Monday, November 26, 2012

One Year Ago Today

Do you ever ask yourself this question?

"Where was I one year ago today?" What was my life like? What has changed since then?

Well, today -- my answer to that question is, "Pretty much everything." A dear friend told me last week that she sees that this season of my life is one of the most freeing seasons, while simultaneously being somewhat restricting. And she is right. I'm wincing at the truth of that statement.

But the hope and joy is that the freedom is Permanent, and the restriction is Temporary. I'm smiling at that truth.

In related news, I will walk across a stage on December 15th to receive my Master of Science degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. I may dance, actually, or do a cartwheel. Much energy and emotion has gone into the earning of this degree for me. I found out I was pregnant with my daughter just two weeks into starting my first term. I remember traveling to Ft. Smith, AR, for a Tuesday-Thursday class on pathology, and how it's hot as Hell (yes, the literal Hell) in Ft. Smith in the summer, and how I had morning sickness except it was all day sickness, and how I usually stayed in a hotel room for those two intervening nights so I didn't have to drive round trip on Tuesday and Thursday...I spent a lot of time alone that summer. I was pretty lonely. But I was hopeful about the two things I was birthing -- a baby human, and a graduate degree.

The baby human is now a two year old human (three in February) who looked at me this weekend and said, "No! YOU do what I say!" But earlier that day, when she was sitting next to me on the couch, she put her hand on my cheek and said, "I love my Mommy." So she's still figuring some things out, and I can be patient with that.

The graduate degree, and the energy I put into earning it, has pretty much caused the most accelerated season of evolution I have experienced in my life since college. But there's one glaring difference. When I was in college, I still - for the most part - saw God as someone who loved me because He had to. He's infinite, and He's perfect, and so out of his infinite patience and perfection He can somehow muster up enough will to endure my endless screw ups. He was The God of The Perpetual Eye Rolls. If you asked me if I believed God loved me, my gut-level honest answer would have been, "Well, yeah. He's God and He loves everyone. But really, this is just a silly, simplistic grade school platitude, and I get it, and so now I am more concerned with how to be a Really Serious Christian."

Zoom forward three years, and my Really Serious Christianity had turned out not to be the bargain that I had expected. I was supposed to keep my nose clean, and God was supposed to keep my life in order. When my parents divorced and my life became a tornado of pain and shame, I realized that somewhere along the way I had been sold a bill of goods. This is not an uncommon experience. Churches often employ formulas to inspire allegiance in their followers. "If you do right by God, then He'll do right by you!" As if any, ANY of my blessings originate with me in any way...! (They don't.) I started reading Brennan Manning, and Anne Lamott, and Annie Dillard, and Henri Nouwen...and I relaxed a little bit.

Now zoom forward ten more years, and I realize that I let God off the hook back then - but I didn't let myself off the hook. My self-reliance, my determination to Make It impulse to grab you by the wrist and say, "Hey! Come on! We're gonna do this," was still firmly intact. And while this instinct is not entirely bad, it has often led me to some very lonely places. And, UGH. I'm sick to death of being lonely. I can't completely control whether I'm alone; I know this. But I do have some say into whether I'm lonely or not. And so, I'm releasing your wrist and I'm opening both hands and I'm just waiting to see what - or whom - will fall into them. And, conversely, who will fall out. That part is not easy for this lady who has spent much of her life defined by her relationships. That one's a bitch, isn't it? I was defined by my relationships, but I was still lonely much of the time. And that's the price I paid for trying to Make It Happen -- which is to say, it was never completely up to me.

But as I let go in this way, and as I give others the right to choose me, or not...I am joyfully aware of a community of grace-filled and wisdom-saturated individuals with whom I can laugh and cry and marvel at the vast, vast goodness of our God.

And it is good.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


We labor at the beginning, to enter. And we labor to leave. And, yes, we really, really labor in between.

She labored. No one would question that. As me, sometimes her labor was noble, sometimes ignoble. The noble does not perfect her anymore than the ignoble dooms her. This...this essential reality of our what I was struck by today.

I told her some things. Things that will remain between the two of us. And I remembered a picture of heaven that was recently painted so beautifully for me -- heaven as a grand and continuously redemptive round of storytelling. Stories woven as tapestries as we, God's children, labor at long last for something entirely and purely good. We will labor there to understand God's heart sometimes whispered and sometimes shouted between the lines of pain and joy and heartbreak and victory. We will do this for ourselves, and for each other, and with our Father always listening. He will weep with us, and rage with us, and rejoice with us. And it will be good.

We will labor, and we will finally reach the end of our labors, and we will rest. And that's the last thing I said to the frail and striking beauty today.

"Please get some rest."

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Table Before Me

"Evil cannot create anything."

This was one of approximately three hundred billion mind-blowing statements Dr. Dan Allender made at The Story Workshop, which I attended in Seattle last month. If you know anything about Dr. Allender (or Dan, as I call him now because we are totally BFFs...sort of), you know that this is just how the guy talks. I struggled to keep up with the sheer volume and speed of beautiful truth that poured, not only from Dan, but from every part of my experience that week.

I am sure that I will, at least over the next several weeks, reference this conference quite a bit. It was and continues to be pretty life altering. But I'm going to heed some wise counsel and take it in small bites (not my usual M.O.) and slow down and really ruminate. (I'm being so zen right now...)

So, anyway. About this statement -- evil cannot create anything.

God is the Original Creator. Whatever you believe about creation (and believe me, we'll come back to this one someday *big sigh*), if you are a Christian, then you believe that God started...whatever it was He started. So, He's the Creator, and evil does not share this power.

I love this because it completely realigns what I believe to be some pretty unbalanced teaching in the evangelical church about Satan or the Devil or the Enemy or the Boogey Man. Here's what evil can do...







Certainly this is a power that is to be reckoned with and not minimized. But, the face of God's ability to


Bring Life,



and just generally

Turn On the Lights...

Who will win? Where evil seeks to bring chaos, it has to work with what is already there. And the kicker for us is that, at least for now, when evil wants to screw with my life it doesn't need my permission. The current state of matters is such that I can do everything I reasonably know to do to bring about goodness in my world, and evil can still mess with me. This happens because there are other people in my life who have choices of their own to make, and because there is this random and diffuse force of disease and decay that is impossible to resist. It affects the entire planet. (For a more extensive discussion of this topic, I recommend Why Sin Matters by Mark McMinn.)

What do we say, then, in the face of such singular focus on destruction? Well, I don't know what you say. But I say these things, and others.

"I have streams in the desert."

"I am perplexed, but not in despair."

"I am struck down, but not destroyed."

"He prepares A Table Before Me in the presence of my enemies."

I am not destroyed. And I'll do ya one better...I have abundance. Evil came at me, and perplexed me, and knocked me down. But now?

My material needs are met, and then some. My relational needs are met, with love to spare. My vocation is richly rewarding. I have moments of pure golden light in which all I can manage to say is, "Where did this come from?"

And that, my friends, is because only God can make something from nothing. Only God can bring kindness and grace and beauty, where before there was only pain and...inevitability. I was sure the pain would cause me to perish. But it did not. And almost all of the time now, I know it will not.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

So, um, anyway...

Life is kind of shit right now, in some ways.

But in other ways, it completely absolutely amazingly is not shit. It is golden.

And I think this is where we live most of the time -- some horrible stuff, some fabulous stuff, and a whole bunch of it-depends-on-when-you-ask-me stuff.

So, here's the snapshot. I'm a 34 year old mother who is about to finish grad school and kick off what promises to be a grand and thrilling (or, possibly, unassuming and richly rewarding) career helping people. I believe a lot of things, and a lot of these change regularly, and that's kind of a kick for me so I'm gonna keep doing it. But. Big but. (I like big buts...sorry.) BUT...there are a few beliefs that absolutely do not change in my life. They are my moorings and my sails and my sunset. In no particular order, they are as follows:

1. Jesus loves me.

2. My daughter is the most magnificent person with whom I have ever, or will ever, have the honor to be associated.

3. Knowing someone and being known by someone and knowing myself in a new way because of someone -- all together -- these experiences are perhaps the closest to heaven we'll get this side of...well, you know.

4. Jesus loves everyone. Everyone.

5. I often cheat myself and others out of the full experience of any of these truths.

6. I'm working on that.

Also, I'm kind of into ideas. That doesn't really make the list because it's kind of just this random thing, but I can't get over it, and I can't get over it when people like to talk about ideas with me. So here's another list, and this time, a short (and by no means comprehensive) list of ideas I'll be discussing:

1. Sexuality, gender, gender roles, et al.

2. Spirituality.

3. Stories.

4. Tragedy and comedy as life themes.

5. Politics. Ugh.'s just such an intriguing system. TBD on that one.

6. Dichotomy and dissonance in general.

Oh, and I'm not sure when I'll start. I graduate in December, after all, and so life is kind of nutso right now. But I thought it'd be nice to go ahead and set this place up while the juices are flowing (see also: toddler in bed and I've gotten a decent amount of rest the last couple days so I am not also sacked out), just in case I want to wander back and get the party started.