We're officially within the season of Advent. The long exhale, the waiting, the anticipation, the breathing, the hoping. The reminder that "God seeks us out where we are right now. Not where we should be by our own or anyone elses estimation" {Sarah Bessey}. It’s a time that often gets overlooked because of the busyness and the holiday hustle and bustle, but it’s so important.

At the beginning of this Advent season I was feeling pretty restless. I was drowning in all the change and transition I’ve been going through and kept getting frustrated with myself when I felt like I wasn’t handling it all well. I kept planning and over-thinking and plotting and over-analyzing and seeking the right answers and striving for clarity and what to think of next or what I could be doing...and on, and on, and on.

It's exhausting and when I looked up and realized Advent was here, I paused. I started really thinking about what this season means and felt like this is the perfect time to make a change. To stop the seeking. To be present. To stop the hustle. To stop the busy. To wait and anticipate. To stop the over-thinking. To stop the plotting.

One Sunday morning a phrase echoed across my soul, “Cease the striving."

I felt it clear as day. Cease the striving. Be still, be present, just be. Look down, not around, not side to side, not ahead, but down. To look at my feet, to see where I am and be present there. To focus on my little corner of the world as it is and to water the grass where I’ve been planted. To wait and breath in the truth that I am significant where I am and nothing I strive to do or hustle towards will make me more significant or worthy.

I receive a daily Advent email from the Global Advent Calendar and it has a word for the day and a thought from a monk. Monday it was "Be." Brother Curtis Almquist said, “Contentment is more about being than about doing, or acquiring, or mastering, or craving, or searching. Contentment is about being satisfied given the limitations of our present life."

So this Advent season, I choose contentment. I choose to be exactly where I am. I choose the waiting. I choose presence over plans. Stillness over striving. Stopping over going. Acceptance over analysis. Patience over plotting. I choose to be. I choose to cease the striving.

Join me?

I made an advent wreath this year and I love it. It's not anything special, but a daily reminder to cease the striving. Every Sunday we light a candle and read the weekly email from Sarah Bessey about that weeks candle.


If you want to read some good thoughts about Advent, find a few from Sarah Bessey here and here. You can also receive a daily thought from A Global Advent Calendar here.


Anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. When I hear the word anxiety it conjures up a lot of feelings, images and thoughts. It's something that I have always struggled with, but didn't really fully acknowledge until recently. It's something that I often have joked about, mentioned in passing, blamed but then minimized because I didn't want to sound crazy. I've started realizing more and more how many things are tied to anxiety and really seeing how it's manifested itself in my life. And I know I'm not alone.

This is a topic that I've wanted to write about for awhile now, but when I go to do it I always seem to stare at a blank page. Recently my counselor told me that she thinks when I write, when I choose to be vulnerable, when I choose to let people in on my story...I'm releasing myself from the shame that I often carry with me. Writing, being authentic and vulnerable, and trusting others to walk with me, gives me freedom, it helps me take ownership of my story so I can write my own ending.

I think there are a lot of misconceptions about anxiety and I get it...anxiety can look different for everyone. Sometimes the way I explain it to someone is it's like there's a loop in my head about everything and anything that I could be uneasy about or that could be wrong and there's nothing I can do to stop it.  For me, this has resulted in panic attacks, health issues and lots of lost sleep. Also, if you want to know what could go wrong in any given situation, ask an anxious person. Luckily, with a lot of good counseling and hard work, I have learned ways to handle and deal with my anxiety, but it's still an issue. When I'm taking care of myself and being healthy, it's a lot easier to stop that loop in my head than when I'm not.

I thought I would share a few insights about anxiety. I hope that if you struggle with this you'll feel a little less alone and if you don't, that it will help you understand that anxious person in your life a little better.

1. Anxiety is not the same thing as worry. I like how Megan Tietz and Laura Tremaine talk about this on their Sorta Awesome Podcast (Also, I highly recommend anyone and everyone listen to their podcast here about anxiety, if you struggle with it you will say "me too" so many times and if you don't struggle with it, it'll give you great insight), "Worry is somewhat reasonable, but there's no reasoning with anxiety. Worry can be talked down from the cliff. Anxiety is convinced that you are hurtling toward the edge of the cliff and the brakes just went out." When you worry there's usually a reasonable root at the cause of that, you can usually take a few deep breaths, wrap your head around the reality of the situation, pray, meditate or whatever you choose to do to be calm and you'll be fine. Deep breaths don't fix anxiety, trying to wrap your head around your anxious thoughts just keeps you on the hamster wheel and loop and praying, meditating or whatever you choose to do can help, but it doesn't fix least it hasn't for me.

2. A lot of shame can be associated with anxiety. Megan and Laura talk about this in their podcast too and it was actually something I had never fully realized until I heard them say it...I have been so ashamed that I struggle with anxiety. Especially when it came to being a Christian. I have always felt like something was wrong with me, that I didn't believe enough or trust enough...because you know, God says do not worry about anything and how can we add an hour to our life by worrying so why can't I stop all this anxiety? I would repeat those verses over and over again and when nothing changed or every time someone just told me to quit worrying so much because I'm supposed to trust in God, the shame piled on. When I realized there was a difference between anxiety and worry and realized there's no freedom when you're buried in shame, it was like I started living a whole new story.

3. Counseling. Everyone who knows me knows that I am a huge proponent of counseling. I think anyone and everyone should go to counseling! Because even if you don't struggle with anxiety or you don't think anything's "wrong" with you, we can all benefit from sorting through our issues, learning how to feel our feelings, having space to take a step outside of our current lived experience and, at the bare minimum, talk things out to someone who is legally bound and paid to hear you out and help you think things through. It creates healthier and whole people and the world needs healthier and whole people. People who feel their feelings, who deal with their issues and you acknowledge they don't have it all together.

4. I started to feel freedom when people believed me. Again this was a moment of clarity when listening to Megan and Laura on the podcast, a moment where I realized, yes, that's so true! I have a friend in my life who probably has two anxious thoughts a year...she does not struggle with anxiety. But, she never ridicules me or tells me I'm wrong when I tell her I'm feeling anxious. She believes me. There's even been times where I haven't said anything, but she knows so she tells me to list everything I'm anxious about. I was amazed at how helpful it was to name my anxious thoughts and the person on the other end didn't make me feel crazy or ashamed. She didn't fix it, but she asked, she listened and she believed me. She didn't tell me to quit worrying and that it wasn't a big deal, but she valued that it was my experience.

5. The more information the better. Remember when I said if you want to hear all the worst case scenarios ask an anxious person? Texts sayings like, "We need to talk." or "I've got news for you, but I can't talk for a couple hours." No good. I know for me too this looks like having as many details as possible, I've gotten a lot better with this, but one way this happens to me is when I'm traveling. I love to travel, but the unknown and uncertainty of being somewhere new causes me a lot of anxiety. If you're going to tell me to just head down the street and the train station will be on the right and get on and get off on South Street...that doesn't do it for me. I need to know how many streets I'll cross over, what landmark is near the station, how many stops until we get to the South Street stop? Crazy? Too much? Maybe...but just know if someone is asking you a lot of questions, maybe they're not trying to be annoying, they're just trying to get a full picture of what to expect.

I know this was a long one, but I think it's important and we don't talk about it enough. Unfortunately, so many people struggle with anxiety, some realize it and some don't. It's crazy the affects it can have on your body and how it manifests its way physically too. Looking back over my life and all my health issues, a large majority of them I can now see were connected to anxiety. So...if you struggle with this, please know you're not alone. Feel free to share what it looks like in your life so people can seek to understand you better. If you don't have anxiety, I hope this gives a little insight for you and how you can understand someone who does. People like you can be grace-givers to people like me. If we truly seek to understand each other better, the world will just be a better place, right?

I used to think...

I used to think I had it all figured out. I knew exactly what it meant to have faith and believe. Everything was in a pretty, wrapped up box and made total sense. We were meant to be happy all the time and go on with our lives accepting the sadness, but quickly flipping the coin over to joy. I used to think I needed to keep Jesus in a box too. I knew this whole Christianity thing was supposed to be about following Jesus and being a disciple of him...that it means so much more than a label or a checklist or rules of right or wrong, but I spent so much time trying to be good, trying to make sure I was doing it right, and saying and believing the right things. I was missing out on the person of Jesus and who He was and how He is.

I used to bristle at being called a Christian...too much hurt, too much misuse, too much baggage is associated with that word. It was something I was not proud to be labeled as and the day I realized that a little part of me unraveled. What was wrong with me that I recoiled at this label? And even while I took a step back from the beliefs and traditions I've always known and confronted these doubts and questions, I never could shake Jesus. I never could shake that name, that person, that relationship and the more and more I stepped back from my pretty, wrapped up boxes and black and white definitions, I felt like I took a step closer and closer to Jesus.

I started to really think about who he was, what he stood for and if I'm going to say I follow him, what does that mean? I used to think it meant I had all the answers, I was on the "good" path, I should be able to fix everything and make sure it all works out for good. I should be happy all the time, but that's not how this works, at least it hasn't for me. My pretty wrapped up boxes have been destroyed, my world has faded from black and white to all kinds of shades of gray and I embrace the wonder, the messiness and the times it just doesn't make sense because I don't have it all figured out.

When you're sitting in a funeral for a student who had been shot and killed, there is no way to fix that. When you watch his mother and brother and family cry out when that casket lid shuts, there is no pretty, wrapped up box for that to fit in. When the pain and the grief was choking me and all I wanted to do was make it better for them, all I could say was Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. That name over and over again. Because what else can you do? This doesn't make sense, how does my faith explain this? I don't know, but Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...

When I've been in my darkest place, feeling like the despair, the confusion and the loneliness may just overtake me, there was no pretty, wrapped up box for that to fit in. When I felt like the world swirled around me like a tornado and all I could do was hang on for dear life, I didn't know how this fit in my black and white categories or my understanding of my faith. It didn't make sense to me, but Jesus did and I said that name, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Sarah Bessey says, "In your heart of hearts, in your raw place of grief and suffering, in your rich center of love and redemption, who do you say God is?" God is with us. That's who God is to me. God is with us and he is love, he is comfort, he is peace and he hates what is evil. It is not his will for a teenager to be killed or for us to suffocate in the darkness, but Jesus is on the side of those who suffer and rather than looking down on our pain, sits with us in the brokenness, in the grief and in the sadness.

I used to think we were doing it wrong if we were sad and didn't have a quick answer or reassurance for when that terrible thing happens, but now I know that we are going to be sad, we have to feel those feelings and there are no quick answers. We have lost the practice of lament and how true healing comes from walking through the grief.

I used to think I was damned for not loving being called a Christian, but now I think I am not alone in that and now I know that a label is not who I am. I never could shake Jesus and that's who I want to be known by. I want to be known for all Jesus stands for...for love, justice, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy, goodness, life, comfort and peace.

I used to think Jesus was present in my life and was the person I pointed to when asked who I believed in, but now I think He is so much more than that. He is there with me always, holding my hand to keep me grounded when the world is in chaos around me, sitting with me in the grief, walking with me in the wilderness and celebrating my joys. Always reminding me that He is there, he is love, he is comfort, he is constant, thank you Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

{This is part of the Out of Sorts Synchroblog with Sarah Bessey answering I used to think_____ but now I think _____ ...head on over here to read more!}


Dear Exhausted Job Applicant

Dear Exhausted Job Applicant, I see you. I see you over there trying to word "I would love to work for your organization" in three different ways so they really understand that you want this job. I see you rewriting and rewriting cover letter after cover letter, researching another organization and trying to formulate your resume to make it look like you're qualified, because you know you are but  "on paper" it seems like you're not. I see you getting your hopes up, sending every resume off with a prayer and then hanging your head when there's silence on the other end. I see you.

You try and remember that your value isn't in your work, but it's hard sometimes. It's hard when you enjoy working and know that is where you find joy and now you don't have the certainty of that. You try and remember it's normal that people change jobs and job hunt all the time. You try and remember that "God is in control" and all the truths you know you're supposed to remember, but it's hard.

It's hard when you feel like you've been led to let go of where you are in order to grab onto what's next. It's hard when what's next isn't clear. It's hard when people stare at you like a crazy person when you say you are leaving one job without knowing what's next. It's hard when you felt such peace about your decision, but then nothing seems to be working out. It's hard when you're just trying to do the next right thing and then all of a sudden you're not sure what the next right thing is. It's hard when you don't want to doubt and be confused, it's hard to not be terrified all the time.

It's easy to stop applying and just hope something works out. It's easy to have a pity party and complain. It's easy to beat yourself up and give into the fear. That's the easy part...but that's not where beauty shines through.

Beauty shines through when someone looks at you, not like you're crazy, but says they're proud of you. Beauty shines through when a peace that surpasses all understanding fills your soul. Beauty shines through when even when it's easier to have the pity party and believe the lies that you made a mistake you choose to replace the lies with truth. You'll slowly feel the truth cement in your heart and start to grow roots in your soul. Beauty shines through when even with all the unknown and the time of transition, people come alongside you and hold up your hands and remind you that it's going to be okay. Beauty shines through when people extend you the grace, compassion and understanding that you're having a hard time extending to yourself.

So, exhausted job applicant, let me replace some lies with truth for you. You are not your job or your occupation. You have value regardless of what you do because you are not what you do, you are who you are. If you know God led you to a decision or a choice and it doesn't seem like he's showing up, remember all the examples in your life before and how he's been faithful. Why would he stop now? Also, people don't get hired overnight. Some of us who are impatient and like for things to happen right now have a hard time remembering this (Of course I'm not talking about myself...).

This is getting long and you're already tired from all those cover letters and resumes so let me tell you these last things. It's okay that this is hard. It's okay to grieve what you're letting go of and still be excited about what's next. It's okay to have a pity party, just don't stay there for long. It's okay to be dramatic, but just make sure you have a good friend there to let you know when you're getting ridiculous. And remember, you need people. Even if you're coping mechanism with all this is to retreat into yourself, don't retreat all the way. Remember we're not meant to do life alone. There are people who want to be there for you, give people a chance to show up and let that beauty shine through amidst your circumstances.

I see you and I'm with you.


Abby aka An Exhausted Job Applicant

The Beauty of Community.

I was fortunate enough to spend last weekend in Michigan with some of my favorite people. The beginning of the trip was with family and the end of the trip with friends. It was refreshing and exhausting all at the same time, but overall, it was just what I needed. No matter where I live or where I go, Michigan will always be home. Staring out the big window in my parent's living room and looking out to the backyard, sitting on the beach, playing in the waves at Lake Michigan and soaking in the sunsets are where I find peace.

That weekend I didn't even spend much time at my actual house, but I was with people in lots of different places. It made me realize home isn't always a place, but it can be who you're with too.

My friends and I rented a house for the weekend. We've been planning this trip for almost a year and we managed to find a time where all eleven people could come from five different states to one of our favorite places, Lake Michigan. When everyone arrived, my heart felt like it would burst because it was so full.

Some of these friends I have known since I was a baby, some of them elementary school, some high school and some have "married into" the group, but regardless of the length of time each person has been in my life, they each mean so much to me and have a piece of my heart.

The weekend was a healing balm and jumpstart to my heart, all at the same time. One group got dinner ready, while others played cornhole and others talked on the porch. We played game after game after game. We sprinted across the sand to meet the sunset. We talked life plans and caught up in ways that can only happen in person. We settled into each other's presence and picked up where we left off. We jabbed and joked with each other and went back and forth, where others may look in and wonder if we're more like siblings than friends. But that's the beauty in community, just because we don't share blood, doesn't mean we can't be our own kind of family.

With each burst of laughter, each heart shared, each question asked, every joke made and every smile exchanged, I just saw beauty. Beauty in friendship, beauty in bonds that last through change, through moves, through life transitions, beauty in new friends and marriages and babies and life milestones celebrated, beauty in community and beauty in the ability to sit down, pick up where you left off and really be together. States, time and life might separate us, but that doesn't mean the beauty is gone. It just means we have to hang on to it when we can and know it'll be there the next time we're together.

We are meant for community. This weekend was a testament of that truth for me. We are meant to open ourselves up to each other and do life together. We are meant to encourage, comfort and listen to each other. We are meant to enjoy, laugh and have fun together. We are meant to be a part of each other's story.

I am so thankful for the community I have and that through the people who exist within my different communities and "families" that I am able to see and experience so much love and so much beauty.