counting goodness, a.k.a the one about nashville

img_1457I always loved stopping in Nashville. Growing up, it was an overnight stay or quick dinner on the way to our grandparents’ home in Memphis, but I always looked forward to the city on the other side of the Tennessee gorge.

Then, Nashville to me was Opryland Christmas lights and Demo’s steak and spaghetti, and, if we were lucky, line dancing at the Wild Horse Saloon. It was usually the week after Christmas, and the streets of Broadway were bare, the locals traveling to see their families. (Not that the locals would frequent Broadway anyway 😉 ).

But although I loved visiting, I never considered that Nashville could be more than a stopover. It was an in-between but never the destination, and definitely not home. Until I found myself signing a job offer and apartment lease. In Nashville.

And then not even four weeks after moving in, I was driving back to North Carolina after receiving the worst news of my life. I decided I was going back home, where I would stay, with my parents, forever. But that’s not what happened, either. I went back.

I say all this to explain that the odds were stacked up against Nashville.
I didn’t have a magic moment that told me to return to this city full of strangers.
I feared that my choice would make my parents’ lives even more lonely and painful.
While I hoped the job I was taking was the right choice, most people thought the risk was too big.
I didn’t know what it would be like to return to a city who’d never met the brother I just lost.
I hated the idea of slipping my family’s tragedy into every new introduction and small talk that came my way.
I thought I’d never form true friendships or let anyone in to because my story was too sad.

Over two years later, I’m still here. I don’t have a formula for making friends in a new city or tips to making a decision about a big life-change, and I can’t even tell you that I’m always confident I made the right decision. But I can count the goodness.

There’s goodness in the families who took me in and made me feel like a sister who belonged. They were with me when I received the news about my brother, drove me home to my parents, and haven’t left me alone since.

There’s goodness in trying community and the equally awkward and amazing results. This week, I sat with a group of friends at church, and we laughed at inside jokes and made plans together for the week. On my way out, I remembered last year’s weeks-turned-months of church hopping and sitting alone. Isn’t it funny how we miss the way seasons change and fruit grows?

There’s goodness in the ways exploring this city feels a little bit like church. My current visitor recommendations include brunch at Josephine’s (skillet cinnamon sugar donuts, you guys.), coffee at Crema (sip the Tennessee Pride with their almond/coconut milk. Thank me later.), and burgers at The Pharmacy. My favorite writing spot is Barista Parlor Germantown, and I’m always popping in at Vinnie Louise in 12 South.

There’s goodness in letting new friends into your old story. Maybe they’ll shrink back in horror, but maybe they’ll be exactly what you need. Over chips and salsa, someone recently asked me, “So I’ve gathered that your brother is a big part of your story. What do you need me to know about him so I can be a better friend to you?” I mean, ANGEL FROM HEAVEN, you guys. Still weeping over this for real.

There’s goodness in taking risks and meeting up with someone’s friend’s cousin’s brother-in-law’s ex-wife’s daughter who just moved to Nashville. You’re either in for a best friend forever or a good story later.

There’s goodness in giving yourself grace to stay home sometimes, because in doing so, you might just realize that home is in a different place than where you left it last. It’s Nashville, my stopover city. And I may just stay a while.

I’m finding that counting the goodness may not solve problems or provide answers, but it sure does bring us home. Hoping the same for you today. xo



when the holidays feel broken

photo-1463569643904-4fbae71ed917A table, four chairs, three bodies—this is what the holidays are to us now.

Our best china is overflowing with oranges and cranberries, turkey and dressing, potatoes and stuffing. We use cloth napkins and stemmed glasses, untying red aprons and warming serving trays. We sing songs and pray prayers, sharing knowing looks while holding shaking hands. This is what celebration is now.

Winter will blow her best winds—A cool, crisp gust signaling the start of gathering season. The breeze teases tradition and hope, whistling through our newfound holes and gaps. Its chill bites our wounds, echoing loudly against the empty chair. The table is full, but the chair remains unoccupied.

This year, we’ll listen to old recordings of Charlie Brown songs instead of a live performance on the piano. We’ll decide against hanging stockings, but maybe make Christmas morning cinnamon rolls if we’re feeling brave. Neighbors will visit and family will call, some avoiding the empty chair while others call it out, both serving as acknowledgments to us. We are thankful, and we are hurting.

The thing I remember most about past holidays, those with four filled chairs, is the raisin bread. It was and is our favorite, a holiday staple and familiar smell. We’d pass it around the table, the basket barely making it around the table once before needing to be refilled. It was a joyful, steady communion.

Now, we sit in a different arrangement than we used to—three at one end of the table, the gap moving to the end. I’m not sure if we do it to be closer or for the empty chair to be less pronounced, but my guess is certainly both. Yet, we still pass a basket of raisin bread during the holidays, our arms passing it through the empty space, but not around it. There’s no forgetting, no levity, no distracting, but there’s a steady communion nonetheless.

I wonder if Jesus’ disciples felt this way at the Last Supper, knowing their brother’s chair would soon be empty.

“And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”
-1 Corinthians 11:24

We are called to remember the festive things, the joyful things, and, especially, the broken things. We do not hide away the empty chair, but rather, pull it closer to the table. Because, friends, once we allow it to sit amongst us, fellowshipping with the shattered holes we can’t cover any longer, we remember—we too, are broken. Yes, we are broken, but so is the bread. So was His body. All so that we may be whole once again. This is what celebration is now.

Lord, help us remember.
Be with the empty chairs and empty hearts this season.
Sit at our tables and show us the hope of Your wholeness.
May we partake in steady communion with Your presence.
We have walked in darkness; point us to your Great Light.

let us make art


Every time I wear a dress, someone asks about the scar on my knee. It’s a pretty good one, as far as scars go, spreading across my left kneecap with little dots where the stitches used to be.

I had three knee surgeries in high school for—what we didn’t know at the time was— a benign tumor.(Don’t worry—the medical talk stops here because #squeamish). Anyway, all you need to know is that I’m totally fine, I got to wear hot pink bandages, and the doctor assured me the scar would be gone within a year.

It’s still here. But oddly, I love that scar. It represents the awkward eleventh grader who had to sit on the sidelines of marching practice with the most uncool “injury” of all time. (I was already in marching band, so I’m being very serious when I emphasize my steadily-increasing level of uncool.) It reminds me of the self-conscious girl who’d cover the healing yet unfading scar with a fresh Band-Aid each morning. And oddly, I love that girl, too.

Now, after getting over the fact that my kneecap will never be cute (I mean. It truly had potential.), I mostly have forgotten about the scar until someone else points it out. When they do, I love to tell a good battle wound story. However, there are things that I’m afraid someone will notice that I’m less proud of—wounds that will take longer to become scars, brokenness that may never become whole. I hide them with my own Band-Aids of “I’m fine, you?” and “Oh, good. Busy, but good.”

I was once sitting on a place next to a woman in her mid-thirties. She had a designer purse and blonde locks, both of which I envied. She asked where I was headed.

“Florida,” I said. “Disney World. You?”
“New York,” she said. “Rehab.”

She didn’t justify, just stated. There I was, sitting next to her in 12B, on a trip I’d planned with my brother, without him. I’d spent the day before—his birthday—at the cemetery, and I’d been unable to eat solid food for a few days. Yet, all she knew about me was EVERYTHING WAS GREAT AND I WAS HEADED FOR DISNEY WORLD. YIPEE!!

I was a jerk. A jerk who didn’t know what to say.

Seeing my surprised reaction, she explained that it was a good thing. She was relieved. The only bad part, she explained, was that she wasn’t allowed to bring her paintbrushes.

Her paintbrushes. I clung to this detail like a sentence from my own story. It was sacred.

She was going to rehab and she wanted to make art.

And while she could have easily just said she was going to New York, she was doing more than that. She was making beauty from broken. Better yet, she was giving me permission to do the same.

Although I don’t know her name, I think about my friend sitting in 12A a lot. I pray for her and wonder how she’s doing, but most of all, I dream about the day she returns home—whole and healed, paintbrush in hand. In this dream, a crowd of her closest people are celebrating, for they know what the paintbrush means. She will make art. She already has.

And then I think about who would be in the crowd at my own celebration.
If I say “I’m fine” and keep the scars-in-progress hidden, would anyone be there?

What if hiding our broken places means withholding our best art?

Maybe we don’t have to shrink away when someone notices our brokenness.
Maybe we won’t have to be alone the first time we pick up a paintbrush.

We will make art. You already have.

hope anthem


A warning, to the girl who loses everything tomorrow. 

Oh, sister.

Tomorrow, dear one, the thing you’ve been fearing—you know the one—will come true.

You’ve rehearsed this over and over, giving it to God and taking it back at each sign of trouble. Friend, you are not crazy. You never have been, but I know you’d never wanted to be right about this. It will be just the way you’ve imagined, and yet it won’t be at all. You’ll feel like you’ve been through this before, and your breath will stop every now and then when you notice it. The days ahead will tumble down, gaining speed and traction with each blow. Your people will want to help you, but they can’t. They will ask you what they can do, and you will not know. You probably won’t ever know.

Tomorrow night, you’ll be back at home, and it will taunt you with things you’ll want to hold onto and throw away, all at the same time. You’ll blow up an air mattress to sleep in mom and dad’s room, where you’ll each take turns napping, screaming, and crying—drifting off to sleep then suddenly waking and remembering. Remembering is the worst part of all. But before you go to sleep, you’ll grab a Bible and a book about suffering, scanning for something—anything—that will help. Sweet sis, you don’t know it, but you are looking for hope. Every now and then, you’ll read something out loud to your parents, unsure of if it still applies to the doom chasing you down. It does.

There’s a feeling that will take over the next several days-turned-years. You won’t know what to call it, and you’ve become so comfortable with it that you probably will mistake it for numbness and shock. But it’s fear, which, oddly enough, will be a relief once you figure it out.

Sister, it’s okay to be afraid of what happened. You can be afraid of what it means, what your future holds, what you will do without him, how your parents will handle it, but you cannot be afraid to hope.

It will seem unnatural to hope, because it is. All these times you’ve rehearsed the scene, it hasn’t been assigned a role. But it has one, and you must bring it into play.

Leave the cliches behind—there is no place for them here. You’ll be afraid to see if anything’s left behind them, but look, and you’ll find more than you expected. Hold it tightly.

Your strongest words right now are “maybe” and “what-if.” Everything else is already definite enough, and these words will take you further than you think.

You will never have joy again. Maybe. What if you do?
You couldn’t know who you are without him. Maybe. What if you could?
You couldn’t possibly continue pursuing your dreams after this. Maybe. What if you did?

These questions will feel selfish comparatively, but hold your answers tight. They are your hope.
Do not be afraid to hope.

Maybe there’s a city still waiting for you.
What if you found joy again there, eventually?
Maybe you’ll still find pieces of yourself, even if they’re broken.
What if you pursued a dream or two?
Maybe that would be okay.
What if this wasn’t the whole story?
Maybe there could be more to it.
What if you found hope?
Maybe you’ll find hope.

Or maybe, it will find you. 


 Photos by Simon and Moose

everything: year two


Two years ago on September 28, I waited for a text from him. So did my parents. We called one another, scared, hopeful, then relieved—we’d gotten the day wrong. He was coming home tomorrow.

Except, he wasn’t.

I went to bed laughing at my mistake, and before leaving my bed the next morning on the 29th, found out that something was, in fact, wrong. My fear was right.

I’d replayed this scenario in my head over and over for 22 years, yet, this time, I wasn’t alone in it. I cannot explain the depth of my loss except to tell you it was everything. Everything. Only recently have I been able to own up to the amount of pain and show all of my cards, but the simple word “everything” is a start.

And yet, only and solely by the grace of Jesus, it is and it isn’t.

I heard a recording of his voice for the first time a few weeks ago. I have three voicemails from him saved on my phone, but I’d never before had the courage to listen. I didn’t know what they were, and I’d avoided them, thinking his teenaged voice with old news would be a stinging reminder that I’d never hear him as an older adult with new news.

But I did it. I listened to his silly messages, about picking me up from work, or asking about my burrito order, or planning a trip to visit.

I’ll never forget his voice—the one that was beginning to sound just like my father’s—but I’d forgotten the inflections in its sound, the way it got quieter with worry or higher with excitement. After hearing his voice, I began to remember details about his face, his handwriting, his mannerisms, and his stories. Everything. My biggest gain, my deepest loss.

I replayed those messages over and over, then continued to listen to my life.

I miss him when I remember an inside joke and realize I’m the only one laughing.
I miss him when I attend an event I never imagined he’d miss.
I miss him when I have good news to share or need his advice.
I miss him when I feel very-much alive, and know he is not.

But this aliveness, this living, has also helped me to see the fullness of grief, of death, and what Kendall took with him.

In his book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis describes something I’d experienced, yet been unable to put words to:

Lamb says somewhere that if, of three friends (A, B, and C), A should die, then B loses not only A but “A’s part in C,” while C loses not only A but “A’s part in B.”

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets

Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald.

I miss the specific pride in my parents’ eyes when he entered the room.
I miss the way my dad would discuss the details of sports that I don’t understand, but he would.
I miss the way my mom would teach him new songs on the piano I didn’t have the patience for.

I miss the way his entrepreneur friends would interrupt a movie night to run their ideas by him.
I miss the way his best friend would perfect his ping-pong skills for a match with him.
I miss the way his girlfriend would throw her head back and laugh at his jokes.

I grieve the way anyone who meets me now or in the future will never fully know me without him.
I grieve the way others will never realize something inside of themselves because Kendall didn’t have the opportunity to bring it out.

But I’m thankful God made us this way—permanently tangled around and dependent on one another, fearful and hopeful and grieved all at once. We are yanked and pulled and hurt, but we are loved.

The fullness of grief does not diminish the fullness of hope. Now, we have both, but one day—today, for Kendall!—we will only have fullness in Christ. And that, my sweet friends, is everything.

Happy heaven day, brother.

she reads truth—the book!


It’s no secret that the She Reads Truth community is my favorite place to hang out on the internet. Yes, it is my job, but, wow, is it my joy.

Two Septembers ago, after a few months working virtually for the SRT team, I accepted a full-time position (the first one they ever offered!) and moved to Nashville. Although I hadn’t yet met SRT’s co-leaders Raechel and Amanda face-to-face before I moved, I didn’t need to. I knew them, in the same way I still love but have yet to meet millions of “Shes” who Read Truth with us every day. We were kindred bystanders of watching God at work in His people. And it was beautiful.

Just before I made the move to Nashville, She Reads Truth secured their first-ever office—a 10’ by 10’ space for packing and shipping and emailing. My first few days working in that office are still some of my all-time favorites, spent answering messages and packing orders while listening to Broadway tunes with my new friend Rebecca. Things were finally falling into place following a summer filled with uncertainties and shame about not having an immediate full-time job like many of my friends. My Nashville apartment was perfect, tucked just between the city bustle and open farmland. Everything about my life was suddenly different, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled. His truth was so true!

One morning, just four weeks after I made the big move, I was passing my new favorite piece of farmland on my route to work when I got the news. There had been an accident. My kind-hearted, brilliant-minded, best-friend-of-a-brother was gone.

I did the only thing I knew to do, which was keep driving. I ended up at my original destination—that sweet 10’ x 10’ office—simply because I was unable to do anything else. Raechel drove me back to my apartment to pack my things, while the rest of the team made arrangements for me to go home. (I can never, ever thank the Lord enough for the grace He showed me through this team that day. But that’s another story for another day.)

Raechel patiently stood in my doorway as I rummaged through my closet, looking for my black dress. I’d never hated a piece of clothing more.

I was sickeningly shocked, forgetting to breathe and taking large gulps of air when I could. My brain spun around the hope I was supposed to find in my faith, but it seemed beyond reach.

I turned to Raechel. “I know you’ve experienced pain like this. What will happen to me? Will I ever feel joy again?”

She thought quietly before breathing the only words of hope I could grasp:

“Redemption is His specialty.”

In the hours that followed, I returned to my childhood home, where everything was suddenly different, and I couldn’t have been more sick. Yet, His truth was true.

Two years later, I live in a new apartment, but still in Nashville. She Reads Truth has a new office, but the same encouraging community. My parents no longer live in that house, but we still miss my brother as much as we did that terrible day. Praise the Lord, His truth is still true.

It is my true joy to introduce you to She Reads Truth—the book!—by Raechel Myers and Amanda Bible Williams. Officially titled She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That’s Passing Away, this book is thoughtfully designed and beautifully written. A double memoir of sorts, Raechel and Amanda share their vastly different stories to highlight the truth that remains the same in both of them—God’s Word. 

“She wants faith, hope, and love.
She wants help and healing.
She wants to hear and be heard, to see and be seen.
She wants things set right.

She wants to know what is true—not partly true, or sometimes true, or almost true. She wants to see Truth itself, face-to-face. But here, now, these things are all cloudy. Hope is tinged with hurt. Faith is shaded by doubt. Lesser, broken things masquerade as love.”

This book dug deep into my grief and held my heart up to truth. Many books send me running to find more from the author, stalking their instagram page or website for more. This one sent me chasing down the Author of Life, seeking His goodness in ways I’d never considered. Their words make much of His, and for that, I am so grateful.

Redemption is His specialty. Hallelujah.

She Reads Truth releases on 10/4, and is now available for preorder wherever books are sold. Order from your favorite retailer, screenshot your receipt, then upload it at for super fun freebies!