Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"Every stone I laid for if you had asked me to. A monument to holy things, empty talk and circling. Isn't that what we're supposed to do?" --Nichole Nordeman

I finished my apology and felt a little gutted that I'd let something slip that was obviously causing such a rift.  Then she said a word that finished the entire process:  arrogant.  The whole exchange, while honest, still stings a bit because I thought I'd been successfully avoiding the very thing I'd been becoming.

Why is it arrogance seems easier than humility?


The heart of arrogance is me.  I'm not saying I'm the sole purveyor of the concept, just that any focus that consistently comes back to self or self gain is, by definition, arrogance.  And for the sake of being honest, it's my Achilles.

While I can't remember a ton of significant achievements from my childhood, I can remember the fact that I talked well from a young age and that particular skill followed me through high school.  I qualified for state in speech my freshman year and my senior year.  Those achievements led to a job offer at a local radio station, and while it wasn't particularly prestigious, it was still a pretty cool accomplishment.  In addition to those things, my first college scholarship was based on my ability to talk to other people and sell them on the finer parts of a local college education.

My skill.
My ability.
My achievements.

I kept looking for those things to define something about me that felt undefined.  I needed to be good at something--recognizably good.  It became this endless competition of sorts between me and whoever was "better" at whatever we were doing.

I loved character acting and was cast in some pretty big roles in college productions.  But the time I wasn't?  It was a gut punch.  It seemed like a personal slight and how dare you take this from me when this is who I am and what I do.

It isn't enough for me to be a good teacher.  I have this cavernous hole that requires copious amounts of acknowledgement that I am the best teacher--creative and capable.

I don't need my name listed on the marquee, but I don't want to be unacknowledged.  There's this unspoken desire to be heard and valued for my abilities and my accomplishments.

For me.


Lent is a season of penitence--of quiet reflection and refocus.  As I'm working my way through these scriptures and really seeing Jesus again, I'm asking Him to see me.  To help me realign my goals until they point to Him--or even until my biggest and only desire is Christ.  Not Christ in me.  Not Christ before me, behind me or beside me.  Just Christ. 

To, once again, show me what it looks like to remove myself from the equation so I can stop getting in the way.

I thought I'd done that.  But the ruts here are deep and my wheels gravitate toward building for Him without bothering to include Him at all.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"All the debris and all this dust--what is left of what once was. Sorting through what goes and what should stay." --Nichole Nordeman

I have this thing with integrity.  Or maybe I have this thing with duplicity.  Ugh.  This is a hard paragraph to start. 

So I have this thing where I expect people to be consistent with their actions and attitudes but I struggle with that same thing myself.  Term it what you will.

Being honest about who you are and the things that have made you who you are is difficult.  There's so much history built into every decision--connections or disconnections that have to be considered, current climate, personality tendencies.  So attitude in the midst of emotional baggage might look a whole lot different than the attitude that emerges when one is whole and healthy.

I've said on multiple occasions that I really don't care what others think of me.  That statement isn't untrue, but it isn't the truest statement I've ever made either.  I very much care what some people think.  I want their approval.  I want their love and attention and I need reassurance of it on a fairly regular basis.  That's a hard admission for someone who needs solitude to survive.

Or really, maybe "hey, I'm needy" is a hard reality regardless.

And since I'm laying things out here, allow me to state clearly that I'm not writing from a place of security now.  There are so many arenas where I have no idea where I stand and that's making me weirdly shaky (which is making typing a bit more difficult that it usually is).

When I started pulling out of things to assess them, I realized a couple of things:

1.  I stayed in some arenas because I was scared what people would say about me if I wasn't around.

That sounds healthy, doesn't it?  Does it mean my relationships with all of those people were bad relationships?  I don't think so.  But letting go of it means I may not know what's happening in the inner circle and that's hard because of the speculation--that something is being said about me, or, on the other side, that I removed myself because I think less of someone else.

2.  Sometimes I'm afraid of what certain people think about me or how they are presenting me to others even when I don't value the opinions of those people.

Which, inevitably, means I end up obsessing over that person's opinion.  Or tip-toeing around the people we share.  Which, also, super duper healthy.

I did it to build.  I wanted to be a part of those groups because I wanted to feel like I belonged.  After all these years and all the progress Christ has made with me, I still struggle with wanting to feel like I belong to something even when I know I belong to Him.  I'm making my peace with the enoughness that is found in Christ--slowly.

I think this is a step in that direction.  With a million more to go.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

"This is demolition day" --Nichole Nordeman

Building is admirable.  Art and architecture lovers know this statement inherently.  Music lovers appreciate its results.  Writers agonize through its struggle.  And church-goers?  Perhaps they see best of all the necessity of building, of multiplication.

The issue is not with the building itself, but rather the focus in the process.

Because I'm in education, most of the last two years have been heavily focused on this concept of building.  Growth, after all, is our major goal.  Can't show growth?  Then you probably don't belong in the classroom.  At least, that's what every evaluative statement I've heard in the last year has indicated.

And so we build.

I don't think one person would begrudge us the building that's taken place in the last few years.  By the grace of God, we've build a family and thrown a lot of time and energy into that family.  We are in the lifelong process of relearning how to be the church and build a church.  These are, like I said in the last post, admirable tasks.  And had we not walked through another season of loss, I probably would've continued to swim through what I labeled a small feeling of dissatisfaction.

Through the season of Advent, I went through a real longing for Christ's presence.  You're probably thinking, "Um...yeah.  That's what the season is for?"  But it wasn't a requisite longing.  It was the deep sense of dissatisfaction--like I'd forgotten who He was or how to find Him.

Until finally...

I'd committed myself to being in the Word in 2016, and that commitment has taken an odd turn.  What started as dedication to write scripture every day came to a head when I started a Lent devotional early.  I've been thinking about that verse in Hebrews: "...just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself."  It's only a partial sentence, but I almost choked on my yogurt when I read it because in black and white, I found myself.  I found my reverence to the building--the process and the structure--and I've given each far more reverence than the builder Himself.

A hundred pieces fell together with that meditation.

I felt a gentle reminder that what I pour into and what I allow to pour into me has a direct correlation with my life in Christ.  Where am I looking?  To what/whom am I giving honor?

Tearing into some of these things has been difficult--lonely, sometimes.  But my Christ has been gracious to me.  When my pastor reminded the congregation of Romans 2:4 this morning, I knew Christ was reminding me of his tenderness.  It really is His kindness that leads us to repentance.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

"This is Where the Walls Gave Way" --Nichole Nordeman

Minimalism has become so en vogue lately that it's difficult to get on the world wide web without some mention of decluttering or Konmari-ing.  From capsule wardrobes to the tiny house movement, everyone and their brother has presumably found some value in letting go, paring down and pushing back the materialistic culture.  Why wouldn't we want to participate in something that has a 4.5 star review on Amazon after more than 7,600 people have weighed in?  Surely having less stuff and thinking about having less stuff is admirable--desirable, even.

So we run through the process one more time.  We get rid of what isn't working.  We reassess, reorganize and take out the trash.  We keep only what has value or value to us, anyway.  And we build.

Building feels like the hardest part.  It requires a look at the land, an assessment of the structure and new...well, new somethings.  That part depends on what you're building.  In the past few years, we've built a house.  Built a small group.  We built relationships and a family.  We built our finances and pieces of furniture.  Then there was our credit, and my understanding of healthy eating.  We built groups on Facebook and I built a lot of information about washing machines, detergents and cloth diapers.

We built.
We built.
We built.

Because that's what we do.

But when the process is disrupted--when it slows or stops, or even worse, goes in reverse--I lose sight of myself.  Who am I, after all, if I'm not building?

That's what I'm aiming to discover.  Perhaps there will be a lot of writing.  Maybe very little.  Maybe after this particular discussion I'll find I have nothing else to add to the conversation.  But maybe there's something to our endless need to build and maybe that says something about who we are or who we became somewhere along the line.

Or maybe it just says a lot about me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I Used to Write

I used to write.

They aren't long words or fancy words or profound words.  But they are words and they belong to me.

I used to write.

Never about anything important or amazing or particularly beautiful.  But it was my life and where I was and what I was learning.  Sometimes I would go back and read something and think about how incredibly ridiculous the whole thought process was.  Sometimes I would go back and relive my "dark nights of the soul" or the shifts that changed the lay of the land for the rest of my life.

I used to write.

I don't know if I ran out of things to say or if I stopped thinking or if I came to the conclusion that none of these words mattered anyway, but I stopped putting them out here.  Maybe because I didn't want someone else to read them.  Maybe because I didn't want to read them.

I used to write.

When I had time.  Or more time.  Or me time.  Or used my time more wisely. Or used my time at all.

I used to write.

It was an exercise.  In stretching.  In seeing.  In feeling.  In futility.

I used to write.
I used to write.
I used to write.

And I will again.