Monday, December 12, 2016

"Before each beginning, there must be an ending. Sitting in the rubble, I can see the stars." --Nichole Nordeman

The days swirl around me--sometimes in slow motes of spiraling patterns and often in tornado-like chaos.  Regardless of how quickly or slowly I feel they move, they do move and I am nudged into the next minutes of reality.  

In these last six months, nothing has changed and everything is changing.  Christ has continued His slow process (not slow on His own account...slow because I am often an unwilling or unable participant and must be dragged along) in me.  It started with a simple command to stop it.  Stop the endless cycle of self-deprecation that had become second nature.  Stop the constant focus on me, me, me to end the nagging feeling that I am somehow doing it wrong, getting it wrong, being wrong.

The reality is much more beautiful than anything I could write with my own hand--Christ.  

In the last half year, there has been the reality of Christ--His sacrifice, His presence and His deep and abiding love.  Ultimately, what He is outweighs anything I've damaged or destroyed.  There is freedom in that reality.  

I've been most struck by that insistent love during our family Advent reading.  With two toddlers, the whole tradition is a mess.  They bring pillows and wrestle and repeat what their father reads or beg for more juice or wander around the living room.  I'm not sure how much story they get, but I'm also not sure it matters.  We keep telling it.

Thank God for the retelling.  It's an opportunity to sit in the reality around me--the mess--and wonder at God's Holy presence in the midst.  He is not finished.  We are not finished.  

But the expectant hope is He has promised Christ as the author and finisher of our faith.  And the rest of what swirls around us--quickly or slowly--has already been conquered by the Savior.  He is enough.  His promise is enough.  

Sunday, May 29, 2016

"This is the Unmaking--the beauty in the breaking. Had to lose myself to find out who You are." --Nichole Nordeman

I walked up the stairs and heard a little voice say, "Mommy?  Will you come check on me?"  It's the same routine we've developed over a course of months.  I run and he waits for me to finish so I can check on him.

I closed the gate on the stairs and walked into his room.  Immediately, he holds up Sarge--now detached from Filmore.  (Filmore is his lovey--a fox with a baby, Sarge, attached to its front.)  He searches my face and declares, "He's still...he's still wuvable!"

And before I can stop myself, I fiercely declare, "Of course he is.  He is perfectly lovable.  Broken things are still lovable."

That ferocity is born out of a need to believe broken things are lovable because I am deeply broken.

A few months before I put him to bed with a puppy gifted to us after the loss of our fourth child.  We had nicknamed him Baby Captain Hook, and in homage to that nickname, the puppy was made out of Captain Hook material.

Because little boys are wrecking machines, he came to me an hour later with Captain Hook's eye in his mouth--chewed up and irreparable.  "Can you fix it, Mommy?" he asked, believing in special mommy-power.

"No, baby.  It's broken.  Sometimes when things are broken, they can't be fixed."  My breath caught in my throat and emotion worked its way through my system.  Tears started running down my face.

"Oh, Mommy.  Are you sad?  Are you sad about Baby Captain Hook?  I'm sad, too."

I nodded my head n response, but I didn't have words in that moment.  He didn't need them anyway.

"It's OK, Mommy.  He's still wuvable.  I still wuv him."

I choked out, "Yeah, Buddy.  Broken things are still lovable."


That sweet honesty has replayed in my mind for some time.  Brokenness isn't unfamiliar territory, but something about this season of brokenness has felt foreign.  It was unexpected...suffocating...and a crash of realization.  We'd spend the last five years building--praying our efforts were for God, but knowing that many of them were for ourselves.  We needed recovery, community.  And so we threw ourselves into those things and pursued them fervently.

Then we found out we were expecting.  And again.  And we built a family.  We prepared as much as we could for that life shift.  Our last pregnancy came as easily as our third, and ended exactly the way our first did.  And I looked at the ashes around me and realized most of my investments were empty.


This summer spreads out in front of me--an open buffet of possibility.  I won't be doing much--not in the way of building, anyway.  My unmaking has lead me to a season of participation--in my relationships, my communities, but namely with my Savior.

Less doing.

More being.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"What happens now--when all I've laid is torn down? What happens next--when all of You is all that's left?" --Nichole Nordeman

No one in scripture infuriates me the way Paul does.  I like to think we would have a volatile interesting friendship--one that starts with heated arguments on the quad and ends with us drinking coffee and casually disagreeing in Starbucks.  Maybe that's a flippant way to discuss one of the more important players in the New Testament.  Or maybe it's an honest way of telling you Paul would make my blood pressure skyrocket, but he'd also challenge me to analyze my own motivations or the things at work in my life for evidence of Christ.

The whole "to die is gain" thing is a perpetual issue (Phil. 1:21).  There are days I wish I knew if that particular resolution was a constant in the missionary's life, or if that day he really felt joy in either life here or life with Christ and struggled with that same sense of joy later.  (Even later that day.  Like...the minute after he said it.  You know, the way I would.)

I just want to have those conversations with him.  I want to know if that Damascus conversion was the line in the sand that eradicated his ability to be half-hearted in any endeavor. 

I guess it's probably more likely Paul was the type of guy to jump in with two feet.  He was wholly devoted to persecution and then wholly devoted to Christ.  So maybe he and I don't have much in common after all.

Which is why 2 Corinthians 12:15 is this soul-crushing, I-can't-breathe sort of admission for someone like me.  Paul says, "And I will gladly spend and be spent for you, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved."  Hello nails.  This is chalkboard.  Get to know one another.

Maybe it's embarrassing to admit, but building was often sometimes for the purpose of doing something meaningful--not for Christ or others, but for myself.  I just want to do something that matters--behind the scenes or whatever--but meaningful work.

I guess the real issue is where I weigh meaningful, because when Paul gets to that part about spending for people and loving them abundantly and those fools not returning the favor?  Yeah.  I'm out because HELLO...I NEED SOME FRIEND SUPPORT OR SOMETHING.  Who wants to give and give without having it returned?  And even worse, who wants to give and give only to see these people love the exact opposite of what you're working toward?

This is where spiritual warfare is hard.  Actually, you know what?  Forget warfare for a second.  This is where "love your neighbor" blows--not because it's supposed to be easy, this love business, but because there's supposed to be some sort of reciprocation, right?

But sometimes there isn't.  A very renown doctor was onto something when he said, "Except when you don't.  Because, sometimes, you won't." Dr. Seuss goes on to talk about the bang-ups and hang-ups that are an inevitable part of life, or, potentially, spending for others and realizing you aren't loved more for your efforts.  Or maybe you aren't loved as much as you wanted to be for your efforts.  Or maybe you aren't loved at all. 

Or maybe you were involved for entirely the wrong reasons.

And when all of that is completely demolished and you're sitting on half a chunk of concrete wondering what the hell happened, you'll have plenty of time to weigh the enoughness of Christ.

Turns out He isn't redirected by weeds, dust and demolition.

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.