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.

Brittle Whispers

Charles and I attended church this morning. We have found this church that is literally 5 minutes from our house, and it’s wonderful. We were worshipping and the worship crew was leading us in “One Thing Remains,” by Jesus Culture. The room was filled with voices singing out:

Your love never fails, it never gives up
It never runs out on me

As my voice sang out blending in with the ones around me, something switched in my heart. It was as if my heartbeat pounded so hard that it awoke a revelation within; and I realized I wasn’t singing out of belief of who God is. I was singing out of a knowing of who God is. My words were no longer simple beliefs that I hoped He would prove true instead they were steadfast facts birthed out of experiences where He proved himself to be true.

My memory quickly took me back to the days when Katie Grace was born and my heart was reeling with the understanding of what life was going to be, and how painful it quite possibly was going to be. I remembered the word curse spoke over Charles and I. The one that said if we ever left this family we served, we would have children of unsound minds and unsound bodies. I remember how lost I felt. How hopeless it all seemed. How confused my heart was as to how we were in the place we were in. I also remember the decision we made to not be mad at God. Bill Johnson, our church’s pastor at the time,  would commonly say while teaching, God is in a good mood. Charles and I decided we were going to believe that. Despite our circumstance, God is a good mood, and those who are in a good mood, they don’t do mean things. Such a simple decision we made. My heart was not leaning on facts or a huge list of experiences. It was a decision I made with my mind, and I would whisper to my heart, “God is in a good mood”, “He doesn’t do mean things to his kids”. “I am not being punished”. “My daughter and whatever life she has is not a punishment”. That was all I had, those whispers. They were not your normal I don’t want anybody to hear because they seem ridiculous whispers. Instead they were those I don’t want anyone to hear because I can barely believe myself and this belief is so brittle that I have to guard it with my whispers. Everyday was a decision about what I would believe. What I didn’t know at that time was that God was taking me up on my belief. He was holding my whispers with all the tenderness that his love carries, and stepping into my belief. The stories of where He proved himself on my journey with Katie Grace are countless. I guess if you read through my blog, you will find the stories there. Stories about the moments when heaven touched earth through my daughter and life was better. Those moments came because I offered the Lord a brittle belief and He proved himself. Luke 17:6 says:

“He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”

This is also true for the matters of our hearts. My frail and shatterable belief that God is in a good mood was my mustard seed. Through my quiet whispers and his tender hands, it was planted deep in my heart and as we journeyed together, He showed up. He showed up in her smile, in her laugh, in her pain, and in the opportunity to love her until death. I also showed up. I invited him into the pain, because believing He is good meant that I could trust him with the hurt. It was true, I could. He loved me, showed me where I had faulty beliefs, lead me to truth, and it matured me in him. My heart is a garden of words that I use to help shape life around me, and together he and I planted a fragile belief and together we grew a sustainable knowledge fertilized in the soil of experience where His goodness and his unfailing love proved true.

Today as I stood in that church joining with fellow believers, my words were changed. They were no long quiet brittle whispers, they were instead healthy shouts of praise, strong in their declaration, proven in experience and isn’t that point of this all. This journey with the Lord, to become more than when we started. That as we walk with him, and allow Him deeper and deeper into our hearts and life, that our beliefs about who he is change. That we open ourselves up so much, even with brittle mustard seed like belief, that He is allowed to prove himself. To give us experiences that flips that switch in our heart so our words were no longer beliefs we hope He would prove true but instead they are facts birthed out of experiences where He proved himself to be true.

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. 

 

It’s time

Close to two years ago I wrote a post titled Transition.  A rambling preach about how Charles and I could see a transition coming.  How we knew a move back to Georgia was happening.  We knew it was going to take awhile and be abrupt all at the same time.

As I sit here tonight in the silence I am awestruck that the transition is here. As of February 1 2016, the Christian family will be residents of Georgia, once again.

Charles went in for an interview for a promotion, and not only did he get the promotion but the company asked if he would be willing to relocate to Georgia.  We of course said yes.  How could we say no?  God has been speaking of this move for many years. The intimate details of what He has worked out are mind boggling.

For tonight, I will this here as a simple announcement of what is to be.  In the weeks to come I hope to lay out the beautifulness of the faithfulness of the Lord.  His compassionate love. His patience for growth in such a long human filled journey.  The elegancy of arms open community.

The time is here.  We are moving to Georgia.

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