I had a dream last night that I was walking into a grocery store and there was a crimson red ribbon of color above me, spanning the width of the whole path way. And as I walked, it would come under my feet and fill me with confidence, that’s when I noticed it became a red carpet. And – just like that – it would be above me again. (While also still under my feet, but without me ever tripping or getting tangled.)
Then, in my dream, I heard that this was “the blood of Jesus”.
Now – I don’t really use Christianese language to that degree (yet?) but the women at the church I have been going to totally, totally do.
(And I love it, btw)
So, I have missed the 6am prayer line for a week at this point. I have been sleeping until 6:40 which has been totally and wholly necessary. But – even so – I know the women are praying for me – as I am praying for them, as I lay in bed – aware it is prayer line time. And I know that they are praying for me and my household, specifically, to be covered in the blood of Jesus.
One of my favorite things (but also one of the most mysterious things) is when you remember your dream during a certain point in a day.
And just when I was starting to question things, just when I almost got tricked into negative thinking (by the way, there really are different degrees that your mind can trick you into negative thinking – I really need to write a whole post on that), my reality just put me back on track.
Side note – isn’t it your reality that sometimes makes you think negative?
I point this out because it was my reality, it was the things that were happening, that curbed that and put me in positive thinking.
This, is proof of prayer working in life.
I put on a favorite ball cap over my fresh hair cut.
A random song came on a play list that reminded me there is something bigger than me and it – (cool thing) – happens to be in me, too.
I walked my dog in the perfect morning sun and he didn’t rip my arm off when he saw those three bunnies that live on the corner.
I felt beautiful inside and out. I felt cared for, okay, on track, ready, productive, successful, able.
I felt confident in my ability to get this back to school schedule right in the ass.
(I haven’t shared yet that BTS schedule requires me & my girl grew LEAVING the house at 6:55am, have I?)
And it was then – in this zest of a moment when I was stepping off my mowed happy watered lawn, happy because of all these things, that I remembered that red ribbon in my dream.
So – as I press on in this new season of writing regularly, taking my game up at corporate, raising teenagers, praying my dog doesn’t eat that thing that really is finally a problem, teaching – convinced that there is something bigger and it’s pulling me forward, I guess I just am sharing this idea that being rooted is one thing, but being covered is another thing.
And we need both. We ground ourselves but something else protects us.
Is this the grounding hope and the protection faith?
This is kind of blowing my mind. So I am going to think and pray more on it.
But for now –
What do you believe is protecting you?
Maybe an angel? Maybe the blood of Jesus. Maybe Kesha and Macklemore?
Just sayin’ – to me, in my very much non monk, non pastoral role of blogging here in my studio – it could be anything positive that makes you feel good.
The point is that you believe, energetically, that you have a shield that helps you stay on track and provides you confidence.
And now I am even remembering getting wigged out about work as I have not been feeling the protection on this upcoming project like I have felt on past efforts.
But that wigging has even been diminished by this notion.
Because what can hurt us, really?
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
If the universe is throwing me perfect morning dance parties and my day old coffee tastes good? I mean … that’s making it, right?
UB40 is playing on my “Three Little Birds” Pandora Station and the mildly annoying chatter of two teenagers and my sweet Lucy rattles and laughs against the clank of dishes and commands of dogs (<< plural for poetic effect, though I am so preparing my heart for the right puppy number 2) from the kitchen. Ranger is not by my side, surprisingly, but is in the kitchen – hoping for an Alfredo noodle or some cheese or pretzel crackers to be dropped to him during the process of cleaning up.
I? Am in my writing studio, wanting to capture this week – this moment in time. My whole life, it seems, is coming together – tightening correctly, woven seams. And the reason I am confident in this is based on the fact that it is based on what I am seeing happening in *other people’s lives*.
But, this is the fun part of trying to find the threads in my own life. Let’s start here:
So, when I bought my house (two summers ago), there was this big circle pod of day lillies right in the middle of my lot. Pretty, but odd. So last year, I dug them all up and put them in new corners, some in new rows and some in the trash :) And when I finally saw this crew in the one corner of my house bloom – this fleshy peach and ruby – I couldn’t help but feel some sense of validation in me doing what I wanted to my yard.
Sometimes, I don’t do what I want because it directly changes or opposes something somebody else intentionally did. The way my yard looks lately is proof to experiment with your own way.
This is from Tuesday. That’s my oldest daughter, rounding home – listening to music – with a pack (complete with a full water bottle) – on her scooter. She was coming home from my brother’s house who lives up a few blocks east of me. This sight of independence was actually a reflection of my trust in her.
And let me tell you –
Seeing your trust in other people is a beautiful sight.
<insert prayer for the spiritual math on trust, giving trust, and building trust>
So, the other day, I did not could not would not cut my grass. But it was uneven. And there were weeds. And some high spots. And it just “didn’t feel right”. So I poured a little bit of margarita and weeded. Checked it out. Wasn’t good enough. So I got my edger out and trimmed it up. Checked it out. Wasn’t good enough. Pulled out my mower and whipped through it. Blew off the clippings. Hosed off my porch. Wiped things down. Put everything way. And… twenty minutes later when it started to pour – I stood on my porch, in my Superwoman tank top (picked out for me by my daughter in a California Thrift Shop) and felt the power of doing things to your personal standards, even when you really don’t want to – and that relief, that satisfaction of having it done right when it’s complete.
Wednesday night was an interesting one. It came with a dose of “personal conflict” as I decided where to spend my hour by hour over the course of logistics, farewells and seeing one of my best friends. As I was leaving the house where my daughters were swimming, I saw this on the host’s wall. And I love it. Because, at the end of the day, there is family, there are friends who love like family, there are friends, there are acquaintances and there are complete strangers. And I grew thankful I have family, of course, but especially aware of friends who love like family.
But you have to prioritize those friends who love like family. Those don’t grow overnight. Seasoned friendships deserve you, in your fullness.
This week has been really full of a lot of happiness. I almost can’t believe it. It hasn’t always been easy. But I can gladly say I am no longer learning from certain past mistakes but that I am actually a learned person. On our hike Thursday, Ellen started her inevitable complaints. But as soon as my agitation grew, I remembered I knew this was going to happen. And I also know not to get worked up. Go slow. Offer lots of support and encouragement. Validate everything she is feeling. Kick her in the butt when she needs it, but coach her through the experience. Then be quiet. Draw boundaries (ok no complaining now until we are half way). Let her get upset. Let her cry. Watch her frustration and pain and suffering chip away at the outside. Watch the process. Don’t battle it. Then, on the downhill side, watch her joy emerge. Watch her adrenaline kick in, see her gem. Watch her get excited. Wait for her to say it wasn’t that bad. And be thankful you didn’t lose it, because that would have really ruined the time.
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.