A red herring we need to discuss: “I’m not called.”

“Can you take her to the grocery store to buy diapers and formula?” The caseworker looked at me expectantly from across the table, her eyes imploring me to say yes. I glanced over at the new mom needing a ride two miles down the road to the grocery store. I hardly knew her, and yet our stories intersected that day in a way I would marvel at for years to come. “Uh, sure!” I answered hesitantly as the sweetest toddler climbed up into my lap.

That day, as I sat in a stranger’s apartment and cradled her newborn, poverty became a face in front of me. “Pro-life” became a choice, not a box to check or a stance to champion. Systemic racism looked like a single mom profiled and accused by a government agency. Suddenly, whether or not I was “called” to fight for the impoverished, to tackle systemic racism, or to advocate for life became utterly irrelevant…because if I said “no” to giving her a ride to the grocery store, this woman’s life—her family’s trajectory—would be impacted for months (and even years, possibly generations) to come. Her children would be placed in foster care, and the trauma of being ripped away from a deeply loving and committed mother would no doubt leave a lasting imprint on their developing brains and tender hearts. And who knows what the trauma of losing her children, her very reason for existing, would do to her??? Suddenly, this woman’s survival depended on me taking thirty minutes out of my day to drive her to and from the grocery store. If I had said, “I just don’t feel called to this,” the consequences would have been real and lasting in her life and the lives of her precious children.


I cannot possibly count the number of times I have said, “I just don’t feel called to that,” or, “I think God is calling me in a different direction.” Honestly, I think I genuinely believed those words when I said them, and I am quite sure the intentions behind them were pure. But now I cringe when I think about the opportunities I shirked with those words and the lives that were changed because I smoothly gave a masked “I don’t want to.” Having been involved in nonprofit work for several years, I have now been on the receiving end of these words more times than I can count. And today, I’m just going to say it: I believe this idea of “not being calling” is often just a culturally acceptable, Christianese excuse masking all sorts of very real fears we don’t want to acknowledge.

“I don’t feel called to _______.”  These words roll off our tongues pretty easily when we are removed from the weight of them. It was effortless for me to say, “I’m not called to help the homeless population,” when the beautiful faces I now see every week were just a statistic. It was pretty easy for me to say, “I’m not called to advocate for those in prison,” before I received a letter from a person who suffers under the unjust and racist structures that are almost tangibly imbedded in the walls of our prisons. And it was pretty easy for me to spout off prideful and ignorant words about a pro-life “stance” before the result of that stance was sitting in front of me and needing a ride to the grocery store.

“I don’t feel called to _____.” I think these words are a red herring, meant to distract us from the very real people suffering under the oppressive systems we are knowingly or unknowingly perpetuating. Listen, I get it! I am not naive enough to believe that every person can “champion” every “cause.” Heck, there are probably thousands of very REAL injustices that I am unaware of and perpetuating. Certainly there are opportunities for sacrificial love that I turn down in pursuit of something or someone else. But can we just be honest? Can we stop throwing “calling” around like candy in a parade and say what we really mean? Something like:

“You know, that really intimidates me.”

OR

“I am scared about how that [person, opportunity, etc.] will affect me and/or my family.”

OR

“I don’t want to spend money on that right now.”

OR

“I would rather invest my time elsewhere.”

OR

“I don’t understand that issue or why I should want to help that person.”

OR

“I am actually really excited about ____ right now and want to work on that.”

Let’s commit to being really honest, because it is only when we are candid with ourselves and others that genuine conversation can be had. And let’s not continue reducing human beings in very real need to an issue or project you can feel “called to” or dismiss just as easily as a party invitation. We ALL need to reckon with the reality that our actions (or inactions) have consequences.

I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr.’s reflection on the Parable of the Good Samaritan in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech: “The first question that the priest asked, the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by, and he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”

What would change if we started asking THAT question? What if, instead of quickly and easily saying, “I’m not called to that,” we asked some real and probing questions of ourselves? Questions like:

If I say no to this, what will happen? Who will suffer?

What opportunities for learning and growth will I miss if I say no?

Do I have a relationship with a real, live person who will be affected by my action/inaction?

What other perspectives am I not considering?

What does my ability to walk away from this say about my privilege?

I believe our families, our friendships, and our communities will benefit from the kinds of conversations that could result if we replaced “I’m not called to that” with honest dialogue. My life has been transformed by people who refused to settle for this response and instead pressed in and asked hard questions. Regardless of whether or not you end up saying “yes” to the need in front of you, you may be surprised by what you learn about yourself or someone else by honestly confronting your hesitations. And who knows what you might end up developing a passion for by getting curious and putting yourself in a position to learn?!

 

***I know there are theological issues I am not addressing here, specifically related to calling/gifting/the leading of the Holy Spirit, as well as the sovereignty of God. I get it…being “called” is not always an excuse or distraction. I just think that it often is. Maybe let’s consider what could be beneath the response before we immediately start arguing theology 🙂 

Single and childless, but with a full heart: My advice to all who long to be a parent

I realized today that I have been an Instagram user for nearly six years. As I looked back over the hundreds of images I have shared in that space over the years, my heart squeezed because I realized how a longing of my heart has been fulfilled in the most unexpected way.

I have always longed to be a mama. I was the weird girl who played with baby dolls for far longer than was socially acceptable. I never imagined I would be nearing three decades of life without a growing brood of kiddos who share my last name. I always imagined I would be a foster mom by now. But here I am, and none of that has happened. And I would be lying if I said the ache for that is gone (it’s not). BUT. This role I have gotten to fill these last several years, that of “auntie,” has been one of the greatest joys of my life.

I have cradled, fed, played with, taught, rocked in the middle of the night, and chauffeured kids who share neither my last name nor (for most of them) my blood. I have been a pediatric nurse for the last six years, but most of what I know about kids and mothering has come from hands-on, blood-guts-and-tears experience alongside other parents in the trenches. It has come not from textbooks and physician mentors, but in living life alongside moms and dads doing the hardest job in the world.

Honestly, I could not have lived and loved these kiddos if I was where I thought and hoped I would be by now. I have lived with families (or my own makeshift family of girlfriend roomies and Safe Families kiddos) for the larger part of the last decade. I am “auntie” or “Aberdabber” to now dozens of kids (…turning into adults 😳).

My point, and best piece of advice? Don’t wait. 

If you long to be a parent and (for whatever reason) can’t right now, find some kiddos to nurture and some parents to link arms with. Become an “auntie” or “uncle,” and be the best one you can be. Babysit, teach Sunday school, mentor foster kids, or even get licensed as a foster or Safe Families parent. Volunteer at an after school program or local school. Coach a youth sports team. Inquire about rocking babies at the hospital. Don’t just try to survive with this desire gnawing at your heart and no balm to soothe that space.

Do I still long to be a mama? Of course. But I have loved and been loved in ways that have impacted my world and, hopefully, the lives of so many little (and now not-so-little) ones. And I believe your life will be transformed in all the best possible ways too, so don’t wait. Find ways to use that gift of nurture to change the world, one little life at a time.

In honor of the stayers, the root-planters, the long-haul neighbors: You don’t need to move across the world to love big

I was maybe a year into nursing school when I decided I was moving to Africa. Oh don’t worry, it was exactly as dramatic as it sounds. After putting my life on hold while my dad met and succumbed to cancer, I was bloated with a fire for changing the world. I immersed myself in the blogs of starry-eyed millennials shirking cultural norms and embracing a life of extreme sacrifice in order to make some kind of noticeable impact on this world. I could relate. I had watched someone dear to me slowly wither and fade…the brevity of life was fresh on my mind, and I was equally swept up in a culture that promised accolades for grand gestures of proclaimed faith. I wanted to do something important with the short time I had on this earth, and without even realizing it at the time, I think I wanted to do something that would make me feel loved and valued. Lack of education, useful skills, or even defined purpose aside, moving to Africa seemed like an appropriate option.

I will never forget what my older sister said to me in the midst of that season: “Ab, there is great poverty in Africa, for sure. But there is poverty everywhere. It might be a different kind of poverty, but you’ll find it here too.” Initially, her words were like a cup of cold water thrown in the face of my zealous fervor. But as I mulled over what she said, I realized she was right. Somehow I had forgotten my roots.


“Are you Lindy Heath’s daughter?” I froze, immediately distracted from my task of pulling dollar bills out of my wallet. “Uh, yeah! Did you know him?” She immediately teared up, handing me the bouquet of flowers I had just purchased. “He was a regular here, always buying flowers for your mom or his coworkers. He never failed to ask me—by name—how I was doing. I miss seeing his smile around here.” It had been 8+ years since my dad had died.

The same week as my encounter with the florist, my younger sister had a similar experience. A coworker found out Cara’s maiden name was Heath and immediately asked her if she was Lindy’s daughter. This woman then told my sister that our dad had taught her eighth grade science class. She said, “Your dad was the only person who came to visit me in the hospital after I was in a serious car accident with my family. It was so many years ago now, but I will always remember that.”

My dad lived in the same town—the same house, even—for more than fifty years of his life. In that time, he took more than 10,000 trips to and from the local middle school where he worked. He memorized the names of thousands of students, and wrote hundreds of letters to coworkers. He invested in countless lives, impacting the world without ever leaving his corner of the globe. He stayed, his life a testimony of what Shannan Martin calls the “love song for the long haul.”


“Choosing to stay, at times, can be unhealthy or even impossible. Other times, it is obedient surrender, and we just have to stick it out until the good stuff begins.” —Shannan Martin, The Ministry of Ordinary Places

I had underestimated the power of staying. I think I will always have a restless bone in my body, a lust for adventure and change when life proves to be less than glamorous. I am still easily tempted by the lure of grand gestures of service and devotion. On many days, moving across the world feels easier than facing difficult coworkers or washing dishes at the local homeless shelter. A life of staying may not be sexy, but it can be powerful. This world needs more stayers, people who will put down roots and love their neighbors and community for years on end. People who will show up with a pot of soup after that grumpy neighbor has surgery. People like my friend June, who has faithfully swept the floors and cleaned out the fridge at the family shelter every Wednesday for years. People like my dad, who served quietly and gave generously for several decades of his life in my hometown. To my knowledge, there are no plaques that bear his name, no books written about his life. But his name is still on the lips and in the hearts of people who encountered him, even a decade after his death. His was a quiet love that tended to the wounds and longings of thousands. A love song for the long haul. 

Maybe you will find yourself traveling the world someday. Maybe you will have books written about you or find your name enshrined on a plaque or two. But maybe not. Maybe your life will simply be one of staying, of showing up for your neighbors and your family without acknowledgment or fanfare. Maybe the most difficult journey you will take is the one next door. If so, sing your love song loud. This world needs more stayers, and take it from me…you don’t need to move across the world to love big. 

So if you are like me, occasionally looking for an escape route or hoping for a more glamorous calling, maybe you will find this prayer helpful. I know I’ll be right here, trying to grow my roots while praying:

“Oh, Lord, remind us that what we really want is more of you. You show us what it means to remain where you have placed us with great purpose—in the rumble of the city, down a winding lane, in the cookie-cutter ‘burbs where pain might show up in less obvious ways, but is breathing hot down our necks all the same. Show us the real way of worship, and grant us the guts to belong to each other when it’s hardest. Teach us to walk in place, memorizing the lay of this unimpressive land and calling it good. Help us to hang on for the encore, where your best work often waits. Prone to wander, Lord, we feel it…You are here, tuning our hearts to endurance, teaching us a love song for the long haul. Help us to endure when we feel dog-tired. Have your way.” —Shannan Martin, The Ministry of Ordinary Places

Dear Body, Let’s Make Peace

Without fail, it seems like every January ushers in a fresh obsession with the latest fad diets, a more accentuated cultural pressure for women to take up less space in the world, and an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction with the extra cellulite deposited over the course of holiday merriment with loved ones. Maybe I am just more aware of it because of what I am reading and who I am surrounding myself with (check out Hillary McBride’s book Mothers, Daughters, and Body Image), but it seems like every ad that meets my eyes these days has to do with weight loss or some other form of body “improvement.”

My relationship with my body is a complex one. She and I have been on quite a journey together, one that I suspect will continue until the day I cease to exist within her. I am just as vulnerable to the screaming messages of culture as the next woman, but I also find myself surrounded by women who are constantly teaching me to search for truth, to embrace my flaws and learn from them, and to stand up with confidence and invest in loving people rather than striving to impress the masses.

I write about mountains to be conquered, but today I want to stand up and say that my body is not one of those. And neither is yours. 

I wrote the following letter over a year ago. It feels vulnerable to share these words with you here, but I have also found that sometimes the most important and valuable words I can offer you are the ones I am afraid to say. Because chances are, if I’m afraid to say them, maybe someone else is too…and maybe by grabbing the mic first, I will give someone else the courage to say what she needs to say. So here I am, saying what feels vulnerable and scary but also honest and real.


Dear Body,

I think I have forgotten, ignored you.

I have treated you as Intruder, as a problem to be solved rather than Giver of Life, a strong solution to a world of problems.

I remember so clearly the day I thought you were wrong. I was a little girl, sitting in a bath with a friend, when she pointed out that my belly was bigger than hers. She probably did not cast judgment in that statement, but I felt in that moment like you were wrong. I was different, and this body of mine was abnormal. 

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I remember overhearing a man from church say that his wife “could certainly keep up her figure better,” but then excuse this apparently vile flaw by saying, “but she has so many other good qualities, like how she serves others.” So if my body cannot be desirable to a man, I have to make up for that with service?

My period came, and I was embarrassed. I did not feel like I could tell my mom what I needed, how my body was changing and rebelling, so I hid the blood. I couldn’t ask for feminine products. I couldn’t ask for anything I needed. 

I remember when I started forcing my body to fit the mold others made for it. The calorie counting, feeling so proud when I could restrict myself until my stomach ached with hunger. My mind would scream, “I will beat you into submission, Body!” and I would eat salad and sugar free popsicles. I was 13 years old.

Then I discovered a new form of tortuous delight…running. For the first time, I was watching the cellulite disappear and others began to comment on the rightness of my body. “Wow! You look good! You are so skinny!” So apparently it was true…I WAS wrong before. I was broken, and now I was skinny and right. My feet would obsessively pound the pavement. Thanksgiving dinner? Had to run five miles first. Weekend trip with a girlfriend? Six miles. I felt strong, in control. Beating my body to be what I and others desired made me feel so powerful. “Maybe now they will approve of you, Body” I thought.

I stopped starving myself. The pounds crept back on. Slowly, because I was still running. But then even that went away. A knife cut into my body and removed a diseased organ, but then I couldn’t run. Until I just didn’t. I started compensating. Maybe remembering the words of that man about his wife, I started finding ways to make myself invaluable to other people by serving and helping and doing whatever they wanted me to do. The ultimate pleaser. I kept exercising because they said I should, but I hated every minute of it.

There were the youth group conversations, the group discussions where the boys told us they imagined us naked when we wore wrong things and that was shameful. Yikes, so now my body was dangerous too. Cover it up! Then there were the private conversations, men who told me my shirt was too low-cut (my developing breasts were wrong too) or that my body odor was abhorrent (great, even my sweat is disgusting!).

I always noticed the girls who had boys chasing after them. “What do I have to do to my body to earn the desire of a guy?” I would think. After all, we do treat that as the pinnacle of womanhood…being desired by a man. 

Body, I have pretended you did not exist. I have misused you, spoken poorly about you, and sought to disown you. All the while, you have carried me, holding moments of joy and sorrow that no one else has known. You have held hands and hugged dear ones and walked miles and scooped up crying babes.

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YOU are strong. You have sat at the bedside of the dying and wiped away your father’s tears as he passed into the next life.

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You have carried the burdens of others and stored away secrets for friends.

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You have held the stress and tension my mind did not know how to process. YOU are not wrong, you are actually ME.

You are powerful and full of dreams and desires that can change lives and pathways and worlds. You are beautiful, the embodiment of ME: Comforter, friend, joy-bearer, life-speaker, team-builder. Your legs can climb mountains, your arms hoist giggling children up into the air. The cellulite you have tried so desperately at times to purge bears the energy required to be a creator of life. YOU are Woman. Beautiful, strong, ENOUGH.

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Hello, Body. I embrace you as you are, no longer despise you or your needs. You are MINE. Not someone else’s to control or mold into a caricature, but MINE. There are desires and needs to be uncovered in you and cradled so gently, not ignored or begrudgingly met in order to be pushed away.

And Woman…Yes, you who sit next to me and beside me and on the other side of this screen…Let’s make peace with our bodies, ok? Let’s celebrate all they are and all they have carried. Let’s discover what they need and crave, and gently tend to those desires. Let’s enter what you might even find to be uncharted waters, a space where we can declare to the world, “I am not wrong, I am everything right and good and powerful! I. Am. Woman.” Let’s do this together, okay?  For ourselves, for the women who came before us and the girls who will come after us. Let’s make a new way. 

Tenderly,

Abigail…ALL of me.

 

Entering 2019: Two Reminders For The Discouraged

I woke up this morning and struggled to get out of bed. Usually, I welcome the New Year with gusto. I savor the fresh start and look forward to turning over a new page in my blank calendar. I am one of those weirdos who finds great pleasure in selecting a “word for the year” and setting goals to accomplish over the next 12 months. But this year, for some reason, I am dreading the blank calendar page. 

2019 feels more daunting than welcoming.

The goals that loom before me, some I want to accomplish and some I need to check off, feel as massive as Everest.

I am overwhelmed, and when I am overwhelmed I would rather pull the covers over my head and delay the start of this day, month, and year by even just five minutes. 

Can anyone relate?

Questions and doubts swirl in my head.

  • What if I fail?
  • What if there are not enough resources to accomplish x, y, or z?
  • What if I disappoint so-and-so?
  • What if I arrive at December 2019 in the same exact mental/physical/financial place?
  • Or even worse, what if I lose more than I gain over the next 12 months?

When I give in to the insecurities and questions, I find myself paralyzed by doubt. And I lay in bed for far longer than I should.

As I finally threw the covers off and pulled myself out of bed this morning, I was taken back to my middle school days. There were many mornings of my junior high life that found me sitting next to my dad in the car and describing in great angst my dread of the day before me. His words? Every single time, without fail: “Just show up, Ab. Showing up is half the battle.” 

Just show up. One foot in front of the other. Eventually, those footsteps will take me up that mountain.

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes. These words, words I have taped to the back of my bedroom door, seem a fitting way to enter this New Year that I haven’t been even remotely eager to face. Maybe you will find these words a comfort as well:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”

-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

For those of you who, like me, are dreading 2019 more than cheering it into existence, I offer us two gentle reminders:

1. Just show up. As my dad always said, showing up is half the   battle.

2. “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.” 

I may not jump out of bed tomorrow with eagerness, but I will throw off the covers and plant my feet on the ground. I will show up, and I will try to remember that there is beauty to be found in the suspense of incompleteness. There is beauty to be mined from the mountain that looms before me. Without knowing what mountain stands before you, I would guess that you will find beauty on your journey as well. So let’s commit to finding it, shall we? Even if we have to dig down deep. 

We don’t actually believe in community…but we need it

I don’t really remember, but I assume I was an utter wreck.

My dad had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and I had dropped out of a college degree program I loved only a month after starting so I could be at home with my family. I remember feeling lost, like no one around me could possibly understand what I was experiencing. I carried the weight of the world on my shoulders, and I’m sure I leaned quite a bit under that weight no matter where I was or what I was doing.

She and I, we would go to the gym under the pretense of “working out,” but then we would sit in the hot tub and talk for hours on end. She loved me well, even when I was at my worst. She knew I really just needed her to be WITH me, to sit beside me and try to understand that massive burden I was carrying on my back.

We don’t really want community. Sure, we say we do. We want the weekly dinners and laughter. We don’t want the brokenness or mess, though. Because true community means sitting through tears and agony and CHOOSING to carry that weight too. True community means financial and emotional risk. True community means no guarantees, other than that your heart will hurt at some point. True community is often inconvenient and always revealing of your deepest self. We don’t really want that kind of community. 

At the risk of sounding “political,” I honestly believe this is at the root of why we erect walls. This is why we are oftentimes more comfortable dropping money in the collection plate than we are sitting down beside that stranger on the street asking for money. This is why we plug in our earbuds on the plane instead of engaging the person sitting next to us. This is why we drive into our garages at the end of the day and close our doors to the world outside. We say we want community, but we don’t. We need it though.

At the heart of Advent is this deep, guttural cry of longing for a Savior who would love us enough to risk the mess of being WITH us. This God-man, Jesus, will always capture my heart and attention because of this mysterious, beautiful manifestation of divine love: Incarnation…the Word made flesh. 

Jesus put on a skin-suit heavy with the burden and brokenness of humanity.
He allowed himself to be inconvenienced by the unimportant.
He touched those who posed great risk to his health.
He cradled the annoying and called them precious.
He defended the weak, those who had no capability of repaying him.
He chose as his companions the dirty, unpopular, convicted, irreligious, obnoxious, despised.

He not only believed in true community, he embodied it. The messy kind, the kind that demands a life. And I believe he invites us into the same.

He invites us to be inconvenienced by the unimportant.
He invites us to touch those who pose great risk to our health.
He invites us to bring the annoying closer and mine their preciousness.
He invites us to advocate for the weak and those who will never be able to repay us.
He invites us to choose our companions among the dirty, unpopular, convicted, irreligious, obnoxious, and despised.

He invites us into true community, because he knows that ultimately, it is we who need to be saved and transformed. I am the one who needs to be rescued…Rescued from misplaced priorities. Saved from my own selfishness and pride. Liberated from fear of the unknown and misunderstood. I desperately need a Savior, and he resides with and inside those I so often avoid. 

We don’t want true community, but oh do we so desperately need it. Thankfully, we have a Savior who took on flesh and moved into the neighborhood…a Savior who longs to be with us even at our worst, and invites us to do the same for each other. 

Photo credit Lauren Koleff

Exciting announcement…and a fun gift!

It’s Friday, it’s Friday! As we head into the weekend, I have an exciting announcement and giveaway! This coming Monday, I will be sending out my very first #MiningThisMountain newsletter. This will be a fun way for my blog readers to receive exclusive content in their inbox once a month. AND…anyone who signs up to receive the newsletter before this Sunday will also receive a beautiful digital print from the amazing Ahni Art. Printed and framed, this would make a perfect Christmas gift…or a wonderful addition to your own wall 😉

To sign up for the newsletter and become eligible to receive this gift, visit the link below and fill out the form. Happy Friday, friends!

http://eepurl.com/dIIQ7v

A New Kind of “Evangelism”: Being and Becoming a Safe Place

We had only just met when I moved across the country. He was a little bundle of squishy, squealing preciousness. I spent one week with him, breathing in that new baby smell and trying to memorize all his perfect little features. And then I moved. I have visited him a few times since then, but periodic face-to-face interactions and monthly phone calls are not really sufficient to build trust with a toddler. Last week, I scooped him up and squealed his name, and he hit me in the face. Blood relations don’t carry much meaning with little ones, apparently 😉 It was very clear to me who his “safe people” are. You know, those people he will run to when he gets hurt or tired or hungry. Those people he will melt into and cuddle.

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I have “safe people” too: People I will cry with, complain to, or turn to for advice. People I will “melt” into…a safe haven where I can just breathe deep and be wholly myself. Some of these people are family by blood, but some are people who have earned my trust and affection over time. I would imagine that you know who your “safe people” are too.

Ultimately, we all need that safe haven, don’t we? I believe that is what the Divine longs to be for us. Deuteronomy 32 paints this beautiful image of God being like a mother eagle caring for her young: “Like the eagle that stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young, God spreads wings to catch you, and carries you on pinions.” I have watched this beautiful dance unfold between so many parents and their children…this dance of trust. Think about the countless hours a mama spends feeding, rocking, and cooing at her babe. Thousands and thousands of moments that add up to this pivotal bond of attachment and trust.

In my work context, I see the effects of a void overtaking the place of this “safe person”: Anger, resentment, indiscriminate affection and sexual promiscuity, inappropriate attention seeking behaviors, violence and resistance to others’ attempts at connection… So much brokenness. We are hardwired to need a “safe person,” and to develop that bond over countless hours of connection and trust-building. We are hardwired to crave a safe haven, and our human relationships are so often the very best way we understand how the Divine relates to us. It goes without saying, then, that there are a lot of people wandering this planet with a broken understanding of the Divine’s nurturing tenderness. People who have been broken and discarded by other human beings. People who have had weak bonds of trust shattered again and again until they have given up even trying to forge relationships at all. So how do we help someone understand the nurturing tenderness of the Divine toward humanity? How do we invite others into the nest of this Mother Eagle tending her young?

I have thought a lot about this, and I think the answer is that we become the safe place. The only way to help an abandoned child learn the attachment dance is to go back to the beginning…to recreate those thousands of moments of connection, of faithfully meeting tangible physical needs. I wonder if it’s not the same with mirroring the love of the Divine to humanity. We become the safe place…we learn how to nurture and defend others. We develop practices of face-to-face connection with those we are called to care for and love. We earn the trust of others through hours of time spent being WITH them and meeting physical needs. We listen well. When we encompass this kind of nurturing tenderness, I believe we point those around us to a deeper reality. We become the hands and feet of Jesus….and the sheltering wings of the Divine. Humanity is desperate for this nurturing tenderness, to be cradled and protected from the darkness all around us.

I had a hand painted wooden sign hanging over the door frame in my Indiana house. It proclaimed these words: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4). My prayer was that the little white house would become a refuge and haven for all who would enter beneath that door frame. I no longer own that little house, but I have come to believe that people can be a refuge and haven too.

May we be and become the safe spaces where the weary and burdened find rest and renewal…a taste of the Divine. 

Guest Post: #MyYearOfGratitude

Today holds the last guest post in this gratitude series, and you do not want to miss it! I have the privilege of introducing you to my incredible friend, Kathy. Kathy and I met when I was a student in her high school creative writing class. What a semester that was! I still consider Kathy to be one of the most influential people in my life, and I think you will see why. She exudes strength, humor, and joy in the face of immense challenges. When you are with her, she has this way of making you feel like the most important person to walk the earth. She has made me laugh when I didn’t think I could laugh again, infused hope into my life when my tank was empty, and given me some of the most thoughtful gifts that have left me feeling seen and loved. Kathy’s words feel like the perfect way to end this series. I hope you soak them up and share them with others.


“Beauty is possible in the storms, in spite of the storms, sometimes even because of the storms.”

On January 1, 2018, I posted the first of what will be 365 #MyYearOfGratitude tweets, taking me through every month, every week, and every day of 2018. The discipline of proclaiming daily gratitude has been at times simple and at other times daunting. I have both resented the obligation and found solace in it. I have fought to keep the tweets real, for myself rather than for my followers, yet I’ve been touched deeply when my tweets were both personal and also meaningful to others. Fitting that bit of gratitude into 280 characters was additionally challenging. Still, I knew It was what I needed to do after a physically, emotionally, and spiritually difficult 2017.

Some of my tweets highlight my life as a blind person working with a guide dog.

  • Yesterday, I walked out of four buildings with Nacho guiding me and no sighted assistance. You who do this daily, don’t overlook the gift of independence. Knowing you can find a door means you can walk through it to anywhere and do anything.
  • Big lab, big job, big brain, big head, big muscles, big paws… Still tiptoes like a big ninny when traversing rain-soaked parking lots!

Others include sweet encounters with children in the classes of new elementary school teachers whom I mentor.

  • A kindergartner said, “Nacho is loving on you.” Definition of loving on someone: The Choice to display love through deliberate actions meant to let others know they matter. Decide to love on someone today. It is so needed.
  • To the child who confidently sings the alphabet song three notes ahead of your peers, you will learn to harmonize one day and will enjoy it, but even then, don’t stop being your own bold self! I hear you.

Some of my favorite tweets feature moments of mindfulness and contemplation.

  • In the chill of crisp autumn air, I hear distant church bells ring. For these moments when I am still enough in body and spirit to notice, I am grateful.
  • I just witnessed wind chimes chiming not because of wind but because of rain. Beauty is possible in the storms, in spite of the storms, sometimes even because of the storms.

Not every tweet is joyful. I believe I have grown the most when capturing pain.

  • Ugg, sometimes it’s hard. Can we be honest about that? Sometimes it’s hard to be OK or stay OK. That’s when we lean against those blessed pillars in our lives, until we can stand tall again and be a pillar ourselves.
  • I lift him from the car. His brittle fur, depleted muscles, and seemingly hollow bones weigh as little as a much smaller dog. He struggles at first then stills. I hold him, remembering. Aging is taking him…but not yet. There is still time to love him.

In every tweet, I have discovered more about myself, my world, and My God. And because of that, I am grateful yet again.

  • My best speeches, lessons, and heart-to-heart conversations include at least several moments when I have almost out-of-body experiences, listening to myself be wiser and better than I actually am. Praise God for such unexpected perspective.
  • When the week ends and there is nothing left in my reserves, I hope…and I believe…that somewhere in the chaos, I did some good for someone.

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Kathy Nimmer is the 2015 Indiana Teacher of the Year and finalist for National Teacher of the Year. She teaches writing at Harrison High School in West Lafayette, mentors new teachers throughout her district, and is a frequent motivational speaker. Kathy is blind from a rare degenerative retinal disease. Faith in God has been her light in the darkness. You can follow her at: twitter.com/Kathy_nimmer.
And, I (Abigail) will add, Kathy is my friend 🙂

Guest post: God Moments

Today’s guest post is brought to you by one of my favorite people in the world…my little brother! Josiah has been my buddy for as long as I can remember. He has the most tender, compassionate heart…Kind of amazing considering what he has walked through. I asked Jo to write for us because I am always so blessed by his perspective. I love his suggestion to us today to be seeking out “God moments.” What’s your God moment today?


“Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep climbing toward the top of
the mountain. But keep your eyes up along the journey and look for the immense beauty that surrounds you.” 

So I’ll be honest: I have never written a blog post of any kind nor am I slightly
qualified to write a post for the blog of the most gifted writer I know. Yikes. Here
goes nothing.

Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday. Most importantly, it means that my
favorite holiday, Christmas, is about a month away. Secondary to that, it is a season
where I intentionally consider the blessings in my life. When I was thinking about
what to write, it struck me that too often we wait for holidays, anniversaries,
birthdays, or other major events to focus on and express gratitude in our lives. How
different would our world look if we all tried to live our daily lives marked by
gratitude?

Maybe this is a rudimentary concept that you have heard before and have mastered
already. Teach me? My wife and I recently moved into her parents’ home after living
with my mom for six months. We are in a season of limbo while we wait on some
direction and don’t want to commit to a lease when we aren’t sure where we’ll end
up. We had a ‘boundaries’ talk with Anna’s parents and the two of her younger
siblings that still live at home. When asked what she needed from us, my 13-year old
sister-in-law said she wanted me to smile more. Seriously? At the time we all
laughed the request off, but her words have stuck with me ever since. I have so
much to be thankful for, so why is it so easy to get distracted by the ‘meh moments’
in life?

I don’t want to discount the fact that the holidays, and life in general, can be difficult for a lot of people. The world around us so often seems to be falling apart. Having a grateful attitude for the roof over our head or the family at home won’t make hardships disappear or depression vanish. Finding glory in the mundane is not the medicine for the plagues of violence, sickness, and poverty that have infected the lives of so many people. However, I think if we can pursue a heart of daily gratitude, then maybe (and that’s a BIG maybe), we can be part of the solution.

One of the greatest benefits of finding moments of gratitude in life’s routine is being able to identify what I like to call “God moments.” For me, my most frequent God moments are occurrences in nature: a breathtaking sunset, a pair of deer gallivanting through a cornfield, or a magnificent thunderstorm all leave me awestruck at God’s majesty. Like I said, these God moments don’t alleviate depression, end gun violence, stop natural disasters, or squash any of the countless issues that permeate today’s society or our personal lives. These God moments, however, provide me with something so powerful: hope. A hope that one day there will be a world without all of the pain and the suffering. Hope that we can work toward that world today by being kind to one another and looking out for our neighbors.

So yes, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep climbing toward the top of
the mountain. But keep your eyes up along the journey and look for the immense
beauty that surrounds you.


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Because I’m his sister, I can post any picture of us that I want to 😉 Circa 2012. Josiah is married to Anna, dog dad to Bear, and little brother of the Heath clan. He is best known for winning ALL the games in the Heath household, always being up for family time or a movie with his sister, carrying most of the “smart” Heath genes, and having a beautiful heart for people. I’M thankful I get to claim him as my brother 🙂