Faith

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What do you want?

Monday, June 11th, 2018

She is curled at my feet, nose tucked beneath her tail. Right now she is peaceful, worn out from our after-dinner walk in which she had a chance to run free through the woods. When she emerged with a rabbit’s leg, severed from the rest of the body, stripped of flesh save the furry foot, her off-leash privileges ended.

When I tell people about Foxy’s hunting habit, many recoil; nature can be harsh. But here is the honest truth: I love watching my dog run. The girl knows what she wants; when she spots a squirrel or a chipmunk, she drops to a crouch, tense for a split second before rocketing into the chase, transformed by primal instinct like a wolf in Yellowstone. It’s as if she finally remembers what she truly is, what she was made for. Foxy may be cute, but beneath her domestication, she’s as wild as they come.

I think I’m jealous.

I’m told that as a toddler, I loved to run naked. Once my mom heard the front door unlatch, and by the time she made it outside, her unclothed 2-year-old was halfway down the block. Listen, I was born to be free!

Somewhere along the line, I was expected to get myself under control — which, when it comes to matters of clothing, is definitely for the best. Many guidelines we are given as children certainly help form us into respectable human beings, not to mention law-abiding citizens, bless our toddler streaking selves.

But in learning to follow the rules, is it possible that something significant could be lost? In squelching our instincts, might we be subduing an inner wildness that perhaps needs to be shaped, but was never meant to be tamed?

Of all the questions Jesus posed during his life on earth, there is one that hits me straight in the heart: “What do you want?” (John 1:38). Referencing this inquiry, James K.A. Smith says, “This is the most incisive, piercing question Jesus can ask of us precisely because we are what we want. Our wants and longings and desires are at the core of our identity, the wellspring from which our actions and behaviors flow” (You Are What You Love).

Surely a large part of what this means is that we have a responsibility to guard and curate our hearts, seeking to align our core desires with the heart of all that is good, creating habits that will help foster health and wholeness. This takes intentionality and work — because despite what this world would tell us, “Follow your bliss” isn’t exactly a reliable North Star.

But just like Foxy was created for the chase, each of us was created with a default orientation. We were created to long for something. And since he’s the one who made us, I believe Jesus’s question can also be taken at face value. Turning to the men who were about to become his first two disciples, he asks, “What do you want?”

The question feels stunning to me, probably because I often don’t know what I want — or, perhaps more accurately, I often don’t trust that I know what I want. Unlike my beloved, uncivilized dog, I fear that some of my God-given instincts have been trained out of me, leading me to play it safe and settle for small. As much as I want to, I have trouble dancing at weddings. Regardless of how I’m drawn toward beauty, I avoid extravagance. Despite the urge — and there is definitely an urge — I never raise a ruckus.

But for those who seek God, we can trust that our desires were placed inside our hearts by God himself (Psalm 37:4). They are there to serve a purpose, even if only to point us back to our Creator. Saint Augustine famously wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” This statement implies design — both that we were designed by God, and that we were designed for God. Our heart’s ultimate desire is always God himself, and our unique individual longings exist to point us back to the One who made us.

Watching my dog run full tilt through a field, I have sometimes jokingly co-opted Irenaeus’s line to say, “The glory of God is Foxy fully alive.” But just as every creature on earth was made by a Creator, for a Creator, Irenaeus’s original words ring all the more true: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”

I do not want to shy away from all I was created to be. I want to chase after the longings I was made for. I want to live like Foxy: running wild and free, head thrown back, howling at the moon for the love of my Maker.

The wild beast, captured by Ashley Parsons (www.wearetheparsons.com)

[This piece was written as a part of Lore Wilbert’s Writing Mentorship course. If you’re interested, I highly encourage you to apply for the next round this fall — it was so good for me.]

Writing and yoga

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Over the past several months, I took part in Lore Wilbert’s Writing Mentorship course. If you don’t know Lore, well, me neither — at least not in person. But thanks to years of blog stalking, I’ve come to know her as a gorgeous writer: intentional, challenging, and smart as a whip. Our faith looks different in some ways, but I so respect the way she grapples with life and with God. In a world of “Christian influencers” where everyone is eager to spout off opinions on this or that, Lore balances both a weighty theology and a light-footed grace. She makes me want to know God more — which is to say, she makes me want to press further into mystery.

As a writer, I am learning that deadlines and accountability are my friends; this mentorship was a catalyst for writing more than I have written in years. In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some of these pieces here on my blog, so be sure to check back.

In the meantime, one of the essays I wrote as a part of Lore’s course has found a home at Fathom Magazine, one of my favorite online spaces. Yay! It went live today. Here’s an excerpt, and here’s a link to the full piece.

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I open the door and the heat hits me like a solid wall. At 105 degrees, the air has morphed into a physical presence, thick and palpable, yet I willingly enter the room. I am early. I want to get a good spot, because the only thing worse than being strangled by heat is being strangled by heat and unable to follow the instructor. Not that I necessarily need a visual.

The sequence is always the same, 26 poses in unchanging order. Some might consider the repetition monotonous, but these days, I find the predictability a comforting liturgy. This flow has served as consistency when life has been anything but. I have been coming to this yoga studio for ten months now, ever since I left my home for the last time and drove south. Ever since the day everything fell apart. (Continue reading…)

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If you’re interested in Lore’s Writing Mentorship course, she’s planning on hosting another round in the fall. I can’t recommend it highly enough; she crafts the entire thing with such care, and I grew as a writer and a human. Follow her online and watch for the application!

Christianity is not the American Dream

Sunday, January 7th, 2018

I grew up as a pastor’s daughter, an identity that I largely shook when I left home at 18, but which played an undeniable role in my formation. In getting to know other pastor’s kids (PKs) over the years, I’ve found some common threads in our experiences; for example, the pressure of visibility, unfair expectations from certain members of the church community, the learned ability to be whoever we needed to be for the given person in front of us, and stealing the leftover communion bread to wolf down in the fellowship hall (privilege negates sacrilege).

Some PKs seem to resent their upbringing, but for the most part, I enjoyed mine. While nowhere in the bible, my marching orders seemed clear: follow the rules and Jesus will love you — or was it Jesus loves you, so you’d better follow the rules? Either way, for this natural rule follower, it all seemed reasonable enough.

Church felt safe to me because I was good at it. I felt at home in Sunday School and church musicals and youth group and worship teams, and always knew I had a big group of people who loved me and were rooting for me. I had the answers to the questions, and prayed fervently over life’s most dire concerns: algebra tests and my future husband. After leaving my hometown to study music at a Christian college, I went to work full-time at a large Presbyterian church. For the first 25 years of my life, I coasted on what was largely an inherited faith — one that served me well as long as I stuck with like-minded people, followed the rules, and did everything right.

In other words, it was only a matter of time.

The past ten years have been a process of disintegration as I began to discover that the “faith” of my upbringing was largely circumstantial and hardly personal. Not only could I not keep up with “the rules,” I realized that I didn’t want to — because as it turned out, no amount of rule following prevented babies from dying or parents from divorcing or bodies from breaking or hearts from shattering. For all I had given God — that is, my deeds, my schedule, my proclamations — how dare he not come through on his end of the bargain? The bargain being, you know, keeping me and everyone I love safe and happy and comfortable. THAT’S THE DEAL, God.

As it turns out, that’s not the deal.

More and more, I’m coming to believe that this is the deal, the only deal: God wants us just as we are, not as we should be, and that we are called to be like Jesus. And if you know anything about the life of Jesus, this means taking our battered and broken down selves and scrapping our reputation in favor of loving the unlovable, welcoming the outsiders and outcasts, sacrificing on behalf of others, forgiving without condition, and suffering. There will be suffering.

In western culture, Christianity has long been sold as a happy, therapeutic path to self-actualization: love God, be a good person, and he’ll give you a great life. But Christianity is not the American Dream. At the risk of being a total killjoy, the true nature of Christianity is costly: join Jesus, give your life away, and die.

Surely this definition would dissuade many from faith. But if churches were more honest about the true path of following Jesus, I wonder if Christians would have a healthier, more realistic view of what it is that we’re actually buying into. I wonder if we wouldn’t feel so entitled to a cute, happy life, and indignant when we don’t get it. I wonder if we’d be more willing to give ourselves away, seeing as how we’re following a man who willingly walked to a brutal death on a cross.

The thought scares me, because who actually wants to live a life marked by selflessness? Here, I’ll go first: I DON’T. I generally prefer a quid pro quo sort of God, one who will reward my faithfulness with recognition and bounty; it’s only fair. And as we’ve already established, I’m amazing at “the rules” — so this kind of arrangement would work out pretty well for me.

But Jesus takes “the rules” and throws them out the window, because he values relationship over transaction. As such, the Christian life is full of paradoxes:

What if death isn’t what we assume? What if death is the pathway to life — and not just the “die and go to heaven” sort of eternal life, but kingdom come life here and now? What if dying up front sets us free to really live? What if being stripped of all falsehood leaves our truest selves exposed? What if the end is the beginning?

If you’re lucky enough to be in a season of life that feels abundant and beautiful, that is a gift and you absolutely should soak it up. But if you, like me, are a Christian who is looking around at all that is passing away and sometimes thinking, “Wait, I didn’t sign up for this,” be encouraged — because maybe we actually did.

Consolation and New Year’s resolutions

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Over the past month or so, I’ve woken up several times in the middle of the night with a sudden panic that I’ve left Foxy outside in the cold. I sit up straight and call her name, scared to death that she is [morbid alert] frozen to death out in the yard. And each time, I’m relieved to find that she’s right there by the bed. Of course she is.

My lifelong propensity towards anxiety paired with a winter that’s already more extreme than the entirety of the 2015-2016 season is doing dismal things to my brain. It’s not so much the temperature as it is the wind chill, and it isn’t so much the wind chill as it is the darkness.

Winter in Minnesota, man. Only the strong survive.

But regardless of how I feel about the weather, I find myself living in Minneapolis for my second January. Take four degrees and subtract them from zero, and that’s the temperature at this very minute – and it doesn’t even seem all that unreasonable, given the stiff and hypothermic potential. My survival strategy is to just keep living – and in January, I’ve decided that life will be made up of only two things: working, and running on the treadmill.

It happens to all of us at the start of every new year, doesn’t it? Making resolutions, resolving to re-solve what we’ve deemed wrong about our lives. As usual, I’ve decided that the root of all that’s wrong with my life is not, in fact, my fallen nature, but the circumference of my thighs. My re-solution? To run.

To run a freaking marathon.

Ha. That was actually my New Year’s resolution – to run 26.2 miles, twice as far as I’ve ever run, twice as far as I’ve ever wanted to run. Annieeeeeee. Why must your goals always be so extreme??

But since then, some thoughts.

First, last week I listened as a wonderful dinner companion shared about the Ignatian method of discernment called Examen, a prayer-fueled mindfulness that involves the idea of consolation and desolation. Each night, one is to review the events of the day and pinpoint the moments that were consoling (life-giving, inspiring, connecting) and the ones that were desolating (draining, despairing, isolating); in other words, consolation is movement toward God, and desolation is movement away.

As patterns begin to emerge, the idea is to orient one’s life toward consolation as a way forward. It’s not about making the “right” concrete decisions or checking items off a list, it’s about moving toward the things that stir us up and send us out, strong, tender, and present.

A few days later, I listened to an episode of Steve Wiens’s podcast in which he makes the case for “change that actually changes you.” So much of what he said parallels the idea of Examen. You should listen to the full episode, but for now, I’ll share the simple daily prayer offered by Steve at the end: “God, I want to experience life in all of its fullness today. Please lead me there.”

Do you feel how different this way of life is from our crazy New Year’s resolutions, those hard-hitting, full throttle plans that we think are going to turn our sorry ass luck around?

At the Christmas dinner table, I told my sister-in-law Ashley that I am thinking about training for a marathon, but that I’m nervous that if I commit to it and say it out loud that I won’t actually be able to do it and then I’ll be a total garbage person failure. She said, “I guess that you’d need to know that the process of reaching the goal would be just as worthwhile as achieving the goal itself.”

This morning at the gym, I ran for 45 minutes while staring at a poster in front of the treadmill that said, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” That’s a preposterous notion, really, since we can and do fail all the time. So I changed it in my mind to, “What would you do if you knew you might fail, but you’d kind of like to give it a shot anyway?”

Here’s the truth about today: I’m glad I ran for those 45 minutes. I feel awesome. That run felt like consolation. I want more of that feeling.

Here’s another thing that’s true: I was not well in 2016. The quiet stress I experienced during the first half of the year wreaked havoc on the second, health-wise. I had an eye infection that lasted for two months. I got shingles. My body harbored infection, I was sick over and over again, and I couldn’t sleep. But in November, when I started getting back into running after years of not running, I started to feel better. The beginning of 2017 finds me quite well, physically. I credit much of this to running, which is reason enough to keep doing it.

I don’t know if I’ll run a marathon this year. But at the risk of feeling stupid later, I’ll say it anyway: I’m going to try. I’m going to follow this training plan day by day, as far as I can take it, and give it everything I’ve got.

Maybe it will result in the torturous achievement of running 26.2 miles all at once, or maybe I’ll find that running 26.2 miles via multiple runs spread out over a week is a pretty cool accomplishment, too. Last week, my new friend Barnabas said something like, “What if running 15 miles 10 times is just as big an achievement as running 26.2 once?” I like that. When we drop our rigid expectations, the world opens up to us (the most Oprah thing I’ve ever said); success can take so many different forms.

(But I really am going to try for a marathon.)

I hope 2017 finds you experiencing life in all its fullness and moving toward consolation, New Year’s resolutions or none. And if you’re dying for a getaway, please come visit me in Minneapolis. I have a brand new furnace.

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Annie recommends

Monday, March 9th, 2015

The past several weeks have been so full. I’ve had multiple work trips (Minneapolis, San Francisco, Anaheim), three humongous work events, houseguests, family visits, and a particular emotional roller coaster that’s still unfolding.

With each close friend that I confide in, I realize that my heart is hoping more and more for a certain outcome, and how disappointed I’ll be if it doesn’t happen. But what’s the alternative? Not hoping at all? Novocain to the heart? We were never meant for dull souls. As a friend said to me last week, “Sometimes it’s good for us – getting our hopes up.” And so I hope, and I wait, and trust that whatever the outcome, I’ll make it through because I’ve been through worse.

I’ll tell you if it happens. And I’ll probably tell you if it doesn’t.

In any case, there are all sorts of other people saying and doing things worth sharing. So here are some of my top picks.

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I recently met Nashville singer-songwriter and all around superstar Annalise Emerick, and heard her play a song that I capital L LOVE. Listen to “Patti Smith.”

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Do you know about Kara Tippetts? Her widely read blog is chronicling her last days on this earth – and just about every post makes me want to throw my computer across the room, it’s so unfair. Just six years older than me and one hour south, Kara is dying of cancer. Just yesterday, I watched the trailer for a documentary about her life and imminent death, and openly wept in my kitchen. Will we ever understand why some families are dealt the short stick?

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My very favorite podcast, On Being with Krista Tippett, is a conversation about faith, religion, psychology, race, art, science, and ethics (my very broad summation), and I can’t get enough of it. I’ve recently been going back and re-listening to some of my favorite episodes, and ran across one that is so encouraging and life-giving, I want to pass it along. What happens when you get a Jewish rabbi, a Christian bishop, a Muslim scholar, and the Dalai Lama in the same room for a conversation? I cannot recommend this program enough.

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My friend Hilary Oliver (she looks like Gwyneth Paltrow, and also you should read her blog) recently shared a quote that stopped me in my tracks. To live like this!

“In boldly setting out toward ends, one risks disappointments;
But one also obtains unhoped-for results;
Caution condemns to mediocrity.”
-Simone de Beauvoir

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That’s all for today. Until we meet again, remember to be like Ariel (“I want more…”), Belle (“I want adventure in the great wide somewhere…”) and when it comes to hope, fine, Pocahontas (“How high will the sycamore grow? If you cut it down, then you’ll never know”).

The speck on a speck

Monday, February 24th, 2014

I’ve heard it said that there are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the beaches of this planet. And while we obviously can’t count either (trust me, I’ve done some very official Internet Research), I think that the point is that the universe is startlingly, overwhelmingly, mind-bogglingly gigantic – which makes me feel tiny. Smaller than tiny, actually. Indefinitely small. Infinitesimal.

In this knowledge, human beings shouldn’t matter; compared to the rest of creation, we should be negligible. There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea, and we’re the speck on a speck on a speck on a speck on a speck on the wart on the frog on the bump on the log therein. To make matters worse, just as the universe is constantly expanding into cold and infinite darkness, stars burning out into corpses along the way, we’re all racing toward death at a breakneck speed.

In case you’d forgotten, none of us are making it out of here alive. We are small, tenuous, and frail. It’s enough to make a girl despair – because does any of this, this world, this living, even matter?

Do I matter?

But then I remember that my nose can smell chocolate chip cookies, and my tongue can taste them. I think of the sky before a summer rainstorm, clouds the shade of polished steel, my eyes receptive to the hues. Sunlight hits the skin and warms it. On lucky nights, I can hear owls high in the trees of Jefferson Park, even if I can’t see them. We experience life in color. We encounter the world by way of our five senses, and we are constantly receiving through them. It didn’t have to be this way, but it is.

Doesn’t this feel generous?

And beyond what we see, taste, touch, hear, and smell, there’s even more. The rhinoceros is actually a thing. Photosynthesis works. Crack open a spaghetti squash and the flesh falls apart into tiny strands. If corn kernels are heated to the right temperature, they explode into soft, edible puffs. Whales sing. Words, invisible and intangible, have the power to heal or destroy. Yawns are contagious. Babies laugh; we all laugh. When we’re sad, tears fill our eyes.

This world is full of beauty and sorrow, and I don’t know which you’re experiencing today – but I’m combatting the numbness that often feels so easy. I am struck with the miracle of what it means to be alive, even on a so-called “normal” Monday. We may be small and our lives may be fleeting, but the gifts of this life are extravagant and lavish, and none of this is an accident.

Labor Day

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

I don’t feel much like getting up from this bed. My legs are stretched out in front of me and crossed at the ankles, left over right, giving me a good view of my newly pedicured toes. I broke one of them a few years ago – stubbed it on my couch, the one I bought brand new – and it still juts high above the other four, like an adobe hill out of the desert, the kind that gutsy kids use as a bike ramp.

It’s been years since I’ve ridden a bike, even though the Trek I got for my 14th birthday is currently crammed into the mudroom of my house, the front wheel turned perpendicular to the rest of the frame, blocking the doorway. I step over it whenever I go into the backyard, which is infrequent now that Toad is gone. I keep thinking I should put air in these tires. I should ride to work. Or I could try to sell it. Homeowners can always use extra cash.

It stresses me out, money. It always has. When I was a kid, I would pull the dollar bills out of my piggy bank and count them, splaying them across my bedspread, the ones together, the fives. Then I would walk across the hallway to the laundry room, set up the ironing board, and turn the iron to low. The literal smoothening of my money somehow translated, and when the stack of bills was crisp and orderly, so was my spirit – at least, so I thought.

Last night in a church pew, I wrote my September budget on a Post-It note. I had not been to church in – months? It must be. And already, the rhythm of the service felt unfamiliar. Do we really stand for this long? Funny, I went to church nearly every Sunday for 30 years, but take me out for just a few months and all of a sudden attending feels new.

I like it when things feel new and fresh. I also like it when things feel familiar and routine. This desire for both roots and wings is a tug-of-war, and I’m right in the middle of it, and I don’t know if I’ll be pulled to one side or the other or just torn in half.

They – three different friends now – say that they think I’m “on the verge.” Of what, they don’t really know, and it would be silly to speculate. But I feel it, too – the sense that something is almost. I wonder if it will feel like roots or like wings.

So I pray. I think that prayer is important – not so much because I think God will do what I ask, but because it reminds me that I’m not him. Not so much because God is a shelter from the storm, but because I hope he’ll stand out in the rain with me. Not so much because it leads to the absence of pain, but to the presence of love.

Tethered

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

For the past couple of days, I’ve been feeling a bit untethered.

I can see how one might define the word “untethered” as freedom – no constraints, no confinement, nobody puts Baby in a corner – and that is a valid interpretation. But that’s not what I’ve been feeling. To me this week, “untethered” has meant disconnection, detachment, a balloon in the wind, tossed around and longing for an anchor.

“Religion” isn’t a very popular word these days – and in a culture that has come to associate religion with dogma and hypocrisy, how could it be? “I’m not religious – but I am spiritual” is a common sentiment, because we are desperate to believe in what we know to be beautiful and mysterious, but we don’t want the baggage and guilt that come along with religion.

But I once heard that the word “religion” comes from the same Latin root as the word “ligament”: re- (again) + ligare (to bind). In its most authentic form, religion is about connection. Like a ligament, my God rebinds what was otherwise detached.

I may feel untethered, but my spirit is grounded and my hearts is secure. I belong to a bigger whole. And like so many other things I am learning these days, I’m writing it down to remember it’s true.

Favorite Christmas present, and Stuck giveaway winner

Friday, December 28th, 2012

I’ve been in Kansas City with my family all week. Everyone is here: parents, siblings, nephews, future brother-in-law, 3 dogs, and all of the cookies in the world. Tomorrow, I load into a Subaru Forester with Becca and Michael, Gabe and Toad, Becca’s wedding dress, their wedding decorations, and all of our Christmas loot, and drive west back across Kansas for 9 hours to Denver. Heaven help us.

This is my favorite Christmas present I received:

That, my friends, is the Gregory Sage 55. If you wake up one day and I’m gone, you’ll know it’s because I loaded it with everything I need to keep myself alive and just… walked away. Because someday, that is what I fully intend on using it for.

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And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Thank you to all who entered the Stuck giveaway! It’s an amazing study, and if you’re looking for a soul-filling challenge, Jennie Allen has good stuff. I’m excited to check out Chase and Anything, as well.

There could only be one winner, so I used my trusty pal RANDOM.ORG to pull a number. Multiple comments from the same person counted as one entry.

And the winner is:

8! Leah Van Hoozer!

Leah, I’ll send you an email to get your mailing address. Congratulations!

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Maybe I’ll write a 2012 recap before 2013 – my Google Reader tells me that recap posts are all the rage this time of year. If I don’t, though, suffice it to say that 2012 stretched me in ways I didn’t know I needed to be stretched (and, to be honest, I still don’t WANT to be stretched). I have worked really, really hard in all sorts of ways. Someone recently asked me if I was happy, and I said no.

But you know me – I’d be miserable if I was happy. SMILEY FACE.

What I do know is that I love the people in my world, and while faith does not come easily for me, I’m hanging on for dear life. I hope that 2012 has seen you hanging in there, too.

Stuck

Friday, December 21st, 2012

When I turned 30, I had the sinking realization that no one was going to fix me.

I had long harbored the belief – although perhaps not consciously – that someday, something was going to shift, and I would no longer be broken/sad/angry/afraid/lonely/insecure/what-have-you. Believing that someday things would change somehow made it easier to accept that today, I was still stuck.

I continued to allow myself to be stuck in the (shoddy) confidence that the elusive and undefined someday was coming.

But when the calendar turned to a new decade, I realized that I was struggling with the same things I struggled with at 14 and 19 and 23 and 28. I realized that in certain areas of my life, there was no movement. I realized that I was stuck – and that no one was going to dig me out, even if they tried.

Because oh, they have tried. Parents and friends and boyfriends and mentors – they have all meant well, and genuinely cared, and offered both words of truth and tangible acts to attempt to loosen me from the muck and mire. But I’ve been like a Chevy sunken to the axles: desperately, impossibly stuck.

A trusted person recently observed to me, “I see a war happening over your heart.” And I believe her. Feel free to disagree, but I believe that about all of our hearts – that there is good and there is evil, and they both want us desperately. Now, I believe that good wants us much, much more than evil ever could – but evil is insidious and conniving, and if the devil can’t have our souls, he’ll settle for our lives. He’ll do everything he can to keep us bound and gagged, to keep us from being a force for good – to keep us stuck.

Right around my 30th birthday, I got an email from Thomas Nelson Publishers asking if I would be willing to review a women’s bible study. Now, you guys. Confession time: I’m not big on bible studies. I just haven’t really done many (pastor’s kid failure). Thomas Nelson asking me to review a bible study was the equivalent of the MLB wanting my thoughts on the statistics of, I don’t know, BUNTING. (Although remember when I was so sporty and wrote this?)

But the name of the study caught my eye, and so I said yes. A few days later, Jennie Allen’s Stuck arrived on my doorstep.

This DVD-based study was so meaningful to me. It helped me pinpoint some of the areas I struggle with being stuck in: brokenness, anger, discontentment, fear, sadness. Jennie’s conversational teaching and storytelling made the 8 DVD sessions completely engaging (I want to know her in real life). And while I can’t say that I’m now completely “unstuck,” I know that addressing these topics head-on has given me language and tools to MOVE.

God wants our hearts, and is fighting for them. I truly believe this. And I’m happy to say that he is helping me get free, even in the smallest of ways.

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Thomas Nelson gave me an extra study kit to give away to a reader, so if you’re interested, leave a comment saying you’d like to be entered for a chance to win. The curriculum includes an 8 session DVD, study guide, leader’s guide, and conversation cards for group discussion. While I believe that the lessons apply to both men and women, Jennie created the study for women – so all you burly men, feel free to enter, although you have been warned.

A winner will be chosen via good ol’ RANDOM.ORG on Friday, December 28th.