This is my now fifth attempt to start and write this blog post and I seriously know I just need to sleep.
But it’s there… it is right there on the tips of my fingers. And I have got to spit. it. out.
I wasn’t even going to write tonight but as I sat with my “church woman” to do list, I naturally found myself in texts and emails with other church women. About the bags for the school, about the post for the blog, about the woman dying, about the new baby… All these messages flickering on my phone and coming in my inbox and I got the chills. Serious chills.
Church women are amazing.
Being a church woman is amazing.
These breezy check-ins about who is caring for what and whom brought a Psalm to a new level of understanding.. I read it two weeks ago and have been playing with it since: “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13)
How true. And how much more “land of the living” can you get than an army of women nurturing nearly ever facet of the human experience through meals, prayers, and touch??
Even though I believe that intention can bring our spirit forth in our daily “run of the mill” (through minivans and limousines), I truly treasure the kingdom and goodness of God as you see it through the loving kindness and compassion exercised by women in a church community.
You can be a believer anywhere you want but what gave me the chills tonight was being connected into a touching and spiritually intimate aspect of the land of the living.
Building, encouraging, praying, loving – it’s such a good thing. I pray for all to find their plug in so they can serve and witness the way the spirit works in this manner!! Everybody has such unique gifts…
People need your gifts.
And now my eyes are seriously half way shut. Off to bed.. to the land of the sleeping. I’m sure I will see the goodness of the Lord there too.. lol :) xo
This is my ten year old daughter, Ellen, and her biological grandmothers. My mom is on the right in the white. Both the women and the girl in this picture hold such a profound part of my heart that words just simpy don’t work here.
It’s real love.
The realist of the real.
It has been ten years that I have spent loving this child but probably closer to twenty five years that I have spent dreaming about her.
I remember laying in bed as a young girl, imagining being a mother and picturing a room for two daughters. I imagined award ribbons and pictures and momentos tacked to a cork board.
I had such good ideas for how my life would work.
Relationships (of all kinds) are simply put the best and worst part of human living. It’s incredible to love even with the inevitable grief. For in the suffering that comes with human relating we get to experience compassion. And it’s this compassion that is the core of what makes “relationship” so much to be prized: to have love is to have hurt is to have compassion.
In John 14:27, Jesus says “my peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you”. He says this to secure the comfort of our hearts. Even when he is gone – beloved teacher, shepherding friend – his peace is present.
Tonight my house filled up with people and love and laughter to celebrate Ellen’s birthday. For the first time in ten years, the dinner was on – house set – candles lit – prior to first guests arriving. Throwing a dinner for twenty gets easier but the following does not..
Hours later the house emptied. Until even my lovely ten year old and her darling sidekick Lucy were buckled into their dad’s car which pulled out of the driveway to go back to the land of Netflix and cocoa puffs, cable and ping pong to complete “dad week”.
I walked back into my colorful home that smelled like the warmth of red sauce with a hint of cinnamon and overall calm. I found the silence and the emptiness both soothing and shattering and allowed the wave of it all to wash over me.
As I sat crying – heavy tears – I thought about all the mothers longing for their babies as I longed deeply for mine. The ones born, the ones to be born, the ones that may never be born, the ones born and passed.
I thought of the marriages and relationships that suffer from demons and closets and skeletons. That suffer from selfishness and fear. That are choked by anxiety and drowned with depression.
I thought of how I wished I knew the root of sin. How I wished I could close in on the little tick of sin that breaks good things and lock it away. This way people don’t have to hurt. This way longing and sadness and loneliness don’t happen.
This way birthday parties last forever.
Then I thought – “Erin, my peace I give to you – my peace I leave with you.” And instantly I allowed my heart to enter the loving compassion of Christ and cry not needing answers.
Surely we want to understand so much! Surely we want plans and tactics. We think of what we need that may relieve us. We think of how to get to the root and change the course. But really – perhaps in these moments when our hearts gasp, we are to resist allowing our minds to stir and try to figure something out and instead accept an invitation to enter into God’s peace.
It was left for us. We should rest in it.
In Phillipians Paul writes “May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ.” (Phil 4:7)
And it’s so true, guys, it’s so true – peace is here for us. We are invited into peace when our hearts are quaking. This peace guards us.
It allows us to cry and drip snot on our floor and not have answers. It is when we enter this without the need to know that we get to experience divine compassion.
And it’s this —
It’s this experience of compassion that I guess really allows us to be free from the world. It’s like when we fell as kids, skinned our knee and freaked out at the blood to then have somebody’s loving warmth and care calm us down. All was made right. We forgot about the trauma.
What we want from people and relationships is valid… our sadness is valid. Our longing is valid.
So feel it —
— in doing so, I have found equal to this is the validity of calm and freedom.
Valid is the power of God to be compassionately present and working always and forever in our lives.
ps: hug your babies if you got em ;) for all the mamas who can’t.
I want to begin with a quick disclaimer: I have a weird ability to quickly “grow over” stuff. “Emotional fortitude” is how this has been described to me. A relationship ends and I see a renewed focus on God’s work in my life. My mom in the hospital leads me to learn about who I am as a care minister. When I feel inclined to control something, I let gentleness win. Though I grieve and hurt, I find the typical inclination to pity one’s self or to worry simply gives power away.
…And I don’t like giving power away to the dead and the hopeless. Five hundred million thumbs down to that.
I am certainly not perfect but I am resurrected. I have seen death. I have felt evil. I have met addiction. And I know anxiety very, very (very) well. I used to panic to the point I couldn’t breathe. I would reach out for somebody, anybody, to tell me who I was and what I should do. My relationships defined who I was and I was literally to the world, of the world, and for the world. It was killing me.
Killing me so much that I had a normal life and nobody would have guessed the extent to which I was a slave. (Or maybe ya’ll knew and didn’t tell me. Either way…)
But now? Now, there is not anxiety in my life. I don’t believe in traffic or time. I say this because it represents the freedom I have found in knowing who I am. So I want to talk a little bit about what this discovery looked like for me.
There was one particular turning point that caught my attention. It happened when gardening. Before the divorce I had this really amazing garden. And when I would garden, I would dig my hands into the dirt and my fingers would come up through the soil. I would pull weeds and trim bushes – and I, in the labor and in the way it looked after the labor, felt peace.
The turning point came when one day I realized I am not a gardener; I am a peaceful person gardening.
At this point in my life, I was doing so much and playing so many roles, but I did not know why. To all the sudden realize that I was “peaceful” and not simply “gardening” was a major clock-stopper.
I took the time out and I was all about these questions:Was this who I was? Did I really believe what I believed? Did I really love who I loved? Where was the color and joy and fervour? Why do I love spelling things like a British person?
Ok – that last one wasn’t really one of my questions – but you get it.
I wanted to know who I was.
Now. Here’s the deal:
It is entirely possible that you see knowing who you are and acquainting with your true identity as a long process that will take a lot of work and turmoil and sacrifice. If that is the case, I pray very happy loving prayers that you commit to the process and enjoy the ride.
I also pray – that perhaps you consider what it means to be reconciled to Christ. What it means to not necessarily see this concept of “known” or “conclusion of identity” as a process, but – rather – as an assumption. Allow me to explain:
In this week’s sermon, Matt referenced a really great analogy of art restoration. That art accumulates grime and dust and layers of years that hide the original piece. And that we, as God’s artwork, have these layers over us that are hiding who we are. And I think this makes a lot of sense. We have this core design and it is so beautiful and we need to take a minute and get that original piece restored and known.
My concern though is that I have heard a lot of people start to refer to this unveiling of the true self as work. As something they are going to start rolling up their sleeves and doing. And FOLKS FOLKS FOLKS this is why being Christian is like the BIGGEST gift ever. BECAUSE THERE IS NO WORK. Well. Ok, there is probably some work in changing your brain to believe it actually isn’t work. Grace, in my humble opinion, requires a re-wiring of the brain in order to allow the “ok-ness” you have and the acceptance you get because you are a loved and desired child of God.
That’s the reason I started this post as I did with a disclaimer. I am sensitive to the fact that “just changing” is not something that comes easy. That my radical change of mind and the conditioning and time it took to settle in is something hard to do because there is a reality we face: life sucks and is sad and is hard. I know this because when I first forged ahead for this freedom from the views of the world, I met both internal and external resistance. I sincerely understand that “unveiling the self” and gaining confidence in said unveiled self can be a lot of work! Especially when just meeting the woods, just starting to scratch the surface.
It’s just that I also know, for me, I would probably still be stuck in my head circa 2010 if I would have taken the intellectual approach to identifying and healing and removing layers from the outside, moving inward. I couldn’t start at the edge of the forest and hack in to where I found a center. I was desperate and this outside in process was not a practical approach for me. I wanted life and love and relationships to bloom. I knew my mind was my prison and I started seeing that as insanity. I was suffering from ideas! I wanted to trust myself. I wanted others to trust me. I wanted to feel alive and whole and worthy.
So, instead, I decided to make a radical leap of faith and base my confidence in some assumptions of that inner place…
<Now I’m going to really fly my freak flag.>
I described earlier about a point in my life that I was doing all sorts of things (some cool, some boring) but – all in all – I wasn’t sure why I was doing them or if they fit me.
So I made this:
What that is is literally a list of things “I did” (my roles, goals and hobbies) bucketed into the quality it brought to my life or the spiritual aspect with which I felt it was associated. Making this allowed me to see my gardening, my soccer-moming, my analyzing, my daughtering, my cooking, my praying, heck – my RECYCLING – (really.. freak flag is high and mighty) as intentional. Though I didn’t realize it then, what I was doing was figuring out how I was a Christian.
This exercise did a couple important things for me:
1 – It established confidence in who I was and allowed me to do things either without guilt or with new meaning.
When I went to climb, it was not selfish time away from my family; it was a time of strength and self-control. Recycling was not a burden, but a way I exercised peace. My singing wasn’t a hopeless song in a shoebox; it was an expression of joy.
2 – It allowed me to understand who I was as a spirit led person.
This helps in times I am invited to do something or asked to volunteer or serve in some capacity; I can now consider whether agreeing fits my identity in God. Unfortunately for my down-for-whatever, quick-lipped ego, this meant that a lot of fun things like getting hammered and having super good one-liners that would make somebody feel like an idiot while we all laughed had to go.
Honestly? Not only did this little grid make me intentional, it also made me really quiet. So much so that for the first part of this change over, people thought something was wrong with me. Even now, people who are used to modern day sarcasm as humor don’t know what to do when I don’t react or engage. It’s not that I’m never sarcastic, it’s that I don’t do the cheap stuff. And really – It’s just that my focus in life is to not give rise to the easy default of being of the world. I don’t want my ego to win. I don’t want to be the punch line queen who seeks your attention. I want to be joyful and happy and colorful, but in ways less boisterous and more present. I want to produce fruit that is more than creative fruit or funny fruit or loud fruit or entertaining fruit – I want to produce fruit that is kind and good and faithful.
Does that make sense?
I want to be more like Jesus and Princess Diana than pop stars and sitcom writers. (Ok ok honestly I do want to be a little like Mary J Blige) And where at first this sacrificed a lot of attention getting and good jokes (which felt weird) I found myself transforming into who I am now which (hang with me) is who I have always been but buried under layers of who I thought I should be. I stopped seeking validation. If relationships end, it doesn’t mean I change or am less valuable. I firmly believe: If I am operating from my core, if I can identify what I am doing or saying with who I am as a spiritually intentional person, then I’m good with my choice. Like the post or not. Like the pic or not. Hire me or not. Call me tomorrow or not. It’s OK.
The reason I bring this up is because it took me, say, an hour to sit and do this grid. I threw out stuff that didn’t work for me (bye sun-tanning) and found conviction in the things that bring out my deepest appreciation of my time on this earth.
I ended up finding the ways God works through all things that may otherwise seem “meaningless”. This helped me to “delight in the Lord” in these everyday things. (Psalm 37:4) Really! Really. Really.
I know I’m being such a goober right now. And I swear to you I am not claiming to be perfect. But I do claim to be free in the grace I have found through Jesus Christ. Listen: I really don’t think life is about finding some magical key to who you are and unlocking your purpose. True living, to me, is really about allowing God to take over – allowing yourself to “become mature, attaining to the fullness of Christ” so that you aren’t tossed about by the waves. (Ephesians 4)
Life is about living intentionally and spirit-led so that you can say yes when it means yes and say no when it means no. (Matthew 5:37) Life is really seeing and being seen as the person God made you to be in everything:
…in your trips to Starbucks and at your cocktail parties…
…in your minivans and limousines…
I pray so much we perhaps consider “knowing yourself” is less about work and more about quieting the mind. Take the voices out. Take your heart out of relationships and jobs and dreams and put that beautiful damn thing back in your chest. Let it beat and find a rhythm that is unique to you, based on what you really love and want to do and what aspect of God or Christ or the Spirit (however you want to slice it) shows up in those actions.
Go onward on that path, people, and love every second of it because every part of you is loved.