Finding Joy in the Broken

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I’d reluctantly joined a small Bible study on the book of James. On the heels of some difficult years both personally and financially, I was ready for an encouraging study. Though his suggestion offended me God insisted and I signed up. With a cinched heart and tears tucked away, I joined the other women around the table.

James. Mr. Count-It-All-Joy. I thought I could tell that guy a thing or two about struggle, about trial. Sleepless nights, endless tears, desperate loneliness and flailing arms clamoring for heaven as my own life threatened to drown me. I knew the reason I’d survived to this point was because of God’s mercy and grace. I’d believed every word he’d whispered into my soul. If the story of my life didn’t qualify as facing “trouble of any kind,” of faith being tested, endurance being developed, and growing, I didn’t want to know what was next. I resented that he’d asked me to join these women for 12 weeks in a local coffee shop. I was angry…..

 

I’m in the mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania this weekend for a retreat but you can find rest of the story over on the Grace Church Blog today.  Connect with me  there?

Have a good weekend friends!

Finding Joy in the Broken

 

Anxiety’s Lies and Joy’s Truths

A massive fist squeezed my chest. Racing thoughts and an elevated heartbeat tormented my body as I ran through an endless mental maze. My friend had spoken truth, you’re trying to figure this all out. I knew she was right but what I couldn’t figure out was how to quit trying to figure it out.

I’d worked hard for years to avoid the situation I was staring down and and it had finally become unmanageable. The frustration and fear I felt from being unable to change the details of my life were beginning to affect me physically and the result was anxiety. While I believed that the presence of God existed on the other side of my struggle, it was hard for me to believe that he would be present in the decisions I needed to make, decisions I’d tried for years to avoid.  Anxiety was squeezing the life out of my soul……

I’m telling the rest of this story on the Grace Church Blog today.  Join me over there?

Anxiety’s Lies and Joy’s Truths

That time joy grabbed hold of my life and wouldn’t let go

 

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I got off the phone on a Sunday afternoon, my heart knotted with questions, jaw gripping for any kind of answer.  She’d listened to me spill over the edges of 60 minutes, maybe longer, like so many times before.  Her name wasn’t Joy but it does mean Pearl, Precious, Gem of the Sea and if you knew how many times she’d listened to me process, translation:  talk and talk and talk and talk until I know what I think, you’d understand just how priceless she is to me.

This time she said something new though.  You’re trying to figure this out Marcy and you need to let it go.

I diverted my attention from the meaning behind her words, felt my feet press to the floor bracing myself against the flash of what it might require of me.  She was right.

The problem was I didn’t know where to start, how to release my grip and  let the blood flow into my fingertips again.

Have you ever prayed about something for so long that you’ve run out of words or find there’s nothing more to say?

God says he already knows our hearts but he also wants us to ask and keep on asking.  I think he means both of those things (which is why we need to quit interpreting him so much instead of choosing to believe the  bible is more And than it is Or but that’s a completely different post).  There comes a time in every challenge, when you have to loosen your grasp, open your hands completely, and lay that unfinished business down, throw it, if you have to, straight at God.  From there, you believe that he will be all Bob Gregory from channel 13, here with an important weather advisory if there’s something you need to know, but until then, you carry on with regular life and stop trying to work it all out in your head.

It was the week before Christmas and  I  was  holding tighter than a heart should to some things I’d run out of ways  to fix. The expectation of a beautiful holiday couldn’t do a thing to lighten my load no matter how I’d tried to will it, I was miserable.  The heaviness of what I could not control was like a chunk of coal wrapped in layers of tattered paper sitting on my heart and it was beginning to be unbearable.

After finishing my last client of the season, the wrestling I’d been doing in my mind for weeks, turned into an all-out brawl.  I swept the hair, soaked the bottles and headed to the mailbox.   Walking the twenty or so steps,  and overwhelmed with the thought this weight crushing my hope for a glory-filled Christmas, as I began to open the mailbox, I knew I had a choice to make.    Hold tightly to my misery while I demanded God answer me one way or another, or truly, once and for all, lay down every expectation, every possible scenario.  Like Red quoting Andy  in Shawshank Redemption,  ‘get busy living’, or get busy dyin’, because that’s just how much this bloodshed was controlling may life.  I won’t ever forget the gravity in that moment and the way I felt powerless to do what I knew I must.

What happened next is proof to me that when we find ourselves unable to do that thing we need to do  and we’re out of emotional, physical, even spiritual resources, if we trust our Creator with the details of our lives (in the listening way, not the talking way) he will cause a chain of events set into motion months earlier  to come together in one desperate moment  we’re not sure we can survive, and change the volatile trajectory of a soul.

A couple of years ago, I swallowed the Coconut Oil and now have beautiful little bottles with aromatic liquid  delivered once a month.    In theory, I remember to change my order every month so I get the essential oils I actually need, but similar to my library motto a few years ago No More Fines in 2009,  the real-life story is not-so-much.

In the fall, I began working with an incredible woman who helps other women give structure to their business and pursue dreams that won’t be hushed.

Standing at my mailbox on the 20th of December, in no way is it an overstatement to say that my life changed in a series of moments I couldn’t have imagined or planned, let alone orchestrated.

Along with your garden variety bills and a stack of sale flyers were two packages with my name on them.  I didn’t know what they were and I hadn’t remembered ordering them.

I ripped open the first package to the cheerful branding of my new coach.  Want to know he name?  Natalie Joy.

Her company name?  Defining Your Joy.

Natalie had sent me a planning calendar for the year to help keep me on track and while she’d previously sent several little packages with encouraging messages and treats, I wasn’t expecting a thing from her that day and was happy for mail that didn’t ask me for money.

I’d processed often through the fall with two friends and  knew I needed to stop holding tightly to some long-dead dreams.   I didn’t expect though that the result would come in the form of a choice.  When I opened the second package, I suddenly knew, in the way that you effortlessly know how to breathe, not only that I had a choice to make, but also the name of my choice.

The previous month, I’d ordered some oils for my mom.    As I started to open my Young Living package,  I realized I’d forgotten to change my order.  I had no recollection of what oils I’d ordered the month before.  Massive amounts of white-hot shame that I’d forgotten another deadline.

When I opened the box, pulled out the protective cylinder, and shook the bottle into my hand, when I saw the gorgeous pink labeling in the same hue as the pink on the calendar I’d already opened, and when I turned over the oil and read the name, the last bit of emotion attached to the heaviness I’d been carrying for as long as I could remember streamed right out of my eyes.

The name of the oil was Joy.

For months, I’d been faced with decisions about my attitude and my  atmosphere amid circumstances unlikely to change, and for months I couldn’t cross over making the decision to let go of deeply held bitterness and resentment, resulting in control and anger.  But right there in my mailbox, God delivered some Christmas Joy in a way so unexpected, so personal, so beautiful, there was nothing left for me but to grab hold of it and believe.

I just about danced back into my home that afternoon as I felt the darkest blanket of hopelessness lift off my soul.  Due to the Reese cups sitting on my hips, it was quite impossible, but I’m telling you I felt 10 pounds lighter. My world began to twinkle like the 900 lights on my tree.  I played music and danced with my children and anticipated the entire holiday  known and unknown, with a powerful sense of God’s presence.  I’d felt the same thing many times before, I think the difference I felt then, and I still feel today, is that it had taken up permanent residence within me.  There will circumstances for the rest of my life, that require me to choose a response of Joy.  But on that day,  Joy chose me in the most absolutely forever sort of way.

I’ve walked away from the computer countless times trying to capture words to tell you what kind of magical and supernatural celebration started to take place in my soul that afternoon. I wish I would have walked straight inside, sat down and written right then about the radical absence of anxiety and anger that had plagued me for years.  But I didn’t, and life marches on to the drumbeat we execute and sometimes to the rhythm determined by someone else.

The truth is that since that day, I’ve had legions of opportunities to pick up that same anger and anxiety I threw off at my mailbox, and resume living  life according to an old script. When circumstances have  dictated feelings of hopelessness and deep disappointment, I’ve had to make a choice.  Not a choice to gut it out, not the same sort of wrestling I’d been doing for years but a choice to simply remember.  To take myself back to the side of the road where the most  sacred peace washed over me in a forever sort of way.  Because while there have been beautiful moments with my family, and the most lovely Christmas I can remember, there have also been  bolts of lightening  that lit up my world in  abrupt and frightening ways, but let me tell you what I believe.

I believe that when we choose to look our Creator in the eye, dare to wrestle with the flesh he formed around us, and learn to know ourselves as we learn to know him, it’s then, that radical and abiding peace  will cover our lives and begin to make us invisible to the enemy of our souls.

I believe then, that Joy chooses us.

 

When I realized the amount of Joy, both my friends and the state of being, that have been closing in on me for years, I knew that I had to share this story.  I’d love to chat with you in the comments.  Is there anything you want to talk about?  Stories you’d like to share about a time when Joy chose you?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the story of a sister named Joy

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On May 5, 2000, a Friday, I walked out of my full-time job as a hair designer with a plan in place. And this is where it Always goes wrong.  

I’d attend the baby shower of my cousin the following day and return for work on Tuesday. My own baby would be born in the next two weeks after which I’d take a reasonable six to 10 weeks off, figure out childcare and return to work full-time.

Hell-bent on creating a place for myself in my hometown, I’d be successful wife, mother, and future business owner, get back behind my chair as soon as possible and life was going to take on the fullness, the contentment that I’d always dreamed it would.  Someday.

Do you know the Someday I’m talking about?

Someday when I finished college.

Someday  a few weeks after my final semester when I’d be married.

Someday  when I finally figured out what kind of work I wanted to pursue after my Elementary Ed Degree.

Someday  when I finished Beauty College in six months instead of 10.

Someday  when my salon appointment book was scheduled six weeks in advance.

Someday when I got pregnant.

Someday  when I got pregnant again and had a baby to show for it this time.

Someday  when that baby was born.  And it was about then that the shit hit the fan.

I remember looking at him and wondering why I didn’t feel all the stuff they told me I would.  They told me I’d want to jump in front of a truck for him.  And I didn’t.  They told me I would figure it out.  And I was sure that figuring it out didn’t mean wondering why they were insisting I take him home.

There’s a  quote by someone who was famous for something, only I can’t remember who or what.    She said the decision to have a child was like  forever walking around with your heart stuck to your arm, or outside your body, or something slightly more poetic than that.

When my son was born, though,  I didn’t have that epiphany or magical transformation.  I didn’t look at him and feel a fierce protection.  My heart did not feel like it was hanging outside my chest for the intense love injected upon his arrival.  Instead, I was finally beginning to realize that I was disconnected from my heart.  It would be years before I understood why and what to do about it.

I felt like I’d exited my body  and was watching a scared little girl take her cues from everyone else in the room.  She was going through the motions but not healthy enough to be truly emotionally present for any of it.

Looking back, I realize, it was like I had just been born myself.  I felt like a newborn, just five seconds older, or younger, than my baby, and not in a boy do I feel like a new person, motherhood rocks, this being a mother, being born again, is one of the best thing that’s happened to me.  

Nope.  It was a little more like, these lights are blinding me, turn down the heat  it’s 60 degrees outside, I might suffocate. If I could , I’d roll into the fetal position,  let them know I’m not ok, but people keep coming in to look and  they keep handing me this wailing 8 lb floppy kid who wants to bite me all the time, why isn’t anyone asking me if I’m ok.  I can’t figure this out, I need to sleep, I am not ok, can these people just go home now.  At the time, I didn’t know myself enough to express these things, but I’d love to go back and fiercely protect my new-mama self that day.

Forty-eight hours later, the nurse brought a fruit and cheese plate for dinner before giving me the boot.  Time to go home, you’ll figure this out.   If there’s anything I’ve done often in life, it was figure it out.  

I was going to return to work full-time after a few weeks off.  You know,  do and be it all.  In the fall though, I decided only to go back part-time.  Motherhood wasn’t going the way I’d imagined but something in me knew that I’d find missing pieces of myself as I learned how to love my children.

It’s important for me to explain how I entered motherhood for you to understand how Joy  has impacted my life.  How she unexpectedly rolled in in the most unassuming manner and did so with no agenda.   How in one simple connection she would add a level of safety to my world  that I didn’t know I was missing.

Joy worked with my husband and we sat together one year at a Christmas party but other than that, I didn’t know her very well.  I’d always get senses about people though, to a degree that can be overwhelming, but I felt completely comfortable with leaving my son with her.  When my husband talked to her about babysitting, she told him she’d been hoping he’d ask.

Bob Goff wrote a book called Love Does.  The idea  is that you can intend to love all you want.  You can feel an overwhelming intensity of love for another person, but until you actually do something, they can’t experience or feel your love.  Love does something and so did Joy. Joy’s a giver, at times to her own detriment, but she never, ever attached strings to her gifts.

At a time in my life when I needed a mother, a sister, and a friend, Joy slowly walked in and became all three    While I’ve been thankful for her from the first day, it’s only recently that I’ve been able to fully appreciate just how much she’s given me..

Joy showed up at my door every Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon to take a crying, hungry baby from my arms. Sometimes she brought a coke.

Joy washed my sink full of dirty dishes.

Joy played outside with my baby.

Joy bought a car seat so she could take him places.

Joy brought my him to the hospital when my daughter was born.

Joy said Sure and kept coming when there were two babies.

Joy called them her babies.

Joy took pictures of my kids and printed doubles for me.   Joy came at 4 am to stay with my son when my daughter had emergency surgery.

Joy said, are you kidding, when I asked if she’d be willing to add a third Holder baby to her list of loves.

Joy’s the one who knows where to find beaters for the mixer and how to run my washer.  She steps in and does what needs to be done so quietly, you can easily miss it but do not misunderstand me, she can be fierce when people cross those she loves.

Joy loves with every last ounce of joyness possible, always with a smile and always without expectation.  There have been so many times when I have not loved and appreciated her in return as I should.

I believe Joy’s connection in our lives is a Divine one.  God knew how hard the road was going to be for me.   He knew that for a very long time, I would crawl more than I walked, and he sent someone to crawl with me.

God has a book for each one of us.  He understands our personalities and knows his hopes and dreams for our lives.  It’s our job to learn to listen though, to follow the path set in front of us and walk through the doors we come upon, even if their stuck shut.  Joy has traveled this journey with me.  Her book has my name in it, and my book has hers.

This has been the story of a sister named Joy.  One for which I am deeply, profoundly, thankful.  Love you Joy!

 

I’m having fun sharing my Joy stories with you.  Next week, I’ll wrap up my Joystories with the December day that Joy choose me.

 

It’s one of  the best things ever when I get a little message in my inbox telling me someone  has chosen to be added to my email list!  If you don’t receive these posts regularly, consider joining the list?  Click the email icon below.  Thanks so much!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Story of a Friend Named Joy

From my earliest memories, Joy has been a part of my life.  We were born 9 months apart and undoubtedly had our first meeting under the tender care of  Mrs. Osborn, a five foot ball of love with saggy, brown stockings and white hair.  She wore a pale green smock to protect her Sunday best from the projectile vomit of infants and I have nothing but the best memories of her.

Joy and I were together on Sundays from nine to twelve and again from six to seven-thirty and on Wednesday nights during prayer meeting  until we were 5  when we timidly walked into Mrs. Butcher’s cheerful Kindergarten.

We have shared memories of first grade reading groups with Miss Ring and the second grade detective work of  Miss Keffer, correctly identifying Brice Halbaker’s farm boots as the source of an eye watering odor. Miss Roe was more stringent and once made me stay in for recess because I cut my cloud out of blue construction paper instead of white.  The  very best thing about  her though was her signature sneeze.  A giant Achoo, followed by a series of three mini sneezes,  choo, choo, choo.  Joy definitely had the advantage in fourth grade because our teacher was her aunt.  Miss Denham read to us every day from a giant rocker and called us to attention rephrasing Shakespeare.  Ladies and Gentleman, Lend me Your Ears.

At six foot six, we were slightly intimidated by our first male teacher  but ended up having  a blast that year.  Mr. Arthur is the principal in our primary school and I love to remind him we played Heads Up Seven Up every afternoon waiting for the bell to ring.  Mr. Lago’s volatile anger spurred by David Parr’s daily physical outbursts made us feel as though we were in a reform school for wayward sixth graders but we must have loved the guy because one of our parents made him a gorgeous oak podium and we presented it to him with a plaque that said 1981-1982.

Joy and I were together almost every day and there’s no way I could separate her from my childhood.  Cheerleading spats, slamming locker doors, that semester we were supposed to be learning new instruments but stuffed our mouths with Reeses and Ruffles instead. We have entertaining middle school memories for miles but I think it was in those years that our love/hate relationship began.  There was a shortage of boys, which didn’t help matters, and we were, according to one of our Sunday school teachers, the most boy-crazy group she had ever seen!     Our class had 12 students and the majority of us were together six days a week so we definitely got on each others very last nerve.

I still have a scrap of paper that once hung in my room boasting I love God and Joy  but I will never forget, after one particularly catty fight, my mother said Marcy, you will always have a Joy in your life. She was trying to tell me that there would always be challenging relationships to work through, but I’d like to think she was proclaiming some sort of blessing as well.

In 1985, my life would take a drastic turn when my parents  left the bubbled enclave of my childhood church, my only social structure apart from my neighborhood, and started a new church with a group of five or six other families, none with children even close to my age.  My parents pulled me out of my school on a Monday and I never went back.

It was the first real conflict I had encountered in my life and if I attempted to climb Mt. Everest tomorrow, I would be more prepared than I was then to enter the public school system the following fall.  The complete social structure of my life including every childhood friend except my neighbor, was ripped from my life overnight.  I’m still uncovering deep ways this impacted the foundation of my life and continually understand  more as I watch my children develop socially.

Joy was gone overnight.  And my Joy, the Joy that had accompanied me every day  to that point, was extinguished from my life.

My friend walked back into my life not quite ten years ago, but Joy, the sense of being I’ve been slow to allow, has presented herself in ways I can no longer ignore. Joy can be defined according to the dictionary or according to scripture but in my own life, I consider Joy to be an unrehearsed, instinctive state filled with satisfaction and hope unassociated to position, lifestyle, resources, or prosperity.

I said last week that I chose Joy because Joy chose me but really, I think it’s less of a choice we make and more of an atmosphere we live in, a peace.  We can  choose peace when it’s related to conflict with another person but I don’t know that we can change the climate around us to a peaceful one just by deciding that we choose it.

Joy is the opposite of Anxiety.  

  • Anxiety’s first response is, Fear.  Joy’s first response is Trust.
  • Anxiety screams What If.  Joy whispers What Next.
  • Anxiety collapses your chest. Joy fills your lungs.
  • Anxiety slams the door.  Joy throws back the sashes, opens the windows, and lays out a welcome mat.  

If you’re feeling anxiety today, can I just say I get it!  When anxiety slams the door in your face, it feels like the truth.  You’ve never, you always, you won’t, you can’t, how could you.  It also seems like that heavy feeling sitting on your chest or wrapped around your neck will never go away.  Can I tell you something?  It’s not true.  I’ve hardly started to tell my story here but please believe me when I say, if I have begun to live in an atmosphere of peace, you can too.

Anxiety is a liar, but Joy?  She wants to be a friend for life.

 

Join for the next few weeks as I share about my Journey to Joy?  Simply sort through the jumbled mess of icons at the bottom this post and click to enter your email address.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The only thing you need in 2017

We’re 84 hours, three practices, two games, and one grocery trip in.  Hello 2017, so far I’ve been pretty happy to meet you.

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I’m a little surprised, but I haven’t had a moment yet.

You know the one I’m talking about right?

The one where  a small person needs a highly specified version of a black t-shirt?  This child then yanks every other black t-shirt from the clean holding pile on the top shelf to the dirty dump pile on the floor, but mom I’ve looked everywhere and I can’t find it, so you stick your head in the top loader and fillet a wad of wet black shirts, none of them with the right letters, only to stick your hand in the front loader, wishing you’d grabbed  an oven mitt, coming up empty again make your way to a tall basket boasting a stench that would put a Continental Soldier on the first ship back to Great Britain and at that exact moment, you learn a miracle unlike any other has taken place in the bedroom of this very child.

What was lost has been found.

What was wrong has been made right.

What was dead now has life.

The child has found his crumpled-up, inside-out shirt on the floor right underneath yesterday’s Reese wrapper and it wasn’t even under there the first time I looked, I promise!

!!Listen!!  I haven’t had this kind of a moment all year.

What I have had is a couple of slower days to try ’17 on for size and I think she’s gonna fit.

The last few years have felt a little like my pinky toe is roasting on a spit over an open flame.

I mean one can function with a burned pinky toe if one thinks about it.

You simply make sure the toe is not actively on fire, slap some gauze around the seared flesh, dig up some sort of a clunky boot to give it  room to swell and keep moving.  Honestly, you can get along quite well even if your toe is roasted daily,  it is kind of a hassle though to lug around a big boot  and changing the dressing several times a day can be exhausting. While I’ve broken my little piggy  so often I experience occasional electrical jolts that make him go wee, wee, wee, he’s never been burned to my knowledge.

Imagine what it would feel like, though, to nurse a raw toe day and night.  It’s  similar to the kind of simmering that’s gone on in my soul.  The last couple of days though, I’ve taken a personal inventory of sorts and have been surprised to find that my appendages are not on fire and not even a one is overly pink.

Now maybe this is because it’s only January 4, a Wednesday, and no one was early or late to school today.  Maybe it’s because I chose to say  no to a fast holiday season.  Maybe it’s just because I’m not exhausted from lining a landfill with diapers like I was 8 years ago, or maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last few years working through some deep personal healing and I can finally see through to the other side.

The more I learn about myself, the way God shaped my heart and wired my brain, the way he made my hands to create and my soul to feel things so deeply I often feel paralyzed, I’m realizing that there is so much I haven’t understood about the human experience.

I believe that we can live out of our spirituality and  faith to an extent that hijacks our humanity.  What I mean is that when the answer to every  hurt and every question is God, sometimes we can forget that he created us to take part in the story that he’s written on our hearts.  Your experience may be different, but it’s not hard for me to believe that God is in control of everything, what’s hard for me is to believe is that he has given a good portion of control to me as well.  Not so I can run my life off a cliff, hoping that a holy parachute catches me on the way down but so I can work in tandem with him as I live and move and have my being.

Those are the type of thoughts I’ve been sorting through for the last few years.

When I first began to share my writing, I joined some other writers in posting for an entire month and titled the series 31 Days of Growing Up.  Three years later I’m beginning to feel as though I’ve fully transitioned to my big-girl panties.  Last weekend in a group thread, I mentioned to a friend who’s  working through some rough issues that at this rate, we’ll be ready for granny-panties soon.

I think what I’ve learned most over the last three years is that God has given me the ability to stand back and begin to validate some of the harder stories in my life in much the same way he’s been validating them all along.  The result is that I’m more confident and resilient than  ever  because he’s allowed me to see my life truthfully, just as he sees it.

I’ve screwed some relationships up and I’ve been very successful in others.  I’ve made some right choices and  made some not-so-hot choices, right.  Usually, when it’s all over but the shoutin’, I listen for the feel of his feathered voice fanning my soul but sometimes, I’ve looked him straight in the eye like a child catching the eye of her mama while she thump, thump, thumps the forbidden object under her fingertips.  Every choices carries consequences that carry weight but the great thing about choosing to trust God is that he shoulders the heavy lifting even when we picked out the largest log in the forest.

It’s not that the hard things in my life have disappeared.  They haven’t.  In fact, 2017 could end up being harder than the last three combined, none of us know. But in my messy little life with a capital M, here’s what’s happened.  Joy.

Joy has happened.

Specifically, because I’ve chosen Joy,  Joy has chosen me.

You can choose it too if you want, right this minute.  You don’t need special tools or a black bottom line.  You might be sleeping  on your mama’s sofa or dining in DC.  You could be heading to prison next week (and plenty of us live in prisons of our own making) but you can choose Joy now. Next week, I’ll tell you more about how I made my decision.    Join me next Thursday  for a story of Joy.

 

You won’t want to miss the Joy Stories coming in the next few weeks. I’ll make sure they float right into your inbox if you…..

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How to know if you’re cursing yourself

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and walked away a completely different person?

Yesterday, a friend and I shared some salty tears via Verizon.  One of us needed it pretty badly.  One of us needed to be reminded of her purpose.  One of us got clotheslined this week (again) and one of us can’t ever seem to  remember that silence is her Kryptonite.

That would be me.

Kathleen and I have spent years learning how to use fewer words to communicate more.  Our babies were babies when we began talking regularly.  She’s  always lived an hour away, so the amount of time we’ve spent face to face over the last 15 years  has consisted mostly of drive-bys to trade maternity clothes and all sizes of jerseys, jackets, and cleats. She went back to work several years ago and I’ve expanded my studio hours so between businesses and running our children to all manner of child-like activities, our talks are fewer and further between.

I won’t lie, its not my favorite. I can be an umbilical cord sort of friend though so it’s good for me to learn to say truer things with fewer words. These days when we talk, every word carries weight and yesterday we covered big successes (she’s in line for a promotion very soon and I’m so proud of her), some sad situations, and then we prayed.  Honestly, I wanted her to pray and I planned to follow with a  faint “what she said” and call it church.  Something deep within me though, the shadow of hope that sits in my gut maybe, began pushing upward.  It took work and belief and real vulnerability to sit with my friend in complete brokenness before God and offer the sacrifice of my smothered, breathy words.

Powerful shifts in the atmosphere happen when we pray with friends who share our theology of the Holy Spirit.  Let me say that again.

Powerful shifts in the atmosphere happen when we pray with friends who share our theology of the Holy Spirit

So, when the words made it to my mouth in halted, whispered phrases, it wasn’t long before I could think clearly again.  Within a few minutes, while reminding God who he is and what he does, I started to remember who I am and who he created me to be.

One of the reasons I love Kath is because she reminds me who I am by linking arms with me instead of pointing fingers or pulling on my hands.   Though she’s wired to be an encourager she doesn’t shirk away from pain.

Sometimes, I believe pit-of-hell lies that undermine my calling and I don’t even realize it’s happening.  In these moments, I sell short belief in my Destiny and therefore, my belief in God. She lives out of her own Destiny though and when I simply cannot take one more step or say one more word, she knows how to lean into my pain in a way that propels me forward. It’s as if we’re standing back to back while she gently throws the weight of her belief against  my paralytic self.  She’s wired with the ability to move people forward while their feet are planted in intricately, etched concrete.  

No thank you, I’m not going any further, I’ve reached the end of the road and shall stay here.  Just throw me a high pile blanket, some markers to color the concrete and I’ll be fine.  No worries, I’ll bathe in my tears, I’ve heard saltwater is good for the skin.  

When the amens had been said, I had already begun to feel peaceful rush that follows invisible spiritual work.  The Holy Spirit does the heavy lifting, but something in the way this  trust-walk works must begin with me and my big mouth.  When I chose to speak life instead of curses, when I chose to believe with my mouth true things about the God and Father of my soul, magic began to happen.

I felt better.

I saw clearer.

The world was lighter.

And I began to remember,  I was made for this life I’m living.   Purpose is discovered as a result  of acting as if the bible is true.   Whether we feel our purpose, see our purpose, or can define our purpose right away, it doesn’t matter.  What matters is that when we believe what God says in the bible.  What matters is that we speak it with our mouth.  Because when our lives don’t go the way we thought they would, speaking truth with our mouths restores goodness and purpose and hope.  And magic happens, soul renewal right here in The Land of the Living.  

One of the places I find most joy is connecting with other women, listening for ragged edges of brokenness they’re encountering  and then feeling the brush with God that comes when we share our hardest stories.  That might sound like some kind of twisted way to find joy, but if you’ve experienced it,  you’re nodding your head right now because you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Sharing with other people means opening my mouth and speaking, so when Kathleen Voxed me this short sentence just a few minutes after we got off the phone, words that had been lodged in my chest for days, began to break free.

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If Satan can keep you silent, he’s winning.

I’m motivated by winning.  It’s just true.  Sometimes it can be destructive to my relationships but when it comes to throwing down with evil?  I’m all over it!!  These words instantly became my battle cry as the holy spirit blew through my soul and filled up my lungs.  Bring it baby, mama got things to say today and she gonna use you to do it.  

The story isn’t quite over and someday I’ll tell you what happened a few hours later.  But even though I don’t know exactly what’s next  in my pursuit to use my gifts, you can bet  in a couple of weeks, the same struggle with silence will resurface.  When it happens I will remind God of who he is, and be reminded of who I am and you may here me shout from over here on Carmelita Blvd.

 

Lord, I will give thanks to you with all my heart.
I will tell about all the wonderful things you have done.                                                 

                                                                           Psalm 9:1

 

If you haven’t met my friend Kathleen, would you pop on over to her place and say hello?  You can also find her over here on the FB.  Believe me, you want to know this one!  She’s a wealth of information about all things oily and has been on a Young Living journey for much more than a decade.  I’m not gonna lie, I used to think she was sniffing too much of the stuff.  But then, life and kids and injuries and an insurance crisis and THEN she gave me an oil, White Angelica, to help with my mood.  As  I began to use it religiously, a sort of  Land of the Living self-care began to intersect with spiritual mercies that are new every single morning I have a long way to go on my wellness journey, but I can say without one hesitation that using oils regularly is helping to repair broken places in my soul, rewire my thinking and provide my family with alternative health treatments.

I’m shamelessly trying to help Kathleen with her promotion today.  She has until midnight to meet her goal. Here are a couple of links if you’d like to check them out.

Link to order a starter kit. ***the best of oily introductions

Link to tell you all about White Angelica.  If you have questions, comment below and I’ll try to answer them.

Link to learn more about how essential oils work.

Now Just a couple of more fun things.  If you’re interested in learning more about discovering your God-Given Destiny.  Check out Dave Rod from Grace Church 146th in  the video here.  Or here.  Or here.  

 

When being in love is hard

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I can’t tell you who she was, I don’t remember her name or her face or anything about her.  We could have been in the salon washing hair side by side or studying in the library at college.  She might have been a friend, though given my shortage in those days, I doubt it.  Maybe she spoke from behind the curved glass framed by the TV we bought at H.H. Gregg early in our marriage.  In the end, it doesn’t really matter who she was.

I heard her talk for a few minutes about her faith, about being in love with Jesus and while I understood the words she spoke, the concept seemed almost incestuous to me.  “In love with Jesus,” my stomach churned at the thought.   If I believed what I claimed, I knew it was something I should feel at least primitively but I remember being repelled at the thought and then angry.  This woman, whoever she was, had the audacity to talk about the God, the Creator of heaven and earth in a way so intimate, I recoiled at the thought.

This morning, I finished a book, Choose and Choose Again, by Kevin Butcher.  In it, Kevin tells stories, incredible testimonies about how God’s Love can transform our lives and compel us to follow him.  Whether you grew up surround by folks of faith or not, likely you’re familiar with the concept, but real life application can be complicated.

Every day, we have a choice to believe God loves us.  I believe each of our daily lives, how we interact with our families, the activities we engage in, even the way we manage our finances reflect that choice.

It sounds easy enough doesn’t it?

Not so long ago,  I had painful, white-knuckle faith.  Though I would have told you otherwise, my choices and emotional responses to life reflected a disbelief in the goodness of God.  Often, I felt stuck or worse, trapped by my circumstances.   I compensated by controlling what I could, well-behaved children, a clean home, meeting all the needs, of everyone, that crossed my path, forever and ever, til death do us part, or I track you down in eternity, amen.

For the most part, I worked my faith by encouraging other women.  IRemembering birthdays and anniversaries of loss, phone calls and lunches, and generally working to be what everyone around me needed, what I was really trying to do was prove my worth to God and the entire free world.   I’d been told that if they saw Jesus in me, they’d be compelled to want more of what I had.  Here’s the thing though, while Jesus was in me,  nothing I possessed on the inside or was attempting to live out in my daily life, felt easy or grace-filled or full of relief as a result of knowing Jesus.  I can say with certainty that no one would want the kind of faith I possessed at that time.

When I began to process challenging experiences in my life, my emotional resources were quickly depleted and I was unable to hold onto my faith quite so tightly.  It was during this time, that I began to realize I desired a deeper faith and that my understanding of Jesus was basically intellectual.

My white-knuckled faith was keeping me disconnected from my heart, the place where Jesus wanted me to be most alive.    I didn’t recognize my heart, I wondered why other people felt things I didn’t seem to feel, much less understand.   Only my closest friends knew I was kind, but many others  experienced the freeze from my frozen, protective shell, birthed out of a disconnection between what I believed and how I felt.

In 1998, I experienced a devastating miscarriage which marked the beginning of the end of  my “work it Marcy” faith.  Though I understood none of this at the time, that year, I began the journey to connect with my heart.

Excavating the heart can be some scary business.  It’s mysterious.  Sometimes she’s been buried so deep and hidden so carefully we can only recognize her physical nudges.  She causes our hearts to race or  and our thoughts to circle,  sometimes she gives us pictures of her isolation through our dreams.  Maybe she pricks our eyes unexpectedly with undefined tears.  No matter how she speaks to us we can be certain of one thing.  We have a choice to let her surface and begin sorting through her beautiful, complex menagerie or we can wipe the evidence of her away as we silence her opportunity to teach us hope and joy, often through the center of very broken places.  While we have a choice to begin letting her have a voice or not, we muddle God’s redemptive story within us when we side-step our brokenness.  The result is white-knuckle faith.

If I would have read Kevin’s book in 1998 I would have teared up through some of the heartbreaking stories he tells but told you that the only brokenness I’d experienced was the loss of my first child.  I would have told you that any pain I might be experiencing was that of my own doing.  I’d have spoken of stubbornness and unforgiveness in some difficult relationships and then I would have gone on to tell you there was nothing really hard about my childhood, I didn’t have one of those sad stories where Jesus heroed in and rescued me.  You would have heard me say “I only need to…..If I would just…….I know that if I…..” and any number of things that we ‘good’ christian girls say.  You would have heard me accept responsibility for every challenging aspect of my marriage and my work and with each word you could have looked down at my hands and seen my knuckles becoming whiter.

In many ways, it’s easier to be responsible for our own faith, or at least it was for me.  It helped me make sense of him, feel like I had a handle on his choices.  After all, if I can blame my disappointment  or my “one thing” on myself, if I’m expected to hold up my end of the bargain, then it’s up to me to fix things.  Do the right thing, say the right thing, pack up and move to the right place, Then God will hold up his end of the bargain.  It keeps me powerful and God disposable.

If I’ve learned anything in the last decade, it’s that God is not who I thought he was. He’s more and he’s less, bigger and smaller, stronger and sweeter, faster and slower, in other words, he is to my right and my left, both above and below me, he hems me in behind and before, the darkness is not dark to him and the night is light as day. (My paraphrase Ps. 139)  It is for those things today that I am thankful.

 

P.S.  I can’t tell you how much i hope you run right over to Amazon and pick up Kevin’s book. Today it’s listed right around the bargain price of $8.00 and I popped in a link at the bottom.  Kevin is a phenomenal story teller and if you ever have the opportunity to meet him?  Ask him about the time I was a baby and he threw me up in the air.  Let’s just say he was one tall teenager and neither the ceiling or my head fared too well.  Good memories, right there!

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https://www.amazon.com/Choose-Again-Brave-Returning-Gods/dp/1631465244

How to survive disappointment

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Writing is some lonely work. Lately, I’d rather clean wet dog food out of my turquoise Dyson than write. This could be because I’m in  a six-week writing class, to which I say bring on all the tasks I can’t force myself to do in my ‘real’ job.  Business card design, scrubbing a trashcan lined with bleachy foils and padded with six inches of hair,  prying hardened facial wax off from every surface in my studio with my pinky nail but do not, Do Not, force me to sit down on my new computer, bought for the purpose of writing in my writing class, and actually write.

A friend asked me this morning why I’m not writing and I’m ashamed to say I had some pretty lame answers mostly adding up  to I Don’t Know.  For the last couple of years I’ve been talking to a guy that I pay to help me keep my head on straight (if you don’t have one of those, I recommend you find one), he doesn’t accept the  answer  “I don’t know.’  “It’s lazy,” he says. “I don’t believe you, I think you do know.”  I give him money to frustrate me and help me unearth from deep within, my true beliefs, my core confessions, the things I tell myself in a steady stream of affirmation and degradation, more or less equal parts depending on the day.  The truth is that it sucks to wrestle with life and living and God.  No wait, that’s the politically correct, nice-girl, go-to answer, but it’s not necessarily the truth of what I feel.

The truth hiding behind my nice answer is that it sucks to not get what you desperately want.

Do you know the thing I’m talking about? That one last thing, if you could only clean up one teensy tiny little detail in your reality, one dream in your heart that still hasn’t found a home in the daylight. That thing that threatens to overshadow every other detail of your life.  That one.  It stinks not to get it, or rid yourself of it, or have it fixed, or even fix it yourself because not having to deal with that red-hot thing would make every other detail in your life, sunny and 65.

I have teenagers living in my house. Daily, they deal with answers they don’t like.  Boundaries they’d rather blow through.  In fact, yesterday it seemed as if one of them was willing to wire themselves to an electric fence, sacrificing their very life in attempt to make it to the other side of the lines I’d drawn.

It got ugly for a long bit. Hobby Lobby, Walgreens, the doctor, every mile in-between the tension was building and with each turn on the odometer, more opportunities were presented from this litigator.  They were waiting for me to step off my game and give them the argument they wanted.  This one has been a student of my weakness since their birth.

While the fury was still blazing in my van yesterday, I found myself identifying with the fuming kid in the passenger seat.

As a compliant child  growing up, the reason I didn’t break rules was because I was terrified of the consequences.  Early on, I found that my missteps resulted in swift and sometimes disproportionate reactions and the over correction isolated me.  It came with intense emotion and unintended separation.  The sad thing is that the desired outcome, character strength, backfired and resulted in shame.  I still dance with some of these same tendencies, but I’ve grown as a parent and more importantly, as a living breathing soul, a human being, so scenes with my kids mostly don’t trigger me like they used to.   But  I remembered what it feels like to be the chid.

When the worst of it was over, I sat in the car alone for a few minutes processing my own emotions.  I’m not gonna lie, when the kid told me I was “the worst most controlling mother ever” followed by a few direct accusations, shame threatened to creep back in.  Every day it’s a struggle to keep that emotion from paralyzing me but  I realized that I had remained calm, connected and unswayed during the entire scene.  Sadly, this hasn’t always been the case.

It’s a price we have to pay as parents, a denial to indulge our emotions.  We have to sacrifice our own childishness.  I’m the grown-up  and though I’m in control of many aspects of my life, I can identify with this kid, more than they have any idea.  I’m smacking up against a hard wall that I’d expected would be demolished by now.  It’s my one thing. and believe me, I’ve taken a jack hammer and tried to smash it, gathered grime under my fingernails as I clawed at it.  I’ve even whittled my own shiv and tried to tunnel my way through solid concrete one teaspoon of dust at a time.  I’ve begged and bargained thinking that one of these days, God would take care of it once and for all.   For as long as I can remember, I’ve expected a ‘save the day’ sort of moment.  Like Ronald Reagan, eyes burrowing into  the camera, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” I’ve been staring straight into the hole of heaven trying to work a deal.

In my twenties, I was sure there didn’t have to be a wall in my life.  I had decided that I’d do life right the first time.   What I learned was that doing it right the first time is a myth.  I used to believe that God had a ‘best’ for our lives. I don’t believe that any more.  I believe that we live in such a messed up world and we’re presented with hundreds of choices every day. God has a lot of things he says about how we should live but he also gives us opportunities with absolutely no right answer.  More, in fact, than I’d ever imagined.  As a result, I’ve realized that life is more about becoming truthful to who we’ve been created to be than it is about doing the right thing. We can do the right thing and not be completely ourselves but we cannot be completely ourselves and not do the right thing.

If I tried to do it right fresh into adulthood, I decided in my thirties I would simply fix everything that was wrong.  Rebuild what was broken.  Replace what didn’t function.  I restarted and redoubled and recounted and recalled and relayed.  All strategies and techniques I unearthed in order to keep my disappointing wall from becoming my future.

Then, I turned forty and you know what I found out?  Every single one of us have the same wall.  I call mine disappointment but you might call yours anxiety.  Mine is something I live with but yours might be something you live without.  Mine might be bigger than yours but maybe someday yours will get knocked down.  Maybe there’s a new wall behind it.  In fact, I think you can count on it.

I’ve put a fight in my forties, digging through another layer of unhealthy thinking and working hard to get to truthful layers of myself.  There’s a reason we’re told  it requires pain and suffering to work out our salvation. Choosing to think true thoughts can feel like a full-time job and living in a way that reflects the truth of my soul requires overtime.  Because as I’ve stood within the ugliest parts of myself and begun to do the hard work of digging out, I’ve realized that my life’s work is dismantling the wall within my own soul.  Just last week, I asked another friend just how holy  is a body supposed to become down here.  I was angry about my disappointment and what feels like a near-constant struggle to navigate around it.  As I was throwing the equivalent of a teenage tantrum, I heard God within myself…..

Holier than you were yesterday.

More broken than you were yesterday.

More healed than you were yesterday.

More loving than you were yesterday.

More forgiving than you were yesterday.

More honest than you were yesterday.

 

When Christmas isn’t what you’d hoped

Christmas is here. Today. Tomorrow.

I can’t seem to tuck away the dog-eared pages of my own story this year; smooth, crease and hide them back in Luke 5 or better, the obscurity of Jude while adoring the cherubic Christ and his romanticized parents. It’s just not happening. The pressure to create lovely and my ability to do it in years that looked harder than this one seems to snear at every effort from my heart and hand at settling into a season of hope and joy.   I’ve never wanted it to be over more than I do this year.

Wonder crept back into my life three years ago and I can remember where I was standing when I realized it wasn’t just for children. The weary world rejoiced and hope seemed to explode from every twinkling light on the tree.

Our new puppy chewed the power out of a strand or two of lights on the lower limbs of the tree and and the top of that tree shines on. I’ll do the same today, in fact I’m going to go light a candle and start singing with Bing right now.

I’ll frost a few remaining cookies with my kids and iron the wrinkles out of their good clothes. It’ll be fine. It always is. But I can’t pretend that it feels fine any more than we shouldn’t pretend that the stable was sanitized and romantic. It wasn’t.

Nichole Nordeman wrote a song that speaks to the futility I’ve felt in cleaning up my Christmas feelings this year. If the stable and the people in it were really real, I want to be too.

 

Nichole Nordeman Real