Dear Middle School Me…

I work with a lot of middle school student and I was thinking this morning what I would tell my middle school self now if I could talk to her. I would probably tell myself to rethink the whole spongebob tie with a t-shirt look, among other things…

Dear middle school me,

valentines-dance

Meredith and me ready for the Sadie Hawkins V-Day Dance in 8th grade!

Stop looking around. Your eyes darting from left to right will only breed in you comparison. There is nothing wrong with you and working through comparison will take up the first couple years of your 20’s and it will continue to rear its ugly head in the most inconvenient times. Learn to see the beauty in being unique and different, the sooner you do that, the sooner you will live free from the world’s expectations of you. Believe what your mom tells you, that not having a date to the Valentine’s Day Dance is NOT the end of the world. You will look back on those pictures with your friends and laugh SOOOO hard!

 

Live out the stuff you’re studying in the Bible; it’s not just good ideas for when you get older, it could change everything about 7th grade…or even your life. Value the friends you have, don’t change yourself just to make new ones; ones you think are “cooler.” When you feel sad, pick-up the phone or pick-up a pen and write, becoming a recluse will not lead anywhere beneficial. You’ve always been the loud one so speak up, you have a voice, stand up for yourself, your friends, and anyone you see being picked on. The oppression of yourself or others is never worth being known as someone who will “keep her mouth shut.”

Get used to rejection, not because you deserve it but because it is inevitable in the world. But it doesn’t have to overwhelm you. Rejection doesn’t mean you are unlovable, it just means there’s something different in store. Rejection can protect you from idolizing jobs, lifestyles, or people; let it empower you by not fearing it. Overcome rejection and comparison by keeping your eyes on the One who created you. Always celebrate Love, because regardless of your relationship status you were created to Love because you were created by the One who displayed the greatest example of sacrificial Love everrrrr.

Also, don’t try to dye your hair red with cool aid; it will dye your face and whole body an unnatural red and leave your hair that same old poop brown.

Sincerely,
Future Brittany (it doesn’t get easier)

I do my best to celebrate Love everyday, today is just an excuse to remind myself to do so.

 

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After 11 Years, I’m Still Not “Over It”

grief

just a super profound photo that really gets to the heart of grief.

My mom has been gone for 11 years. 11 of the longest years of my life have past in what at times feels more like the blink of an eye. Every year when I wake up on this day I don’t know how I’m going to feel, and this morning I woke up…kind of angry. Kind of feeling all jumbled up over it all over again. Kind of wanting to break nice plates on the concrete. Kind of wanting to scream about it like I was waking up back in 2005 again. Grief is an unpredictable, sneaky turd like that.

Looking back in my journals, year 7 I was feeling grateful, year 8 I felt a lot of peace, year 9 hopeful, and year 10 I was overflowing with love and perspective. It’s not that I don’t feel all of those things this year too it’s just that I’m ALSO angry, angry at death in general because it’s taken so many. Angry that she’s not here, and she SHOULD be here. Her not being here for 11 years is an injustice. And I wish I could avenge her death some how, go on some great adventure and make it right but there’s no one to…avenge at…is that even the right way to say that? What am I going to do? Throw cancer in jail and throw away the key? It doesn’t work that way and I know it.

So, I’m angry, it’s not like me to be angry. I’m usually pretty happy but I’m pissed Eve ate the apple and introduced mankind to the most unnatural ripping away of life. I know I will see my mom again, but I am still profoundly attached to my flesh and my flesh wants to hug her so to be honest the idea of “seeing her in heaven” although it’s true and great it brings very little comfort currently. This is my honest, raw state. No one should ever die. No one should have to write sympathy cards to help their friend feel hope or comfort. However this is the state of us, we loose people, ready or not. And it sucks, weather or not we admit it.

So, if your reading this today grieving, or trying to understand a friend’s grief, know that you’re not alone. And know that it sucks, there’s really nothing we can do but let it suck, God shows up and He brings hope, and heals but that doesn’t change the fact that death and grief and all of it sucks because it’s not the way it was supposed to be. We were supposed to walk around in a garden naked, not cry with all our clothes on!

 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3-9″

Yes I am angry, but my hope is this passage. My hope is that I know God takes the suck of grief and anger and turns it to praise and glory and honor in His name. My hope is that He is Emmanuel, WITH me. He is and has always been there even if I do not always see Him in my grief; God who I do not always understand and God who Loves me and has grown Love in me so intensely over the last 11 years. This hope is the salvation for my soul and was my mothers joy.

I cannot lie about my current angry state, however I also cannot ignore that deep reality that God is working all of this out in me for His glory and purpose and there IS indeed hope and joy and love and salvation from the one who gave it all and in the true reality of eternity, CONQUERED death. I may have lost my mom 11 years ago and I may still be a mess over it some days, and as much as I hate death and the mark it has left on my life I must look with eternal eyes at the truth; that death is defeated and it’s not all about me and my anger. There’s more, so much more and I have a feeling my mother knows that now much more profoundly than you or I do.

mom-on-a-boat

A quick bit about mom: My mom, Cindy, was the best! One of the many things she taught me was to be a participator.  No matter what, if she felt well enough she would try almost anything.  This photo is is a great example of that! We were at a girl scout camp getting our paddle boat on.  I love everything about this picture, I love that my fellow girl scout Katie is squished between us, I love that mom is smiling, I love that she’s wearing her classic “faith, hope, and love bracelet” that she NEVER took off, I love that she rocking a hat with her cute bald head, but most of all I love that we’re together on an adventure.  Thanks for teaching me to participate mom, it’s made life an adventure.

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The Great Wall of…Fear

Imagine this with me, don’t close your eyes because then you can’t read but just imagine as you read…

It’s a beautiful day in a park; think of your favorite one. Green grass, the soft kind not the kind that makes you itchy. You’re running along, the temperature is at a perfect 75 degrees and the wind is at your back. As you run you’re not even getting tired, you just jog on. There are trees that are blooming, you breathe in deep of the fragrant wildflowers. It is the perfect day to be out for a jog! All of a sudden a wall is before you and you collide with it going full speed. Nose squished, arms and legs scrapped up, and the air knocked out of you. You hit a wall.

Hitting the Wall

I feel like this sometimes. Not literally because, let’s face it, I don’t run. But I do feel this way sometimes, spiritually. I’m going along in my time with the Lord, reading, praying, writing, listening; and then out of no where a wall comes into my path and I feel incapable of pressing forward anymore.  There are words etched into the bricks of my wall, the most notable one being, “fear”.  The danger of hitting the wall is that the memory of the injury lingers, and the scare sticks with me and it makes me cautious of exploring in that area again.

The question I am currently asking is how do I break down this wall? What dynamite do I need to light at its base for it for come crashing down? Do I need to march around it for seven days? Do I need to bang a drum really loud, or blow a trumpet…should I learn how to play the trumpet?

Unfortunately, I know the answer is not always that final, that quick.  Paul tells us to “not grow weary”, to “continue in running the race”.  Jesus tells us to “take heart” and to “expect troubles”.  These directives, tell me that I should not be surprised when persistence is required in my relationship with the Lord.  I know that He is faithful, and that HE has given me the ability to walk through my walls instead of getting stuck at them.

I don’t think explosives are right weapon to destroy this wall of mine, I think it is more of a process.  I see the Holy Spirit with a chisel of Love in His hand chipping away at my wall of fear.

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Shameless Audacity

Today I’m going to crack open a door and let y’all into a very intimate part of my life. It’s a part of my life that has been challenged and brought into question over the last three months. It’s an area of my life that is personal, yet is effected by and can effect the events of my day, my relationships…everything. Prayer.

At the beginning of the summer I sat in a coffee shop in Little Rock Arkansas with two of my dearest friends making our List of Impossibilities. We asked ourselves this question, “What in my life feels so impossible that I have stopped praying for it?” I sat with those friends and confessed areas of unbelief, they did the same and we encouraged each other to take heart. Over coffee and through tears we decided that these things we deemed impossible were actually very possible because of our Dad, and we decided it was time to start believing and praying for them again.

Fast forward two months, I was with a group of friends last night and we were discussing prayer. One of my friends had us read a parable from Luke 11 and it blew me away…no…it knocked the air out of me…

 


“Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you; even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” Luke 11:5-8


 

This was the parable Jesus told after instructing the disciples on how to pray. Did you notice the same thing I did? “Shameless audacity.” That phrase, what a punch to the gut. Do I inquire of the Lord with shameless audacity? Or am I ashamed when I have requests to bring before Him?

au·dac·i·ty
noun
1. 
the willingness to take bold risks.
2. rude or disrespectful behavior.

Do I have audacity when I pray? Do I take bold risks? Am I too worried about being polite? In another parable we see the persistence of a widow get her an answer because she too had shameless audacity in making her requests known. Learning how to have shameless audacity in my prayer life is uncomfortable and hoping for these impossibilities feels so risky sometimes. Yet I am hoping. I stare the impossibilities in the face and respond to them with shameless audacity, because I know Who is listening. I know Who I hope in.

 

“I try to believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

~Alice in Wonderland

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If I can just get them dancing.

Relationships are funny. Navigating my way through, friendship, family, co-workers, mentors, students at church, it can be really rough and I am not the most graceful at it. I liken it to a ship on the ocean, and all the people I’m in relationship with are trying to keep the boat from over turning when the waters are wild; then we’re trying to keep up the momentum when the winds have stilled. There’s such ebb and flow in relationships, but it’s SO not predictable.

I have come to learn from fumbling through many relationships that a key to them working is vulnerability. The hard thing about vulnerability is that it’s wildly uncomfortable, and no one ever wants to be the first person to walk the plank. It’s so much easier to maintain the control we think we have over the boat. For me, vulnerability always looks like crying, if the boat is my face, it’s a leaky boat.

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The thing is, I don’t think we even belong on the boat. We belong in the water, in the deep places of His love.

The tricky thing is, how do we get to this place of vulnerability? How do I get a group of 16 year old girls to open up and be vulnerable about their questions, fears, and lives? How do I sit across from someone much older than me and expect them to open up and feel comfortable to share their life with me?   Ask the right questions. Pay for coffee. Paint their nails. Push them overboard.  There are many ideas.

Personally, I love dance parties. You will never see me on the stage of a ballet or on the next Step Up movie, but I LOVE to dance. It takes a degree of vulnerability to trust a group of people enough to have a dance party and act a fool. You’ve got to trust someone to Wobble with them, or Cupid Shuffle, or Wop, or Stanky Leg, or Bernie, I don’t know about you but I do not Harlem Shake with just anyone! Dancing is vulnerable, some one could laugh or make fun or judge.

Vulnerably breeds vulnerability.

Maybe they aren’t ready to open up about their deepest fears or the questions that keep them up at night, but if I can just get them dancing…if I can get them dancing, maybe we can make enough ruckus to turn the boat over.

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Who is the Diapered Man?

Be warned, I wrote this blog from my soapbox, ladies, may I be candid?

Why all the haters of Valentines Day??  Why all the heart shaped piñatas? Why all the man hating parties?  Why all the cynicism?  I think movies like “Valentine’s Day” have made it “cool” to have a little pity party when we find ourselves single on the day that is marketed towards couples.  BUT it’s also a day to celebrate Love in general , we serve a God who IS Love so why not have some fun on February 14th with glitter glue and sugar cookies?!?

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 It’s an excuse to practice extravagant love.  Ladies, you may be waiting for that special guy to wow you with flowers and fancy words, and I know this is going to sound cheesier than fondue, but the truth is that every morning our Creator wakes us up with fancy words, “Hey babe, breathe.” “Sweetheart, open your eyes.”  “Darling one, look at this intricate tree I made with you in mind.” “Beloved, you are beautiful.”  Everyday the one who formed our hearts and knows them best puts things and people in our path to wow us and make our hearts laugh!  Every.single.day. Not just February 14th, every single day you and I are perfectly Loved.

So why don’t we act like it?

 I don’t know about you, but my attempts at loving people well fail everyday.  Good intentions turn into awkward exchanges, and often I find myself suddenly unable to speak English while having simple conversation. 
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Specifically, on Valentine’s Day I stick to elementary level communication: construction paper, markers, and glitter glue.  I find rest in the truth that Love is not an emotion, an action, or even a day of the year, Love is a Person.

Love isn’t angry. Love isn’t cynical.  Love doesn’t keep record of the wrongs of man.  Love doesn’t fear.  Love isn’t pushy. Love isn’t controlling. Love does not give into self-pity.

Love trusts.  Love hopes.  Love heals.  Love risks.  Love sacrifices.  Love lavishes.  Love releases joy.  Love lifts burdens.

Valentine’s Day may appear to be all about couples getting shot by a man in a diaper with a bow and arrow, but this isn’t the hunger games.  This is Valentine’s Day, so stop your crying, look in the mirror, and say to yourself, “God made that!”  Now go do something with glitter glue.

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Fear is Not My Protector

Lately I have come face to face with some fears.  And after months of processing and praying and trying to understand these fears and where they come from I am baffled at why I ever thought fear was a better option than trust.  I thought fear would protect me.  If I am afraid of experiencing something, that must mean I’m not supposed to experience it.  Right?

Wrong.  Fear does not protect me.  Sure, there is a place for caution in life, I don’t open the emergency exit on a plane mid-flight, or jump out of a moving car but what if I have a parachute on, or what if there’s someone to catch me when I throw myself from the moving vehicle?  I trust the Lord in a lot of areas, but what would happen if I lived a life TOTALLY in a place of trust instead of speckled with bits of fear? What then?  There would be a lot more risk taken.  My heart would be exposed more.  And I believe there would even be more opportunities to encounter and pour out the Love of the Father wildly!

Graham Cooke does a spoken word along with Jonathan David Helser called Inheritance, my favorite line from the 7 minute long ordeal is “I dare you”, says the Lord, “I dare you, open your heart to me.”  He has been daring me to open my heart up, to stop letting fear guard my heart and let Him handle that.

Fear is not my protector, but it fooled me.  Fear is comfortable, there’s no risk because it’s easy to believe the lies fear tells me, “No, you shouldn’t do that, no one does that, people will judge you” or “you will fail if you try to reach that goal, just stick to what you know” and the classic, “you could get hurt. is that worth it?”  Yikes.  That last one.  If something is full of the Love of God, it’s ALWAYS worth it.  I would rather look like a fool or end up a little broken than miss an opportunity to encounter the Love of my Maker in a new area.

Fear did not protect David from Goliath or Daniel from the lions

The Love of the Father did.

Fear did not protect Lazarus from death or the blind man from darkness.

The Love of the Father did.

Fear did not protect Esther and her people from extinction or Ruth from loneliness.

The Love of the Father did.

Fear did not protect the adulterous woman from being stoned or Gideon and his 300 men from being defeated.

The Love of the Father did.

Fear does not protect Brittany Priess from loss.

The Love of the Father does.

And that Love is worth the risk it takes to look fear in the face and say, “Nah, I choose trust.”

Decelerations! The Lord is the defender of my life, my cozy rampart, my refuge of joy, the true guardian of my heart, and the shield that makes me able.  

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“Ready” Or Not Here I Come?

Allen Texas.  That’s where I am.  If anyone was looking for me, that’s where I am.  You could probably find parts of me in Uganda, Cambodia, Georgia, or several other nooks and crannies of the world; but most of me can be found in Allen, Texas. 

When I came home from the Philippines almost four months ago I had this idea in my head that I would go away for a weekend, maybe to a retreat in a cabin or just pitch my tent in the woods somewhere and, process.  I had this idea that I could go and deal with all my transitional fears, work through everything from the last four and half years that has been difficult, resolve all the things I saw in the world that broke my heart, and be ready for whatever comes next. 

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Who was I kidding?  I could never be ready.  This is a great adventure and I have seldom felt “ready” for it.  I have felt peace, sure, but not ready.  I took a Math test for the first time in five years and I assure you the outcome of that, displayed just how “not ready” I am for what I being thrust into.  Yet, here I am, in Allen Texas working at Home Depot and getting ready to start school.  I KNOW this is just a season of the great adventure (but more on that later).

I have been silent on my blog because I didn’t know what to write about, my thoughts are so jumbled, I think that’s why I have to write.  I may not have as many readers now that I’m not traveling but blogging will still serve the same purpose it has for me 🙂

As I stand on the shore of another adventure, I see nothing but deep waters.  This place is familiar yet unexplored, and I can’t wait to see what Pops has in up His sleeve. 

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I Have Been Avoiding This…

I have been avoiding this.

I left the squad on December 5th.  I think I haven’t really blogged about this whole transition yet because if I blog about it I have to think about it.  And to be honest, all this change, in the squad, and in my personal life is making me feel a bit like a deer in headlights.  I feel a little frozen (insert seasonal metaphor).  But today, with a recorded episode of Ellen DeGeneres playing in the background, I will make myself blog.

The squad, oh Immersion, what an amazing group of young men and women.  One of my favorite parts of leading trips is I feel like a treasure hunter, these people have so many things to offer, and often times they don’t see it in themselves.  I loved seeing this squad realize their gifting  and I love that it’s not over, the Lord has so much more for these 23 world changer.  I feel so blessed to have been on the field alongside them for three months and I’m excited to be their biggest cheerleader stateside!!

The last four and a half years have been a wild wild ride.  I have been a part of team after team that has blessed and challenged me, I have seen things that are burned forever in my memory and will change the way I live the rest of my life, and I am so thankful for the sweetness of the last season of life that I have been in.

I have a dream; I’m not ready put on world wide web yet, mostly because the Lord and I are still dreaming it up, but the next step in pursuing this dream is school.  So, thanks to a partial scholarship I will be starting online classes January 15th.

All that to be said, the biggest change I am going through right now is the transition into a time of being stationary, of being physically still.  I am expectant of the good things the Lord has for my time here, He is doing a new thing and it blows me away that we get to be a part of it.

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My Molventures Part Two

Believe it or not the last blog about my mole was not the extent of my Molventures, I actually left out one of the favorites of my mole stories from my last blog and now, I think it’s time for me to share it.  It’s time for “Molventures Part Two”, it’s nothing like the “Casper Slide part two”, except for you can clap two times if you want, but none of that “Charlie brown” stuff.

It was my fourth month on the World Race and I realized that I was going to need and extra passport photo to get my visa for Cambodia. Thankfully we were in Bangkok where it was easy to go get passport photos taken and printed.  I walked to the photo place with some of squad mates who were in the same predicament, we came back after about a hour or so, I got the pictures out and something was off.  Looking at it something was missing.  My mole.  They airbrushed out my mole.  My favorite physical attribute, GONE!  Not to mention that this photo really didn’t look like me anymore and it was supposed to be for IDENTIFICATION along with my passport.  Thailand fail.  Mole fail.  It became one of those things I would take out and show people when anyone needed a good awkward laugh. My face without its mole=awkward. 

The Molventure I really want to tell you about has unfolded over the last couple of weeks and it involves a girl named Jonah.  I met Jonah when I was doing ministry here in the community with Team Sariyu, she came to church and we noticed we had something very special in common when we saw each other for the first time.  She is shy and our first Sunday morning church service she peeked around the corner with her friend and they both started laughing and pointing at their foreheads between their eyebrows, I noticed right away that Jonah had a mole in the same spot as me, only hers was a bit bigger than mine.  She was SO shy, I tried talking with her but it always resulted in her pointing at her mole…me pointing at mine and us giggling.

Before leaving the community one day I had a chance to talk with Jonah, I told her the story my dad told me when I was embarrassed of my mole.  The one I told y’all in the first Molventure, about it being an angel kiss, she smiled.

My time with team Sariyu was over a couple days ago, when I went to say goodbye to Jonah she didn’t really understand what I was saying but she just pointed at her mole and I pointed at mine and she said, “angel kiss”.  And I smiled.  

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