Sunday, January 25, 2015

hard, but worth it



I’ve been thinking a little bit lately about why I have the people in my life that I do. Of course, it involves my own choice to an extent… because love is about a series of decisions you make. Yet once love is there, it’s difficult to turn away from that. So, those people are also, on some level, not a choice. They are there because they are… there, we are bound by an invisible and often un-understandable tether. Somehow, in some ways, our stories have linked and it’s no longer a choice. But a bond.

But there are points you can turn away, too. Sometimes you must. This should not be taken lightly.

That said, when I think about those I choose to have in my life: those who walk alongside me in the big and small things, the ones who call me for a last minute lunch at Culver’s after church, ones who stop by my house or my office without warning, sometimes with coffee to bribe me (or just to make me feel better), the ones who call me at 2:30pm during the week, knowing I’m at work but I wouldn’t dream of not taking the call.

Those people…My tribe, as some call it… there are my people. They are those that no matter what is happening in my life, I drop it all to do whatever they need me to do.

Some of these people challenge me. Some of these people inspire me. Some of these people make my life easier. Some make it harder, but it’s always worth it. I’m not usually one who shies away from hard things.

[Recent experience with having a puppy excluded.]

Lately I’m wondering if I’m in the minority with this. This thing about having friends that make my life harder.

I know it sounds weird, because I 100% believe that the people you chose to have in your life are there to ease your burden. Are there to hold you up when you fall. Are there to sit with you when there is nothing left but tears. Are there to love when you are at your most unlovable.

But I also don’t have much use for people who don’t push me. People who don’t inspire me to be better. People who don’t take me outside my comfort zone. Maybe this makes me heartless, but I guess I believe that I have a limited amount of emotional energy, and I don’t see value in friendships with people who just simply make me laugh. Not that we can’t be friends, but I am probably not going to invest much in them. I’m not going to trust them with the deepest darkest parts of my soul that I am anything but proud of. I want and need people to make me think, make me better. To help me get rid of those deepest darkest parts of my soul.  And I guess I’m realizing I want the people in my life to be the same way.

I know how ridiculous I sound. Maybe even how unfair I sound. I know a few people who’ve stepped away from me for this very reason. I’m too hard. Too challenging. Not worth it. I might ask for grace and even apologize, but rarely will it alter who I actually am. I just place boundaries on that friendship, try to stop making it so hard, and we eventually drift away from each other.

I guess the thing is, is that I still miss those people when we drift. I wish they would miss me, too, and see the “hard” as worth it. Let’s be honest, this is a form of rejection and no one likes that.

I’ve come to believe there is both an element of trying and not trying in relationships. And ultimately, we have to decide if the trying is worth it and if the not trying is good and healthy and wonderful.

I am grateful for those who choose to do both with me – to try and not try. Thank you for inspiring me to be a better version of myself. And thank you for putting up with me. I love you more than you know.






Monday, January 19, 2015

pieces of beauty

When I was a kid, my dad owned a ranch up in the north part of Nebraska. We had a house up there to use when we wanted, so we often spent weekends there. Or in the summer when I wasn’t in school, we’d be up there for longer periods of time.

There was a lot of land on the ranch. Rolling hills, sprawling fields...it was idyllic and beautiful. My dad and I used to ride horses in these fields a lot. I don’t know what his agenda was – if he was checking on the cattle or just wanted to spend time with me. Who knows? But I remember one day we found an ornate looking piece of metal. This intrigued my dad to no end. He loved this kind of stuff. So we starting search around the area and collected these metal pieces that looked as though they belonged together. It became like a treasure for my dad, whereas I just rolled my eyes every time he spotted a piece and asked me to get off the horse and grab it.

I don’t remember how long this went on. But I’m pretty sure it was a few years. My dad, at some point, has figured out that these were piece to an old pot bellied stove. Once he figured that out, he knew what pieces to look for – the pieces still missing.

I think I was in college when he finally had everything but the door. Somehow, through all of his connection, he found one that would sort of fit. He rebuilt that stove and painted it black. The door that wasn't from the original won’t shut. But no one cares. It’s lovely.



This is a picture of redemption – of what God does to our broken selves. He uses all kinds of things to put us back together. He uses his love, the people he brings into our lives, his Word which tells us about Him, -  who he is and how much he loves us. 

Sometimes he even uses the pieces of a pot bellied stove to give us a picture of his love for us.

He uses challenging experiences, challenging relationships, dark times, to grow us. To rescue us. To redeem us. It's not putting us back together perfectly (we all have our doors that won't shut, right?) barbecue that's won't happen this side of Heaven. But's it's still pretty beautiful. The act of finding all the pieces and putting them together with such care and love is in itself a simple picture of his love and care for us.


God loves using broken things. This is the story of my life. This is the beauty in the mess. This is the light in the darkness. And the darkness has not overcome it.

What to hear more? This is part of a keynote I will be giving At First Presbyterian Church in Casa Grande, AZ on February 7th. Click here for more information.

the hustle

“Calling-out?” “Convicting?” “Keeping accountable?”

“Restore him gently” (to use a softer, biblical phrase from Galatians 6)

So, basically, being someone’s Holy Spirit.

I was having a conversation with my friend/cousin Meredith the other day and she mentioned “the hustle” – a term BrenĂ© Brown has attached to people who make you work for worthiness. The friend that makes you do just one more thing…

I know some of Brown’s work, of course. I’ve written about it here a lot. But “the hustle” was a new term I’d never heard attached to her name, so I did some research. I discovered this:

If we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and have to hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. -BrenĂ© Brown – Hustle for Worthiness

I guess Brown did a study once upon a time, in a DVD that has been discontinued, called “The Hustle for Worthiness”. We avoid talking about what gets in the way of joy, she says, and instead we are hustling for our worthiness. We are all spending our time and energy chasing down worthiness, and that gets in the way of true joy.

I was on the phone with my oldest friend last week and we talked about the disaster of wanting and desiring to “be enough” for the world. This bleeds over into wanting to be enough for our family, our friends, in our jobs. He and I talked about the extra dynamic of this in being single (which we are currently thinking about writing a book about. Yikes.) In the midst of that conversation, I realized something. He is someone that has never expected the hustle out of me. He is one of the lucky few that can go with the ebb and flow of life and take me for who I am.

Has he lovingly called me out? Kept me accountable? Been my Holy Spirit? Only when I’ve asked him to be. And I love him more than life for that. His wisdom is beyond compare because he’s known me forever. And sometimes he knows me better than I know myself. I am so thankful I never had to hustle for that.

In my further research about the hustle, here are a couple of side effects that stood out to me:

  • Hiding parts of your story for fear of rejection and judgment. 
  • Avoiding dealing with deep soul pain (or even surface wounds) for fear it will leave you alone or cause you more pain.

Notice how these two are all about undoing 2014 for me.

I have not been avoiding my deep soul pain this last year. And it has left me alone. Some people just couldn’t take it. They wanted the old me or a different me. But I didn’t. 


Because I am tired of hustling for everyone. I’m nobody’s Holy Spirit. I am not enough. I never will be. And that’s ok.

Also – this talk of hers is worth a listen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CL2jcwBc0HY

Friday, January 16, 2015

send




My index finger stopped just above that blue button. I was pausing. I was unsure. Was I not only ready to send this but ready to deal with the response?

This is the world we live in today. An impersonal yet somehow personal way of connecting with each other… instantly.

I remembering reading several years ago that gmail was instituting a change in their email policies. If it was a certain time of day (late hours of the night) a notice would pop up after you hit “send” and asked, “Are you sure you want to send this?” I think it was called the “drunk email” something – with their goal to prevent stupid things from being sent if you weren't in control your capacities.

What is so bad about that, anyway? Not the drunk part, of course, but the idea that we wouldn't have time to write a perfectly constructed response to a real person? A live person with feelings and a heart and eyes that you can’t ignore. The idea that we could say what was on our heart and that the person sitting across from us would, too. And I would know it wasn't entirely edited. And they had to respond right away… instead of waiting for minutes, hours, even days for a response.

When I hit send, most of the time my heart is wishing that I was sending this while sitting right in front of you. In your presence, feeling what you feel, seeing the look behind your eyes… the tilt of your head, the position of your shoulders, whether or not you were avoiding my eyes. I want to send these words in your presence, while looking at you, so you know what I mean, and there is no misunderstanding.  You can tell by my tone and from the look in my eyes just how much love there is there.

You can be sure

This. This I love.

I’m so done with “send”.



This post is part of Five Minute Friday, a link up of awesome bloggers.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

search


I was in a hotel room after the first day in Milwaukee, journaling. It had been a very long time since I’d sat down with paper and pen to journal about my “feelings.”  I’ll journal here, typing furiously or sometimes painfully slow, depending on my emotions in that moment. And I journal through books of the Bible sometimes as my devotional. I write down notes on paper in meetings, at conferences. But I’ve stopped the “Dear Diary” kind of moments.

Looking back at that entry today, I understand why.

You don’t censor yourself when having that journaling moment. And I mostly don’t censor here, I guess, but there are details left out “to protect the innocent.” So the words in that red spiral notebook hit me hard today. It was December 4th, the Thursday night of one of the worst weeks of my life, professionally and personally. I needed to process my day but the feelings I’d left back in Arizona kept returning. So they were weaving very carefully into what I wrote that night about my day in Milwaukee. Then soon they took over almost completely.

The entry is about regret, being scared, disappointment and hurt.

And I admitted something to myself that I’m still not sure has validity, but it’s truth because it was how I felt in that moment. And reading it now also helps me know it is still true (in the emotions) and that is causing me pause.

How much of our prayers, our desires for something beautiful on this earth, are simply a result of wanting something redeeming and good and lovely to be born out of our pain? How much of our anxiety and the chaos around us cause so many overwrought feelings, that while on some level are truth, have been magnified because of the brokenness that surrounds us? I just wanted something beautiful to happen in the midst of a horrible situation… but would I pray for that same thing if the situation weren’t so painful?

This is the ache of living in the already and the not yet. This is our consequence for taking that forbidden bite. We know how things ought to be. But we will never have them on this earth. Yet we long for them anyway. How much of the sorrow in my prayers is just about relieving the pain rather what is actually true?

This is one of those “search the heart” and ‘search the mind” moments. I getting pretty tired of them.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

falling in love

While I have taken the time to identify who and what I must fall out of love with this year, I also must take a moment, with my words and my heart, to remind myself of those I plan to stay in love with.

With my heart open, trying so much to let others love me and know me and be there for me (and hopefully I've been able to be there for them in the way they deserve, too) I have found those who have been good to me. Those who have been careful with my heart, who've taught me what grace really looks like, what the inconvenience of friendship looks like, and if I’m being completely honest, what true love looks like.

It looks like calling me every morning while I’m putting on my makeup to remind me they are there for me.

It looks like bringing me coffee or flowers. Just because they know it will mean the world to me.

It looks like those who've grieved with me, lamented with me, prayed with me when neither of us felt like it, but Jesus made it so.

It looks likes text message not just asking, “How are you?” but asking “How can I help you?”

It looks like laughter and forgiveness and grace and understanding and confusion and talking. Oh, the talking.

It looks like a nearly dead phone battery by 4pm.

These are my people.

The ones I fell in love with and the ones I intended to stay in love with. My people. The ones who get me. The ones who've been there even though I don’t deserve it. And have been there because I do. The ones who are willing to lean into the hard it all is and give me a small and significant place to be hurt, to feel, to be who God made me.

With grace. Oh, so much grace.

Thank you. You know who you are. I am a better person because of you. I owe you my heart.

I will hand these people a needle and thread. And slowly, painfully watch as they move in and out of my soul, wading around in the muck and mire. Jesus will help them put me back together again because that’s what he does. He gives us people to break and to bind us.


It’s not safe, but it’s good.


Saturday, January 03, 2015

falling out of love


My word for 2014, though I’m only realizing it now that it’s over, was courage.

As I think about what I want and hope from 2015, there is a phrase that keeps running through my head.

“falling out of love with what isn’t good for me”

The phrase, “falling out of love” might be controversial, especially for those of you close to me and didn't know that I actually fell in love. I only recently realized it myself. (A couple of weeks ago, to be more precise.) Perhaps I didn't fall in love in the traditional sense. But I did, indeed, fall in love. And I fell in love with some things that weren't good for me.

There was a lot of heart work done in 2014, where I resolved to be more honest with those I love. And honest with myself. I wanted to be less closed off to the hard experiences and feelings that life brings. And less closed off to let others know me and love me, so I could more fully understand the love of Christ.

And it was pretty awful.

I am gladly leaving 2014 behind.

See, no one told me that it would be painful understanding love more. No one told me that if I let others know me that it would hurt so much. I guess I was hoping that the love of Jesus would make all that hurt go away. It doesn't. It’s just sits there, painfully aware of the rejection and the dashed hopes and the “I’m not good enough” words whispering in my ears.

Uncovering an idol does this to you. It did it to me.

In the process of letting others know me, I "fell in love" with some people who chose not to treat my heart well. I fell in love with the idea that people make me whole. I fell in love with the idea that Jesus was not enough... and dove, happily, head first, into love with others that turned out to be really good at hurting me.

So.

If 2014 was the year of open heart surgery on my soul, then 2015 must be about stitching it back up.

I must fall out of love.

And when I get some kind of clue as to what the heck that means, I’ll let you know.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

pieces

I had stopped at a cute display of wine-themed gifts when it happened. As I stared at the mustache-shaped drink marker, I felt it. The pieces all tumbled out from my core and landed on the floor. They scattered all around me.

I made a fist with my left hand and pressed it up against the hole that was left in my chest, and tears gathered at my bottom lids, then quietly and carefully dropped onto my cheeks.

I felt my shoulders rise and fall, with deep breaths attached. Not again, I whispered to myself. I actually began to wonder how there was any way I still had tears left.

I looked down at all the pieces, unsure of what to do.

They lay there, to my left. My shopping cart to the right. I gently leaned over and began to scoop them up. A woman stepped around me. “Excuse me,” she said, and I barely glanced up as the shame overcame me and the tears continued to fall.

I stood up and wondered where I was supposed to put the pieces I had gathered, and  realized these pieces weren’t what you might expect from a heart. These were grey, beaten-up looking.

Almost like they were dead.

I’ve had a broken heart before. This one feels different.

Grief comes in the ebb and flow of life, just like the waves obeying the moon. One crashed over me last night as I pulled my car into the garage when Cherry Blossoms came on and I heard In my soul I'm aching to grow/Longing for a love I've never known.

It happened this morning when I read momastery’s blog right when the words I was trying to un-break broken things entered my heart.

They came last night when I was on the phone with my counterbalance and while I don’t remember what was said, (something about not being punished) I just remember lots and lots of tears. And then daggers to my heart.

Two nights ago when my oldest friend and I were talking, the tears came when he made me laugh about Oreos. I know.

But as I stood in the middle of World Market holding these pieces, I couldn’t figure out where to put them. They wouldn’t fit into my purse. My cart had Christmas presents in it. My pockets didn’t seem very practical.

I left the store and I honestly don’t know where they ended up. But I do know that when I turned into my neighborhood, I said to myself, I have to get over it.

But I also need a safe place to fall apart, to grieve the loss of this love, maybe just lose it all and then cry this pain completely out of my body. The problem is I don’t want to do it alone. But not anyone will do.

The one with the daggers, the one whose chest I want to beat on even while my eyes are spent with weeping. The one I want, but not the one I need, to be this safe place. But I am too proud to let this happen yet at the same time can't imagine anyone else understanding.

I’m still wondering where those pieces ended up.

Monday, December 15, 2014

prepare


 It seems as though all we do this time of year is prepare.

For me, I have to prepare everything ahead of the rest of the world, it seems. My family lives several states away, so that means shopping early and preparing the gifts to ship in time for when Christmas actually starts.

I usually take off time to go see them, so that means preparing weeks in advance for all the volunteers and teachers at the church, making sure they have everything they need for when I’m gone.

I prepare my house, trying to make it all feel festive by putting up a tree and pulling out all my favorite decorations.

This year, my heart is heavy. Well, it’s pretty much been heavy all year I guess. But this Christmas is particularly painful. Which I guess is fitting for Advent, right?

[Did you know that if you google the word “advent" right now, the headline “Kris Jenner, 59, Flashes Her Ample Cleavage, Shakes It With a Candy Cane for Love's Latest Advent Calendar Video” comes up as fourth? Keep it classy, Kardashians.]

Most who know about Advent understand that it is about waiting and preparing. And most people in the world don’t even “celebrate” it anyway. This time of Advent is seen as Christmas... and it comes as soon as Thanksgiving is over for the diehards who hold out. Others start celebrating in August when the stores first put out their Christmas decorations. But they celebrate Christmas. Not Advent.

The duality of Advent hurts my heart.

The waiting to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, who came to rescue me. [Joy]

The waiting for him to return and makes all things right. [Hope]

Joy in salvation.

Hope in what seems like will never come.

My heart hurts.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Prepare him room.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

when I think about leaving


I think about the time I had you over to watch a movie with a bunch of others and you inspected my bookcase just to make sure we could be friends.

I think about that time I was at your house until 3am playing “Your Best Life Now” and you fell off your chair laughing.

I think about the time we sat at a table at a church potluck together and suddenly I thought it might actually work to stay.

I think about the time you showed up at my door with two other friends, with me expecting the two of us to go have breakfast, but instead you all plowed your way into my home with donuts and a puzzle.

I think about the time we sat for hours while I crocheted and you sewed something and we sang to The Sound of Music at the top of our lungs. (And I recorded it on my phone to use for blackmail later.)

I think about the time you collapsed onto my sofa and declared you were moving in because it was so much better than yours.

I think about the time you paid your son to take credit for one of your moments of, ahem, “flatulence” and we never laughed so hard together.

I think about the time you walked me to my car after watching that movie at Harkins, and we talked about life and culture and movies and Jesus. And you hugged me for the first time and I knew I loved you.

I think about that time I got a friend request from you and we hadn’t even met yet.

I think about the first time I told you I wanted to punch someone in the throat and somehow, that didn’t scare you. (Well, maybe it did a little.)

I think about wrestling with 2 Corinthians 5 together, with our bibles open and our assumptions set.

I think about that time when you called me because you saw something I posted on Instagram and you made me cry. I don't like to cry in front of you.

I think about the time you licked the knee of a fellow small group member and they still haven’t recovered because of their germ phobia.

I think about the time you taught me how to make fondant from marshmallows and my hands turned pink.

I think about when you and I cried together over a loss and we were never the same after that.

I think about the first time you texted me a gif and our communication was altered forever. Still not sure if that's a good thing, though.

I think about the first I had a martini at Bedillons and we all gathered together in the back room and celebrated being together.

I think about the time I gave you bacon and you hung it on your tree.

I think about the time you looked me in the eye and knew what I was feeling and all we could do was just hug and know that our hearts were very old friends.

I think about painting polka dots and chai tea.

I think about that time sitting on your back porch when it rained, while your dog snuggled up next to me and we ate frosted cinnamon rolls and drank coffee.

I think about that Christmas gift I gave you that I knew you would be the only one to get it. Because us.

I think about getting pedicures with hot stone treatments and giggling.

I think about Trump’s lips and Jesus take the wheel.

I think about hundreds of mini muffins and you with a timer.

I think about the white buffalo. I think about music.

I think about phone calls... so many phone calls... and coffee and blankets and pillows and backyards and sweeping and laughter. So much laughter.

When I think about leaving I think of all this. I think about you. And I think about how I don’t want to go.

Monday, December 08, 2014

the hush of advent

On the Meyer’s Briggs personality test, I am an INFJ. When I first tested for this in seminary, I was borderline N/S and F/T. Then when I had to do my family genogram (http://www.genopro.com/genogram/) for my Marriage and Family Counseling class, I discovered something very interesting. I had my immediate family all take the Meyers Briggs and the rest of my family all tested as S’s and as T’s. My counseling professor (Dr. Zink) told me this is why I am on the borderline of both N and F, saying that I was probably naturally an N and F, but my environment (i.e. family) forced me into acting more like an S and a T. (Then, of course, I recall how Dr. Zink told me those were the two that are the hardest to be different from your family. Story of my life – once a black sheep, always a black sheep.)

What does this have to do with Advent? Weirdly enough, snow.

Those of you who’ve read my blog for a while know the love affair I have with snow. It’s God’s cruel joke that he called me to a church in southern Arizona, because of how much I love snow. I love that after the beautiful fall colors fade to brown, snow blankets the earth with sparkly white jewels than shine in the sun. Snow settles the earth down, because people don’t like to drive in the snow (it’s dangerous). They don’t go outside (because it’s too cold). Snow makes the word stop. So it should be with my heart and Advent.

I think there is some beauty with Advent being the start of the church calendar and it’s a season of waiting. “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;” – Ps. 37:7

We are called to wait for the revealing of God’s will in our everyday life. The season of Advent is about celebrating the second coming of Jesus, which hasn’t come yet. So we wait. Advent is not part of Christmas. It’s preparation for Christmas. It’s preparation for his arrival. Because I’m introverted, I prepare in a “put my head down” kind of way. I’d much rather be in my head, think it all through, then carefully work through it outside myself. I don’t always get that luxury, but that is my preferred way of functioning.

This is where I am making the connection – the “S” side of me (the sensing side, which prefers experience over intuition, the concrete over the subjective.) In other words, the things which use our 5 senses: touch, smell, site, hear, taste. For me, seeing snow sends me inside… it makes me quit and reflective. Snow does, in many ways, represent a kind of death for me. The bugs die, the plants die, the grass dies. My environment of snow is a way the sensing side of me triggered my heart and mind to become reflective. Snow is a way the world is hushed.

But here in Arizona, the season of Advent is when you go outside. It’s 70 and beautiful. The sun shines, it’s finally comfortable weather after 6 months of 100 degree temps. This is not the time southern Arizona calms down. This is the time it comes alive. Winter visitors come in droves, traffic picks up, tons of bicyclists hit the road. This is not a quiet time for Arizona. And my brain, after years of living in the snow in December, is wired to shut down this time of year. And I realized this is always helped me celebrate Advent properly.

This particular season of Advent is very much about unrest. Which should point me to hope. And, unfortunately, all it's doing is helping me see just how big my lack of trust in Him is in the midst of this unrest. This time of waiting in about hope... and right now it's hard for me to have hope. Which directly correlates to my lack of trust.

Needing a prayer for this season of Advent, that I would be strengthened in my ability to trust in him.