Category: gospel

choosing (part two)

by Liz from Love Grows Wild
by Liz from Love Grows Wild

Sometimes it’s hard to choose freedom.

I am thirteen days into my twenty-one day cleanse. (Read here for part one). So far it’s been a very spiritual practice as I learn to listen to my body, my spirit, and my heart. There has been invitation and opportunity.

Wednesday night was the end of the fruit and veggies portion of the cleanse. The program I’m following allows for lean meats to be added back. But I was cooking a sausage-based sauce with sweet potato noodles for my family. There was chicken in the fridge I could eat and I went back and forth.

The law was to first, wait until tomorrow. And second, to eat only the chicken. It would have been easy to stick with that plan. Simple. Rote. Mindless.

But I felt an invitation to consider why I was cleansing and what my specific goals were. I was cleansing to break the nightly ritual of reaching for a glass of wine, sometimes four times a night. I was cleansing from the three shot latte that greeted me every morning. I was cleansing from the sugar-carb laden meals that had become my staple over the summer.

This healthy meal I was making for my family? Not really the thing from which I was trying to escape.

I listened to what I knew my body needed. Depriving myself of a nutritiously dense meal with my family would have been a practice in asceticism and it wouldn’t have been beneficial to me. I realized the habits I was hoping to break, had loosened their hold. I didn’t need to carry it out to the letter of the law further than this space.

So I ate and enjoyed the meal with my family.

I’m beginning to see a trend in how I disconnect the spiritual from the physical. I treat them like they are two separate entities, instead of understanding while one may house the other, they both need to be tenderly cared for. They are intimately connected. With this cleanse I’ve seen how I can and need to listen to both. Letting go of the law allowed me to listen and I was able to make choices that were so healing and good for me. It was hard because I wanted my box. I wanted to win and “finish strong.” But that would have been an exercise in control and power. Not a relationship.

In that moment I chose the harder thing for this rule-following, law-loving girl. I chose to live by the Spirit of grace that I long to know more fully. I chose to let go of what I knew and trust myself to walk forward as well as I could in this place of less certainty.  And that has been the journey of the past year. So much not knowing—but a sense of calm surety that this, here, is good too.

I am not running towards gluttony. I am not giving up or caving to the bad habits. I’m not undoing or forgetting. For me this is the healthy space. The space of in-between and learning true balance.

I’ve started cooking dessert for my family a couple times a week. Because I can and there’s freedom.

And for once there’s a leftover glass of wine sitting on the coffee table in the morning and it’s not mine.

This week I chose freedom.

leaning into the abundance

IMG_0827The bike ride was long and on a partially eroded trail. Trees reached out to brush against me on one side and a drop-off threatened on the other. I stopped often to get my bearings and breathe, walking when it overwhelmed me. 

“This path is too over-stimulating. I can’t take it all in at once,” I complained, ducking under another tree branch and falling off the bike for the nineteenth time.

We took a break when we ran into the rest of our group who had started an hour before us. They were sitting, enjoying the view and eating lunch. I walked down to the water. I needed to touch it, to feel it between my palms, cool and crisp. I kneeled over, reaching my hands out, testing my balance—almost falling in when a larger wave came and I was careless in my haste to get away from it. I laughed with delight and Doug laughed with me. I have been surrounded by mountains, but something about the water calls to me. It soothes me. I see it flowing by my window right now and somehow the words come easier when I pause to breathe and see—to watch the water curve away from me, carving the earth as it passes.

We climbed back up to the trail to continue the bike ride and it happened.

I did it again. That moment when I looked up and make eye contact with a stranger. I studied her. I weighed her. I looked at another human being and viewed her as competition. It’s not something I’m proud of—but it seems to be a visceral response when I encounter an unknown person.

I begin comparing her and I, wondering which of us has more to offer. 

Who will be more valued and loved? 

Who has the better story? The better life?

Who is more fit? Better looking? 

Who is more engaging and interesting?

As I walked up the hill I studied her, eyeing her. That look. The calculated one. I smiled at her, hoping to appear friendly and she gave me a half smile back. And I climbed on my bike and thought about what it would be like with her at the cabin for the next 24 hours. 

And then something shifted. 

I thought about what I had just experienced, the water and the fun and the breathing. The peace and the joy Doug and I were absorbing and radiating as we sat by the water. I saw us laughing and playing, taking pictures and embracing all that we are. 

And with different eyes, I saw how I would want to be part of that. I saw that it was attractive—and I experienced a moment of clarity—this is how people see me.

I embrace. I am warm. I am intuitive and somehow often manage to find words people need to hear. I am quiet and calm and peaceful. I am tender and generous. I saw me as my friends experience me. And those feelings of warmth and acceptance towards myself led me to want to breathe that over this unknown woman. I wanted her to feel her value. I wanted her to feel connection. I wanted her to experience a quiet joy. 

It wasn’t rebuke my heart needed—it was acceptance. I could have spent hours praying and repenting over the “sin.” But it was knowing I am enough and I am loved that did the heart-work. And this heart-knowledge led me from viewing through the lens of competition to viewing through the lens of connection. 

The weighing and the measuring were forgotten. Now my desire was to experience and know this person for the amount of time we would have together. 

I expect that I am still learning this—it’s an otherworldly response in a world that tells us there are a limited number of spaces. A limited number of resources. It’s a different lens, this idea of abundance—that I can take all the space I need and you can take all the space you need and there is more than enough. I don’t quiet know how to do it well yet, because I’ve grown up in a world were we fight like dogs for scraps under the table. But I’m loving this new freedom where I can champion and connect and rest, knowing that there’s room for me, too. I don’t have to weigh and measure and give side-eyes as I watch to see what someone’s planning to take from me. 

As a teenager, I experienced the vanity that all teenagers experience and wanted to have nicer things. So I spent my own money to buy higher quality shampoo and conditioner than what my mom would buy. I hoarded that stuff like it was liquid gold, carrying it to and from the showers and hiding it in my bedroom. I didn’t want my two sisters to use it, and I knew they would if I left it in the shower. Because I thought there wasn’t enough, I held onto it. I fought for it. I clung to something that I thought was precious. Where’s the shampoo now? It’s been washed down the drain a million times over. Where are my sisters? We’re still learning how to support each other because we didn’t fully learn it as kids. We spent too much time weighing and judging. We spent too little time celebrating and championing each other. 

I don’t want to go backwards. I don’t want to cling to my little world rather than getting to experience the wild beauty that surrounds me. I want to trust that there’s abundance. That there is room and space for all of us to stretch out and breathe, to dip our fingers in the water, to be fully present and enjoying life. I want a space where we don’t have to fight for scraps because we believe there is so much more. 

My heart is full today because I saw a glimpse of what that looks like for me.

a different way

photo by Jennifer Upton (http://asharedlens.smugmug.com/)
photo by Jennifer Upton (http://asharedlens.smugmug.com/)

When I was little my sister and I fought all of the time. One of us would eventually run and complain to mom. Her standard response was “Don’t tell me what she did. Tell me what you did. Tell me what you could have done better.” 

It’s a good step—wise, although not very therapeutic. The part I’ve learned to supplement with is called reflecting feeling. It’s the part that comes before correction. You feel really upset that your sister didn’t ask to borrow your toy and now it got broken. I’m so sorry that happened. It’s unjust and you feel angry…

As my super smart counselor friend has taught me, this practice builds connection. The individual with the hurt (big or small) feels seen and heard. And especially when you’re talking to littles it’s a crucial step in teaching them to express their emotions in hopes that they’ll grow up to be healthy, emoting adults. After the feelings are reflected, it opens us up to receive comfort because we know the person sees us and is with us in that moment. As someone who loves Jesus, I will talk about how he feels for me.

 “Jesus knows how you feel right now. He loves you so much and cares deeply that you are hurting. What do you think he’s telling you?”

“He feels sad that I feel sad. He’s hurting that I’m hurting.”

“What do you think he’s asking you to do right now?”

“I think he wants me to forgive my sister. Because it was an accident and I know she didn’t mean to.” (Just pretend that my six year old self was this rational.) And here we’ve come full circle—the desired result in a family is unity. And I’ve been brought back around, while still having my emotional needs met. My needs mattered. I was seen and heard. And then I was able to let them go because I do desire to love my sister.

//

I saw a twitter exchange a few days ago and it made me deeply sad. An individual declared something on twitter that he probably shouldn’t have—but it was a conviction of his and he felt the need to share it. I don’t agree with him. I think 140 characters is a sham way to share a conviction because people miss all the nuances and shading that went into said conviction. But what horrified me was the way others began to mock him and throw stones. It was not “all in good fun” as they proceeded to run him to the ground and scrape his skin off. Memes were made. It was an undignified response to a comment that should have been left to rot. 

Because here’s the deal—I believe that all parties involved love Jesus. I think we are all working out our salvation with fear and trembling and while there are some pretty sharp disagreements, I don’t think we have to stoop to the level of toddlers flinging mud. I have a problem with humor at the expense of someone else. We have to see the human dignity in each other—it’s all we have left in this cold, harsh world. I hate that people tweet asinine things with what seems a divisive heart to draw a line in the sand—reminding the world there’s an “us” and a “them.” But we are all made in the image of God and we can’t forget that.

These tweets happen. And I think it’s fair that they anger and hurt us, or hurt those we care about. And I think it’s fair to respond—but not in a mocking or patronizing way. We need to expand the dialogue—not join him/her in the mud. We’re trying to erase the line—not draw it deeper in the sand.

I think unity comes when we reflect feeling. When we say, “these words hurt,” and we sit in that hurt. Because we will hurt one another—it’s a harsh reality in this almost but not yet world. And we can ask Jesus how he feels about that hurt. Then we can lean deeply into the Holy Spirit and ask how we should respond in a way that “preserves the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Sometimes that does look like making a mess and knocking over tables. Sometimes it might look like speaking up for the marginalized, offering a different lens from which to view the gospel. Sometimes we’ll need to pick up a sword to attack the lie. But I think the further we can stay away from mocking one another, the more love we show one another even in our disagreements, the more the world will see Jesus’s fingerprints all over us. We won’t ever be “disagreement” free, but maybe we can be conflict free…maybe we can be gracious and loving towards one another, even when we don’t deserve it. Maybe the hope of the world isn’t that we all agree all of the time, but that there’s room for all of us with all of our different shapes, stories, and experiences to sit together and break bread at the table.

Maybe we can nod our heads to the God we see in each other instead of slaughtering each other.

when the journey is not the end

DSC_0575-L
photo by Jennifer Upton at http://spiritualglasses.me/sharedlens/

I listened to a friend on Sunday. She shared about a season in her life when the world tipped itself over and dumped her out. Everything fell apart. Everything she thought she knew flipped upside down. The friends they thought they had walked away. And she was left alone to gather the pieces. She said many compared her and her family’s story to Job. It wasn’t funny and it was hurtful. And the air wooshed out of my lungs because I had been one of the ones who thought that, and even spoke it aloud.

I said it in light of the whole story in mind–the redemption and restoration and I was excited to see the fruit of all of God’s promises. But to her in that moment, in sackcloth and ashes, what she needed was a friend to sit and mourn with her. Not someone to preach at her or spiritualize her suffering. Not someone to package all the threads neatly together when she felt abandoned and forgotten by God. She needed freedom to wrestle through the doubt and the anger and the questions. Not for me to stand on platitudes when the world was crashing around her. I was too excited for the end of the story when she was stuck right in the midst of the deepest pain and grief she had ever experienced.

It reminds me of a scene from Lord of the Rings when Frodo and Sam are by themselves and at the darkest moment of their journey. They talk about how people don’t know they’re in the midst of an adventure when it’s happening to them. Sam says he used to think people went out and looked for these adventures, but now he sees that people just ended up in them–and that people don’t know whether it’s a happy or a sad ending. Frodo and Sam have no idea how their story will end, nor would it be a comfort to them in this dark moment to know because right now they have to keep putting one foot in front of the other to get to the top of Mordor to destroy the ring.

And that’s where my friend was. This was her life–not some epic adventure or story. After the earth crashed around her she had to bend down and pick up the pieces and rebuild a life out of the ashes. And instead of being with her in it, I was focused on the ending. Instead of seeing the breadth and depth of her pain, I saw the bright happy future that I envisioned for her. I couldn’t be there with her because all I could see was what I thought God had promised her. But I have no idea how he works, or how her story will end, or where her life will take her.

So four years later, and with a dose of humility I am gently convicted.

Mourn with those who mourn. I’ll take it even further–comfort those who are mourning.

It was not my job to declare more truth to her, or to help her find hope and peace. What I should have done was to wrap my arms around her and be with her in her agony. Sure, I can point out the window and say the sun is shining, but it’s my arms around her, sitting in her grief and not asking her to pretty it up, and my eyes filling with tears for her pain that speaks more of the love and comfort of God than any words about his faithfulness I could speak.

People are on their own path and their own journey. God is an individual God and he meets us individually. Forcing our thoughts about him on to others just gets in the way and can actually become a block to them finding him. We have to trust the God who made us more. He’s got this. We also have to trust people more, that as they press into him he will lead them to where he has called them. Sort of a “not all who wander are lost” mentality.

So, my dear sweet friend, I am sorry that I couldn’t be with you because I was too focused  on the ending. And instead of comforting you, I held you up as this epic adventure rather than seeing you as a person who was grieving. Thank you for always teaching me, and for being gracious with me in my ignorance. I love you.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: