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.

if-satan-can-keep-you-silent

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.  

 

How to survive disappointment

Creative Commons

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.

 

Because I said so

In this space of electronic invisibility,  I’m looking for the place I fit in this world, maybe not so different than the refugees landing on all sorts of shores this week.

Learning to find a voice. My voice.

NT Wright refers to the voice within us that cries for justice and beauty, the echo of a voice.  He’s referring to the voice of our Creator resonating within each of us,

individually,

collectively,

simultaneously.

Sometimes, I still think the voice I hear is my own and try to silence it’s call to greatness. But the call to join with something bigger than myself, something higher, the call to greatness being birthed in me isn’t a vain desire to make a name for myself, though vanity whispers to us all.

This mandate with which we have all been created, to reflect the one who created us, when we follow the holy echo of that call, something beautiful and intricately unique happens inside us.

We discover our own voice.

It’s challenging for me to leave out qualifiers in my writing but  I’m learning.

I remember a time in the middle of my fourth decade.  My children were small and I was working out by process of elimination, what kind of parent I wanted to become. At the same time, my paradigm of faith was shifting and every last plank in the floorboard of my relationships had started to warp around the edges.

In those exhausting lonely days, there wasn’t much of anything I knew for sure.

I believed God was interested in every area of my life and loved me in  a way I couldn’t begin to feel yet; I also believed, knew actually, that my children needed so much more than I was equipped to give them.

The majority of statements I made in those days were cushioned with qualifiers.

I don’t really know but…..

I think…..or it seems to me…….

I wonder if you might ever consider…..

It’s only my opinion…..

To complicate that mess more was the fact that I was sure I had the answer to any question asked in the course of ever.

(Interestingly enough, at this same time, I was working hard to please and placate people for whom I would never be enough and ignoring relationships with the ones for whom I am everything at this point, my children.)

If you happened to be one of those who listened to my rambling  nonsense please accept my deepest apology for nothing specifically and everything in general.  I wanted you to think I knew it all but was insecure enough to think that who you were, what you were created to do and be in this life posed a direct threat to who I was. As if of our existences were mutually exclusive.

I didn’t know it yet, but  I was qualifying my  existence to my own self.  I desperately wanted my outside ‘knows’ to match up with the ancient echo in my soul and I didn’t understand yet that the eternity set in my heart could never be explained by what I knew, or what I could point to, or what I could read, or what I could convince you of.

And also?   I wanted you to nod your head and tell me…

Yes, I know.

Yes, I understand you.

Yes I see you.

Yes, you are something, someone unique and you have your very own voice.  

When I hear hashtags of  qualifiers today, I recognize my thirty-something self and feel so much compassion for both the person I’m speaking with and that poor girl inside me who was such a mess. On my better days, I practice showing them with the compassion that I wish I’d had for my own self back then.

As I learn  to say big-girl words with no qualifiers here, with you, I’m feeling stronger and safer.  I’m finding new confidence in understanding Truth both inside myself and in the world simply because I said so.

Maybe you are too.

When you’re ready to give up, do this first.

My sink needed caution tape.  There was a lasagna pan filled with cold water, a few rogue noodles floating, one corner black from a re-warm.

sponges and sticking to it

Hardcore life before 8 a.m. for sure, but last night we were determined to make progress on a puzzle manufactured by sadists, so the pan spent a dark, wet night in the sink.

The  Kitchen Fairy skipped our house (something about working conditions) so I scrubbed the cold, slimy mess while I talked myself though.

Fire up the hot water,  we can melt it off.  Hot water negative,  noodles holding on for dear life.

Switch to scrapers.  But the gunk left on the end of the dish scrubber!!

Better gunk on hard plastic than grease filling up the sponge.  I think I’ll let it soak a while longer, finish after I pay the bills.  

You’re almost done now, keep moving. Shower door tracks win hands down over gross pans.

But you’re almost  D.O.N.E!  I can’t do this anymore, too.much.blackened.noodle.slime.

Don’t Stop Now, you can handle this!  I just want it clean.

Switch to manual sponges.  But they’re gross!!!!

Target is locked and loaded, steady now, you’re almost done. Switching to manual spongeesssss.

There’s something about dirty pans and slimy showers that bring out the quitter in me.  You’d think that  I would have learned by now to flip the autopilot switch and just do the junk of life without a whole lot of fuss but for whatever reason, I don’t.

I listen to the whiny baby inside my head  far too long before I actually get down to it and do the gross work.

Really, for the amount of time I whine in my head about  something, I could have finished it and three more disgusting jobs.  I mentally quit before I even start and  have to put all my energy into self-talk just to break even.

It’s one of the things I’m constantly working on.  When it comes to toughing out the rough things in life, finances, relationships, even sometimes faith, I’m usually committed but not before I’ve thrown a fit-fest sure to out-fit the most expressive three year old.

There are relationships that are difficult for me right now, a whole group of them.

I’ve been putting some healthier ways of relating into practice over the last couple of years but there’s some baked-on junk still sticking to the sides and I’m over it.  It’s taken a lot of strategic work to remove bad habits I developed mostly because my relationships were rooted in different kinds of fear.   But finally, I hope, the majority of my thinking and relating is more healthy than not and so it doesn’t surprise me that I’m have to work a little harder to keep myself motivated these days.

I think that’s how the disciples felt in Luke 5.  They’d been fishing all night with nothing but grimy gunk caught in their nets and they were over it.  Hungry.  Ready to hang up their nets and order take-out.  Their feet were cold, hands were dirty and stomachs were growling and I’m quite certain they were on each other’s last nerve.  The lasagna pan had more baked-on crud than they could handle and the thought of switching to sponges was just too much. They were ready to call it a night,  go home.

And then Jesus.

They dropped their nets one more time at his command.  I imagine a collective eye-roll as it sunk.

Their job was simply to do what he said, even if it was something they’d done a hundred times before.  It wasn’t like he gave them a new idea, he just simply added his authority to their process.  If they would’ve quit , they would have missed out on a miracle that would fuel their faith for the rest of their lives.

I need that authority and that kind of power to sludge through right now, and I’m sure you do too.

Whatever you’ve got going on today, and however sick you are of dealing with a mess that just won’t seem to come clean, stick with the honest work believing that at some point, Jesus will add his power to it. When we finally come to the end of ourselves….again, what happens next can be powerful.

The list of not-quite-finished in my life is long, but I’m switching to sponges.

Orange Jumpsuits, Low Rumbles, and Momentum: What to do when the World is Breaking

 

imageThis is the day.

I can feel something beginning to rise up but I don’t know what to call it yet.

We live on a busy road and occasionally some kid will drive by with a killer stereo or maybe it’s a mom grooving 80’s style to Taylor or Bruno.  I would have no knowledge of such behavior.

This morning,  I could feel the bass from the back of the house, a shaking that rumbled my stomach but not my toes.  The sound was so powerful it skipped over every visible part of my body and jumped inside, wrapped itself around my stomach and squeezed.

The feeling I have inside of me, whatever it’s called, is like that bass.  It’s coming from a place so low, so deep  that  it hasn’t crossed the sound barrier.  It’s more like a tension or an anticipation.

I’m cautiously excited in a frightened way. I throw around the word awesome all day long but maybe this feeling is what the word really means.  Maybe this is awe.

In the moment last night between my last thought and first dream ,  Psalm 46 wrapped around my sleep.

Nations are in an uproar, kingdoms fall,  he lifts his voice and the earth melts.  (melts!)……. Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted in all the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth.

That chapter has been a long-time favorite but I realized, just today,  that  I’ve always pictured myself on some other planet with an aerial, telescopic view of the nations when they’re up-roaring and the kingdoms when they’re falling.

Maybe it’s because I’ve thought of them as bible stories in bible times.  I’ve had some real-life raging in my own back yard, some crumbling that I didn’t anticipate and have received real comfort from that passage but even then, in my mind I was far removed from the blood and gore of the chaos. Safe.  Extracted from the violence  as I cheered on a winning God, who told me to sit tight.

And then there’s today.

I’m right here in right-now times, where the bloodshed is across the ocean and yet I hear it beginning to trickle a path to my patio door.  There are times  when it seems I’m  inside the crumbling kingdom walls, blood around my feet.

Images play on a screen 12 inches from my face while words words scroll along the bottom.  I read them with pause giving consideration to sources, motives, ideologies.

Colors blaze in my mind.   Orange jumpsuits, black masks, white explosions, and the turquoise coat on a blond child.

Just last night, there was a van, a violin, and the most beautiful daughter. Her view was blocked by a yellow jeep and a colorless car sped by as I heard my own gray gasp.  I watched a nation, my very own kingdom, stumble backward just in time.  She went on in alone and shaken while I sat quickly gathering images of what could have been before they  surrounded and took me captive.

I’d felt the need that very morning to pray protection for my people. It was an urge so specific that even my skin chilled to attention.

Overseas it’s  kingdoms.

Here at home it’s a nation.

Behind my van it was my whole world.

All of these, rumbling as the pounding within me grows strong.and begins to rise out of a quiet place of peace.

I’ve been in the anxious kind of rumble before.   The kind  birthed from fear that moves quickly to indignation and sometimes anger as I try to protect the people I love. The kind that makes me do crazy things and run my mouth from morning til night in a wild, but futile, attempt to convince everyone I’m in control when really I couldn’t sit still and be quiet for one minute even if I tried.

This is different.

This is a holy rumbling.

A reverberating stillness with momentum.

A powerful silence bellowing authority.

The understanding that a Force beyond our control is running this show.  Our job is to do the next thing, the daily thing, the boring thing and the hard thing while we wait with anticipation and in belief of the goodness and sovereignty of the Force.

I don’t know what’s next.  There are dangers seen and unseen everywhere and then there’s the pain, Dave Rod calls it a low-grade fever of sadness. We make choices every day to silence the hard places in our hearts, the stories that bring us pain or to welcome them in anticipation of the day they will be no more.   While we work deliberately to live out of the reality of the places that hurt within us, we can

Sit ready.

Love fully.

Offer  thanks.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for what’s next!

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice,the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields[d] with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

This one trait will make you the very best kind of friend

upside down hearts

I met a new friend recently.  We planned to have coffee while I asked her a few questions within her expertise.  Usually she charges by the hour, but offered to meet me off the clock.

It was all business at first, like clicks of a keyboard, hands working together to type some sense into life.  I asked  questions about mothering and she answered with depth and understanding, the openness of one whose known some pain in life.

I knew we’d share a little bit based on the types of questions I had for her, but what happened next was a rare shift in our conversation, a gift that I will remember for a long time.

We began sharing more personally about some of the hard situations in our lives; painful stories of the barest stretches we’ve walked, while weaving in our stories of faith.   Before long, our standard Times New Roman  conversation  moved into  sweeping Lucinda calligraphy.

Though I’ve learned a lot about the safety of where to rest my heart recently, I still tilt heavy on the sharing spectrum which is a grown-up way of saying that sometimes I practically bleed-out all over people at some of the most inappropriate times.

It’s really just a scavenge to find similar life form. I can stay on the slick surface with the best of ’em, making halted, chippery conversations about schedules and, well, mostly schedules but I prefer to cut right through the thin flakes of fine, busy, tired and move on to places with meaning.

Mostly, it’s a problem with my own expectations. Making a deliberate choice to stay in touch with all my junk  is something I can’t not do.  (I mean I have to do this or my brain will implode).  Many people that I meet  aren’t comfortable discussing the way life bruises us, or maybe they just don’t care to  discuss those  with me.  Quite possibly, we’re just not meant to share on that deep of a level.  In any case, most of the time I feel like I’m speaking Swahili while everyone else is speaking the King’s English and this new friend spoke fluent Swahili.

All of these things I’ve been learning about recently,  made this unexpected connection shortly after Christmas one of the better gifts I received this year.

Over four glorious hours (I know, Four!) and with not one mention of the word busy, the letters of our hearts began to loop long and broad, flourishes of

loving,

losing,

bending,

believing.

Warm waves of understanding made their way down our cheeks as we shared some of the deepest parts of our stories.  She underlined entire segments of my soul with compassion and we both breathed deeply of grace.

Time breathed deeply as we talked about how real life turned out so much different than we thought….  She let me hold some of her broken pieces for a few moments and then she held mine.

I think the most beautiful thing was that she didn’t try to fix my ragged edges, put them back together for the sake of what was expected in that sort of meeting.

Because of the pain that she’d walked through, that she literally walks through each day, she wasn’t afraid of the edges of my mothering or the ridges in my marriage. My disappointments weren’t too heavy for her and never once did I  sense that she thought I might be inadequate or need to get myself together. She offered me a safe place for a few hours on a Saturday morning and I hope I offered the same to her.

Smooth words curved in just the right place.  They swept strongly, giving courage because we shared a belief  in the value of the pages left out of our stories and  hope in the parts still unwritten.

And also, the shape of her heart?  It’s different, or maybe just situated differently.

Most hearts are puffy at the top.  They  just  don’t have room for the heaviness of life that can lie thick at the bottom of a soul.

I get it, I don’t want to make  room for it either.  I’d rather push all the disappointments and betrayals, the things that hurt the most in life, into that little point underneath the floorboards and pretend they don’t exist too.

But there’s something inside me, a search for truth maybe, or a desire to live beyond the constraining rush of life.  I just can’t  push all of the uncomfortable feelings down anymore.

For years, I lived with the fluffy part of my heart sitting on top.  To be honest, I didn’t know the pointy places of pain at the bottom existed, not in my own life, at least.   From the outside looking in, I had nothing to complain about, not really.

The brokenness in my life was present but I wasn’t able yet to pay attention. Maybe I was I was afraid of what I would learn about myself if I started to cup the pain.  Maybe I didn’t know that a seasoned heart is made to shift and needs to  be cradled like the first cup of morning coffee warming my hands and waking my soul  while  the hearts I love most still sleep.

Whatever the reason,  I couldn’t get away from my own self and and had no idea where my blazing intolerance of all breathing people came from.

The slightest variation from my plans at any point in the day resulted in exaggerated, prolonged annoyance and often rage.   Anxiety about what people thought of me and my preoccupation with their opinions began to turn me into someone I didn’t like. I ended up finding a group of people in another state that could help me and spent a couple of weeks there.

My time away was the beginning of a dark decade, I walked through  buried and painful needs (unmet needs that I believe we all experience, by the way).   I began to to figure some of that  stuff out, to learn that I used my list of accomplishments to validate who I am.

As a result of deciding to open the scariest doors in my soul, I found things that surprised me about myself.  I uncovered deep pockets of pride  and entitlement, began to  sort through their sources and begin,  for the first time,  to allow the Grace I believed in begin to change me.

We all walk this journey, it’s the purpose of life I think, but we have to choose to allow our hearts to be turned upside down as we go along.  We have to make a deliberate choice to sit with the the painful things that we discover about ourselves  and let them settle into the deepest places in our hearts and souls.

I fought it for a while (again, I think we all do)  but when I slowly began to allow my heart to tip?   I finally accepted it into the dark brokenness of my own life and let it begin to heal  the painful things I’d experienced from the bottom on up.  As I poured out some of the fluff on the top and began to be filled with understanding and compassion, with grace that runs heavy?

It  changed me.

Helped me begin to express the love that I felt inside but didn’t ever seem to be capable  of communicating.

For the first time, I was able to offer people around me the same Grace that I said I fiercly believ ed in.  Peace began to flow into my life and my parenting.  My family, and  I hope others around me, began to see in me the love buried underneath all of the pain.

By learning how to rest and receive, I began to be able to pour out and fill.

My new friend and I haven’t met or spoken since.  Our paths aren’t likely to cross consistently and I don’t even know if we’ll have the opportunity to meet again (though I hope we do).

She gave me a rare gift though, that day over a strong brew, the offering of an upside down heart and I won’t ever forget the healing that continued on that morning.

The Way to Really Know Your Own Self

Darkness and the light

In the dark of morning before floorboards crack and pipes fill, I’ve found I write more freely.  It surprises me that I find peace in a place that often leaves me feeling so very lonely.

In the dark there is silence, a swallowing still.

A current lulls and rocks and washes refreshing, steel-blue.

It’s consuming yet intimate enough to curve into the slivers of the soul that fade,

still whispering, with the rising

of the sun.

In the dark, we hear.

In the dark, we listen.

In the dark, we find rest.

In the dark,

the most shadowed corners of the soul are

free from hiding,

free from playing dress-up,

the dark is where our souls rest.

The light shines in

distractions,

refractions,

downright distortions of what is real, of what is true.

But in darkness lies hidden beauty,

glimmering in the pitch of night.

 

There’s  an absence of hiding that  happens at night. An acute knowing of the spaces within ourselves that are not yet what we hope for the fabric of our souls.  It used to frighten me to be that alone with myself.  It was a time and space where fears left unspoken in the daylight, fears of who I was and who I was not, would fill my lungs.

In the light of day, the demands that stream with the sun and the coming and going of a life allow for a measure of distance from fear. But when darkness tucks in around the edges, in our most truthful places we can hear what N.T. Wright calls the echos of a voice.

At night, we’re left unclothed by the demands of daylight and given countless opportunities to make ourselves at home with all we cannot see, cannot know.

I’m learning that making peace with what appears the most frightening by walking straight into it,  is the way to overcome it. Not because darkness disappears once the sun starts to rise in the morning, but because within the darkness, within the hurt and pain, at the very center of the absence of control there is a new dimension of light. A dimension that we hear with our hands and feel with our eyes.

I believe we can spend our whole lives maintaining a measure of distance from our fears but that we can’t escape them completely, because they curl up tightly and rest in the small of a back, the curve of a neck.  They nudge us with a continual insistence that we’ve forgotten or neglected something important.

Does the stillness in the middle of the night unsettle you? Have you found comfort there?  Have you learned things about yourself or things about God that you might share?

 

The stench of the nativity

The stink filled my room.

Before my feet hit the floor, I was already sick of myself, exhausted.

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My list probably looked like yours and the only thing I wanted was to escape it.  I could hide from the mounds of laundry and meters of wrapping, but found myself tucked in snug and smoldering with reminders of some relational junk.

Simply, my attitude stunk.

Breathe deeply, in through your nose, out through your mouth. I heard my mother’s voice talking me through childhood nausea.

If I could get through this day, if I  could just breathe through it, I hoped  the bitterness,resentment, and imperfection would keep from puking all over my Christmas.

Did you get the memo?  There shall be no mental or emotional meltdowns the Monday before Christmas. 

Somewhere around the sixth time I slammed my snooze button, I remembered why we we do this to ourselves every year.  It’s the nativity.

We all need it, but maybe not in the way that we think.  Maybe it’s not really about the sweet story of a baby born in a manger after all.

We clean up our families and polish the house and wrap beautiful ribbons around packages we hope will delight.  Romanticism takes over in the light of all things shiny and we picture sweet babies in fresh straw surrounded by pleasant faces on a silent night with one beautiful star shining bright.

But it’s a lie.

That shiny, fresh version of the nativity was never true in the first place.

We focus on the baby, how cute he must have been, how cozy we  feel because that sweet little thing came to save us.

If that’s our focus, we’ve missed the point completely, because the nativity is unseemly, aberrant, and downright grotesque by anyone’s standards.

There’s nothing romantic or beautiful or sweet about it because it’s about the remedy for the stench that filled our earth.

Jesus, the son of a King, took his very first breath in a dung-filled stable.  That deserves more of our attention than  three verses of Silent Night while we try to keep our candles from dripping.

If there was no room in the inn,  I’m assuming that the innkeeper didn’t have the cleaning detail spend much time in the barn.

It stunk in there.  Reeked of urine, sweat, and feces, of discarded food left in the trough for the animals.  Nobody ran for hot water or started a quick load so this prince of a baby would have fresh blankets with the scent of lavender. The stench that night, our stench, filled his nostrils as he became one of us.

One of Us.

With Us.

Someday, in Us.

Joining us in our Ugly.

To be God In us, with us, the hope of Glory.  (Colossians 1:27).

I could have laid there all morning  with my list and  mess.  The odor would have drifted into the  day and likely I would have  emotionally massacred  my children in the course of it.  The entire day would have ended ugly and unproductive.

But he reminded me.  The mess doesn’t preclude him.

That he made his first home and breathed his first breath in the middle of it, that nothing in our lives can repulse him.  That he came not in spite of but because of the junk.  Luke 10:10.

Nothing causes him to say, maybe later, how bout you do some disinfecting first.  

Nothing about us is unlovable to him.

And absolutely everything changes when we ask him to Be With Us.  It’s  his presence that cleans up the mess.

He was born into our mess to eventually save us from it.  We have to invite him into our mess before it starts to change, because it’s the gift of his presence that causes the odors in our lives to be filled with sweet fragrance. II Corinthians 2:15

Our lives are chaotic, but where he is there is peace.

Our hearts can’t see past our pain, but where he is there is hope.

Our love is almost always rooted in selfishness, but where he is there is love.

Our minds can’t make sense of the evil we see, but where he is there is understanding.

God is in the midst of everything that we are not, everything that we cannot, everything that, in our worst moments, we don’t want.

I want to hold my resentment, because it makes me right.  I want to cradle my wounds, because they’re unjust, I want to shout my defenses, because I’ve been wronged.  I want to set the whole world straight in my quest for having all of life as I desire it to be.  And in my most dire moments, I don’t even want him to come.

I don’t think I’m alone in my pile of filth this Christmas. I’m betting you’ve got some junk lingering somewhere as well.  If there’s a list formed in your mind or a shadow resting over your heart would you invite him into it?

Simply say come be with me in my mess. It’s what made that filthy stable worth it to him, the opportunity to be with us.

My youngest son woke up as I was finishing this post. He voice filled with excitement after I reminded him that he’d celebrate Christmas with a dear family friend later this afternoon.  We talked about her home and dinner and the gifts they’d open and that snugly boy summed up everything I’ve tried to say here with this  “mom, the best thing is, we get to be with her.”

He could see beyond the events of the day and you can too.

If we stop when we’re feeling overwhelmed and  issue the invitation for God to come be in the middle of our Christmas, instead keeping him in our sanitary nativity scenes, we’ll experience a Christmas like no other.

May your week be filled with joy in spite of all the mess, friends.  I hope  you’ll come back here and tell us the story of how the impossible became tolerable (maybe even pleasant) as a result of asking God to join you this week.

Faith is contagious and you never know how your story could encourage someone else.

When Pain is the Best Gift of all

Scattered words when I should be cleaning……..

My heart feels like it could break open this morning.  Several weeks ago, I heard Kara Tippets speak at my Grace church.  It’s so cliche to say I haven’t been the same since but I’ve decided all of life is cliche.

I haven’t been the same since.

She spilled out her broken, beautiful, messy wonder of a story and the Spirit moved in that room.  She laughed more than I expected and didn’t shy away from the unwritten pages of her life.

My 12 year old daughter breathed in Kara’s words and grabbed higher hope from her,so we stood in  line to have our book autographed and then I saw it.

 Philippians 1:21  For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

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We’ve prayed for her often and each day since I await her post on the FB.

It’s just like Jesus said it would be in Matthew 6:10.  Kingdom Come on earth as it is in heaven.  Each day I cry for this woman I’ve never met. And every day, I love these people tucked into my home a little better because of her.

Several years ago, I picked up a copy of the Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis.  I was sinking in the thick muck of it with fresh complications showering me daily and I needed someone else’s words to help me make sense of it. The bible holds words of life, but there are times when we need to hold a book written by a bleeder.

If Lewis  has a handle on anything, it’s the bleeding.

I put it down because it was simply too heavy for the journey at that point.  My pain isn’t acute today as it was then, but I’m coming out of a time when  some of my core beliefs about people have been challenged and I still catch a whiff of smoke every once in a while.

Monday, as I waited for Kara’s post  I wondered for a moment if I was a freak show creeper getting some sick emotional fix from her life.  Sometimes you’re so dead on the inside that  the drama of someone else’s pain is exhilarating in a twisted sort of way because at least you feel alive.

But I relate to her because she’s a mom and close to my age and because I know some children who’ve walked through the deep loss of a mother, but I realized it’s really not any of those things that draws me to her experience.  When I see her unfiltered, beautiful, broken, bald and bold posts of peace, I don’t just see Jesus, I feel him.  As my heart feels like it will bleed out for the hole that will be left on this earth when she’s gone, he transfuses the blood that spilled out of him into me and I feel him, I see him, I become him as I love people here better.

Yesterday was a 13 hour studio day.  I heard the same thing over and over.  Where are the people unafraid of the pain? Every face in the mirror, including my own looking for companionship on the journey.  We are a people who fix when what we really need to be is a people unafraid to feel.   I might finish the Lewis book at some point, but for now I’ve come up with my own conclusions.

Pain is the point of life.

We spend hours and dollars and energy and whole entire lifetimes trying to escape it.  We schedule, chatter, and putter as we desperately try to hide the ugly dysfunctional messes that in essence define us and we spend a lifetime walking parallel to the very thing that would we cross it, could save us.

The Pain.

God’s heart broke when Adam and Eve chose fruit that he knew would bring them Pain.

He chose to send Jesus here so we could identify with someone who spoke our language of Pain.

Jesus’ very conception caused Pain to his mother; his gestation, great Pain to his earthly father.

His life was continually filled with the Pain of rejection and I believe his executioners broke his heart more thoroughly than they could ever have broken his body.

And the Pain of God the Father in that moment?  Beyond our comprehension.

Do you see?

We have to cross the path of our pain before we can ever cross the path of Christ.  We can spend a lifetime talking about God, catching glimpses of the  pain and wondering of the meaning of it all, but until we make the choice to stop living parallel to it,until we cross it boldly,  we will never experience the healing, transforming power of Christ.

Pain has no conclusion, but I believe it holds transformation.

Will you look under the hidden spaces in your soul today?  Will you dare to embrace, just for a moment, the places that hurt the most?  And when you feel as though you want to shop, or clean, or talk, or organize, or exercise, or eat to escape it…..would you ask God to be present in the middle of it?  I promise he’ll show up and I promise that what you find in that moment will change you.

I’d love it if you share your thoughts with me.  There’s a quote bubble at the top right of this post.  It’s there just for you!

Follow Kara’s journey on the FB here.

What you really need to know about the darkness and God

Monday, I showed up here with some of the darker colors of my heart, not at all how I intended to move back into this space.   As I sit at my desk this morning, I see the sun is trying hard to make a name for itself through all the gray and in that same way, I want to share from the brighter hopeful places inside of me.  Because, it occurs to me that I know that they’re always there, shining between the cloud cover, but maybe you don’t.  

So today, some brighter colors of hope, because I could always use a reminder and I’m thinking maybe you could too.  

darkness and light

What I really want you to know is this….

God thinks you are some of his best work. 

He knows that life has been brutal for you and sometimes you feel like pellets of sharp  driveway gravel  are being aimed at your heart at random intervals.

He can’t wait for the chance to show you how he really feels about you, but he’s waiting for you to give him the teeniest, tiniest chance.

When your mom’s sick and you’re sitting in the hospital until 5 am because the overworked nursing staff might forget her pain meds, he knows that your back is screaming for just 15 minutes in your own bed and your due at work in 3 hrs.

That feeling in the pit of your stomach when someone is tormenting your child, when they’ve picked and pulled and tugged and sneered for so long that your first-born, been-a-gentleman-since-he-was-4-weeks, is ready to thrown-down?  That feeling?  He wants you to know he gets that one, it’s familiar and he’s ready to send in the cavalry if you’ll ask him.

But did you know that God’s a gentleman too?  That  he’s waiting for you to invite him into  your hard places?

People get all choked up over the free will part of insert-your-chosen-religious-term here.  But it’s really not that complicated.

Do you want to feel and experience God who cares about every bit of your daily life? Or do you not?

I’ve got to be honest here, because I can’t imagine anyone answering no to that question.

Part of the human experience is handling life ourselves, but who doesn’t want help if we’re really honest?

It’s the asking though, we really don’t like to ask and so we struggle on, alone.  When all we really need to say is me! me! me!, I need help, I do, because that’s  all it takes to have an all access pass to some of the coolest things you’ll ever experience and it’s not a religious freak show, I promise.

I know, I know, we all know people but forget them for a minute.

Sometimes you see the same people at dinner around 11 pm at IHOP that you see 14 hours later at lunch time at Panera.  You don’t really know why you saw them, but when you’ve included the possibility that there is a God who cares about everything in life, you know that  there’s some reason you saw that woman with the fabulous haircut and her sweet little boy that’s so pretty you call him a girl.  You feel bad and hope you didn’t insult her, but you’re glad you said something because you don’t believe in coincidence.  You know there was a reason and it’s ok if you don’t ever know what it was.

Sometimes, you don’t like the soup that you order at lunch and when the manager takes your tray and finds out I wasn’t your favorite, he asks you what your favorite is and brings it back in a to-go bag.  When he does, you know that the soup is a little shout-out from God.  You just know because you talk to him, sometimes out loud if your kids aren’t around.  You embarrass them enough, you know.

Those details are just slivers of nothingness in comparison to the ways that you’d see him every day if you’d get a little risky and ask him to show up, be a part of your life.

Really, it doesn’t have to be a whole life decision to ask him to show up just a little.  But when he shows up, you just might want to see him more. Because when you see him, and you know it’s him? It’s like crack.  Completely addicting.

He knows you, how he made you.  With fear that leaks out of your eyes at night and a heart that pours and gives and squeezes out every last drop of hope right out there in the fresh clear air.  He knows that you deeply want for someone to swallow down that hope with you, to hold it inside and sit in the sacredness of that shared moment.  And he see’s when they spit it right back at you, without acknowledging your offering.

Did you know that the sadness and the loneliness, he feels that for you, with you? He sees all those things about you and he wants you to know that he feels so much sorrow when he sees the places in your heart that are breaking.

He’s as proud as he can be when you make choices that are good and positive for your life, things that open your heart to seeing more of what he’s really all about, but you should know that when you don’t get it right……..

When you lay out your kid because they ate all the snacks and they’re hungry and it’s 10 pm and you’ve been up since 6:15 and the list never ends and they.always.need.more……

When you choose to destroy yourself by doing that thing that you do because you just can’t feel this much pain for one more minute and need some relief….

When  you catch yourself thinking that you don’t even know if you believe in a god of anything in the first place and then tun around and lay your own self out because what kind of person would you be if you didn’t……

When you make choices that stink because you’re lazy or you’re scared or you just don’t want to be alone, but you know better and so how could you possibly ask God to come be a part of that hot mess.

He wants you to know that he doesn’t love you not one bit less when you makes those crummy choices.  In fact, maybe he loves you more.  Because he knows about the shame you’re pouring on top of your own self behind the smile, the silence, the sincerity or the sneer.

He doesn’t care what a big huge mess your life is or how shiny you think it is for that matter.   He just wants to be there to share it with you.

He understands how he made your fragile heart to work and he’s waiting for you to ask him to help you to understand yourself.  He is I promise.

I want this to become a place where we can declare what’s real in life.    A place to shout proudly all that is good, share freely all that is hard and learn to see him in the middle of it.

A place to whisper the darkness of fear while believing that momentary glimpses of light, momentary glimpses of God, make the darkness bearable.