simply magical summer

A Simply Magical Summer Plan

When my husband proposed, it was very simple. There were no hidden friends, no flash mob dance scenes. There was a beautiful view overlooking Nashville at night, and it was the anniversary of our first real date, but nothing else really set it apart from any other date – until he told me to close my eyes for a minute and when I opened them, he was on one knee with a ring in his hand.

It’s a moment I will remember forever, the words, the place, the champagne a waitress brought over to us after I, very obviously, said yes. Then there were a thousand phone calls to all the people who already knew (I swear my friends were the BEST secret keepers! What even??).  It was magical and beautiful, and very intimate, and it changed the trajectory of my life forever.

I have nothing against big proposals, or even big promposals…

(Actually, I think it’s sort of ridiculous and a hella lot of pressure to put on a 16 year old boy to orchestrate the most magical moment in a young girls life, a girl he’ll probably not see again after graduation. But I digress)

…but I do question the idea that for something to be important or life altering it has to be a large scale event, as though louder music and more people in costume make a moment more memorable instead of the moment itself being memorable.

I’ve thought about these things many times over the last few weeks as I contemplated using my summer as an anchor point for blogging again.  The first five months of this year were a blur of travel and training, prepping and launching, not to mention my full time job as Mom taxi.  I arrived in May worn out and strung out. So I made a pact with myself: other than our annual trip to the beach – literally the most relaxing 10 days of every year – I am not going anywhere this summer.

I’m not traveling, prepping, planning, participating, making food for, being responsible for or answering for anything –well anything but the dogs, the dogs can stay.

I am creating self care routines which include such exciting things as reading books, taking vitamins, daily exercise, meditation…and 750 words written every day. Ah see, you knew I was coming to a point eventually.

Writing 750 words every day means drawing from a decidedly – and intentionally – small scale existence and extracting meaning through being rather than orchestrating meaning through elaboration; in other words, finding the story in the mundane instead of creating an epic thrill ride.

I’m determined that summer 2016 is going to be both memorable and magical not because it’s big and loud or flashy, but because it’s a season of creating my own happiness. Last year I deconstructed..well..almost everything: faith, myself, relationships, church, scars, beliefs. I’m down to the foundation now, the non-negotiables. I’m uncovering who I am and rediscovering what I really believe – before I believed I had to be someone else so everyone would like me.

I believe clean slates are magical. There’s nothing more promising than a new page, or a new year. They thrum with potential and possibility. They are momentous because of what they may become, not because they come accompanied with glitter and fan fare.

Just like the day I said yes to my husband, this summer is both simple and unassuming, as well as pivotal and sacred. Even though I may not leave home very often if I can help it, there is no limit to the places I can go now that I know the direction I am walking.

This is my simply magical summer plan, unfolding in the quiet moments and the home spaces. I’m looking for the ordinary goodness of a thunderstorm and a good book, of a panting dog after a morning walk and the mundane discipline of healthy routine. I’ll be writing about the little ways we make profound changes in our lives and in the world simply by being who we are.

If simply acknowledging the ordinary beauty of being alive and aware in this incredible world isn’t magical, I don’t know what is.

Hello June

Hello, June: A Rebirth of Words and Hope

It hasn’t felt like summer until this week, not only physically but spiritually. I generally look forward to summer as space to breathe,  think and relax, to stretch out like a cat in the sun – again both physically and spiritually. But this year has felt different with house guests and graduations and parties and weddings and obligations galore, filling in the margins and spilling over on the next day’s pages.

I even spoke, alone, for twenty minutes to room full of people and did not die.

Life has been wonderfully good, overwhelmingly emotional and very outside my comfort zone –which as we all know is curled up quietly in the hammock with a book.

But here we are in June already. For the last two days my soul has yawned, stretched and peeked around the corner, blinking in anticipation in the long-awaited morning light of summer.

Summer time and the livin’ is easy
, so the song promises anyway.

I’ve blamed my lack of words these last two months on many things – see list above – and while these are true reasons for not writing, they are not the deepest reasons. They are a window dressing, curtains over the windows of a room kept tightly sealed, a room with a monster inside.

Over the months of 2015 and early 2016, I wrote and spoke and thought and processed a great deal about healing, for me, personally, healing from grief, shame and guilt most of the time.  Things I’d been ignoring for years were finally peeled back and examined. I believe I made people crazy, worn out and uncomfortable with it all, though certainly no more than I was making myself. But I couldn’t stop; I can’t stop. This is a life or death crossroads for me, and I’m choosing life.

It’s true what ‘they’ say about a lie, you know, once you tell one you have to tell five more to cover it up and ten more to cover up those lies. I’ve been lying to myself about myself for a long time – layer upon layer upon layer. It shouldn’t surprise me that it may take as long to heal as it took to convince myself I wasn’t hurt in the first place.

After months of peeling and dealing and healing, I finally uncovered something, something huge. I thought it was a little piece, a small new discovery I would hold in my hand, examine and process just as I had all the other things.  But when I tried to pull it out, I found the monster I’ve been hiding from for so long, latched onto my brain stem, anchored deep into my gut, laying over my skin, stirring up my thoughts.

He looked so unassuming on the surface, I had no idea he was there at all, until I began dealing with the things around him one by one.

I call him Fear and we’ve been in a stand-off now for many weeks. He’s big, this fear. He lurks and looms, howls and gibbers. He bites and clings and whines, demanding attention. Like a leech, he feeds on me, blood, body and soul.

He’s kept me from writing for some time now, even when I told myself it was all the other reasons stopping me from sitting down here at this machine and emptying myself on to the page.

I believe our little dance began, Fear and I, when I blithely spoke aloud two dirty little secrets I’d been contemplating for some time: Abuse and trauma.

I’ve been focused on grief, shame and guilt for a while, but I understand now they are symptoms of a deeper sickness, I can spend so much time focusing on them, but they will never go away entirely until I address the source. Not fear, he is only the body-guard, and I woke him when I named the source, almost innocently so many weeks ago.

Abuse and trauma (I can feel fear breathing on my neck even as I type the words, hot, menacing fingertips closing around my soul.)

Remember back at the beginning when this was a still a light and tidy little blog about summer? I still feel that too – the lightness, the breathing space, the soul peeking out.  Somehow in a space with all this fear, the light is still winning, and I feel hope – hopeful that the light won’t go out, that even though it burns and scalds, it also heals.

For the first time in while I believe I can coexist and heal within the two realities – the light and the fear – I can even write from within them.

My soul is peeking out, blinking in the light of a long anticipated summer.

Hello, June.

A Year in the Dark

A Year in the Dark

“To pretend that we can get to helping, generous and brave without navigating through tough emotions like desperation, shame and panic is a profoundly dangerous and misguided assumption.” –Brene Brown, Rising Strong

 

I spent last year in the dark.

For a few weeks, I’ve been looking back over the year with a semi-objective eye, trying to determine if it was all necessary, or if it was simply an unhealthy wallow in messed-up, battered regrets .  I’ve been circling around it, poking its soft underbelly and trying to sneak up on it when it wasn’t looking, hoping it would reveal its true nature. I’ve finally come to this conclusion:

Sometimes we must walk through dark places and there is no short cut or detour around it. It takes as long as it takes. There is no shame in going through this process.

 

Why can’t I just get over this?

For years I allowed guilt to put blinders on my understanding of how to walk through healing.  An undeniable Divinity guides the way of my life, and I mistakenly thought, or paid attention to occasional instruction, that focusing on anything other than the Divine is ungrateful, resisting surrender to God’s plan for my life. It sounded good, and it was certainly the prettier choice.

I clung to the obviously divine things – there is a great deal to choose from – and rejected the more base, human reactions which were messy, painful, and sometimes, downright ugly.

It seemed so spiritual. It would refine my experiences into pure gold, right? Turns out refining isn’t a very pretty process, despite the spectacular results.

The problem is I am not divine. I am human, created that way by the same hand which guides my path.  The Creator put those “bad emotions” in my being, right along with the “good” ones, and – so long ago it’s been all but forgotten- He called them good. He called me good. Not in spite of, but because of my humanity, emotions and all.

Those uncomfortable emotions, fear, anger, betrayal, sadness, He gave them to me so I can recognize when something is wrong or I am in danger; when something has been lost or I am injured.  He gave me those emotions to use as tools, but instead I believed they were weapons, dangerous to me and those around me.

I shoved them away and hoped the spaces they left would be filled with better, holier things.

Essentially I crippled myself, because when you turn down the volume on the warning signals in one area of your life, you turn them down in every area.  I added insult to injury for years by not only denying the uncomfortable emotions from past hurts, but by weakening the necessary defenses for dealing with further damage.
I was an emotional catastrophe waiting to happen. Eventually, left to themselves for too long, emotions will riot, and the fallout may be far reaching and devastating.

How I learned to walk through it, instead.

Fortunately for me, while I did experience an explosion of sorts – or perhaps implosion is a better term – I still had a host of divinely appointed people around me who were able to handle me with care while I began the dark and terrifying task of feeling everything I hadn’t felt for years.

I also had an amazing therapist, someone who walked with me but was also separate from me and my experiences.

I experienced a lot of neglected emotions, each one as sharp as the day it was born. Sometimes they took turns, but many times they all cried once.

My feelings demanded to be felt until they were finished; I was their captive audience.

I spent a difficult, angry, messy, painful, sad, betrayed, hurt, grieving, ugly year in the dark, and honestly, I’m amazed it isn’t longer. I am learning through my experience, all of its messy beauty, rather than being released by an epiphany. I finally see some light again but the process refuses to hurry or stay hidden, no matter how many times shame tries to tell me I should be “over this” by now.

We love the concept of getting over something. We climb it, master it, conquer it! We are victorious!  It’s true; we are, but what we fail to recognize as we claim our victory, is yes, Christ conquered even death, but first He actually died, terribly, painfully, bloody, beaten and bruised.

Before He could get over death, He had to live through it, and I have no doubt Jesus would tell you it was the single longest day of His entirely human life, brutally, cruelly ugly long before it turned beautiful. He was entirely present on both sides of the process.

We have to stop trying to bypass the most uncomfortable, human parts of our lives, which include both hurting and healing, in order to get to the fun and exciting “redemption moments” of our story.  I’m turning the light on my year of darkness because it wasn’t until I worked through it that I could even imagine rising over it.

But I can.  I am. You can too. We can do it together.

We don’t have to be afraid of the dark.

Learning to sit with pain

Learning to Sit with Pain

Sometimes when we are wounded very deeply, we learn to hold on to the false hope that there are things we can do to shield us from being hurt again.  It happened to me. There are moments and feelings I remember with breath-taking immediacy, as sharp as if they were just happening:

Being so ashamed I closed all the blinds and made excuses not to leave the house, not even wanting to meet people’s eyes.
Realizing I was so cut off, so effectively bound by silence that I couldn’t even attend the wedding of my best friend’s son.
Walking away from entire communities of people because the few ties to what happened made my grief and pain unwelcome.
Believing that to speak against the damage I had incurred was something God couldn’t abide because the people who had hurt us so deeply were church leaders, and tearing down the church is a sin.

Just writing about these memories. I can feel shame and fear, their breaths mingling hot on the back of my neck, whispering to stop now before I go too far….again.

Their voices are hauntingly real. I’ve listened to them for too long, believing I could outrun, out work, out perfect, out perform any chance of being  deeply hurt again.  Even all these years later, I am uncertain the lengths I would go to avoid the scar searing shame I felt for months afterwards if I could only see it coming.

I believed not only grief and pain were something to be ashamed of, reserved for the private recesses of our homes and souls, but that life could be managed in such a way to mitigate future pain.  Whatever those skills were, I must learn them, as quickly and effectively as possible so I could make Pain go away, and never risk feeling it again.

I’m sure you know the rest of the story.
It doesn’t work.
No matter what I did, who I became, I couldn’t keep Pain at bay.
I hurt again,
and again.
Cancer, friends, church, family, the past, the future, all of it snuck in with Pain again, when I wasn’t prepared, wasn’t looking or acting the right way.  I still didn’t have it together enough.

So I circled my life tighter around the little idol on which I’d placed my hope, something was so very broken in me and when I found it and fixed it, Pain would finally go away.

.

I know now it’s insanity to live this way, but the journey to understanding this has been long, and – you probably guessed it – very painful. In fact, for a long time I had to keep tearing at scabs trying to exorcise Pain. It affected my relationships and disrupted my sleep.

I looked Pain in the face every day, challenging it at first to ‘come at me bro’ and then little by little listening to it, learning its many names. Eventually we were able to sit together and instead of staring into its flaming eyes, daring it to come any closer, I was able to see that in its misshapen hands it held gifts.

Gifts!
Can you even? How dare my arch-enemy come to me with gifts?
I felt cold with fury all over again.

At first I tried to snatch the gifts from him, scrabbling at them with impatient ferocity, If only I could grab them, I could run away, a safe distance from Pain and all its unwanted feelings. But the more I grabbed and plotted, the tighter Pain held his gifts.  I was unrelenting in my quest, and he met my desperate fury with implacable stoicism.

Week after week, we sat toe-to-toe, me unwilling to leave without his gifts, and he simply unwilling to leave. I even tried holding my hands out, empty, waiting, hoping he would become tired and finally drop the gifts into my waiting arms them if I sat long enough.

Eventually another option occurred to me. It seems horrible at first, unthinkable even, but I finally understood I couldn’t avoid Pain, nor could I stare him down and make him leave. He was never going to just relinquish his gifts and go away.

Finally, years after he came screaming into my life with the force of a nuclear detonation, leaving a miasma of radiation which would sicken my wounded soul for years after the impact, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and placed my hands over his, gently accepting him just as he is.  With terrified slowness, I inclined my head towards his and leaned my forehead against his fevered brow.

When I finally found the courage to look up, we were both crying, me and my Pain.

It was then I finally realized he’d been sitting alone with his gifts for years, waiting for me to accept him, just as I had waited for acceptance myself.  The gifts fused  to his very flesh. He was unable, even if he wanted to, to set them down and walk away from me.

No the only way I would ever be able to use these gifts pain offered would be to reach out to him, to join my hands with his, forever and allow his place in my life as openly as I have welcomed the more obviously beautiful gifts of love, and joy and laughter.

I’m learning to sit with Pain, to make space for him in my life and hold his hands tenderly, aware of how fragile he is underneath his scarred skin.  I’m becoming familiar with his gifts and appreciate their powerful beauty. We’re working together to banish shame and bring healing, first in ourselves and then spilling out into the world.

What is the Uncommon, good life and why you want to read about it.

What is the Uncommon, Good Life?

Yesterday I shared about a new vision for this space: searching for the uncommon, good life.  To be very clear, my grammarian friends, I do not mean an uncommonLY good life, but a life which is both an uncommon life and a good one. These are the two themes around which all my reading, all my study, all my efforts and dreams seem to revolve.

What is an ‘Uncommon’ Life?

An uncommon life is one which doesn’t have it’s roots popular culture.  I used to call this “the American dream,” but to use those terms interchangeably insults what was once a relatively noble ideal, though we could spend all day arguing whether the ideal was implemented with any nobility, or whether our modern concept reflects the original intent. Still, it’s impossible to live at odds with an abstract ideal.

However, popular culture is a reality, though a constantly shifting one, which seldom offers much of lasting value.

When I dream about searching for the uncommon good life, I think of it as a journey.  Over the last few years our journey has included financial upheaval ending in foreclosure and bankruptcy, extensive downsizing, shifting to cleaner, more sustainable eating habits, and an intentional focus on generosity, social justice and racial, religious, gender and sexual equality.

I’m digging deep, examining my soul, only to find I’ve accepted a great many lies disguised as truth.  Many of them are the ones that help us sleep at night, the ones which make it easy to ignore our neighbor, leverage our advantage, and kill our enemies.

I’ve asked question which make me uncomfortable as well as wildly unpopular. But I find asking the questions sometimes makes them easier to sit with even when there aren’t easy answers.  Once the question is voiced, it makes room for others to say, Hey! Me too. I’ve wondered about that myself but was afraid to ask.  I’ve left most of my certainty by the wayside.

I’m finding unexpected, kindred spirits in contemplative and mystics, gardeners and gypsies, recyclers and repurposers, in questioners and meditator, slow movers, peace makers and those dwelling in the margins.

I’d honestly rather make a loaf of bread than a million dollars, even with all the potential freedom a million dollars can buy me.

I’m finding the uncommon isn’t really uncommon, but it tends to be quieter and more intentional. It doesn’t trend or shout or have cool hashtags, and sometimes it feels a little lonely if, like me, you’re not great at small talk or certain where to meet unconventional thinkers.

What is a ‘good’ life?

 In Erwin McManus’s book, Artisan Soul, he says:

There is a subtle side effect when it comes to the language of good and great. Good has become less than great. Good has become “above average.” Good to great has become the same as better to best, when in fact they are of different qualities altogether when it comes to essence…Great is about execution and achievement; good is about essence and ethos. The artisan soul aspires to do great work but never neglects the importance of being inspired by all that is good and beautiful.

I considered this difference for days as I was thinking about re-imagining my life — and by extension my writing since both are entirely entwined. I realize I have often aspired to greatness without first embracing things which are good.  I live a life filled with good things, and I want the overflow to spill into the world around me.

The world doesn’t need more greatness.  There’s plenty of common greatness to be found in political arenas and Hollywood. The executive suites of any Fortune 500 company are filled with great women and men. But goodness is a rare and elusive quality in a person.

Good is a humble word of immense depth. God uses it to describe Himself and His creation repeatedly in scripture, but we’re so easily drawn to great words like awesome and powerful, we seldom stop and rest awhile in the simple comfort of goodness.

Good has less to do with drawing attention to ourselves as it does the quality of our purpose and design.  We are introduced to the universe as ‘very good’, and compelled by Jesus to ‘do good works’. We usurp this worthy calling with glitz, glamour, extolling popularity because good is nice, but what about great? Fantastic? Amazing? Spectacular? 

What about all the more exciting things which sound so much better than plain old good?

But those things ring hollow lately. I hope to be remembered not for my greatness, but for my goodness. I want the way I live each day, from the things I do to the people I see, to the ways I express myself enmeshed with the holy essence of good, because good is place to rest in a fast-paced, shiny world.

What does it all mean?

You may wonder what will you find here in the face of these changes?  Probably a bit of everything.  Uncommon goodness ranges from prayer to baking to raising teenagers and cuddling dogs, to baptism to simple good works and all the moments which fill the spaces between. It’s about a journey to embrace all the ways life has changed me, and how those changes are not what I would have ever chosen, but are also good. Very good.

Uncommon Good Life

In search of the Uncommon, Good Life

Have you ever had an idea but no concept of how to begin?
Have you ever felt you could see a thing, in fact you could almost touch it, but no matter how you stretched and grasped, you only barely brushed it with your finger tips, but never really grasped it?

I’ve felt this way for several years, but over the last month, it feels like I may get my hands around it at last.

My husband and I spent last weekend away. Over the three days, we stayed in two distinctly different locations. We stayed the first night in a small, no frills hotel room.  It was very nearly a micro-efficiency, boasting a tiny, but full, kitchen, a large closet and a small dining/ sitting area.  It wasn’t luxurious or terribly up-to-date, but it had a fabulous balcony overlooking the ocean.  We spent every moment of our time in the room with the outside door open, watching the water, the birds, the shifting light and shade. It was lovely.

We stayed the second half of the weekend at a five-star resort.  It didn’t just have amenities; it was specifically designed for luxury living. We shared a villa with long-time, wonderful friends.  There was room service, a golf course, a pool with lazy river, beach access, full service spa and four on-site restaurants. The villa itself was roughly twice the size of my actual home. While we were there we enjoyed every comfort, and were blessed to take part in an elegant wedding with people who have helped shape our entire lives. It was lovely.

While we thoroughly enjoyed both parts of our weekend – agreeing together how well they joined to make a perfect whole – we also recognize that given the choice of which style we would choose for a prolonged stay, we both would choose the simplicity of the first hotel.  It’s funny because five years ago, we wouldn’t have even compared the two or found much to recommend in the first accommodation.

My experiences over the last five years have shaped me as surely as water wears away stone. In some ways the changes happen gradually. I hadn’t even noticed until I looked back to find how far I have wandered from common ideologies once so important and familiar. At other times, the shift has been sudden and sharp, a startling gasp for breath after a long time under water, though I didn’t know I was drowning.

With every change, both sudden and slow, a subtle shift occurs. I don’t believe life is a scale which can actually be balanced (balance is a unicorn, often sought after but never found), I do believe we often exist in tension between how we live, and beliefs we profess. Just as a rubber band can stretch only so far before it snaps, life can only be held in this tension for so long before it breaks apart.



If ideology is a rubber band which holds life together, mine has broken in the same place twice. Once, when these changes and shifts began, it broke in ways which damaged my spirit and wreaked havoc on every part of our lives.  Because I didn’t know better, I tied the ends back together, trying to arrange everything just as it was before it became difficult,  all the while pretending I hadn’t put my faith in the strength of a worn out, broken strip of rubber.  I made everything inside look pretty and tried not to put any tension on the cord which bound it all together for fear it would break again, leaving behind an unholy mess.

This life management method worked pretty well until a year ago, when the tension became too much, and the band broke again, this time for good. Not only could I not use the same tired, old ideologies to bind my life back together, I didn’t want to. They don’t fit anymore. My common rubber band had served its purpose and then some, but it’s time to leave it behind and move on.

So here we are in the messy part, but it’s far from unholy. Nothing is neat or contained; ideas, beliefs and theology lay around in jumbled piles.  But holiness is all around me. Hidden inside and underneath the mess are treasures, jewels forged from the pressure of tension, ways of living and understanding which are new, uncommon and filled with healing.

I’ve changed: who I am, how I live, what I believe, what I want.

The interesting part in all of this is figuring out how to live with integrity, how to create from the messy mix of unbound parts a pattern of living which is whole-hearted.  After all, I can say I am for justice, or the environment, or simplicity all I want, but if I support oppressive practices, live non-sustainably, hoard all my money and continue to chase after bigger, better and newer, then I’m only trying to assemble a life using the same old rubber band I’ve always used.

I’m done putting my faith in worn out constraints. I’m tired of doing the same thing in the same ways because it’s convenient.  I believe we are called to live in ways which are intentionally uncommon, and foundationally good, and these things look very different from conventional means and mores.

The thing I’ve glimpsed from the corner of my eye, the one I’m searching for but can never quite reach,is ‘The Uncommon Good Life,’ and I’m running hard after it. It’s taken a lifetime to assemble the pieces which will help me reach it, to understand it’s more about the journey than the destination.  It’s a holy, messy, uncertain, wonderful, hopeful, unexpected trip. Come along for the ride, it’s better with a little company.

How to Welcome New Year

Welcome, New Year

Last night I flitted around the house, opening doors, kissing my husband and children, being inappropriately loud and enduring the disdain of dogs and humans. No one in my house welcomes New Year quite like I do.

Remember how the world felt on Christmas morning when you were little? How you’d creep out from your room and peek into the living room to see what was hidden by the light of the tree? Maybe you didn’t do this, but I did. Every year without fail, even after the heartbreak of learning my beloved Santa was only make-believe, I’d sit and stare at the gifts, turning some over and over in my hands, wondering and waiting, anticipating what the early morning hours would reveal as we tore the paper aside.

This is exactly the feeling I have about New Year.

Here we are, crouched in the early hours staring into a vast room with so many unwrapped moments waiting inside. Though I may even pick them up and turn them over in my hands, I cannot unwrap any of them until the moment is just right. Through the hardest and most beautiful of years, I can always count on these bubbles of anticipation on December 31st, champagne for the soul.

I few weeks ago, I discovered the word who will be my guide through 2016: Generous.

Since then, I have examined the layers of this word, the ways it will reveal itself in my life over the next months.  I’ve smelled, touched and tasted it, trying to familiarize myself to its curves and its manners so I can still find it, even when my days are lonely and dark, as some are certain to be.

Generous.

On the surface describes a spirit of giving, perhaps even profligacy. It inherently carries a reckless disregard for conforming to acceptable standards.

When flipped upside down it can also mean the quality of gracious receiving. Only Yahweh Himself is the endless giver of good things. We human souls must always pause for refilling and restoration before we can pour out again.  Generosity runs like the sands of the hour-glass, emptying one chamber as another fills, until we once again turn everything over.

Generosity can also imply making room. It feels wide open and forgiving when we look at it this way. It beckons and welcomes, promising comfort, promising enough, promising acceptance. It’s soft as a kiss and close as a hug.  It’s sings of release from my buttoned up life and forgiveness for my upcoming mistakes. It makes me feel at home even if I’m not sure where everything will fit, or if I  want to unpack all the baggage of dragged along into this new year.

It whispers of what I will learn; how I will stretch: the ways in which I, too, will make room to include ways which haven’t fit well until now.

It promises there is space for one who has waited so long outside for there to be welcome and understanding.

I see all these things and many more as I sit here in the shadowy hallway, gazing at the gifts of a new year, waiting, all for me.

So how will I welcome this new and unblemished year?  I’ll be true to myself by opening it slowly, letting the pieces emerge and unfold without rushing or forcing them to fit where they aren’t meant.  I’ll begin softly, making space for whatever the year brings with it.  I’ll speak its name quietly until it feels at home on my tongue, “Generous, generous, generous.”

We’ll take time to get acquainted and we’ll begin unwrapping as the moments are right.

And you? How will you welcome this precious new year? It will only happen once in this lifetime. It’s waiting at the door, even now.

something new 113015

Something New

I learned two important things while failing at the Write 31 Days project: the first is my inability to undertake two life consuming projects at one time – believe me, training for a half marathon was entirely life consuming, though I hope I improve for the next one. The second revelation was initially discouraging but ultimately far more important than the first. I learned that I don’t know what I’m talking about.

No really. I have knowledge covering a range of subjects, but I am an expert at very little.  I’m trying to dive in the shallow end of the pool and it’s beginning to look and feel ridiculous.

I recently read Eugene Cho’s book, Overrated with my renegade book group, and was further convicted by his words on depth:

“Ideas, in and of themselves, don’t change the world.
Rather, people who faithfully and tenaciously implement their ideas change the world. Women, men, and children who have the courage to pursue their convictions change the world. That’s you and me. It’s those who respond. For those who are Christians, worship isn’t just ingestion of good news— worship and discipleship begins when we respond to the revelation of God. When we choose to live out our faith.
That idea in your head?
Pray about it.
Reflect on it.
Get it out.
Talk about it.
Test it.
Share it.
Put flesh to it.
Pursue it.
Implement it.”

I’ve mulled the failure to finish, shallow end dabbling, faith deconstruction thing along with those words for six weeks.

Normally, this is where I’m so sick of my self, I throw my hands up and walk away. Instead I’m feeling inspired to do something new, not hang around wish things were different.  I’ve been stuck in a pattern of experience and response for too long.  Even when I know I don’t like the pattern, I’ve not been willing to take time to initiate change, waiting for instant gratification, a fairy godmother experience.

While this truth should make me look in the mirror and vomit, the relief of finally figuring out where I need to go is too big to feel anything but overjoyed and, dare I say it, excited.  I have a direction, which means it’s time to get started, and divinely enough, today is the first day of a new year.

I know, I know. It’s November 30th which is close to New Year but we have a rather important month to get through before we roll into New Year’s Day.  Unless we look at the church calendar. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a Spiritual new year, if you will, and a perfect day to embark on a spiritual pilgrimage.

And this space? Remember what Eugene said in the passage I’ve been mulling over….Get it out.Talk about it. Test it. Share it. Put flesh to it… that’s where this space -and hopefully you- will come in. I’m going to wrestle and wrangle, talk about it, share it and put flesh to it…slowly. I’ll take all the time I need. Call it an experiment. Call it a journey. Call it something new.

Just don’t call it the same thing it’s always been.

Here’s to a new day, a new week, a new season, and a new year. It’s gonna be good. Stick around awhile and see.

31 days of Intentional changes

Intentional Intermission

Today is Oct 15th, otherwise known as the half way point for Write 31 days.

I decided to take a break from sharing information to simply sit and chat for a few minutes. We’ll call it an intentional intermission.

I miss chatting. Writing every day, like this, for a month is an emotional endeavor. Intentional living, and thus intentional change, is something I am incredibly passionate about.  I believe we have power to affect great change in our life, and because of my faith, I believe even more strongly that we are called to affect great change in the world.

From my perspective, this change is called Kingdom Come.  As a follower of Christ I want to do what I can, every where I can to bring the Kingdom of God to fulfillment in the world. This is the call of the Church, not sitting safely in our buildings until we fly to the sky to be with God.

I’m struggling to bring this passion to the page in ways which are authentic rather than preachy.  At the same time, I’m having to examine my thoughts, my actions, my motives and the details of my life which is painfully vulnerable and incredibly humbling.

intermission

I don’t know how to write without it being personal then I second guess myself as coming off as holier-than-thou when goodness knows I’m not holier than anyone. I don’t qualify as holy in any capacity except I know a Guy who spills a little on me every day – just enough to get me through and little to share with my neighbor.

It’s a messy business, this stepping outside of working only towards personal change, which is important but not the goal, into the great, big, bold, messy, beautiful, unpredictable world of humanity.  People. I love their stories and their strength and their crazy capacity for hope, and I’m scared to death of them, their differences, their hurts and the ways sometimes their guts hang out all around them and I accidentally, or even intentionally, step on them, or feel compelled to show them my own guts. Messy. Then sometimes they hate my guts, or I’m not overly fond of theirs, and that’s hard too.

But what I’m really learning now, after 42 long years of living, and 20 years of being a survivor and nine months of therapy is nothing ever happens in isolation. Change is always generated by something. Spontaneous regeneration is a lie. So we may want our lives to be better, or our relationships to be better or the world to be better, and that’s all well and good.

But if we don’t actually do something – something imperfect, something unlikely, something maybe a teensy bit dangerous, something which may cause people to clutch their pearls – and if we don’t do it our very own selves instead of waiting for permission, or a program or the vote to swing our way, nothing will ever change.

What I really don’t want is to start looking back now and wishing I’d done things, said things, mended fences, acted differently, lived differently, chosen kindness, chosen forgiveness, chosen to live intentionally instead of simply letting life happen and eventually bury me.

So here we are, taking a hard look at who I am (maybe you too?) and where I’m going (maybe you too?) and actually working to integrate a person I believe in and the person my actions say I am.

Is it worth it after fifteen days? I don’t know yet. I think it will be, but that’s the other frustrating thing about change is that it can be so darn slow. Momentum and force and velocity are processes not products and the process takes time. The only way to know it’s worth it is to keep plugging at it. Keeping poking the bear with a stick and asking the hard questions and believing there are a surprising number of other people out there saying, “Hey! I want to change this too! Maybe we can change together!”

Maybe we can bring kindness, and love our neighbor ourselves, take days off, and care about the earth, and listen without judgement.
Maybe we can change the world.
It’s sure not going to change itself.

PS – two things you should also read
3 ways we can look at people 
Happy Birthday, Church in the Canyon – so much of what she says about writing is a big ME TOO.