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.

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.

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

Why you need to send out fat Christmas cards.

I love getting Christmas cards in the mail.

All the time I wish that for the month of December the mailman would only deliver packages and Christmas cards. He could hold onto all of the bills until February, because if I am honest that is when I will pay them anyways.

I string the cards up across the walkways of our living room with clothespins and twine. I like to think of it as a display of those from near and far that have carried us as a family. And that we vow to carry too. A tangible glittery display of our village.

One thing that that bothers me or just stirs my heart when I get cards though is when the whole family is not in them.  It is just a picture of a perfectly behaved GAP dressed child/children.

I used to do this. I would send out a picture of my angelic, straight “A”, prodigy children to all of my family and friends. After skimming through dozens of photos where the kids would look their best and no one was picking their nose I would put a stamp on it send it out. I purposely did not include a picture of my husband and I. Telling myself year after year that when I lost weight or had my hair a better color, then I would consider putting myself in the Christmas card. When in reality the reason we were not in the card is because we were sending a picture out of what our family really was. It was our kids.  Our children were holding our family together. Our children were the center of our world. And if we were honest if it wasn’t for our kids we would not be together.

And I thought no one wanted to get that Christmas card.

No one wants to know that you can’t stand the site of yourself and you are embarrassed to show the world. No one wants to know that you’ve put on thirty pounds and you’ve never felt so empty.

But the thing I am understanding. They already know. If you have a village of people around, a healthy village, they want your picture. They want to see your people and YOU. Your village does not care what the scale says. They do not even care what your therapist says. They want to see you. They want to cover their walls and their doorways with you. They want to pray for you. The not happy with yourself you. The your marriage is falling apart you. The you are in so much debt you can’t afford Christmas you. The your spouse is struggling to get out of bed you. The your child has been in and out of rehab you. The you are not sure you even believe in the church you.

I think that if your village only wants to see your kids and your perfect marriage then you need a new village. It took me years to find my village. It has wavered very little in the last eight years though. When we were first married I had no idea we needed people. No idea we needed a village. I just looked in from the outside at the Christmas cards people were presenting to the world and I thought that we must be the only ones who wanted to tear each other apart. We must have been the only ones who looked up the cost of divorce lawyers and cried themselves to sleep.

We were not alone and neither are you.

Your village wants the truth. They want to know that they are not alone and want to help carry you.

It wasn’t until later that I realized that our village is what heals us or destroys us.

Be a village of truth and healing.

So when I open the cards and see that only the kids are on them I think….sweet one, they are not your world. Your world needs to be bigger than what you brought into it. I learned this the hard way and many therapists later. I learned that I my schedule and my days revolved around my kids. I learned that I forgot who I walked down the aisle to. I learned that my marriage was and is hard and is a daily decision to choose my spouse OVER my kids. I learned that the truth I present to the world is the same truth I am presenting to my kids. If I show the world that my world is my kids I am showing my kids that they are the world.

I don’t want that for my kids. I want more. I want to show them that their dad is what matters. That our marriage is the most important thing under our roof. I want them to know that their dad comes before them in every moment. To show them that our family means all seven of us. I mess this up all the time. I get wrapped up in five kids with five different schedules and then wonder why my marriage is struggling. I spend money on their activities and making sure they have everything they need rather than saving it so the husband and I could go on vacation together. I make these mistakes all the time. I still do. But I want to do better. I need to do better.

I want to hang truth over my doorway this year. In turn I want to send truth out to the world. Even if my truth is messy and a little pudgy this year

 

Christmas did not come on a stage.

I remember that Christmas like it was yesterday. Tragedy is like that, it weaves itself around you like a tangled mess of fear. Body covered with a paper gown that could hide nothing but the clean underwear my mother always told me to wear. I wasn’t in an accident. My mind was leaving me. I was becoming who I feared I always would be. The girl who walked towards the darkness. One exhausted from running anymore so she let it swallow her. Here I was naked in powder blue room with my dignity being written down on the clipboard the nurse held.

That Christmas we had Doritos on the table for dinner. It explained where we were. Where life held us.

When sadness comes and presses down its weighted blanket over you, Christmas expectations leave you paralyzed.

Yet when we realize that we are expectant of misconstrued things,

we realize our souls ache for the stable and not the stage,

it is there we hear the babies cry.

On days like today.

Weeks like we’ve had.

We pray to feel the straw on our knees. To be waiting for the King to arrive.

On nights where the pillow holds our prayers from the wrestling of his sovereignty all we can do is

wake and whisper honest truths to the one whose breath we breathe.

That Christmas from years ago still haunts me and draws me closer.

Closer to the stable. Closer to the cry in the night. Closer to the waiting. Closer to the peace that came. Closer to the pain that needed to come first.

Dear one, if you are in the pain. If you are crawling with the agony that pushes you forward and pulls you back in. If you feel like you are the only one looking for a place to rest. If you can’t catch your footing on the cobbled road.

Walk forward. Keep expecting the inn.

The stable is there.

Look around dear one.  You are not alone. The others are waiting there quietly crying with you. Bended. With knees bloodied from the pain that brought them there. Pushing through the straw to see that Peace has come.

Hold yourself there.

Quiet your mind and hear the voice this year you’ve been aching to hear.

Your KING has come dear one. He has come.

Draw closer to the stable not to the stage.

With stages all around us. The productions. The crowds. The money. The more. He is not there.

 

Christmas came through the pain and suffering of a mother.

With miles traveled in fear.

Christmas came through a doubtful father.

Dirt on their faces.

Christmas came with doors closed and strangers gathered closer.

Christmas came seeking a foreign place of safety when the world was sleeping.

 

Christmas came in the anguished screams on a silent night.

 

So sweet one. If you find yourself searching and alone. If you find yourself with doors closed and being turned away. If you find yourself foreign in a land that does not welcome you in. If you find yourself traveling thinking this is your forever. If you find yourself crying in anguish or doubtful that things will never change.

You have found Christmas.

Hold close. The angels will be singing soon.

To the weary mother in the waiting room,

 

I see you.

Staring at the wall.

Aching for the other moms across the room to make eye contact. Yet afraid of being noticed. Or drawing any attention to yourself.

Holding in each breath, waiting for someone to whisper,

 you are not alone.

I see you struggling to keep fear inside as it wears itself as anger across your face.

Sweet one, we both know why we are here.

I know that what brought you into this room is hard. It is not a quick twenty minute visit. It is not a prescription that needs to be refilled once.  This is something that a Band-Aid cannot fix.

I know the reasons you are here, and you cannot utter them out loud. No one is making a t-shirt or tying a ribbon for what you are living with. You wish you could speak of why you are here. You wish that you could tell those in your life the truth of what is going on behind closes doors.

But the thing is.

You can’t.

This truth is too much.

You can’t talk about why you are here. Or who is here. It is not your story to tell. It is just your story to carry on our shoulders every moment of the day.

I know you are exhausted.

I know you just want this to be over and it crushes your spirit that it is only beginning.

This is what grief does. It tires your bones. It wraps itself around you and pushes hope away.

I see you sitting there and for a moment when you are finally alone,

you close your eyes.

You need these moments to just be.

To not be in charge. To not make decisions.

You need this moment to search for a place of rest. To make sense of all of these thoughts and fears taking control of your mind.

To search for the lost part of your soul. The part where you knew what to do. You knew what answers to give.

I see you with papers laid before you.

Saying yes to questions you never thought you’d have to answer.

Filling in lines of history that shame tells you, you carried here.

Sweet one. I see you.

I see how tired and worn you are.

You long for just one night of peaceful sleep.

You ache for just one hour to feel “normal” again.

Breathing in that this is your new normal.

Hold close sweet one,

and exhale mercy painting a picture of grace.

I know today was hard. It was heart wrenching,

even many tomorrows this may not be restored.

But here in this room. In this room filled with magazines of lives we will never have, this is a safe place.

It is a silent space, where your pain is heard.

It is a place where no advice is given. No looks of pity or judgement.

We will not tell you what you should or shouldn’t do.

We will not lay shame on your shoulders only grace.

We have all carried in years of pain and we are laying it here.

We are leaving it all here.

We are laying all late nights

All the answers that we have and those we are afraid to hear.

You are not the only one sweet one. I know you feel like you are.

I know you feel like this is the loneliest room you will ever be in.

But sweet one look around. You are not alone.

I am you. And you are me.

I need Jesus in a stable not on a stage

Every part of me is struggling.

Every part. I thought that leaving our church of twelve years would be good.

Healthy.

I was listening to what God was telling me to do. I was listening to the wrestling in my heart for over a year now and I was sure this was how I was to obey. So I did.

I left. We left. We said our goodbyes and started on a new path.

What I didn’t realize was that this struggle was only the beginning.

This journey is lonely. This limbo feeling. This in between, of being let go of where you were, and not connected to where God is leading you to be.

With questions all along the way.

It is a quiet and lonely place to be.

When you see things from a different view, but no one wants to invite themselves into that conversation. Between what is being said and what is not, is a space of angst and confusion.

So you follow God and meet Jesus there.

He has always been safer for me. Jesus.

The Jesus at the well.

He is where I feel I can bring every distrust and broken part of me.

The parts where the sadness and hesitations intertwine.

He is where my feet are bare waiting to be washed.

And my soul is thirsty for truth.

I find myself at the well lately. Asking questions and finding a soft calm for my unsettled heart.

I stay there.

Most days now I stay and just listen to him whisper who I was, is not who I am. He reminds me that this wrestling in my heart is not with him it is with the church.

What is happening is not how he intended it to be.

He reminds me that the peace I long for came in a stable, not a production Sunday morning.

The peace that I long for came quietly. Gently.

I plead with him to breathe new life into my heart. A heart that aches and mourns.

A heart that pulls away and longs to be close again.

So I am gentle with myself as he teaches me new things. He leads me back to routine and the healing that comes in the memories of the prayers prayed as a child.

This space. This in between is a hard place to be.

I don’t think I am the only one here. In the between. The space where you want to ask questions and listen for answers. The space where you want your voice to be heard without being silenced by status. The space where you feel safe enough to show your heart without it being shunned by authority.

This space. The space where the broken and bruised are healed. The space where the thirsty souls are fed. The space where your questions are welcomed and heard. The space where grace meets you at the door. The space where the wounded tell the stories of their scars. The space where truth is set free.

The space where Jesus is.

That is the space I long to be.

I am addicted to Jen Hatmaker- and I think you are too.

I feel like it is time I come clean.

I have been hiding this too long and personally it is getting too heaving to carry around anymore.

My name is Sheli Massie and I am addicted to all things Jen Hatmaker.

There I said it. I will consume everything Jen Hatmaker throws at me like a ravenous hyena in the savannahs of Africa. I devour it. I am not lying. I stayed up all night to finish her last book. I should not be staying up all night unless a child is puking or I am on a Netflix binge of House of Cards with my husband. I ate only seven foods for month a couple of years ago because I thought it would somehow make me more like Jen and forgot about what the purpose of the exercise was in the first place. If there was a Hatmaker sticker for my car you know I would have it on there. I know I have an issue. My children know I have an issue. They took me last Mother’s Day over and hour away for a normal Sunday morning service in a car full of screaming children so I could see her speak. I may have ugly cried my way through the service and wondered where she got her gorgeous skirt and sassy belt. I had a Jen perma smile on the whole way home. My children clearly knew the way to my heart.

My eight year old is one who likes to “keep it real” If you want to know the blatant truth she is your girl. What she lacks in social filters she makes up for with empathy abounding.

But she is also the one who reminds me of who I am.

Last night she asked for school lunch and I eagerly said yes. Of course you can have fish sticks, canned peaches and chocolate milk. If it means that I only have to make five lunches in the morning I will ignore the “running to the bathroom” it gives you.

She quickly added though.

But can you still write me a love note, so I can put it in my pocket? I like to read them in the afternoon to remind me what you said.

You see sweet one. We all need to be reminded of who we are. Of what really matters. I forget daily that I am not who social media deems as important. I am not close to who the writing world thinks is imperative. And I am not even close to who the world thinks is essential.

But I am important to six other people living under this roof. Even when they are rolling their eyes at me or slamming doors, I am still someone.

When I measure the worth of who I am next to the fame of someone else I will always come up a thousand miles short.

I would never compare my fifteen year old daughter on the basketball court with an NBA player. I wouldn’t tell her after the game, where she left it all out on the court, that she was ok but not even close to being good enough.

I would never dream of telling my son that he played a horrible game and should have scored that goal.

Somebody kick me in the teeth if I compare the education feats of one child to another. The comparison of one sibling to the next is such a confining place to live and if we are confined we never have space to grow into who we are called to be.

Yet this is what I do to myself every day.

I confine myself with comparison.

I measure the worth of the words I write and hold them next to award winning authors. I compare myself to the crunchy mom whose child has never consumed a preservative and shame myself for my lack of child raising skills.

I believe that I am not enough so why even try. Why try when I will never be Jen Hatmaker.

DUH.

God never called me to be Jen Hatmaker. He never called me to be Kristen Howerton. He never called me to Glennon Doyle Melton. He never called me to be Sarah Bessey. He never called me to be Beth Moore (although that would be fun to be so cute).

I hold these women to the highest respect and may have a writer crush on them. ( It’s a thing.) Although we can read and consume their beautiful work we cannot let it paralyze us into a creative coma.

Creative consuming coma’s do not create.

It happens all the time. A new book will come out. And then there is the blog reading. And the tweeting. Oh the tweeting. It will consume me. I will set myself up and think that if this is the measurement of success, then I will be over in the corner crying in my yoga pants.

It’s as if we are telling God. What you are breathing in me to create is not enough.

And here I am paralyzed like I imagine others are too. Jesus did not call you to be Jen. He called you to be brave enough to be you.

We need you in the world. We need your words. We need your stories. We need your triumphs and your pain. We need it all.

Because I promise you this. When you begin to speak your truth there is another sweet one who realizes that she is not alone. She is not the only one. Her voice through you can be heard.

And this is so much better than any tweet could accomplish.

 

*Know I have a nothing but the highest respect for these authors and speakers. They are the brave ones who go before and are a voice for so many.

Bob Dylan and Birkenstocks- when you love someone else.

I remember sitting in the therapists’ office that early August afternoon biting my nails. I think it was the one with the dying plant on the basement office window that smelled like wet towels. The therapist looked like Napoleon Dynamite or someone who really needed a good haircut. I recall sitting there on the burnt orange couch thinking I cannot believe I am here telling my life story to someone who literally looks like he  just graduated high school. He was our fourth therapist if you were not counting priests. The fourth one in five years of marital bliss. It wasn’t the best track record and I was sure that this one was going to tell us what I wanted to hear.

God forbid I hear the truth.

My truth was the layers of bitterness that held my husband at arm’s length.

I was in love with someone else. I had been for years. I loved someone that was not in my life anymore. Yet he was in my every thought. There was not a day that went by that I did not think of him. I would replay the last time we had seen each other and beg God for us to meet again .He was a English major who played Bob Dylan on his guitar with curly dark hair and my hippie heart had fallen head over Birkenstocks in love with him.

And here I was married. Sitting on another therapists couch and carrying this secret inside.

Except it really wasn’t a secret.

Every silent moment. Every slammed door. Every night my body said no. Every tear stained pillow. Every blaming word. Every layer of resentment was always through this deceitful filter I carried around.

And I painfully made it clear that I would never be in love again.

The therapist that August afternoon told us to get a divorce. He told us it would be less painful for our children if we just walked away now.

If we drew the line in the sand.

 

Instead I did what any irrational stubborn Catholic school girl would do.

I decided that I would change who I had married into who I loved.

I would put the filter of who I needed him to be and judge every word and action through it. If he did not meet that expectation I would throw the D word back in his face.

This may have not been the healthiest thing to do for our marriage.

He in turn would shut down and refuse to speak to me or include me in any family decision.

While I was tearing our little family apart he was trying make sure I didn’t  do anymore collateral damage.

 

That was over twelve years ago.

This past weekend I had the privilege in the most tragic way, to witness again why I walked down the aisle to the one I share this marriage with.

I sat in the middle of the crowded somber church on Sunday afternoon and listened while my husband gave a eulogy for one of his beloved students. I listened as he tenderly told story after story of a life that ended too soon. I watched as he shuffled the papers in his hand and tried to hold back the tears of grief and confusion.

As tears filled my eyes I thought, how can this be the same man?

How can God still let me be married to him?

For so many years I had put an unattainable filtered expectation on him and yet he stayed.

God had seen fit from the beginning that he would refine us and continually mold us into one.

Even though we had both walked down the aisle with years of dysfunctional baggage he unpacked it all.

The truth is so much ugliness still comes out. My heart still finds itself putting filters on my marriage. On my kids. On my friends. I expect that they will meet my desires instead of letting God shape them into his.

As I watched my husband this past week deal with the grief of losing a child loved. I saw him rise to who I never knew I needed. To hear others say what they love about him as a teacher, as a leader, as a man I was humbled and embarrassed.

Embarrassed because this was the first time I was seeing clearly who these children and parents and community had seen all along.

They saw a man who was true to his word. A man who adored the work he does.  A man who knows his students and will do anything for them. A man whose heart is genuine and gentle. They saw a man who could make anyone feel like they were the most important person in the world. A man who believes his faith holds him together and isn’t afraid to talk about it. A man who got to see that the work he does matters.

I wonder sometimes what would happen if we treat each other that way. If we treat each other without filters of fear. Filters of manufactured regret. Filters of jealousy. Filters of expectation.

What would happen if when we talk to each other? When we pray for each other. When we fight with each other. What if we were just brave enough to set those down? Brave enough to say that who they are is enough.

Brave enough to believe that God will make them and transform us into exactly who we are meant to be.

I want to go back to that therapist’s office today. I want to go back and tell him he got it all wrong. The parts where he said to walk away. The parts where he said we could never make this work.

I want to show him the line in the sand.

The line in the sand where Jesus says watch how I will reconcile it all.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, owe are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2Corinthians 5:18-21

What Donald Miller taught me.

I read an article not too long ago by Donald Miller. He was exploring the idea of who we would be in five years is in direct correlation to who we actually spend our time with now.

His perspective was not only convicting but revealing in how I lived and how I choose to live now.

I ache for community. I have since I was little. I wanted to know that I belonged.That I mattered.

I was the oldest of the five children and like a million cousins so I always had people around me. Yet at times felt like the loneliest girl in the room.

As I got older I would surround myself with those that had the same desires and likes as I did. Even though they were not healthy or sustainable I still felt a sense of belonging there. We tend to flock to those that will keep our dysfunction functioning. So that is where I stayed.

Throughout my twenties I was a young mom who had no idea how to birth a human much less parent. Unless parenting meant finding the cutest outfits at Baby GAP and then dressing all of my children the same, then I guess I nailed it.

I was so consumed at the time with all of the loss in my life that I paid no attention to who I was spending my time with. I remember being drawn to people who were older than me and somehow knew what they were doing. But I did not have many friends who were the same age as me. Probably because they were still in grad school or serving in the peace core. Who am I kidding they were following around Pearl Jam and Lilth Fair.

In my thirties I found faith. Or more like faith found me. I had three little ones at home, had just quit my full time job and had never felt less of who I was. A mom at school had asked me to go a meeting at a church where other moms sat around a table and cried about exploding diarrhea and Jesus. I was more interested in the diaper situation than Jesus but I kept coming back.

That was a game changer.

This Jesus thing.

I began to realize that who I wanted to spend my time with acted nothing like who I used to be. They were by far not uppity Christian soap box people. They were more like “ I will wash your feet and then have a beer with you people”.

Through the years I have not always decided who I wanted to spend my time with. Circumstances and apathy decided it for me. It wasn’t until I realized that who I wanted to be was in direct correlation to who was around me.

If who we want to be in five years is determined by who we spend our time with now, then who will you be?

Are you surrounding yourself with people who are arrogant and self-absorbed? Are you having playdates with moms who are consumed with every thought and action of their child? Are you going out with those who are rude to waitresses and those around them? Are you friends with those that make racist and sexist remarks? Are you consumed with your work that you forget your family at home? Are you choosing to be with those that make judgmental statements like it’s their job?

The other day I was not having a good day. At the time I could not pin point exactly what was wrong but I felt so off. One of my best friends sent a group text and asked us to name three things we were grateful for.

I was in no mood to be Pollyanna that day. I wanted to stay in my pity party and invite everyone else to join.

Yet here is the thing. That text. Those friends. Those are my people. The people I choose to be around. They are the funniest people I know. I actually think Jimmy Fallon would think so too. ( We can send you a video Jimmy). They are also the kindest most generous people. They give of themselves every day to make sure that our friendship is fed and healthy.

I look at them and think, yes they are who I want to be.

I want to be a woman who knows who she is. I want to be mother who fights for her children. I want to be a wife who puts her husband before her children. I want to be a generous giver.I want to be fully present to those I love. I want to speak hope and life into people. I want to know that taking care of myself physically is important. I want to be a truth teller. I want to be an encourager. I want to be an author. I want to be funny. I want to be available. I want to say no to things that do not bring me life or joy.I want to be the best friend I could ever be. I want to be a gentle soul. I want to be healthy. I want to be always wanting to serve more. I want to take risks. And most of all I want to ache for Jesus every day.

That day I had a hard time coming up with what I was grateful for.

They pushed me. They pushed me to find what was needing to be spoken.

 

You need. We all need people in our lives who see more for us. Who push us to see things we forget to see. Who know that we can be more than we ever imagined.

We need people around us who remind us that where we are is not who we are.