Tag Archives: change

Day 28: Embrace the Wondering (31 Days of Simple Truths)

Copy-of-DSC_0677-1024x681Over the past two years, my spiritual journey has taken me to unexpected places—deep into the heart of my own questions, doubts, and frustrations.

It scared me. I’ve watched people “wrestle with theology,” until suddenly, they didn’t want anything to do with God or church or Christianity. I thought I’d made peace with my own questions; I didn’t expect them to re-surface. What had I missed?

I didn’t want to lose my faith, but I couldn’t stop the unraveling. I grabbed hold of familiar truths only to find them crumbling in my hands. Many things I had been taught, had wholeheartedly believed, simply didn’t hold up against the reality I faced.

Several months ago, I wept my way through worship once again. I felt incredibly lost, when I sensed the breath of the Spirit on my heart: Don’t you remember who I am? I’m the One who guides you into all truth. And how do you find truth? You ask questions. I’m guiding your questions. It’s Me.

I can’t describe the burden lifted from me in that moment.

The Holy Spirit guides our questions. Have you ever pondered that? It’s a breathtaking reality. Doubt is not always a bad thing. Sometimes He wants us to doubt that thing we’ve clung to because it’s become entangled with something He never meant for us to be anchored to. Sometimes He wants to unravel our foundations, so He can build better ones.

Today, I’m over at The Art of Fear Not with Tammy Hendricksmeyer, writing about leaning into the questions and trusting the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. Join  me over there for the rest!

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Change, Faith

Day 26: When Plans Change (31 Days of Simple Truths)

FreeDigitalPhotos.net

FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was so proud of myself this morning.

Mondays can be rough, and I knew today was going to be especially full for me. I realized that come dinnertime I was going to be worn out, so I thought ahead and put a roast in the crock pot.

We got home around 6pm, but when we walked into the house, instead of being greeted with the wonderful, warm scent of dinner, there was the scent of . . . nothing. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I turned the crock pot on this morning, but somehow, by some freak incident, it turned off at some point.

I nearly burst into tears.

Of course there was no plan B. And no leftovers because it’s only Monday. The budget is pretty tight right now, so the thought of eating out was painful. I kind of just wanted to tell everyone to go to bed, they’d survive without dinner for one night, and we’d try again tomorrow.

But I quickly realized that was a horrible idea. Fortunately, I remembered a pizza coupon in the drawer—miracles!

And even though I was enormously frustrated, the evening turned around. We ended up having a good time as a family, eating pizza and watching the new Supergirl TV show. My kids never get to watch “grown up” TV at night, so it was a big kid treat for them. Not so bad after all.

It’s hard when plans change—big or small. But I’m learning to not let those moments derail me and to go a step further by making something special out of them. It was nice to treat Monday night like Friday night, even if that wasn’t the original plan. Maybe it was exactly what we needed.

Well, my roast is cooking now, so we’ll eat good tomorrow. And next time I grocery shop, maybe I’ll remember to buy an emergency back up dinner . . . just in case.

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Change, Cooking, Family

Day 24: New Paint, New Start (31 Days of Simple Truths)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsWhen it came time to move last month, the whole process turned into a crazy whirlwind, the kind I’d hoped to avoid. In a very last minute turn of events, we ended up with a house that was not exactly what I hoped for. To be more precise, it was pretty ugly.

It’s an old home, and it needs a lot of updating. But it’s also a rental, so we don’t want to sink a lot of money into it. Still, we’re going to be here at least a year, so I’d rather not hate looking at it the entire time.

This weekend, my parents helped us buy paint, and then my dad spent his Saturday painting with us while my mom and brother kept the kids. (Can I mention here how grateful I am for my family? They’re the best!) While we still have a bit more to do, the contrast is already amazing. It’s fresh. It’s clean. Even though there are elements we won’t be able to do anything about while we’re here, I already feel so much more settled.

I hugged my dad tonight and told him tomorrow will be the first time in a month that I am excited to wake up in this house. Tomorrow, I’ll unpack my books and we’ll start putting things on the wall. Tomorrow, maybe this transition will start to feel less overwhelming and this place will start feeling more like home.

It seems crazy that something as simple as paint could make such a difference. I’m reminded that sometimes we complicate things. Maybe there is one simple step we need to take, just one, that can begin to shift things. Maybe the entire solution isn’t obvious in front of us, but one step could be enough to set the ball in motion.

What frustration have you been facing? Is there one thing you could do to push back and start the shift you are longing for?

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Day 9: Perspective (31 Days of Simple Truths)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsIt’s important to realize when your perspective is skewed.

For example, my life is in a lot of upheaval right now. We’ve just made a major transition, we’re not settled into our new home, there are a lot of questions that still need to be resolved. So when people ask me if I’m excited or how we’re doing, I don’t try to come up with an answer; I just say, “I don’t know.” Because I don’t. I’m too tired to know.

Earlier this week, I started pondering a decision that might need to be made. I felt my tension escalating, but before I could get overwhelmed, I recognized that this is probably not the best time to contemplate potential life decisions. I’m too tired to decide.

I’ve read this advice before—to not try to make major decisions if you’re stressed, tired, sick, etc. But I think we have to go one step further and recognize our own unique signals. There are things that might interfere with my vision, but wouldn’t necessarily bother yours. We have to be honest enough with ourselves to say, “I’m probably not seeing this in the best light right now.”

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Day 8: Listening to Understand (31 Days of Simple Truths)

Death to Stock/Foster & Asher

Death to Stock/Foster & Asher

There is listening to understand and listening to defend.

If I am listening to understand, then I will hear the entirety of what you have to say without cutting you off to interject my own opinions.

If I am listening to understand, I will not be dismissive of your reality, even though I may have had a different experience.

If I am listening to understand, I will not automatically counter your thoughts with all the reasons you are wrong.

If I am listening to understand, I will not make assumptions about your heart, character, or personal convictions; instead, I will lovingly seek clarity where it’s needed.

If I am listening to understand, I will respond with thoughtful questions that show my desire to draw out the essence of what matters to you.

If I am listening to understand, I will take time to ponder what you have to say instead of promptly brushing it aside and moving on.

It’s not easy to listen this way, especially if you are challenging me, convicting me, or calling me into territory I am unfamiliar with or uncertain of. It’s not even a little bit easy.

But it’s necessary if I want to establish trust with you and if I want to walk alongside you. It’s necessary if I want to value your heart. It’s necessary if we ever hope to make a positive difference in this world.31daysOfSimpleTruths

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Filed under 31 Days of Simple Truths, Covenant Relationships, Love

Day 5: Trusting (31 Days of Simple Truths)

31daysOfSimpleTruthsIt was one of those mornings where you stumble over your prayers a bit until God lovingly, but firmly, puts His finger right on the tender spot you were trying to avoid and then the dam bursts.

Of the many emotions coloring our family’s recent move, this one is intense—the concern for my children to find the place where they belong. For so many years, I worried about them every single Sunday when I took them to their classes at church, not a moment’s peace as I juggled my responsibilities at our church plant. It wasn’t anything that anyone did wrong, just the nature of something that is fledgling and continually changing as it tries to establish itself.

And then the worries intensified as I realized I had unwittingly done the one thing I most never wanted to do—sacrificed my children on the altar of ministry—and I suddenly saw it takes it toll on them. The guilt was enormous. Occasionally, it still is.

My son especially struggled. And when we landed in a new church, my heart broke over his anxiety. But something happened in that place, as the children’s workers so lovingly and patiently poured their hearts out into my babies. Over the course of a year, both of my children went through a transformation. They became sure of themselves, secure in their place, hearts unfolding before God. It was amazing.

So it broke my heart to take that away from them when we moved. And the weight is heavy. Where will we go where they will feel so loved, so safe, so secure again? They ask, and I don’t have an answer right now.

Thus the very raw, very tender spot God put His finger on today. I wept. But the thing is, over a year ago, when I didn’t know exactly what to do to help my children’s hearts, God knew, and He sent exactly what they needed. And He knows what they need now. He knows what we all need now.

Change can be terrifying.  I spoke with a friend today, and he said, “Even if you know it was a good move, it is still a transition, and it feels like a death.” Hope and grief can exist side by side. Some things die, so other ones can live. But there’s not a limit to how many answered prayers we get. We don’t even have to know exactly what to ask for in order to get exactly the answer we need.

I feel more tears coming, weighted with all the uncertainty, but I trust this—God came through before. He will come through again. Meanwhile, wait and hope.

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A Prayer When the Future is Uncertain

Image from Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

“You, Eternal One, are my sustenance and my life-giving cup. In that cup, You hold my future and my eternal riches.” – Psalm 16:5

You, Eternal One, my sustenance—
Carry me.

Bear the weight of my uncertainty,
the wandering and the loneliness,
the tension of being caught between worlds and places,
the swirling, shifting colors of faith
and all I ever believed mattered.

Feed my starving soul.

You—my life-giving cup—
I want to drink deep.
I want to live
wholehearted,
unafraid and unashamed,
hope-filled,
fiery.
Pour the cup You offer
into every dead and dying place in me.

You are holding my future.
I cannot see it or understand it.
I cannot grasp it or shape it.

But

if it is in Your cup,
perhaps I could taste it?
Drink it in until it flows through my veins
and into my core?
It could nourish my way of being,
seep into my blood and bones,
until the hope and unfolding of something beautiful
defines my essence and existence
more than fear of the unknown.

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Filed under Change, Faith, Poetry

Shifting Seasons

Unsplash/Joe Beck

Unsplash/Joe Beck

September 1 is here, and I am staring into the fog of this month, wondering what exactly it will bring.

In 30 days, my life is going to look a lot different than it does right now. A huge part of that involves moving to a new home, although where exactly that home is going to be still remains a mystery.

I’ve learned something about myself over the last few months. I don’t deal with transition as well as I’d like to. It’s one thing when there’s some clarity about what awaits on the other side of the change. But when everything looks like one enormous question mark? Well, this doesn’t bring out my finest moments.

But I want to change this. I don’t know that I can do anything to change the swirling emotions that start a frenzied dance inside of me. But maybe I could respond to them differently, in a way that births peace even in the uncertainty.

Recognizing this and accepting it about myself seems like an enormous victory all by itself. And now I am looking for the next steps to take to embrace the shift, rather than be overwhelmed by it.

Today it looks like writing for me—to give my soul space to breathe and to remind myself of what could be possible. It looks like an enormous, colorful salad for lunch—to care for this body that has a lot to do in the days and weeks ahead. It  looks like lingering a little longer over a book that speaks to the process of waiting. It looks like hunting down joy and telling my husband I need to laugh with him before this day is over.

And maybe something in me can change for the better, even as life changes all around me.

What about you? How do you deal with transitions and uncertainty? 

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Questions That Break My Heart (Hard Conversations with My Kids)

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I was coming down the stairs this morning, a load of laundry in my arms, when I heard my daughter’s excited voice.

“Look, Mom! Our friends are outside playing! Why aren’t they at school?”

With the day’s to-do list scrolling through my head, I was about to murmur a casual “I don’t know” when I remembered going over my calendar before the kids were up. “Oh, it’s a holiday. They don’t have school today because it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. day.”

And even as I kept walking to the laundry room, I heard her little voice again. “Who’s that? Why does he get a holiday?”

I felt the gravity of the moment suddenly demand a pause in the morning. I set the laundry basket down and went into the living room to look at my precious daughter and my precious son, who had stopped playing to come listen. Kids have the uncanniest sense about when something matters.

For just a few moments, I did my best to explain MLK’s legacy to their very tender 5- and 3-year old hearts. We talked about racism and segregation and laws that said certain individuals didn’t even count as an entire human being. We talked about separate schools and separate bathrooms and hate and fear. We talked about a man speaking up and literally laying his life down because this was so important.

I looked at those wide-eyes, and I knew what they were thinking of. Who they were thinking of. Their favorite friend from our former church. The next-door neighbor girl. The three little girls who live behind us who told my daughter she was the first friend they’d made in the neighborhood. (Never mind that none of them seem to be able to remember each other’s names. They just yell, “Hi, friends!” whenever they see each other.)

When I paused in my explanations, my daughter said very emphatically, “That makes no sense. God makes people in all colors. And besides, we’re supposed to treat others how we want to be treated.”

She was so matter of fact, so simple in her understanding of the situation. And unlike other hard things I’ve had to explain to her, where I end up saying, “It’s just complicated. There’s not always an easy answer,” this feels different. It shouldn’t be complicated. It really shouldn’t. I mean, at this point, dismantling the systems and prejudices and hundreds of years of tensions—well, ok, these are daunting undertakings. But they shouldn’t be.

I’ve never been able to wrap my head even a little bit around the concept of racism. I think we all have to work to overcome various biases and prejudices, get over our fear of differences; these are aspects of flawed humanity that are common to all of us. But to actually consider someone less than—less valuable, less worthy, less human—over skin color or accents or different homeland? I can’t make sense of it.

Then she asked the question, the one that shattered me: “But this doesn’t happen anymore, does it? Since the law was changed?”

And I have to look into those innocent, hopeful, compassionate faces and say, “Yes, it still happens.”

I don’t dismiss the progress. I don’t dismiss the years of efforts, the laws changed, the reconciliation fought for. But I see my own thoughts and frustrations mirrored in their little eyes: mere progress doesn’t seem like enough when people’s value and humanity are on the line.

I became painfully aware of my own lack of knowledge and understanding of this issue, even of MLK’s incredible legacy, as I talked with my children. I realize I have a lot more research and learning and listening to do. I want to know more so that I can do more.

Our conversation finally dwindled down, but as my daughter walked away, she said with all the sass and stubbornness she could muster (which, in this girl, is quite a bit), “Well, I’m just going to love everybody” and did her little “so there” flip of the head.

Well then, sweet girl, you’re miles ahead of so much of the world already. And I think that’s an excellent starting point.

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Filed under Change, Hope, Justice

Knowing Myself

Image by Jennifer Upton

Image by Jennifer Upton

It began last July. I could feel the change in my bones long before the visible signs appeared. I even said it out loud to someone I trusted:

I feel a shift coming. A transition. But it doesn’t make sense.

It didn’t make even a little bit of sense. The restless was intense, but I was trying to tame it because any significant change seemed unlikely. Every aspect of our life seemed rooted – the good and the bad. There were commitments, relationships, plans.

But here we are, not even one year later, and the entire landscape of our lives is completely altered. I wish I could tell you it was all pleasant and lovely, but it’s not. Because when things are deeply rooted, it can be intensely difficult and painful to get them uprooted.

And it still hasn’t made sense. Until I read these words from Brené Brown this morning:

I did believe that I could opt out of feeling vulnerable, so when it happened – when the phone rang with unimaginable news; or when I was scared; or when I loved so fiercely that rather than feeling gratitude and joy I could only prepare for loss – I controlled things. I managed situations and micromanaged the people around me. I performed until there was no energy left to feel. I made what was uncertain certain, no matter what the cost. I stayed so busy that the truth of my hurting and my fear could never catch up. I looked brave on the outside and felt scared on the inside.

Slowly I learned that this shield was too heavy to lug around, and that the only thing it really did was keep me from knowing myself and letting myself be known. The shield required that I stay small and quiet behind it so as not to draw attention to my imperfections and vulnerabilities. It was exhausting.

– from Daring Greatly (*emphasis added)

I have read these words over and over today. Someone else wrote them, but oh, do they feel like they came right off the pages of my heart. There it was. Epiphany. (My one word for the year – so far I haven’t had any of the epiphanies I thought or hoped I would have, but never mind.)

Everything that has been stripped away is something that kept me from knowing myself and, by default, kept me from letting myself be known. And it had to go because it was also a year ago that I really started praying about and taking steps towards living creatively, towards “Wholeheartedness”, as Brené Brown calls it, even though I didn’t have the words for it at the time. But it is basically impossible to live creatively and wholeheartedly if you have buried the knowledge of yourself under layers of busy and performance and smallness.

So in spite of the oh-so-painful process this has been and will likely continue to be for a little longer, I embrace it fully because I want to know myself and not be afraid to let myself be known. I want a whole heart that results in a safe place for others to know themselves and let themselves be known. I don’t want to live exhausted and emotionally numb anymore. I want to live fully.

And now back to you – what things have you come to realize get in the way of you knowing yourself and letting yourself be known?

 

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Filed under Change, Creativity, Perfectionism