Who I am because of you {The friend I didn’t know I needed}

She was my friend, my confidant, my sister. She was there when I needed her and when I thought I didn’t.  She could mow a lawn like nobody else, in fact she took great joy in mowing a particularly tricky lawn. I think that’s why she comes to mind every time I get on my lawn mower. ‘Girl, have I got a lawn for you!’

She taught me a lot of things. She taught me how to drive…at 24, when I should have already known, she took the time. She taught me how to truly enjoy a cigarette…. Not just smoke it. She taught me what it looked like to love people…. To love them deep down where it counts. I am a better person for knowing her and the heartbreak is that she has no idea.

When I got married, she should have been there. When we brought our children home she should have met us in the airport. When we’re young we say foolish things, we think foolish things, we believe foolish things. Grace can cover much, but not all. Sometimes the pain goes too deep and it’s too real. Sometimes it takes years to understand….and even then….

11 years ago my life changed… Just about every aspect of it. I moved to a new city, I took a new job and for the first time I knew what it was to be totally alone. I spent months sorting out my faith, and trying to figure out who I was.  Although she wasn’t present, she impacted my thoughts regularly…the memory of her friendship still does.

I’ve lived a life time since we last talked. I’ve gotten married, adopted children, I’ve started and closed two businesses and moved a few times. I often feel like the person I was is only a shadow of who I am today, that doesn’t make the loss any less great. I have returned to this saved draft at least six times over the past three years. Each time I come back I update it…add to it, take away the things that don’t seem to fit…Each time I think about hitting publish, but don’t.

I figured this entry would be just the right place to star my ‘Who I am because of you’ Stories. Thank you old friend for all that you gave to me. You have been missed over the years. If you ever read this, I hope that it finds you well.

The night ‘that was me’

Well, here we go.

Tonight I said something so horable it left me a bit speachless. I totally wrote off an entire group of people! I was completely dismissive. I was speaking to my child!
MY CHILD!
I was actively breeding into her a misrepresentation of reality. I am NOT going to repeat what I said, but let me be clear, It was harmful. The deep rooted type of harmful that worldviews are based on.

The worst part? I didn’t realize it. Mike looked at me with surprize on his face and I literally had no idea why. The word out of his mouth, “really?” I still had zero clue. He had to walk it back for me, hold up the mirror so I could see it, before I realized what had come out of my mouth. Oh did I mention this was a teaching moment at the dinner table? AND we had company! Yep! Just yes, this was my awesome moment!

SO here we go….This was my teachable moment! This lesson was for me and it was about a whole lot of things.

Let me share a little about how I grew up. This was me in a snap shot…
white
female
conservative christian
middle class
college graduated
I have been so incredibly blessed! my life has been good and I am so deeply thankful for it. I am thankful for my fathers work ethic and my parent’s faith, I am thankful that I have never known hunger or what it feels like to be homeless, my upbringing afforded me the opportunity to pursue an education and I did so with fewer hoops to jump then many.

I know these things about who I am. I also have a deep heart for people who are not at all like me. I’m really good at placing myself in another person’s shoes. I tend to be able to step back from a situation and see both sides, or to see the steps that brought someone to the place they are at. I like that about myself.

Here is what I don’t seem to have time for…people who were raised just like me, and choose to stop asking hard questions (or never start), People who don’t take the time to understand or value what is other then their own life experience. I don’t have a lot of grace for sterio typical conservative christianity. I just don’t, and it is one of my blind spots. It is easy for me to switch on the auto pilet in my brain when I’m talking to someone form this group…because I grew up here…in this mind frame…in these teachings…I know why you believe what you believe…because I was taught the same thing, believed the same thing.

Tonight I opened my mouth and out spilled the cultural norm that I grew up in. There it was. Without thought. Without reason. It sat there, and my 6 year old took it all in. Looking at my husband, hearing my own words I realized something…Sometimes people say things because that is just what they were taught. What they knew when they were young. The culture they grew up in. What I said was wrong. But it was a reflection of the culture/ time/ experience I grew up in…

In that moment I found grace (small as it might be, it’s a start) for people who come from the place I come from….but have chosen to stay. In that moment I was greatful for a number of things…
a gracious husband
a gracious guest
the ability to realize what I had said
that the Lord knows my heart
that I was teachable in the moment

The things I Love, love, love

This is a previous post from my old blog….I’ve been thinking about it a lot and felt like I should add it and its part 2 here! 
I have been finding my heart saying over and over, “I’m so in love with_______.” Often the blank is filled with the name of a person. Many times a person I didn’t expect to fill that space. I am sometimes shocked….I stand back and wonder where the thought came from. 

Haven’t I been praying for love? That the Spirit of God would fill my heart and shift the way I think…the way I ‘hear’ the world around me and so he is…just not the way I thought….as always, the hand that guides me looks nothing like I thought it would. 
Moved to tears by the strength of a dear one bringing life into this world. Her courage blows me away and it is an honor to call her friend. “I’m so in love with _____!”
Surprised by the love and kindness in the words of a young man who fights for his faith and to be honest in ways I can’t imagine. “I’m so in love with _____!”
The visit with an old friend I haven’t seen in years brought to town because of deep, deep heartache…years that have passed and a grown man stands before me. “I’m so in love with____!” 
Spring melt that bring bird songs and muddy driveways….free range chickens pecking the ground and fresh air. “I’m so in love with spring!”
Words that bruise and break miraculously also heal and prepair the ground of my heart for new life. “I’m so in love with this process!”
The humility, and love that exudes from the man I married. The willingness to admit mistakes and choose to be ‘for each other and this marriage.’ “I am so in love with my husband!” 
Little fingers and curious minds, always learning, always asking, always doing. “I am so in love with my children!” 
I fight so hard to do it all ‘right’ only to see the utter failure in the end. Thinking too highly of my own ways and looking back at a path that has taken me far from my goals….far from my loves…the knowing…deep down that it can be changed, forgiven and reset. “I’m so in love with Jesus!”
The honesty of a new friend, an almost stranger as she takes up the banner of truth and calls life like she sees it bumps and all. A deep knowing that we are alike in ways I’ve prayed so long for. “I’m so in love with ____!”
One who knew me young, but not as I changed….he is grown now with a family of his own. The weight of his load has brought him purpose. Oh the pride I have in him as he stands tall after a day of hard work and smiles that same smile I knew as a child. Full of mischief and wonder! “I am so in love with___!”
They speak hard words…drenched in honesty….ask the questions that need to be asked…there is love in their eyes even when it hurts…they hold hope and truth and invite me in….messy parts included. “I am so in love with these women!”
These love moments are like snap shots I don’t expect….my heart flows over and there they are….deep and real. A practice of entering into truth in the moment. It is changing my world and blowing me away. 
The things I Love, Love, Love….again (post 2)
How could I not revisit this post? The things I’m in love with just keep rolling into view! 
The joy of twins opening gifts…they turned 4. The kindness of family who remember and miss them! Gigi and Papa sending fun kid cards! That little blond cousin who loves dress up and pretend! “I’m so in love with this family!”
The squeals that can only mean one thing…bunnies! A new batch of kits right on top of the last! That poor mama! She gives and cares. Her weight is down but those bunnies are healthy and growing! “I’m so in love with new life and how The Lord sustains it!”
Little green shoots! It’s May! “I am so in love with green, growing things!” 
Growing, growing, growing…the green blades of barley grass and the twisted root mats that feed our animals. “I am so in love with learning this process of caring for our animals in a healthy way!” 
And then there are the people dear and true…those who meet us in the every day scruff! We clean and sort…we laugh and cry…we sing and bake…we learn and we teach…we get covered in mud and wonder why we have chosen to live ‘like this’ and then we remember…this is life and it is love and it is whole and healing even when it is hard. And, as we work we enter into the real. We reach out and one hand meets another and arms embrace. “Oh, I am so in love with these people.”
Words deep and true holding layers of meaning that only time can pull back and reveal. Thank you friend. “I’m so I love with you.” 
The voices are different…sometimes loud and at others only a whisper. Often, views are stated harshly. You don’t look like me. 

You don’t live like me. 

You don’t sound like me. 

Always, it seems, There is a deep yearning to be heard….payed attention to…seen!

 I see you.

 I hear you. 

That hurt…I know know it too…I’ve lived here for some time now. 

“And yes, I’m so in love with you too.” 

Spiritual Detox

ebed

I’ve been listening…sorting….purging….on repeat.

It’s spring after all, the best time of year for the maddening clean out of all things old…those bits that have been hidden by the depths of cold winter. It’s Spring! Most years it comes slow around here allowing my heart to thaw out. Breathing in the warming air…sitting on the stoop as the chickens scratch the ground looking for the tender bits of green or the rare early insect. Spring!

It doesn’t take long for the household purging to turn inward…This life is a holistic one. How can I purge only the physical? In this question something called to me in a deeply profound way…I am not just cleaning our home. I am not just taking care of the business of life. I am not just saying and doing hard things. I am in the process of spiritual detox.

Detox: A process or period of time in which one abstains from or rids the body of toxic or unhealthy substances; detoxification.

I mentioned this to a friend and he looked at me quizzically….’what does that look like?’ If you have never done a detox I can see how this analogy will likely fall short for you. I have been sitting in this place for a few weeks trying to figure out how to describe what it looks like to others when it feels so deeply natural and personal to me. 

apples

There is a deep cleansing that takes place when a person detoxes. They make choices to abstain from many normal foods or activities. Often a supplement is taken to help the body release toxins that it has built up. I won’t get into the whole process…but feel free to do some research! At the end of a detox the goal is for your body to have returned to a more natural, healthy place. A starting point or baseline for your body to do its best natural work…healing itself, growing strong, digesting the foods you take in at a much better rate.

However, it doesn’t end there. The foods we take in and activities we pursue after detox are just as important as the detoxing work itself. In order to maintain good health going forward we must make wise choices about what we put into our bodies….

And there it is. Can you see how this idea relates to our spiritual health? Still a bit foggy? Let me unpack my own experience and maybe that will help a bit.

My soul has sat in a place of spiritual unhealth and buildup for years. I was not able to process much of my own thoughts or feelings clearly. I took the first step of detoxing by stepping away from all types of leadership knowing that I was hurting others.  (When a leader chooses ‘the work’ over health ((theirs and others)) there can often be wounding and death that takes place.)  I removed myself from my daily norm and began to purge.

The purging took two years in my case and was by far the longest stage of my detox. I went back and forth and ended up confused more then once. I would carve something out of myself and then wonder if I had cut too deeply, if I should pick something up again….sometimes I would and I would quickly discover the pain again…that old feeling of doubt, distrust and dare I say hate. (Like eating that beautiful scone filled with gluten…not a good idea if your body can’t process gluten)

Here is the thing…there is only so much cutting the body can handle…only so much you can take away….in order for there to be a healthy healing it must also be filled with what is good. In a physical detox this is why healthy supplements, lots of water and specific foods are prescribed. In a spiritual detox we don’t always remember or know what the good things are…so we go to trusted sources…Here is where I praise God day after day for the list of good things he has given me to fill my broken spirit with.

My List:

  • An unshakable trust in the Spirit of God to lead and direct me as I placed my broken life into his hands.
  • good and true soul friends from all walks of life.
  • books that remind me of truth, sometimes this included the Bible, but it didn’t for a long time.
  • songs (when I can handle listening to music) that speak truth to dark places….surprise, many of my truth songs were not from Christian artists.
  • listened to speakers and preachers that brought truth and watered the places my soul had gone dry.
  • I wrote and journaled again…ever the student of my own thoughts, feelings, emotions and process.

And slowly this soul came back…but still not fully…

In my case I had to physically remove myself from the place we had worshiped for years. This was a decision that took a long time for Mike and I. I wrote about it here a few months ago. It being a deeply personal decision and frankly brutal in many ways I won’t go into it other then to point out that sometimes you just need new surroundings. sometimes you need to allow new people the right to speak into your life, to pour into and mend up what has been damaged. So we left. Walking out from all we had known for 5 years and trusting the Lord to bring us to a place of new beginnings. Just as we need to replenish our bodies with new eating habits sometimes we need a new space to grow into.

As I sit here thinking about how to bring this blog to a conclusion…I am wrestling. I don’t have a neat way to wrap up these thoughts. They are raw and new and hard. Detox is not pretty…but it is good. It is a slow, long work that takes endurance and at 3 years in I feel like I’m only part way there.

That humbling moment…

 

There was a moment this week…mid conversation…it was all I could do to hold back the quake. That deep knowing that something larger was at work. Once again, the hand of the Lord was moving. All the pain, all the hurt and brokenness…the parts were coming together again, and my vision, once blurred, has begun to focus. 

How many years have I walked this path marked out, having packed away hope and peace? Joy became a stranger. The questions ever present…Does he see? Does the Lord, my father have any idea? Why did he bring us to this place? For what purpose must I continue to die? Over and over and over….

And in a moment the curtain is pulled back a little farther and I can see his protection. I can begin to understand this depth of pain and the great hands that have held me…kept me back from what would destroy. In my humanity I desired good things that were not best…Sometimes the death of a thing is its best conclusion. I am realizing that hard place I was pushed up against was the Lord’s hand. He was always there. When will I learn? When will I allow his goodness towards me to go deep? When will I trust it and draw from it rather then run and question?

  

At the days end I can see the Lord’s grace in it all. With each bit of knowledge I understand myself and the journey a bit more and what is there to do but offer praise in the pain. I have written often of those ashy places and what a desert they seem to be. I’ve pondered many times on the life that can only come after death. When he chooses to grant clarity of vision it still stops me short. He has been here! He has walked beside…he has held the small light to the path infront of me and protected me from every side. This is a humbling realization and my gratitude can only be expressed in deepest praise. 

Today I can stand, something deep having shifted, only because of his grace towards me. Dear God how do I continue to walk faithfully in this space? How do I continue to choose to give from the broken places and allow them the freedom to teach, offer hope and bring healing? This is the journey of the Ebed House. Lord lead us in faithfulness. Teach us how to offer joy in the midst of deepest pain. Allow this space to be a refuge for a broken world and a hurting church.

Turning the Corner…Church, Some things I want you to know

 

Turning the corner…

IMG_3977a

I’m happy. I’m hopeful. I’m reading. I’m thinking. I’m even, dare I say, dreaming. maybe the most painful of all…I’m remembering. Remembering who I am after years of forgetting. Remembering my first love, what I’m passionate about, and remembering who I was created to be….for what purpose.

For this truth teller and word lover I am hearing the whispers of hope and freedom again. You see, I need words. Oh how I love them. Words hard won…held back until they are right for the moment…Oh I need those secret whispers, they bring courage and the call to be true and honest. In the dark moments they let me know that I am not alone, and in the bright moments they give me expression and the opportunity to call others to join in.

So here it is, are you ready?

 

You, you are beautiful shy one. You have purpose and your vision brings joy! You bring my heart hope! Sisters, Jesus lovin’ ladies…young mamas and world worn grandmas,those with broken bodies and those that has never brought a child into this world…you! You have value and beauty to give. Dear God, when did we settle for silence? When did we stop birthing beauty and peace to one-another? When did we allow this world and it’s many external voices to define us?

Might I go on? I pray that I never stop!

You, lover of all living creatures! You, loud lady….the one with the contagious laughter…the movie screamer, coffee drinker and fine food eater. You, brokenhearted, lover of the unborn, caregiver to broken children and to all those with physical, emotional and mental illnesses, compassion giver for those not long for this world. You hold beauty in your hands and your touch brings life! Speak peace with freedom!

This is who we are dear church. Let us not forget…when we feast on the Word we have a great opportunity to share rest, and peace…to a world that is going hungry and doesn’t even know it. Our churches are filled with women gone silent…we’ve stopped speaking….stopped calling forth life….lost the art of a word well placed.

A life lived…

Back to that remembering…that returning to my first love…as the Spirit grows and I am reminded of grace it is my deep desire to share worth with those who overlap my life. A welcomed cup of coffee, a word of courage, a challenge to live out a conviction, a meal, peace…hope…

Take courage dear ones…speak!

As hope grows

IMG_6002

We are entering a new place….on the verge of the unknown and for the first time, in a long time, I feel freedom rather then restraint. We have been released. There is no other way to express it. We were not ‘called out’ or given a ‘new mission’ we have simply been released, allowed to step away from what we have dug into, prayed for and broken over for years.

This business of planting churches has left me a shell. It has broken things I once prized and slapped me in the face. It has bitten me in the back and allowed me to burn. It has left me screaming in the corner with a horse voice and drowned in my own tears. This…this pain and brokenness has left me a shell…Praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord for the hard and the pain that makes me a new creature! Praise the Lord for the brokenness that allows me to see that only his kindness can heal and restore! Praise the Lord for making all things new!

I find myself rediscovering parts of who I am that have gone dormant over the years. Those areas that stop growing without food and light…without pruning and compassion. Mike and I have had many hope filled conversations in the last two weeks, and each time I catch that look in his eye, the one that seems to say, ‘Oh, yes, I remember her! Where has she been?!’

I wonder who I am now. After 3 church plants, 4 years of ministry before that, 5 years of having the twins home and 8 years of marriage. Who am I? What marks this new creature….what seeds where there in the past that could only grow when planted in death? This oldest child and manager of things…this hope speaker and love giver…this secret dreamer. Oh, I am excited to meet her…to live in her skin!

For the first time in many years I am looking forward with hope. At the age of 36 I pray that this rebirth will bring a deep knowing and greater peace. That I will discover, with joy, the tools I have picked up along the way. Dear Lord, bring us to a safe and sustaining community of faith that will cherish and challenge all that we are growing into.

I’ve been quiet…

I’ve been keeping quiet again, taking in the world…the wonder and the pain. Watching thing die around me and believing there will be new life…holding onto hope. I will never live fall the same way again. It will always be death…wrapped in brilliant beauty….but still death.

I continue to stand at the cusp of something. I am not sure what it is or what it looks like. It is wholly and totally new to me. I cannot see the next step, but I know going back is not an option. I know what is easy and familiar, the call of guilt and responsibility….the unmet expectations….the assumptions of well meaning others…that somehow they understand, know what it is to be in this place…after a 10 minute conversation. It is all death, and I will not live there.

I will continue to follow the sound of a voice I once knew well…calling me forward out of the fog…the ash. Resting in the moments of beauty, and embracing the pain when it comes rather then turning from it.

We used to open our home for Soup Nights. Deep in the birth of the idea was to welcome other’s into our home to delight in one another and share a bit of peace over a simple meal. This dream was lost in the organization of the thing…in my deep clinging desire to do things just right…check some box of expectation…clean my house just so….was I ‘evangelizing’ enough? was I ‘doing’ enough? ‘Producing’ enough? It was never enough. It was death.

So we burnt it! To the ground! 2 years later what came back? Beauty. Peace. Hope. Love. Last Friday night our home was full of laughter. It was one of the most beautiful times I’ve had at the Ebed House. Nothing forced. No expectations. Just the invitation to come and be. This. This place in time…a moment. A glimpse. This is what we were made for. And I take one step further out of the fog…

Why am I keeping a blog?

I haven’t published in a long time. I have a list of about 10 post titles in my draft file…bits of writing here and there…topics I am thinking about. Food I’ve posted a photo of on Facebook that people want to know how to make…the latest remodel project and my anxiety about things others (maybe) don’t care to read about. It’s that last one that stops me over and over again…a snag, a second look, a pause. It is ever-present in the back of my mind…why? Why do I keep this blog? In this culture, Every third, 30 something mom keeps a blog.

Why? Just WHY? Standing back I don’t get it. (Says the lady writing) I used to think I had something to say…even if I do, so what? So….WHAT?!! I struggle with the endless opinions…endless points of view…endless words…endless…endless…endless…white noise. Yoga pants, Shades of Grey, Co-sleeping, home-schooling, the right way to do this or believe that. One hot issue bleeding into the next and who can remember what ‘we’ were ranting about just 4 weeks ago? Does anyone remember Ebola? What? That’s still a thing! We’re so focused on the measles outbreak and vaccine hesitant parents that there just isn’t time to worry about the devastation on a whole other continent… So that’s sort of the crap that I care about…scewed and broken….blogged to death and then some…an opinion, mine, doesn’t really matter much in the midst of all the noise. And maybe I don’t even have an opinion, yet…maybe I just want the time, a space to process…the welcomed voice and input of others in my life…

How many, times do we cut the new wings of thought as they are forming. judge, judge, judge! You come in the wrong package…Your words are funny…I don’t get you…You are too ignorant. I found that this may also not be the space to find understanding, unless you have a thick skin…I’m not so thick and I’ve bruised easily. Should I prefer to keep a bland journal, devoid of my passion and relying on simple platitudes? They have left me empty and hollow over the years…why would I give them or their religion a voice here. No, this must be a space of honesty, openness, the truth I am encountering…and I guess if it is only for me then that is what it is. A space where I grow a thicker skin (bit by bit) and push into the hard…let’s be honest, if I’ve learned anything in the past year…It’s better to push into the hard and sit in the ash while it all burns then to pretend things are ok.

So, I come back, and the posts are revised and some are published, but most sit in a file while I desperately search for the right words and the courage to publish them…time, energy, pride, safety, fear…they all keep me quiet. Here is to the searching, and the grasping for thoughts and words that are just beyond, and prayers…desperate prayers that maybe someday I will understand why I am doing this.

Heart full of sadness and a head full of doubt…

Heart full of sadness and a head full of doubt…

Maybe that about sums it up? How do I even approach writing an entry like this one? How do I choose honesty…and search for clarity and not come off sounding like I’m throwing myself a pity party?

Today I walked into a room filled with people…a place I once held dear…a heart home….I have stayed far away for a long time….not due to any bad blood…more because of love. My own love for a place and its people and the deep heart wrench I knew I would feel if I returned…I stayed away because I knew it would break something deep within to enter doors that could no longer be my home…my safe place. In the end, I would have to leave…again…

I was held by so many warm embraces…welcome smiles, tears, laughter….memories…years spent together….working hard….loving well. I miss them. And I felt missed, loved.

Wow! Yep. I felt missed, and then something broke. One of those super real deep kind of things…the twine that holds together vital parts….it snapped, and I realized that after years of plowing hard ground, believing hard things and applying my beliefs to life…when you stand at a door flung wide with arms held open….and no one comes…or those who do look you up and down and move on….a soul can only take so much rejection…

In this moment there is a choice…where do I find my value…where do I look for fulfillment. No one wants to feel rejected or unloved…but this is the reality of our human condition…when we look to be filled by those in this world we come up short…every time. So my head tells me to look to Jesus and my heart cries for the hope that it might grasp the love that is there. Doubt edges every corner! Fear, a razors edge.

And in the moment of breaking I have the opportunity to learn, one more time, that this life is about Jesus. The lessons are deep and they are many…