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”

Bluebird in my Heart

Why is it so difficult to receive love? So, so much more difficult than giving it away.

Sunday in church, the pastor talked briefly about the things a minister/leader/pastor cannot do for those to whom they minister. The sum up is that a minister cannot go in and fix something inside of another person’s heart.

Pondering this and other things as I drove home Monday through the incredible beauty of the Wenatchee National Forest, I was stuck on an even more disturbing reality: How difficult it is to fix something inside of my own heart.

I know a lot of kids and have the pleasure of watching them interact with their parents. All of them are at various stages of obedience. Sometimes my heart is like the naughtiest, most disobedient toddler. I can say with great sternness what I want my heart to feel or not feel, to know or to not know. I can cajole it to believe, bribe it not to rebel, soothe it into gratitude… Continue reading “Bluebird in my Heart”

A Plan to Lose it All

Lately I have been a real mess. Not a quirky, things-will-come-out-right-in-the-end kind of mess, either. A gross and ugly mess that you’re sure will yield rotting surprises. I have seriously questioned my mental health and the wisdom of even interacting with other humans. My heart and mind have been dark and confusing. Even just last night, all of the worst lies came out to taunt me as I tried to go to sleep.

When I woke up (after very little sleep) I felt that same raw and twisty anxiety, but as I sat down to spend some time with God, he came quickly in just the way I needed. He didn’t soothe me with “No, everyone really loves you, it’s okay,” but instead pointed me to how incredibly faithful he is, has been and will continue to be. I think it’s only after I recognize how big and good he is that I am able to feel comforted by what he then says about who I am.

Then, at the end of class today I had a good dose of “hindsight” as I finished up my last teaching in the School of Biblical Studies.

What I got to see at the end of my teaching is how all the things that God spoke about this season before it happened  (this season being my involvement with SBS since the beginning of 2012)  have taken place… Continue reading “A Plan to Lose it All”

Existential Absence

Raise your hand if you want to talk about loneliness!

No?

Me neither. In fact, until this morning I would have responded to the topic with a smile and shrug. “I’m not dealing with that issue right now.” For a few weeks now I’ve had that thought several times, to my own surprise. Who doesn’t feel lonely sometimes?

Apparently not me. Cool.

Then this morning, as I was beginning to question this unexpected sturdiness, I opened up the book I’m reading, The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen. In the chapter, Ministry by a Lonely Minister he talks about loneliness as a gift, he looks back at loneliness and says, “The truth is so disconcerting and painful that we are more prone to play games with your fantasies than to face the truth of our existence.” He also throws out a few things we do to avoid loneliness and, reading this, I realized I haven’t been craving people because I’ve been keeping myself so busy. Work, books, movies… even cooking and cleaning keep me distracted… Continue reading “Existential Absence”

Purposely Provocative

Generally, my desire is to encourage, bolster or soothe people. This is not because I just want people to like me, but because my own troubles stem from an internal chaos of which I long to be free.

Being provoked to passionate feeling is not the opposite of what I’m looking for. In fact, if the provocation is well done and hits in a place I really care about, it will lead me to a greater sense of focus. It banishes chaos equally as well as comfort, although since my ability to change the world seems quite limited, the action that wants to flow out of the focused passion is often frustrated at the door of reality.

These thoughts started with some movies I’ve seen recently which purposely inspired strong feelings about what is wrong with the world. There are many people who prefer soothing because they dislike feeling helpless more than they can’t stand that others really are powerless to truly horrible situations. Slavery, war, violence, addiction. Most of us feel (when we are faced with the real facts on these issues) that there is really nothing we can do to help… Continue reading “Purposely Provocative”

Land Mines

I hear the phrase “fear of man” pretty often among the people with whom I spend most of my time.

Sometimes, unfortunately, phrases like this begin to lose their meaning for me when they’ve been used too often. I understand them less and less in any practical fashion and they slide past me unnoticed in the daily barrage of words.

Then one day someone will talk about one of these realities without using the common phrase and suddenly I am struck with the truth and given a much needed heart check… Continue reading “Land Mines”

Old Acquaintance

I’m that lady who alternately weeps and cracks jokes. It looks like insanity, but it is actually exactly how to stay sane.

Today I met a 70yr old version of myself.

Every week, some of our students and one of our staff go next door to an assisted living home to lead a Bible study. Every week, whoever goes comes back with full hearts and good stories. Those people are amazing. Sometimes only of a few of them show up, sometimes more than 5. Sometimes several people leave in the middle. It’s not just a place for old people, it’s for anyone who needs assistance in living, so there are people as young as 18 and one lady who is 97 and many of them are noticeably “different.”

Today the 97yr old woman came (I’ll call her Beth), as well as two other women (I will call them Cindy and Lily). Cindy left early because her bipolar disorder was making it hard for her to sit with a group of people. She apologized profusely, but exited quickly. Lily was the old version of me and she spent part of the time cracking jokes, noticing random things (“Look out that window! There’s a plane that just flew over the peak!”), and the other part of the time, she wept openly…. Continue reading “Old Acquaintance”

If I Find My Way

Lately I’ve been finding (and needing) such deep encouragement from friends. A few days ago I posted about an email from one friend and last night I had a really life giving conversation with another friend who was willing to just dive right into my inner mess.

Sometimes I hesitate to post about messy stuff because I don’t want to give the impression that I’m not doing well. One thing my good friend reminded me of on the phone last night was that I am usually more honest than is socially normal. So why would I avoid talking about feeling down?
Partly I’ve been avoiding it because I haven’t had time to understand it and find words that fit. It’s only those who especially love me who are able to sit through the words that don’t fit while I find the ones that do.

This morning I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller, The Wounded Spirit. He uses several verses from the book of Proverbs to talk about the many varied reasons why a person might feel crushed in spirit and what might be done about it.

Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” This well describes what has been going on recently, but there is also much more… Continue reading “If I Find My Way”

Better Than I Deserve

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a few weeks, but I am not sure how to word it so that it conveys the joy, gratitude, elation, and shock I feel.

Last year while studying so constantly I went without a lot of things. In fact, there was one point when I didn’t have enough money to buy food and when I asked God what was up with this,

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he said, “I want you to be hungry.”
I was hungry most of last year. Hungry for a lot more than just food; hungry for a sense of home, for clothes (everything had holes), for technology that didn’t break down all of the time, for people to share what I was learning with…. there were a lot of things I was hungry for last year.

At the beginning of this year God began to teach me how to really receive his love. Maybe I should have known this already? Maybe it will take all of my life? Wherever you stand on this idea of receiving love, it seems to be something that I’m often learning, but this year it has been much more concentrated…. Continue reading “Better Than I Deserve”

Coming Clean

I just reread the post I just posted and thought it might be fair enough to talk about this whole “being vulnerable with people” thing. It’s pretty significant for me lately.

For most of my adult life it hasn’t been too difficult to be real. I squirm when I hear people spouting trite phrases that I don’t believe they believe, so I want to help them by looking for the real words. Some places struggle with these. You know the ones? If you’ve spent time in church or in bars you know what I mean. Why would I put these two locations together in a sentence? Because I believe that these are two places where people are especially tempted to be fake. So while I haven’t been to many bars, I have been to church a lot and it’s there that I have honed the skill of choosing to be who I am in front of other people…. Continue reading “Coming Clean”

This I Know

For the last few weeks I’ve been realizing my need for better time management. I read some list of Signs of Burnout and identified with most of them. Of course I read this only a few days before I planned to come back to Colorado and work. So I asked God what I should do and I felt strongly that a long sabbatical was not the solution- instead I need to learn how to manage my daily time in a way that allows me enough rest to keep going.

Then, less than a week after returning to YWAM I sprained my ankle.

The funny(?) thing is that the morning before I found myself crumpled in the parking lot with fire in my foot I was thinking pretty hard about how I could serve the people on my team. I didn’t consciously think, “I need to prove I’m worth having,” but looking back I realize that I felt this deep down. So I invited one friend over to take a walk with me and I would make her lunch. Honestly I wanted to spend some time catching up with her. Our walk lasted mere minutes and then for the next two days she was helping me all over the place; ice for my ankle, rides to a meeting and to the doctor, crutches to get around on, delivering movies for me to watch while I sat in my bed.

Okay, okay, I get it, I’m resting… Continue reading “This I Know”

The Chaos Theory

Just one more day left in the great state of Washington.

I could let my current state of broken exhaustion speak to whether the time here has been “successful,” but I’m not sure that it should. We’re big fans of simple summaries. “How was your trip?” “It was good, thanks for asking,” or “Oh man, it was bad, glad that’s over.”
It’s unkind to get mad at people for asking this very generic question as they pass you in the hallway but I have never found simple summaries easy. I need to talk to several people who are willing to listen to me ramble for a while as I figure out what just happened before I can feel comfortable with this one or two sentence response.

I had a good day of realization on Sunday. I had just spent several days doing nothing because of some intense neck pain and I had a “support raising lunch” to be a part of after church. During church the pastor talked about our false selves and how the goal is to lay those down, let God work on us and learn from him about our true selves. I hear that message with my life. I have always felt this sureness that no matter what the social standard is, I will likely not measure up, so the best thing I can do is combat my need for approval with total honesty and an appropriate level of vulnerability. It’s a bit like shock therapy for my false self and it keeps me trusting in God’s love and goodnessContinue reading “The Chaos Theory”

Here With Me

For a while now I have been feeling… for lack of a better word… desperate. This isn’t the only thing I’ve been feeling but it has been a pervasive emotion. This morning I woke up early, my will overpowering the desire I had to just keep sleeping and while I was going about my usual routine to get ready I was mentally standing before God with my shoulders bowed and my hands lifted up.

“Help.”

“Help me, God.”

“Be here, God.”

This prayer to ask God to “be here” is a little funny because where is he not? Every time I pray this (and I pray it a lot), I end up amending my prayer to say, “God, give me the grace to be here with you.”…. Continue reading “Here With Me”

For You, For Me

Today begins the first day of  “fall break”. It’s just a week before diving into the 3rd quarter of SBS but I think it will be just right… just a bit of time to catch up on sleep, stare off into space and do something fun before diving into the Old Testament prophets.

The last week was pretty interesting. Before this week I had gone through a lot of emotional ups and downs but it wasn’t until this week that I felt “breakdown” looming. Yesterday, at (what felt like) the end of my rope I had a kind of epiphany; breakdown and breakthrough look very much the same. Sometimes they are the same.
So yesterday, after very little sleep because of an unhappy stomach I got up around 6am and just went directly to the classroom. I talked to God a little, made a cup of tea and got started on what was a ridiculous amount of homework. Every minute of that time was a battle to keep working. If you can imagine me bleary eyed, sitting before my charts with a pained look on my face- almost getting up out of my seat every five minutes to walk away, but then pushing forward with decidedly irresolute determination.
A few nice friends came in at different points and gave me encouragement.
Push. Push. Push. I actually asked God several times, “Should I keep going?” and He said, “Keep going.”

Then I got to 2 Samuel 7…. Continue reading “For You, For Me”

For Freedom

I have found an important clue to my life in the first 5 books of the Old Testament.

Let’s just ponder the Israelites. They spend 430 years in slavery in Egypt. They multiply while being oppressed. We’re not talking a little light name calling, we’re talking horrible physical labor with guards who have weapons to keep people in line. Then they are delivered from slavery by God through Moses and Aaron. The Hebrews at this time have all grown up in slavery in Egypt. They had likely heard stories about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, but they may have been like distant fairy tales that meant nothing in the reality of daily toil.

So here God is through Moses with PLAGUES. Pharaoh finds it easy enough to not believe, but this guy is king and thinks himself to be a god.
The Hebrews, on the other hand are just watching while all this crazy stuff happens. Then they are ejected from Egypt and on the road. THEN God parts the Red Sea in front of them (not a puddle), while simultaneously keeping the Egyptian army (who was chasing them by this time) from reaching them. Then He destroys their enemies by allowing the Sea to fold in on them.

All that, plus a lot more, and what do the people do? They complain…. Continue reading “For Freedom”