Faith in Faithfulness

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I think it is easiest to look at a situation we are in, identify what we want to see in our life, come up with a couple of options for how it will play out / what that chapter could look like, and then figure the future will hold one or the other.

This makes sense.

We have seen a lot of lives take on new chapters. In other people’s lives. In our own lives. In movies. We pretty much know the ways typical story lines end. People with cancer get chemo and either get skinny and lose hair and survive or they don’t. People in bad marriages either get counseling and experience change or they get divorced. Rebellious teenagers get a come to Jesus wake up call or grow out of it. People waiting for a baby either have fertility treatment and end up twins or adopt (or maybe even adopt and then get pregnant.) These are examples of big things that happen in life for which we predict the next chapters.

Then there are small ones: people longing to live without clutter either never organize that closet and take that on as a part of their identity or spend a Saturday and finally purge. People wanting to change their body either lose weight and tone up with some kind of cross fit hi-jinx or maybe find the right pair of yoga pants and jeans and smile and accept their body.

The bottom line: I think we should want our chapters to change. We should want growth. Even if we are in a good place, we should be excited for possibility – newness – connection. It is important to know that next chapter is out there. Especially so if you are in a current season you would like to see change.

I love the idea of being really honest about what that next version of your self looks like in order to be aware of ways to get there.

It’s empowering, really.

But then what happens when you’ve drummed up that vision and then you’re stuck in the middle of September: you’re super tired, you haven’t woken up early like you have planned, the paper you subscribed to has been stacking up, you paid your car payment twice, your face doesn’t look right and you throw away the brussels sprouts you were really really excited to broil when you ran into them on a beautifully calm evening at a farmer’s market? You feel wasteful, unintentional, and a little bit confused.

What happens when you are on a very odd tangent of what you want your life to look like?

When you know the outcome you want but seriously have a hard time aligning with it?

What do you even pray for? Why do you pray? How do you pray? You’re close. You can sense change but it isn’t there yet so HOW DO YOU GET THE PAGE TO TURN?

In preparation for a presentation to my yoga peers towards my certification (I graduate in NOVEMBER), I pulled out a bag I keep close to me: in it are all of the prayers from the past three women’s retreats I have attended. I have made it a part of my experience to pull them down at the end of the retreat and pray over them, pack them up, and visit with them (in reverence) every once in awhile.

The weight we carry in our lives never ceases to amaze me. The healing we crave, the baby we want to meet, the iteration of ourselves we want to operate from, the clarity – the peace – the love, the relationship, the satisfaction, the confidence. These are real things.

The human experience is legit heavy.

But – I think I stumbled into a lightness. Seriously – I think I had a breakthrough coming into October.

If there is one thing I know in my 35 years, it is that there is *always* something revealed to us. There is. I am going to avoid a whole tangent on suffering right now. Because I want to focus you in on considering the difference here between these two statements:

“Staying determined on what you want from God for your next chapter”

“Being faithful to God’s faithfulness”

Truly, they should *feel* different from each other when you read them. Read them again. On the next inhalation, read them again.

These are wildly different statements though they are both rooted in the same perspective: you are one place, yet you see something different for your life.

The other night, I sat with a string of mala beads and just rolled through them. My meditation: “I am faithful to God’s faithfulness”.

Meaning? I will serve, I will pray, I will share with others, I will love, I will work hard, I will honor my parents, I will do my dishes, I will be accountable, I will eat well, I will give, I will get rest, I will read scripture, I will study spiritual text, I will listen, I will learn *all while knowing* that next version of my life (whatever it may be) will occur.

Growth does happen.

Change happens.

God does reveal.

Like the morning sun, God is faithful. (Hosea 6:3)

This switch in thinking makes our relationship with God less like the one we have with a restaurant server at a restaurant with no menu and more like the one we have with the waves on an ocean shore where you can sit, allow what comes, play, dig, relax, refresh, walk, move, pick up, and let the elements change you.

I know it’s abstract. But I feel, when I look at the prayers of these women – when I look at my journal from September – that I can’t help but see some low hanging peace fruit available to us if we commit to being faithful to God’s faithfulness without ordering up our future.

And for those of you thinking as you read this that it is total horse shit because you are in the middle of a rough hand dealt or because you had a rough hand dealt and it has not changed. I just challenge you to say in your prayers tonight, “God, I am faithful to your faithfulness.” And let it rest. Take out all the other variables.

Focus on the rising sun.

May we have ears to hear and eyes to see. XO, erin

 

“So Glad You Asked”

I can’t help but tremble a little bit in my heart when I realize the truth of “Ask and you shall receive…” Matthew 7:7

This is my second crack at writing out things about this past weekend that I don’t want to ever forget. Whether for their meaning or their humor, it’s just that there are times you see God and feel God and know God so newly or truly real — these times are important to note and ponder in your heart.

My other draft is complex – it’s the story of the retreat – how it Found me. How it Found Maggie. How it Found Christie. How it Found Naomi. Maybe it was exhaustion that had me close it out, but – regardless – I imagine there are probably even more unique hidden truths buried in the way the weekend unfolded.

So. For now. Allow me to share with you some of my moments. In no particular order.

  • Friday night, driving up with Tracy in her truck, with (I’m laughing right now) twenty painted boxes, a cross, a labyrinth, two cans of spray paint and a cajon. There really is nothing like a retreat packing list. Tracy’s calm and knowledge and balance are so completely whole and important to me. Her willingness to drive me to Carlinville and back on Friday so that I could help set up was such a blessing in itself. But to have her friendship in the mix — that night was so perfect in conversation and love. I am so glad I asked.

 

  • The Sunday I got the email from Rob with the completed meditation track. I listened to a quick snippet in the workshop where we were building the boxes and saved the rest for when I got home. When I heard my beloved friend, Allison, speak a prayer at the end for the women at the retreat, tears filled my eyes. Maybe people would recognize her voice (her and Rob were part of Gathering Webster before moving back to Charlotte) but I knew that regardless of that recognition, the intention and purpose in having her speak the meditation and Rob’s skills in producing the meditation would be meaningful. I imagined the candlelit room and the peel of thunder starting the track. I prayed for that moment to do what the Lord needed done. I am so glad I asked. 

 

  • Saturday night, at the retreat, in black light yoga. Where not only was I enjoying how tan I looked in a blacklight but – in my DELIRIOUSNESS – practiced a genuine yoga class to an AMAZING Beyonce – Cameo Beiber – Can’t Feel My Face – Playlist alongside my true partners in planning this retreat: Maggie Lohmeyer and Kiley Kozel. And knowing Brinkman was one mat over made me happy. But to let loose like this and just laugh. ESPECIALLY when Maggie Berkowitz (our instructor) scared the CRAP out of Kiley during savasana. ESPECIALLY when singing / cooing / bird noising through every key change in “Love On Top” with Maggie L. It felt SO good to be silly, to feel strong, to look tan. Maggie B. pulled it off – even with pregnancy sleepiness – at 9:45, rocking a 45 minute blacklight yoga class. I am so glad I asked.

 

  • AHHHH. Sunday. Sunday. Sunday. I woke up Sunday morning at the retreat and was amazed that I was going to go home from the retreat spiritually hungry and tired. I couldn’t believe it. I started to grieve a little bit. I made a promise never to sacrifice being present with the women for whom we produced the weekend for the tactical work of set up and execution. Then, a couple hours later, I introduced Naomi to the stage. The singer who Found her way to a house for a Made New worship event last year. The singer I started following on Instagram and reached out to in January with the scripture for the retreat and said “Hey – does this verse mean anything to you?” and proceeded to tell her what we were looking to do and what we needed. When she started on “Lord, I need You” and the combined voices of the women in that room sang their HEARTS out along with her, tears dropped from my cheeks. In honor of my Grandmother who passed but also in honor of my heart being spoon fed with every measure Naomi played. She was there. She was perfect. I am so glad I asked. 

 

  • Saturday night, at the retreat, in the worship set. Specifically – in the drum circle. When Trina started singing the words to Keep Your Lamps. Trina is such a gift to my creative life. I can’t even pinpoint when exactly Trina and I or how Trina and I connected — but we had lunch and we had lunch again and we have had breakfast and we talk about writing and being creative and God. I have listened to this recording of Keep Your Lamps  multiple times and – along with the other parts of worship – Trina’s musical contributions to the weekend rounded out a part of the experience for me in a way that was personal and meaningful. I am so glad I asked.

 

  • While I’m on music… let me jump out of the retreat weekend and go back to the planning phase. When I got a text from Kiley. Soooo… Kiley was the first musician to give me a window of fresh air, a breeze of “yes”, when it came to putting together the music for the weekend. I think my exact approach with her was “how much do you hate the idea of leading worship” lol… And she said yes to writing a liturgy. That’s all I needed. I just needed to feel movement. But that wasn’t my favorite moment. And there were many. Like the time in our first practice when Kiley got the spirit moving her to the idea of drum circle. Like the time I read a text that said “we just need to run through the drum circle” and I loved the fact that those were even words we were saying. I also loved the moment when we shared a smile on stage when I started on my super awesome “That’s Erin – on the kick drum” beat. I love her soul and her voice and her smile and her prayer. But it was when I got this text from Kiley the FIRST moment we were chatting about the liturgy. RIGHT after the window of fresh air was opened. And she shared a picture. Of her Bible. Which she opened when sitting to write the liturgy to the verse for the weekend and was met with markings from a previous life chapter Kiley who had noted – yes – seek with your whole heart and you will find GOD. She was crying. I was crying. I am so glad I asked.

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  • Christie Brinkman. Christie had come up between Ashley and myself as the perfect powerhouse to pull together people for breakouts. We knew that she would be reluctant but we also knew she would be perfect. She has such a good understanding of what people find valuable. And so on one rainy morning, I made my way to boot camp with her (figured I would have most luck on her turf lol) and as we were wrapping up burpees to a early 2000’s playlist, I came out with it. She said yes. Said she didn’t want to. I think I actually like shrieked. And hugged her. The amount of praise I have heard on the breakout sessions has been awesome. People were genuinely poured into and fed. Christie held the line on them and pulled it off. I am so glad I asked.

 

  • And. Now. THE BOXES. Natalie Yule has gained my loyalty and trust forever. Not only was her carpenter – craft mastery completely instrumental in setting a stage for the weekend, but – in our time working on the boxes – I was privilege to her nurturing manner and emotional intelligence and understanding. Guys. She MADE those boxes. And they were beautiful. Are beautiful. They served as a focus, a supplement, and as meaningful gifts. She came through for me in the truest of ways. Similarly, my sister Anna got a phone call from me which started “I am headed north on sh*t creek with a small paddle” when I was in need of sanding and staining late on a Saturday night. She showed up. We laughed. We sanded. We stained. Then.. there was Leslie Hedenberg — artist behind My Home is A Happy Place. She took a blank box, some ideas for graphics, lyrics, and themes and created stencils – opened her home – provided guidance to complete the project. Rikki Fulmer, Brenda Jones and Jess Klein worked to peel all the stencils which was challenging at times with the vowels. They even SMILED when I showed them the “10,000 years and then forevermore” stencil. :) I cannot begin to express to you the joy that came from seeing these completed and being able to give them as gifts. I am so glad I asked. IMG_1904

 

  • Jenny Hinkle. Jenny and I have known each other for just over a year. She helped tear down the retreat and – before we left – I asked her if she wanted to grab some lunch before leaving town. We found a pizza place in Carlinville and just sat for a minute and I was able to hear all about the retreat. I realized I didn’t know “how the retreat was” because I was on the flip side of it. She indulged me in sharing about what people talked about at lunch, the experience during worship, the takeaways from the keynotes, and on and on. It was like how I imagine my daughter feels when I indulge her in telling her the story of her birth. She was there, but she doesn’t recollect the experience so I tell her to make it real for her. And now I have a wave of emotion even now – because God really wanted something to happen this past weekend. Maybe there were mountain top moments, maybe there were just casually loving rolling hills of peace. But God was SUPER present. I was so thankful for her just telling me about the retreat as I ate small town Illinois pizza. I am so glad I asked.

 

  • Seeing the table of Bar Church retreat goers on Sunday morning. I am in the early stages of genuine caring relationships with Lexi, Erin, and Linde. I smile. I care for the women of Bar Church like my sisters. And I wanted them at the retreat from the beginning of planning. I wanted to see them lead and serve and they did. I love that two of our breakouts were led from Bar Church leaders. I remember sitting with Lexi at Humphrey’s on some November Monday evening and planting early seeds, hoping hoping hoping they would feel compelled to come. Seeing the group sit together at breakfast, on the sunny side of the dining hall – made me happy and prayerful for them. And prayerful for my college aged self that was waaaaaaaay too busy partying to make time for a retreat but sure as sh*t needed it. It made me happy. I am so glad I asked.

 

  • Beth BARRRRRRRRR coming over and teaching me Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop just enough to make the maps for the morning icebreaker. Oh my gosh. I was able to sit with a project I had a vision for but did not previously have the skills for and piece it together. Beth. Ah. SO Glad I asked.

I am sure there is more. I am sure I will think of more. And this may seem like it is written in a tone of “look at all these great ideas I had!” or “look at how confident I am in asking!”. But this is not the point. And there is not an ounce of that in my words. Rather, I heard OTHERS say “I am so glad you asked” MULTIPLE times. And I realized the power of asking for what you believe in. I realized after hearing four times on Sunday morning “Erin, I am so glad you asked” that I was in fact asking and receiving. And what is MOST interesting about this is that I didn’t know what exactly I was looking to receive. What I knew was that there was something I wanted to ask. All I had were questions coming from a deep place in my heart.

When I was driving to the retreat on Saturday, I had a quick fake panic of “did we do enough?” And I realized that the committee chairs have been prayerfully consulting the Lord and listening. There was no more or less we could do. The retreat was exactly as it needed to be for all who came to authentically evolve, for the retreat to authentically evolve, and for the Lord’s work to be done.

I also want to thank Meredith Hopping for starting all of this three years ago with Rooted.

Real quick before I wrap this up – when I left Natalie’s house after picking up the cross, she asked Tracy if she helped stencil the boxes. Tracy replied “nope – I’m just transportation”. And Natalie affirmed what I had been feeling by saying “what a collaborative effort, Erin.” Then she added, “You know what that means, Erin?”

“What?” I asked

“When people help like that and come together like that? That you are loved.”

Yes. It’s true. I feel loved by the power of God through all that collaborated on the retreat.

I also want to pay special love and attention to Milta. Who is my soul sister in so many ways and has been such a source of love and motivation in this retreat planning.

May God’s glory and honor continually be the center of our actions.

May love be our motive. May the spirit of peace stay strong. :) erin