Just dropping by to let you know that I’m not posting this week. I’m on break and enjoying some much-needed time with friends and family. See you back here next week!
Last week an email with the subject line You’re invited to Ellie Holcomb’s Kickstarter CD Release Party! showed up in my inbox. It was a surprise to say the least and at first, I figured it was a mistake.
You see, I backed her new album in November after watching her Kickstarter video approximately 67 times because of how much I loved the song she sang in it. I’m a college student, though, so I backed it at the lowest tier—$15 that would get me the new album and a couple extra songs.
Not long after she reached her original goal and added some extra ones. The biggest was a CD Release Party here in Nashville for Tier 3 bakers and above. When they reached that one, I thought, That’s nice. I’m sure they’ll all have a wonderful time.
So when I got that email last week, I knew it had to be a mistake. I was only Tier 1. I opened it so I could figure out how to reply and let her management know that they’d sent it to Tier 1 backers as well.
Then I read the email.
There was no mistake. They’d opened the show to everyone who baked the project.
Even then I almost made my mind up to ignore it. I’d already gotten the album. There was no way the small amount I’d paid should get me tickets to the party. I didn’t deserve it, so I wasn’t going to accept it.
Then I decided to invite my friend Whitney. She knew who Ellie was and I knew she’d enjoy the show. I had, after all, been invited. Once she said yes I started getting excited. Still, I argued with myself.
You know you don’t deserve this.
But I was invited.
Yes, but that doesn’t mean that you should go.
I kept feebly pointing back to the email and the tickets I’d printed off. I’d been invited. Surely I could go. I didn’t believe it, though. I didn’t really think it was for me or that I belonged there. I hadn’t done enough to get me there.
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately unlearning life based on performance. I’m not quite sure where I learned it. I’m sure much of it is leftover from the fall. But it has become part of who I am. If I don’t feel like I’ve earned my place somewhere it’s hard for me to accept it. Even when I’ve been invited.
This time I dared myself to push past that. I invited Whitney and I printed off the tickets. I started really looking forward to it. We went and we had a blast. It was better than I could have hoped. And we got to meet Ellie at the end.
If you want to know the truth I still don’t feel like I deserved to be at that party last night. But I was. That’s grace. You don’t have to deserve it when you’ve been invited. You just have to come.
Last night I’m glad I did. So much of what Ellie sings about is this grace. Words that are echoed in actions that echo Jesus. I need to be reminded of it so often, that who I am does not depend on what I do. And it’s true for you, too.
The party’s ready and you’ve been invited. Will you come?
A few weeks ago I said I was quieting the digital noise. It was about slowing down, I said, and that was true. But it was also about running away.
When we notice harmful patterns in our lives, I think it’s important to ask ourselves why they’re there. So I started wondering why I’ve become so addicted to all this noise. Sometimes it’s purely a desire for entertainment because I feel bored. But often, it’s a way to distract myself from the things I don’t want to deal with.
Some of these things can be personal—conflict in relationships, words I wish I’d said differently, things that worry me. Others are farther outside of me, the unrest and tragedies that are changing the world as we know it. So when I’m faced with these things, I get on Pinterest. It diverts my attention for a while and takes the edge off whatever it is I’m avoiding, but when I close my computer, it’s still there.
In one of my classes we’ve been reading Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination. One of the main jobs of the prophets, he says, was to turn the Israelites from numbness to grief. They’d let themselves become numb to the cries of the people they were oppressing—their very brothers and sisters. The prophets, then, were to grieve for the people and help the people grieve.
The reality is that if we truly let ourselves feel the weight of every single tragedy, it would destroy us. But at the same time, if we never feel anything, we’ll never do anything, either.
I sing songs and pray prayers like, “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” But then when I see tragedy, I find myself looking the other way. I search out distractions so I don’t have to feel the pain of someone else’s loss. I teach myself to be numb.
It is comfortable, yes, but it is not truly living. Because when we numb ourselves to the pain, we also can numb ourselves to hope. And, as Brueggeman says, hope only comes out of grief.
If we are going to be the people of hope that we claim to be—that I claim to be—in the face of darkness, then we have to be people who are willing to grieve. It is the only place we can find hope. Not just for us, but for the world.
I heard about the One Word Project for the first time this year. People who pick a word at the beginning of the year for what they want that year to be. They say it works better than resolutions. When I found it at the end of December, I thought about trying to pick a word for 2014.
By then, I was exhausted. December rolled into January and it felt like all I could do was to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I didn’t have the energy to pick just the right word. So I didn’t.
A month later, one snuck up on me. I didn’t find it. It found me.
One word. Five little letters.
It’s taken me three more weeks to actually see it. It started with listening to that song 177 times in such a short time. And reading those underlined words that rattled around in my head all the next day giving courage to my weary heart. It’s talking to her on the phone when she can hear the exhaustion in my voice and she says, “You’re brave.”
It’s a small word, full of quiet strength, the kind that stands through the storms and speaks hope in the aftermath. And when this whole wild journey of growing up stretches me beyond what I think I can handle, it is the reminder that I do not walk alone.
So although it’s a little late, that’s my word for 2014—the word that found me.
Have you ever done the One Word Project? Do you have a word for this year?
We live in such a noisy world. And somehow, I feel obligated to keep up with it all. The first thing I do most mornings is check my email. If I have time, and sometimes even if I don’t, I check twitter and facebook, too. There are blogs to read, photos to like, videos to see, perfect sound bites to retweet. Something in me thinks that I have to read every single thing that’s been posted since I was last on and I work so hard to keep up.
Several voices have spoken lately about the deluge of information we face and how our digital lives are shaping the rest of our lives.
I take in so much information on a daily basis. I can’t help but wonder how much of it I’m actually absorbing and how much of it is a waste of time and energy. There are words that I have found on the Internet that have made space for my weary heart to rest and I am grateful. Words that have spoken hope when I wasn’t sure that there was any. But there are so many words.
Even my words here, I wonder if they really matter. I wonder if I’m doing anything more than adding to the noise—the same noise I’m so desperate to escape from.
Last week I self-evaluated my stress level for one of my classes. Based on the assessment we used, my stress levels are incredibly high. Even my textbook knows that I need to do something about it. And I am. There are so many different things I could point to as sources of stress. Only so many of them are things I can control.
On top of all of it, my health is not where it should be. It’s probably equal parts cause and effect of said stress. This week I finally started moving towards regaining my health, but it’s going to take time.
Then I read Allison Vesterfelt’s “Slowing Down, Finding Healing, Uncovering Grace.” She said something in there about staring her days slower, about not staring them with her computer.
I’m a perfectionist. I have an amazing capacity to put pressure on myself to do, do, do. I have to keep up with everything. I have to read all the tweets. I don’t like slowing down. But if I am going to find healing, if I’m going to reduce this stress, then I’m going to have to. And I am.
I’m starting by reducing the noise. Last week I unfollowed forty-something people on twitter. I unfollowed people on Facebook, too—people I don’t really know but know far too much about because of the Internet. I re-blocked Pinterest on my computer. I unsubscribed from some emails. I found freedom in those simple buttons.
Slowing the flow of digital information won’t take my stress away. I know that. But it’s a start. It’s something I can control. Quieting the noise.
And maybe in the quiet I will learn to slow down.