Jan 11, 2016

begin again.

following god isn't glamorous, but it is so beautiful. your hands will get dirty, and your heart will get wrecked. 
But love makes it worth it. 
| julianne wilson |
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Sometimes new year’s —F R E S H  S T A R T S—don’t happen at the strike of a midnight clock. Sometimes they happen after a few shaky lips and getting really brave about honesty. New starts only happen when you sit down and pose hard questions about very old problems. Peeling back layers often reveals the pain and risks your cringing at the brokenness underneath. But underneath, when we lay down our defenses, when we get really real with ourselves and God, there’s h e a l i n g. 
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 "Grace, you always seem to have your life together.” 
“I must be a good actress then, because half the time I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.” 
“But you seem to always have your life so together.” 

The conversation I had with one of my college friends stunned me, because if there’s anything I hate the most, I hate façades. If I got really really honest with you, I would tell you I am a mess half the time. I change five times a day. I wear red lipstick on speech performance days, thinking that the cranberry color gives me confidence. I forget my grading sheets for really important projects. I grumble when the alarm goes off at 6:30 in the morning, and I don't "make time" for God as much as I should. Half the time, I’m consciously counting the beats in my head, trying to determine the right time to make eye contact and say hello when I see someone approaching on campus. I eat too much or not at all. I fancy people who don't know of my existence. I don't drink enough water. I stumble over my words. I cry and rage and rave when I don't get a part in a play. I get irritated with my roommates. I stress over insignificant things. I don't know how to let go when people walk out of my life. I get jealous. I get frustrated. I don't listen to the Lord's leading. I get bitter. I get angry, really angry. And I get hurt. 

 photo IMG_9613_zpsqqs76kiz.jpgNo matter how “together” our lives seem on the outside, we’re all struggling to find something real in a fake world. We become so used to saying the right words to get the right people to think well of us. We swallow two pills of pride each morning to keep our ship afloat, and we learn to bury our fears and failures deep somewhere inside. And if we can’t, we learn the right things to say to ourselves that convince us "grace carries that" and "I don't have to deal with that right now." We assume that running away solves our problems for a spell. 

But running away for a girl who will not accept goodbye is not an answer. And when it comes to God, I say no. I say no to lukewarm living. I say no to clichés. I say no to a shallow faith. I say no to running away. I say no to a fake relationship and shallow “thank you for this day, amen" prayers. 

If you read the Bible, you'll see a pattern in Jesus' ministry. He spoke to multitudes, but the Bible records specific circumstances — specific people that He met individually. Where they were. 
On a rooftop. 
In a tree. 
At a well in a forbidden land. 
Deploringly cast at His feet. 
He meets people where they are. 

And, I think, He met me on a worn-down, ugly, salmon-pink couch in a quiet corner in a hotel lobby. Where hearts are left on the patterned carpet and knees tucked up to our chins are the only defenses against the words that would slip out tonight. New years for me began when an ocean of tears let lose, and I spat out some words that sounded hollow, revealing the ugly bits of my soul. The monsters that I determine to numb everyday. The rooms that hide locked under a key that sometimes I can’t even find. New years began a week after the bells rung and the fireworks lit up the sky. When I cried all my makeup off and sobbed and laughed and cried again next to a soul who I’m so thankful did not judge. Who did not brush me off. Who simply sat there, took my hand, and didn’t run away. 

Those are the people we need at the end of the day. People who will not run away. People who are willing to follow. People who learn to be planters. People who tear down walls. People who are willing to stay up all hours of the night who will show up for you. People who are brave enough to be honest. 

God wants those types of people too. We’re not going to reach people until we get really honest with ourselves. That we’re struggling. That we’re not a perfect. We’re broken. Our love is, in turn, the same: broken. And it hurts. Gosh, it hurts. 
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Love is forgiveness. 
And it's 
Atonement. 
And it's basically like putting your soul in a washing machine—it's not some gentle cycle, it's a fierce whipping that rings you out good. It makes the stains fade. 
Best of all, 
It fills the holes. 
Hannah Brencher 

But at the end of the day, it’s what fixes us too. Broken love offered to a Savior who was broken for us. Who took our brokenness and infused His beauty into it. At the end of the day, He graces us with a very real story that we can carry with us and can't run from. He sews reminders of a grace that wins through midnight conversations and quotes from articles and snippets of lyrics. 
He reminds us that He's in it for the long haul. 
The brokenness. The bad. And the ugly. 

Sometimes new years — FRESH STARTS — don’t happen overnight. Sometimes it’s the little choices the day by day decisions, the conscience hour by hour thoughts, that keep you clinging to the belief that He’s never going to stop reaching. And He's never going to let go. 

No matter the pain. No matter the brokenness. No matter the distance that you think you made for yourself between you and your Creator. 
This is where we 
begin again.

xx
ever inspired by // this & her.
portraits by // the ever lovely hannah | SoCal succulents circa 2014
on replay // "called me higher
inspired by // a conversation with my bestie. 
postscript // thank you to all who still keep connected to this little spot, despite my comings and goings. you're all lovely people. 

Jan 1, 2016

2015 in review.

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sometimes you publish things. and somethings you just live. you break all the little rules that you made for yourself and you just live. 
{hannah brencher}
JANUARY // familiar hello's came at a cost with goodbye's made bittersweet. i nervously boarded a plane early one cold january morning and immediately dove into new classes and projects and a graduate recital as soon as my feet touched Floridian soil. 
FEBRUARY // every tick of the clock was precious with only a month until production night gracing the calendar. nights were long. really long. and sleep was too little. but i was blessed with the opportunity of working with a director who continues to inspire me to this day as well and i was blessed with friendships that i will carry for the rest of my life. 
MARCH // 7 weeks of late-night rehearsals threaded a handful of theatre people into a real "MISHPUCHA." 
APRIL // spring crept its way on campus, bursting with vibrant green life and splashing every nook and cranny with light. afternoons were spent sailing on the breezy gulf. since Anna Filly and Moriah Nelson were in town, Taylor, Makaela, and Kristi, and I chased the sunset on Pensacola's famous sugary beaches and shared our hearts around dinner and froyo. evenings were spent with mishpucha at dinner gatherings; and we all attended the phenomenal production of agatha christie's "the moustrap." 
MAY // the end of the semester unwound with a trail of new friendships and dear people who were difficult to bid farewell to. LA greeted me cooly with Disneyland adventures with my dear parents and my OC family to spark the beginning of an unforgettable summer. 
JUNE // long distance phone calls tied me to a soul that made me breathe poetry and dream of stories i never believed i would ever title as mine; and hannah brencher's book inspired me to pursue stories. 
JULY // we packed our bags and spent a week breathing in mountain air and swimming in the refreshing rivers of Yosemite National Park. Johanna and I spent two and a half weeks of adventuring in Yosemite, Arrowhead, and sunny SoCal. 
AUGUST // brought an adventure with Joanna by the sea; my journal was filled with colorful entries reflecting a vibrant life.
SEPTEMBER // the shifting of the seasons prepared me to reach for the stars in my sophomore year. i met my dearest friend in French class. greek rush welcomed the incoming freshman, and each of my classes fueled my passions for writing and speech. 
OCTOBER // my birthday was ushered in quietly but sweetly. in the middle of the whirlwind of midterms, i celebrated at my campus parents' home with pumpkin cheesecake and skype calls that made me thankful to have friends and family supporting me in Cali. 
NOVEMBER // delivered a flood of papers and speeches and auditions and callbacks and rehearsals that blurred weeks into tiny infinities. i was blessed with the opportunity of working on another production with a fantastic senior director. 
DECEMBER // the week before finals nearly killed me, but by God's grace papers were submitted, speech were performed, bags were packed, plays were put on, and friendships that were hard to say goodbye to were made. California greeted me with crisp weather and a cozy Christmas. 

the world became bigger. my eyes grew a little wider. i blinked and time slipped by. my heart was scattered in a few more people and places, and my journal is bursting at the spine with the many vibrant adventures that fell into my lap. i learned the weight of words, the art of writing; and the Lord confirmed my calling in the field of writing during the fall semester. 
i was the assistant director for two different productions in one year and learned the ropes of networking in a place that constantly makes me thankful for the constant sense of community my life. the Lord became a little realer. love wasn't so foreign a concept. there was much growing and trusting and stretching and memory-making in 2015. i lived. and sometimes there's a little breaking involved. but so much grace too. yes, if there's anything i will carry out of 2015 it's this: 
grace wins. 
HAPPIEST NEW YEAR, DEAR READERS! 
may 2k16 be your best year yet. 
xx

Oct 25, 2015

nineteen.

it is one thing to be the girl on fire, but it is entirely another thing to be the girl who manages to set the world on fire with all the quiet and beautiful things she does. 
>> hannah brencher << 
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it was learning. 
it was learning that EVERYTHING couldn’t always be explained in words. 

that some things like // 
learning to let go of glances that made hearts start and shatter all at once on the brick pavements,
four in the afternoon conversations on my best friend’s bed while exhaustion collapsed in my lungs and home settled in the bones, 
sitting on mum's bedroom floor in tears at the realization of how loved one could be, 
or philosophizing with dad as he tenderly watered the plants — these moments could never ever be explained in a million and one years. 
18 was learning to live. really live. dirt under finger nails. ink smudged elbows. it was learning that honest connections are missing in this world. to listen to souls and to purposely feel the weight of words. to be brave enough to swallow the word "goodbye," risking the change that would happen in between homecomings.
18 was learning that, though we humans could all be starkly different, we were all craving the same things: to be wanted. to have purpose. to never feel alone.
18 was the year i picked up hannah brencher's book if you find this letter {a book which by the way made me laugh out loud and cry and ache and applaud and squeal all in one reading} that basically shook my world. it's people like her who open your eyes to the fact that small things can become something bigger than you.  

18 was learning that it didn’t matter how many reblogs, or likes, or comments that reflected how my words were affecting the world, but that they were getting out there. they served as small “i love you’s” in world that was very fake and that was hurting under the weight of the facades. 
18 was staying up until 1 o’ clock in the morning, with the windows open, and a thumb nail digging into my index finger until it bled because i was overflowing with incoherent stories and prayers that i hoped one day would make a difference to someone. 
18 was realizing how to not be afraid. not be afraid of the ambiguity of love and life and laughter. 
18 was learning to be honest. 18 was deciding TO STAY. 
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19 scares me. can i say that? is that even allowed to be said in a society demanding that this is the age to be bold and loud and self-assured? I am afraid not at the thought that I might not find love but that love might not find me. I run too often than not and am more restless than I care to admit. I am afraid that I will be too much for someone, or not enough. and I so desperately want to be enough. I am afraid that my talents only go so far and that I will eventually look back and see that I did nothing noteworthy.  I don’t want the next succeeding years to carve me without my carving something out of them too. it doesn't matter if there's a trophy in the collegian hall with my name on it, or a story in the school's publication with the words, "grace shaffer" in roman type. 


I just want to leave behind something of grace. I want to stop being an apology note and be a love letter instead.  

I want to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable — allowing the learning curves to fill me up with grace and honesty. I'm not always going to have the right words at the right times, but I don't want the fear of awkwardness to stop me from showing up for people. to be there. no matter what. I want people to see a girl who was half-way out of her mind for dodging those daunting terminals and crossing 3000 miles across the states back and forth for school, because maybe just maybe they might be inspired enough to put their comfort zones to rest and rise up to the challenge of showing up for a life that the Lord had mapped out for them with all the pretty mountain vistas and roads by the ocean. 

I want these years to be embedded in me, etch me into someone 
more confident, more willing, more open, more loving, more kind.

I want to make a difference - little ones that people don’t realize are there until they look back in their yearbooks, big ones that are too loud to be ignored, ones that suck the air out of your lungs and you can point to saying "now, that THAT could never have happened without a big powerful God routing you on."


the more i grow up, the more i realize this world is hurting. grace is everywhere.
pay attention. show up for others. be there. be present. be whole. be deeply rooted. be honest. 

19, in my mind, has always been an awkward, in-between year.
and no wonder, since this birthday falls directly on the busiest, most stressful weekend in between midterms. 
but i believe that the in-between years can sometimes bring the best yet. 
xx 
second still by the lovely miss hannah