Boxes

If you told me 375 days ago when my family ended their journey from California to Georgia, that God was going to slow our pace down to snails speed and everyday was going to be about identity finding, I wouldn’t have believed you. I would have kindly received your words, pushed them aside in my mind, stuffing them into that place where you put random things people tell you that you either don’t want to believe or you have no grid to understand.

Yet here we are. Here I am once again wrought with realization of the depths in which identity has eluded me all these years.

I am a fan of emotional boxes, or as most people say compartmentalizing, one could even call it rules. I love the emotional feeling of safe lines drawn into the ground of life. Those lines act like a guide of so many things, they reveal right and wrong, good and not good, safe and not safe. They tell me how to act, what to think, and how to know if I am doing a good job. Guess saying I am a fan could be an understatement, I am more of a devotee. Allowing these lines that make up the boxes to shape my ability to know whether or not I am succeeding in life, giving me the peace I need to know that I am doing a good job. And here, this morning, I am finding that, to actually be a predicament. I am realizing I am not the one whose hand has been using the marker to draw these lines that make up the boxes. As a collector of people, of friends, of environments, of community’s, it has been incredibly easy for me to let the environment be the hand which holds the marker which draws the boxes. They have been the artists who have drawn the line of the construct of my boxes, yet here, now I find that very uncomfortable.

This discomfort has left me in a tailspin. A healthy plunging at a high rate in which all the lines of my boxes are becoming blurry. I can see where I have have stood with simple acceptance, pleasurably relishing in the peace and safety of not being the artist holding the marker making the construct of the box. The pressure of discomfort is causing me to question the authority I have given the lines, to ponder why I so easily and pleasurably allow other artists to be the line makers of my boxes.

As my eyes and heart searched for answers this morning, I found myself again taken back to my identity. Have you ever met someone who just kind of knows who they are. Making decisions about what they like and don’t like comes easy to them. Having deep conversations about what they think, agree with, don’t agree seems uncomplicated and straightforward. I have always been envious of those people. It’s like they were born with the marker in their hands and they have always known it, and known how to draw with it. The only predicament they might get in is if someone comes along and raises enough reason for them to maybe change a line here or there, and then just as simply as they made the first line, they erase and re-draw. I have not ever been one of those people. I was born acutely aware of my surroundings and the people in them susceptible to the construct of their boxes made up by the markers in their hands. It is consistently easier for me to lean into my surroundings and use those lines instead of finding my own. You see using the marker placed in your hand, is discovering yourself. It is thinking and deep conversing with the one who dreamed of you about callings, beliefs, values, and temperament. The lines are conversation pieces of you, they are things to lean into when to make sure you are doing a good job. They are the boundaries that help define you. If I don’t know what those lines should be within my heart, if I am not the hand making the marks, then I am just a leaning into the lines of others, using their constructs to measure myself by.

This morning I was overcome with insecurity. Overwhelmed by the blurred lines I am finding in this tailspin so I threw myself at the Lord in worship, pouring out to Him all the insecurity like oil at his feet. He pulled me into his chest quickly, His arms wrapped around me, and his breaths began to breathe me in. That wasn’t what my humanity wanted though, I wanted a box checked, a you’re doing good, or doing bad, so I began whispering what I thought would be my transgressions, reminding Him of the boxes and how I am possibly failing, subconsciously begging him to rebuke me, to check a box, and remove me from His chest. In response I hear:

“You know I love how you live all out for me. How you lay bare all that you are for me. How you face every discomfort and hard thing just to be close to me. My heart can trust you to come to me open and vulnerable. Do you even know how much I love you?”

And I am done….there is nothing I can say…..not that I don’t protest because I really want him to check a box, to tell me good or bad but he doesn’t. He doesn’t even acknowledge my list in our conversation. He simply takes me back to where it all begins, to love, to identity. He neither said yes or no to my list of possible transgressions, instead He took me back to who I am, firm in His stance of love. A person who loves with all that she is. Who lives all out for the Lord. Who faces the hard things of life to be close to him. I stood taller when I leaned up from His chest, not because I had answers but because I a grabbed a piece of myself. I picked up a marker in my hand, and placed my hand in his and together we drew a line to form a box.

The invitation is made, the gesture of his words stating all that I will need in this journey. The promise that this uncomfortable tailspin is the promise that in this life, He wants to be the one who holds my hand as we make the marker lines of my box construct. Please don’t hear any devaluing of people, their constructs, or community. Please don’t hear any disrespect of authority, leadership or the voice of those with wisdom beyond me. That is not what I am preaching. Those people and community, those words, they hold value beyond compare. I believe in the body of Christ. I am coming to believe even more they should be used as a way to sharpen who you are, like a blade upon a sharpener. You have to know who you are, what YOUR construct is before you can be sharpened by another. If not I am afraid what I am seeing, is that you just replace one construct for another, easily tossed around by the beliefs and constructs of others.

I am a lover of boxes and although in the desperate pressing tailspin of blurred former lines, I am finding my love for markers.

When Grief invites himself to Thanksgiving

 

Thanksgiving is coming up, in about 4 days to be exact, and man my heart is slowly unraveling at the seams. This is my second Thanksgiving without her. My second year of being a family of three instead of a family of 4, and it is possible that this is my hardest year. Grief surprises you like that, its like one day you hear a knock on the door of your heart so you open it and you see grief there. As you watch him walk in, you realize he actually has always been there, he is just demanding a little more attention. Grief is knocking pretty loudly this year, and I have chosen to welcome him; giving him the attention he is demanding.

I want to run though. I want to bury myself in another family and enjoy the festivities of their function. I want to hide away in their dynamics and pretend for a day that we aren’t simply a family of 3. I had that luxury last year. My community in Redding were aloe to my soul, a buffer in the best way to the magnitude of life without Katie Grace. They held memories of her in their hearts, I could see her legacy in them and it made her closer. Last year at Thanksgiving I hosted at my house, which really meant my Rebekah hosted, we just had it at my house, and at some point it all became too much. I got a little edgy, so I hide away in my room, laid in my bed and just missed her. Not long after, someone came in and just sat at the edge of the bed. It was simple. I am not even sure what we talked about, there wasn’t any demand for a reason, it was a simple don’t forget your loved in the pain check in. Aloe for this heart on that first Thanksgiving without her.

This year though we are thousands of miles away from that community and although we are building community and have had friends offer a place for us, I hear this knocking on my heart. I hear this quiet pounding, calling me to take the time to open the door, invite in the grief, and sit with him. You see, we are a family of 3 here on earth, I cannot get away from that. It is what it is. I will either accept it or I will continue to try to fight it, never at peace with what is.

The question: How do you make peace and move on with something you don’t allow yourself the ability to accept?

Answer: You can’t.

Well maybe you can, I can’t. It is in the making peace with grief that I am able to receive not just the healing power of God’s love but also the ability to keep living to the fullness in which I was created and Katie Grace came for.

Growing up my family had a tradition of spending Thanksgiving with my mom’s family. We would drive to Northern California and spend it with them. When Katie Grace was with us, I kept that tradition because I didn’t know how long we had with her, and that was the only time that extended part of my family got to see her. It kind of became our tradition. Now that we are here in Georgia I have a blank slate. This is the time for Charles and I to decide what are we going to do for our family, the three of us. How do we want to spend our Thanksgiving? What traditions do we want to put into place so that one day when Isaac has children he tells stories of what we did every year and his children get to experience a piece of his childhood when they experience that same thing. In order to do that though, I have to stay. I can’t run into the arms of another family and their traditions, I can’t use the sweet aloe of my community. It is time to open the door to grief, to acknowledge his presence, to spend time with him, and then usher him out the door.

When grief came knocking last Thanksgiving he suggested he was larger than my heart could handle, this year, after a year of rest, of learning to lean into all that God has taught us and showed us, I know better. The aloe of love from my community oozed into my pores and has taken residence in my heart, the beliefs that have become facts of who God is are the chairs in which grief and I sit and speak. They hold me; mind, body and spirit, and I know grief will only be there for a while, but that love, those chairs, they stay always. It is with those things I want to build the traditions of my family. The three of us.

This year I am making my first Turkey and drinking a glass of wine or two. Our family will piece together a puzzle, play some games, try to figure out how to watch football without cable, and we will laugh. We will think about our girl, talk about her red hair, and the littles things she used to do that made her ours. When the day winds down, in the quiet I will have made peace with grief and I will gently usher him out the door from which he came.

Vow Renewal

Well if I were being honest it was more like a wedding, then a vow renewal.

Some of you may know and some of you may not know, Charles and I’s first wedding was absolutely run by another person.  Not like a wedding planner person, or an overbearing parent person, but by a person who it was his way or we were horrible people and God might not love us anymore. It’s a really long story, you can read a part of it here The Story of Us.   So although we did get to have a ceremony and we had some people there, they we’re all people approved by him. Our families were not allowed or invited, nor were our past friends.  We even handed over our right to write our own wedding vows.   We were not allowed to kiss at the alter, or really even touch for that fact. We lived under a lot of fear and control, it was pretty intense.

Needless to say after we left that man and his family; and as the years have gone on, we have wanted to throw another wedding.  For us a real wedding.  One where we spoke the vows of our hearts, the promises we want our friends to hold us in account to.  I wanted to be able to look out to see those who watched us walk through fire and celebrate our yes together.

When Charles and I said yes to moving to GA, we also said yes (after much encouragement from our friends) to throw a wedding/vow renewal.  I say this to say, they made it happen.  Candess Marinello took the few ideas I could give her for what I wanted and created an amazing space with one of the only open buildings spaces in Redding in January.  Rebekah and her would meet and we would plan.  They would encourage me and when it all seemed too much they would stand the ground, of this is going to be really good.

And it was.  My brother flew out to walk me down the aisle. My mom, my sister and her kids came up and spent the weekend with us.  Charles parents, sister and aunt flew out to be there. My extended family traveled from hours away.  Three of my closest friends stood up with me along with my sister, and three of Charles closest stood up with him.

It was one of the best days. And here is the video to prove it.

Charles and Katie Wedding Video

 

 

 

I just don’t know that person

As I made my way down the hall my mind ran wild with the possibilities of what I could have done wrong. I was heading toward my boss’s office and our upcoming 1:00 meeting. ‘Did I say something I shouldn’t have’, ‘did I forget to put something away’, pounded against my heart as I pushed against the heavy dark brown door and slowly entered the square tan walled office.

“Hey Amy,” I offered warily

“Hey, come in and take a seat,”

The next few minutes were spent with chit chat while my hands wildly described the littlest of details unable to silence the insecurity.

“So I really called this meeting because I wanted to talk to you about something,”

“Oh, here it comes”-I thought to myself as if I was still a child facing my parents; afraid of some ominous punishment for a mistake.

“Okay,” I replied

“As you know there is a position open on my team as a team pastor, and I believe you would add a great deal to us. Would you consider joining us as a team pastor.”

“uuhhhhh…that isn’t what I was expecting to hear,” I sputtered.

“What?? Did you think you were in trouble,” Amy replied in astonishment.

“YES,” I laughed out

“Well now that we have that out of the way, what do you think? I know you will want to talk to Charles about it. Right now though what do you think?”

“Well….” I started and then just let the silence come. Amy is one of those impressive people you can sit in silence with. It doesn’t make her feel awkward or uncomfortable, it is simple a part of the conversation. So we sat in the silence.

And in a little more silence.

“Well, I don’t know. I mean yes I want to be a team pastor, and yes I want to talk to Charles. But more then anything Amy, are you sure?”

“What do you mean am I sure,?”

“Are you sure you want to pick me. I mean I am a mess. I can be edgy, I can be insecure, I don’t always say the right thing, I can sometimes follow the rules to a default…..” And I wish I could remember all the other shortcomings I listed, cause there were a bunch. I went on for a while and Amy let me.

Finally, I stopped.

“Katie, I am sure all that you are saying is true. I just haven’t met that person that you are talking about,”

“But Amy what if I do something wrong, and say something edgy or I don’t but someone takes it that way and they come back to you and complain and I have hurt somebody. I mean I am a mess and I will possibly make messes!”

“Katie, it doesn’t matter if they do or if that happens…because I KNOW WHO YOU ARE and there is no mess too big that I can’t help you clean up. I am not afraid of you being messy,”

Whatever tears were being held back at that point flooded through releasing that child waiting for ominous punishment. Opening up elbowroom in the belief system of I am too broken, too messy.

That conversation came back to my mind last Sunday as I was standing in church. The tears fell easily remembering how known I felt in that moment; even more known then I knew myself.  Amy loved and mentored me from the place of ‘please make a mistake’ and ‘trust me to love you through it, because I trust you’. I trust who you are and if you make a mess I trust you to clean it up, to make right a wrong, and apologize for whatever you may need to along the way. There was no punishment for mistakes or poor choices. It didn’t mean Amy never felt let down or sometimes frustrated, it just meant she could tell me and she trusted I would own my part, apologize and move on.

She trusted me when I wouldn’t trust myself. And you know what happened?

After 3 years I realized, God was saying the same thing to me.

God does not care how messy I am, or what I am working through. He sees all of me and he isn’t panicked. He isn’t aghast of my decision, my thoughts, my ideas, my dreams, my shortcomings, or my mistakes. He actually wants to live a life with me in which I trust him with my mistakes because it reveals his love. It carves out of everyday life this cavity of space that says, I am worth love not because of perfection but simply because of who I am. My mistakes and shortcomings are not the only things that make up my design; they are simply a part of me that continue to offer the opportunity to see how greatly loved I am.

How much are we missing this with our drives for perfection?

Or with our lifeless views on relationship with Him?

Or with this perception that He is trying to work the humanity out of us?

Or how many of us are holding those in leadership to these perfection standards; broken hearted when their humanity shows?

And how many of us chose to be the Amy’s of the world, and say ‘I see your humanity and choose I say there is no mistake too big that we can’t clean it up’?

I am less messy then I was 3 years ago, but I am still messy. I still make mistakes. I also KNOW WHO I AM, and that those mistakes are simply a piece of my humanity that I am more comfortable with. Amy’s belief in me, gave me the elbowroom to beat away at the shell of lies that kept me small. Her willingness to stand in the gap and say “I see what Jesus sees’ gave me the strength to keep beating away at the shell. Today as I walk around more whole I find myself compelled to make the same space for others, not just because it changed me but also because I believe it is simply apart of the gospel. John 13:15-17 The Voice Version says: 15 I am your example; keep doing what I do.

Let us be a people who do that.

This time last year

This time last year I was driving, you daughter, to my Aunt’s house, knowing it was possibly the last time your extended family was going to be able to see you.

It was hard trip.

You didn’t feel good.  You had acquired additional medicines and equipment. Packing was a full time job and more then a chore. Yet it was important.  It was meaningful to sit with our family and be grateful.

This year, Katie Grace, we are home.  Your Rebekah is cooking up a storm  in our kitchen, and we are filling our home full of friends.  There is so much to miss without you this year, yet as I sit here snug on the couch watching the fall colors blow in the wind, I am nothing but grateful.

I am grateful for every Thanksgiving I had with you.  That in this world I had the opportunity to know you.  That I have stories to tell of you, like that one time we went to Aunt Nancy’s and we forgot the pole to your stroller that held your kangaroo bag with your food.  So we had to create something on Aunt Nancy’s porch with a nail.  Or that time that you were just irritated with everything and nothing I did helped, so your dad took you and were as happy as could be.  For that alone, that I could watch you love him. Even in your brokenness….everyone knew he was your favorite. I am grateful to have a history to look back on, one where I can talk about your love for your family, your tenacity for your destiny and your laughter. Last night as we walked through Target, grabbing a few items for today, we passed the freezer section, and your dad couldn’t help but say Katie Grace loved this part of Target.  Just like that you were there with us.  Walking that aisle.  Helping us prepare for this day.

We are going to sit down today to eat, and although I will not see your physical body at the kids table. I will know you are with us.  I will see you here and I will remember our history.  I will be grateful that we have a history.  That I have stories to tell and memories to hold.

“How precious are my children who remember to thank Me at all times.  They can walk through the darkest of days with Joy in their hearts because they know that the Light of My Presence is still shining on them. Rejoice in this day that I have made, for I am your steadfast Companion.”- Sarah Young, Author of Jesus Calling. 

 

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