Grieving Our Way to Growth

When my niece was little, she always had the corner of a little blanket or burp cloth in her mouth. It was adorable. She was adorable.

She’s still adorable, but she no longer walks around with a blanket. She gave up the security blanket on her timing, without coercion or bribes. I’m confident before she completely stopped, there were times when she left it behind and then, moments later, ran back to grab it when she realized she was flying solo.

Control is a security blanket for me. I feel safe when things, feelings, and people are ordered, understood, and in their proper place. It is far easier to order my house and office than it is others. There is something deceivingly alluring and falsely secure about feeling in control. One of my good friends and I often say to each other, “Get off their pillow.” It’s a phrase we read several years ago in author Donald Miller’s post about how trying to “excessively know” people can be about control. We’re doing better but still struggle with cozying up onto others’ pillows without being invited.

Giving up control is grieving. It is giving up the death grip on things, people, or self. It is letting go of the need to know outcomes, motives, or next steps. It is saying goodbye to the false security of control in exchange for the true freedom that comes from trust.

Grieving isn’t a bad thing (unless we decide to camp out there).

God can use grief to transform us into children who trust their Parent rather than false idols or security blankets. Like my niece, eventually, I must get rid of these things if I wish to grow.

From my 2018 Lent Devotion for the “Love’s Sorrow” series at First Baptist Church.


Snow Lessons

It snowed today.

I wasn’t prepared for it – mentally, physically, or emotionally. Three days ago, I was airing out my house as warm winds danced in one window and out another. I was dreaming of tan skin and flip flops and summer adventures, my mind carried away by those same warm winds.

Tonight, I sat in my frozen car waiting for the rear defrost to work its magic. No gloves, no scraper. Just the magic of black stripes across the rear window taking their dear sweet time.

It’s funny the things that force you to slow down.

You would think it would be people dear to me or the anxious feelings in my overwhelmed body or the deep longing I sense for a God I neglect.

You would be wrong. I slow down for none of those things.

As I stared into my rearview mirror, waiting for the lines to gradually widen as the warmth spread across the glass, two things became clear. The first was obvious – the view. I was beginning to see what was literally behind me. The second was as gradual as the melting – we need time to defrost.

We accumulate a lot at the pace we live. Layers and layers of build up from running and hustling and ignoring and conceding and stuffing and burying. Who has time to actually deal with anything? So, we add another layer of disappointment or hurt or frustration or insecurity to layers we’ve never dealt with and press on. Cause ain’t no one got time for this. We’re driving around with impaired vision, squinting through whatever gaps we can find.

Over time our hearts and spirits become as crusty as the deep freeze in the garage. By then the only thing that works is to unplug it completely and let it thaw out. The thicker the build-up, the longer to thaw.

But what if we were better about turning on the defrost when the first layers begin to fall? What if we could slow down for just a few moments and invite God to melt away the build-up from the day? Perhaps we wouldn’t feel like we were suffocating under the blanket of burdens we’ve allowed to pile up.

Less than five minutes after I hit my defrost button, my window was clear enough for me to continue on my journey safely. Which would cost me more – five minutes of waiting or ignoring the build-up and possibly wrecking, hurting myself and/or others? My life is far more valuable than my old camry. Why am I more wreckless with it?

It snowed today.

I wasn’t prepared for it. But that doesn’t mean I was unprepared.

I didn’t expect it but I had what I needed to respond to it.

May we slow down today. May we find five minutes to hit the defrost button so God can start to work on the build-up in our lives before it buries us.

If you’re buried pretty deep under layers and need some help, reach out to good people around you. They’ll show up with scrapers and brooms and shovels in hand to start clearing the snow while God does the work only God can do underneath.

Hanging Out with Grace

About a year-and-a-half ago I met Grace – a spunky, joyful, 7-year-old girl with a love for Jesus, her daddy, and life – in that order. We were both attending camp in a new place with new people. At our first meeting with all the new faces, Grace hid behind her daddy’s legs. I hid behind an extroverted alter ego I’d packed for moments like this. Meeting new people can be hard – no matter how old you are.

My good friend, Heather, came to camp with me. Heather makes friends with ease. She walks around with love on her face, her sleeve, her fingers. She’s like a sappy sugar maple tree. If you hang around her, you can’t avoid getting love all over you.

Grace got stuck to her pretty quickly and, since I was already stuck to Heather, well …. we became one big, sappy mess that week.

Grace helps us find our way … literally, in the woods of Pennsylvania.

We played games and painted pictures.
We created stories and produced movies.
We danced crazy dances to crazy songs and hiked beautiful trails in beautiful woods.

God’s Grace was the perfect embodiment of God’s grace at a time when I was having trouble recognizing it. I felt it more sitting cross-legged in the gravel, building a home for the Acorn family, then I did in the Scripture. I felt it more in a child’s persistent pleas to play together then I did in my prayers.

It wasn’t a substitution for God’s grace. It was the real deal – a loving, intentional gift from a Father who loved me enough to meet me where I was and to speak to me in ways I could hear. A God who sits cross-legged in the gravel with me because He wants to be with me. A Creator who displays beauty all around me to show His affections for me. A Parent, coming as a child, so I won’t miss out on the life-giving blessings of play and laughter and rest.

Grace taught me a lot that week – simply by being her awesome, energetic, uninhibited self. (Lord – please, please never let her lose that precious spirit. And please, please help us adults find ours again!)

We never know how God will reveal Himself but I promise you this – He is actively working to get your attention. God’s too crazy about us to leave us alone. He’s too faithful to give up trying. He’s too extravagant in love to play it safe. God might even ambush you at camp in the form of a 50-pounds-when-wet, blond-headed little girl missing her two front teeth. And you’ll be forever grateful.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.

Psalm 139:1–5 (NRSV)

I Matter

I’ll be honest … my biggest struggle with blogging is that it is primarily about me. Which is unfortunate since I think it is more genuine to write about what you know. And what I know is me – my experiences, my reflections, my fears, my joys. I savor this from other writers. I love to read their stories, their mishaps, their wisdom, their life lessons. I’ve never read another person’s blog and thought, “geez… all they write about on their OWN PERSONAL BLOG is themselves. How selfish.”

Yet, it is a major hang-up for me.

When I sit down to share something in this space, all my energy is consumed by an internal battle:
>> write what you know // stop being selfish
>> tell your story // get over yourself
>> share what you’ve learned // everyone knows that already
>> spread some encouragement // who are you to think your words will matter

In all the mental and emotional wrestling, my words give up and leave me to find a more peaceful place to reside. And I’m left staring at the blinking cursor, the digital middle finger.

This year I learned why this is a major hang-up for me.

My word for 2018 is “awake”. My intent is to become more awake to who I am and what I want with this “one, wild and precious life” – thank you, Mary Oliver. I’ve been digging deeper into the Enneagram to help me understand … well, me. I can’t begin to cover all that is “the Enneagram” in this post. Feel free to Google it. But in short – it is a personality tool that helps people understand how they see and interact with the world. I’m a 9w1. If you don’t know the Enneagram it sounds like I’m a new tax form.

A “9” on the Enneagram is known as the Peaceful Mediator. (w1 means “wing 1”) We’re kind, patient, steady, accepting, relaxed, agreeable, content, comforting, and idealizing. Don’t we sound awesome?

We are also passive, resigned, stubborn, emotionally unavailable, complacent, unaware of our own anger, inattentive, and passive-aggressive.

I just want to keep it real, folks.

So, what does this have to do with my blogging hang up?

I’ve learned that nines struggle to believe they matter. I could never name it until it was named for me. And it is so true.

Before you read too much into that, I want to share this disclaimer: I have been and am so very much loved. The struggle with wanting to matter is not the result of not being loved or nurtured well. I had an idyllic upbringing and could not be more loved by my parents and family. I’m blessed with healthy and loving friendships and a career/job where I have tremendous support and receive regular affirmations.

It’s similar to when you tell a young girl how beautiful she is yet she doesn’t believe it. It doesn’t matter that literally everyone can see her beauty and can verify the truth of that statement. What matters is whether SHE believes it.

I must believe that I matter.
I must value my words as much as I value the words of others.
I must value my feelings and my stories as much as I value the feelings and stories of others.
I must trust my right to share those feelings and stories …. without feeling self-centered.
I must believe that you matter. Because you do.

But so do I.

There’s room for all of us around the table. I don’t have to always give up my chair in order to add one for you. Let’s all scooch a little closer and make room.

I’m still waking up to this. I have some very intentional work ahead of me.

But I’m worth it.

And so are you.

It's a New Day

There’s always a lot of pressure on a new year. So many expectations that, with the turn of the calendar, everything will magically be better. We’ll no longer crave sugar. We’ll never be weak in the knees (and the wallet) at Target. We’ll live more adventures, laugh at more moments, love more people.

We’re 10 days into the new year now, friends. Some of us are going strong, owning our resolutions like a boss.

And some of us fell flat three days in.

Although I don’t do resolutions, I do enter the year with an anticipation that I’m going to get my stuff together. I love fresh starts and new beginnings. A new year feels the same as a new school year to me. I get new school supplies and lay out my clothes. I organize all the things and, armed with giddy enthusiasm, I march into January with all the hope that This. Is. My. Year. Continue reading “It's a New Day”

A Year Ago

Just over a year ago I was returning from a three-week vacation. It sounds wonderful. It was wonderful. Unfortunately, the catalyst to take three weeks was less than wonderful. I was on empty – once again.

In 2006, I struggled with depression brought on by excessive work, nearly non-existent boundaries, lack of rest, and relationships that depleted my soul.

How crazy to sum up that very difficult, long, and painful journey into a single sentence. Yet, I celebrate the summation because it is a testimony to the deserts that feel like death valley when you’re walking them but on the other side look more like a rocky beach leading to a life-giving ocean we would have missed had we not gone on the walk.

A year ago, 10 years after my first journey, I found myself at the entrance to death valley again, having ignored all the warning signs along the way. But things looked regrettably familiar to me and before I drifted too far into the valley, I reached out for help. Those three weeks granted me the space to find my way back to the ocean again. Continue reading “A Year Ago”

My Word for 2018

A few years ago, I decided to forego the annual resolution gig. Not that I was always good about making resolutions, nor keeping them. Resolutions tend to make me focus on behavioral changes which doesn’t always last and often results in guilt rather than growth. Honestly, if I made it to February with a resolution intact, I would celebrate that as a win.

Five years ago, I stumbled upon some folks who had sworn off resolutions and, instead, were beginning each new year with a theme word – a word they would aspire to; a word they would grow toward rather than a behavior they would run away from.

I liked the idea. A lot.

2014 was my first year with a theme word and it made all the difference. Choosing one word gave me a focus that no resolution every had. It gave me a clarity about decision-making. It gave me a plumb line by which I measured growth and movement.  It pushed me forward without weighing me down with guilt. And it created space throughout the year to be surprised by God with opportunities to lean into that word.

After a lot of thought and prayer, my word for 2018 is awake.   Continue reading “My Word for 2018”