Friday, June 20, 2014

Oh, Joy, the Crumbling Continuum

I've been wondering why I am enchanted with words. They wrap around my brain like an eagerly anticipated gift and I'm a gap-toothed child with frosting smudged across her face reaching up with open arms. They never leave, even though they do lie quiet in times of stress or run in the opposite direction when I am trying to squeeze them from a place too tight for flow.

I welcome this acrostic addiction with an appetite for more. I invite flowery, fickle and downright bad ideas to run amok through the elongated gates and trails of my mind. I find joy in the plunky metamorphosis of letters turning into silky ribbons of delicious thought emerging chapter titles, songs and bite-sized breaks of blue through the clouds.

And I am thankful. I am thankful that I have this love to share with my children. I am thankful that when the world feels unsafe and unkind I can escape into the mind of C.S. Lewis or Anne Lammott or Brennan Manning and Jen Hatmaker– those who have lived life with their ear to the door of God's heart hoping to hear a symbiotic morse code that will spell out the exact answer we seek. And they do.

I've found that while God does often speak in cryptic collections of stories and ideas–he doesn't leave us to fumble the puzzle back together on our own. When we are hurting, lost or desperately seeking His face he isn't so mysterious. (Matthew 7:7). He's actually quite plain. Blunt. Transparent.

I am between the spaces right now; where the sunset over a tranquil lake transports me to a hotel room in my soul that I've never checked into. And yet, it is as if that is the only place in the whole world that could possibly be home. I don't think of heaven often, but when I do it is sparked by random moments of beauty. When dew slips from petals into a pool of rainwater. In the squinty corners of my children's eyes when giggle fits ensue. Those are times where I can't contain the joy I feel and I instinctively put my hand over my heart. It's what C.S. Lewis called the "pang" of joy. And it is worth more than comfort. It is a preview of something we were created to live in continuously.

Comfort has been the god that often snatches the position of most importance when I don't tend to the wilds of my want. I have been taking inventory around my home of the "comforts" I was afforded when I had an income. There's several pair of shoes that are colorful and yet, they seem crass. As if they represent me flipping over a table in the temple or me handing over my birthright for a meager bowl of watery soup. OK, so that may seem a little strong. But it is excess. And excess isn't eternal. It's moth food.

I have a few more dresses than I used to. A few more beauty products. A few more clothes for my kids which have now been washed, shrunken and demoted to consignment quality. Innumerable Starbucks cups found their way into the trash along with their bought-status green straws. But most boldly and evidently, as I look around and take inventory of this blank space I find myself in, I notice a skin that has been shed. I notice that what I was once wearing has now been cast in the dirty clothes. It was a uniform of I-can-do-it-all-myself–as if a title of nothingness could trick my heart into believing that I was anything more than naked and ashamed.

I feel so free from that skin, which now I can properly identify as a suit of armor. I catch moments of dusty sun now. I revel in the sound of birds out my window. I itch to bring beauty in.

And that's where I feel reintroduced to the place of purpose that God carved into me with a chisel and a gouge. That place of tenderness and trepidation. The place where I am able to notice God. To give him credit. To cite the source.

And that's why the words have been assaulting me with the most welcomed show of gunfire. I've been cracked open wide. Without our fissures and faults, there would be no way for Him to encourage us to "let it crumble". There would be no crag for him to establish his greatness among our garbage. Be thankful for your bruises–the places that if pressed upon would burst us to bits.

They are the marks by which we feel for our way and open into a bright meadow that is decorated with  quiet and clarity. It is only in times like these that I am able to wipe the steamy film from the mirror to see myself through the streaks of condensation. (1 Corinthians 13:12) For now we only see as a reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

You are already fully known by your Creator. These humans we share our lives with; they can only know us in part as we can only know ourselves and others. That's the journey. Realizing that this isn't about getting to know ourselves or hoping that someday someone will "get us". This life, this discovery–I believe–is about allowing ourselves to accept that will only be ever truly known, cherished, accepted and trademarked as beautiful by the hands of God. The ones that knit us together in love. (Col. 2:2)

We're in this together,

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hopelessly Unhinged

This has been an interesting week.

I quit my job. But it doesn't stop there.

An eighty-year-old woman in the aisle of Fred Meyer told my 14-month daughter to "shut up" as she was repeatedly squealing because of the balloons overhead. An acquaintance accused me of trying to reap the spoils of her divorce by asking about buying a painting in her home. And I had someone tell me that they were hurt that I did not acknowledge them while they wore a t-shirt heralding my old band days. While these things are not the end of the world I am fighting the temptation to pull into my turtle shell and be done with it for awhile. A reformed introvert who still struggles with internalism, these little cuts are beginning to gape. I can feel the blood draining from my face.

I am far too sensitive. I take things too much to heart. I know this about myself. But Jesus knows that even more.

I will be the first to say I don't do life well all the time. Honestly, I think I only have peek-a-boo moments of goodness where something bursts forth from a place beyond my own humanity and I am able to harness it long enough to help someone. Or support someone. Or forgive someone. Then it's gone and I'm back to being obsessed with myself.

The only comfort I can find is that Jesus knows me. He knows this wasted heart, and that I desperately want to please. And unfortunately that desire to please gets me into trouble. I set myself up for failure.

Jesus knows I don't say the right things all the time. He knows that I walk wide-eyed into misunderstandings. He knows I sin. I covet. I gossip. I envy. I assume. The world can be cruel. And sometimes I wonder if I'm not wired to handle it all. The comments. The assumptions. The accusations.

It can simply be, overwhelming. I have always been easily broken. I have a thin skin and I've tried to make it thicker. But for those of us who God made this way; sensitive, big-hearted and trusting–it's okay to admit we can't do this on our own.

And in this hard season, where I feel isolated and clunky in my attempts to re-find my footing–I am tripping over my good intentions. But more so now than ever I am so thankful for my church and my closest friends. I am so thankful for other broken people who put their foot in their mouths and those that are familiar with the gift of grace and are much more willing to give it freely to those who don't deserve it.

I know I don't deserve grace. I know I say stupid things. I trust people blindly. I don't always think through the things I do. But I keep being reminded of God working all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He knows we are unhinged and spastic. He knows we can't hold a train of thought and that we can't see ourselves crashing until we are among the blazes sometimes.

And that's the peace I have right now. Because I know I love Jesus like crazy. I know He's seen me at my worst and He still longs to know me. That is why I believe what I believe. Because I am imperfect and impolite and imposing and marred and stitched up and He still welcomes me with arms open wide. He still invites me to His throne to hear his gentle voice and to forgive me for the bazillionth time with no strings attached. Seriously, none.

And for a screw-up like myself that is more than good news, it's what this tired and beat-up heart needs.

Sometimes people think that religion is unforgiving. But for me, it's the opposite. My religion–Christianity– is nothing but forgiveness. Pure and potent, like the most intoxicating drink you'll ever taste. It's a reality that never goes away once you acknowledge you need it. As long as you keep His truth in front of you, what's behind you becomes glassy and highly apertured. Fading into the fog of forget-about-the-past.

I feel such joy knowing that I have a clean slate and a life washed white every single morning (Psalm 30:5). I will continue to hold fast to my firm belief in a Man who came as God to fulfill ancient prophecies and give us the gift we could never earn–a direct line to His goodness. He left us with the blueprint on how to live life in community with Him and those who love Him.

I am worn down. I am vulnerable. I am broken. I am sad. I am feeling attacked.

But by God, I am forgiven. And loved. And held. And kissed. And unconditionally accepted. No matter what I do wrong tomorrow or what I forget to do right the next day, Jesus has it covered. Dear friend, if you've ever been misunderstood, wrongly attacked, rightfully attacked or left to feel like you don't matter. You do.

You matter so much that you don't have to do anything right to be righted. Rest in that.

We're in this together,