What defines us

This is your Monday reminder that you are not defined by your number of followers.
You are not defined by a number on a scale.
You are not defined by a number in your bank account.
You are not defined by the number of checks on your to-do list.
The sum of these numbers is how the world measures worth — numbers don’t define you.

You are not your career, your side hustle, your workout or your zip code.
You are not your accolades, your relationship status, your diet, your voting record.
You are not your skin, your hair, the clothes you wear, your tidy home, your Insta-squares.

You are a soul, longing for connection.
You are a beloved, gifted creation.
You are light, laughter, mercy, sweetness.
You are the author of a story that’s still unfolding.

They say keep chasing, striving, leveling up — when you achieve it, you will be happy.
They say you are not enough.
I say they’re wrong.

You cannot earn love; you already have it.
You cannot avoid pain by being perfect.
You are flawed, afraid and a little tender.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Just as you are.

Self-love isn’t mediocrity — it’s a catalyst. Self-love isn’t selfish — it’s a revolution. Only when we free ourselves from the lies culture feeds us about who deserves love can we practice radical empathy for ourselves and others.

Are you brave enough to embrace it all — your shortcomings and strengths — and call it worthy?

This is the beginning of grace.

Spring is coming

I’m halfway through Ross Gay’s essay collection, The Book of Delights, which has enlightened my gratitude practice. My practice, which I call “evening pages,” is a spin on creative guru Julia Cameron’s morning pages—three long-hand pages on any topic you want, done first thing in the morning. Instead of every morning, I do this at night to unwind.

Often as I write I find myself listing my delights: singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” to my giggly toddler, the first zesty spoonful of homemade marinara sauce, finishing a juicy book, starting a new one (or three), my dog curled up in my lap, 40 degree weather, budding pink tulips (#thegoodlist, ala Erin Loechner).

Gay, a poet, is teaching me there’s room to revel in small wonders while holding pain.

This isn’t a popular hashtag, but there’s a bad list too. You have one? Here, I’ll go first: when churning thoughts lead to sleepless nights, when doubt comes knocking, jealously too, when I’m tired.tired.tired of all the guns and hate and suffering in this world, when my heart’s so starved for good news no amount of praying or Scripture satisfies the craving.

In essay 14, Gay celebrates the tactile pleasure of a cakey, vegan donut while pondering the heavy reality of life and death, joy and sorrow. “It astonishes me sometimes—no, often—how every person I get to know—everyone, regardless of everything, by which I mean everything lives with profound personal sorrow,” he writes. “Is sorrow the true wild? And if it is—and if we join them—your wild to mine—what’s that?”

This idea, that we can carry each other through despair, softens my hunger pangs.

During Lent, the Christian church joins together in repentance while we march, with shaking hands, toward the cross. We mark our heads with ash, a symbol life is always on the cusp of slipping from our fingers. The older I get, the more I notice myself waffling between doubting Thomas and a religious zealot, desperate for the Easter story to be true.

Just when I think I’ve lost my way, hope springs forth in a neighbor’s kindness, in green shoots pushing up from the hardened earth, in the promise God’s making everything new.

Spring is coming, can you feel it?

Grace for a Tuesday morning

grace page marker
My “grace” page marker for my planner.

If only I could get consistent with publishing, then I’d grow my platform.
If only I could be more patient with my toddler, then I’d be a better parent.
If only I could get my work inbox in order, then I’d be ahead at the office.

If only, if only, if only . . . Daily I find myself battling this notion I’m running behind—on deadlines, at home, in my career. On the one hand, that may be true. I scrolled my phone when I woke up instead of diving into my current writing project. I rushed my toddler this morning, likely causing his major meltdown. I showed up at the office after 9 a.m. to a disorganized inbox.

I’d like to think I’ve healed from my perfectionistic tendencies, but I guess coping with perfectionism is more like battling addiction. You can never really be over it. I have this deep drive to be “perfect,” but I’m not even sure why it exists.

A couple weeks ago I bought this “grace” page marker for my planner. I thought it would be a good reminder for me—queen of to-do lists, good intentions and hidden little messes—that God’s grace surrounds and permeates my life, even when I can’t see it.

Here’s the gospel truth: The idealized me, the version I’m striving so hard to be, isn’t the me God sees and loves. God loves me in my self-absorbed, hustling, sinful mess. God loves me in my goodness too.

Thinking back, my morning was blessed—I had a productive writing session, I savored extra dog and toddler snuggles and relished returning to worthwhile work after a long weekend.

If only I could see all this outright, but so often lingering #perfectionism blurs my judgment. Luckily, there’s grace for that. God’s unconditional love disrupts my paradigm and grounds me in my inherent worthiness. I need that reminder daily. I shared this today in case you need it too.

A word about walls

brick wall

You can build a wall with words;
brick by brick, stack up fear and hate.
Sir, the wall you seek?
It’s already standing.

Here is the ugly truth: this nation was built through genocide, on the backs of slaves, upon the false principle whiteness reigns supreme.

Here is another truth: my family is no different than those at the border. I am a descendant of immigrants. Brazened by hope, they crossed the Atlantic to start anew and blessed me with a better future.

I want to spend my life tearing down walls of hate with words of love. I raise my voice because my faith demands it.

Listen. Our brothers and sisters wait at the door. Will we show them heartlessness or compassion?

Loved, not abandoned

When the ones you love the hardest are suffering and you’re unable to stop it, it’s isolating and terrifying. The pain is sharp and heavy, almost unbearable. I felt like that yesterday.

But God showed up for me in a gifted bag of donuts from a new Cambodian friend; in holy conversation with an old friend in which I felt seen, heard and loved; and in this simple note stashed in my bag by a stranger: You are loved. The message arrived just when I needed it. It gave me hope.

What I’m beginning to realize is this: God does not abandon us in dark moments. God provides people and places and signs of love every day, we just have to notice them. God loves *you* dearly. And God’s love changes everything.