Leaning into the brutiful

My fingers hover over the keyboard as I attempt to summon the thoughts and feelings that have been circulating through my mind over the past month. You see, 43 days ago I moved to Richmond, Virginia to start my seminary journey. Classes have been in session for a little over a month and I feel like I’m finally piecing together a routine. I am trying to make a new city home, which I have not been tasked with since I was ten years old. Sure, there have been places in between that have captured my heart, places that have been “home,” even if it was temporary. A summer of ministry, joy, intentional community living, and an abundance of Cookout milkshakes in Charlotte, North Carolina. A month in Valencia, Spain. The farthest I’ve been from home, where the days blended together and the city never slept. At the time, living in a foreign country and spending a month with a group of strangers was the craziest thing I’d ever done. But maybe this is even crazier. Leaving what is comfortable and safe to start anew. Following God’s call and the movement of the Spirit to a place completely unknown to me.

When I first moved here, it felt like I was being dropped off at summer camp. Armed with cautious optimism in one hand, but also with the same wide eyes and vulnerability as a college freshman finding her dorm. The utter newness of everything around me was equal parts exhausting and exhilarating. As with college, I have found friends who walk alongside me in the newness, who remind me that none of us yet has it quite figured out. (Will we ever?) We come from New York to South Carolina and every which way in between. We are here afresh from different seasons and places; college, ministry, work; hometowns and college towns; big cities and small cities. Yet we are all here for the same purpose: to learn and grow and try to be faithful to where God is calling us.

Graduate school and moving to a new city are not for the faint of heart. It is hard. It is a balancing act: the sheer volume of work, carving out time to make this city feel more like home, balancing work and play. Sometimes it feels brutal, like when a rotted tree limb shattered my windshield and my debit card information was stolen all in the same week (yup, true story). But, more often than not, this season feels beautiful. The joy of meeting new friends who make me feel known and loved, who I know are also walking this brutal/beautiful path. The feeling of stopping in my tracks to gaze at a sky so blue it hurts my eyes. The realization one day sitting in class that everything I am studying will mold me into the pastor, preacher, and teacher whom God is shaping me to be.

In a blog post titled “Life Is Freaking Brutiful,” author and activist Glennon Doyle coined the term “brutiful” to describe how life’s hardest things are often the most beautiful. She writes:

In my life- the brutal ALWAYS transforms into the beautiful.  And so after thirty eight years I have learned this about what life is offering me: IF IT’S EASY AND SHINY- BEWARE. IF IT STINGS A LITTLE – SIT TIGHT, GET CURIOUS, AND THEN LEAN IN…Breathe deeply and know that if you let it come and feel it all – it won’t kill you. It will pass away soon enough and leave you better, kinder, softer, and stronger. Let the brutal make you even more beautiful.

I am living in a new city, studying what sets my heart on fire, and living in community with friends who make this world a brighter and better place. I don’t think I have ever laughed or cried as hard as I have here. Yet as I look back on this first month, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m showing up each day and living into the tension of brutal and beautiful. Thanks be to God for this brutiful path that God has set before me.

May God grant you peace for the journey, rest when you are weary, and courage to live into the brutiful of each and every day.