Letting Go: a seasonal purge

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If you’ve been here with me for very long, you’ve probably noticed the way I describe life in seasons.

Right now, Travis is in the throes of PhD study, in the we’ll-get-through-this, but-I-love-learning sort of place, and we’re just hoping for spring sunshine along the way.

And me? I’m right here, when I’m not snuggled up for story time with the boys or baking graham crackers in the kitchen.

This season is a challenging one, and I’m thankful, honestly. We’re being stretched and molded, and it hurts a little, and it’s good for our present and future selves.

I like to mark seasons by their characteristics, so I can name them as they become embedded in us.

2009-2010 was the season when we learned what the justice of God meant, the impact it had on our souls and the shape it gave our marriage before children.

And 2011-2013 was about waiting. It was about asking for open doors and trusting them to swing wide or stay locked, and it was what we needed then.

But today, I’m being shaped by this writing space, and by my relationship with my boys, by my attempts at homesteading in a 2-bedroom apartment. And I’m recognizing that it’s even more than that.

A few weeks ago, I sat with a little community of friends and we asked ourselves who we want to be in the future- 5 years from now, 10 years, or maybe just tomorrow.

Because whatever season we’re in now, it shapes and molds us, God’s hands re-configuring something somewhere deep.

I hope and pray I’m still writing in 5 years, but if I’m not, this space isn’t for nothing.

What I shared that night with my friends is the desire to live simpler and quieter, to know myself and my family, and to be fully alive.

Maybe I should label this season a “purge,” as I consider letting go of a lot of things to claim peace for myself and my family.

I’m filling up a bag or two every few weeks, items I’d label “non-necessities” that we take to Goodwill for someone else to use.

Right now, I need to be able to tell myself that we’re well beyond taken care of, so that a few years from now I can still say the same thing and mean it.

We’re dreaming a little smaller– smaller spaces, closer living, fruitful gardens, well-intentioned time shared around experiences instead of objects.

It’s a purge of unneeded things to make way for each other, to make space for more of God in His ever faithful and quiet voice.

Tsh Oxenreider has a book called Notes From a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World, and she describes the season I’m in as if she’s sitting in the room with me and we’re sipping lattes like old friends.

And I say, “Tsh, I just need this right now. I can feel God pulling this out of me, and I must respond, for my own happiness and the life of my family.”

And Tsh nods and says, “Yes, let’s respond together.”

And we continue to walk steady, and when we fall, we ask for a new tomorrow, because we know we’re loved and held.

Goethe says,

“The things that matter most must never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.”

Sometimes, we need the deep clean to tell us who we want to be, and it’s a slow and steady chipping away.

And sometimes we’re just thrust into the season for change, and we didn’t even see it coming.

But 5 years from now, I need to see the woman I was, to see how she said yes and I will to the deep beckoning of God’s constant and kind relationship.

At the coffee shop the other day, there was a ladybug on the windowsill. And she was just going, just moving and being, and it was that simple.

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Each season, each step of the journey, each curve of adventure’s path, we just continue to walk and trust and hope.

And we remember, He always makes us better.

And so we say Lead on, and He shepherds us into the next waiting space, where we find peace in His abundance, peace in letting go.

Sometimes a Chime (the sun’s reflection)

Sometimes I scan Pinterest for ideas, for those little creative DIY projects that I know I can hack, even if I’m not very good at it.

So we’re decorating the balcony a little, trying to make it more of a home for our potted plants, an extension of the intentional living we’re trying at inside.

I found this idea for a wind chime made of old keys and a stick. So the boys headed outside with me to dig in the dirt for a twig or two.

I hung the keys with yarn from the stick, wrapped it in orange and pink string, and decided to keep it inside.

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It hangs in our sunroom, right above the couch, like a mobile to help anybody who’s napping there drift off to sleep.

The keys catch the afternoon spring sunlight that blares through the windows, and I see the reflection as I sip my coffee in the quiet of nap time.

Richard Foster says,

“We do not have to work at being good and kind. We are good and kind.”

And Hemingway says,

“We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.”

Right here in my own living room, 5 dangling keys remind me. Right here, the words Titan and Brinks and even a glittering Wal-Mart reflect sun rays, and then I remember that I’m reflecting, too.

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Every single day, I’m letting specks of light stream out of me, because God calls it out of me, because He still calls me good.

Even Hemingway saw it, our deep need to twist in the sun, to let something true and holy radiate from our insides, even if (and especially when) we’re broken.

We were crafted, pieced together with some holier form of yarn, breathed on with spirit-breath that ushers the light through our bones and out of our eyes, our mouths, our hands and feet.

And there we are, shimmering and golden in the speckling light of our own worlds that surround us, that call us to be hope and space and peace to the tired and broken places.

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Amen.

My Toddler’s Easter (and every day after)

On Saturday, Eliot asked to read the story of Jesus and the tomb from his children’s bible.

Then we kept reading about the ascension, about the Holy Spirit, back to the day Jesus welcomed the children.

I think when our bible translations feel stale to us, we shouldn’t always reach for the next Message Remix or NLT.

The simplicity of that children’s bible fed me in draughts, enough to last me through Easter weekend and beyond.

Eliot is in the “Why mom? Why dad?” stage of toddlerhood, but for some reason, I wasn’t prepared for this.

“But what is heaven? Can we drive there?”

“Why can’t I see God?”

Every new inquiry left me teary-eyed and ummmmm-ing for a long time.

These aren’t answers you can rehearse well for, because no big questions are.

The greater glory of life for me is finding some of these answers alongside Eliot and Isaiah, asking with them, Yes, who is God? And how does His love manifest itself in us?

I told him that Jesus gave us this really kind gift of Spirit, that we’re never alone.

I’m afraid of my answers, because I don’t want them to be too small.

All I can really say right now is, “Eliot, He is just everything, and He’s just so good.”

Something awakened in my boy over Holy Week, and something beckons Him closer in after Easter, after seeing the cross outside our church covered in palm branches and white blooms for Easter morning.

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Here is the reality we must live for ourselves and for our children:

Easter isn’t over. Easter lives on, forever echoing Hallelujah! and Kingdom come!

And something holy in Eliot gets that already, already in his three year old soul.

If we forget how risen He is, we forget how alive we are.

And I can’t think of living without seeing the beautiful, curious joy slide across my son’s face as he realizes that the walking and breathing Jesus quit breathing for a few days, just to wake up again and pour glory back into our little human hearts, both his and mine.

The Other Community: a lesson on erasing lines

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I’ve lived 26 years in this skin.

So, you’d think by now, I wouldn’t be jaw-on-the-floor, heart-overwhelmed surprised when I experience community with somebody.

Why is it so astonishing when someone invites me into their home, feeds me, asks me to be their friend, looks me in the eyes?

And it’s not that we’re friends because we think the same way about all the same things (though that’s what seems safer to me).

It’s that we’re all so varied,  and because of that we’re all pulled deeper in, where we sit and marvel at the creativity of God.

He’s the one who solders our cracked and jagged edges together, the one who says it can all be called good.

A few weeks ago, we all gathered at Drew and Anne’s apartment. We entered in, the boys flew back out the door to roast hot dogs and hamburgers, and I sliced cucumbers for the water.

The few of us girls there gathered into the living room, and they took turns asking me about the boys, girls with piling deadlines asking me how my mothering heart holds up. I looked down the from balcony’s open door and saw Eliot and Isaiah, stomping around, throwing beanbags into a little hole made of wood.

I saw Steven and Drew laugh, saw my husband throw his boys in the air.

There were many worlds gathered into that place, PhD students, a few spouses, friends. In this season, Travis is wrapped up in a few different worlds. There’s the PhD student world, and there’s the parenting-husband world, the faith and community world.

And many times, those are kept separate. But Anne and Drew invited us to merge those worlds for an evening, to erase the lines for three hours, to be exactly who we are, all places at once.

The writer of Ecclesiastes says that there are seasons and moments and spaces for certain things to take place.

This is what we needed that night, what we needed to remind us that we are loved and that everything can come together and that there will be peace.

It’s not the kind of community that stares you right in the face and asks you to respond. It is made up of the rare blessings, the kind of people who are composed of rare pieces—the hospitable and kind ones, the ones that send us home saying, “That was so good. It was all so good.”

It’s the throwing-our-toddlers-into-the-air kind of kindness, the hot dog and hamburger kind of meal-sharing that reminds us that we are blessed and taken care of.  These are the people who ask my husband how he’s doing, who take him out for a drink and tell him that he can do it- be a father and finish this program. There are seasons and moments for everything under the sun, and a community is forever one of them.

May we always be learning that community stretches beyond our expectations, creates new space even when we think we’re all hemmed in, and especially when we are afraid and feel forgotten. There, community surprises us, and our jaws drop to the floor again, and we mutter thank you to the white-clouded skies.

The Easter Progression

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For most of my life, Easter has been a one-day event, a whoop and holler of Kingdom-come and coming, a Sunday morning celebration of my Savior-friend.

But this is all supposed to be a longer experience, a tangible moment-by-moment revelation of the last days of Jesus, of His out-of-the-tomb rebirth.

Now that we’re in Atlanta, we’re at a church that acknowledges certain aspects of Holy Week that I’ve not often been able to appreciate in community.

On Maundy Thursday, I had a really sweet coffee date with the pastor of my church, a woman who breathes out community with the very breath from her lungs, and calls me friend because she knows that it keeps us all together.

That morning, Eliot asked me what Maundy Thursday was for, and I Wikipedia’d it (sorry, I know). And we stared at a picture of Jesus with the disciples at the table. And we saw a trickle of water on the floor, spilled next to someone’s foot, and the bowl and the jug of water.

I told him they were eating together, but Eliot wanted to know more about the foot washing.

“Did they do it in the bathtub? Why didn’t they just take a bath?”

Just as it was in that room, the tangible, see-for-yourself servanthood of people loving people is what Eliot wanted to see.

On Thursday, that’s what I needed– someone to wash my feet, to look in my eyes, to tell me that I see and hear and know God, that He sees and hears and knows me.

And on Good Friday, we sat in quiet, we watched the candles burn out one by one, heard the words of Jesus’ final days.

And in that silence, I couldn’t say anything.

What do you say to someone you’re so absolutely indebted to, so absolutely loved by?

I just sat in my pew and listened, my limbs heavy. I cried big alligator tears, partly because I was so broken by Him, and because I couldn’t find any other way to let out my gratitude.

And today in the early morning light, I sat Eliot on my lap and we read pieces of Isaiah 53, about how Jesus just took everything– our joy, our sadness, our hurt, our anger– and piled it all on Himself, let it seep into His blood, let it cover the wooden cross that held Him fast.

And tomorrow, we’ll rise and see the sun and acknowledge the kind glory of all of our futures.

He was risen then, He is risen now, and tomorrow and the next tomorrow until He calls something new out of us.

I need the process of Lent, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the quiet of Saturday, Easter morning, to show me who I am. I need that progression to give me a little insight into who Jesus really is, who He was as holy man, bashed and broken, buried and revived again.

The bright, full moon shone down across the purple garment draped on the cross outside our church building, and I felt Jesus breathe on us.

I felt all over again His invitation to us, to the meal, His kind heart toward us, the gracious reminder that He is indeed the Messiah, that His hope covers all our hopelessness.

I wonder what Jesus’ first thought was, when His Father sent a rush of spirit and breath into His quieted body inside that dark cave.

I think maybe it was all love, all thoughts of me and of you, the overwhelming abundance of His saving and forever reigning grace, the fulfillment of all He has ever been in the fullness of the trinity.

Hallelujah, He is risen!

At Palm Sunday Lake (a holy week meditation)

This last weekend leading up to Palm Sunday didn’t pan out exactly the way we thought it would. We planned for things and they seemed to go poorly; tried to remind ourselves to breathe deeply, and we kept saying, Sorry. Sorry it ended up like this.

But Sunday afternoon, it was all redeemed. We took a family nap, and I decided it was time for a little adventure, hoping to God it would be a well-chosen one.

There’s a lake about 5 minutes from our apartment complex that is nestled into a beautiful little community of houses. There’s a walking path around it, a bridge at one end, swings and benches and families playing with toy speedboats on the water, fishes trying to dodge their wake.

We sat on the grass and ate tortilla chips and barley-corn dip, tabouleh, and avocado. We drank mango flavored LaCroix. We smiled and looked at the sky and laughed at our crazy boys. We remembered where we came from and talked about where we’re going.

I told Travis that I need this– little celebrations along the way, little traditions, like coming to this lake every Palm Sunday for as long as we live in Atlanta. Like camping every summer as the semester ends, a time for our family to remember and process and celebrate that we’ve made it one step further, still fully alive.

Now, we’re entering into this tradition of Holy Week, and I can already feel the weight I’m putting on myself. I’m already forgetting the glory of yesterday, and counting my mistakes one by one– that moment I was impatient with Eliot, that totally selfish thought, for wanting to tune out completely for a day and forget everything around me.

And I’m sitting in Eliot’s bed with him as he falls asleep, and I’m thinking about all the tantrums he’s thrown this morning, because he’s tired, he’s a little sick, because, because, because…

and I think again about Holy Week.

Holy Week isn’t about remembering how holy we feel we need to be.

Holy week isn’t about tallying up our own self-righteous acts of gallantry or whipping our own backs over the weight of our sin.

It’s remembering the origin of all goodness, in the eyes of Jesus. It’s watching our reflection there, watching ourselves transform from rags to glory.

It’s about hearing His voice echo through the generations, from those days when He actually walked the road to His death until today, where He stands beside us, still leading the way.

Looking in His face leaves us with nothing but pure reflection, nothing but lovingkindness and mercy.

It leaves us celebrating, calling ourselves chosen and held and blessed.

It leaves us longing to sit on the grass as the cool breeze wafts across the lake water, as the clouds slowly shift across the azure sky, and we are breathlessly content. Then and there, we tally up all the blessings, all the stories of triumph of faithfulness.

There we say, This is all holy, indeed.

And the lenten road to calvary and resurrection seems more real and tangible for us every day, because His living gives us room to thrive and remember every good gift.

Happy Holy Week, friends.

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When Things Don’t Go My Way (a lesson in expectation)

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This morning I went to write at the coffee shop, like I do every Saturday.

It’s funny how ironic life is, how foreshadowing is a real phenomenon that happens to ordinary people.

Last night I mourned loss for a friend. And I remembered a season when all my expectations were shattered, and I was left in my loneliness with God.

This morning, I drove half way there to discover my wallet was still at home.

And when I finally got to the coffee shop, to settle down into my work, the laptop was charged to a whopping 17%.

Then and there I wanted to throw my hands up and forget it all, because Heaven forbid, I simply read and write in a journal for two hours.

There, that moment, was the breaking point. And in those moments, if I choose to lean in and let things be, and if I even ask Him to speak, all things may be redeemed.

So I prayed, Speak into my little listening mess.

And surely, He who promised is faithful.

Maybe it’s my super “feely” heart that makes this so hard–the way I picture something to unfold, aesthetically beautiful in every way, even something as simple as sipping a latte and staring out a window.

It is, of course, okay to dream, to imagine, to look forward to something.

But we shouldn’t throw up a white flag of surrender at the first unforeseen glitch along the way.

Perhaps there, we just lean in closer, even and especially when it’s painful.

Perhaps we let go of ourselves and breathe and ask what else there is to be seen.

Perhaps the unmet expectations open doors for new ones, and we are renewed in ourselves once again, brought into the light of the sun that blazes high and wide over these spring & lenten days.

The flowers still open, despite the world whirling around them, despite the unexpected frost and the cloudy skies. They still call out “Spring!” and reach for the heavens.

So we must call out for life, even in the midst of the unexpected, even in our little listening mess.

A Lesson in Place: where all shall be well

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I have this little spot by our sunroom window that I love.

I pulled our outdoor table inside, covered it in my favorite red table cloth, and christened it a blessed place.

That’s what I’ve been thinking a lot about lately– place.

Place in life, place in seasons, physical places too– my home, the heart and effort that I choose to pour into it.

My friend Seth wrote this piece the other day— please read it, so you’ll understand.

This is not just Seth’s struggle.

We’re all muddled in our brains and hearts.

We’re all longing for the quiet, whether we know how to get there or not.

But what Seth and John Ray reminded me of was the simple and kind fact of the matter:

We’ve got to at least seek the quiet place if we ever hope to find it.

And when we do find it, we’re swept into a new current, an unbreached reality of grace and full living, and we wonder,

How could I have ever said no to this?

But we’re all so good at falling, at straying, at wandering.

We’re all so mesmerized by the noise, the great din of a world swirling with all that is semi-fulfilling.

So for now, I’m here at the table.

For now, I’m in it, and I see God, and I acknowledge that He sees me, and I am with Julian of Norwich in quietly breathing,

All is well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

That’s the place of peace, that’s this table, this candle, this kalanchoe flower blooming to remind me that I’m alive, right now.

And tomorrow is tomorrow, and I can trust that Jesus covers all tenses, and therefore, He covers me.

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May our quiet places draw us back.

May the voices that call out for peace and real truth call us into uncharted waters of grace, of life,

so that we may say it in our deepest parts:

All is well.

All shall be well.

Amen.

Forgetting Lent (we are christened)

The other night, we all gathered into our room, chairs in a circle, chalkboard covered in quote-scribbles, eyes a little glossed over from the weight of the day still dragging behind us.

But we gathered in still, and we spent ten minutes in quiet contemplation.

Ten minutes in silence, nothing but our body shifting and light scribbling sounding off the walls and windows.

In that quiet, God spoke, the way that He often does when we stop our voices and let everything settle down, into the holy part of that moment, of that space in time.

He called me christened, and while I’ve heard it time and again, I didn’t really know, couldn’t really remember what it was for.

So I asked Google, and Google told me:

christen: give to (someone or something) a name that reflects a notable quality or characteristic.

I knew the names of my boys while they were still rolling around in my womb. I knew Isaiah was Isaiah, and I knew Eliot was Jon Eliot.

And I know I have a name, I know I am called something by people who love me, but being christened means that there’s a name deeper in me, embedded into my being, into my heart and soul, that marks my path and my breath.

It’s a holy name, called in the quiet parts, called out in spaces like the one the other night, the one where I got quiet and listened.

We’re still in the Lenten season, even though I feel like I abandoned it weeks ago, forgetting what it’s all for. It seems we just wait for Easter to come along, and then we all nonchalantly exclaim, “Oh, right! He’s risen.”

But there is a journey from here to there, a path we’re walking, a death we’re mourning, a life we’re stepping flesh and blood into.

So we must keep reminding ourselves of Lent.

Because everything here is so quick, so saturated and full and bustling and brightly lit, that we forget what we’ve decided in the quiet of the heart, we forget the name we’re called by.

We forget that we’re beloved.

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We made airplane wings out of cardboard a few weeks ago, and the boys flew around the apartment, flew to continents and sight words, flew to every outer wall of their imagination. They flew and I’d call their names and they’d come flying back home to me.

And here we are, each one of us, soaring and stopping and moving, back and forth, over and under. Sometimes it’s the delight of the travel, and sometimes we can barely remember to breathe.

But we’re christened.

We’re called back home again, again and again and again, into the embrace of the Father, into the embrace of the Lenten King whose every ounce of being breathes life into us.

So remind us again, Jesus.

Let us see into who You were then, in those momentous days leading up to Your glory-death and glory-resurrection.

And let us see into who You are today, the words You’re speaking into us and the fresh breath that’s sifting through our faculties–

give us the purest of who you are, the truest parts of Your heart.

We remember today that Lent is for remembering, and we yearn for the yearning that Lent creates in our broken places.

You, our Lord, are holy.

You, our Lord, somehow make us so.

Hallelujah and Amen, for Lent and all its fullness, for the grace and promise of flight.

BLOG: a love story

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Whoever first said that they felt like a small fish in a big pond, was probably a writer.

Or a dancer.

An architect.

A father.

A garbage collector.

A pilot.

It’s really what we all are– little someones in a big sea of everyone-better-than-we-are.

So, I’m a little blog in the big blogosphere, a little shadow, hidden away.

I started this blog three years ago when Eliot was just a few months old. I knew I needed a space that would let me process who I was slowly becoming.

And here I am today, still becoming, and still hoping that I’m not just a shadow.

It’s a fierce lie, isn’t it?

It’s such a big leap to believe that someone, somewhere, might want to hear our voice, read our words, believe that we share something between us.

And if that’s even possible, it means that God is a truly creative genius– a truly generous advocate for community, and for each one of His children, every one of us inside our self-discouraging skin.

But where would we be without those gifts? Without the voice, the word, the vision, the jump?

No less worthy, but perhaps less adventured.

Less tethered.

More covered and safe, less realized about who we are called to be.

My love story with this world here, these typed words that root themselves in my journals and travel away to you–

It’s been a journey I’d never take back.

And I think if I hadn’t jumped, decided to plunge into this big Blogosphere Sea, I wouldn’t know myself as much today–

I wouldn’t know me the way God is asking me to.

The scary and wonderful thing about dreaming and adventure is that it calls us to look into ourselves and acknowledge that we’re not going to be the same on the other side.

And if we’re honest, it’s probably the most vulnerable we’ll ever be, and that’s probably why it’s so good.

It’s not always about our bravery.

But it’s always about trust.

And with the coming spring, we’ve got a thing or two to learn about blooming into the next season, hearts fully open.