Wednesday, October 31, 2012

In which I am adored

The boys are wrestling in the hallway. I can hear them. Shouting. Bumping into things. They start every morning this way. It makes me smile even when it wakes me up way earlier than I'd like to be awake.

Gracie, comes yawning into my room, stretching her little body and crawling into bed. "I slept good, Mama....but now I want to snuggle." I open up the covers as she crawls into and snuggles close to me.


This is her happy place. No place in the world she'd rather be than snuggled in bed with me. We close our eyes as if sleeping again is actually a possibility while a full blown UFC fight is going on right outside my door. I tickle her. She giggles. We practice our butterfly and eskimo kisses. She sighs. "I love you mommy. so much."

My boys, they love me. We have fun together and we absolutely love and respect one another. But Gracie?  Well, she full on adores me. I am her favorite person in the world. I am her safe place. Anyone who has been around us can see it. She clings to my legs and watches how I react to certain people and situations. She proudly talks about how much alike we are....

and we are alike. She is my princess. Frilly dresses, twirly skirts, painted nails and a love of boots, we share. We are also both quite - how shall we say - spunky :) Gracie has a retort for everything. She is not one to be pushed into a corner or into a box of any kind. She is passionate and curious. I've never met a child with more words....especially questions....and deep words. Have you met a 6 year old who says "That person didn't make my heart feel safe"? She talks about how her heart feels regularly. She reminds people that no one can tell her how she feels and that she deserves respect. She quickly says that "You're not respecting my words - my words, they mean something" and when talking about slavery says that "it's never okay to own another human being."  At night, she prays for a few things consistently.....two of them being that Joseph Kony will be captured or killed and that Mr James will rescue more slaves.

This morning, as she snuggled in bed and read the wall of my bedroom aloud "Loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free" and then snuggled closer, I was struck by her precious heart and how she adores me. I've been reflecting on it all morning.

Gracie's adoration of me both challenges and teaches me.

She challenges me to be the best me I can possibly be. If she is going to look to me as a measure of love, safety and the role model of what it means to be a woman....than I want to be cognizant of my role. I want her to see a mama who loves Jesus with all of my heart. I want her to see a woman who isn't afraid to be broken before her Lord because she knows that safety is in His presence. I want her to see a believer who HOPES big and LOVES big. I want her to see me living in the great adventure that the Lord has for me. I want her to see a scholar who wrestles with scripture and doesn't take it lightly. I want her to see a friend who goes into deep, hard places with others and doesn't try to fix them...but is willing to sit, pray and love. I want her to see a servant leader who is more concerned with lifting others up and serving them than with being served. I want her to see a courageous woman who boldly strides where Jesus leads. I want her to see a dreamer, a lover, a prayer warrior, a servant, a doer of the gospel. I want her to be more sure of herself because I have done the work to be ok with myself. I want to go before the Father than He may heal my wounds so that I might lead her down a path of healing for the wounds she is sure to receive in this path of life. I want to inspire and empower her to seek after God on her own, to hear His voice and to walk the path He will lay out for her. I want more than anything for her to love Him and know Him intimately.

She teaches me about loving and knowing Him intimately as she snuggles into my side. I want to be like that with my God. I want to be so in awe of Him that He is all that I want. I want to cast all aside to snuggle into His presence. I want Him to know He is adored by me. I want to sigh in contentment when I spend time in His presence. I want to be an "adorer" more than just an admirer of my Savior.

Life is busy. This we all know. But this week, this day even, I want to find the time to adore. I found it this morning at the end of yoga. Those last few minutes where we find our "final resting". I sigh here as I ask Jesus to speak over me. When she tells us to roll onto our sides and begin to sit up, I want to rebel and just lay there in His presence longer. I want to find more of those places throughout

the day. A minute here, a sigh there, a snuggle in which I breathe deep. I want to adore Him and soak in every minute of my time in His presence. For He is the one that I love....He is my safe place. And....funny is in Him that I feel adored too :-)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Eshet chayil, Rachel Held Evans!!!!

I was driving across the country with a friend, reading a book. She wasn't even necessarily interested in the book, but that didn't stop me from regularly stopping her in the middle of singing her favorite songs so that I could read sections aloud of this book that was changing my life. Reading this book was a spiritual experience. As I shouted and agreed wholeheartedly with this author I could actually feel the chains falling from around me. The book was called Evolving in Monkey Town and was written by an author I had just started following on FB, Rachel Held Evans. I can't even remember now who told me that I absolutely HAD to read this book, but they were right.

After reading Monkey Town, I started following Rachel's blog. She is funny and insightful. She had a deep love for the scriptures, but was willing to wrestle through the questions she had of them. She stood up for tough issues of injustice throughout the church and Christendom. She was a bit of a rebel to my evangelical mind :) Her posts caused me to think....deeply. Often times the truths she presented were ones that I had tossed around in my own mind and heart, but hadn't been able to fully articulate.

As you probably know, after life came crashing down in 2010, I was left with nothing more than my Lord. For months, He was my only companion and I didn't have a whole to I read my Bible. Between Mid November and the end of the year, I had read through the Bible once. I read through it a second time before April of 2011 hit and through once more before the end of the year. This time spent reading the scriptures changed my view of God. I began to see the character of God more than individual stories that I needed to learn from. I saw Jesus as scandalous. I saw how He stood up for the oppressed and how He treated women with honor. I began to rethink some of the boxes I had put Jesus in....some of the chains that I had wrapped around my Savior. Rachel's posts helped me uncover the chains and bravely walk into freedom.

One of the things I appreciate most about Rachel Held Evans is her humility. When she introduces a concept, it is firstly because she has wrestled with it personally. She wrestles with it, researches it, studies profusely and then pours out her heart. She does this not with an assertion that she has, above everyone else, discovered the ONLY answer and the best way. Instead, she gently and carefully lays out her impeccable research and the conclusions she has drawn. She never asserts that people who don't agree with her are idiots, unbelievers or who hate God or women or anyone else. She understands the intricacies of Scripture and how difficult it is to unpack great spiritual truths amidst cultural considerations to find the heart of God. She understand that other brilliant minds, with the same research available to them might search out the scriptures and come to a different conclusion and she honors that - applauds it even! She understands that we are a Body...a family...and that each of us might learn from the other parts of this wide array that is the Christian family.

She does all of this with a deep love for God's word, His people and His spirit at work amongst each of us. And she writes....I feel free to pursue my Jesus and His word more deeply. I feel unhindered by the many boxes of religion and find myself in the story of His grace. I find myself less afraid of the questions and the confusion that the Bible sometimes causes. Without the chains, I am able to interact with the Bible that is living and active. I dance with the living, breathing word of God. I wrestle with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Today, I join with others in celebrating Rachel and saying Eshet chayil! You are truly a Woman of valor!  Thank you for living so bravely so that so many of us may be free! 

Just so ya Rachel's new book releases:  A Year of Biblical Womanhood and I will be buying it tomorrow :) In it, she wrestles with the concept of "Biblical Womanhood" that is thrown about like a role to be played, a job description to be either lived up to or to fail miserably at. Womanhood and especially Biblical womanhood are much more complicated than a simple set of rules.  Would you like to join me in reading this together?

PS: You should definitely start reading RHE's blog. My favorite series is her series on Mutuality. I literally read most of these pieces with tears running down my face as the chains fell from my heart.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I hate it that I wrestle with the God that I adore

I like order.

This might be why I like to help people move :) I love packing and organizing and watching the project get done. I think I even like the boxes.

I like order in relationships too. I like to feel safe. I like to know where I stand with people. In fact, I'd rather not be in relationship at all then be confused about where you stand with me.

What I fighting. Ugh. Makes my stomach turn just thinking about having an argument with someone. (though I don't mind a good natured debate at all :) I especially hate arguing with people that I love. I'd rather just give in then fight. I want peace.

Life is chaos sometimes, however, and it's not so easy. While in life I'd love to be able to label every experience, every relationship, everything either good or bad, right or wrong, from Jesus or the's just not that simple.

My life has brought me many experiences and relationships that have more questions than answers. I try so desperately to figure them out and label them. I want to be able to say definitively that this relationship or experience was either all bad or all good, that it was either brought to me by the Lord or was a horrible ploy of the enemy. I want to be safe. If I can just label it and box it up, the nagging questions can leave me alone. If I can figure it out, the walls can go up so I don't have to feel conflicting emotions about it.

A few of my past relationships that I thought were brought to me by the Lord have turned out to bring more pain into my life than I ever thought possible. Some of these people hurt me in ways that I would love to say "well, at least I know Jesus didn't do that to me".  But it's just not that easy for me. When I look into the scriptures I see that He led the people of Israel into oppression a number of times! While I would like to figure God out and be able to determine "if it was good and ended was from Him....if it was painful, it was not" - I can't come to those terms.

I hate that. Truly.

Just last night I was struggling with this very idea. I was struggling through a recent, very painful experience. I wanted to write it off as not of God because of how painful it was....but that didn't quite work. But if I DID say that maybe the Lord was involved, well now I had more questions for HIM! If He was involved in my pain, I now had to wrestle through hurt feelings of "Jesus, why didn't you protect me?" or "Jesus, that felt cruel and hurt my heart. Why would you want that for me?" It seemed like every question led to more questions.

Charlie Hall in the song "My Brightness" sings I hate it that I wrestle with the God that I adore". YES! Me too. I hate wrestling with Him. I hate questioning His heart towards me. I hate the questions that life brings up. I want my boxes back! I want to be able to say with no tears and no questions, "I trust you and it's all good."  But life just isn't that simple!

Last night while I shamed myself for my frustration (ok, anger....I was possibly throwing things while praying :) and tried so desperately to just simply trust, I heard Him whisper to me "This is what I love about you. I love that you will keep wrestling with me. I love that you will question me. I love that I can entrust confusing situations to you and you will live with the questions with me"

You see, maybe the trite answers work. They certainly make great boxes. Relationships, however, are often found in the wrestling, in the questions. This is where intimacy is built. If I shoved these experiences under the rug, into the appropriately labeled box, I would be safe from baring my heart before God in the most raw way possible. I would be safe behind those walls and in those boxes, but I wouldn't be living in intimacy and authenticity. 

If we really believe that God's ways are SO far above ours, why do we expect to understand Him? Maybe He doesn't expect us to understand....and yet still desires intimacy in relationship with us. Maybe our lack of understanding and our questions, if wrestled out in relationship with Him, will actually draw us deeper into the heart of God?

For me, I want to allow myself to live among the questions. Live without answers to all of the situations and relationships in my life. Live in the sometimes frustrating intimacy that comes with being in relationship with someone who you don't quite understand completely but you know loves you deeply. I am glad that it IS here that I am safe....I am safe to question and struggle because I am fully loved in the midst of my humanity.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Living a better story

God's been stirring something in me lately, in so many different ways. It appears when He asks me to dance. It shows up when He tells me my only job is to "bloom" like the wildflower I am.

This week, He spoke to me through one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Bessey. She blogged about reacting vs creating. In case you didn't already know this, there are a few....ahem....people in the world....cough, cough....that aren't my biggest fans :) They are always going to be there. I've realized that I am called to live a life that is going to have some detractors. It's what happens when you're on the front lines and in the mess with others. There's no place I'd rather be. If God is calling me to live a life spent standing with those who others leave behind, spent fighting for injustice in so many forms, spent living an unconventional life with unconventional faith going places that others have no desire to go....well then, I'm going to have some critics. People like boxes and lines and laws. They like to say definitively what Jesus would and would not do. I'm tired of living that way :)

I'm tired of defending my life with Jesus. There are times when I wonder how I can best explain my heart to others. There are times when I want to scream and then invite people into my life and heart because maybe, just maybe if they really knew me, they'd understand. Maybe just maybe if they'd walked my journey they'd see Jesus where I see Him and move where I hear Him tell me to move. I wonder about defending myself with scriptures. I wonder at defending and clearly articulating my position on women, marriage, abuse, divorce, freedom, leadership, service, advice, etc. It's tiring because the truth is, some people don't want to know. People who want to criticize are going to criticize! They don't want to get to know me more and hear my heart. They aren't seeking to understand, so why am I offering explanation after explanation as if they are? All of this striving I do to keep peace and to want to make people understand is just striving. It doesn't help the kingdom.

Instead....I want to live a better story, my better story....the beautiful story that He is writing for me.

Sarah Bessey put it so beautifully here:
I long to Love, I long to offer grace, particularly to those struggling under their own new Laws, I long to worship, I’d rather write a better story than a point-by-point defense, and I long to really see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

As I read those words, the striving melted away from my shoulders. I felt peace. "This is it, Dear One," I heard Him whisper to my heart, "live a better story. Don't worry about them. Just live your story with me so beautifully that for the ones with listening ears and open eyes, they will see and know your heart because they will see me present. Just dance, don't apologize. Just love, don't explain. Just speak, no need to wait for permission. Just be you. Live this better, beautiful story that I have laid out and let all else fade away."

ahhhhhh. I plan on sinking into my better story. How about you? Do you find it hard to not want to react, explain or defend and just live the beautiful story He is writing for you?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Easy Answers vs. Shared Tears

Henri Nouwen once said, "“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” 

As we all know, I walk in the messy. I think I've made my home here out in the mudpit actually :) I have friends who are facing all kinds of complicated, messy situations. Friends leaving abusive marriages, friends trying to save hard marriages, friends recovering from abuse (spiritual, sexual, physical, emotional, verbal), friends recovering from addictions, friends trying to leave prostitution, friends trying to parent addicts, friends trying to parent abused children, friends living in the mess of life.  I have lived through the mess in my own life. It is here that I find Jesus, the Jesus who left heaven and made his home dwelling in the dirt and mess of this world. The Jesus who enters our mess and brings hope and healing in the most beautiful of ways.

But mess is uncomfortable. It's dirty. Sometimes when we see mess, we LONG to clean it up! Partly this is's our longing to see things made new and beautiful!  Unfortunately, in our desire for new and beautiful, we tend to wound the wounded even more.
A hard truth that people like to acknowledge in word but don't really live by:
There are no easy answers, simple solutions or 5 easy steps to follow. 

We know our heads. However, in the midst of complicated situations people often try to offer these simple solutions "well, you really should....." Oftentimes, people consider the situation (what they know of it) and search their brains for what information they have stored in there that might apply ("I remember reading something that said a woman should wait x amount of years before dating") and spout that out as God's Word and final truth. People determine what they would do in the situation and then deliver it as the only answer.  

Here's the problem: when you offer simple solutions or "you should"s, you are reducing complex, painful, messy situations into easy answers and simple solutions and invalidating the pain of the person living in the situation.  

Every situation involves more than you can see. Even if you have lived in a similar situation, no two situations are the same. All situations are unique and have unique background information (that you may not be privy to) and involve unique people. What worked for you or someone you know, may not be applicable in this situation! 

I'm not saying that a set of fresh eyes isn't sometimes helpful! Having the wisdom or experience of others can change one's perspective and open up worlds of ideas. We must, however, be ever so gentle and careful when interjecting in hard situations. We must do so with the gentle respect that the person to whom we are speaking LIVES and breathes this pain day in and day out. We must do so with the humble awareness that we are not God and cannot determine with 100% accuracy what any one person MUST do.

I mean, let's be honest....I would not have given a lot of the advice that God gave! I would NEVER have told Abraham to kill his kid. I would never have told Elijah to go live in the forest for weeks on end. I would never have asked Noah to build an ark (because I wouldn't have known that rain would come!).

The path that the Lord asks my friends to walk may look different than my own path or what I would advise. 

With this in mind, instead of easy answers or "you should"s, I want to offer simply a listening ear. I want to offer a shoulder to cry on. I want to offer a gentle voice that says "I can see why that would hurt". I want to point my friends to the ONE person who can offer direction because He's the only one who actually knows all of the details of the situation! My friends tease me that the only thing I ever have to say about a hard situation is "Sweet friend, have you asked Jesus about this?" along with an offer to go to Jesus with them. If they want more, I can provide my life experience or what I have learned on this journey....but I always want to offer it with the caveat, "here is what I have learned or experienced and is simply my perspective".

and then....we love. Sometimes our friends will make decisions that we don't think are the wisest. Sometimes they will make decisions that don't make sense to us, but were exactly the decisions that Jesus led them to making! And so....we love. We love. We listen. We care. We cry together. We enter the pain and the mess. We offer grace. We point to the Jesus who knows every detail and can redeem everything.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Annoyingly Needy or a Holy Discontent?

I've wondered a few times in this recent season of my life if I'm terribly selfish.

It's been rough, this season... But God has been crazy present. Seriously, the most intimate and palpable times of my entire journey with Jesus has been through this season.

I remember one night in late November 2010, lying in bed bawling. I was weeping into my pillow, practically shaking my bed with my racking sobs. I begged Jesus to hold me. He did. All of a sudden, in the middle of a sob a peace came over me. I immediately stopped crying. I could feel His presence as He wrapped His arms around me and I fell asleep.

Other times I have cried out for His voice, for promises of beauty, for confirmation of what I was hearing in my own spirit. Often, on that very day I would have a friend call or email me and say, "I was praying for you and here's what I heard Jesus say...." And have it completely confirm what He was speaking.

I have gone into my deepest wounds with Jesus in my counseling sessions with my beloved Robin (everyone should have a counselor like her :) He has met me in those memories and spoken healing that is unspeakable.

And you know what? The next day, I'm asking for more. Begging for it. Perhaps even emailing or texting that same friend, "Jesus saying anything new about me today?" And I've wondered... I've wondered if I'm selfish and just not satisfied with what Jesus gives me. The words, truth, healing and presence I've experienced should be enough for a lifetime I tell myself. But this isn't what Jesus tells me. He whispers to my weary spirit "of course you need more manna, it's a new day and this journey has been hard." He tells me this but still I feel at times like a bother to the God of the universe. I wonder if one day He will be annoyed with me. I feel needy... And I hate it. I hate being needy. It's vulnerable. It's painful. It's scary. Surely His goodness and patience will run out? Nope. Not my God. He, above everyone else, knows how painful this journey has been. Never does He tell me to suck it up. He only speaks new words and gives fresh healing and more powerful presence every single time.

Then, this morning at church we sang a song I hadn't heard before... And something clicked inside of me. The song was "Shekinah Glory - We wait for you". Here are some of the lyrics:

"You move, and we want more
You speak, and we want more
You move, and we want more
We want the fullness

Release the fullness of Your spirit
Shekinah glory come
Shekinah glory come

I can't get enough of Your presence, presence
I can't get enough of Your presence, presence"

Yes! That's me. With every word, I want another. With every movement, I want more. With every chain that falls, I want to see 10 more. With every healing, I want more. With every miracle, I want more.

It dawned on me then.... We were made to be discontent. It's a holy discontent to want more and more and more and more of our Sweet Jesus. To see Him more and experience Him more. This is a good thing in me, not a shameful one.

To hunger and thirst for more of Him is a beautiful, spiritual concept that sometimes makes us uncomfortable.

I want to own it now. Instead of feeling annoyingly needy, I want to revel in this holy discontent. I want to hunger more because I experience more. With every drip that comes from Him, I want to thirst for more.

Have you ever felt annoyingly needy for more of Him?

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Day at the Pumpkin Patch

How about a nice little picture post? ;) Maybe you people get tired of my long diatribes processing my counseling sessions and the theological subjects in my head.....if so, here's us - at a pumpkin patch yesterday!

Friday, October 5, 2012

I choose beauty. (Part 2 of Wildflowers)

Remember when I told you that I am an unmanageable wildflower and asked you to join me? Can we talk more about that? Because I think it's quite a beautiful thing.

On my way home from counseling that day, I called my dear friend Megan and shared with her the beauty of the wildflower As soon as I was done, she told me this story.....

Megan used to live in this house with beautiful landscaping all around. She spent hours maintaining it and perfecting it.

One day, she noticed something under the big pot of flowers in the front yard. When she moved the pot, she found a beautiful, living and blossoming chrysanthemum.

Here this strong and brave flower had poked it's way through the creases in the sidewalk and bloomed under a pot. The pot had tried to stifle it to no avail.

This is us. This is our story you guys.
My mom sent me this after my last post on wildflowers...apparently I've always loved them :)

Pots may placed on our heads. People may want to force us to be manageable, to line up in neat rows like good little flowers. They may want us to bloom where they want us to be planted. They may want us to fit in their cute little boxes.

Not us. We will bloom. We will be beauty in this dark, hard world in dark and hard places. We will flourish where others think we should die because of our audacity to even plant ourselves in that place. We will walk out of the well tended gardens and go live in the open wild. 

That counseling session ended with a beautiful commissioning from my Jesus.

I could see myself as a flower, growing strong and blooming. I could see a man next to me doing the same.

Then a man came and yelled at the two of us to get back into our pots. He yelled that we weren't supposed to be beautiful how and where we were.

And Jesus looked at me and said this;
"Your only job is to bloom and be beautiful. Let them choose pots and neat lines if they want. YOU get to choose beauty where and how I tell you. Just BE beauty. I will take care of the rest"

People can hate it all they want. They can despise my unmanagability. (It's a new word, like it? :) They can want me to fit in rows and pots and boxes all they want. They can not understand. I may confuse and frustrate them. The choice, however, is up to me on how I might live my life.

I choose beauty.

I choose the kind of jaw dropping beauty that is beauty in the hard places. I choose hard fought beauty. I choose the beauty that comes in walking away from the neat lines and planting myself in the rocks and dirt that is our hurting world.

Join me?