O L D P O E M

P O E M S

I wrote this poem years ago, but its words still touch my heart. I have only ever shared it with a limited audience, for fear of it being silly or clumsy or misunderstood. In my pursuit of living a more creative life now, however, I am choosing to share my creative efforts with no thought of the reception it may or may not receive.
So without further ado, here is the old poem I found buried in the heap of my creative past…

I remember as a child sitting in the backseat with a story being read to me, about a girl all alone in the jungle who was afraid.

Just like me.

Well, not exactly–I mean I grew up in suburbia and for a while backwoods country.
But God, it seemed like life was like that scary jungle scene; where every corner, every branch held uncertainty, like something was going to happen, like something was going to hurt me.

But the girl in that story said something that stuck out to me, repeating ever so softly,
”God is with me, always with me. I am safe, always safe.”

And it was in the backseat of that car on that warm summer’s night, driving from Seattle on that stretch of 405, that I came to a conclusion in my childish mind, that if I just spoke those trusting words, everything would be just fine.

Though over time, I found these words to be only half-right.

God is with me, He’s always with me. but I am not always so safe.

Does this mean He loves me less? 
Does this mean He’s forgotten me?

Somehow we’ve come to believe that following that still small voice gives us some sort of invincibility, a special  protection, that if it’s His will, things will work out perfectly.
But if that’s the case, why hasn’t that come through for me?
If that’s how God works, then why are my brothers and sisters suffering for advancing a kingdom He’s building?

Yet when I flip through the pages of that old book that still breathes life, I see God has never been too concerned with us leading safe, comfortable, predictable lives.

But I still don’t pretend to understand why You allow certain things to happen, and I can’t help but ask so many questions.

There’s really no resolve here, but to keep trusting in You; for perhaps the body You do not always keep so safe, but as for my soul You always do. And I can rest knowing that no matter the circumstance, You bring about Your redemptive plan.

You promise to wipe every tear from our eyes?

Okay then, I’ll let them fall freely so I have nothing to hide, for I know one day all wrongs will be made right, and we will finally see the “whys” behind this life.

But maybe by then we won’t need the answers, as to why our loved ones died of cancer, or why our sons and daughters are bought and sold like they don’t matter.

All I can say for now, is that I’ll keep listening for Your voice to break through my clouds.
All I can say for now, is that I’ll keep listening for Your voice to break through my clouds.

B A D T A L K

T H O U G H T S

In the past, I thought that vocalizing insecurities around other people was just annoying. Now I see that it isn’t just annoying; it is handing them weapons to tear you down. I have always been a rather insecure, self-conscious person. I wish there were a shimmering confidence powder I could dust over myself each day, but it’s just a lot of hard work and intentional re-wiring of thoughts and beliefs.

Over the years, people have said a lot of unkind things to me, and I used to wonder why. Now I see that they said unkind things to me because they (unconsciously) thought I had given them permission to do so based upon the way I spoke about myself. If you give others power to wield against you, they will. If given the opportunity to knock you down, they will, especially if you make it easy for them.

Insecure people speak ill of themselves to most everyone, because it is such a constant conversation in their head. Sometimes I am completely unaware of how mean I am being towards myself until someone points it out. Someone once said that insecurity is loud, and it is. Insecure thinking sounds like a kick drum pressed to the ear, rhythmically pumping out self-doubt and shame.

My best friend often reminds me that the words we speak have power. While I do my best to be careful with what I say to others, I am careless when it comes to what I say to and about myself. I think I do this because it doesn’t seem like it matters.

Some claim that you have no power over what people think of you, but I disagree. I think we all have the power to tell the world how we wish to be treated. For years, I have told the people around me that it is acceptable for them to tease me about my appearance, my fumbling attempts at dating, and my quirks and habits. Yet the moment someone asserts or draws attention to any of these insecurities, I feel personally attacked; I wonder how they ever thought it was acceptable to say something like that.

Then I remember: I essentially told them that, and they are parroting it back to me. It is quite startling to discover how  ugly and wounding the words we say to ourselves sound from the mouths of others. True, some people are just jealous ass-hats who like to elevate themselves by degrading others. But in general, I believe we offer people a permission slip when we speak ill of ourselves.

The result is a vicious cycle: we vocalize our insecurities, others say them back to us, and then we take those parroted words as confirmation that we truly are unlovable, ugly, stupid, etc.

I have often vocalized what I hate about myself as a way of receiving encouragement from others. It makes me sick to admit it, but it’s true. It’s not that I am just making up awful things to say in order to have someone refute them; I truly believe those ugly words and I am hoping someone will give me a reason to no longer believe them.

This never works. No matter what someone says, they cannot do the replacement work for you. They cannot re-wire your thinking and beliefs about yourself, only you can. At most, you are giving people permission to treat you badly, or at least you’re giving them a reason to spend less time with you. There is room for grace of course, but you cannot expect people to stick around when you never make an effort to believe you’re someone worth sticking to.

One of my favourite writers, Brennan Manning, once said, “We cannot accept love from another human being when we do not love ourselves, much less accept that God could possibly love us.” Those with deep insecurity need to fight for our birthright as children of God, and it takes a lot of convincing from Him to accept ourselves as He accepts us. It takes even more convincing to actually say those words out loud, and even more to live them out loud.

If you also struggle with insecurity, self-hatred, or negative self-talk, I would love to chat with you over a cup of coffee. You and I are not alone, and with God’s grace, we can help each other love ourselves out loud.

U P C O M I N G T R A V E L S

T R A V E L

In a little over a month, I will board a plane to go explore the country of France. When I arrive, I will join up with three other friends to experience Paris, Tours, Périgueux, and Orléans. After ten days together, we will return to Paris and go our separate ways.

From Paris, I will take the train to Bordeaux, Avignon, Nice, and Caen and will be staying at Airbnb homes in each city. I had such a positive experience last year with Airbnb, so I decided to only go through them for my accommodation.

I will be gone for a month, so I am hoping to see a lot. I would love recommendations for sights, restaurants, etc. I am especially interested in WWII and art. I will be celebrating my 28th birthday while in Avignon, so I am looking for something special to do since I will be on my own at that point!

If you have any suggestions, please message me!

🖤

D U B L I N TO R O S T R E V O R

T R A V E L

I was rather tired the morning I left Dublin, because I’d been out all night at a backpacker’s pub crawl. Before leaving the hostel, I stripped the bed, balled up the sheets, and double-checked that I hadn’t left anything. My hair dryer occupied the tiny wastebasket (the voltage was just too much for my American hairdryer…may she rest in peace). My backpack felt even heavier than my day of arrival, but I strapped it on and headed out the door.

As I flung open the brightly painted  door, I saw what awaited me outside: a torrential downpour. I immediately shut the door, wondering what I was going to do. I hadn’t packed an umbrella. I didn’t bring a raincoat, let alone a coat. I decided that the only thing I could do was just forge ahead, rain and all. Within two minutes, I was completely soaked, raindrops trailing down my nose and my hair slicked to my head. I accidentally stomped in a puddle while hurrying along, soaking my trainers. By the time I made it to the bus centre, I was miserably hungry, tired, and soaking wet. After purchasing a ticket to Newry, I sat down at a cafe and devoured a small breakfast and sipped a gritty, bitter Americano.

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Rostrevor, Northern Ireland

The bus was comfortable, and included free wifi. I listened to Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s while watching fields of sheep graze, occasionally glancing around at the other passengers. The Newry bus centre wasn’t as nice, and the bus was dingy. The driver was a kind old man, though, and that’s what matters. He dropped me off directly in front of An Cuan (which means “The Habour”). I walked up to the old building, noticing a scattering of children’s toys, and a few parked cars. I opened the front door, but no one was in the hall. I called up the stairwell, but received no answer. After several minutes of wandering around, I grew fearful that I was stranded. I called my best friend back home, as well as the friend that recommended I stay at An Cuan. Finally, I ventured around the enormous house, and walked up to the backdoor. A little boy answered, and I asked for his mum. The lady, Jen, came and we quickly settled the confusion. She led to to my room, sparely finished but comfortable. The house was a hodge-podge maze of the original structure and additions made in the 80’s.

After settling in, I took a walk to Kilbroney Park, which is a beautiful forested park that houses the Claughman Rock, the Narnia Trail, and Fairy Glen. I walked through Fairy Glen, past storybook homes, and a gentle river. The sun was shining, and I felt truly at rest. I remember smiling to myself, feeling proud that I was brave enough to come to the middle of nowhere in Ireland. Upon arriving back at An Cuan, I decided to take a shower and go to bed early. The shower, while slightly bigger than the one in the Dublin hostel, had barely any water pressure, and trickled out lukewarm. After a long day of bus travel and getting caught in the rain, all I wanted was a decent shower. This trip has made me realise how spoiled I am back in the States. I appreciate how the inconveniences are developing patience and thankfulness within me. The tight spaces, limited options, and budget accommodations are helping me realise how little I truly need to be happy.

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At the end of this street is the YWAM base, An Cuan.

My second day at An Cuan, another American girl arrived at the base. We chatted on the couches after the community meal, and she then invited me out for dessert and coffee. We walked down the street to The Church, a lovely old church that was converted to a cafe. I cheated on my diet and indulged in a toffee pudding with ice cream and berries. I am dairy-free and usually attempt a vegan lifestyle, but I just decided to go for it. We chatted about our faith, our struggles with doubt, and a little bit about our lives back in the States. After a couple days of being alone, it was such a blessing to make a friend!

When I got back to my room, I popped a couple of Benadryl to counter the affects of my indulgence. The next morning I awoke with a terrible ache throughout my body, a sore throat, and what felt like an ear infection. I had planned on a day trip to Belfast, and decided that I wouldn’t allow being sick to keep me from exploring. I was also in desperate need of a warm coat. I rode two buses to Belfast, and by the time of my arrival I was terribly hungry, grumpy, and ill.

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The beginning of the Narnia trail.

My guidebook suggested I visit Kelly’s, a three-hundred year old pub that once catered to Irish rebels. I walked in and sat down. No one served me, so after about fifteen uncomfortable minutes, I chose to move closer to the bar. After more uncomfortable minutes of waiting, I flagged down the bartender and asked if I could order. His accent was thick, so after a little difficulty, I was informed that they were serving only beef stew. I hate beef stew, and I didn’t want a drink, so I left.

I was then directed to a hip cafe, where I ordered “The Big Fish”. I assumed it was akin to fish and chips, plus that’s the title of my favourite Tim Burton movie, so I guessed it a safe bet. The waiter brought out a platter with a battered, deep fried fish the length of elbow to fingertip, with a serving of chips and mashed peas. It was an enormous amount of food. I ate everything though, because I was so hungry and past the point of caring.

After lunch I wandered around different shops in search of a coat. All the shops were featuring  spring attire, so all I could find were paper-thin raincoats. It began to rain, so I popped out my umbrella that I purchased in the village for about three pounds. The heavy winds immediately folded my shield from the  inside out, and I stopped to wage war on the cheap thing in front of a small cafe. After realising I was at a loss, I walked inside. “Having trouble with your umbrella, are you?” The comment came from a smiley barista with a red beard and vivid blue eyes. I laughed and replied yes, that I wanted to throw it in the trash. I ordered an Americano, and he hospitably told me to sit down and he’d bring it to me. I was relived to find a kind person. We chatted as I sipped on my coffee (which was delicious). He’d travelled through the Middle East on his own several years back, which I found impressive.

I told him I was in need of a coat, and he directed me to a TK Maxx (their version of the States’ TJ Maxx). After browsing, I chose a black down jacket. It was lightweight but warm, though not my style. After my jacket mission was complete, my desire to wander around Belfast died completely. I just wanted to go home to bed. I nearly cried multiple times, mostly from disappointment and feeling so poorly. I didn’t expect I’d have bad days while travelling; I thought that I would be so overjoyed and in awe that I would be immune to every difficulty.

When I returned to the base, I was feeling so ill that I just showered and went to bed. I awoke the next day fairly early for how sick I felt. I dressed for church, went on a walk to Kilbroney Park, and picked up some coffee before heading to the service. When I arrived, I saw a couple of girls from the base. I stood with them and chatted with the elderly. The service was beautiful, with various Scripture readings, organ-led hymns, and a celebration of the Trinity. I thoroughly enjoyed the traditional service, and felt so apart of the village community through the experience.

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Fairy Glen, with my dream house over yonder.

The next morning, I visited the local physician. As I had suspected, I had another ear infection. He prescribed the routine antibiotics, and told me not to fly for a bit. “That’s impossible…I have several flights that I cannot cancel!” He shook his head, but said to take care. I waited in a tiny pharmacy while the two women behind the counter gossiped and filled plastic bottles with various pills.

The remainder of my time in Rostrevor was spent resting, taking long walks, and chatting with locals. By the time the bus came to whisk me to another destination, I cried at the thought of leaving such a peaceful nest of a village.

A P O E M ON F A I T H & D O U B T

P O E M S

I wrote this little poem several years ago, based upon James 1:6, a passage from Scripture. I have always struggled with doubt–in God, myself, in other people. Over the years, my doubts have been met and transformed by truth. I am discovering that doubt is only a barrier if you allow it to be. Doubt, when accepted as a path, can lead one to new places and deeper understanding. Ultimately, I believe holding God’s hand on this path leads not to annihilation of relationship, but a greater capacity for it. Allowing doubt to be helpful requires faith, rather than the denial of it.

“Uproot and plant yourself in the sea,” said the man of mustard seeds. “You’ve held belief in small things, but greater yet is what will be.”

The mulberry tree duly replied, “Surely my roots will never be dry. The fishes will dance among my leaves, for your faith, I’ll do as you please.”

Another man out and lost at sea, drowning in doubt with prayerful pleas. But oh, how should you receive? Marked with doubt, anxiety.

Faithless man, take hold the seed.

Y O R K TO B A T H

T R A V E L

I shuffled back and forth along the sidewalk near the bus station, my hands shaking and my thoughts whirring. I didn’t have enough money for a ticket. I thought I’d be fine, I really did. I budgeted this trip, my very first time abroad, but it wasn’t enough. I’d mistakenly assumed that when I booked the B&B months earlier that they would charge the stay to my account. After breakfast on my last morning, however, they informed me in broken English that I still owed for my room. Shit, I hissed to myself. My face burned and my heartbeat shot up to my ears. Paying the hosts would deplete my account. I still had over a week left, and I was all alone.

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I went to the York Minster every day while in the city, as it is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Photos do not capture how arresting, detailed, and gorgeous this holy place is.

 

Despite it being around 3 am back in the States, I called my mother, frantic and guilty. My voice broke and tears streaked my sunburned cheeks. I felt like a failure. Her genuine concern for my well being was a solace for the embarrassment I felt, but salt to the wound of pride. Stuck in a quaint English town with no money made me desperate enough to ask for money.

I had just enough money to purchase a bus ticket after counting up stray coins and notes in my bag, but nothing beyond. I was due in Bath by nightfall, and the bus ride was estimated to be at least eight hours. When I arrived at the tourist center to purchase the ticket, I came up about five pounds short. I felt tears, unbidden, welling up in my tired eyes. The woman across from me was only a few years older than I, with chestnut hair, immaculate makeup, and a posh accent, I was humiliated to be seen at such a low moment in front of someone like her. I shamefully explained my situation, and she turned from me to rifle through her own purse to supplement the cost of the ticket. I could barely breathe out a word of thanks due to shame, but mostly from an overwhelming sense relief and thankfulness.

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Inside the York Minster, where I was content to walk quietly each day.

 

By the time I was on the somewhat dingy bus headed for Bath, the money from my mother was safely tucked into my account. I felt provided for, and suddenly exceedingly tired. Relief from high anxiety gives way to lethargy for most people, and I was not excluded from the phenomenon. I woke from fitful sleep to the feeling of dampness. I adjusted myself due to a dull pain in my abdomen, only to discover that I had bled through my clothes. Thankfully, I was clothed in black skinny jeans that wouldn’t betray my leakage. After the miserable day I had, of course I would begin my period on a dirty, nonstop bus.

The bus arrived in Bath at 2 AM, and as I hoisted my large backpack over my shoulder, I realised that I was the only person on the dimly lit street. I kept an alert eye, scanning the sidewalk as I paced back and forth, waiting for my taxi. I was dirty, bloody, exhausted, and starved. 

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Bath, England

 

After folding myself into the back of the cab, I gave the driver the address to my Airbnb host home. We both struggled to understand each other’s accents, but eventually we sorted out where to go. I couldn’t believe how steep the hills were; it felt like San Francisco, but on a much smaller scale. The driver stopped in front of a quaint old home with a wild garden partly obscuring its windows and door. It didn’t look like the picture, so I warily checked the lock. The hostess said she’d leave it unlocked for me, knowing I’d be coming late. I nodded to the driver, and he left me.

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The Airbnb host’s front door was besotted with succulents and greenery. She was an artist who lived with several cats, and always had bits of paint on her hands.

 

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure it was the correct house until I entered the guest room upstairs. Folded blankets, towels, and a note indicated I was in the right place. I tiptoed to the bathroom to shower, careful to not make too much noise. After toweling off, I stuffed toilet paper between my legs to create a makeshift pad. I laid myself on the bed, which was really just an IKEA mattress tucked into an alcove. Though uncomfortable, I quickly fell into dreamless sleep, feeling safe and provided for, and stretched beyond what I ever thought I could endure.

 

 

 

THE S T A T E S TO D U B L I N

T R A V E L

I arrived in Dublin shortly after six a.m. I was so disoriented and overwhelmed after my flight that I shuffled to the bathroom before going through customs. I waited in a long line with my passport ready, with a customs officer who was less than thrilled with his task. He told me I needed to sign my passport, and asked my reason for being in the country. “Holiday”, I replied cheerily.

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I then walked down towards the bus and taxi service. I knew the bus would be significantly cheaper, but as I was so exhausted and uncertain, I chose a taxi instead. It felt positively luxurious having a cab all to myself, after two days of zero privacy and limited space. The cabbie didn’t make conversation, but I was glad. All I wanted was to check in to the hostel and collapse into bed. He pulled up to a bright blue door where a man on a ladder was adding a second coat of paint. I gave the cabbie a crisp one-hundred pound bill. “We don’t see these every day,” he commented.  As he handed me my backpack, he warned me to be careful. He seemed concerned that I was on my own, and didn’t want me walking around at night. I smiled at his concern as I walked through the bright blue door into the hostel office.

A slight man with a thick accent informed me that I couldn’t check in until three p.m., but offered to stow my bag and allow me to hang around until then. I was hesitant to leave my bag, so I walked down to a cute little coffee shop. I ordered an iced quad shot Americano, which resulted in a furrowed-brow from the barista. “We don’t have iced drinks,” she replied. She offered me hot americano instead, along with an almond croissant. After sitting a bit in a sun-spot, perusing my phone, I decided on a refill, since I needed to stay awake. We chatted about coffee for a bit before I sat back down, next to an elderly gentleman with a newspaper.

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I drained my cup and ventured out on the street. I decided to turn right, past the hostel, and up the street. I passed a series of colourful doors, which were made especially delightful because they were attached to grey stone buildings. I came upon the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral, and decided to venture inside. I purchased a ticket that allowed entrance into the cathedral as well as the museum across from it. Up until this point, I had never been inside a cathedral. I was overwhelmed by the detailed beauty, even in my blurry-eyed state. The priest invited me to attend morning prayer, so after exploring the crypt, I sat alongside two Russian women. The priest led us through prayers, and then shared some history of the church, with trademark Irish humour.

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The museum across from the church was called Dublinia, and focused mainly on the medieval and Viking history of Ireland. The doorman offered to keep my backpack, but I was still hesitant. My back ached, but I didn’t want to trust anyone. Halfway through the first floor, I was so miserable that I returned to the front and asked if I could stow my pack. The man led me around to a Viking boat replica, and hid the bag there. “It should be safe there.” I still can’t get over the humour of hiding my backpack in a replica of a Viking boat. I continued through the museum, light as a feather, but very tired.

By the three p.m. check-in, I was overwhelmingly exhausted. My private room was three floors up a spiral staircase, so I dragged my backpack behind me, too sore and tired to actually carry it properly. After two days of zero privacy, closing the door to my own room felt like entrance into heaven. The room was plain, but very clean and comfortable. As I was in desperate need of a shower, I ventured down the hall to the washrooms. I was shocked by how cramped the space was, smaller than my closet back home. I fiddled with the shower, attempting to turn on its flow, to no avail. I stood wrapped in a towel, swearing at the shower head, until I realised it must be broken. I hauled my things to the next shower, nearly giddy when the water jutted out full and hot.

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I am a fairly small person, but in that tiny shower, I struggled. I had to hike my leg up and prop it against the wall in order to shave, and kept bumping the door open. I made wet footprints on the old wooden floor as I whisked my clean self back to the room. Since I was far too exhausted to find anything to eat, I went to bed hungry. I slept like the dead until late the next morning.

 

B A D B E L I E V E R

T H O U G H T S

I’ve struggled in my Christian faith. I’ve doubted, backslid, crawled forward, and failed. Growing up, I would recite the sinner’s prayer every day, just to “make sure” I was really saved. While away at college (a Bible college, mind you) I nearly walked away from the faith completely. But by God’s grace, I shakily remain His.

When I am alone with God, I feel secure in my relationship with Him. Being around His other kids is what trips me up. I compare myself to other Christians, deciding that God must like them better because they seem happier, more faithful, or better than me. I am in therapy and swear like a sailor when I am angry. I laugh at double-entendres, vote Democrat, and am a proud feminist. I am not an ideal Proverbs 31 Woman.

But Jesus loves me, this I know.

He knows my heart. He sees my efforts to change, and He knows I try to follow Him each day, in every area of my life. He didn’t make me His to be like other Christians. I follow Jesus, not religiosity! Though I may feel like I am on shaky ground in my faith, the truth is, I can’t lose Him. And He can’t lose me. His word confirms and promises this:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8: 35-39

What can separate me from the love of Christ? N O T H I N G.

Shame may tell me that I am not good enough, and that’s true. But that was never the point. I am being saved as much as I am saved, and it’s a life-long process. God is far more patient than I am with myself, and the only thing that keeps Him distant is me. When I choose shame over grace, I push Him away.

I’ve always related to the disciple Thomas–infamously known as Doubting Thomas. Growing up in church, Thomas was often made an example of how we shouldn’t be as believers. But he always gave me hope, because even though he was one of Jesus’ most intimate friends, he still struggled with doubt. He could have allowed shame and doubt to destroy his faith, but he didn’t. Instead he cried, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” And as Flannery O’Connor once wrote, that is “…the most natural and most human and most agonizing prayer in the gospels, and I think it is the foundation prayer of faith.”

I used to be afraid of my doubts, but I’m not anymore. Doubting has caused me to explore the faith, to make it truly my own. A fear of doubt shows a lack of faith that God can withstand questions and apparent contradictions. Some people are so afraid to acknowledge their doubts because they are afraid of what they may discover. I think we’re all afraid of being bad believers, but the truth is, He doesn’t see it that way.

If prostitutes, murders, thieves, doubters, and the ordinary can be celebrated in the family of God, that gives us all hope! Doubt doesn’t exile us from God, nor do our sins. We can boldly and confidently approach Him as we are, because forgiveness and acceptance is assured.

So whether you’re rough around the edges, or plagued with doubt, you are still His. There’s such a comfort for us in the consistency and faithfulness of God. We don’t need to waste time comparing ourselves to each other, or being afraid of what our doubts reveal about us.

Let’s all give each other freedom to pursue Him as we are, and leave all the judgment to Him.