Arbitrary Designations

The pain scale is possibly the worst way to measure anything. First of all, there is genre to consider; quality, duration, impact. If ten is the highest number, then I have to put childbirth there (something I say from experience), but actually, childbirth didn’t cause me to pass out. So maybe leg amputation, or a gun shot is actually worse. But then I would factor in duration, quality and impact. Giving birth felt like water skiing my undercarriage over sharp metal spikes… but not the whole time, just for a few seconds during each contraction. Actually childbirth is a good example of many genres of pain: burning, aching, sharp, sudden, subtle, dull.

So yeah, if we put childbirth as a ten (winning out over leg amputation based on duration and diversity, sorry to those of you that have experienced both and maybe think differently), then how am I supposed to tell a doctor about my neck pain? Compared to childbirth, in it’s feel at the moment, it is a .02, or something. But then if we add qualifications, it goes up. It’s like the feeling you get between your shoulder blades when you spend too much time reading; like that, but spread out from the top of my spine, to the lower middle of my back. And it’s also like giving someone, who is a little too heavy, a piggy back ride, or like a very small, and constant volt of electricity.

I went bra shopping the other day and did not factor in how exhausting it would be to take my shirt on and off so many times. The store clerk who was helping me didn’t understand my dilemma, and so she started by bringing me one size at a time in these large wooden drawers. After allowing this “customer service” to go on for a while, I finally got fed up with having to take everything on and off, and I just went out into the store and grabbed 7 or 8 different styles and sizes: the thing I should have done from the start.

And don’t get me started on physical therapy… Continue reading “Arbitrary Designations”

Can I Get Back to You?

If you’ve known me for more than a few years, you may have noticed (you imaginary readers, you) that I didn’t write anything on my daughter’s birth/deathday this year.

Here’s what I was doing instead of writing: hanging out with friends, going to church.

For several months now, I have been in this angry-at-religion mode. Not angry at my Christian friends, not angry with God, but angry at all of the trappings, all of the methods and all the ways people use to talk about those methods. It had become reactionary to the extreme. If I thought through the things that set me off, I could identify that they were either really not a big deal, or I could see how I disagreed with them (also not such a big deal). In some cases, identifying something that set me off would cause me to realize I actually agree with that thing. Nevertheless, I was struggling furiously with all of it… Continue reading “Can I Get Back to You?”

Faith Part 2: On the Ground

We’re all trying very hard, aren’t we?

This morning I was awake an hour before my alarm was set to go off and I was filled with both excitement and anxiety (I start college today!). I decided to work out with that extra time and while working out I had so much inspiration about this specific post. I was going to title it, “Work: Burden or Blessing,” and it was going to help us all get a better view of God and who He has made us to be.

Not surprisingly, I managed to get really tangled up in stress before I could sit down and start writing. Instead of that calm inspiration I felt on the elliptical machine, I was staring at a white screen and I was filled with wordless frustration… Continue reading “Faith Part 2: On the Ground”

Audience Participation

This morning I sat down to “hang out” with God. I barely opened my Bible where there’s a flyer marking some random book,  saw the title of a book and was suddenly flooded with revelation that sent me writing feverishly in my journal and flipping back and forth between books of the Bible, recording, processing, crying.

You probably already know the things I’m about to share, but let me tell you anyway.

The book fell open to Joshua.

First of all, as background I’ve been chewing a lot lately on the idea of holiness. I used to have the view that because it was obviously too hard to be really holy, God didn’t expect perfect obedience from me. He loves me, after all, and isn’t some cosmic police officer. But I’ll be honest- I have often swung between “striving” to please God then giving up exhausted, and falling upon grace. There was a real sense of my unworthiness and God’s goodness and the mystery of his acceptance, but I have never really understood that non-legalistic holiness existed.

Back to Joshua. If you haven’t read it, I’ll give you a little sum up. The Israelites wandered in the Sinai desert for 40 years. On the brink of The Promised Land, Moses gives an epic speech and then croaks, handing the leadership over to Josh… Continue reading “Audience Participation”

Perfecting Weakness

It feels good to be small.

This is my main take-away from six months of sabbatical.

Recently I described the year like being lost in the woods .

It felt like I ceased to be myself for a whole year. I ceased to know the things I thought I knew well and stopped connecting with many things that had previously given me joy and life.

It freaked me out to be unsure of everything I used to know. To add another metaphor to the pile, I was drowning.

And kept drowning…  Continue reading “Perfecting Weakness”

The Odd Couple

Having lunch with a close friend after church yesterday I said,

“I don’t know how to be a Christian anymore.”

It sounds both more shocking and less extreme than I mean, but they are the only words I can find to explain myself.

I love Jesus. Even when I’m twisted into some weird, navel gazing obsession over the point of my existence… even when  I’m catastrophically overwhelmed by the clash of world news and daily personal hostilities I have this unshakable hope that God exists and that He is good.

At the same time I have totally forgotten the why and the how of so many rituals. When I try to pray anything fancy about healing or spiritual warfare, I can’t get out anything beyond, “Help, God.” or  “Please, God.” I say a lot more stuff to Him than that, actually I say all of the things to him, but I no longer understand why we concoct prayers that sound like magical incantations.

Last winter when I got this strong feeling that I needed a sabbatical I also sensed God giving me a heads up that this season (that I’ve just walked through) wouldn’t be any easier than the last season when I was piled under an unmanageable amount of stress. When I say I “walked through” this sabbatical what I really mean is I’ve crawled through, often just laying on my face in the mud pouring out of my heart.

I’m super broken, guys… Continue reading “The Odd Couple”

Getting it Right

Most of us want to be Good People. We tend to think that, just as a child grows from infancy to adulthood, everyone is at some stage of “growing up” toward maturity and greater independence.

A few months ago I posted something a friend of mine wrote where she mentioned a pastor who had committed suicide. Weeks later, another friend asked me about this- disturbed to consider a pastor doing such a horrible, desperate thing. Because of this idea we have that spiritual growth is a steep climb up a mountain made increasingly on your own, it is horrifying when someone “ahead” of us on the path gives up or slides dramatically backward.

We ask ourselves, “What is the point of my climbing if  someone like that can fall?” 

The bad news is that being a pastor or a missionary or a nun will not safeguard us from being Bad People, from getting depressed, from having broken relationships, from sin or from tragedy (a fact that is noticed easily by people who keep their distance from Christianity). Although we gain maturity and we learn lessons, we’re always light years away from being grown up… Continue reading “Getting it Right”

Growing Young

I know Rich Mullins was not your typical kind of hero. From what I understand, he was a  very flawed and broken man. Nevertheless, the music and the words that God gave him have impacted me in a bigger way than I had realized until seeing  a movie about his life. He taught me two very important things about following Jesus.

His message resonated so quickly and deeply that I didn’t even know it was him that God was using to teach me. While this is about the influence of a musician, it’s mostly about the faithfulness of God to walk so near to me.

Lesson 1: Honesty

“These days I need more than just a line about Jesus.
I need to see his love, these days.”

I grew up going to a Southern Baptist church. What I learned as a kid was that the best Christians looked good and shiny on the outside. They had two parents, and plenty of money, they dressed up for church and they never said bad words. I saw nowhere to express my confusion and pain over life (not to mention I was poor with divorced parents and started swearing in elementary school)… Continue reading “Growing Young”

All Manner of Thing

I am mentally or emotionally uncomfortable about 80% of the time. 10% of the time I’m checked out and the remaining 10% I feel good, happy, joyful. Say what you want about the difference between happiness and joy, I’ll take what I can get. (That’s not entirely true. I do recognize the difference between things that are merely soothing me and feeling a real letting-go kind of peaceful joy.)

I took an online test recently (certainly reputable!) that told me that I’m a “Highly Sensitive Person.”

Good one, Captain Obvious.

The most enlightening/depressing thing I read, as I studied up on this before unbeknownst to me legitimate personality profile was that Highly Sensitive People spend much of their time unhappy because they’re always kind of struggling against an overstimulating world and struggling toward an inner sense of quiet. (An impressively long sentence, if I do say so myself.)

Good luck with that inner sense of quiet I’ve been working on so assiduously… Continue reading “All Manner of Thing”

The Great Exchange

One topic that has come up for me a lot over the years is homosexuality. Same-sex attraction is the reason that my ex-husband decided to divorce me. He certainly has his own story and I don’t attempt to tell that here (I am not outing him to the world, he has already done this). That is parenthetical to what I really wanted to say, but important for you to know about my perspective.

You may or may not be surprised if you knew how many Christians struggle with same sex attraction. I know several. Before you get upset with my using the word ‘struggle,’ recognize that I’m not making a judgment- all of the people I know would admit that for them it is a place of great difficulty. I myself glimpsed into that struggle by marrying a man who was not attracted to women.

Was I fully aware of my own foolishness? No. Talking to a friend last night about this issue, she expressed thoughts I carried years ago when I got engaged…. Continue reading “The Great Exchange”

Paul’s Secret

During discussion group last night we went around in a circle talking about what we have learned from studying the New Testament. The students finished Revelation this week and will begin with Genesis on Monday.

It was so encouraging to hear the answers from the students because they are the reason that we, as staff, are here. I know that my part is a small one, but I’m grateful to have a part.

The staff shared, as well and I was glad to be last in the circle because I had no idea to say. I had some words floating around in my head and was also trying to listen to what others were sharing. It wasn’t until the person before me wrapped up that I grabbed ahold of the bones of a thought. Then the most unfortunate/wonderful thing happened. The truth I was trying to convey hit me as it was coming out of my mouth. Which, of course, means I cried.

Here is what I learned this last quarter:
Early on I was wrestling with the Apostle Paul… Continue reading “Paul’s Secret”

What God Says

I am inexorably attracted to people who know how much they are loved by God and they allow this knowledge to change them.

This Spring I will have been a Christian for twenty years. In that time I have met all kinds of believers; the bitter but tenacious, the happy naive, the fearfully upright, and the broken beggars who walk around amazed to be so beloved by the creator of the Universe.

“If we know how great is the love of Jesus for us we will never be afraid to go to Him in all our poverty, all our weakness, all our spiritual wretchedness and infirmity. Indeed, when we understand the true nature of His love for us, we will prefer to come to him poor and helpless. We can be glad of our helplessness when we really believe that His power is made perfect in our infirmity.” ~Thomas Merton

Honestly, I still spend much of my time with my forehead wrinkled up, carrying this weight of worry around with me. Every once in a while I look up and realize how truly ludicrous is this posture… Continue reading “What God Says”

I’m Only Sleeping

I’m pretty sure I have jet lag every morning of my life.

I go to bed at night trying to tattoo into my mind the excitement I want to feel when my alarm goes off. In the morning, just a little too early, the cell phone song cuts through a thick fog of dreams, disturbing and addictive dreams. Whatever I thought the night before no longer ever existed. Coming up out of the water of sleep, my eyes sting and I suck in handfuls of air trying to find my phone in the dark. I sit up after turning the noise off and I take breaths that come from somewhere deep, like my body is the earth and some hidden cavern holds life, miles and miles from the surface.

Sometimes I check the media on my phone, little slices of affirmation or conflict that I feel dully, but feel more than understand. If I have enough wisdom, I refrain from looking at my phone because I know that all of those panting dogs will wait.

I blink, blink, close my eyes reminding them what it’s like to be awake. “Be awake!” I try to shout to my insides because they weigh so much more than usual… Continue reading “I’m Only Sleeping”

Trauma Brilliance

Some of the best moments of marriage to my ex husband were the weeks following our daughter’s death.

I won’t say that they were the only good moments, because that would just not be true, but they were some of our best.

The day of Sarah’s birth and death, we were both some kind of mighty beings. After all, I pushed a human being out of my body with no drugs and after over 24hrs of not eating or sleeping and undergoing unbelievable amounts of physical pain. I actually had burst blood vessels in my eyes and when she was finally on the outside of me, they laid her gooey, curled up body onto my chest and I thought, “Huh. That’s a baby.”

I guess it was exhaustion induced ambivalence.

It didn’t take long, though before indifference turned to wonder. Drained and bleary wonder.

We were, I think, too tired to do anything that day but obey whatever was happening each moment… Continue reading “Trauma Brilliance”

Call It The Past

When people hear the story of my marriage and divorce, they often remark on how healthy I seem. I’m not bitter toward my former husband- in fact, when I do think about him, I often consider the gifts he continues to offer the world. I make self deprecating jokes, I expound on the joys of being reintroduced to singleness.

But I will also correct my surprised audience because I’m really still just as messed up as everyone else. Maybe the willingness to forgive and be transparent about my faults is a sign of maturity I will own to, but it doesn’t mean I’ve leveled up.

What I mean to say is that when my former spouse was still my future ex husband, I was struggling under the weight of all kinds of neurosis. I got them the same way everyone does, in childhood. A difficult marriage may strengthen old triggers, but those triggers formed on the playground of youth, in the hallways of old houses with my feet sunk into orange shag carpeting…. Continue reading “Call It The Past”