just last month and I highly recommend you check it out! In the midst of her novel promotion hubbub, she has been gracious enough to send a postcard Preppy Bohemia’s way. I was encouraged by her words and I now you will to! Don’t forget to give her a follow either by blog or by twitter, or a like facebook-way too!

I wove my very first fiction in kindergarten. I told a tale of a master ballerina, age 5, who stunned audiences with her spinning and twirling and leaping.
The ballerina was offered a job dancing on a big stage. However, she turned it down so that she could go to school. The tiny dancer’s name just happened to be Susie. And, well, she was me.
And, no, she couldn’t demonstrate the moves at school. She didn’t want to show off. And when I say “she”, I mean “me”.
My very first fiction was a big whopper of a lie.
I learned that day that I could take life and look at it from a different angle. I could see what was and make it into what could be.
Really, that’s all that fiction writers do. Even the ones who write about mythical creatures such as unicorns and vampires and Amish. Hold on. Amish are real. Right?
Flash forward an undisclosed amount of years. I’m now a working author. I’ve written two novels and am working on the third. I get paid to do this. And if that’s not the biggest gas in all the world, I don’t know what is. That’s not to say I get paid a lot. Still, I get some cash out of the deal. I love where I am now, making up stories, hoping that people will believe them.
But, somewhere in between ballerinas and published novels, I matured from a liar to a novelist. Was that transformation magic? Did I wish for it to be and it was so? Did I fall down the lucky tree and get smacked by every branch?
I’m happy to let you in on my secret. I’d love to share how I wound up sitting at my desk, wearing pajama pants, and making up novels. Come in close. Here’s my secret.
I worked really, really, really, really hard.
There you have it, folks. The magic, sparkly bullet is hard work. Oh, and a lot of perseverance and determination added on top.
From the day I lied about being a ballerina to this day, I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words. Possibly even millions. I don’t know. I’m a writer, not a mathematician. I’ve read thousands of books. I’ve had more rejections than acceptances. I’ve fallen on my face more than I’ve soared.
Can I tell you a little something about the down-side? The rejections? They’ve made me better. Stronger. More confident. Because I get back up, put my fingers on the keyboard and keep working. Also, they make the successes that much sweeter.
Are there short cuts? Ways to bypass the hard work? Sure. I suppose there are. But, would good writing be the result? It’s not likely.
It takes hard work. And when the work is done, you start over again. You work even harder. You strive to

make the next better than the one before.

Goodness gracious, this sounds really hard, doesn’t it?
That’s because it is. Here’s the thing, though. It’s worth it.
I don’t know your dream. I’d love to hear about it. Truly I would. Maybe you want to be an actor on Broadway. Possibly you want to invent something really cool that will enhance our lives. You might really want to be a Geometry teacher, in which case, God bless you. Seriously. Whatever your dream, I guarantee it will take a lot of work to achieve. It will take training and education and discipline. You will have to make sacrifices and give of yourself.
You will have to work really, really, really, really hard.
I promise, you will.
But hear me out. It will be worth it. Even if the biggest stage you stand upon is in a community theater. Or if you invent something that is cute, but not hugely useful. Even if all of your Geometry students fail miserably. I will tell you this, if you give your heart to it, no matter what, you will be a success.
If I wake up tomorrow and have a big, huge, “no thank you” letter in my inbox from an editor, I will still write.
If next week I find out that fiction is a bust and that nobody wants to read it anymore, I will still write.
Why? Because I love it. Even if no one ever reads another word I write, I’ll keep putting in the work.

I truly hope you will, too. 

The Obstacles to My Enjoyment

The weekend after I was laid off from the internship, I led on a youth retreat. Not exactly how I wanted to spend that weekend. I would have preferred to spend those couple days wrapped in self-pity and a blanket in bed with kleenex and what was left of my chocolate supply.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my girls! But I felt like I had just come off of one of the more hellish weeks of my life. Not only had I been laid off, but I was denied a promotion at my second job. 

And I felt lost.

The speaker for the weekend presented us with a quote from Larry Crabb that put it all in perspective for me:

We cannot count on God to arrange what happens in our lives in ways that will makes us feel good. We can, however, count on God to patiently remove all the obstacles to our enjoyment of Him. He is committed to our joy, and we can depend on Him to give us enough of a taste of that joy and enough hope that the best is still ahead to keep us going in spite of how much pain continues to plague our hearts.

Let that sink in. Read it again.

God does not want me to feel good. He is not out to make my life happy. He desires so much more for us!

God has taken captive the events of our lives, even those that were meant to be broken and twisted, and is bending them to his glory! He is a passionate father, seeking to remove every obstacle in order to be in right relationship with us.

His plan cannot be foiled! His love can only be ignored for so long before we are aching for it again. He is committed to our joy. He desires us to take joy in the plan he has laid out for us. They way is going to be hard. It is not always going to be the most comfortable or even bearable at points. But it is the end goal that gives us hope.

This does not mean He expects us to be happy all the time. To be honest, I am not happy right now. I still feel lost and a little sad. But there is joy in this season. There is a quiet moment each day when I am asked to come and be still with my father. A moment to refresh myself in the joy He has given me–a moment to realize that life is not about my comfort, but my enjoyment of the father.

God is not an ego maniac, forcing us to mindlessly worship him with happy faces even when life sucks. He is a father who yearns to be in relationship with us where we are–happy, sad, downright pissed. His desire is to be enjoyed by his children through their trust in His way, even when that way gets hard and uncomfortable. His desire is to be relied on in those moments. To be given a chance to comfort and guide his children through the dark and show them the light that is ahead for them.

Therefore, since we have been justified<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”> through faith,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”> we have peace<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(C)”> with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(E)”> by faith into this grace in which we now stand.<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(F)”> And we boast in the hope<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(G)”> of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(H)”> because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(J)”> does not put us to shame, because God’s love<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(K)”> has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,<span class="crossreference" style="font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;" value="(L)”> who has been given to us. –Romans 5:1-5

Friend, I encourage you to sit down with the father today. Remove the obstacles that are keeping you from enjoying him. Find peace and a taste of joy in that quiet moment with Him. 

Dear Freshman: The Three Things I Learned My First Semester of College

Many college classes are starting up again. I know many freshmen who are preparing to leave home for their first semester and I wanted to share some thoughts on the journey ahead of you. 

Now, I won’t lie, my first semester of college was one of the most challenging times of my life. But here’s the good news: Your first semester is always the hardest.

Here you are, living in a completely new place. You just packed up your belongings and moved into a room the size of your closet… with at least one other person. A stranger. Most of your friends are scattered all over the state, if not the whole country, and you know no one. Well, maybe a few people, but not everyone you have relied on for the last four years of your life… if not your whole life. You are living with strangers. You are sharing a bathroom with them… if not the rest of your hall… and you have never had as much homework in your entire life. It’s scary. Suddenly, you feel small. And you don’t really want to admit it, but you also feel lonely.

My church had warned us all–as it does all their graduating seniors–that in the next stage of life, we were going to experience LOAD. It was an acronym standing for Loneliness, Over-indulgence, Arrogance, and Depression. I figured I’d probably struggle with at least one of them, but not all… that was the arrogance talking. All three were at my doorstep everyday. It was hard. And it all came on so suddenly.

So here are the three things that got me through:

1.) Patience
Not a virtue as much as it is a necessity. 

The small Christian college I went to had a freshman orientation week… which heavily resembled my elementary school summer camp experience. We were placed in random groups (Free friends!) and forced to do trust exercises and team-building games. It wasn’t terrible. They took us to a ball game and to the beach. It was just… well, I didn’t connect with my group right away.There were also many bonding activities in the dorm during that week. I didn’t feel like I connected with any of the girls in my hall either.  I just wanted to find the sweet bookish girls who could dish out some snark and appreciate Frank Sinatra! There were plenty of people who were nice that I could eat meals with or sit next to in class, but they just… they weren’t like the close friends I had left behind.

But here’s the biz: I had had four years to build those relationships–some of them, much more than that. There was not an instant connection with many of those girls right away. We had to get to know each other and invest in those friendships to get them where they were.

About a month into school, I began to make deeper friendships. I found girls in my hall that liked many of the same things I did. People I could talk with about our shared struggles. Even in my sophomore year, the girls who had been in my assigned group that first week had become some of my closest friends.

It took time and I had to be intentional, but God provided so many wonderful relationships with people I cannot imagine my life with out. It didn’t happen that first week. I didn’t even meet two of my closest friends until the second semester of my sophomore year. 

Your tribe is out there. Just be willing to wait and don’t be afraid to just start talking with people. You never know what they may become to you in the future.

2.) Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I had two roommates my freshman year. One of them continued to be my roommate all through college and is one of my most favorite people ever. She is one of my closest friends and my polar-opposite in life, but living together just worked. The other roommate was a different story.

We came from very different backgrounds and did not see eye-to-eye on much. In the first month of living together, I was very stressed and overwhelmed, mainly because I had not had to deal with someone so difficult, so closely. 

I didn’t know what to do. The R.A. could not really step in, she could only mediate… and that wasn’t really getting us anywhere.

So I called my dad. I didn’t need him to step in. I was a big girl, I wanted to handle this as an adult. But I just needed his thoughts. His encouragement too. He was able to give me some wisdom and pray with me over the phone. (I also went to a school close enough from home that we were able to go to coffee during that time as well. Not many people have that blessing, but it was something I am very grateful for.)

Professors are a great source of help as well. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you don’t understand something. They are paid to teach students so take advantage of that. Don’t be afraid to make meetings or even just stop by their offices. Professors are great people to have in your corner. And they want to be in your corner. If they do not want to help out their students, then they are not very good at their jobs. Even if your school is very large, I think it is important to form a relationship with at least one of your professors in your time at school.

3.) Pray
I know, right? So predictable. But really. Pray for your roommate. They are struggling through this new stage and are probably lonely as well. Pray for the people you are meeting, as they are in the same boat too. Pray for the friends that you will make. Ask for deeper relationships, opportunities to serve people where they are. And don’t just pray, but invest in those relationships as well.

During my first month of school when the loneliness was at its heaviest, I remember I got our of class early and I went back to my room. I was just so dang alone that I began to break down. Rather than go to my next class, red-eyed and puffy-faced, I decided to spend some time with God. I began to pray that he would bring me a friend–even if it was just one. Someone who I could have a deep and wonderful relationship with. Someone I could hang out with when I wasn’t in class. Just someone who I could feel comfortable being myself with and they with me.

A couple weeks later, I decided to go to a dorm event, even though I only knew my roommates. And then I met her. My soul sister. Like seriously, we had tons in common, it was pretty ridiculous. There she was. That random girl I had been praying for, bookish and sweet and snarky, just like I had asked for. And she loved Frank Sinatra even more than I did. 

This is that fateful night! These girls are some
of the dearest people I met at school.

In fact, that night, I met most of the girls I would grow very close with over the following years. My prayer was meant plenty of times over with the many women I now call friend. I have never laughed so hard, cried with, or made so many memories as with the girls I met in college. God gives good gifts and he gives them in droves.

Just ask, seek, and knock, kid! He tells you to!

Again, the first semester is the hardest. It is also the one in which I learned the most. (And not in the classroom, because my classes were pretty brainless… I mean, it didn’t feel that way at the time, but what I wouldn’t give to have the homework load of my first semester!) It was hard. I cried a lot. I wanted to give up and go home where things were safe and easy. But there comes a time in your second semester that no one can really put their finger on when things become enjoyable. You have your people and a place on campus. You know who you can go to when things get rough and you understand how things work in your new home. You become thankful you didn’t throw in the towel because you are having fun and growing and it is so worth all of the hardship.

Best of luck to you friend! Don’t forget to write!


That Awkward Moment When Faithful Sounds Like Failure…

God does not want you to be successful — he wants you to be faithful.

I heard a speaker say this a few weeks ago and the thought made me stop in my tracks. How contrary is this message to everything else we hear from the world?
At this point in my life, I feel anything but successful. I almost have a degree. I work at the same entry-level job I’ve had for the last three years. I have no concrete plans outside of the fact that I will probably eat dinner at home tonight. I share a mini-van with my mom. I live with my parents in my childhood bedroom. As I sit here, looking at my teddy bear and baby blanket sitting on the bed, I can’t exactly say I’m living the dream.
What do I think success looks like for someone in my stage of life? An apartment, perhaps. Not in my parent’s basement. A car might be nice. A job. One that pays for the above. One I enjoy and have the potential to advance. The teddy bear might still be sitting on the bed…
Today, we measure success in any way we can. As soon as I post something on Facebook, I find myself refreshing the page to see how many likes it has received, as if this measures what sort of friend I am or how funny I can be. We compare schedules to see who is the busiest, therefore the most wanted and important. We buy certain brands, wear certain styles, do our hair certain ways because how we present our appearance will exude the message that we are put together and up on everything in the world of style. All this for the sake of feeling more experienced or more connected. All for the sake of—even in the smallest sense—feeling successful.
Well I’m throwing in the towel on this one, folks:
I am not successful. I’ve got nothing. I try and try and still come up unsatisfied, unfulfilled, and exhausted. Ultimately, I feel as if I have failed.
Ultimately because I have.
And not because I don’t have 700 likes on my status, or I have nowhere to go on a Thursday night, or because my hair only does one of two things: frizz or flop.
Thing is, my calling is not to be successful. It is not to post the most witty comments on the human condition at all times. It is not to fill every blasted second with people and places and commitments. It is not to look my best at every second. I cannot do any of these things.
What I can do is be faithful.
I have been given a portion in this stage of life. The fact that I have the job I do, the home I do, and lack the things I do is not without a reason. I have been placed in this stage of life for a reason. I am in a place where so much is unknown and I feel so aimless at points that I just want to scream. From where I am sitting in life, I don’t see any change coming and that is extremely discouraging. It feels like failure.
Faithfulness sometimes looks like failure. Faithfulness is not usually flashy or glamorous. Faithfulness does not look like a twenty-one year old rookie author on the New York Times Bestseller List. Faithfulness is quiet. It is patient. It looks like praying when the day gets long or monotonous or stressful. It looks like investing hours to master a craft or gaining experience. It looks like taking the time to get to know the people around you rather for dreaming of those who may be around the corner. It looks like giving up an evening to invest in students in the youth group or people in need. It looks like trusting in something bigger than yourself. Most of the time, it does not look like success.
And yet, it is what we are called to. God has called me to be a writer. If I am to trust him with not only that calling, but also my life, I have to trust his plan. I am not going to be a published author right out the gate. In fact, ‘published author’ may never be part of my title. All I have right now is ‘writer’ and if that’s what I am called to be, then I must put in the time and effort to become the best I can.
It is the same with my relationship with God. I cannot expect faithfulness to be an easy calling. I have to put in the time, as with any friendship. A relationship does not deepen because I met someone once. It grows as time is spent and intimacy is built. Trust does not develop without time, attention, love, and patience. The same with God. As I spend time in his word and in prayer, the deeper understanding I am given of his love, his will, and his glory. As that time is spent, I learn to trust little by little. And I fail at this daily, but that is alright. That is part of learning to be faithful. No one said anything worth doing would be easy.
My success in the eyes of my maker does not lie in likes, or busy-ness, or my hair—amen. I am not striving to one day be told “Well done good and successful servant.” Those words ring empty. I want to live a life that is fulfilling and pleasing to him. And that requires faithfulness. In that, He is well pleased.