Lovely & Loudly.

Spring had just begun to sprout, and I was reclining on a stone patio swirling ice around my glass of spiced tea.
Across from me was the kind of woman you write about… she is gorgeous sans makeup, is raising bright & talented children, dipping in intentionally to her community, she is a musician and a writer and a wife with a laugh like wind chimes and cupboards full of blown glass.

A few years after a fist fight with breast cancer, her pixie cut has grown into shoulder length curls that lay around her neck untamed and thick with victory.

We meet for tea every few months or so and just chat about the real stuff of life.
She’s one of those women whose time you don’t want to waste with empty chatter.

So, I was lighting up to tell her how in love I am, a drastic change from our last chai conversation, and I was pelting her with questions about the books she’s working on and the tiny artists in her brood.

We would pause as the almost-too-chilly early spring winds swirled around us, still enjoying the being outside.
Somewhere hunkered down in our many words about life and love and God and joy and hurts, she tipped back a bit and said “I just love all of the lovely and beautiful things about life.  Sometimes what’s dark and ugly just absolutely knocks me out.  I know the dark and ugly is a part of life, and a part that I have to deal with, but it can just knock me out.”


“I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.”  Ecclesiastes 3:10-15

How FREEING to say out loud that we love the lovely and hate the dark! We were made to enjoy the eternity in each moment… the beauty crafted by the creator, the stitches of heaven in our earth!
The dark is hard.  We wrestle through it, we muddle through it, we fill it with empty platitudes and righteous words but, and let’s just be honest, we shouldn’t enjoy it.
It should knock us out.

Do we have a strong God in our corner to towel our sweat and quench our thirst and send us back into the ring? Yes.
The fight, while we have to, will be bearable because of Who bears our fight.
But… I long for more swirling conversations about the good.

There have been and will be seasons so dark that the light isn’t even remembered.
So when the sun’s so strong we can go nowhere without being bathed in it’s warmth, then let’s dance around like fools and jump as if we could splash in puddles of it! Let’s revel in the lovely and have words of hope waiting on our lips!

The darkness wins when we let it weigh more than it should.
The darkness wins when we let guilt keep us from goodness.

We’re of an age in our churches were we are coming to grips with the need for authenticity- praise the Lord!   Stories from the pulpit down are being spoken with hard truths.  We are confessing and contemplating with more of our mess than we used to.
But, but, but… are we as open with what’s good?

I’ve found myself tucked into a younger generation full of ironic sweaters and instagrammed selfies that will tell you what’s wrong.
Okay.  Myself included.
But will we SHOUT OUT what is being done by a GOOD GOD?

Thanks to the Shauna Niequists and the Ann Voskamps, we are penciling lists of thankfulness in our letterpressed journals rife with recipes and DIY tricks.
But are we having the conversations? Filling a dark world with words that honor beauty? love? HOPE?

Two weekends ago, all of us evening attending Common Grounders shuffled into the basement for a more intimate little gathering than usual.  Our shepherd of a pastor called two newcomers to share out loud what they’d spoken privately to him during worship.
A man who spoke in heavily French-tilted English shared his story of conversion! After winning a green card to America, he came, and in fifteen years, though excited to find himself here, still hadn’t found himself.  He wrestled with depression that kept him up night after night after night after night with nightmares.  Medicine didn’t cure.
And one night only weeks ago he woke up yet again, stumbled to his desk, and wrote out all that was on his heart.
And in that moment, he spoke to us with the clearest eyes begging our full attention… that night, something shifted in his stomach… in his insides… he finally felt HOPE!

He knew the Spirit was upon him and since that moment, EVERYTHING has changed!  And he can’t keep quiet! He can’t keep still! He will walk up to anyone, even the supposed believers stacked in church pews and ask, just to make sure, that they truly know Christ.  He will hand you sheets of verses He keeps tucked into his pockets just in case his accent doesn’t allow you to clearly hear what he’s trying to tell you that the Spirit is trying to tell you.

I was inches away from him and had hot, hot, hot tears rolling out of my eyes.
The good coming through his mouth out of his soul was convicting mine.

Minutes before that, a woman stood up in the back to testify.
(We don’t usually do a lot of loud testifying.  It makes people nervous.)

She shared that she had been struggling to pay the bills, and struggling to find hope.
Despite the pennies in her bank account, she still took her ten percent to the church (hello? is that you again Conviction?) and one day while checking her bank statement she saw far too many numbers.
She asked the clerk if there’d been a mistake.
No mistake, just provision.

And right there in a calm, quiet, church basement in Broad Ripple, this woman SHOUTED “I am so HAPPY! I am so GRATEFUL!”

I felt suckerpunched.

When was the last time you acknowledged God’s working out loud? And not only out loud, but LOUDLY? With joy spilling into the aisles?

When was the last time the hope in your insides woke you in the middle of the night?

When was the last time you got back into the ring with all of the ugly darkness and fought back with a heavy hand of happy?

It’s hard to do with empty cribs and full graveyards, cancer and crushed spirits, broken hearts and bad news on a constant crawl.
But the good exists.
Because a good God exists.

I’ve got as many rattling bones tucked away as the next person, fear and anxiety and hundreds of buckets that’ve been filled with countless tears.

But I’ve also got hope.

I have a blue vase of ruffled parrot tulips on the counter from a man who loves me, I have welcomed my two baby brothers home from the coast and into a dozen bear hugs, I have had meaningful conversations about the worth of this life while checking off invoices of shampoo, I have gulped down bites of pink watermelon in a dusky meeting with my pastors and prayed for how He is moving in our beloved church, I have sat across a pine table at a bistro banquette and looked at my best friend’s face while he laughed his most genuine laugh, I have sung Happy Birthday in a jazzy vibrato to my bowtie bedecked oldest baby brother, I have worshipped and drunk deeply of life… in just this past week.

Because I love the lovely.
And I simply won’t let the ugly keep knocking me out.

String together your thankful thoughts.  There’s eternity that’s been set in your heart.
Today is one of forever, and there is nothing better for you than to be happy and do good while you live.

So live lovely.
And live it out LOUD!



One Response

  1. Hi! Your post resonated with so many things in my life this week! Thank you for sharing. You should know, too, that I shared your story, too, with some of the young adults at our church who have been discussing this very thing: choosing hope. (I HOPE that’s okay:) I appreciate your candor and your journey.

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