Not long ago I was doing some thinking in the shower, you know, where all the best thinking happens, and I decided that I should probably smile more. I don't even really know where the thought came from or why, but I do know that for the first time in my life I’m generally happy and content, so I should really exercise my face muscles more often. The corners of my mouth naturally turn down when it’s just sitting there minding its own business, but I got convicted recently that if I’ve got the joy joy joy joy down in my heart, then maybe I should actually let my face surely show it.

So I had been mulling that around for a couple of days when I had an interaction with a male co-worker. It was a pleasant exchange – polite, professional. We talked briefly about a project I was working on and I was given some instructions and then he left. And when he left I thought, “Gosh, I didn’t smile at all.” I could have at least looked happy about the project or given some indication that I wasn't mad/annoyed/upset. Why don’t I smile more often? Why don’t I smile readily and happily and automatically?

Just over two years ago now an article was published by The Huffington Post about women and this thing they do that men aren’t usually aware of and perhaps women aren’t aware they do it. I still remember it because it was so striking. It said,

We have all learned, either by instinct or by trial and error, how to minimize a situation that makes us uncomfortable. How to avoid angering a man or endangering ourselves. We have all, on many occasions, ignored an offensive comment. We’ve all laughed off an inappropriate come-on. We’ve all swallowed our anger when being belittled or condescended to… We learn at a young age how to do this. We didn’t put a name or label to it. We didn’t even consider that other girls were doing the same thing. But we were teaching ourselves, mastering the art of de-escalation. Learning by way of observation and quick risk assessment what our reactions should and shouldn’t be.

“Learning by… quick risk assessment what our reactions should and shouldn’t be.” Yes! We think to ourselves, 'How should I react right now? What is this person going to think? How do I keep this short and to the point?' And when it gets uncomfortable we minimize our situations. We de-escalate. We think, 'What can I say to get out of this in the least confrontational/awkward way possible? How do I back away from this politely so as not to be seen as rude?' I read this article and thought, “Oh, dang. I have done this for as long as I can remember.” And I realized in thinking through my interaction with my coworker that this is also the reason I’m slow to smile. Granted, he did not make me uncomfortable. He did not make me feel anything at all. But I’ve trained myself to hold back often enough that it comes more natural than smiling.

I don’t smile that often because I don’t want to give someone the wrong idea. Maybe this sounds conceited to you, but that is not my heart. I don’t think every man I interact with is interested in me. But too many of the wrong ones have been. Too often I had people tell me I was flirting with someone who I had no intention of flirting with because, apparently, I was really smiley and laughing too much. Too often I had men pursue me because they thought I was flirting when I wasn’t, I was just trying to be nice. Too often I had inappropriate comments made to me and about me because of the way I look. Too often I had other women worried that I was flirting with their man because I was smiling and joking around, so they would cut me down or make fun of me in front of others. Too often I had male authority figures in my life make comments to me that were outrageously inappropriate.

When something happens too often, when you sense a pattern, you either consciously or unconsciously learn how to deal with it. I think this is where all my smiles got lost. This happened so often in my late teens and twenties that I eventually made myself smaller so as not to seem like I was “too much” or “too flirty.” A couple of years ago a friend said that I carry myself with a general attitude of, “Nothing to see here.” But I think I just learned to become less – to go out of my way to make everyone else feel comfortable so that I don’t seem imposing or intimidating or flirting, especially with a man that was never even on my radar. Don’t smile. Don’t give him the wrong idea. Don’t give her the wrong idea. Become less. Shrink. Melt away if you can. Is it possible to vaporize at this moment? I wish. I think a lot of us have done this - become bearers of the message, “Nothing to see here.”

The article went on to say that when we’ve encountered a situation where we know we must de-escalate, “We go through a quick mental checklist. Does he seem volatile, angry? Are there other people around? Does he seem reasonable and is just trying to be funny, albeit clueless? Will saying something impact my school/job/reputation? In a matter of seconds we determine whether we will say something or let it slide. Whether we’ll call him out or turn the other way, smile politely or pretend that we didn’t hear/see/feel it.”

A few other things on my mental checklist are, “How well do I know this person?” “How will other people perceive this interaction?” And all of this happens within a flicker of a second. In the span of one awkward comment or one up and down look in your direction. But the problem with de-escalation is we're usually trying to be nice. 

I was raised to be a nice person. Say please and thank you. Listen. Obey. Respect authority. Put others before yourself. So I guess I just always felt like I had to be polite - especially to authority figures. Like that article says, we learn to “play along to get along.” Don’t cause a scene. Don’t be a problem. Be nice. So I never wanted to start a fuss but I’ve learned, more often than not, I should have started a fuss. And sometimes you don’t have to be polite. Sometimes you don’t have to put others first. Sometimes you can just say, “You know what, you need to run along. And don’t talk to me like that.” I look back on the whole 33 years of my life and there are so many times I should have stood up for myself, respected myself just a LITTLE bit and said, “Don’t talk to me like that.” “Don’t treat me like that.” In fact, the one time I did snap back and say that, I got fired. I told my man-child of a boss, “Don’t talk to me like that,” and a couple of days later, he fired me. But I didn’t care then and I don’t care now. I maybe could have said it with a little bit more tact, but for once in my life I stood up for myself and it felt great.

Maybe you've never felt the need to de-escalate a situation, but have you ever been asked to smile? Because that's a prime example. I have been asked/told this so many times. “You should smile more.” “You look prettier when you’re smiling.” And this has happened in all sorts of arenas – work, church, out with friends – but many times it happens with strangers – at the checkout of the grocery store, or even just walking by someone on the street. And in my heart my reaction is always, 'Are you kidding me right now?' First of all, I don’t even know you. Second of all, how do you know what happened to me that day? What if my mom died or something? Should I be smiling then? And third of all, what if we’ve all tucked our smiles away because we don’t want you to think we’re flirting? We don’t want you to come talk to us. We don’t want you to approach so we’re putting out approximately zero vibe on purpose. But, you know, we want to be nice. So we usually smile.

I’m walking a fine line here. I am aware of this. Like even as I type this I feel like I’ll get pushback from people who will say, “Wow, calm down. They’re just trying to make conversation.” Sure, but there are plenty of people who know how to do this without demanding something of me. Maybe something like, “How’s your day?”

And listen, I am not bashing men. Hear me say this: not all men are like this. Say it out loud to yourself if you have to: Not. All. Men. Are. Like. This. I have so many amazing examples in my life of men who take their calling seriously and show honor and respect to women in beautiful ways. But I also know that not all of us have the same experience. Maybe the men in your life have been horrible to you. Maybe you’ve had nothing but terrible interactions – men with wicked hearts who took advantage of you, hurt you, betrayed you. I know this. I know you’re out there. At times, I have been in that position. So I’m praying right this minute that a man who fears the Lord would enter your life even today. That one would step up to the plate and show you what it means to honor and respect you as a woman.

Because so many women have been put in these uncomfortable situations, or because they feel like they have to push back doubly hard against wicked men, our culture has created the idea that “The future is female.” I get the underlying feeling it’s trying to promote so don’t @ me, but I find it to be a little vapid because if we’re to have a shot at a future at all the fact is we need men. The future is men and women working together, living together, going to school and work and church together, cooperating, sharing, respecting and honoring one another. The future is strong women and good men. Our men are smart and endearing and funny and helpful and brave and we need them! We just need more of them to step up and be men, not weak little boys who take a rejection as a reason to whine and a girl not smiling at them as a personal affront. So yes and amen, let’s raise strong girls who are brave enough to say, “Don’t talk to me like that.” But let’s also raise good men who wouldn’t even think of talking to her like that in the first place.

I just finished reading Anna Kendrick's book, Scrappy Little Nobody. She's the actress from all the Pitch Perfect movies and I thought it would be a funny book but it's not really that funny. Anyway, the part I appreciated about it is when she talks about being nice. Especially as girls, we're raised to want to be seen as nice and,

"Lest we be besmirched with that most damning label (being called "difficult"), it feels imperative that we strive for "nice." When I'm put in an uncomfortable position or when someone asks something of me that I feel borders on taking advantage, the threat of "so nice" being snatched away from me hangs in the air. Should I stand my ground, or be a doormat? How many concessions would I have to make, how much crap would I have to swallow to stay a "nice girl"? ... Nice is different than good. Do you need to do whatever you're told to be a nice person? Maybe. Do you need to do whatever you're told to be a good person? Of course not! Man, woman, personal, professional - some people have a skill for persuading you the best thing you can be is obedient... [But] I gave up on being nice. I started putting more value on other qualities instead: passion, bravery, intelligence, practicality, humor, patience, fairness, sensitivity."

Amen. Let's stop worrying about being nice. Let's be wise, humble, compassionate, smart. But nice doesn't need to hold so much value.

I really do still feel like I should smile more, but not because I'm still striving for nice. I want to care less if you think I'm nice and more about being a ferocious woman of God, who cares deeply for people. I want to be steady and brave. I want to show mercy and grace. Let's raise brave girls who aren't afraid to stand up for themselves and kind boys who grow up to be men who don't put women in uncomfortable situations where they have to decide how to de-escalate. Listen, I get it, the waters of our current culture are murky. And I'm not a parent so I'm not even going to give you advice on how to raise your kids to be this way. But the fact is, we need each other, and the only way into the future is together. 


One night last week I woke up in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, feeling like I couldn’t breathe or swallow. I sat straight up in bed and took some deep breaths, kind of assessing the situation. Was I safe? Had I been dreaming? Why am I so hot? What time is it? The only sound in the room was the slow hum of my ceiling fan and it was 1:30 in the morning. I laid back down on my stomach, but that made it worse – I couldn’t breathe again. So I sat up. I needed a distraction. I checked my phone. I had a few snaps from Aaron, so I opened them and responded via chat. He saw that I was awake and typed back,

Why are you awake?
I don’t know. I feel weird.
Like what?
Like I’m going to disappear.

Disappear? What does that even mean? I don’t know, but it felt so strange – like I couldn’t feel my body. Like I might pass out and fall to the floor. My heart rate picked up as I started to wonder if I was dying. Was something happening in my body and I was about to black out? You know, people die of aneurysms with no warning. But I didn’t have a headache. Maybe it was something in my guts. I felt like my whole body was empty and I was just a shell.

Aaron called.

Babe, you’re okay. Take some deep breaths. You’re not going to disappear. Stick your head outside and get some fresh air.

I walked to the door of my patio and my body started to shake. My teeth were chattering, but I wasn’t cold.

Oh, I thought. I know this feeling. I’m having a panic attack

It took a few more minutes to get over. Aaron talked calmly to me, prayed with me, and then I laid back down and fell asleep. But I woke up the next day feeling frustrated and annoyed.

I battled panic attacks for the better part of fifteen years. The first one I remember was the first day of second grade and I was a literal wreck. There was nothing you could do to get me to go into Mrs. Clark’s homeroom. To anyone else it maybe it looked like some kind of spoiled brat tantrum, but for me it was fear of feeling trapped and abandoned at school all day. I eventually did go, of course, on the third day of school, but over the next fifteen years this feeling would become all too familiar - the heart pounding, teeth chattering, sweating, super tired and yet simultaneously hyperaware, feelings of entrapment. And then after one or two of these panic attacks, it’s not the attack that becomes the problem but it’s the fear of having a panic attack that drives you to try and control everything. My heart and mind so feared having a panic attack that I mentally organized my life around being in control of my surroundings and my ability to leave a place whenever I want to leave. At the height of it all, it meant I didn’t spend the night at friend’s houses and I didn’t go to church camp or retreats, I quit my first real job after two shifts, and going away for college was completely out of the question. A panic attack while babysitting one time caused me to avoid that job for years. In fact, I dropped out of cheerleading tryouts my sophomore year because I was scared that I actually would make the squad and have to go to camp for a week. I felt so fearful that I would have a panic attack and embarrass myself so I just quit and then berated myself for even trying out in the first place even though it was something I really wanted to do. 

Fear took a lot of experiences from me in those years because I refused to place myself in any situation where I might feel a wave of panic come over me. I didn’t have the tools to deal with this mental health issue – I didn’t even know it was a mental health issue. I just did everything I could to self-protect and project “normal” to the world around me. But I hated myself. I have journal pages about how I was a failure and a loser. I was an expert in all the ways I sucked as a person and filled lines and lines of paper with musings about why I couldn't just get a grip.

I also felt like a bad Christian. I was praying constantly that I wouldn’t be scared, that I wouldn’t let fear run my life, that I could just get over it, but it was like I was in an echo chamber and my words were only bouncing back and mocking me at the same time. I grew up in church. I knew all the verses about how we didn’t have to fear. The Bible calls him Yahweh-Shalom, or the Lord is peace, so where is my peace, God? I’m a disaster! So I tried Jesus and since he wasn’t working for me, my obvious conclusion was that he hated me. But why would he hate me? I was doing so much for him. I was trying to be good and do good things and serve and help other people and love well. But he obviously did, I mean I battled these panic attacks that made me feel crazy no matter how much I prayed or believed, and he never gave me anything I really wanted, like that role in the church play, or the spot on the gymnastics team, or the boyfriend, so clearly I was forgotten. These are the thoughts I had constantly until my twenties.

The last time I had a panic attack I was 21 and about to leave on a three week trip to Europe. It took a lot of self-talk and half of an anti-anxiety pill to get me on the plane, but I went. And it was one of the last panic attacks I can remember. I can’t tell you specifically what helped me – I think it was a lot of things. Constant prayer and self-talk. A few books. Memorizing Scripture. A little medication. Later, counseling. And still, there have been moments in the last ten years where I thought I would panic, but I was able to talk myself down. It was like dragging my mind back from the edge of a cliff, but I did it. I have power over this intense feeling more so now than I used to. When I moved out of my parent’s house at 23 it was like a sweet victory over fear and anxiety because there were times in my late teens and early twenties where I thought I would have to live in their basement forever. I was too scared to do anything else. But then I went to Europe. And then I served as Assistant Program Director at that same summer camp I vowed to never attend. For years I was in charge of planning and attending retreats for students. Talk about redemption. I felt like I was over that intense chapter. I felt like I was finally “normal.”

But lately, in the last year, they’ve come back - on my flights to and from Hawaii the last few times, and now, apparently, in the middle of the night. I think I know why. I mean, I’m fairly certain. My life has been under my own false sense of control for the last ten or eleven years. I’ve planned it out neatly and felt no pressure to change. I’m a creature of habit and routine. I like to know what’s next. I like to have a plan and I want to be able to see the way forward. I don’t take risks. I’m not spontaneous. I’m safe. And I like it. But in the next six months, my whole life is going to change – my living situation, my job, my routine, my city. I don’t have control over everything anymore because I have another person to consider. This is a good thing. Don’t hear me say that I am not grateful and thankful to have Aaron and move into this next chapter. But it is not without its challenges.

I told you at the end of 2015 that I like to pick a word for the year to focus on and really dial into and see what God has to teach me in that area. So I decided that my word for the year was trust and honestly I feel like it went something like this,

Me: I think my word for the year should be trust.
*meanwhile, in the heavens*
God: Hey, you guys. Watch this.

Like when you finally declare something or tell God you’re going to do something, he immediately comes back at you with, “Oh, really? Let’s try it.” Ha, I’m (mostly) kidding. But I think I’m telling you all this in the spirit of honesty and a desire to let you know that if you’re battling fear and anxiety, you are not alone. I hope that preaches to someone this morning because I am wondering a little bit why I’m being so vulnerable. Eeesh. I am in a really exciting period of my life. You’re only a fiancé once, you know! I am happy. Aaron is more than I could ever have hoped for in a partner. But I don’t do change well. I was talking to a friend about this recently and she said that we could probably be in a contest of who worries the most and about what things. It was good to hear her heart on this because in a world that makes it seem like we have it all together, we don’t often talk about our fears. If we talk about our fears, the façade of control would be lost and then who would we be? For someone who has dealt with fear and anxiety for the majority of life, let this be my battle cry to the world that we just stop pretending! I’m scared! Life is scary! Can we talk about it? Talking about it seems to make everything so much less scary, so let’s drag those dark thoughts into the light of conversation with people who care. Let’s speak truth without the fear of being seen as irrational or ridiculous. Let’s be the people who do care about those things and who are willing to listen without judgment.

No one wants to look dumb. No one wants to look like a failure or a loser or someone who doesn’t have it together. No one wants to feel scared or broken. But WE ALL DO. At one time or another, we all do.  I want to look you right in your beautiful eyes and tell you that I get it. I always felt alone in my battle with anxiety – like I was the only one who wasn’t normal. But there is nothing worse than telling yourself on repeat that you are the only one dealing with whatever it is you’re going through. You are not. Don’t tell yourself that for one second more. Find someone to talk to – yank out the words that are lodged in your throat and shout them from the rooftops. You are not the only one. Whatever seems to be looming over your head, you are not the only one. To the feelings that just won’t go away, you are not the only one. You aren’t the only one thinking that or feeling that or dealing with that thing that seems to entangle you. You are not the only one. I was listening to a sermon this morning about intuition and the voice in our own heads and how nobody talks to you like you talk to you. No one is harder on you than you are and no one lies to you like you do. The feeling that you are the only one is a lie. Don’t believe it.

I want to clarify that I know God doesn’t hate me and he didn’t hate me then, even when I felt like he did. I don’t know why fear and anxiety is my burden, I don’t know why he didn’t lift it when I cried out to him, but I know that in dealing with it, it has caused me to seek him more fervently and with more tenacity than if I didn’t have this battle. If I felt in control and had it all together, I would have a greater tendency to believe that I have no need for him. So it has grown me and pushed me in my love for him, my desire to know more of him, and my capacity for empathy and care for others going through similar trials.

Maybe fear isn’t your struggle, maybe it’s something else like self-worth issues, body image struggle, addiction of some form, money issues, a constant striving for power, letting the thief of comparison steal your joy. Maybe you just feel like Jesus doesn’t work for you or he’s not listening or he’s not there, maybe you’re struggling to understand your current circumstances or how to get out of a situation your own lies have you trapped in. Whatever you’re struggling with this morning as you read this, please hear me say that it’s time to get honest and get help. It’s time to get real with those closest to you and let them help you through it. You are not the only one.

I chose trust for the year because I know that above all, in all the chaos and the noise, in all the change and creating a new normal, I’ll need him more than anything. And with each timid step I take, even if I have a couple of panic attacks, even if I feel scared, he seems to be clearing the way. Fear doesn't have to define me and your struggle doesn't have to define you.

Aaron created this background image for my phone for the year, and I want to offer it to you as well as a simple reminder to just let go and trust. They're lyrics to one of my favorite songs right now, which I also shared with you in my last post. They contain such a powerful reminder that I want to hold on to when my fears start to flare, or when I start to feel like I'm the only one. I'd rather feed my soul this gracious truth, than that tired lie. I don't know what comes next, but I want to trust it all to the one who holds it all in the palm of his hand.


For a lot of my life I let fear drive my decisions and I can tell you that it is no way to live. Here are a few resources that have really helped me in dealing with my own struggle over the years. I will always advocate for people seeking help and ending their fight to do it alone.

Straight Talk: Overcoming Emotional Battles with the Power of God's Word - if you can get past the cheesy cover, the truths in it are gold. 

Recovering Redemption: Examining Fear and Anxiety - the whole Recovering Redemption series is powerful, but this one in particular really gave me some freedom.

 Proverbs 3: 24-26 / Isaiah 43: 1-7 / Psalm 34 / 2 Timothy 1:7

Breaking Free: Discover the Victory of Total Surrender

Counseling - I spent about two years seeing a counselor about once per month. I cannot recommend this enough. Even if you think you're "fine" it can be really freeing to speak with someone.

Breathing - Controlled breathing can do so much for your mental state and I've found this exercise to be particularly helpful. (I mean I did it on repeat for about all six hours of a flight from Honolulu to Seattle, so, trust me here. ) It's called the 4-7-8 breathing method.

Close your eyes.
Take a long, deep breath in through your nose for four seconds.
Hold your breath for seven seconds.
Let it out through your mouth for eight seconds.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Medication - I mentioned that I took an anti-anxiety pill before I went to Europe. I did have one prescription for medication at that time, but I was never on medication consistently for this issue. However, I know several who are and fully advocate for this if you and your doctor decide it is best for your situation.

Grace and love,



In the days following my last post about our engagement, Aaron and I both received messages saying congratulations and how sweet our story is and how it reads like some kind of fairytale. I’ll be honest – I agree! Ha! It’s been crazy beautiful, super exciting, the gushiest kind of love. We have had some of the very sweetest moments together and it’s easy to share those with you. But as Aaron and I talked in the days following, we were both really quick to want to tell people that it hasn't all been rainbows and butterflies and constant bliss. I'm not trying to squash this moment of joy, but I want to tell the truth of how this current sweetness was birthed out of gritty, dirt-under-our-nails kind of heart work.

Several months ago, Aaron and I came to a crossroad as we found there were things we had been keeping from each other. Certainly as we began talking back in January and got to know each other better, we revealed little by little the intimate details about ourselves, choices we had made, grief we lived through. As a friend wrote on Facebook the other day, as adults at 29 and 32, Aaron and I have seen some things. It's likely you have too. We’ve lived some things. Hard things. Great things. All the things in between. And intimate relationship requires - demands - honesty and openness and living in the light. But there were pieces of our individual stories that we had still held back from each other.

Have you ever had that experience where a thought or an idea or a phrase just keeps coming up in different circumstances with different people? I feel like those are the things we really need to pay attention to and see if there's anything to be learned because there’s usually a reason it keeps coming up. There’s a reason you can’t seem to escape it. A few months ago, Aaron and I started talking a lot more about the idea of being fully known and fully loved. It came up in one of our conversations and then came up in the book I was reading and came up in the sermon I listened to and came up again with Aaron later. After one of our first conversations on the topic I even journaled, “I feel like God is trying to teach me something here and I want to be listening.”

I realized shortly that I had those feelings for a reason. I was being prompted and pushed and constantly pursued by God to rip the lid off the box I had so securely nailed shut with all the parts of me I didn’t want anyone to see. The one where I had staple-gunned the edges just to be sure they were safe and hidden. I felt God was quietly asking me to drag that one out of the back of the closet and dump it out all over the floor in front of Aaron.

Maybe we all fear that moment. There’s the one thing you’ve kept safe in your heart. One thing you don’t want to tell anyone. One thing you’re worried about other people finding out. You think that if they know, they won’t love you. If they know, they’ll run away. If they know, then you’re out there on your own and you’ve done the final thing to tip the scales. Or maybe it’s not one thing, maybe it’s a lot of things, and they’ve compounded over the years, adding more and more to the top of your pile so the lid doesn’t even shut on your box anymore. Maybe the only thing people know about you is the façade you’ve presented – the one you want them to know and believe more than anything. It’s the version of you that you think would be best and safest and least messy for all involved because if they knew that you really thought ______ or did _______ or believed ________, then surely, surely there would be no one left by your side.

I realized over the last several months that I’ve never been fully known. I’ve never told someone all there is to know about the darkness of my heart and the places that still throb from wounding. I’ve never been fully honest with one single person about the things that really messed me up in my thinking about God and authority and sex and relationships. No one really knew the ways in which my heart was broken and then put back together piecemeal and jagged and no longer naive. I don’t know if I even knew the extent of it all. So when I decided to empty this little treasure trove of secrets on the floor and I was left feeling like a pile of bones and I realized what God was teaching me about being known and loved, it was like this tidal wave of grief and pain but also sweet relief.

While we looked at my junk, I told Aaron, “I think I’m the only one who is a wreck of a person.” Of course he laughed at me and said that was ridiculous. “Maybe other people are good hiders, too,” he said. Maybe they are - maybe we all are. But sweet Aaron, he looked at the junk dumped on the floor, then sat on the floor next to me and said, “I love you.”

I don’t know what I thought relationships were or how these bonds were formed but I can tell you that through the mess and the sorting of it all, we forged a bond that wasn’t there previously. There was no capacity in which it could form because our boxes sat stacked between us like this leaning tower of Jenga pieces and while we tried to reach around it and caught sight of each other in small glimpses, like peering through the peephole of a door, it was nothing like the moment of knocking the tower over and staring at each other, vulnerable and exposed, and saying, “Well, here it is.” We broke down the barriers between each other, between us and God, and between what we thought to be true all these years and what’s really true about who we are and where we stand.

What’s in the box? Different things for different people. Vices and addictions. Secrets and shame and self-hate. Sin and brokenness. Lies we’ve heard from others and lies we tell ourselves on repeat. Versions of the person we were and versions of the person we want to be but aren’t. All the ways we’ve held ourselves captive to guilt and rehearsed the reasons we are unworthy. God has been slowly chipping away at my heart over the last several years, trying desperately to help me to understand who I am and what I’m worth, meanwhile I’ve done a bang up job of not listening and putting my fingers in my ears like I do when I’m watching a scary movie. But when you’re engaged in real relationship, when you feel safe and cared for and heard, there will be a time when you must lay bare all the ways you’re scared and ashamed and the ways you’ve been running reckless for years. Ann Voskamp said in a blog post recently, “Shame dies when stories are told in safe places.” And in those safe places, with that one safe person you have or the small tribe of people you know who can speak to you fluent in the language of grace and truth, let them shower you with a real love that is only possible once you’re fully known.

In the midst of the undoing, of untangling some of the knots we had tied successively in the rope of our lives over the years, Aaron shared some music with me from a friend he met on a missions trip to Sweden several years ago. The album will now always tell the story of that season in our relationship as I listened to it on repeat for the weeks following. In the song, Saved, the lyrics say, 

I’ve been afraid of being honest / Losing track of how I felt / And it will put you into boxes

You'll find that hiding the truth will put you in boxes - or maybe you'll just put yourself there. You’ll shove parts of yourself to the back of the closet and present a prettier version – one that you feel might be worthy of a little love. But what are you hiding? Where the places you feel unsafe and unheard and unworthy? How is that affecting you now, even when the box is closed and hidden in the back of the closet? What lies are you believing about yourself and who can speak truth into those corners of your heart?

I read the book, Wild and Free, and around the time that Aaron and I started talking about this, I got to the chapter on being fully known and fully loved (of course!) and it goes on to talk about how we don’t live in the freedom of being fully known because we learn to love our captivity like some kind of kidnap victim with Stockholm Syndrome. We know how to operate in captivity. We know what it’s like to live with the things we’ve shoved away into boxes and pretend they aren’t there. It feels safer to keep living with our wings clipped because we know how to function within those bounds. Why do we care so much for our secrets, checking on them every day and patting them on the head for being good and staying hidden, but don’t see our freedom as something to be chased after and cherished – something much more worthy of our care and attention?

The rest of the song goes like this:

I’ve been afraid of being honest /Losing track of how I felt /And it will put you into boxes /But if you’re born wild / You can’t stay there…no way… We all need to be saved / Sometimes

You can’t stay in the box. You can’t let your box of junk keep you from deep relationship with other people. You were born to be wild and free and live under a banner of light and grace. Find someone to talk to – find someone who is safe and will listen and stay when it gets messy. I can honestly tell you that nothing you could ever tell me will shock me. I absolutely believe that given the right set of circumstances, the right amount of despair or hurt or disbelief or disillusionment, we are all capable of anything. So while I might cry with you, I refuse to pull away or say, "How could you... I would never...". If we believe the gospel in any capacity, we should all try to respond this way. We should all rejoice when someone dares to drag darkness into the light. How and when you choose to do this is entirely up to you, but you do need to let someone fully know who you are and where you’ve been and let that uncovering, the dumping out of the box, let it free you from years of hurt and struggle and believing the lies that you are not worthy.

One of my favorite songs on that same album is called Faith. The lyric that makes me cry almost every time, the lyric that speaks the most truth to me right now, the one that makes me feel like we have so much to do and so little time and so much glorious life to live in the freedom that God is calling us to – the freedom that comes with being fully known and fully loved is,

What do we do with our feet on the ground when the sky's asking us to dance?

We have such precious little time to live and love and be loved. Don't squander it in hiding. Don't believe the lie that there is no redemption for you. I know that one. I know exactly how it sounds and the way it parades as truth. But, Aaron and I stepped into the light with each other and, gosh, it was like the whole earth shifted that day. It hasn't all been fairytale and we know it won't be going forward either, but we are willing to do the work it requires to live in the light of truth and join the dance and that's our only hope for you too, because honestly, that's where things have the potential to get really, really sweet.