He Doesn't Wait For Us

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If I just had a day between work and break to get it together.

The work week before a holiday is just busier and harder and extra and double-time to get it all done in preparation. 

I just need a day between the end of work and the start of a festive holiday with family to - oh, I dunno - sweep my house, wash my jeans and run to Kroger. Forget decorating for fall. Who has time for all that?!

And I probably won't get it all done and I'll have to enter family time with half a list on my desk and have my mind somewhere else. 

But this year I want Thanksgiving to change me.

There's no other holiday that's more about the inside of our truest selves.

Nothing more about inside work.

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Maybe I don't want a second to sweep my house as much as I'm desperate for a minute to turn on a lamp in my soul and sweep the dust off the piles of unprocessed ache and joy and find in the process some gratitude to bring to the table this year. 

Frustrated and unsure where to get a good heart for the events of this week, I check a few more things off my to-do list. 

And then I power walk to the mailbox to pickup my order of cleaning supplies and hear leaves crunching under my feet. 

A wise friend told me: fall is the season of things dying to make room for new life. And then I think about the seasons.

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Fall: death
Winter: burial
Spring: resurrection
Summer: growth

How odd for this sweet holiday to coincide with a season of things starting to die all around. No one wants to talk about death. No one feels warm and thankful about death.

Then, sweetly, gently I hear that small voice that is always quieter than the rest. Hearing that voice feels like scattered laundry suddenly clean and sorted inside my mind, like being mentally sorted and gathered. 

Thanksgiving isn't about arriving at a good spot and praising for the calm of the harbor. 

Thanksgiving is about standing in the swirl of things falling to the ground. Falling apart. Half-processed, half-finished, maybe only half-alive. Thanksgiving is a spot on the calendar, like an invitation to a place that stays closed inside your own soul, to accept the dying of old things, to welcome the process of putting to death our own fears. Thanksgiving is an invitation to sit so still and watch with gratitude as things fall off of us.

So maybe this week you'll look around and all you can see is yourself standing in pile of things that are being taken away, a crunchy pile of dull aches. 

I want to strike a match in the coldest corner of your heart because something is coming. 

Burial. 

New life. 

Growth. 

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Lift up your chin. 

There will be new life.

Kneel down in your pile of dried and un-met expectations. There's something underneath the leaves. Underneath the soil. It may get a little colder out here before we see it, but that doesn't mean it isn't there. Underneath your shoes, the dead leaves, the cold ground, something is getting ready to grow. And God has already started to water it, to make room for it in the world by clearing out all these old leaves. 

Stay right here with me, in your pile of unfinished, and rejoice because we have this hope.

Thanksgiving week finds me in a place I didn't expect to stand: instead of choosing to rise above areas of frustration in order to celebrate, I'm celebrating in the middle of them. 

 

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I'm giving my achy parts a moment to speak to my soul about what might be ahead & I'm choosing to hold onto gratitude for that. I'm giving those un-sewn-up parts a voice so I can listen and rejoice for how they are still shaping me. 

And now I don't even want to go back inside the house. My cleaning supplies haven't been delivered yet, but I might check the box a few more times for the sake of crunchy leaves. 

Now I understand. 

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to give thanks right in the middle of everything falling. Falling apart, falling into place. 

It's a chance to see further than our own feet and turn our attention fully towards thankfulness with recognition of the heavy things. Thanksgiving takes the power out of the hands of our circumstances and says: I will rejoice here. 

Our Christ used death, the most final thing we know about life, to show us that death is never the end. Death is part of the process of resurrection. 

His death is where we find our deepest Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving celebration is most complete when we decide that even just for one day this year, we'll look at every part of our souls and ourselves with a grateful heart. 

God doesn't wait till we have it together to bring new growth.

Maybe we shouldn't wait for the completion of that new growth to get really, really thankful. 

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Photo Credits: Joel Henson // Seen In Stereo Photography

If you read this and said, "Yep, relate to that!" There's more where it came from and extra goodies too in my weekly emails. They launched this week, so you're not even late to the party yet! Get in here:

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I believe in the person that you are, deepest down. 

xoxo,

Elena 

 

 

 

You might also be into:

Dear 20-Something,

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I see you. 

I see all of you. I see your heart. You and I would probably have pretty similar Instagram bios about how we love Jesus and tacos. 

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I see the way you have a vision for your family to get better. I see that tiny glimmer of hope for a marriage so strong and vibrant that people write articles about it. I even see your longing for someone to send you a text just to check on you today. 

I see the part of you that craves impact. You want to make a difference...fill a cup, change a heart, save a life.

I see your get-it-done side that gets there on time and stays late to clean up. 

I see you singing in the car, silently blessing a stranger, meeting a need, bouncing a baby, paying for a meal. 

I see those equal parts of reluctance and joy you feel packing up to go home for the weekend because family time isn't all laughs and hugs. 

In fact, I see those people, maybe even the ones who share your last name, who were supposed to love you, but didn't. They were supposed to be there for you, show up for you, but somehow, they were just...absent.

And what your heart heard when they didn't come through for you?
I hear that. 

Something about me is missing. 
I'm less than what it takes to make it all okay.
I'm more trouble than anyone signed up for.

I see the part of your heart you keep in a box on a shelf because he chose you, but he changed his mind. Or maybe he never chose you at all, and now your expectations are what you'd define as 'much more realistic' because next time it won't hurt so bad if someone walks out - they won't have ever seen that box of your truest self on the shelf, anyway.

I see you scroll through Facebook and wish your countenance truly reflected those happy images because even Likes don't lift the rain cloud.

I see you scroll through Instagram and hold up a tape measure to your own abilities and wonder what it would take to make your inside match their outside.

I see you mapping out a future in your head. One foot here in the present and one foot in a bigger house, skinnier body, better job. But with your feet in two places it's awful hard to walk forward into today.

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I see your gifts. Your writing, your voice, your passion to teach, to lead, to come alongside. Feeling the burden of waiting for

some job,
some man,
some life

...to find you, to pick you, to invite you on a beautiful adventure.

Today you find yourself standing in a life that doesn't have an answer to all those defining questions. 

What kind of person are you?
What's your character?
What's your career?
Who did you marry?

The answers to these questions feel like missing subjects in a painting about your life, and honestly, painting the background is starting to get a little old. You're unsure what you even want the finished product to look like, or if you'll even like it at all when it's finished.

I want to meet you right here. In the already and the not yet. In the moments of waiting, cautiously hoping and anxiously praying. 

I want to sit with you in front of your canvas and ask you questions.
I know what this painting can be. 

But so does someone else. And he wants to smudge the strokes  and dry out the acrylics and convince you that maybe it's not so much of a painting as it is a big mess. 

This will never be in a gallery, it's already too ordinary, too dull, too gray, who would ever choose this painting?
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But I know the Artist. His voice doesn't sound like that. Never has. 

He stretched the canvas across its frame and ground the powder to make the paints. He chose to place by the window to do his work, and the day to start. 

He knows the end from the beginning and the one thing he'll do is finish. 

And maybe the enemy sees glimpses of the finished product, too. 

Maybe those creeping doubts you feel have more to do with you might become than they do with who are right this minute. 

The painter isn't finished. 

He's barely even started. 

So maybe I can grab your hand and take you to a house. It has a wide porch and a heavy door and fountain out back. And through the bright foyer and past heavy furniture, there's a painting over the fireplace. It's bold and draws you in. 

The Artist doesn't just want to finish your painting, he wants to build a life and a much bigger purpose around the person you're discovering your already are, around those first few strokes. 

So today, let's sit alone in front of that unfinished painting on the easel next to the open window. Let's settle our souls on the sight of open cans of paint and the smells of progress, and let's wait with confidence for the Artist to do his best work, at his steady, purpose-filled pace, trusting that He will be called Faithful and True, and looking ahead, we can hear him say, 

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It is good.

It is finished.

It is mine.

Holy Spirit, be gentle and complete and give us the strength to see ourselves as whole, right in this moment, yet hopeful for your plans ahead. Give us the wisdom to lower the volume on our own desire for control and our propensity towards feeling forgotten and afraid that what's ahead might be a disappointment. We need the fullest measure of your grace to embrace the women we are right now, and the women we will be, in you, Together. 

 

 

I believe in the person you're discovering you were made to be.
XOXO, 

Elena Balkcom

Photography in this post credited to Hannah Forsberg from our collaborative work you can see published right here in Southeastern Bride.

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What I'm Done Being Afraid Of

If you're afraid of things, you and I already have lots in common.

And for me, it's not just heights. I can get real freaked out over weather, germs, traffic, water where I can't see my feet, bugs, I mean...there's no end. 

On July 8th, 2017 at 2:15pm I was bouncing up a mountain in the back of a van. All 43 muscles in my face were fully clinched around my death-stare out the window towards the base of the zip line my family and I were headed to. 

It's not the fear of dying. Well maybe just a little. But this particular adventure group has been sending thrill-seekers down zip lines for a decade without so much as an injury. To me, that sounds way safer than I-75.

  • I was at least 80% sure that I would choke.

I would have to embarrass myself and slow everyone else down by declining to jump because I just couldn't get enough gumption to step off the edge of a mountain to dangle at high speeds over a canyon. 

I'm not a brave girl. I don't do anything big. I don't drink coffee that's too hot. I don't take risks. I get real crazy and try a new recipe off Pinterest sometimes but that's a banner day in my house. 

I just don't see myself even as brave as an average person. 

Stepping off the first platform (the easy "warm up" line) was made possible by looking at the ground just 8 feet below me and pretending that I would land softly there instead of flying down the mountain towards a much-higher tree platform. Once I was there, there was no turning back.

My little brother was testing the limits and leaning out over the edge of things and I was sitting indian-style in the tree house, face against the trunk, bargaining with God that I would never make fun of MLMs again and I would agree to take the word "authentic" out of my vocabulary, and that I was sorry for using someone else's Netflix for 3 years, if he would just magically get me out of that tree and back onto solid ground.

If you haven't been zip lining, let me also warn you that the sound a line makes as you zip across it... is brutal. Your zip-clip is metal and the line is metal so the high-pitched metal scraping sounds like the last thing you might hear before being decapitated by a rotary saw. 

The last line was long enough that even with traveling at 65 mph, dangling above the trees, one has time to scream multiple times. Or, in my case, scream once, cry some, do some delivery room style breathing, and then upon arrival, collapse on the ground in emotional exhaustion. 

Back in the gift shop, I realized it was over. I did it.

They could charge a hundred dollars for those t-shirts and people like me would still buy them because I did a thing I never thought I'd do. Immediately I was looking for anyone one their way to the lines to tell them they totally got this.

  • Deciding to step off the ledges

...felt a lot like deciding to walk up to a stranger and introduce myself, or agreeing to attend a networking event with mostly people I've never met, or deciding to move to a new city or visiting a church for the first time or waiting for the trigger getting a new ear piercing, or clicking "publish" on an honest rant or new services pricing, or just asking someone for help. 

Stepping off the ledge, even when we know we're safe, is terrible. 

And I know terrible because I was at a fundraiser once where they played Hey Ya! on repeat until the total was raised.

  • Fear wants to re-write the past and control the future. 

        It sounds like:


"You've never been brave enough to do something like this," &


"You won't be able to slow down or catch yourself from falling so this is disaster."
 

In the immortal words of The Office character, Robert California:

Fear plays an interesting role in our lives. How dare we let it motivate us? How dare we let it into our decision-making, into our livelihoods, into our relationships?

While I'm convinced my healthy fear of spiders keeps me from dying a spider-poison death, the fears I have related to my own abilities and beliefs that I'm less-of-a-person need to go. 

Do you feel that?

Being afraid to step over a line and operate in your God-given bravery is worth working on. And believe me, you'll live to buy the t-shirt.