Friday, October 30, 2015

how Bible School limited who I thought God was

Red silks, chanting around a fire, dancing with skirts spinning, sceneries so beautiful I cannot seem to capture their marvelousness on camera or with words, moments so sacred I cannot capture their holiness with a pen, and must instead resort to sitting in their beauty and letting the silence around me be my prayer.
These have been the images that have filled my head over the last few days.
The air is getting colder. The trees outside my window have lost their leaves. The regular fall itch has struck once again, and I find myself frantic in a space of trying to order, and reorder, and make sense of this world around me.
One of the big topics I seem to be grappling with in this season has been redefining God. I'm at Bible school, constantly saturated in teachings and Bible readings and prayer meetings. And yet I find myself growing more and more uncomfortable with this reality.
Being at Bible college has done the opposite of, what I imagine, it has intended to do. Instead of growing closer to God as I learn more, I become more and more frustrated.
I am so submerged in teachings and lectures and theology and hermeneutics that I lose the mystery. In being surrounded by Christians day in and day out, always expected to grow and learn and teach, I found it so easy to conform to what I thought Christianity was.
Read the Bible for half an hour each morning? Sure, I can do that.
Attend a prayer meeting? I have it covered.
Write entire papers on how meditation fits into prayer life? Consider it done.
But in reality, all of these things were killing me on the inside. Jesus wasn't this magical, supreme, mysterious being anymore but just another name to be thrown into my paper. God fit very neatly into a box.
God as male, God as judge, God as gracious and merciful and loving with an emphasis on discipleship and wanting you to attend church every Sunday and read your Bible and pray all the time.
I became angry with the God that fit into my box. I became angry with theology, with Bible study, with discipleship.
As part of my field ed. ministry I volunteer at the women's shelter and the stories I come across break my heart. And the God I see as so neatly fitting into theology and hermeneutics and discipleship doesn't fit.
Part of this is my own fault. Part of it is almost inevitable when you're surrounded by Christian teachings and relationships all the time. It's so easy to fit into a role.
The theology of it all frustrates me. I don't want to know more about God. I want to actively participate in His ministry. I want to feed off His mystery. I want to sit at the table with sinners and tax collectors and break bread and drink wine.
I don't want the rules about God. I don't want people's interpretations of who God is. I want God.
I want the Eucharist, the sacraments, the constant in an ever changing world. I want the grace and the love without other people's definitions of them, and what they are, and who can accept them.
I understand that there is a place for knowledge, and that it is beneficial. But I don't want who God is to get lost in the knowledge.
I don't have all the answers for how this is going to look yet. I only know that I want mystery over meticulous answers. I want to encounter God in other places and people and walks of life and cultures and views. I want to encounter the God that isn't limited to the Christian bubble, and theology and church attendance and daily Bible reading.
There are a lot of things I feel like I'm supposed to be during this school year. I'm a leader, in more aspects than one. And I felt the pressure of it. I felt the pressure of needing to be an example and have it all together, and I excluded myself from grace. But I'm realizing I don't want to be identified by all those things. Not that any of them are bad, or that I want to shed them off. But at the core of my being, I want to be someone who is sustained off the mystery. I want to bathe in the unknown as well as the known. I want to be ok with not having the answers for everything, but being able to have the answer of love.

“God's grace is not defined as God being forgiving to us even though we sin. Grace is when God is a source of wholeness, which makes up for my failings. My failings hurt me and others and even the planet, and God's grace to me is that my brokenness is not the final word ... it's that God makes beautiful things out of even my own shit. Grace isn't about God creating humans and flawed beings and then acting all hurt when we inevitably fail and then stepping in like the hero to grant us grace - like saying, "Oh, it's OK, I'll be the good guy and forgive you." It's God saying, "I love the world too much to let your sin define you and be the final word. I am a God who makes all things new.”

Monday, October 26, 2015

I lost my voice.
The pain of the past, negative relationships, being used and abused, they all taught me that I don't have a voice. My voice was like this shape that just kept shrinking and shrinking until there was nothing left of it but a speck.
This weekend I completed the training with Choices Seminars. I cannot put into words the life changing, transforming magic that happens in that room. I didn't believe it until I went there myself and sat in those chairs.
And a funny thing happened while I was there.
I got my voice back.
This weekend I got the opportunity to sing at the Sunday service. And the feeling of complete love and support that I felt from the group was a feeling I wish for every single person.
I got so many compliments on my voice.
The voice that I hid for so long, that diminished into nothing, that I was afraid to use, that I felt didn't deserve to be heard. And I know that they meant my singing, but something about their comments went deeper than that.
They were validating my voice, my worth, my strength, my song. These people - my people - spoke over me words of love and encouragement. They saw who I was, even when I couldn't. I'm not the girl without a voice, a victim, hiding in shame and guilt.
I am a free woman, creating a space of sacred love.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

My heart is still.
This afternoon I stole away a few hours to escape to the woods with the man I love. Something about being surrounded by the tall trees, fallen leaves, running water and fresh air made it easier to breathe. I felt the familiar whisper in my soul, 'Was this all you needed then?'
I took pictures, got my feet wet in the water, marveled at squirrels and birds that gathered in the clearings. We talked, and I cried, and my heart was unpacked on the picnic table.
And something happened there, something I didn't expect.
In class lately we've been opening up the idea of meditation, and the Holy Spirit. I've been attracted to this idea of Spirit, of the very breath of God. Maybe it's the poet in me but I want to say in this moment, after days and weeks of silence, I felt the breath of God upon my skin for a brief second.
...
I never considered myself a jealous person. But over the past few weeks I've found myself staring longingly at my facebook newsfeed and instagram feed in envy. There are people out there who's lives seem so much more together than mine. Their hearts don't carry such great losses. They are better artists, better lovers, better servants.
Lately it's felt like my heart is being pelted by incoming hurts. I give and give to those around me. Everything in my life is categorized into something that must be done. There's not enough time, never enough time. Old traumas and hurts resurface. New conflicts tap into old wounds.  I fizzle into nothing, burn out. And I want that.
That bright, new, shiny thing over there that looks so much happier and prettier than my reality.
And I realized that by constantly idolizing that, I'm continually putting my life in a place of "Not good enough."
I always need to be better, always push myself to feel like a success in every single area, and in the end I am doing 99 things but none well. I am busy, and everything looks like a to-do list and things I used to enjoy become something I need to do to get onto the next thing and in all of it I feel like I'm failing.
I was talking to a friend of mine earlier this week and we were talking about this very thing. I challenged her to start small. You can't change the world in a single moment, so start small. I challenged her, every day for the next week, to get up and tell herself that she was enough.
How I didn't know my own heart was aching to hear those words too.
I am enough. As a daughter, as a girlfriend, as a student, as a servant, as a worker, as a leader, as a writer. In all of it, I must hold up my actions and proclaim over them the word enough.
When I stand in this place of perfectionism and control and getting things done, I'm hurting myself and the people I love. I'm not giving my 100% because I'm exhausted and burnt out and I'm not getting more of what I want out of life. And I'm not allowing room for the grace of God.
Sometimes, in my own pride, I say I don't need it. I don't need grace. I have it all under control. Yep, you picked the right person for the job, God, because, see, I can get it done all by myself. You can count on me.
My own pride is standing in the way of my happiness. Perhaps there is beauty in humility, not the kind of humility I always saw as stooping down and serving others and putting yourself last but the kind of humility that admits I can't do it all.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Little Star

Once upon a time there was a star. He was just a little star, and he was surrounded by other stars that shone brighter than him and he didn't feel like he belonged. One day the little star decided he would travel to the darkest part of the sky so that he could shine the brightest. The little star began moving across the sky.  That same night two kids were wandering in the forest. It was getting late and dark and they needed to find their way home. "Let's follow that star," they decided. So they followed the little star and he guided them out of the forest. Even though he was surrounded by bigger and brighter stars it was his light that showed them the way out of the darkness. So little star stayed.

Every so often I ask him to tell me a story. Tonight he told me this one, and I loved it so much. I think I may not be the only storyteller in this relationship

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Creation of Space

I haven't been writing much lately. More savoring, more collecting. What I have been is personal, the delicate stories of others that I have been so honored to receive, and my own emotional stumbling as I begin to process what this last month has looked like for me. Then there are days when I feel like I need to write down the stories I'm collecting inside of me but they all feel so personal, so precious, so not mine and so mine but still needing the time to be rolled over inside of me and many times I end up sitting in front of a blank screen.
...
I'm sitting at my desk at 1pm, drinking peppermint tea out of my cup that proudly declares, "Good Morning, Gorgeous." It's not morning, but some days are like that. I'm bundled up in a big sweater belonging not to me, under a blanket and in front of the open window.
I'm in the process of reminding myself what matters. It seems selfish really, in a world full of people asking for my attention and homework that demands to be done and a life that demands to be lived to pull back, place my hand over my heart and whisper, "No, this is what matters."
I've been in a state of relative dis-ease health wise lately. Little blue pill bottles lined up on my shelf seem to stand in mockery, showing me again how I failed. I stare at them, willing them to work, willing my body to begin working on it's own and no longer need their assistance.
I read this week that it is foolish for someone to think that one sick body part will not effect all the others, but I kind of did think that. So this one nerve in my body isn't doing it's job, but I have been almost drill sergeant in my commands to my other body parts to do their job, and perhaps work overtime to compensate. Unfortunately that is not the case, and I'm feeling the fatigue in all parts of my body.
I routinely quote movies, and after watching Hotel Transylvania 2 my boyfriend and I regularly quote the line to each other, "I just need to feel loved." Last night, in all seriousness, I used that line.
I feel pulled by so many things, am working so hard to put up this fa├žade and be the strong one and have it all together. Sometimes I don't even realize myself what I'm doing until it all comes crashing down around me and I'm left surrounded by the ruin of it all.
I've been working so hard and pushing myself that I don't acknowledge that I'm exhausted and frustrated and feeling empty.
My friend called last week, and challenged me to take care of myself. The goal was to practice yoga at least once that week, and to text her once I had completed my task.
I texted her yesterday morning, and in my text I included a simple line that I learned this summer, one I didn't realize the importance of until I said it.
Alisha has received medicine.
I have pill bottles lined up on the shelf, doctors working to treat my body, but I've been denying myself the medicine I really need. I slipped into my disguise of everything is alright and I just pushed on and did what needed to be done.
And I agree that there is a time for that.
But there is also a time for acknowledging the heaviness. The stories I've been hearing remind me of things in my own past, and I want to be there and help but I can't unless I take care of myself first. I need to acknowledge the ugly bits of my own story before I can help others with theirs. I am sick, and without acknowledging that ugly illness grief I can't begin healing.
I think there is great power in acknowledging our own stories, and sharing them.

We have to be able to name the chains, and then, I think, we have to be able to confess them. To openly admit, “This, right here, this pulls at me. This controls me. This makes me act a certain way. This distracts me from the Center, from the Core, from seeking first God.”

I'm on this journey of the heart, one that was made clear to me when I started this school year but I still resist so much. It's not easy naming your chains, and the process of becoming free is hard. I didn't know that when I started. But claiming that freedom, and taking back my ground is hard.
Sometimes I feel like I don't deserve to walk there, on that ground of freedom. Sometimes I feel like I'm swinging an ax at a big old tree and barely even making a dent. The negative tapes I hear in my head are too loud, there's too much pain, I can't even begin to tackle these things and have it really make a difference.
Right now, much of this practice is about creating space. I'm creating space for these stories, to tell the truth, to get brave again, to love myself, to be loved by others. Space to fight, to take back my heart and mind and soul and body and voice.
This practice, this daily creation of space, however that looks, is medicine. It's healing, and uncurling the ache and it's beautiful.
Dear you, whoever you are, however you got here, this is exactly where you're supposed to be