Face pressed to the glass.

A few years ago I was in a horrible argument. I had sent a text I should have never sent. The minute I pushed send,I knew I had made a mistake. I had severed a relationship that I valued.I took and still take full responsibility for my part. But what happened after was not at all what I had expected. I began to apologize and plead that the people on the other end of the message hear me, it was not my finest moment. I explained that what I had sent meant something that they did not understand. One person in the conversation within hours was at my dining room table and we were figuring it out. We were hearing each other. I cried and asked for forgiveness and she showed mercy and let the healing process begin. The other person never did. In fact things just kept getting worse. I felt like a little kid, faced pressed against the glass of the classroom, that everyone could see but no one could hear. That I was never given the chance to tell the whole story.

The last few days I think a lot of us feel that way. That we are not being heard.

A few weeks ago when the Christian community took Jen Hatmaker to the shed for an interview that she did with Jonathan Merritt, it stirred the same feelings inside of me.

No one was hearing her.

No one was asking her any questions. We were just putting down the books and blogs and picking up the stones.

No one asked her what in her life had changed that her views had now shifted. No one invited her to the table to be heard. No one asked what had broken and how could they see more clearly.They just let her stand outside of the window with her face pressed to the glass trying to be heard. But immediately we shut the door,  turned our backs and dismissed the voice we had all been worshipping and tweeting for years.

I am not saying you have to agree with her. I am not even saying you have to ever had to read another blog. But what I am saying is that maybe we need to start asking questions.

Maybe it is time again to hear.

I think if people that have known me for a long time would look at my life in the last two years they would say that I have changed. That my views and stances have shifted. That something is different.They are right. I have. But to know why, that is not for the world to know. My people know. My circle knows. And to many of my conservative acquaintances  they would perhaps argue that I am not following Jesus the way they believe I should be. That I don’t fit in a box anymore.

But they do not know the whole story. They do not know my why. They do not know the shattered parts.They will just leave me in the hall with my face pressed to the window.

I feel that we are all have our faces pressed to the window this week. We all want to be heard, but no one is brave enough to open the door.

Or if the door is opened it is met with

“God is in control”, “ You need to trust in God”, “God bless our new president”, “You need to respect him”,“The election is done”,” This doesn’t affect me”,

But friends what if we responded with” let me hear you…..”

Let me hear what in your life happened or is happening that you feel so strongly about this.

Let me sit with you in this grief and not say anything.

Let me open up my house and give you a seat at the table.

Let me understand you more.

Let me just hear your story.

You see we all have stories. Some of our stories are broken and bruised and raw. And if  we continue to only know a piece of the story and respond the way we are, we will continue to keep the door shut.

Instead of pushing each other out of the classroom into the hall, with our faces up to the glass, we let each other in.

We hear the pain. We hear the fear. We hear the families. We see our neighbors.

We realize that to dismiss a person for one check-mark, that we have reduced ourselves to the same.

“Somehow I wonder if it’s in shattered places, with broken people, we are most near the broken heart of Christ”- Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

To live a life barefoot.

When I was a little girl my mom would cover our feet with bread bags before we put them into our  moon boots. It was not unusual to see little legs with bread bags on them during the cold Michigan winter months. Being the oldest of five and living on one salary we were not privy to new boots every season. We got the hand me downs, now they are called “vintage” and our mom did whatever she could to make sure our little toes stayed dry and warm. To not feel the frigid winters on our feet.

We have 100 year old hardwood floors in the house I live in now. When people come in they automatically want to take off their shoes. We are very quick to tell them to keep them on. The floors are cold and with five children you never know what you may step on.

A few weeks ago at my second home, I mean my therapist’s office, he sat back and sighed deeply into his chair. He said,” I am not sure how much more you can carry. I don’t know many in my life that have endured so much suffering. And yet…. Still.”

And then last week as I was on my way to the woods to breathe the deep whisper of fall coming, and to have a couple days to soak in the goodness of other writers.

I read this passage.

“….when we are stuck or hurting and our gut instinct is to run out of there as fast as we can, we are probably close to holy ground. It is in the very midst of our pain, the places we hate and the seasons of life we dread, that God’s voice is most clear.” – Christina Gibson, Soul Barre

I feel like some of us, including my family, have been barefoot for a long time.

We want to grab those bread bags mom would keep in the bottom drawer of the kitchen and wrap our feet. Wrap the feet of our children and put our moon boots back on.

And yet.

And still.

We ache for our savior every day.

We want him.

Are we willing then to live a barefoot life?

To see the pain and suffering as an invitation to enter holy ground.

The last thing from my mind this year has been the idea that what we are going through is holy.
I have had many other words for it. Holy has never been one of them.

And yet.

And still.

I have seen God clearly pushing through the darkness. I have seen him in the kindred’s that sit late into the night on the porch until the fear goes away. I have seen him in the meals that have been placed on our door. I have seen him in the letters that speak nothing of knowing and everything of being. I have seen him in the song sent from states away that sings of justice. I have seen him in the goldfinches that continue to dance if I am quiet enough to watch. I have seen him in the prayers that have kept oxygen in our lungs. I have seen him in the plane tickets bought to teach us to walk again. I have seen him in countless and hundreds of ways.

And yet.

And still.

I want to put the shoes back on.

I want to run.

And yet.

And still.

He beckons me closer.

Into the pain.

To hear him say…..”take off your shoes, this, my beloved, is holy ground.”

 

The work of healing. What happens when you want to give up……

Earlier this week I was in full melt down mode. Like if my mom were here she would have put me in time out or sat me on the stairs for a “come to Jesus” moment. As a child I am sure that I through monumental tantrums. I was what some may call a spirited child, so it is no surprise that as an adult I continue to feel emotions big.

I texted my husband that morning by 9am and said I was done. I was winning the award for the worst homeschool mom ever. If there was an award for failure, I was the Michael Phelps of that Olympics. I said that I could no longer do this. Everyone was in tears and I was a person I never wanted to be. I was anxious and overwhelmed. No one was learning anything except that mommy may have fallen off the crazy wagon again and they all had front row seats to the show.

And because my husband is who he is, and because we are sitting our butts on a therapists couch every week, he texts back, “where is your list?”

You see he didn’t give me advice or agree with me. Or better yet bring a medal home.

He just heard me.

As women, as humans, we need to hear each other more. To ask before we give our opinion. To lead towards the answer, not give it.

My list. The list.

This summer I made a long list of what healing looks like.

What my heart ached and prayed for over my family. What would come alongside Jesus and help the healing process of our family that evil has torn apart. Because we know that Jesus can heal. He will heal. But we also know that we actually have to do the work. The work of healing. The work of believing. The work of inhaling and exhaling. The work of showing up and feeling.

So I put the phone down and went to look for the list.

I went to my room, sat on my bed and let the tears come as I read aloud…..

Water

Woods

Sunshine

Yoga

Reading

Writing

Exercise

Safe people

Music

Breathing

Crying

Therapy

Whole foods

Sleep

Exhaling

Quiet

Listening

Laughter

Space

Medication

Jesus…..

And most of all Jesus.

Nowhere on the list did it say Math. Or lesson plans. Or science experiments. Or Common Core. Nowhere did it say that my children needed to sit in a classroom and have seven hours of education to be healed. Or at the dining room table being drilled about the industrial revolution.

So why was I trying to push in that which was aching to be freed?

Please hear me. I believe in education. The husband is a public school teacher. I adore teachers. I love our elementary school we came from. I miss it every day.

But this year. Our now. Our reality is that healing and connection are far more important than anything they will gain being away from each other in school.

The condition of their heart and souls is of more importance to me than any grade they could ever bring home. More than any championship they could win. Or worth they gain from win on the court.

Present and healed are more important than schedules and rules.

I want my children to move forth from this year knowing that they were heard and understood.

That to heal you need to do the work.

And the work of healing cannot be found in a classroom right now.

And yet somehow by the first week in October I had already forgotten.

I forget all the time.

Just yesterday I was on my way to my therapist and I could feel the tears already making their way down my cheeks as I drove. I was miles away and already I was crying.

My body knew.

Knew where I was going and was preparing me to release it all.

My therapist tells me that this in itself is growth. That when we acknowledge the truth of what is going on, that this is a sign of courage.

So I go back to the list. One time this morning. Four times this afternoon. I go back and I read and pray through the list.

Remembering what my heart already knows.

Inhaling the truth of brokenness is painful.

Yet exhaling is the healing.

Goldfinches and Grief.

Sometimes I think we miss God. We miss him all around us. He tries to talk to us. For us to see him. In people. In moments. I think we make our world too loud to notice him. We turn the music up louder. We keep checking our phones, we make more coffee dates,  turn on Netflix, work more hours, or drink one more drink and all he wants is us to be. To be there. To feel. To notice. To see.

My therapist says that I need drama. That I was born with it in me. And that this a part of me that rarely gets praised. He says that too often what is really good in us, gets told from an early age, to be quiet. That somehow, who we are, is not okay.

Not God breathed.

He though, is good at that. Calling out what I have been told is wrong, and showing me that God knit me together perfectly. I don’t always think he is good, my therapist. Sometimes he pisses me off, when he calls me out on my crap. But today. Today was good. Because I needed to hear truth and love. And sometimes when you are grieving you can’t hear either. I can’t hear truth because I am so weighted down with sadness that truth can barely peak through. It is choking at the possibility that it will never be heard again.

And then there is love. I cannot bear the thought of love right now. In fact, love I just want to punch in the face. I really could use someone to punch in the face right now. God bless those that are trying to love me right now. Because one moment I am a puddle of tears and the next minute I want to punch them in the throat and scream that they have no idea the hell I am daily living through. Don’t send me scripture or prayers unless you are willing to sit in the darkness and not leave. Bless.

And then God. Because he is God. Just starts to gently whisper. Because he knows right now that is the only way I am going to listen. Because if he yells I will just get out the sledgehammer. He already knows that the world is too loud for me right now. And I don’t need more advice or more “ I would do it this way” . What I need is a dramatic whisper. Because he knows me. He knows what my heart is longing for. It doesn’t need more talking. It doesn’t need more unsolicited advice. It doesn’t need more people doing things for me. I don’t need fixers. I need more whispering. I need more being.

So he whispers.

And because I am weaved and made in all the drama goodness that he made he weaves his way right in front of me.

And it all has to happen that way.

Michigan. With water. And woods. And dirt roads. And quiet.

Walking.

And there in front me were three little goldfinches. Just playing tag with each other. Chirping with each other about how cute they are. Because they really are the cutest birds. And there they were just fluttering in front of me.

Dancing.

I stood there and just started to cry. One, because the weight I am carrying around is so heavy right now and two because I knew it was God whispering.

I had been feeling very abandoned.

If he really believed me when I said I wanted to follow him years ago, then all of this shit would not have happened. None of this was making sense. None of it.

Yes I know bad things happen to good people. I know. But I also wrestle with why does it continue to happen? And if you could think of the worst things to happen to a family, they have all happened. All. And as a mother it is just too much to carry most days.

And here I was on that dirt road confessing to the creator of the universe that he and I were done. I had carried enough and I could not bear one more burden in his name for his glory.

I know.

Lightening was going to strike me. But this was my Jacob moment. Crying to God that this mother could not breathe one more night of agony.

On that dirt road all he needed me to do was to see.

He asked me to turn to the right.

And there to the right was a field. A field of purple thistle. And above the thistle were hundreds of dancing gold finches. Hundreds.

According to birdlife.org the gold finch is most often found in the religious paintings in the hand of the infant Jesus. Symbolizing and relating to the healing of the sick and thus redemption.

Healing.

Of course. Healing.

I didn’t know this pertinent information until weeks later than that late morning in west Michigan.

I was actually in a park with my youngest daughter and a group of finches flew right by my face and I immediately start crying. There are only so many times that you can ignore God trying to whisper his love over you until you break wide open.

So I googled what goldfinches meant and that is what came up. Like Jesus himself wrote it. I think he works for birdlife.org on Thursdays or something like that.

I sat there on the park bench and sobbed.

I hear you. I know you are here. I see you pushing through all of the darkness that continues to daily be layered on us but I see you pushing your way through.

Yesterday. Today. Everyday. I see him pushing through. If I am quiet enough I see the goldfinches.

I see.

John 16:22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

 

What if I break?

 

A blanket of sadness has covered our family this year. Our village. Our world. And when sadness comes I want to run.

But this, what has happened recently,could break me. I know this. I am fully aware that this might all be too much.

So I  texted my people and whispered “what if I break? What if this is all too much?”

And them, being the most life giving people I know said, you are not going to break. You are broken. You should be broken. But broken is beautiful. Broken can be put back together stronger than ever before. We will stay with you in the broken. We will stay until it doesn’t hurt anymore.

This is the thing. They know. They know everything. They know how many things hurt. They know all the shit that has gone on and the injustice of it all.

And still. Still they stay. They stay and wait until it doesn’t hurt anymore.

When I was younger, I remember finding my mom crying in the basement while she was ironing clothes. Standing over the ironing board with tears streaming down her face. I remember being so angry. So angry at who or whatever was hurting my mom. I know now. But then I really was more confused by the silent basement suffering.

She and I grew up in different times. Different ways of dealing with life. She grew up as a Dutch missionary kid. You worked hard, you went to church on Sunday and then you worked harder. You always brought the best casserole to the church function and you didn’t interfere with other people’s business. You perhaps had a handkerchief, but that was just to wipe your nose, not to show any public emotion other than happiness and lemon bars.

And then there was me.  I was born with all the feelings all the time. Teachers in my younger years said I was “a lot to handle”. But then life happened and me being a lot to handle turned into too much. And somewhere along the way the girl that felt too much started to believe that she wasn’t enough. She needed to stop feeling.

So I did. If it was bad for you I used it. If it was good for you I used it more. Anything and anyone to make these feelings I didn’t know how to feel go away.

That is what we do when we are scared. We numb.

I made a very conscious decision for my family this summer. We were going to heal. And to heal, you need to feel.

We decided that in order to heal we made the painful decision to bring all the kids home from school. All of them.

Early on, someone asked me what I was going to teach them this year.

Healing. I am going to teach them to heal.

When trauma happens our natural instinct is fight or flight. As an addict I am usually in flight mode. But this time. This time in our lives we are choosing to stay.

To choose healing.

And healing looks different than school.

This does not mean that we are not doing anything but art, therapy, yoga and oils, but that is a huge part of it.
I need to walk beside them as they learn who they are and how all of this brokenness fits into their world. I want to teach the that their is no freedom in basement suffering. I need to breathe life and words of love into them as much as I can.

I need to stay until it doesn’t hurt anymore.

A WARRIOR will rise….

When I was younger, my cousins and I all got under-roos for Christmas one year. It was either that or at one of our joint birthday parties. Because when you have 18 cousins, you have one party a year not 18 million. Because really, who has that kind of time or strength for that much piñata hitting?

My mom still has a picture of me with my siblings in the fantastic underwear that somehow transformed us into superheroes. Because nothing quite says “save the day” like red and gold undergarments.

I look at that picture now though and realize that little girl had no idea of how strong she really was.

Last week I had someone ask me when I started to believe that I  really was strong. I wish I could have said about the same time that the infamous under-roos picture was taken. That then, is when I believed that who I was included the word strong. But if I am honest, it wasn’t until my late 30’s. It wasn’t until then, that I started to understand what strong was.

I had returned from my third trip to Africa years ago more broken than I had ever been. My mind had shifted and it was in fight or flight mode. I really did not know how to function. I thought it was the hardest battle I would ever have to face.

I think the first time that I believed I was strong, was actually walking into that emergency room and asking for help. Splayed out with nothing between my dignity and a paper gown I had to start believing then that I was something else. That I was a warrior.

They say that you become who you surround yourself with. So if you want to be a strong person you need to find strong people. If you want to be brave, find the broken.

I found the people that I wanted to be more like and spent time with them. I signed up for a personal trainer and realized that my body was stronger than I ever thought it could be. I also marched my ass back into therapy. Well, one because I couldn’t make sense of what was going on and two because I am a feeler. I feel everything all the time. I am basically a walking kitten, well maybe a tiger. A walking tiger who likes ice cream.

Knowing I was strong did not come overnight. I did not wake up one morning and ka-boom I was a warrior.

I was warrior all along. I just didn’t know I was.

We all are. We are all warriors. We have all  had battles that have left us tasting dirt. And we have had battles that have left scars that tell more stories than we had wanted. We have run through battles unscathed and some have taken parts of us with them. We have fought armies of those in front of us and some of us it is the battles of our past that keep us chained. Some of our battles are on the public front and everyone’s cousin knows our business, while other battles, sometimes the hardest battles, are those we can barely whisper about. Some of us battle alone because we fear that others will view us as weak.

Whatever the battle we face, we become a WARRIOR when we realize we were never meant to go to war alone.

The battles that have left us bloody and raw have only made us stronger because of those around us who carried us to healing.

It is then that we are strong.

 

I realized that I do not want my daughters to know that they are strong, that they are brave, that they are warriors when they are thirty seven.

I need to them to begin to hear it now.

As I hug my middle one before she goes to bed, I have started to whisper into her ear

 You are brave. You are strong. You are a WARRIOR. And I adore you.

It is a small thing.  A simple thing. One thing I know I can do. I can tell her who she forgot she was. Who I never knew I was.

And yet who we were born to be.

I have to hope that they will start to believe it before they are my age.

It is time. It is time to start believing that you are a warrior. And reminding the women around us who they are. Who they were born to be.

A warrior asks for help. She takes her medicine. She takes that class she was afraid of. She forgives. She encourages. She delights in others accomplishments. She makes room at the table. She feeds herself well. She tells the truth. She walks towards healing. She doesn’t create drama. She is a listener. She lifts other up without looking for any credit. She lets others go. She is loyal. She is strong. She takes care of herself. She is a servant. She comes closer to the pain. She speaks life into others. She takes responsibility. She sits with the sorrow. She grieves for as long as it takes. She feels all the feels. She celebrates the movement of her body. She delights in the sunshine on her face. She welcomes the quiet. She waits for God to whisper. She follows what sets her heart on fire. She lets others love her.

And most importantly…..she WILL RISE.

A warrior will rise.

I remember one morning, months after I had been home from Africa. I was doing all of the right things. I was taking my medication. I was going to therapy. I was eating only whole foods. I had given up the nectar of the gods, caffeine and I was exercising my butt off. But I still could barely move from the couch some days. I felt like life was happening around me and I would never participate fully again.

Until I did.

Until I let my body heal. Until I let my mind heal. Until I let those around me carry me out of the battle.

And then I would rise.

So sweet one, today if it feels like the weight of fear has you breathless. If the battle you face is too painful to utter off your lips. If your scars have been reopened for the world to see. Remember this…

You are. You always have been, a warrior.

And a warrior WILL rise.

Palms Up- The Mudroom

I tell my kids all the time, they will become who they spend their time with. If you want to be a video gamer then spend your time with games and people that are not real. If you want to be mean, spend your time with the mean girls. If you want to be shallow spend time with those that care only of themselves and things.

But, if you want to be brave, find the broken.

If you want to be courageous, find the ones who believe that one day they will rise again.

 

You will find the rest of this post over at The Mudroom…..

Patches of Joy and Stretches of Sorrow

 

A few weeks ago I bought a new couch.

We had been needing another place to sit in our living room as it became apparent that asking your guests to sit on the floor was no longer cool when you are in your forties or not living in a yoga studio.

I had texted my husband and asked if he could find a truck to borrow because I had found the perfect one.

I had been looking for weeks. And then that Monday morning it was as if the thrift store gods were smiling upon me and the heavens opened up.

There she was. All seventy five dollars of her. Just sitting there waiting for someone to get butterflies in their stomach when they saw her.

When my husband and his friend went to pick up the couch they perhaps were not as excited about it as I was. They asked if I had seriously chosen this one, did I understand what color the couch was and asked what in the world was this going to match.

Nothing. It matches nothing. But it makes me smile. It bring me joy.

couch

I believe that God gives us glimpses of joy everyday if we are quiet enough to see them.

But I also believe that sometimes you need to actively bring joy into your life.

As soon as the couch was in the living room I texted my girlfriends and told them it was supposed to rain every day the following week so we needed to have an emergency coffee date on my new yellow couch to bring sunshine to our lives.

We needed a patch of joy.

What we didn’t plan for was what would happen between those days.

That Monday morning our world was pulled out from under us. Someone we love was in crisis and suddenly nothing was the same.

It was as if someone knocked the air out of my lungs. Out of all of our lungs.

A therapist not too long ago told me that when you are in crisis you need to imagine that you are in a figurative ICU. You are being isolated and all the rules have changed.

So what can you do for another or for yourself if you are in crisis or a figurative ICU?

-Quiet your world. Unplug and connect to only life giving music or words. House of Cards is not healing. Worship music is.

-Make your circle very small. You need to make a decision who you are going to trust with your tender heart. You may have a lot of “friends” on social media. That does not mean that they need to know that you are in ICU or why you are in it. Creating boundaries is one of the safest and most healing things you can do for yourself and those you are protecting.

-You can take people off the visiting list. This was one of the most freeing lessons I have learned lately. You can change your mind and decide that unless those around you are only listening, being present and offering healing words, they do not get your energy. Your time needs to be spent being affirmed and supported. You have no room in your heart to carry another person’s story or advice. While this may seem harsh you would never walk into a hospital room and ask the patient to also take the wound or disease you had as well.

-Say no. I have been saying this a lot. Even to really good things. Yes, I want to read to my son’s class every week. But right now I can barely muster going to the grocery store. Your new normal is enough and no one needs to understand why, except that unless they want to see you have a complete meltdown in the middle of story time, no is a complete sentence.

-You need a break. Yesterday I sat in my therapist’s office as he told my husband and I that the most healing thing we could do for our family was to go to a hockey game. Now maybe you are not a Midwestern girl with a huge crush on the hockey players. But whatever you need to do to take care of your marriage and yourself do it. As hard as it is to walk out of the ICU it cannot consume you. ( I am still working on that)

-Accept help. I know this seems to go against everything I just said about boundaries. But there is boundaries and there is chicken noodle soup. Some moments you are going to feel like you have it all together and you can make a freaking meal. And then the next moment you can barely breathe because fear has paralyzed you in the middle of Trader Joes. So when your precious friend walks in the door quietly and sets down a tray of homemade bread, chicken noodle soup and granola for the morning, you hug her tightly and tell her she is healing a part of you.

-Pray. I know. You don’t know what to say. It’s ok. You don’t have to say anything. Ask those you trust to pray for you. I called on my tribe to utter the prayers I didn’t know how to pray. Every day I get a message or a card in the mail reminding me that we take care of each other. There will be a time soon when someone else will need you. But right now. You need your people. You need prayer warriors storming the gates. You need those you trust to hold up your arms again.

-Grace. People are going to mess up. You will too. I mess it up every day. I say the wrong thing. I don’t say anything at all. I forget to say thank you. I say thank you for the wrong thing. I am learning to see every person and every situation as this. We are all doing the best we can in this moment. We are all stumbling through this with grief on our backs and we will fall. It is mercy that meets us and grace that brings us to our feet again.

-Find the patch of joy. When we are suffocated with pain and grief we have a hard time seeing anything much less joy. Sometimes we bring it to others and sometimes we have to create it. This afternoon I went to the grocery store to get fruit. I came home with flowers and jelly beans. They made me smile. When you have been in the ICU for an extended period of time or realize that you don’t know when you will be out you,  you need to pull joy in.

Sometimes joy will come in prayer.

Sometimes joy will come in homemade soup.

Sometimes joy will come in a nap.

Sometimes joy will come in prozac.

Sometimes joy will come in a long walk.

Sometimes joy will come in letting other in.

Sometimes joy will come in flowers.

And sometimes  joy comes in a yellow couch.

 

 

This song has been on repeat in my car I thought you might need it too.

Enough by Sara Groves.

In these patches of joy

In these stretches of sorrow

There’s enough for today

There will be enough for tomorrow

Upstairs a child is sleeping

What a light in our strain and stress

We pray without speaking

Lord help us wait in kindness

Fridays are for Grace.

I live my life unlocked. At least I try to. When we were first married my husband and I took a trip to San Francisco and did all of the touristy things. Except for the prison. I just couldn’t get on a ferry and end up in prison. But we did the chocolate and the pier and the trolleys and the bridge and all of the not going to prison things. One of the days after waiting in line for a bazillion hours for the trolley to come, I started to pass out popcorn to people.Random people. Every people. I had a large bag of popcorn and figured if my stomach was growling than theirs was too. This was the first glimpse that my husband had at my “there is no stranger in this world” policy. He stood back and watched me walk around and just offer to feed people. No strings attached, just buttery caramel hands and hungry bellies.

When we moved into our 100+ year old house ten years ago the first thing that I pointed out to him was how old the doors were. They were the original large plated glass doors with the original, maybe Abraham Lincoln touched them, door handles. Don’t judge, I am not good with history or numbers, I am just guessing.

Anyways, I made it very clear that we could not lock our doors. I didn’t want anyone breaking in and smashing the windows. So in my mind it was better to always leave our doors unlocked. My mother thinks I am crazy but I think it just is how I live. How I want to live. And how I want to teach my kids to live.

That our doors are always open. We live our lives unlocked.

As someone who had to wear her friends mothers clothing for an eighth grade dance ( yes you read that correctly) I know what it is like to not quite fit in. To stand on the outside looking in.

So I always wanted to make sure that my home was always too small to fit all the people I love.

And then this summer happened.

I felt like someone punched me in the stomach and then held my head underwater.

Parenting became the hardest it has ever been. The ugliness that Satan wanted to kill and destroy everything in my marriage and family came boiling up to the surface. We felt like everything we had ever read in stupid parenting books never had a chapter on what we were facing. ( I also think that if you have not lived through teenagers you should not be writing parenting books. Ok. Now I will step off my soapbox).

Oh right, and then we left our church of twelve years.

Maybe not the perfect time to make that choice but it is where God was pushing us and everything in me wanted to pull back.

For the first time in my life I wanted safe. I wanted to lock my doors and stop sharing popcorn. I wanted to hide under my covers and binge watch every episode of anything on Netflix just to disconnect.

When my soul was aching to connect.

I was feeling all of the feelings. I had just started reading “Searching for Sunday” by Rachel Held Evans and was screaming from the underneath the covers and locked doors “AMEN”!

I wanted someone to talk to and understand all of the feelings that felt to shameful to say.

When the kids went back to school and I was left by myself for the first time in eighteen years I realized that the pity party I was throwing for myself was getting lonelier and lonelier.

During all of my un-showered partying time I read over the years of therapy notes that I had written, hoping that something I had heard would make me want to get out of bed.

And then I read this….. “ Create what you need…….do not wait for others to give you what you expect…..create it”

It was also during this time that everyone had started arguing about whether we should allow refugees into our country. I may or may not have lost friends online and had family members block me. They had forgotten where I lived. That our block is filled with refugee families and some of our dearest friends are from other countries with stories that they could never fathom.

So it made me feel even more feelings. And a lot of them were anger.

And then one day I showered. And I got out of bed. Well I got out of bed first.

And I created what I needed.

I needed community.

I needed a safe community.

I needed grace.

I needed people who owned their brokenned.

I needed a space to be heard.

So I unlocked the doors and I started making popcorn.

Well, I made coffee. But you get it.

I made coffee and tea and bought pastries from a local bakery and I prayed over my table that people would come.

The first week eight people came.

And since then every week there have been more people.

More people and different people.

It is one of the most sacred times of my life. Opening up my home and gathering others around the table.

No expectations. No agenda. No judgement.

Just grace and caffeine.

Since I started this I have gotten so much feedback. Friends from around the country wishing they lived closer. People loving the idea wishing they could come. Wishing they could do the same.

You can.

We all can. We can find one morning a week to open our homes. To not worry about the crayon on the walls or the dust on the lamp that has been there since the first Bush was president. It doesn’t matter.

People want to feel welcome and welcome doesn’t mean clean.

In fact when people’s houses are perfect and clean I feel really uncomfortable. Maybe that is just the type B in me but for the love throw some cheerios on the floor!

One of the greatest gifts we can give people is hospitality. Jesus met the people he loved at the table. Not a perfectly set dining set. He met them in their brokenness. He met the outcasts and the prostitutes. He met the confused and frustrated. He met the questioning and the seeking. He met them all.

I want to be a home that mercy draws you in and grace finds you a seat at the table.

Will you join me? Will you be brave and unlock your doors?

Do you create what you need?

Last night was New Year ‘s Eve and I was alone. Not usually a big deal.Me being alone. I actually like to be by myself. It reenergizes me. But for some reason last night really bothered me. My husband had been gone for a few days with the littles and the older two were gone working. So being alone wasn’t the issue. It was for how long I had been alone. When he is home, I am home. For some reason it triggered a fear in me. I woke up feeling frustrated and sad.

It is safe to say that they way that I love people I need them to love me the same.

It was earlier in the year that I had the realization that I needed to realize how much I carried the disappointment card around. How many times I was hurt or frustrated that things did not turn out like I expected them to. I would find myself being a part of events or functions and left feeling drained and not filled up. Or I wasn’t invited to a party or event that I was sure everyone else was at and my feelings were hurt. It brought me right back to eighth grade and never being good enough or popular enough or skinny enough. Nothing like a little middle school drama trauma to be triggered. Next thing you know I will be back in braces with a plaid skirt and knee highs and taller than some of the teachers.

When my youngest started kindergarten this year it was a grieving process. For the first time in eighteen years I was home alone. I had no one to have lunch with. No one to take to playdates. No one to tuck in for a nap. I soon discovered that I had forgotten who I was without kids. Since I was a junior in college I have had a child. And here I was forty years old with no one to take care of. ( I know a lot of therapy sessions here)

The first month I filled my days with everything and anything. I threw myself into my work and soon found how much I loved working for a fair trade company. I also was pitching articles to places I had only dreamed about. While these are both good and healthy outlets I still felt unfulfilled.

I thought then that it was up to me to create what I needed. It was time to orchestrate what filled me as a person.

Being an extroverted introvert it was a very obvious thing I was missing. I was missing quiet conversations around my table. I was missing adult conversations that were real and hard. So I started opening my doors on Friday mornings to anyone and everyone who needed a place to be heard. A place to enjoy a cup of coffee, a local pastry and real conversation. A sacred space of truth.

It is not glamourous or fancy. I cannot even guarantee that the floors are not sticky or there is toilet paper in the bathroom. But it is real. And it is what I need.

I discovered quickly I was not the only one craving a place to exhale a place to be loved.

This past year has been a year of truths that are hard to write about much less talk about. We left our church of twelve years and it has been hard. Grieving and questions. Wrestling and crying. Loneliness and frustrations. I felt it all. It has been a year of parenting that I would wish on no one. Decisions and truths that we had to crawl our way through. There were days when I begged Jesus to show me how to even take the next step.

In all honesty there were days when I questioned if any decision we made had been the right one.

I expected things to be like what I thought I needed.

Yet I soon realized that I needed to push into what he had put before me. He brought us to the sweetest village of believers. A community that is passionate about the city we live in and not afraid to stumble through the mess of loving broken pieces. They are a community of healing and the arts. Two of my favorite things. Jesus brought us from a church that we had grown in, been broken in, raised children in, cried in, laughed in, found our people in and told us to go. He told us to move.

I thought when someone told you to obey that you would then be in the land of honey and unicorns or something biblical like that.

Instead we found ourselves in a place where the stability we once knew was gone and every fear was once again brought to the surface.  A place of healing.

New challenges had resurfaced in our personal lives and all of a sudden we had a choice to make. Do we run back to what we know? What we have always known. Or do we trust that where we are at is where he needs us to be.

We pushed in. We fell flat on our faces before our new community and begged for God’s mercy over us.

There is nothing more humbling then to be surrounded by an entirely new tribe of people and admit just how broken you are.

Jesus was showing me. Showing us. We needed to create what we needed. He was creating what we never knew we would need. We needed to stop grieving what we had left behind and realize what we needed was quietly gathering a place around us. They were pulling a chair up to the table and saying you are not alone.

So this morning when I was frustrated that I was l all by my lonesome self it was again an opportunity to realize that I had not created what I needed and expected others to do it for me.

As we start 2016 will we be brave enough to tell the truth? The truth about what we need? Will we be aware enough of those around us to see that they are creating what they need? Can we push into those feelings of discomfort enough to discover that this is just what he wanted for us?

Be brave in 2016. Gather people around your table and hear what heals them.