January 6, 2013

If you are fishing for some encouragement

Hoping your first week of 2013 was filled with happy laughter and a bit of hyper color. 

And if not? No worries, friends. 

Because you've got all year to test new waters, discover new shades, and lay your burdens down. It's our year to be ok in the now, to trust the process we are in, and to let Him 
re-shuffle and redirect if and when we are in a jam. There's no shame in losing a hand or two ...  

Because sometimes losing is really winning and handing over your best card is really making room for one that's better.

Sometimes it feels like all bets are off ...

can we open up empty hands and wait patient?

Friend, this could be the time to stop fishing for what is next.
And simply be.

So whether you started strong or you've already wished for a do-over -- pair up, again today, with the Creator of the game, the One who knows how every hand will end.

We are not yet who we will be.

And someday we will see Him as he really is.  (1 John 3:2) We will know just how faithful He has been, just how trustworthy ... just how committed to make us like himself.

So run the race today, friends. And then again tomorrow. Don't drop out.
Don't flip the board and pout, throw down your cards when your pal wins.
Let's cheer, "Wow, look at you!"

Because we each have winning and losing moments. Refining times. Yes, seasons. We are all growing into maturity. We are all moving toward one goal. And He will keep His promise to finish what He began ... yes, the good work in each of us. (Phil. 1:6)

We have all we need. We are enough just as we are. And we will be made complete.


But in this moment ... could we say in faith, "Come, Lord Jesus. Do what you will ... today."

Just one right-now at a time.

January 3, 2013

2013 is The Year of ...

I have been known to hide out when I am in process.  

To hunker down in the fog and then emerge into the clear, seemingly unscathed.

My mom knows this about me. And when I was in college she waited before calling- always waited for me to check in first. But if I didn't? She knew I had gone underground.

And she hates to leave a message- feels 'so silly talking to a machine,' she says. But she left the messages anyhow, always the same: 'Mary Abigail, I'm missing you. Where did you go?'

Most of the time I called back quickly. 'Sorry mama. I've just been busy.'
But other times, I would only have to hear her voice on the other end before cracking wide open. I would cry quiet into her ear, always trying to hold it together. Keep the flood contained. Keep her safe from my burden.

Because I never wanted to trouble her. Not anyone.

I have a few heart friends who always come to me when they find themselves mid-crisis. Call or show up right in that bad moment when the world is all coming down. And I love them like crazy for this, for the gift of being vulnerable. They don't know it's sacred space when they do this: show up at my door and spill it all out for me to catch ... only to offer it back up to Jesus on their behalf. 

And it's not that they couldn't or wouldn't go to Him in their distress. But it's hands and feet they need and it's holy privilege to be safe space in those gut honest moments. I've been called that:  safe space.

And I have been, for the most part. For every person but myself.

And I've always said I work everything out on paper. That I don't know what I think until I see it. Don't know what it all means, what it is all really about until it's over and done. Until the storm has passed. This is only partially true.

The other part? I don't like to flail. Don't like to fail. Don't like to fall apart. Don't give myself that much room. I'm just private, I say. Not likely to come to your door and spill.

Back in school I never let anyone edit my work ... would have taken my words to the grave before letting you mark them up with red ink. Too afraid to show process. To proud to need direction.

I'll show you my A plus ... just not my rough draft.

And fear and pride will play tricks on your heart- keep you all bound up and alone, tell you you are wrong for needing people. Wrong for being in the middle of the journey. Wrong for being a bit rough around the edges. Fear and pride will tell you to hide out, work it out alone, resurface when all is well.

Pride will whisper that just you and your quiet faith is highly spiritual.

Only, God gave us each other...

And I spent the first half of my life showing only the good stuff. Lived out an addiction-to-thin among college roommates for five years. I led bible study and raised my hands at Inter Varsity, covered up my hurts behind closed doors. 

I finally sought out some help. I did it all by myself. And for months, while living with four girls, I drove away to therapy instead of to class. Four days a week I sat in groups and private sessions,  learned it was alright to say 'I'm not okay.'

I just didn't want others to know.

And I had a major breakthrough- found some power in the Word-made-flesh and I stopped being afraid of my own. When that doc said I had years of work to do, I simply told him I wouldn't be back. I had found some new freedom.

My eventual victory was radical and powerful. It was also lonely.
I had no one to share it with, no cloud of witnesses.
I wondered why I'd done it all alone. And every year since, when spring hits and I smell the first whiff of green grass, I'm bowled over by memories of fear and keeping secrets ... and yes, of finding the way.

God's grace.

Because how do you share your greatest joy when you hide your deepest sorrow?
How do you share real beauty when you hide all of the growth?

And we were created by Him and for Him. All of us are His. And so we are family- brothers and sisters around every turn, if we will allow each other to be. We want so badly to belong, to be known, to find safe arms but we stay all tucked in, arms crossed. We keep people out. We show only our best selves, our finished selves- resurfacing when the hard is behind us, when we can tell about how we made it through, how tough it was, how strong we were.

We are terrified to be needy or lacking or a tiny bit broken ... right now.

 I am guilty of this.

And so when my words go underground, you can guess that I've gone there too. Waiting for just the right thing to say. Packaged well. Perfect.

This word crafting- the putting out into the open is risky. And I just don't know how to write words that aren't a bit transparent. They are real and they are all red streaked. And lately, this life is feeling all inked up. Red. With cross-outs and missing verbs and misplaced punctuation.

But it's what I've got to show, even if it's not that pretty.

What rough draft is?

My goal in school was to have no edits. I wanted to get everything right the first time. I equated revision with wrong. Suggestion with failure. I'd turn a rough draft in a day late before I'd turn it in with fixable flaws. I've been that way here- with all these words.

I want them to be right. And staying right takes tons of energy and we spend most all of our lives being mostly wrong- needy, mixed-up, unsure. I think I might write a bit more if I let you see those parts too.
I think I might like that.

I want this space to have a theme and a direction. A purpose. Truth is? My life looks nothing like that. I am all over the place. Could I be all over the place here too?

I could tell you about how I'm always reading six books at once and how most homeschooling days are a sweet disaster. I'd write about Africa and how I have this crazy notion that I belong in war-torn places with war-torn folks; how I'm learning to rest in my 'right now' with these good gifts of young children and a man who loves me in radical, daily ways.

How I have a roach problem and how, honestly, I've acclimated ... made peace with those sneaky buggers; how I really like my exterminator because he says I'm still clean and that's it's all these woods and all this rain and not at all a reflection on my domestic habits.

How most the time I feel like a lousy friend and a mess of a wife, never calling or showing up or showering when I should; how when I do wash up, I turn the water real hot and sit there too long, pray a prayer or two because I'm finally alone and if someones calling me ... well, I won't hear them.

How I love my new church and how I crave the Mass ... can't get enough of communion;  how it's been the most beautiful and quiet journey of our little family's life;  how I am afraid to talk about it, afraid the right words won't come, afraid I'll be misunderstood ... make another red streak on this page.

But here's the thing. I feel some victory coming on. And I can't share it with you if I won't share a bit of the process too.

I want to celebrate wild with you at the end of all of this.

So, for now, you need to know: I'm in process. And aren't we all?

So what do you say? I'll show my rough draft if you'll show yours. Maybe in 2013 you could let some folks into your journey? Celebrate the messy 'right now' together?

And later ... we'll celebrate together, okay?

It will be a red-streaked party called Grace for all of us who are holding out for the A plus.

Friend, you already made the grade. There's no report card around these parts. I'm tossing it out
(mainly because Jesus did long ago and I'm praying that head knowledge will become a heart truth).

And because I'm ready to be safe space- for you. And for myself.

So ...

I'm declaring 2013 The Year of the Rough Draft.

Yes, this is the year to be okay ... right now ... in the process. Whatever it may be.

And I think I feel better already.


January 1, 2013

At Home in 2012 and a review of sorts

Last year at this time, we were deep in transition. A major life-change.

We were quiet. Private.

I was vague with my words ... hoped you might, or might not, read between the lines.
And we named 2012, the way we do each year, The Year of Finding Home.

And it fit so many themes, really. We were homeschooling and we were home. A lot.
I needed to understand this space and these four walls in a new, everyday sort of  way.

I was planning a trip to Africa- finally flying off to a place that has always been home in this heart. And I stood up in Uganda, around a dinner of lentils and orange Fanta and new friends- told them all how I'd been homesick. And couldn't this African soil be home too?

But more than this- Todd and I were on a journey, one that we had been on, collectively and apart, for quite some time. My journey was emotional, nostalgic, and from a deep place I couldn't articulate. His was intellectual ... at first. And in 2011 I told God, alone and from a church pew on Holy Thursday, that I wouldn't ask it of my husband.

He would find his own way if this place would be our home.

I would wait quiet.

Anyways, I feared resentment. Feared misunderstanding from outsiders. Feared change and estrangement. But the Lord weaved and intercepted, gave us friends who stood in the gap. And
He brought this marriage closer still ... walked us further into communion.

And in our Year of Finding Home? We did just that.

But I've been known to go underground when I'm in process. I want to have it all figured it out and then tell you the back story from a place of wholeness. Clarity.

I've also learned over the years that the less process I share, the less celebrating I do in the end.
Because how do you celebrate wonders and victories if you don't first share the trials and the journey?

We've experienced some quiet wonder this year and I wonder if we, if I, could have shared more along the way. Except that I can hear my husband in my head, reminding me ... "Ab, we're not that cool." And while I wholeheartedly agree about the cool factor, I wonder ...

Because the truth is, you've journeyed a bit with me, with us, over the last year. And I haven't been able to write lately because I don't know how to write words that aren't see through. And because I've been nervous.

To some it may just be a church change. No big deal! Especially not big enough to write about.

But for us, it's been a major shift in community, in comfort, in control. Leaving one beloved church family for another just miles down the road ... this has been an ironic homecoming of sorts, full of beauty and full of risk.

This new community is one that my husband never claimed until now, the very one I left at age eighteen- frustrated with questions I couldn't answer, history and theology I didn't understand, and emotion I couldn't articulate. As a teenager, I embraced a new church filled with dynamic men and women, exciting programs and worship, leaders and teachers of the highest caliber. I got to know God. And my husband served on staff and I led young women and we lifted up brand new babies in front of a great cloud of witnesses. We grew friendships and shared life in all its glory for ten years.

But suddenly on Sundays, we pull up to the neighborhood stop sign and we turn right instead of left. 

We miss our people.

Because we are still here! and we are still the same not-so-cool us. But life is busy and common walls on a Sunday, common childcare rooms, common seats in the back/left of the sanctuary? These givens make staying connected a bit more easy.

But what about when you suddenly find yourself in different space ...?

And we asked ourselves the same questions over and over again, up at night, for a year. Why would we ever leave our people? Why would we give up these walls? This worship? Our history?

We were married here.

And our new space doesn't offer the same kind of childcare. Let's just say we've spent some time in the foyer with some kids. And it's a whole new crowd- equally large, equally rooted.

We have felt lost in a sea of faces.

But then this:

In the past year we've also kneeled, shoulder to shoulder. Cried collective gratitude with foreheads in hands. We've been bowled over by the richness of a sensual, sacramental faith. We've discovered liturgy and tradition- how those alone offer us a community without adequate description. And we have found a family that transcends walls and a history that reaches far beyond ours alone.We've walked forward each week, with palms turned up.

We have found communion.

And despite everything- despite the gratitude, the quiet grief, the immense change; despite what we've left down the road to the left-- the God-given and God-grown friendships, the comforts of familiar space, the full-of-Grace-and-Truth teaching we received, the story of our growing-up; despite all of the new questions we can't answer perfectly and the Mystery we've knowingly embraced ... despite it all, we are sure of one thing:

In 2012, we found Home.

Happy New Year, dearest friends. May you find your home in Him in 2013.