Voices

Recently, I was leaving a restaurant just down the street from my house. Real talk: It’s a place I go often when I need to grab dinner on the go (which, for someone who hates cooking, is a lot). I know the faces of the people who work there. I recognize them, smile at them, and talk to them on a regular basis. 

That particular night the place was crowded and the line long. As I was paying, I heard an exchange between one older black employee and two white teenage boys. The teenagers jumped in line and wanted some extra chips with their meal. The employee told them he was happy to help, but they’d have to get in line to purchase them. Openly frustrated, the two teenagers complained that they should neither have to wait nor pay for the food they wanted before throwing up their arms and heading to the door. 

By this time, I was also at the door so I held it open for the boys as they were leaving the restaurant behind me. As I did, I heard them loudly declare how frustrated they were with the employee who wouldn’t give them free food. And as they talked about it, one of them concluded their rant by calling him a name. I’m not going to tell you what it was, but just know it was a disgusting racial slur that rolled off this teenage boy’s tongue so easily that there’s not a doubt in my mind it wasn’t the first time he’s called someone such a name.

I stood there stunned as the door closed behind me. I watched them walk a few more steps to their car before all the thoughts in my mind just sort of spilled out of my mouth.

“Hey,” I shouted, “I heard what you just said. And it’s disgusting.”

They turned around, surprised and hopefully, a little embarrassed. I proceeded to take them to task in the parking lot. I told them how horrified I was that they would say that and how offended I was to hear it. I told them that I hoped they knew how inappropriate that language was, but particularly in the direction of another person over a few tortilla chips. I told them that they should apologize and that I hoped they would think twice before using that word again. Recognizing the bumper sticker of a local Christian high school on the truck they were driving, I even went so far as to tell them that I knew their school and what it represented and hearing them use that word in conversation toward another person made me want to call their school myself to tell them how their students were acting in public. (Ya’ll, I’m crazy, I know!)

When I paused to take a breath, one kid—the one who didn’t even say the word himself—muttered an apology to me before they both got in their truck and left.

I have a hard time figuring out what upset me the most about that interaction, but I can tell you that their casual use of racial slurs ranks pretty high. It was the first time I’d ever actually heard someone call another person that name in anger and hatred. And it was so gross.

My parents raised me to treat everyone with respect. It was never really a conversation, but more of just an example they set. It was the way we lived our lives. They sent us to a school system that was extremely diverse. I’m not sure what went into their decision making at the time, but that day in and day out diversity was a gift that came alongside my education. My friends were my friends, no matter what they looked like, and I didn’t really see the difference between us.

But I’m white. So really, I didn’t see the difference because I didn’t have to. Our differences didn’t really impact me. Looking back, I see it now. Our team would pull up to opposing high schools for football games and be greeted with dummies hanging from nooses in the trees. Sometimes that very same racial slur I heard in the parking lot as an adult got hurled across the football field at our players. I knew friends who weren’t allowed to date, hang out with, or spend the night at the houses of other people in our class because of the color of their skin.

So I guess I did see it, but I certainly didn’t feel it at the time. I could shake my head at it, not understand it, and be upset by it, but then go about my day as usual. It didn’t have to impact my life.

When I got to college, I studied Literature, but chose a concentration specifically in African American Literature. Partly because a few of my favorite professors were teaching those courses when I declared, but mostly because the writing was so rich. Those writers gave a voice to an experience in a way that I don’t know anyone else who has. The world tried to take so much from them, but the one thing it couldn’t take was their voice. That’s what I think made the writing so poignant. They saw the value in their voice. They knew the power of their words. They used them boldly and wisely—the way I wish we all would.

Listen, I don’t know what’s happening in the world today. When racial slurs fly out of the mouths of teenagers in the parking lot of a restaurant over a few measly chips, I think it’s pretty safe to say we’ve gotten off course. I believe it’s evil—the result of prideful sin and darkness rooted really deeply in all of us. I think it’s the fear that someone—someone who is different than us—is going to take some sort of invisible power out of our hands. 

But I think we’d do well to remember that the power we all have is in our voices. It’s in our words. They can build us up, and speak up when we see injustice, and show kindness to someone we don’t know, and be a catalyst for change. Or they can be the vehicle for hate, and separation, and disrespect. It’s in the way we write, or speak to, or talk about the people around us. It’s in the way we pray. It’s in the way we decide to respond to the things happening around us—in solidarity or in silence. 

I  don’t have a lot of money (#notrich). I don’t have some major platform or sphere of national influence. I’m not raising any kids to be change in the next generation. I don’t have a big home to open up to people who need a safe space. I don’t have the benefit of free time all the time.

But I do have a voice. I have my words. 

I’ve never been shy about speaking my mind (just ask my family). It’s a practice I’ve had to rein in some over the years. But in this one spot—in the places where people are hurt, or treated less than, or called gross names in the parking lot of a local restaurant—I just can’t rein it in.  

And I don’t think I should. 

I don’t think you should either! I’m not saying we all start shouting at each other in parking lots. I think we can all agree we’ve seen enough of that. But I am saying that we can pay attention to the words we use when we speak to and about other people. We can use our voices to speak up when we see or hear something that we know is wrong. It’s something we all have. And though it may not fix all the problems in this world, I think using our voices for the betterment of this world and the uplifting of other people is a pretty good place to start. 

Changing Seasons

I’ve always loved fall. And mostly, it’s because of two things: the snacks and the style. As soon as the chill hits the air, all the good food and all the good clothes come out to play. Give me all the pumpkin bread, smores over a campfire, and warm, hearty food. Let me wear my scarves, and sweaters, and wedge boots on the regular once again. Fall Sara is one of my favorite versions of Sara every year (second only to Summer Sara whose pale skin is finally dressed up with a little color). 

I think there’s something so poetic about a changing of season. It always seems to me to be the physical representation of what God is doing in our lives. Changing us. Showing us a new way to see something. Bringing about something different, but lovely. 

Five years ago I was thrust into a changing of seasons I didn’t expect—the one from healthy to sick. It was a slow build to this change of seasons, full of doctor visits, surgeries, medications, and the like. But when it happened, it happened. Just like that it became clear that things were going to be different for me from that point forward.

The season had changed.

Though I was suffering a lot of internal ailments in the middle of that season, my body showed outward signs of the struggle. Within a span of only a couple of months, I’d dropped nearly 30 pounds. At the time, this was particularly alarming because I probably only could’ve afforded to lose 1/3 of that. It was completely out of my control and something I battled daily because to me, this change in appearance was a sign of the season of suffering I was living in everyday.

And what was worse? Nearly everyone had something to say about it.  

This may be a problem unique to women, but can we just talk about how much we think it’s okay to talk about each other’s bodies?

You’re so skinny. Your arms look frail. Gosh, I’ve never seen you so slim. Your legs look like toothpicks. Well at least you got some weight loss out of this ordeal.

I can’t tell you how often I heard unsolicited commentary just like this during that season of sickness. And as much as I tried not to take it on, over time it stuck with me. Eventually, the messages I was hearing in that season became, “Sure you’re sick, but you’re also really skinny. So good for you!”

How messed up is that, you guys?

Over the last five years, I’ve worked really hard to adjust to a new normal that is life with autoimmune disease and the lasting impact of medication that took it’s permanent toll on my body. It’s new ways of working, new ways of eating, new ways of exercising, new ways of resting—an entirely new way of seeing myself and my life in this new, unexpected season. And slowly but surely, I’ve come back to some new version of healthy.

The season changed again. 

And with it, so did my body. My doctor has been encouraging me every single step of the way to put some weight back on. (You guys, she’s amazing and if you ever need a doctor, I have her number waiting for you!) At every checkup, she’s celebrated me as the scale ticked back upward because, as she reminds me, it means that I’m healthy. It means the season has changed, and that is a good thing. 

But just like in that season of sickness, this new season of reclaimed health has brought with it commentary of its own.

Your face looks fuller now.

Gosh, you don’t look like you looked in those pictures a few years ago.

Your body has changed since I saw you last. 

Again, why people feel the freedom to talk to me (or anyone) this way I’ll never know! But they do. And in this season too, their words have stuck. 

The last six months have required me to try some new things to stay healthy. The hope is that these things will be temporary and provide a little relief from some chronic issues. But the down side is they come with more physical impacts on my body. A little weight gain, a lot of bloating and puffiness, and the general feeling of “blah.” In other words, not fun.

Again, my amazing doctor keeps remind me, “This is just for a season. This is for your health.”

But if I’m being honest (and that’s really the only way I know how to be), then I’d tell you it’s been really hard for me this time around. It’s been a struggle of my mind not to give into thoughts that tell me things that aren’t true about me. It’s a mental battle to say the physical impacts I’m dealing with because of this new medication are okay with me if they make me feel better. Because some days, that doesn’t feel true. 

And I think it’s been such a battle because the lies and thoughts in my mind are backed up by a chorus of commentary from others that I didn’t ask for and don’t need. If there’s anything these last few months have taught me is to watch my words because I know now how much they stick. 

There’s a stretch of street in my neighborhood that’s lined with trees. And right now, as the seasons have changed and the cool air is finally here in Georgia, they are vibrant with color and full of life. I was driving down that stretch of road just yesterday and found myself slowing down to take them in. I was blown away by how unique they all look—the reds, the oranges, the yellows all so bold and beautiful. 

I was so struck by it that even alone in my car, I mumbled to myself, “That’s so beautiful.”

And almost as quickly as the words came out of my mouth, I felt like God was saying to me, So are you. 

If that sounds weird, I promise it wasn’t audible or anything. No burning bush or visions of grandeur here. Just a simple sense in my spirit if that makes sense at all. 

In the same way I saw the beauty and uniqueness in those leaves, so God sees the beauty and uniqueness in me, no matter how the changing of seasons takes its toll on me. Those leaves can’t control the way they change. They don’t get to pick their colors or choose the shapes they’re going to take. They simply go with the seasons. Their changing is part of the process. A sign that they’re alive. A sign that they’re healthy. 

The same is true for us. When other voices threaten that truth, I want to look to the leaves to remember that who I am, just as I am, is a reflection of the life I have.  

The seasons may change, yes, but I’m choosing to see the beauty in that. 

To Be Known

One of my greatest bragging rights in the world is my ability to remember birthdays.

It’s seriously like my secret talent. I have a Rain Man-like skill to remember just about anyone’s birthday once I’ve celebrated it. If you are a person in my life and I’ve celebrated your birthday, then just know it’s forever burned in my brain. I’m like a human birthday Rolodex. My friends don’t even keep a calendar anymore; they just ask me. Birthdays and song lyrics—those are the two things I know without a doubt. 

With that comes my second secret talent: I’m an excellent gift giver. Birthdays, Christmas, special occasions—you name it, and I love finding a gift for it. There’s just something really exciting about finding a gift that makes someone I love feel loved. When it’s personal to them, they feel seen, loved, and celebrated, but more than that, they feel known by me. That’s the secret sauce to all gift giving: letting the other person know that to you, they are known.

I think that’s because there’s something about being known that really makes us all feel loved. It’s what we all want more than anything from the people close to us. Sure, we want to be loved, and valued, and respected, but I think when we’re known—really and truly known—by the people in our lives, we feel all that and more. 

Being known is something I’ve come to value more in my adult years. I moved away from home when I was 18 for college and haven’t lived close to my family in more than a decade. I don’t have a family of my own yet. And as I’m self-employed, I work primarily by myself. All that to say, I spend a lot of hours in my week by myself. And sometimes, all that combined can make you feel like you’re drifting out in the world on your own. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about where I am in my life. And if I’m being honest, I’d tell you that I’ve been battling that feeling of being “behind.” I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I haven’t written my bestseller, I’m still paying my student loans—the list goes on and on. And when I look at it like that, it’s easy to feel like life has taken a lonely turn. The lie I tell myself? I’m not where I’m “supposed” to be, and because of that, I’m alone.

I haven’t articulated this lie I’ve been battling to anyone. I’ve just sort of privately prayed about it, talked to my counselor, and worked on processing through it to replace it with truth.

But as I’ve been battling this feeling of being alone, it’s almost as if the world heard me and decided to prove otherwise. In little and big ways, the people around me these last few months have made me feel more known than I even realized I was. It was nothing ostentatious, or obvious, or probably even intentional; it was just little moments that God gave me to show me that not only am I not alone, but I’m known. 

When I was at the movies and a scene played out on screen triggered an extreme emotional (and public) crying, my friend Stephanie just silently passed me her blanket so that I could cover my face. 

When I contemplated not buying Halloween candy for the neighborhood kids (something my roommates make fun of every year because we’re never home on Halloween to actually hand it out), my friend Tiffany sent me $5 to pay for it because she knew how much I loved having it to leave out. 

When my mom bought me Reese Witherspoon’s coffee table book for no reason other than that she knows I love Reese Witherspoon. 

When my friend Molley had her mom make extra Rice Krispie treats because she knows I think her mom makes the best Rice Krisipe treats. 

When my friend Blake drove down from Nashville just to hang out for 24 hours.

When my friend Christy texted me about something only she and I would laugh at. 

When my friend Mary sent me a picture of her voting sticker because she knows how much I love to vote. 

When my friend Jessica took me to brunch just because. 

When my friend Lindsey let me crash her trip to NYC because she knows I love the city as much as she does. 

When my friend Michelle called me from across the world just to talk on her way home from work. 

When my friend Anisa invited me over for dinner.

When my friend Chelsea tagged me in Instagram posts that she wanted me to see because she knows I’ll think they’re funny. 

When my friends Megan and Amanda let me go trick or treating with their families every year.

The list goes on and on.

My people know me, in big and small ways. That much I know is true. And to be known is to be loved. That much I also know is true. 

So even when it doesn’t look the way you thought it would, it doesn’t mean life looks lonely. Because when you feel known, and loved, and seen, and valued, life starts to look really unexpectedly lovely. 

The Vote

Mary Poppins is one of my all-time favorite movies. I have it nearly memorized from beginning to end, both music and dialogue alike. It was a regular on repeat when I had sick days as a kid, and even now, when I’m not feeling well, it’s one of my comforting go-to movies. Fun fact: I once played a bird in the ballet version at my local dance studio, and it was a highlight of my stint as a ballerina. 

I was never really big into princesses. I was always more into the misfits—the misunderstood, the unlikely, the funny, the ones with a cause. This new era of Disney princess is mostly this kind of heroine, but back in my day, it was more about being the damsel in distress. Don’t get me wrong; I love those movies, too. But if I had a choice, I’d always pick something a little different—a story with a little more edge.

One of my favorite parts of Mary Poppins is one of the edgier plot lines (if you can even use the word “edgy” when talking about this movie). Mrs. Banks, the bumbling and seemingly unaware mother of the household, has passionately adopted the cause to bring women the right to vote. She make signs, wears sashes, and dedicates her time to protesting so that women in her day can have the right to vote. She even sings a songabout this very subject early in the film. 

As a kid, I loved that song mostly because I thought it was funny the way the maids and nannies joined her to dance around and look so silly. But as an adult, I love that part for so many more reasons. It’s about one of my favorite things: a woman’s right to vote. 

In case you missed it, we’re in the middle of an election season. I don’t know how you could miss this because the commercials, and the mailers, and the Facebook posts, and the phone calls are so much. Regardless of all the annoying noise surrounding it, voting season has always been one of my favorites. 

My parents used to take us with them to vote on Election Day. We’d wait in line at the local gym turned polling place before they’d take us into the booth with them and let us wear the sticker on the way out. I don’t think as a kid I fully appreciated what they were doing for us by bringing us with them. Honestly, they might have just brought us along because they didn’t have a choice! Whatever the reason, those many Tuesdays tagging along to the voting booth over the years gave me a healthy understanding and respect for my right to vote. 

I remember voting in my first election with excitement, mostly because it was a cool thing to do as an 18 year old. It was one of the only “adult” privileges I could participate in when I turned 18. I didn’t smoke, didn’t want a tattoo, and my state didn’t have the lottery at the time so voting was pretty much it.  

My senior year, I had a great English teacher who took the time to talk to us about voting. She encouraged us to look into the history of voting in our country so that we could really understand the right we were all coming into that year. She even gave us a brief assignment to research our potential candidates that year as a way to teach us the value of the vote. (Can we get a shout out for all the amazing teachers out there who are teaching life lessons alongside literature?)

The stuff I learned that year has really stuck with me. It wasn’t all that long ago that women in our country couldn’t vote. Like not at all, you guys! Why? Well, because they were women. That was literally the only reason. And in order to get that right given back to them, women had to take a hard stance. They had to make sacrifices, and put their necks out, and fight so that girls like me, nearly 100 years later, could walk into my public library and vote without worry. 

There are countries still today where women don’t have the right to speak into the people who lead and govern them. Simply because they’re women, they don’t get the choice to speak into who is going to lead and make laws that impact them directly. If that sounds crazy to you, it’s because it is!

In my parent’s lifetime, people had to take similar stances and make big sacrifices so that African Americans could have that same right to vote. To get where we are today—where everyone is supposed to have the right to use their voice to vote—was a bloody, bruising, and violent road. 

I follow John Lewis on Twitter. He is not only one of my elected representatives in Georgia, but he’s a leader in the Civil Rights movement. He’s one of the guys who made the sacrifices and took the hard road so that people just like him could vote. Last week as I was scrolling through my Twitter feed at a doctor’s appointment, I saw that he tweeted this:

I have been beaten, my skull fractured, and arrested more than forty times so that each and every person has the right to register and vote. Friends of my gave their lives. Do your part. Get out there and vote like you’ve never voted before. 

Can you even imagine that? 

So many people worked so hard so that I could wake up on a Friday morning in 2018, grab a latte, and go to my public library to vote early last week. The nerd in me got emotional thinking about it when I got back in the car after I was done. People literally gave up their lives at one point in history just so that I could have the freedom to vote. It took me all of six minutes to cast my ballot, but it took some people a lifetime to earn me that six minutes.  

That’s a sacrifice I don’t want to forget.

It’s a right I don’t want to take for granted. 

So here’s the PSA: Voting is one of the greatest tools we have. It’s one of my favorite freedoms to exercise. It’s an easy way to use our voices. But it didn’t come easy for so many of us. And for so many others, it’s still only an idea. 

So don’t miss it. Don’t take it for granted. Get your own latte, get to your library, and vote. Then, when you’re done, go home and watch Mary Poppins. Trust me, you won’t be sorry about either!

A Safe Place

I’m a news junkie.

I love to read what’s happening in and around the world everyday, and I think I come by it honestly. For as long as I can remember, my grandfather has been reading the local newspaper from cover to cover on a daily basis (though the sports section is his favorite, of course). My dad does the same. I vividly remember him reading the paper every morning while we got ready for school. And now as an adult, it’s become part of my own morning routine (though my newspaper is really just the other side of the computer screen). After coffee, and reading, and a little bit of prayer comes my daily peruse of the news. 

Now at this point if you’re asking yourself, How can you take that?, then you’re on to something. Because lately, the news is just a real downer. I mean, every single day the headlines and stories that follow seem worse than the ones the day before. It’s full of division, and hatred, and just plain darkness. 

I can’t imagine this is the first time someone reading the news has felt this way. My grandfather, who fought in World War II, and my father, who grew up in the politically embroiled sixties in the deep South, probably felt the same way many times. But for me, the word hopeless has come to mind a lot during my morning news readings in the last few months. (Expert tip: That’s why I pair it with the Bible. Hope for the hopeless, ya’ll!)

The news out of Washington this week has specifically left me in a place that’s hard to even articulate. I’m not going to get into the details about what’s been happening with the Supreme Court nominee and the subsequent hearings. I know opinions are differing, and polarizing, and strong, and the purpose of this blog isn’t to get into all of that. You can Google it. I think due process for both sides is part of what makes the American democracy and judicial systems fair, and I hope, as with all things, that the truth will rise to the surface. 

But more than anything, what’s left me so bothered is the familiar narratives that have played out alongside this story. 

The first?

Boys will be boys.

Excuse me while I get on my soapbox for just a second.

I can name you a ton of boys who have moved through high school, college, and well into their adult lives without engaging in sexually forceful behavior toward another person. My dad, my brother, my brother-in-law, my friends’ husbands, the men I work with everyday, the students I’ve gotten to know in my church’s high school ministry. That list goes on and on. So no, boys don’t just act that way. And when we brush off aggressive, and forceful, and inappropriate behavior that ignores consent and disrespects another person with the old “boys will be boys” adage, we’re doing the boys in this world a huge disservice. We’re setting a standard of behavior that is way too low for them and assumes the worst about them. Because no, that’s not what it means to be a boy. It’s certainly not what it means to be a man. 

Okay, soap box aside, the other narrative that’s taken over in the wake of this story seems to be this one: 

If this really happened, why didn’t she say anything all those years ago? 

Now in a moment of true transparency, let me tell you that, as a woman, this question crossed my mind, too. I initially wondered the same thing, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I think that has a lot to do with my background. Because I’m one of the lucky ones—one of the seemingly few women in the world who is fortunate enough to never have had to report anything. I’ve never walked through a moment like this in my life. I grew up surrounded by safe and trustworthy adults. My dad was even a social worker for a long time. His job was literally to help people feel safer. So not only is it hard for me to put myself in the place of someone who may have gone through something like this, it’s hard for me to imagine not feeling like I could tell the adults in my life without full assurance that they’d believe and support me. 

So as I’ve tried to do with a lot of things I don’t understand, I decided I was going to learn. Unfortunately, the list of women I know who did go through things like this and worse is long. And most of these women have grown up to be nothing short of amazing. They’re wives, mothers, and friends with careers and legacies that I admire. And with a lot of counseling and even more Jesus, they’re walking free from the pain of the things that were done to them in the past. They’re healed, and whole, and using their lives to help others be the same, in big and small ways. 

And in literally every single one of their stories—and I mean every single one—they waited a long time to speak up. They didn’t immediately tell anyone in authority (or anyone at all really) what happened to them. Some waited weeks, some months, some years. Some are still waiting. Some may wait forever. 

In an effort to understand what was going on in the hearts and minds of these women who I know, and love, and believe, I asked them if they’d share some of the reasons they struggled to come forward with their own stories. And with their permission, here’s what they said. 

People around me suspected it. I knew they did. But because they never said anything, I didn’t think I should either.

He was a family member, somebody that everyone else in my family really seemed to love. When I did tell one person in my family once—someone my age—they said, “No way, he wouldn’t do that. He’s so nice!”

There were other people there who saw it happen. They laughed when they talked about it at school the next Monday. It made me feel like I was making a bigger deal out of it than I should.

I did tell someone. And then I got removed from my home. My mom didn’t want me to stay there anymore. She chose him.

This other girl in my high school did speak up, and she got humiliated. Nobody talked to her, people wrote things on the bathroom wall about her, and eventually, she left the school. Nothing ever happened to the guy. I didn’t want the same thing to happen to me.

He was my father. Who was I going to tell?

The list goes on and on and on. 

Searching #WhyIDidn’tReport on Twitter is a great research tool to educate yourself with stories just like these, too. They’re hard to read and at times, even harder to believe. Not because I think those people are lying, but because I can’t imagine a scenario in which someone who was hurt in such a way would be met with such a lack of support and help. 

If you’re anything like me, that list is upsetting to you, too. As a woman, as a human, as a Christian. It makes me sad that there’s even a glimmer of doubt that the people in this world who have been victimized and vulnerable won’t be given the help they need to recover in a way that’s safe and supportive. 

So as I’ve been reading the news unfold and listening to my friends share so honestly about their own experiences, I’ve been asking myself a lot of question. And the one I land on over and over again is this one:

What can I do? 

I can’t solve the problems of politics. I can’t answer all of the painful and complex questions on sex, and abuse, and power, and time, and alcohol, and sex. But I can focus on myself. I can ask what I can do to make the needle move even just a little bit so that narratives like this don’t remain so commonplace. 

My grandmother (someone who sadly knew abuse in her own life) used to tell me that if I wanted to do something, I just needed to do it. I didn’t need to wait on anybody else to take action.  

“You have everything you need in you to do something about anything you care about,” she’d say. 

And while I can’t do anything about this narrative on a national or global or even political level other than use my voice and my vote, I can do something about myself. I can do whatever it is that I can do to make sure that everyone in my life sees me as a safe place. I can work to be the kind of person others know they can come to without fear. I can make sure I’m supporting those who do come to me by getting them the help they need. I can make sure I’m speaking truth about identity and confidence and boundaries to both the boys and girls in my life. I can do whatever it is within my power to make sure I’m never an adult that someone who is vulnerable feels afraid to come to because of worry over how they’ll be received. 

Because all of us deserves that much, don’t we? We need each other.

I honestly don’t know how to end this blog because I’m still turning over a lot of things about this in my own mind. I feel so strongly about the fact that this world needs to be a different place for boys and girls alike—a place where stories like this don’t continue to be the norm in my morning news headlines. I know that there are so many stances on what’s playing out on TV in the Senate even as I type.

But I also know that somewhere in there is the truth, and I think truth is something we all pray will always rise above the lies. 

On Movies

I love the movies.

If I had indispensable funds, I’d go to a movie every single day. As a writer by trade, I feel like this makes sense. I love a well-told, unique, beautiful story. And movies give me the chance to see those come to life. 

My all-time favorite? Dirty Dancing. And no, you can’t tell me otherwise because I’ll never change my stance on this. I was riveted this year during Get Out and The Quiet Place. The first place I drove when I got my driver’s license was to the movie theater in Knoxville with my sister to see The Skulls. I saw the midnight premieres for most of the Harry Potterfilms, The Hunger Games, and yes, even Twilight. On a sick day, there’s nothing I want to do more than let You’ve Got Mail, 10 Things I Hate About You, or Father of the Brideplay in the background. To this day I can barely even talk about what happens in Goodwill Hunting, or Steel Magnolias, or Beaches, or this one scene in Manchester by the Seawithout weeping. That last one shook me up so much that I had to do a lap around my neighborhood to dry it up! And don’t get even get me started on musicals. I could watch a musical all day long! Newsies, anything starrint Elvis (yes, you heard me!), La La Land, Singing in the Rain…that list goes on and on. 

You get the point. Movies are my thing. 

My friend Steph equally loves the movies (though musicals are where she typically draws a line). So when something new comes out or the list of Oscar nominations get announced, she is my go-to movie partner. 

A few weekends ago, I corralled Steph into seeing Crazy Rich Asianswith me. I’m a die-hard book over movie girl so I’d spent the week before reading the book as quickly as I could. And if I’m being honest, the book wasn’t my favorite. But since I’d put in the time to finish the book and the promise of popcorn was in my future, I still wanted to see the film

So Steph and I settled into the packed house theater and ot our candy and popcorn combos situation (because who goes to the movies without snacks?) as the opening titles began to roll. 

Within about ten minutes, I was in it! Like so much more than I thought I would be, you guys! And by the time the end credits rolled a few hours later, I was thinking, “Gosh, I have to tell everyone I know about this movie.”

And so, here I am. 

Of course, it was a great movie in genre alone. I mean, if you don’t love a romantic comedy, I don’t trust you. It’s as simple as that.

But what surprised me the most was just how moved I found myself sitting in the theater. At one point, Steph leaned over and whispered, “I’m getting choked up.” My reply? “I’m already crying.”

Of course, the scene that was playing at the time was particularly swoon worthy (don’t worry, I’m not going to give it away!). But honestly, I was more overcome by the movie as a whole. I’ve never seen a film so genuinely, and glamorously, and honestly celebrate its culture like this one. 

Truth be told, I’ve grown up watching people who look and talk just like me on the big screen. White, blonde, middle class girls? Ya’ll know they’re everywhere. The Reese Witherspoons, and Rachel McAdams, and Margot Robbies, and Meryl Streeps, and Diane Keatons, and Gwyneth Paltrows—leading ladies like these have never been hard to come by. And don’t get me wrong! I love me some Reese Witherspoon. I want to be her best friend. 

But my point is that for girls like me—girls who look like me—watching a major blockbuster movie is like looking in a mirror. We’re everywhere. But for people who don’t look like me, that’s a different story. In most mainstream films of my generation growing up, people of other races or ethnicities were often relegated to the supporting roles. The racially stereotypical joke. The best friend who comes in and out of the story. The side player. And if they were the lead, well, they were typically one of very few cast members in the film who weren’t… well, white. 

And if I’m being totally transparent, I’d tell you that I’ve never really given much thought to that reality. Full admission here: Some of this is my own fault. I could’ve done a better job of seeking out films with more cultural diversity. But I didn’t know what I didn't know. And what I didn’t know (or at least what I didn’t realize) until recently is that there is a need to see and celebrate stories that show us people who aren’t just like us. 

I think this is true now more than ever. I don’t know about you, but I feel like a lot of the narratives I see playing out in the media lately are about the things that divide us. They’re about the ways in which we’re different from one another. The things that separate us. The things that make us afraid of people who aren’t just like us. They’re the things designed to make us believe people really do fit into two categories: us and them.  

Here’s what I know to be true about my movie going experience last week. I was surrounded by people in that theater of all different ages, races, genders, and ethnicities. And we were all laughing, crying, and experiencing the film the same way. Pieces of the story were resonating with all of us. It didn’t matter that nobody on screen looked like me. In fact, it made me love the movie that much more. I had a student in my dance class tell me last week that she took her picture next to the movie’s poster outside the theater because “the girl in the picture looked like me.” (Insert tears!)

I’ve learned a lot over these last few years as a writer, but there’s one thing that stands out the most: Our stories connect us. I may not come from where you come from and I may never be able to fully understand or relate to your specific experience in this world. But when I hear your story, I can connect. I can empathize. I can learn. 

And I think we could all use a little less division and little more connection in our lives, am I right?

I now have a running list of films I want to watch about other cultures, featuring stories about things I don’t fully know or understand and people who don’t look just like me. First, because I want to put my money where my mouth is and actually support movies like this with my wallet (and we all now movies ain’t cheap!). But also because I want to be a student of the world me. And not just the world I can see in my mirror, or at my church, or in my backyard, or even in my friend group. I want to learn about people and places I may never meet or visit in my real life because even if I never encounter them, they exist. And they matter. Because the more you know, the more you can connect. And the more you connect, the more you understand. And the more you understand, the more you speak up and support and show kindness to others.

So if you’re still reading this, well, I honestly don’t know why! Drop everything, buy a ticket to this movie, and prepare to laugh and cry into your overpriced, delicious popcorn. 

My Tribe

Hello, my name is Sara, and I’m an Enneagram Two.

Now if you aren’t sure what that means, let me explain. The Enneagram is a personality test of sorts that’s basically taking over the world. Well, at least the Christian world. You see, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Christians over the last few years (other than that we love Jesus and a good potluck dinner of course) is that they love a personality test. 

Now of course this could be true of all people, but in my experience, there’s nobody that loves looking at a personality breakdown like a Christian. They love to know their gifts, their makeup, their strengths, their temperaments, and more. In the years I’ve worked with churches and ministries, I’ve taken just about a million and one different tests designed to tell me all of the above in a different way.  

I’m a blue. I’m an achiever. I’m high in responsibility. I’m an extrovert. I’m an encourager.

The list goes on and on and on. 

Now here’s the deal. Typically, tests like these get on my nerves. It’s not that I think there isn’t truth or value in them. It’s just that I think they tend to put us in a box. We take the test, get the results, and suddenly, that’s who we are. We’re defined by it. We’re that thing and only that thing.

And I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m a lot of things—sometimes one at a time and sometimes all at once. I don’t want to be boxed in. 

So while others tend to embrace the personality test phenomenon, I’ve typically shied away. But I have several very close friends right now who are all up in the Enneagram. They are reading about it, learning more about who they are, and straight up loving it. 

Last week, I found myself sitting in my living room with four of my closest friends. These are the people who have lived a lotof life beside me. They’re the people I’d call in a crisis, the people I’d choose to hang out with first, the people I think are the funniest in the world, and the people who would help me bury the body without question (yes, we’ve talked about that!). In short, they’re the people who know me best. 

And several of those people also happen to be my Enneagram-loving friends. So as the night was winding down, somehow we ended up scrolling through an Instagram account designed specifically to explain the ins and outs of each and every personality type on the test. 

Now of course, I’ve taken this test before (hello writing for Christian ministries… they loveit!). So when it came to me, I told the room my results. 

“I usually test between two types, but it’s more a Two than anything else. I don’t know what’s right.” 

The Enneagram ringleader in the room quickly took to Instagram to read aloud to me the qualities that make up life for an Enneagram Two.

You’re a helper by nature.

You’re everyone’s emergency contact. 

You’re highly empathetic

You want people to know that you love them.

You sacrifice for people.

You’re thoughtful and warm.

All of those are qualities I can get down with, you know? If that’s what it means to be a Two, then I’ll take it!

But then, the list went on. And there were those other qualities…

You’re controlling when you feel out of control.

You deflect attention from your own issues.

You get moody or irritable.

You’re deeply afraid of rejection.

Your motives aren’t always pure. 

Ugh, these things? Not so awesome.  

I was sitting on my sofa while that list—both good and bad—was being read aloud. And the people who know me so well were responding to each and every quality—both good and bad. They were nodding. They were telling me about the ways they’ve seen those things play out in my life. They were encouraging the good things they saw in me and helping me see where the not so good things showed up. 

If this sounds like a weird thing to reminiscence about on my blog, it’s because it is! I mean, who sits around on a Saturday night drinking wine and typing their friends on the Enneagram? Who FaceTimes one of those friend’s husbands to tell him that you’ve collectively figured out his type, too? (He’s a courageous Six, ya’ll). Who does all this soul-searching and sharing in front of one of those friend’s new boyfriends? (Side notes, he’s a strong Eight.)

Well, as it turns out, my weird friends and I do. You have to remember that I was sitting in a room full of personality test lovers. That’s how it all started!

But what you also need to know is that I was sitting in a room full of people who want what’s best for their friends. 

Here’s my takeaway from the evening. It’s not so much that I’m officially a Two (though ya’ll, I can’t deny the truth any longer!). No, above and beyond any possible personality test breakthroughs, what I thought about that evening as I went to bed was just how important it is to surround yourself with people who know you.

And I mean, really, really, really know you. 

The further along I go in this world, the more I realize how much I need to open my life up to people who can speak into it. It’s so important to have people in your life who love you, and it’s even more important to let those people speak truth to you. I need the people in my life who call out the qualities they love in me and the things they think really make me who I am. But it’s equally important to let those people draw attention to the ways those unhealthy parts of you show up. Not because they want to beat you down, but because ultimately, they want to build you up. 

I don’t know how I got so lucky to have these (and so many other!) girlfriends who will do that for me in a way that’s safe, and loving, and nurturing, and ultimately, empowering. But I did.

And since I’m a Two, I love it, because I love my people!

My encouragement to you would be to find those people for yourself. They aren’t always “yes” people. They aren’t going to tell you every decision is good, or every emotion is justified, or every part of you is healthy, or even that every outfit looks good on you (we all need that friend, right?). They’re going to give it to you straight.

But they’re going to do it out of love. 

I don’t know about you, but those are the people I want in my tribe.

(And yes, they really will help me hide the body, too. So don’t mess with us!).

Notes From A Failure

I’ve never really been a risk taker.

I’m not adventurous. I don’t want to jump out of an airplane, or swim with the sharks, or climb Mt. Everest, or do whatever trendy, crazy things risky, adventurous people typically do.

It’s just not me. 

I think some of that comes from the way I was raised. Admittedly, my mom was a little, shall we say, nervous about letting us try a lot of things. We laugh now about the seemingly simple things she wanted us to avoid back then, but at the time, she was serious. To this day, I still haven’t ridden a jet ski because my mom convinced me that it wasn’t to be done without a helmet. (I feel ya, Jay-Z.)

But I think my aversion to risk also comes from the way I’m wired. I’m an achiever at heart. I want do things, and I want to do them well.So if there’s even the slightest chance I’m going to fail at something, I’m just going to avoid it all together. And if there’s a chance I’m going to fail at it and somehow other people will know, then that’s a big HELL NO! I don’t even want to consider it.

If there’s a risk of failure of any kind, I won’t even attempt it. 

That’s what makes my current career path all the more interesting.

Three years ago today, I walked away from full-time employment to pursue a lifelong dream of being a writer. At the time, here’s how I pictured it: me, some modern day version of Meg Ryan, glamorously sitting at my computer in a cool New York City apartment (that I can totally afford) while inspired words just naturally flowed through me. As it turns out, here’s how it really looks: me, still in my pajamas for a long time most days, not wearing makeup and huddled in the corner of my bedroom that I’ve transformed into my “office” working harder than I’ve ever worked in my life. 

Meg Ryan, I am not.

But regardless, the choice to move into full-time, self-employment remains the biggest risk I’ve ever taken in my life. It’s scary, and humbling, and emotional, and fun, and really, really hard. And the worst part? In order to do it well, I have to talk about it. I have to draw attention to it. I have to tell people what I’m doing in order to keep growing and thriving in my work. And that means, if at any point I fail—if the risk doesn’t work out—then everyone will know. #myworstnightmare

Yet somehow, here we are three years down the line, and I think what I’ve learned the most about along the way actually has been failure. You see, I think my whole life I’ve been looking at failure all the wrong way.

I always saw failure as something based on an outcome. If I tried something and it didn’t work, that was failure. If I quit my job, tried to be a writer, and it didn’t work, then I would’ve failed. That’s how I used to see it.  

But what the last three years have taught me is that real failure happens way before the outcome is ever determined. The real failure wouldn’t have been to try my hand at making a living as a writer and fail miserably at it. No, the real failure would’ve been not to try at all. To disregard obedience for the sake of what felt safe.

My mentor once told me that it was much easier to steer a moving car than a parked one. Duh, right? Of course, she wasn’t talking about actual driving. She meant that God can much easier direct a life that’s in motion rather than one that’s frozen on the sidelines by the fear of failure.

And that’s totally true. In the last three years, God has moved and directed my life in ways I could’ve never imagined. I’ve met incredible people, done incredible work, and been given the chance to work on incredible projects.

Most importantly, I’ve tried a lot of new things. I’ve taken a lot of risks.

And failed. 

A lot. 

For a recovering risk-averse gal like myself, you’d think this last fact would’ve sent me running quickly back to the sidelines of life. It might’ve even sent me back to the life of traditional, full-time employment. And if I’m being straight up honest, at times it almost did. 

This year in particular has been marked with a lot of failure. 2018 hit and suddenly, so did all the “no’s” in my career.

No, that’s not a good idea. No, we don’t want to pay you for that. No, we don’t want yoru help anymore. No, we don’t think your work is good enough here. No, that’s not something we need right now. 

No. No. No. No. No.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I heard straight up, “No!” in just about every area of my life for about six months. It sucked. And I hated it. And I cried. A lot.

But here’s what I noticed: The old me would’ve taken the first no, hidden it away from everyone, and used it as a sign that I needed to throw in the towel and go back to what felt safe. I would’ve felt like a failure.  

But now, my inner-risk taker has woken up. And though, the no’s still sting when I hear them, they don’t stop me now. They don’t feel so much like failure as they do like freedom.

In the last month, I’ve had to do a lot of things outside of my zone, both personally and professionally. And since we’re all friends here, I think I can be honest and say I’ve still cried about each and every one of them. I even tried to find ways out of a few of them. But in spite of my best efforts to avoid a few risks, God said go. 

And so I went. I did the things. And guess what?

I survived. I came out better for it. And along the way, I even got a few “yes’s.” Not just little ones, but big ones. Some that I’m really proud of and almost can’t believe.

But you know what else? I still got some “no’s,” too. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine over here, ya’ll. For every one yes, there were probably ten other no’s waiting around the corner. 

And that’s okay.

Because the one “yes” is worth all the “no’s” in the world.

And the risk is worth the potential failure. Because without the risk, I would never be where I am, or who I am, right now. 

Now excuse me while I get back to my studies on deep-sea diving so I can cross “swim with sharks” off my new risk-taking bucket list.

Just kidding….

There’s still no chance I’m ever be doing that!

Home

Hi, my name is Sara, and I love to travel. 

If you know me, this confession probably isn’t all that shocking. 

I grew up in a family that didn’t really travel a lot. We weren’t big on vacations, both out of financial constraints and general lack of interest on my dad’s part. (He’s a real homebody, and we like him that way!) Almost every member of our extended family lived out of town so most of our travel time was spent trekking across the state of Tennessee for long-term visits. We looked forward to those trips every single summer and holiday season because it meant time with the people we loved. 

So all in all, I didn’t really know what I was missing in the world of travel until I actually set foot on a plane. I was 19 years old when that happened, and my first official trip was a big one: a mission trip in Africa. It was my first time out of the country, my first time on a plane, and my first real experience away from my family for an extended time. You would think I’d have been really nervous or even afraid at the thought of this new experience, but I wasn’t. Not in the least bit. I was truly and genuinely excited. 

And the trip didn’t disappoint. From a safari inside a crater in Tanzania to a visit to a Maasai village to new foods and new friends, that trip changed my life. It was the first time I saw the world for what it was: big and wide and ready to explore. Turns out, the world is a lot bigger than just my corner of the state of Tennessee. There’s so much more than just the people I know, or the perspective I have, or the culture I’ve experienced. And just like that, I wanted to experience it all—here, there, and everywhere. 

The travel bug officially bit me that summer, and I haven’t shaken it since. 

The next year, I hopped a plane with the same group of people on a mission trip to Bolivia. I’ve visited Estonia, Amsterdam, and the Philippines on similar type trips over the last decade, too. When my friend Mary lived a semester in Australia, I booked a ticket to take weeklong road trip down the coast with her. I tagged along with my friend Chelsea for a weekend in California. I’ve taken multiple trips to New York City (my favorite city in the world #iwishiwasmegryan). My mom and I take an annual beach trip every May to kick off the summer season. When I turned 30, I spent the week at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican with all my best girlfriends who were also turning 30. And two summers ago I made the last minute decision to meet up with two friends for only four days in Iceland. For many reasons, that trip remains the best one I’ve taken to date.

The point of all this isn’t to give you some cool list of places I’ve been so far. It’s to say that since I got back from that first trip to Africa when I was 19, much of my life has been spent looking ahead to when and where I’ll be on the road to next. 

I came home from another trip to New York this summer filled with good friends, good food, and good theater only to hop in the car a few days later for a week long beach vacation with a few of my favorite friends. (It was all fun and games until the stitches that week.) When that trip ended, I came back to Georgia, unpacked my borrowed suitcase, and got back to life as usual. 

But life as usual hasn’t been all that much fun. It’s been a lot of unexpected stress, and disappointments, and decisions—a bunch of adult stuff that sucks. And this week, when I looked at my calendar, my travel happy heart sunk further when I realized that for the first time in a long time, I have no travel plans on the horizon. No flights booked, no excursions planned, no vacation days taken, and no new places to see. Without the time, or the money, or the freedom from all that crappy adult stuff, it’s just life here in Georgia for me for the foreseeable future.

And for some reason, this reality has left me in a funk.

I’ve never been afraid to be in one place. I’ve lived here in Georgia for more than a decade now, and while I’ve moved homes (a lot!), I’ve been here consistently. And I love it. I love the way community and longevity build roots in a place. 

And I like having roots. 

But roots don’t always make you feel like you’re home. And weirdly, I think home is still sort of what I’m looking for. 

It’s a strange thing to be 34 and still looking for your place. It’s a strange thing to be building a life for yourself, by yourself. It’s hard to fully embrace a place or a season when you feel like this picture of home you have in your mind isn’t what your life looks like now. Though I’m rooted, I don’t necessarily feel like I’m home. 

I think that’s what makes this season of being settled and kept in one place for the time being feel a little scary. Because when home doesn’t feel like home—when it doesn’t look the way you thought it would—it makes you wonder if maybe home is somewhere out there still.  

Over the years, my counselor has taught me to do this exercise she calls, “Looking forward to…” It’s essentially just a list of things that I have on the horizon of life that keep me excited about pressing on when things feel stressful, or heavy, or hard. The more steps forward I take, the closer I get to the next thing I’m looking forward to on that list. For me, nine times out of ten, those things have been travel related. 

I was talking to her last week about how much I wish I had unlimited funds to book a trip somewhere and add to my “Looking forward to” list. I told her how I’m so travel-sick that I’ve been randomly searching flights to places I’d love to go just in case. And I told her how unsettled I’ve felt in this season—how I’m struggling to feel at home.

Her response?

“I mean, do you ever think you’ll feel at home here?” 

She didn’t mean Georgia. She and I both know that, despite the fact that life doesn’t look the way I thought it would, I do feel rooted and settled here. No, she meant here on Earth.

Don’t worry, this isn’t the part where I start talking aliens, and space, and other lives, and other worlds, and stuff like that. I’m just saying that, if you think about it, in some ways we’re all just wandering travelers here, looking for a place to call home. And just like Goldilocks and her three bears, there’s just something about life on Earth that will never quite fit. It just won’t feel like home.

And I don’t think it’s supposed to. We weren’t made for this world, and because of that, we’re always going to feel a little unsettled and out of place. 

So what do we do? Well, as my counselor says, we make the best of where we are. We stay when we’re called to stay. We go when we’re supposed to go. We experience and soak in what’s around us right where we are. We bloom where we’re planted, even if the garden looks a little different than we thought it would. We look forward to what’s ahead, but we also look forward to what’s around us in the here and now. 

We find home in who we are. 

On a whim, I bought new luggage this week. When it was delivered to my doorstep, I opened it with so much expectation. I hope it takes me to a lot of new places and faces and experiences this year. I hope it goes with me on adventures not even on the calendar yet. 

But I also know that it will fit just right in the corner of my closet when I unpack it where I am now.

Home. 

The Sound of Silence

I’ve never been great at silence.

I’m a natural born extrovert—friend and conversationalist to all. I’ve basically been talking since birth. I can talk to anyone, anywhere, about just about anything. 

In line at the checkout counter? The perfect time to start a conversation with the person behind the register. Waiting for your bags at the airport? An opportunity to make small talk with the people around you. I’ve befriended my pharmacist, my doctor, my massage therapist, the ladies at the nail salon, my barista at Starbucks, the teachers at my Pure Barre, all by talking to them every time I see them. It’s not that I’m some amazing conversationalist; it’s just that given the choice between silence and speaking up, I typically tend to start talking. 

You may have noticed some silence on this blog in the last month. Half of that is because May turned into an insanely busy month. It was filled with travel and sickenss and work and the general busyness of a life that took many unexpected turns in the last four weeks. Though nothing major, it was enough to add up and overwhelm. 

But if I’m honest, the silence on this blog has also been because I feel a little bit at a loss for words. I’ve been walking through a season of what feels like silence in the last few months. I can’t explain where it came from or understand what caused it. It just happened. I woke up one morning weighted down by it, and I haven’t been able to shake it since. I’m using all the tools at my disposal—all the prayer, all the counseling, all the mentoring, all the exercise, all the healthy choices—but it’s just stuck with me. At least for now, the silence remains. 

I know that sounds very Simon & Garfunkel-esque, but I don’t know what else to call it. It feels like a season of silence.

Though they didn’t have the classic “Sound of Silence” song lyrics to draw on, I wonder if this is what the Israelites felt all those years ago, wandering and wandering in the desert, believing they were moving toward the Promised Land but plagued by the seeming silence of God as they went. Or the people living in those 400 years between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament—the years before Jesus arrived on the scene. Were they weighted down by silence and wondering what to do with it? Or those people living in the days after Jesus died—the days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I’ve thought about those people in particular a lot as of late. Surely they must’ve wondered if their futures were going to be filled with the weight of this silence. It only lasted three days, but I’d argue they were the three longest, heaviest days of their lives. 

When I think about those stories, I have to stop and remember this: I live on the other side of the story. I know how the story ends. I know what the promises are. And so even in seasons that feel so weighted with a lot of heavy, unshakeable silence, I have the advantage of keeping my eyes on a promise that says the story will end well.  

And that helps… sometimes. I’d love to be that perfect Christian who just stands perfectly on the promises of God all the time, but I’m just not. Sorry, ya’ll—that’s just real talk. In fact, nothing shakes me up more than seasons like this that are filled with silence. It’s not that I don’t believe the promises aren’t true or aren’t coming; it just doesn’t always make me feel better.

When I say this to my counselor, she is always quick to remind me that my feelings lie to me; they aren’t a symbol of what’s real. Well, that’s great lady, but it sure doesn’t change the way I feel! But like most people, I just try to keep moving forward, eyes on the prize, even when it doesn’t make me feel better.

And it’s always then that some crazy, out of nowhere thing happens to remind me that it’s a prize and promise worth keeping my eyes on. 

A few weeks ago I had really exciting Tuesday night plans; I was going to see Hamilton here in Atlanta. Now if you don’t know what that is, stop and Google it immediately. I’ll wait….

Okay, now that you know, we can go on with the story. I love theater. I love musicals, and plays, and ballets, and concerts, and basically most forms of live entertainment. In another life I believe I was some Broadway star; in this life, I’m just a nerd in the audience!

I’d been looking forward to this night for months. I had purchased only one ticket (because they were expensive and hard to come by!), but I had a few friends going that night as well so we decided to make an evening of it. 

But then, the night came. And one by one in the hours leading up to the show, those friends dropped out. They had schedule conflicts. They needed to sell the ticket for money. They had a childcare mix-up. They didn’t want to fight the 5:00 Atlanta traffic. What started as a girls’ night ended up becoming a solo girl night.

And if I’m honest, I didn’t want to go. The thought of suddenly doing this whole evening by myself just wasn’t my idea of fun. But at this point, I was already in the car. I was already on the way. I’d already spent the money. So under the weight of the silence, I decided to buck up and go, no matter how much I didn’t want to do it alone. 

Dinner plans thwarted, I pulled into the drive-thru of my trusty Chick-Fil-A to grab a meal on the way. As I waited in the line, I literally prayed out loud. I told God how I felt like things weren’t turning out, how I felt freshly weighted down by silence, how I just wanted to feel a little less on my own in the world that day.

As I pulled up the window, I was greeted by a perky, teenage Chick-Fil-A employee (because aren’t they all so great?) who quickly informed me that the lady in front of me had decided to pay for my meal. And then, she said, “I just love when people do that! It makes you feel like somebody’s got your back, right? Like you’re a little less alone in the world or something.”

Ya’ll, I tell you this in total honesty: I started crying. Like right there as I took my food, I felt tears coming down my cheeks. Let’s just say that by the time I thanked her for the food, her typical, “My pleasure!” came out as more of a question than anything else. 

Sometimes the silence stays. Sometimes it feels heavy. Sometimes circumstances don’t change. Sometimes we feel it, and we can’t shake or explain it. Sometimes people don’t understand. And sometimes, it’s just a lot. 

And then, out of nowhere, God breaks through the silence with the swipe of a debit card from the stranger in line in front of you in the drive-thru to remind you that the silence isn’t forever. The promises are still there. They’re still coming and worth pressing on for. 

Sometimes they come in encouraging words, or random phone calls, or good news, or life changes. And sometimes they come in the form of a #4 with a diet lemonade and a sweet teenager in the drive-thru on your way to a play. 

Either way, I’ll take.