Dear Meredith,

Last week a friend committed suicide. I wanted to write her a letter telling her some things I wish I had said.

I think it’s important to be honest here, so I will be. I don’t think I deserve any grace for some of the mistakes I’ve made and the things I will admit, but I’m hoping if you’re reading this you’ll give it to me. I hope by being vulnerable maybe I can help someone else out there to be a better friend.

Dear Meredith,

     I don’t know where to start. The beginning? If I remember correctly, and I have a terrible memory but for some reason I think I’m right about this, we met in French class. At least, that’s where I first saw you. I remember you entered as a new student and I thought you looked so cool and you were so pretty. I don’t remember exactly how we became friends after that, you fell into our friend group so naturally. You were hilarious and quick to make jokes, I know I shed several tears from laughing so hard at your banter with Mr. Joyce.

     Our high school group was like a little pack. I often take our high school experience for granted, but it was something amazing. The size of the school and our bond of being art kids meant most of us shared almost identical schedules and spent most of class huddled together passing notes and making jokes and just being plain weird.

     I remember you as “Boot.” I remember the way you would argue with Mr. Whiteside and smack your lips. I remember our French independent study class where we convinced Madame to let us have a party almost every week. I remember you starting Marine Biology club and I’m not even sure what we did but somewhere I have a picture of you in a trash bag from it. I remember lunches on the patio. I remember you passionately discussing animals and science and how we bonded over that.

     I remember finding out that you had a problem of stealing things. I remember you got caught and had to give so many clothes away. I remember there were other ways you would act out. I know this isn’t the nice way to remember someone, but I think it’s important, because you were a kind girl who was clearly struggling but when I found out these things I slapped you with the label “Crazy Meredith” and a small shake of my head.

     And you were crazy in the amazingly beautiful, zany sort of way that all of our friends were, but there was a little more edge to your title and there was the headshake because sometimes you did things and acted in a way that I couldn’t understand. “Crazy Meredith” was my way of communicating “this is my endearing friend who sometimes breaks the rules, I’m not condoning her behavior, but I love her anyways!”

     I went far away for college, now that I think of it, the farthest of our friends. I wasn’t home that much but we always got together over breaks. I’ve been home even less since I graduated and moved across the country and now usually only see our crew maybe once a year. Two years ago I saw you on Christmas Eve. It was also maybe the first time I ever truly saw you. You gave me such a sweet card, I was really touched by everything you wrote, and I remember looking up after reading it and seeing this pain in your eyes. I don’t know if you were better at hiding it in high school or if I was more self centered, it was probably a little bit of both, but for the first time I saw the true you and my heart broke. You had more stories of wild antics and living on the edge and suddenly things started to add up. I saw your pain and your behavior and it wasn’t “Crazy Meredith” anymore. It was hurting Meredith, suffering Meredith.

     “I should really try to reach out to Meredith more,” I thought at the end of the night. I didn’t.

     A few months later you slit your throat. Jamila met you at the hospital and they were able to save you and stitch you up. She told me about it when I was home for Thanksgiving last year. We all met up a few days later and I saw the scar on your neck and I couldn’t fathom what you were going through. I felt so ill equipped.

     So I did nothing.

     Almost a year to the day after I saw you last you left this earth. I don’t know if there’s anything I could have done to help your pain, I know your suffering was very real, but I do wish I had loved you better. I wish I hadn’t been afraid or uncertain about reaching out. I wish I had had the kind of love in my heart that would have equipped me from the beginning to look past your bad behavior and see the hurt within. I’m walking more closely with God now and I can see that’s what I was missing then. I thought I didn’t know how to deal with your brokenness, but you didn’t need to be fixed you needed to be loved. And I did love you, but I could have done better.

     I wish you were here. I pray I can tell you these things one day face to face. I’m so sorry.

Love always,

Coonay

27

As of today, I have been alive for 27 years.

(Happy Birthday to me!)

I’ve always been excited for my birthday. Not necessarily because I have a big parties (rarely), it’s just a special day. And I think birthdays should be! Birthdays are awesome.

Except this year.

Leading up to this day I have not been excited. There’s been a tiny pit in the bottom of my stomach gnawing away at any happiness that comes near. It’s been like a black hole, where my expectations have met my reality.

This isn’t where I thought I would be at 27. I’ve always been a planner, even in high school I can remember being a freshman and dreaming up my schedule for my sophomore, junior, and senior years. I had it all figured out. While this excessive planning and need to look ahead has served me well in my line of work (hi, I’m a coordinator) it hasn’t done me much good in my life. It’s robbed me of the highest joy which can only be found in the present moment.

I’ve gotten so much better at seeking this present state of mind as I’ve walked with God over the past year. I continue to grow closer and closer to living in it. Yet this week the pit has taken over because, while I’ve stopped focusing on my plans, they haven’t died. The pit is the dark space created by the voices of my unfulfilled plans.

“You didn’t get what you wanted.”

“You’re not as far as you thought you’d be.”

“You’re not as successful as you thought you would be”

“You haven’t accomplished as much as you thought you would.”

“If this is you at 27, what will you be at 30? There’s not time to catch up. All of your plans have been ruined. Everything will be delayed. You will amount to nothing.”

I haven’t been paralyzed by these thoughts, in fact I couldn’t even articulate them until this moment, but I’ve still been feeling that pit stealing away whatever joy came near it.

Then the day arrived. November 21st. I am 27 years old.

And I’m great.

I hiked 9 miles with a group of dear friends where I was so present I don’t know I was even aware of my own thoughts until we neared lunchtime and “food would be nice now” popped into my brain. I ended the day with some girls, for whom the word “sisters” is a much more fitting title. We drank wine and ate pizza and shared stories and laughed and somehow the age 25 came up. Two of the girls are not yet 25, myself and my friend are both past it. “25 was awful,” my friend said. I had a quick flashback to my own 25th year and immediately agreed.

25 was the age I was determined to live my best life in my own way. How did that turn out? I made terrible mistakes which I will regret forever. I was immensely stressed and barely slept, fueling myself on caffeine every morning and resorting to a perscription sleep aid at night. I was disconnected from my emotions; if I allowed myself to be still long enough then sadness and emptiness would overwhelm me.

That’s where my plans brought me. That’s what they did to my life.

I don’t usually put weight into a day being a milestone of any sort, as if my birthday or January 1st were the days when my life would change forever. But today was a major milestone. I realized while driving home from my friend’s house that my plans don’t really exist anymore. I’m making some, but only the necessary ones, and I’m holding them very loosely. No longer is my identity in where I’m at or what I’m doing and especially not what I’ve accomplished… it’s about who I am in Christ. It’s about being obedient to God.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I know God has plans for me. Plans for a future and for a hope. And I know He will carry me through life, the good times and the bad. There’s nothing to fear.

Embrace Discomfort, Anticipate Release

I have never been a fan of stretching.

It boils down to comfort, and stretching is uncomfortable. When I stretch it’s not just my muscles that flare up. Emotions are easily stored in the body, and without a doubt they have been stored in mine. A stretch doesn’t just release tension, it releases a flood of feelings I would, quite frankly, rather not feel. I don’t always know where the emotion is coming from, most of the times I don’t think it’s connected to anything in particular, just a general feeling of “I’m being pushed more than I would like.”

Maybe that sounds silly. Maybe the physical act of stretching is something you even embrace. But what about when the stretching stops being purely physical?

How do you handle being stretched with your time?

How do you handle being stretched in your responsibilities?

Difficult decisions?

Difficult people?

Tough conversations?

What about when you are stretched in your obedience to God?

When it comes to physical stretching, I avoid it all together. At least I used to.

Then it happened. Literally, IT. Like, my IT band freaked out majorly and tried to spasm its way out of my flesh. It (literally IT!!!) was the most painful things I have ever experienced.

And I think that’s what happens with us too when we avoid stretching in the not-so-physical sense. We can think we’re fine, great even, until out of (seemingly) nowhere everything blows up. The time and responsibilities we were avoiding managing overwhelm us, the difficult people overtake us, the difficult decision overpowers us, and the tough “conversation” ends up being an explosive and emotional fight.

What about the calling to obedience to God? That’s something we should be truly terrified to not stretch ourselves in, because when we are not obedient we fall into sin. We fall into the things of this world. We fall out of God’s capable hands and into the claws of the enemy.

Not stretching will catch up to you.

And that’s why it’s best to go for it. It will be uncomfortable, even painful at times, but embrace the discomfort and anticipate the release. This is how you grow up, get better, become more flexible (and I’m talking about more than touching your toes.) Embrace discomfort, God has great release waiting just beyond your pain.

Patience is more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says–‘I cannot stand anymore.’ God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith. ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. –Oswald Chambers

Fixing my form

I’ve been running incorrectly my whole life.

In my defense, I was never taught there was a correct way to run. I just kind of always put one foot in front of the other.

Recently I had a session with a friend on exercise form. We went over proper form for breathing, warming up, and lifting. I thought we were done, but a week earlier he had spotted the knee brace I had started wearing on and off due to pain from “running.”

“Ok, let’s see how you run.”

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The Gospel of Should Have Known Better

The Gospel of Should Have Known Better isn’t one you’ll find in the Bible, and yet I preach it to myself every day.

“I should have known better than to take this route, now I’m going to be late.”

“I should have known better than to trust this friend to come through, it’s my fault this situation is such a bust.”

“I should have known better than to have eaten that junk food. I always make myself sick like this, what’s wrong with me?”

The Gospel of Should Have Known Better also keeps me from taking any risks or making bold moves.

“Don’t speak up in this meeting, people will think your idea is stupid and then you’ll just be left with regret knowing you knew better.”

“If you put yourself out there you’ll just be met with rejection. Better to shut down now so you don’t have to deal with a ‘Should Have Known Better’ later.”

We think The Gospel of Should Have Known Better is safe. It can keep us from making mistakes.

The truth is, The Gospel of Should Have Known Better just keeps us from the true Gospel, which is God saying “I know best.”

God’s best and our Should Have Known Better’s don’t always line up. In fact, from my experience, they’re often at odds. He wants more from us than our flesh typically is willing to surrender.

It’s also important to talk about how we find Should Have Known Better in the present form of Know Better Than To and often involve our feelings.

“I know better than to get my hopes up in this situation.”

“I know better than to get frustrated about this mistake.”

And the really tricky ones are the ones that draw from Bible verses…

“I know better than to be upset with God, I know I’m supposed to be joyful in all circumstances.”

True, but ouch. We desperately need grace, and the guilt that comes with Know Better Than To doesn’t leave much room for it.

Should Have Known Better’s aren’t entirely terrible, but they only work if they come in the form of Know Better For Next Time. Looking forward fills us with hope and motivation to change, focusing on a past mistake is just a sneaky way we beat ourselves up under the guise of self improvement.

Something which has helped me to attack my Should Have Known Better’s and Know Better Than To’s is remember that God is not surprised.

God is not surprised when I make a giant mistake.

God is not surprised when a situation hurts my feelings and makes me bitter.

God isn’t even surprised when I’m angry with Him.

And still… He’s there. He’s there to comfort me and guide me to the next step. I don’t have to beat myself up or burden myself with guilt. I don’t have to strive to present a pleasantly perfect face to Him while I wring my hands with regret behind closed doors. God knows best, that’s all I need to know.

Declaration vs Praise

Let’s talk about Hebrews 11:1 in action…

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

I am on day 40 of a 40 day devotional. In the devotional, the author writes about making declarations over your life. Not declarations from Biblical truth, but things you believe God will do in your life.

Then there’s a concept I first picked up from The Circle Maker which is, after spending time making requests in prayer, sometimes you need to switch over to praise and start acting like God has already done whatever good work you have hoped for. I like how Denzel Washington put it to college grads…

“Say thank you in advance for what is already yours … True desire in the heart for anything good is God’s proof to you sent beforehand that it’s already yours …”

There’s something that’s inherently uncomfortable about both, but faith can be that way. These behaviors test us and our trust in God. Do we really believe He’s going to show up? Or will we foolishly and stubbornly insist on an outcome only to be disappointed?

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