Mar 27, 2014

Low Tide: Lessons in Exposure

February, 2014.

We’ve come again to that little cove: a sandy, rocky stretch of beach wrapped tightly around the cold waters of Puget Sound.  The water stretches out all blue-green-gray until it touches blue-white-gray sky out beyond.

The colors of a Seattle winter are all soft and mild and wet like this.

Annika holds my hand tightly as our boots crunch down into puddles and sand.  She's nervous about the off-leash dogs that fly past us in their happy delirium.  They sound like horses as they come close and every time she pauses to tense up until they pass.

Banjo has run ahead and turns to look back, waiting.  Tail wagging.

I urge her forward.

The beach looks so different today because the tide is low.  The waters have pulled back and left all the hidden, underwater-things uncovered and glistening.

Behind us, everything has slowly dried and dulled and cracked – on it’s way to becoming grains of sand.  But this stuff down here is other-worldly.  It reflects light in iridescent colors and smells salty and strange. Much of it is still alive.

We watch our step.

The dogs aren’t running down here and she grows curious and a little brave.  She flips over a heavy, barnacle-covered rock and giggles when tiny crabs scurry furiously back down into the mud. I point out the funny, urchin creatures waving their arms around in the puddles like alien sunflowers; I show her how they will close up tight if I brush my fingertip near the middle.  She even finds a huge, fat starfish stuck like glue to the back of a rock.  It is not squishy and soft like we expect, it is rough and rock-like and barely moves at our gentle touch.  (She will talk about it for days.)

The low tide has left so much uncovered and nearly every shallow gulley has something hiding in it – trying to survive the air and the gulls and the 5 year olds until the waters rush back over and our footprints disappear underneath.

But now it is all exposed in this beautiful, vulnerable glory.  We tread and touch carefully and with reverence because this is the kind of thing that doesn’t – that can’t – last forever.

I tell her how it all works: how the watery shell around the earth is being pulled up towards the heavy moon and we keep spinning in and out of the shallows. I whisper to her and feel it echoing in my soul somehow… how there is this giant, unseen force tugging at that shell and causing these brief, dangerous and beautiful dry spells.

In my human heart, I fear the dry spells. I fear and endure the times when my surface gets pulled back and things are exposed just as they are.  I hold my breath while the water rises and swells upward, wait for it to fall back into place.  To fill all the low places again.  Cover me in deep, flooding abundance.  And it does, it always does - He doesn't ask me to be vulnerable and brave and exposed forever. Just sometimes, just for a little while.... just for as long as it takes.

And there is such beauty when life is revealed like this. The waters recede and we see it all at once – the tender, thriving things. The murky, rotting things. A sudden and grand display of sparkling life and stenching death before any of it has the time to hide or change or disappear forever.

The wind is picking up and our second-hand rain boots are filling up with sea water. We pull up our hoods and zippers, call the dog, and head back up towards the car.

My daughter picks up the remnants of a pink seashell whose outer cover has been smashed and we run our fingers along the pearly, inside twist where some living thing used to be.  She is a Respecter of All Rules, but her Mama has never quite been so, and I say we can take this one, special thing home to remember our day at the beach.

She will go home and put it on her book shelf.  She will talk incessantly of starfish and mud and she will dream that night of seashells and mermaids and trips to the moon.  But I will tuck it away in my heart like truth.  And I will dream of the bravery that rejoices in vulnerable, exposed seasons of the heart – when all things are revealed and glory can be fully seen. 

Mar 14, 2014

God and Dead Feminists: Thoughts on Empowering my Daughter

I have this fear that Michael- this squirmy, hiccuping little boy inside me- will be a complete terror.  And before you laugh and roll your eyes, let me tell you... the odds are not on my side in this.  I've only done this child-raising thing once before and it went pretty well. Too well to happen twice in a row.  

We had our fair share of sleepless nights and chipmunk-cheeks full of unswallowed food that made me want to scream, but mostly Annika has been easy.  She has always been quick to listen, very sensitive to the slight firmness in my voice or sudden seriousness in my face. She cares about doing the right thing and finds satisfaction in pleasing her parents.

I was mulling over it as I was shampooing my hair and the thought briefly crossed my mind, She has always been so easy to control.

And then another thought crossed my mind: CRAP. My daughter is easy to control?!

It was a gut reaction that felt centuries of feminists rolling over in their graves and crying out for her freedom. It was the proud stubbornness in my own personality that simultaneously grieved my oppressive parenting style and pitied her lack of push-back to my boundaries. She does what she's told and where will that get her in life? After all, a timid and easily-controlled girl isn't going to be the heroine of any good story.

Even my favorite girls in the Bible have some measure of rebellious spirit in them.  

Oh, God... have I failed to empower her?

But I kept lathering... on the other hand, the opposite of easy-to-control isn't necessarily "well balanced and awesome." At the other end of the spectrum lies out-of-control and that's not exactly desirable.  Certainly not biblically but even socially and culturally- no one raises up their daughters hoping that their lives will be full of lawlessness, discord and chaos. 

Maybe I hadn't disappointed God and centuries of brave feminists.  But I wasn't totally sure yet.

And I'd love to say that God brought the perfect scripture to my mind in that very moment, but it wasn't until later that I was reading an online Lent devotional and came across this verse from Hebrews.

Lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put of out joint but rather healed.

It was about fasting and prayer but I felt it settle down into my mama-heart and wrap it up in a cozy Truth blanket. (I've thought a long time about that sentence and I'm not deleting it, no matter how cheesy it sounds.)  The truth is this: the discipline is not for control, it is for healing. 

Our lameness (the sinful condition of our hearts, and our kid's hearts) will eventually lead to a gnarled disjointedness if not brought continually back into a healthy posture. We teach our kids to reallign their hearts and attitudes so that, instead of continuing to live in disorder and crippledness, they may be healed and made strong.  Not weak.  Strong.

I do not discipline so that she is easy to control.

I do not discipline so that she is a nice girl.

I do not discipline so that we can all take pride in outward behavior.

I do not discipline so that she can be safe from dangerous things. 

I do not discipline so that I can function at home without losing my mind and the relationship between us can be a fruitful one.

No; none of those things are the goal.  The real goal, the reason we discipline, is healing and the slow growth of righteousness in her attitude, heart, and life. And righteousness, that God-peace, being light in a dark world... that is not something that is "easy to control." That is not easily deceived or swayed or taken advantage of.

My prayer is that discipline and training in Annika's life will be not be shaping her into a well-behaved, nice girl that follows rules but instead healing her disjointedness and empowering a brave, steady, and strong heroine of a woman....

One who is passionate about righteousness in herself and justice for others.

One who is compassionate towards her neighbors.

One who can know peace even when denied pleasure and short-term gratification.

One who knows the joy in waiting for what will make her thrive instead of just what makes her happy.

One who is willing to take risks and push boundaries when necessary.

One who looks to the interests of others and is willing to lay down her rights, privileges, and safety for another.

One who does not demand or feel entitled to rewards, applause, or self-glory.

One who values a godly character above a "good" reputation. 

One who does not trust in her own goodness and works but can rejoice in how fully Jesus fills in all our gaps and makes us overflow with strength and righteousness.

Adding this post to the link-up of sisters sharing their words over at She Loves Magazine! Check out the blogs taking part in this month's theme of "Empowered."

------- Want to keep in touch? Subscribe above to receive new posts by email!

Mar 7, 2014

Psalm 130: The God Who Sees

Psalm 130.

It is a "song of ascent" and it begins with a bursting.

Out of the depths, breaking the silence, crying out and up to the God who hears and the God who sees.

El Roi.

I remember Hagar crouched in the wilderness of the desert and the bleak uncertainty of her life, surprised by the God of Seeing who met her there.  "Truly I have seen him who looks after me," she says.

And we crouch in that same harsh and awful dryness, knowing that it is too much.  The depths are too deep.  The dark is too dark.

Before the Lord, who could ever stand?

But he is a God who hears and listens.  He sees the woman, desperate and alone, and he meets and forgives and promises hope. And she names him El Roi, and calls the place "the well of the Living One who sees me."

He is El Roi who sees us here, in these depths. 

And so we can ascend.

Instead of crouching, we climb.  Like watchmen in their tower with eyes lifted and steady on that horizon.

Quiet. Waiting. Knowing.

We put our hope in nothing else but that sure dawn.  Because his love is steady and his redemption plentiful and we wait for the next bursting out, like so many lights and colored skies of morning. 

Linking up with so many sisters reflecting on Psalm 130 at SheReadsTruth.  Check it out here!

------- Want to keep in touch? Subscribe above to receive new posts by email!

Mar 4, 2014

I Just Want Some Crazy

I've been watching on Facebook as friends out east are surviving weeks of ice and snow, while in other parts of the country they are already barefoot in hammocks with warm, yellow sunsets. 

I look out the window to my gray, wet, Seattle world.  It is so consistent... so temperate. So mild

And I'm not sure why but sometimes I just want some Crazy up in here. I want it to do more than just a quiet, steady mist of rain - I want crashing thunder and flashes of light. I want to lose power and light candles and hide under blankets.  Or I want a snowstorm that forces Josh to spend long days at home playing Candyland and rationing out our coffee. Or I want that beating-down-on-you sunlight that makes the car stink like sweat and sunscreen. 

Please tell me I'm not the only one?

Sometimes I think I've got a weirdo case of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Like a cousin disorder, something called Seasonal Neediness Disorder (SND).  Or maybe Transitional Addiction Tendency (TAT).  Always-Talking-About-The-Weather Disease (ATATWD). It's something about these long months of mild sameness, the lack of an extreme or lack of transition when my inner clock says "hello it's March I'm ready for flip-flops now please".... or maybe it's just my big, pregnant belly that says "sorry no I will not wear two layers of pants again."

I guess some perspective would tell me that the constant drizzle and cloudy sky is the extreme here, it is the challenge to be endured and embraced.  Squeezing fleece leggings under my maternity jeans every morning, wiping the mud from Banjo's feet at the backdoor six times a day (4 feet x 6 potty breaks = 24 wipes a day), rinsing out the coffee filter again and again because coffee just happens that much. Decaf, of course. 

It's all part of this hard core Seattle grunge life.  This metal-y, angsty, survival-mode in a world of cold, gray, rain. Makes me consider putting on some non-decaf coffee just to get through it. 

But then.  Then.... when I have the eyes to see them... there's the silhouettes of giant evergreens, all stately and huge and unmoving on the white sky. 

There's the beach, just minutes away, where our rain boots splash next to starfish and seaweed in the low tide.

There's the breaks in the clouds when I catch a glimpse of giant, snow-capped Mount Rainier in the distance and am reminded that we are literally surrounded by gorgeous mountain ranges and coastlines and forests. 

There's the reality that my "reality" beneath these rain clouds is such a tiny part of a bigger picture.


I can kick off my boots and hang up my drippy jacket, flip on the tea kettle and the puddles tremble under the gentle shower. Admire the strangely huge black crow perched ominously in the cedar and wonder nervously if he's watching the chickens. I can turn off Pandora and just listen....

And I can be thankful. Always thankful.  And if I have too, I can wait just a little longer for flip-flops. 


This random post is part of my effort to practice writing and sharing every day thoughts. I blogged a little already about this new "era" of honesty/vulnerability  and am thrilled to link up at The Extraordinary Ordinary for Heather's weekly Just Write series (which she calls an "exercise in free writing your ordinary and extraordinary moments." How perfect, right?) Come check it out and read some of the other link-ups!

------- Want to keep in touch? Subscribe above to receive new posts by email!

Feb 20, 2014

I'm No Good at This

"I feel like I've become someone I didn't quite used to be."

That was the thought that hit me as I looked up into the mirror.  I was washing my hands in that strange, removed window of time after just taking the Lord's Supper and before picking Annika up from her kid's church.

And it was weird because even though it's "someone I didn't quite used to be," it's also true that I'm becoming more and more like myself - like, my natural self.  My wobbly, needy weaknesses.  My selfish, isolating tendencies. Its all truly and naturally (and unfortunately) me

The fruits of the spirit will obviously only grow with abiding in the Spirit, which if we're being honest - I'm not. So why did I expect them to thrive? I've wondered at where unconditional joy has run off to.  Felt frustrated that peace seems to come and go easy, like Seattle rain. I've chastised myself for being so easily affected by irritations and offenses and reminded myself over and over again about the love, patience, and kindness of Jesus.

All those good things, they seem so easy to attain and yet so hard to maintain.

Because I have access to them, but they are not mine. They are not of me. 

If I don't submit my time and my heart (and my mornings?) back into the light of God's word and his presence, if I stay in the comfortable shadows (like, literally, in bed), I will become frighteningly more and more like myself and less like him. 

It actually seems unrealistic, that such a monumental shift could happen - that the very depths of my character and personality could ebb and flow based simply on whether or not I'm reading my Bible consistently or making time to journal and pray.  And yet - here we are.  Here is reality in those shadows.

And then, at the same time, here I find myself in the reality of some kind of transcendent, unrealistic patience that is waiting for me. These fruits inside me, this Spirit, so real and so alive that even in a slow, fading-ember-like death they would speak.  They would hunger and growl like an empty belly wanting bread.

And I wonder how on earth God might keep loving someone like me.  Why would he allow me so many strikes, so many chances... so much forgiveness?

It honestly feels good to wonder something like that.

Because it's finally something worth marveling at.  It's finally something that deserves my shock and doubt and disbelief because it is indeed way too good to be true.  Its the most unrealistic aspect of Christianity: this part where I wander, disconnect, ignore and God waits, whispers, pursues.

He loves me and wants me close so that I can thrive and know life and be light.

Of all my unbelief and selfishness, there is finally this that I say "how can that be true?" and it rings clear like a trumpet.  Like the arrival of something so worthy that other thoughts and emotions and unbeliefs move aside.  They bow down to make way for the truth.

The truth is that my slow wandering in and out of submission to him, in and out of the disciplines that teach me of him, in and out of the sacrifices that I could be making... they are nothing but testament to his bottomless patience with me.  They serve to reveal how not awesome I am at this righteousness thing, and they proclaim how fully his kindness (and only his kindness) bridges the gap between us.

It is a scary sense of entitlement in me that knows this about him and therefore fears no wrath for my lazy wandering. 

And that entitlement?  It's just one more little part of "me" - the natural, without-God part of me - that grows and grows like a weed.

So I pull it up again, like I often try to do on those quiet, rainy afternoons when I stare out the window and wander back into conversation with him.  But this time I'm digging my feet in.  Into the submission that is freedom and the disciplines that are growth and the sacrifices that bring life.

I'm digging my feet into writing, journaling and blogging, into cracking open the Bible every day and lighting that volatile little match that longs to burn again. 

I'm digging my feet deeper into the humility that knows - I'm no good at this. But he is. 

------ Want to keep in touch? Subscribe above to receive new posts by email!

Feb 13, 2014

Secret Seeds

Today this post is appearing on Rediscovered, a community of Christian women "rediscovering the beauty of femininity and sexuality in the Church." I love that you can find posts about singleness, marriage, body image, health and yes- even sex!- that are grounded in God's word and truth. 

October 7, 2013: 5 weeks pregnant.

I’m standing in a row of people at church while we sing about God’s faithfulness.

Of course, we’re all facing forward and no one will look into my eyes to see the flickers of doubt or my brow creased in thought.  No one is listening so closely to notice just the slightest tremble in my voice.

No one knows my secret.

And my secret is the reason that uncertainty and fear are sneaking into my worship. 

My secret is that I’m pregnant. Again.

And even though I’ve learned that the kingdom of God doesn’t always look like secure jobs and healthy babies and answered prayers, I still can’t help but hold this fragile hope with an eyebrow raised dangerously toward heaven.

“Lord, this time… what will you do this time?”

My mouth sings words about his light and how he makes the way bright before me, but my mind lays out two very different scenes.  In one scene, there is life inside of me.  Thriving, growing, enduring life.  There are hugs and smiles, there is joy and thankfulness.  There is relief. There is a future unfolding with warm tones of pink and gold and well-placed sunflares—a future in which this one thing goes right. In the other scene, there is death inside of me.  Disappointment. There are hugs and softly spoken words, there is a hard clinging to peace. There is a future of nothing certain anymore, an emptiness where this one thing does not exist, an open white space that only God can fill.

The truth is that I want everything to make sense around this thing—this one thing. I want the lyrics of that song to be about my baby. I want the outcome of my pregnancy to work as a proper litmus test for God’s character. I don’t need a perfect life, I just need this one thing to finally be okay because if it’s not okay, then you know what, Lord? Maybe we’re not okay.

My lifted hand, the one that was reaching up and seeking, asking… it falls and lands protectively on my tummy, on my secret.

I open my eyes like I’ve woken up from a dream.

Something inside me moves and swells and throbs with life, but it’s not a baby. 

It’s everything else.

It’s everything else that God has been working and planting and tending so gently.  It’s all the life that he has grown in me these past few years, the life that has gone so far beyond my small tastes of death, the still-tender shoots and buds of fruitfulness that refuse- in this moment- to be forgotten.

There is so much life in me –thriving, growing, enduring little seeds of life that are longing to burst forth and promising to thrive, if only I’d abide.

And while we sing about our anchors holding fast, I know it is these fragile fruits that Satan is truly after and it is these fruits that everything makes sense around because it is these fruits that can ever only live.
It is only by hunkering down and getting face-to-face with Jesus that I feel able to bear it.  Let the storm do it’s thing, like storms will, but oh the immeasurable comfort and power of knowing that Jesus is in this boat with me. In the center of everything else there is me and Jesus and I crowd his cushion and say, “just let me be near you and I’ll live.”

And I know-- these are the invincible prayers. This is where all the promises of God find their “yes” in him, and these are the solid rocks that I can curl my fingers around.

That I am not alone.

That I am pressed, but never crushed.

That were the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom and that I—with an unveiled face—behold his glory and even now am being transformed into the same image. (2 Cor 3:12-17)

That the life of Jesus will be manifested in my mortal flesh. (2 Cor. 4:7-12)

The life of Jesus inside me, blossoming and manifesting deep inside my mortal flesh, is my greatest hope and promise – and it is indestructible.

May I carry it well.  All of it. 

If you haven't already, head on over to Rediscovered!

------- Want to keep in touch? Subscribe above to receive new posts by email!

Feb 6, 2014

Ripping it to Shreds

I’ve given up on blogging multiple times over the past few months.

Some of it was just not knowing how to write without talking about my pregnancy, some of it was the odd emotional funk that has come between me and putting my feelings on the page, and some of it is just an overly dramatic, Ecclesiastes-style, everything-is-meaningless lament that makes me doubt the value of working hard to succeed at something as silly sounding as “blogging.”

But the truth is, I also love it.  I love sharing my story and adore learning yours- and realizing how alike we all really are. I love it when I dump out thoughts and feelings and words and then am occasionally amazed at how those words mattered to someone in a real way. And I’m realizing that I also kind of need it. I need to let my imagination and restless spirit have a way to be drawn out into words, to take shape into ideas. I thought I wasn’t writing because I wasn’t growing, but maybe I also wasn’t growing because I wasn’t writing?

In any case, I read this timely article about writing as a spiritual discipline and decided it was time I tried it as such.  Instead of waiting for a well-formed concept to post, something “worthy” of blogging, I’d just commit myself to putting pen to paper and writing down (and scarier- sharing!) whatever it was that came out of my heart.

So this morning, I got ready for the “new era” of Bare Tribe...the comfortable, vulnerable, unplanned honesty of whatever that was going to look like. I warmed up some leftover quiche and a cup of tea for me, set out a table full of paper and paint and M&Ms for Annika. (Okay, the M&Ms were for me, too.)

I responded to some emails while she painted a perfectly adorable picture of our dog Banjo (to be hung next weekend at his 1 year birthday party that she is planning), and then I suggested that she do a Valentine’s-themed painting with red and pink hearts.

I had barely written a few words when I heard her growling.  Growling is a lovely little thing she does when she feels frustrated or uncomfortable and doesn’t know what to say. I mostly try to ignore it and wait to see if she can find the words to express herself better (—unless she does it in response to a sweet stranger saying “hello” and then I just laugh awkwardly and rush away to attempt another discussion about the difference between shyness and rudeness). But now, instead of finding the words, she got increasingly frustrated at her imperfect attempts at drawing hearts and began to rip her painting into shreds.

I was thinking about the mess—the paper everywhere, the wet paint, the water she almost knocked over—and started to raise my voice. We have a no tolerance policy for tantrums around here and she knows that.  But I hesitated, told her to go take a time-out in her room and calm down, and that I’d be there in a minute to talk about what just happened.

When I did go in there, she was sitting in bed with a stack of Little Miss books, just quietly turning pages. I moved the books out of the way and crawled under the covers of her junior-sized IKEA bed, wrapped my arms around her and tried to think of what to say.

But I flat-out didn’t know what to say.  I could sense the weight of a bigger issue, the spiritual significance of the moment even, but I didn’t feel equipped to guide her through it at all.

So I just squeezed her close and got started as honestly as I could:
Annika, I don’t know how to teach you that it’s okay to not draw a perfect heart. Sometimes, when we’re learning to do things, we just don’t get them right. Sometimes, there are things that we’re really good at and other things that we’re not very good at.

I waited. She said nothing. So I went on.

I could just tell you that it’s not okay to rip up your paper. I could tell you not to act crazy when you feel mad. I could make those rules and I think you would obey the rules, but… it wouldn’t fix the frustrated feeling in your heart.  Jesus tells us that we can act good and follow rules but still have ugly hearts, and he cares the most about what’s going on inside our hearts.

I asked her if she had fun painting Banjo, and she said yes. 

Did you decide it was fun after it was finished and I told you how good it was? Or did you know it was fun while you were painting it?  

She knew it was fun the whole time.

Good! Because it should be fun the whole time! Painting isn’t just about drawing a perfect picture; it’s about making art, something that makes you happy. You may feel like you can’t be happy doing it unless it’s perfect, and that you have to feel bad or give up if it’s not good enough, but that’s not true.  The devil wants you to believe those lies, he likes it when you are frustrated and sad, but God says you are free to enjoy painting-- and free to feel happy with your paintings because they were fun to make.

And then, there was another one of those “clicking” moments where I realized my daughter and I are so much alike: I have been getting frustrated with writing, with blogging, with sharing-- and just walking away from it.  It may not have been full-blown, ripping-it-to-shreds yet but there was definite “growling of the heart” going on. 

I could so plainly see Annika’s error in letting her creativity and expression and joy be strangled out by the desire to succeed, the longing for control, and the need for something to live up to her own expectations. It hadn’t been so easy to see in myself.

Basically, at five years old, she was already believing that nagging, lying feeling that said her current struggle determined her future capacity.  It was the same lie that has been hovering over me for months, that I should only care and invest myself in something that was somehow useful and productive now, instead of feeling free to find joy in a process that has always been joyful to me.


She interrupted my thoughts. I was in such a cloud of sentiment, and I waited for her comment to be the perfect, meaningful conclusion to my thought process.

Mommy, if we took Bug’s fluffy legs and Marilyn’s feathery cheeks and Lucy’s bright red comb, and put them all together… would that be like… Super Chicken?

It wasn’t exactly the perfect, final thing to wrap up the whole story in a meaningful way. But it made us both laugh. And she decided that she wanted to keep painting.

So we came back into the kitchen together and set ourselves to the task of expressing our thoughts and ideas together in an unplanned, imperfect, totally real way with no expectations.

I blogged this.

She painted Super Chicken.

The End. :)

------- Want to keep in touch? Subscribe above to receive new posts by email!

Jan 29, 2014

The Winds of Change

Change is in the wind around here.

Up and out, there is that gray-white sky rolling in and chasing away the pleasant week of warm weather that had Seattle drooling with thoughts of spring. And deep inside, there is that sweet and constant feeling of life... a tiny son, sucking his thumb and stretching out his limbs. Reminding me throughout the day: "I am here.  I am coming." 

Annika is stretching out, too.  It seems like every month we make a new mark on the wall; she is literally inching her way into big-kid-hood. Today we went to visit the elementary school where she will attend kindergarten in the fall and as we drove home, she imagined the scene in her head:

"Hey mom, when I go here in real life, you're gonna give me a kiss and then I'll open the door and say goodbye and I'll go to school."

And once again my heart managed to overflow and break at the same time.

Now I watch the rain outside, soaking the grass and the ground and the poor chickens, and I feel the same strange emotion: a beautiful fullness, an overflowing satisfaction, a cleansing joy... and yet a piercing awareness of time passing, of my own inadequacy and stagnant, muddy puddles of the heart.

I've never been one to worry, at least not by normal standards. I'm one to lean back with a glass-half-full of something charming and seasonally appropriate and find a way to "toast" whatever stage of life we are in. I usually prefer to romanticize circumstances to point of delusion rather than over-analyze them. (I still remember the horrified look on my parent's faces when they walked into the cheap, smelly, cockroach-infested apartment that was to be my first home as a married woman.  I'd signed the lease quickly, believing the sleazy landlord when he said it was a competitive property. I beamed proudly about the way the sun lit up the kitchen while my mom bleached the walls, floors and ceiling.)

But as much as I want to idealize my way to a happy heart these days, I just can't.

I keep trying to figure it out and so often I get to a point where I think I have. I know it's about God whispering and drawing me deeper, exposing the subtle "yuck" inside that I never really believed he cared or even knew about.  It's about how he is inviting me to know him in a realer, richer, way more beautiful way instead of just cycling through learning and obeying.

It's about abiding, and it's about how I'm not.

And it's hard to know how.  When my days are filled with the small and the every-day, when change comes so slowly that its hard to recognize until it's passed, when contentment can come and go as quickly as the rain.

Like I said, I've never been one to "worry".

But now I wonder if these winds, these gentle growths or these harsher gusts of change, are producing a sneaky sort of anxiety that hangs around just long enough to distract my soul, and then flees too quick to be noticed or blamed.

So if the question really is, "Am I anxious about the future?" then the answer unfortunately is, for now.... "I don't know."

I know that I'm eager and happy and hopeful, and I think that's the ground that God keeps sowing. But I'm also restless and distracted, and those are the muddy puddles that I suspect he wants to wash away.

------- Want to keep in touch? Subscribe above to receive new posts by email!

Jan 16, 2014

The Life Inside

It's big news - to share that there's life inside me.

It was a big thing to learn one afternoon while Annika was napping. So big that, even though I was alone, I went into the closet and cried into my sweaters. 

I was so emotional: so deeply thankful, so full of joy, so hopeful, and so afraid. 

Because there were no guarantees that this would be different.  In a physical sense and a spiritual one, I had no promises that things were going to end up like we wanted them to.  It was one of the few things that I was certain of - that this pregnancy was indeed uncertain. 

There were other things, too.  Like: God is really, really good.  That we are blessed because we know him and call him Dad.  That tomorrow is not mine to worry about and that I am called to rejoice in the Lord always and be thankful in all things. 

And I found that believing those things was empowering. Which is good because this pregnancy has been scary and twice I have told friends "it's over." 

But it was never actually over and here I sit writing the announcement that I have put off for so long: We are expecting a baby in June.  A little boy.  And his name will be Michael.

Even now, the magnitude of it seems surreal.  Even though the statistics are finally on my side and my doctor promises me all her confidence and my belly is too big to hide... I know that there are no guarantees in this broken world.  I can only live with one hand open and willing to walk through all the uncertainties and the other hand hanging on for dear life to the things I am certain of. 

And even now, my son stirs inside. He moves and kicks so much more than Annika did and I wonder if it will be his personality or if it is just a gift to constantly know that all is well.  (Or apparently it could just be the position of my placenta, which isn't quite as precious to think about.)

So now we have opened our hearts and our news to the world.  And so we also welcome everyone into this story that God is writing for our family, this journey that is sometimes dry desert but then also so deliciously sweet along the way.  Milk and honey in the wilderness

A son.  I can hardly believe the sound of it! 

------- Want to keep in touch? Subscribe above to receive new posts by email!

Dec 29, 2013

Melting into Mt. Moriah: A Story of Performance

I've been reading an incredible Advent devotional, but I'm a little behind.

I'm currently on December 7th. (Okay, so it's almost New Years. Maybe I'm a lot behind.... it's kind of how things have been going lately.)

And I was reading about Abraham and Isaac, staring at the response question - "Name the ways God has provided grace for the gaps in your life" - and thinking, I should just skip it.  I'm weeks behind for crying out loud, and Annika will be awake any minute and I should move on to the next chapter.

But, Sit still.

It's like a whispering conviction from inside: Slow down, reflect on this.

Alright. I somehow feel like I've missed the window of time in which this would have been spiritually significant, but I'll write it out anyways.

I scribble onto lines (and eventually onto the next page and into the margins) how it's now, in these last few months that I'm so aware of all the gaps in my own production and performance. I can feel this laboring. If we're talking in terms of Abraham and Isaac (which suddenly seem to apply so well) then I have been hiking up this mountain, so determined, and God has been letting me do it. 

I am carrying fire and knife, so certain that my labors are up, up, upwards and all of this will eventually peak in my own displays of faithfulness and obedience.

It will be beautiful and God will be pleased and I will be deeply satisfied. It's served me well for years, honestly, but I can feel it now: this striving.

I am pressing on, preparing, preaching to myself - "I believe God, so I will obey him. I love God, so I will trust him."

Onwards, onwards. Upwards, upwards. How long have I been doing this thing?

And about Abraham, he didn't just climb a mountain in his backyard. He traveled for days to reach the land of Moriah.  I imagine it was three days of hurting, sideways glances at his young son.  His only son, his miracle. Three days of swallowing up screams and shutting up doubts. Three days of all that until they reach the place where he loads Isaac's own back with wood for the fire and they head up together.

I believe God, so I will obey him.  I love God, so I will trust him.

Of course, we know the story well but I have to remember how Isaac's father didn't.  How engulfed in relief and praise he must have been when God provided another sacrifice, a replacement.  How much joy flooded Abraham's heart when God handed Isaac's life back to him?

God didn't require of Abraham the terrible thing that he would eventually require of himself.

So, the end of the journey, the top of the mountain, wasn't actually a place where Abraham would display his own faithfulness. When he reached the place of sacrifice, he was prepared for it to be a place of ultimate personal obedience, and instead he actually entered into the shadow of Jesus and his obedience- the ancient whispers of an ultimate sacrifice yet to come.  

This striving of mine, it feels up, up, upwards. And there's plenty of mountain-climbing in scripture. But there's another reality in which all things are moving downward, inward.  Closer to the center. Closer to the ground where I can kneel lowest and realize that none of this is about me or what I've done.

Or what I'm doing. Or what I've yet to do.

I'm not even Abraham, God hasn't called me out and charged me with a task like that.  For whatever reason, I'm just hiking up anyways, because I think I should.  Because I want to go up. And because God is so patient and doesn't laugh at my journey. He just keeps meeting me along the way, grace upon grace upon grace.

And when he meets me, or finds me - brings me out from behind bushes like Eve, I can melt down into this truth that nothing is required.

All has been accomplished. 

There is my obedience, imperfect and failing, with which he is patiently pleased.  But then there is his obedience, in which I can live and move and have my very being.

If I am moving upwards, it is only to be closer to the place where I can kneel.

------- Want to keep in touch? Subscribe above to receive new posts by email!