A Dance Worth Learning: Of Swing Dancing & Faith


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The lights go down and the music begins, loud, quick, and perky. I stand on the side in my pretty dress, waiting, hoping for someone — anyone, mostly, though hopefully one who can lead me well and make good conversation — to ask me to dance with him.

Soon enough, he sweeps me up with his expected request, “Would you like to dance?” He reaches out one arm for me to take and we find a spot on the crowded dance floor. His hand goes to my waist, mine to his shoulder, our other hands intertwined.

“I’m Elizabeth,” I say and he introduces himself, too. We talk a bit, but mostly we just dance. He leads me beautifully, giving me grace I never knew I had.

“Ugh, sorry, I’m not very good at this,” I explain, embarrassed, when I falter.

“It’s OK. Don’t apologize.” He smiles to assure me it’s alright.

Feel don’t think. Release don’t controlGive don’t hold back.

I remember and begin again, feeling, releasing, giving, and suddenly I’m floating on musical air, moving in ways I never thought possible for any person, let alone graceless, awkward, and uncoordinated old me.

The song ends and he dips me. I let my body fall to the side he leads it, resting in the sole control of his strength. It is scary and exhilarating. That dance is finished. We thank each other and part ways, the smiles still living on both our faces as we look for new partners.


To tell you the truth, dancing scares me more than a lot of things. It’s something I’ve been around my whole life, and because of that, I have this built-in shame from all the memories of getting it wrong. It’s like I don’t remember a time when I ever got it right in the realm of moving my limbs to music.

And so it’s hard for me now, at twenty even, past the childhood years and teenage awkwardness. My memories haunt me in the church halls, the classrooms, and the theatre floor, as if they were happening all over again. Sometimes I can’t take it anymore. I can only move to the music for so long before I have to go relax or even cry.

I was never able to explain it till this April, when these fears really began to meet in conflict with the need to dance and the need to be. In tears, I began to explain to others and to myself. But it still felt like it was too late. The dance call had come and I’d done as poorly as ever, yet I knew it wasn’t just that. Beneath it all, there was a river of tears and I let them out, agonizing forever over the strange pain I felt. The movement I’d been forced to distribute had caused this unquenchable pain, I was sure. From then on, I vowed never to do what I couldn’t, never to move to the music and ignite this pain again.

Because this shame and pain and utter exhaustion would always be there, whether in the church halls, the classrooms, or the theatre floor. And the pain, I decided was just not worth it. 


I don’t remember how it started — probably with a text from my friend, Holly. She asked do you want to go swing dancing and I thought about it for a while and decided Sure, I’ll go make a fool of myself because it was sort of fun when I went before. I took a risk and gave up my vow in part. “This is different,” I decided.

I wasn’t good right away, but I found that I wasn’t entirely bad either. I still had trouble with the same old things — coordination, rhythm, remembering what to do, and getting so nervous I forgot the steps.

But I began to find comfort in the fact that I was a follow, and if I could depend on my lead, everything would be alright. Some leads swept me off my feet and I felt as if I were flying through galaxies and worlds of jeweled sunsets, and flowing waterfalls.

I began to feel more than I thought. A slow release occurred as I let go of bits and pieces of my beloved control. And I started to give openly and with courage.


Some days, I feel like I’m losing hard battles. My head becomes a maze, and beyond the joys and beauty of life, I feel tight and hard.

I’ve realized that I have this mountain size need for control. I don’t know where it came from, yet I’ve come to see where it is leading me and it is a place of more restlessness and battles and discomfort.

It is not worth the shame and pain, I’ve learned.


“You dance gracefully,” he said before bowing and departing after our song had finished.

I almost laughed in his face. Instead, I stuffed my laughter with a smile and a gracious, “Thank you.” Another boy asked me to dance and as we did, I pondered the last leader’s words and my heart soared.

When you hear something, whether good or bad, you begin to believe at least part of it. And this was the summer I began to believe that peaceful living is a dance that I can learn, a beat that I can swing to, a rhythm that I can find. Because even though my heart filled with shame in every church hall, classroom, and theatre when the music began and the dancing started, when the lights went down in the dance hall, I could only feel a very peaceful kind of joy that held room for more.

And faith is a dance, too. One I’d like to fall more and more in step with everyday.


This summer, I’ve realized that I like to lead way too much. And I’m really not very good at it. Well, not at the kind of leading I try to do. The control I try to take. The unnecessary worries, and big, unneeded plans.

“If you want to lead, that’s fine but go to the other side,” a dance instructor said to the follows at the last lesson.

I’ve been trying to lead from my follow’s place, but this leader’s position is not one I can take. Life and faith are dances, too. Dances in which I must follow and surrender and most of all dance without abandon. 


I went swing dancing for my twentieth birthday. To most, that would merely seem fun, cool, or interesting. Only I and a few others know the true significance of choosing to do that activity on my special day. It was something I wanted to do, and chose firmly and freely. That makes me laugh and almost want to cry at the same time.

On my birthday in particular, my limbs loosened and my heart felt truly light. I began to really dance without abandon, follow without leading, and fall in love with something worth caring for.

I’ve found dance to be a great analogy for faith. God leads; we follow. He creates and we create out of His creations.

God invites; we accept. We enter in to a covenant of many, many dances. Some are tricky, messy, and odd. All are beautiful.

His hand’s at my waist, mine’s at his shoulder, and our other hands are intertwined. Locked together in an unbreakable embrace. His breath’s in the music, in the movement, in my tangled steps, my graceful ones too, in every spin and dip and jump.

The pain and the shame weren’t worth it, but the dance was one worth learning with the Father of dance to lead. 

How Big Is Your Love?

I grew up believing that God was the ultimate, most important thing about life.

Yet then it struck me, around eleven, that perhaps something else was more important, or at least just as great. The more I grew, the more I realized the wonderful and deep value of love. Yet if God was surely the most important and greatest of all, where did love fit in? Was it only a close second? I couldn’t comprehend how that could be, but love surely couldn’t exceed the importance of God. It was all very confusing.

I wrestled with this for weeks, and I still remember the very day the answer came. I was sweating and uncomfortable in warm clothes on a hot day, inside a little church building, for the funeral of an unknown mother of a family friend. But my ears perked up as my eyes were opened to the pastor’s words: God love and He is love; in loving others, we are serving God. 

It all made sense then and I grew very relieved that I could give to both equally, serving God through my love, and loving when I did God’s will.

I wondered, How big can my love become? I knew it was just tiny then, but I had hope for more in years to come.

After the message, we sang:

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure


Now I work at a Thrift store five days a week. Like anyone who works in customer service, I have a “survival smile,” and a painfully fake happy voice I can use on command. Half the time, I pretend to show interest in the little stories of woe and joy I am told.

Because the days are long and I’m tired at the beginning, middle, and end.

Because the questions are unending. “Can I see this?” “How much is that?” “Where are the other Thrift Stores?”

Because the demands won’t cease. “That’s horrible that you charge tax!” “Show me that!” “That’s mine!”

Because people swear and yell over their opinions on our organization and prices, sales and hours. Because others steal, concealing under clothes and switching their dirty shirts for ours. They make a mess of inside out tops and jeans in baskets on the floor.

As the days, questions, demands, and offenses pile, I grow in bitterness, slowly but surely resenting all those in and out of sight. Hating the very ones I vowed to love.

The more I live, the more I resent. The man who swears and yells; the woman who leaves her dirty shorts in the dressing room. The imperfect people, living in their grit and grime, unwilling to change, aware of their guilt, but seemingly unashamed.

How big is your love? I hear from a Voice within and above and around.

“This isn’t about love!”

HOW BIG IS YOUR LOVE? I hear it again, but it’s time to cash out and pack up and drive home.

How big is your love? The wind whispers hollowly, but I’m fast asleep, dreaming of a new day.


It’s several years since I was at that funeral where I learned that God equals love and that love is the best thing we can give. Sometimes, I forget for split seconds or minutes, hours, or even days how seriously God requires this. Perhaps I even forget how much He pours this love over me.

And it’s been weeks now since they’ve come and “terrorized” my little store front and made me work extra hard and apologize to paying customers. But still the anger and bitterness and utter resentment burn in my heart.

Now we set up tables and carry bags of food from the nearby trucks. My head is spinning a little, knowing I might see “some of them.” Some of the people I’ve grown to resent.

We work together, facing the crowd of hungry people. I smile in spite of myself.

Suddenly, I see her. She’s picking clothes out of the full bags we’ve brought, trying to find at least one suitable top. But she doesn’t make a mess this time.

Her frame’s as forlorn as ever. She weaves in and out of the garbage bags and other hopeful souls, searching for something to fit her tall but tiny body.

She is made vulnerable to my eyes and I gasp inside while handing out sandwiches. How big is your love, Elizabeth? How great and wide? How deep and strong and firm and vast? Apparently not very big, I realize, suddenly coming face to face with my own hidden shame.

“I am no more deserving of this love than anyone else.” The realization hits me like a dart.

How big is your love? 

“Not as big as it should be. Not big at all. Tiny. Pitiful. Sinful,” I answer, truthful at last.

And she, the long-resented woman scurries off into the deep blue summer night while I watch in shame. She’s reminded me of my unlove, my sin, my disgrace. 

How big is your love? 

From this day on, it shall be bigger. Much, much greater and deeper and stronger and firmer and ‘vast beyond all measure’.”


Because my Father is love and He first loved me. 

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure



With Love On Valentines

I’m a sucker for Valentine’s Day. I always have been and I’m pretty sure I always will be. And I’ll shamelessly admit it to anyone who asks or doesn’t ask.


When I was a kid, Valentine’s cards were the very bestest. Every year, Mom would let us pick out a package we liked and then we’d spend beautiful hours picking the right ones for the right people and writing their names out, usually on February 13th. And then I’d bask in the multitudes of Valentines I’d receive myself. Each one had a special memo and picture, just for me, I felt. Some were even home made. And the more I received, the more affirmed and loved I felt. It was absolutely glorious.

Now I’m a university student and although the idea of making Valentines for treasured friends still appeals to me, I didn’t write a single card this year. Now I’m at the age where friends are either going on dates or complaining over their lack of a love life or ranting on the stupidity such a day. And I received a total of two Valentines cards this year.

I spent the day at school, though I didn’t have classes. Instead, I spent an average day in the life of a theatre major; I shot a promo video for my upcoming play, postered campus for the said production, and I worked on set pieces, for, you gussed it, that show I’m in. I didn’t do anything totally out of the ordinary, for me at least. And to be honest, the fact that it was Valentine’s Day didn’t change a lot of stuff.

But still, it was Valentine’s Day and I spent it with people.

I laughed and did silly stunts and commiserated with friends. We talked of first meetings and became giddy over the silliness of things that were once serious.

I worked with people. We finished tasks and we helped each other and smiled at the fruits of our labour. It was hard work, but the presence of others eased the pain.

A friend and I traveled home together. Both exhausted from fighting terrible bugs and a long week of school, we shared the week’s ‘gossip’ and beauty and giggles.

And I see the people, from my window, running to catch busses or trains or getting in their cars. I see them walking. A man carries flowers as he strolls down the sidewalk. A couple walks a pair of German shepherds who can’t seem to get enough of each other.

There are people. All around us. Walking, working, laughing, learning. Loving.

Tonight I spend an introverted, university-ish night, reading Chekhov and rehearsing lines. But family drifts in and out and I’m reminded of the people and love that comprised my day.

There is love all around. Valentine’s Day is just a glimpse of that. A reminder.

Yesterday, my mom recalled what I’d said to her when I was a disappointed and disillusioned seven-year-old, who didn’t receive as many Valentines as her sister had: “I don’t see what’s so special about Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day isn’t special. I don’t know why people said it was special. There’s no family. There’s no dinner.”

I beg to differ now, with my once disappointed self. Valentine’s Day is special, whether it’s spent with flowers and dinner or as an ordinary school day. It can be special, if we spend it with those around us and choose to see the world with a window of love.

I realize I’m being a bit poetical and aarie-faerie here. I realize also that those kind of words don’t often mean much to all people.

But think on this. The roots of Valentine’s Day are in a man called St. Valentine. He was a martyr to love, specifically the God-designed institute of marriage. He died for what he believed, for a noble cause, for a relationship and heritage that still breathes joy today.

It is a legacy. A passing down. Of joy, family, friendship, love.

We were created in the image of God and made for relationship. Whether we are married or single or love or abhor the sticking tradition of Valentine’s Day, that is the truth.

The day is nearly done now. There’s about three more hours of this day when chocolate is expected and secret admirer notes are acceptable.

Yet I encourage you, to embrace Valentine’s Day, for all it’s worth in the short hours that remain. I beg of you more to take hold  of the attitude of sacrificial love that inspired it. Most of all, I call you to love people and in loving people, you love Him as well.

Love Everybody

My boss says that people like to take out their wrath on the cashier. Wanting to get back at someone or something, customers lash out at the cashier, knowing that she cannot say a rude word back.

Throughout this summer, people have certainly taken out their wrath on me. From their opinions on taxes and prices that I don’t even make to things that are unfair in their life or the way I obviously do my job wrong, in their opinion. I listen to it all, silently, smiling if I can, trying to hold my own anger in.

That makes it hard, as you can imagine, to love everybody.

Yet as a cashier in a Thrift Store, I’ve realized, that I am in a great spot to love others. I see my job not just as the facilitator of Thrift Store purchases, but also as a giver of grace.

People come to the store, broken, disfigured, poor, addicted, angry, upset, ruined, desperate. Others come clean, happy, put together, pouring money from their pockets. But its my job, I feel, to judge each person in the same way. To give grace to every person who walks in the door. Its my job to forget the past of each customer and treat them as if I’ve never seen them before. This is grace in the Thrift Store.

I’ve been reading an eye-opening book called unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. It illustrates what people outside the church think of Christians. And it isn’t pretty. We’re viewed as hypocritical, pushy, sheltered, anti-homosexual, too political, and judgmental. There is barely a scrape of grace or love in us from the “outsiders'” perspectives.

This book has shown me how much we, as Christians, need to be grace givers and lovers of all people.

The store has shown me what it looks like in action. It is a difficult, if not impossible task on some days. People are rude, selfish, uncaring, trashy, quick to make judgments, unthinking. Many people are not receptive, they do not understand or try to understand.

And so I come home from a long couple of days of dealing with the public and I lash out on them in the comfort of my own home, at last. How dare they? Why do they do what they do? If only they could just ____!

But I am not asking the right questions. I am judgmental. I should ask, instead: who are they? and who are they loved by? and who am I to judge?

Because the truth is, the people who hassle me all day long are children loved and created by God. And I am just the same as them. I can be all of those things I said they were and more. I am no judge. But I am loved like they are — we are all loved together — by the same God who made the heavens and the earth.

So I try, again and again and again. For the umpteenth time. I try to remember grace and forgive others and love them for who they are, forgetting what they do.

And the people who are so clean and happy may be just as broken on the inside. Because I know that I am, too. I need grace and I need love just as much as the customers.

So love everybody. That’s what I’ve learned this summer.

Forgive and give grace because we have a God who is the author of that.

Love the world. Offer grace to people, too, even if they don’t accept it.

Because this is what it means to be like Christ.


One of my dearest memories from childhood goes like this…

My family was taking care of our good friends’ two children. Their oldest son was practically my best friend at the time. We did everything together.

I was about five-years-old then and I refused to take naps when the others did. So, while my friends and sister got to stay up “late” and have a snack, I was confined to my pajamas and lights out in the bedroom.

I was sad and moping to be sure when my friend crept into the room. He was four-years-old — a year younger than I. He knew I’d wanted some of the snack.

“Here, Liz,” he said, reaching out his little hand. “I brought you some.”

My friend didn’t have to bring me a treat, but  he did. He showed grace for my bad behaviour and risked getting into trouble for me. He was generous and giving of himself. I call it compassion, when I look back on that memory now.

However, compassion can oft be hard to give. Whether it’s an irate customer or a hard-to-work-with-co-worker, a younger sibling or an distanced friend, I deal with a definite choice everyday. Will I roll my eyes or shall I show compassion today?

Because compassion is hard. It isn’t just about “being nice” or making friends. It is much, much more.

It is patient. And gentle.

Compassion is generous, not withheld love.

It is not proud nor does it envy.

Compassion is full of grace. It is about giving second chances and forgiving and remembering the blood of Christ. It doesn’t keep a record of wrongs or repay evil for evil.

At its fullest, compassion is unconditional. Agape love. We call God compassionate and so He is. This is the model we live up to.


I wonder if my friend still remembers that time when he brought me a treat — probably not. But I sure do. And that compassionate gift made a profound affect on my little soul. Because even today, a five-year-old’s compassion inspires me.

So let us live lives of love. Let’s fill our hearts with compassion for the world. For everyone.

Is God Enough?

I grew up hearing that God was enough, that God always satisfied, and He was all we needed.

I said ‘the prayer’ at the age of four because I believed, as strongly as I could in my little heart, that God was the One and Only.

Years of Sunday school lessons and singing songs and hearing people talk about how God is enough. And God will always be all you need. There’s nothing else that could compare.

Then, the well-meaning friends who went so far as to say that God obviously wasn’t enough for someone if they did such and such. But God should be enough for you if you’re a true Christian. Again, God was supposed to be enough.

Turning from that stream of thought, I kept going in my Christian walk. God was still enough — I just didn’t want to be judgmental about it. God is enough. God is always enough for me. That’s why I prayed every night and went to church several times a week and taught little kids in Sunday school. Because God was enough for me and enough for them too and enough for us all.

And that’s why I stood up on the stage at church, wearing a white dress, next to my youth pastor who held an open book, and answered ‘I do’ to questions on faith and shared my testimony about how God had always been enough.

But what about when God isn’t enough for us?

When I’d rather read a novel than the Bible. When I lie awake, thinking of other things and loves instead of praying. When I felt so alone and thought I could never do anything in Mexico. When I plunged into relationships, school, or theatre, hoping they would fill the void. I didn’t know it then, but I’d stopped believing that God was truly enough.

But the other day, as I lay in bed, I heard Him whisper in my ear that He is enough for me. And for the last quiet moments of the night He was that.

I realized then that God hasn’t always been enough. And he won’t always be enough for me or anyone. God can’t be enough for us all the time.

God wants to be enough and He is enough, but in this life at least, I believe, our sinfulness precludes us from truly loving Him in this way.

So please, let’s stop pretending and saying that God is always enough. Let’s not force friends and family members into that place when they aren’t ready. Because that just isn’t how it is.

God is enough. But we can’t always see Him that way. And that is OK.

The Greatest Of These

His words caught me off guard. I love you, Elizabeth. Maybe because he didn’t speak English. Maybe because I’d just met him. Or perhaps because we just don’t say those three words enough. Regardless, the moment when my Mexico amigo said I love you is a memory that I won’t soon forget.


In our human imperfection, we often forget how much we are loved. I know that I need to be reminded and re-convinced of it every so often. Sure, we can hear the words a million times, but sometimes it takes much more to truly believe it. This week, I learned that I shut myself off from relationships without evening thinking about it. In doing so, I ostracize friendship, love, and God; I lose the freedom to live in love.

Today I learned how to find that freedom again. Suddenly, the world became unmasked and I began to see the love all around me. I remembered that I am not alone and that brokenness is real but not what we were created for. I recalled that the greatest of all is love.

The most important commandment… to love the Lord your God.

And the second…to love your neighbour as yourself.

And we love because He first loved us.

This is one of the days where I’d say that God does have the perfect timing — its Valentines Day and I feel extremely blessed for the love in my life.

Happy 14th of February! Remember, always, that you are loved.

The Broken Road

This morning it rained over our fresh snow. I heard its soft pattering on the roof and watched the grass begin to peek out from the snow. It was an ugly mess.

I went to church this evening. The pastor talked about the guilty, wounded, and troubled heart. I know that I suffer from all of those feelings. And I sin–oh yes, I sin. Everyday, I make mistakes and wreck relationships and try to pick up the pieces again. I put off prayer because I don’t want to confront my maker with the same old problems. I don’t feel worthy of His love.

But isn’t that the reason for Christmas? Isn’t that how we know Jesus? If we were pure, there would be no use for a Saviour. But our sinful nature needs a Saving Grace. Life’s broken road is the path that leads us to the greatest Christmas gift of all.

Sometimes, its hard to accept ourselves because of sin. Sometimes, its difficult to just move on. Sometimes, we don’t even know where to begin. But the beauty is that we don’t have to do it on our own. As Psalm 147 says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

We have Jesus. It’s remarkably easy to pass Him by, especially with the hub-bub of the holidays. But without Him we would be nothing. Without Him, our sin would stain us forevermore and there wouldn’t be any second chances. He is the reason for Christmas, joy, and life.


With whatever trial you’re facing today, remember the joy that Jesus offers!