Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 in review

I just got home from my honeymoon, 7 days out from saying I do to the love of my life. I'm still in the process of writing out our wedding story, with all its redemptive twists and turns. But my friend Morgan posted these year in review questions and I thought i'd take a moment after all this business to reflect on the huge year that 2016 was for me.

  1. What were 3 significant events for me this past year?

Getting married was definitely a significant 2016 moment. Committing my life to another person, when I have a messy track record with love, is huge. Along with that getting engaged was a significant event, as it began a journey of examining what i believe when it comes to love and opening myself up to it. Its hard to pick just one event for my third most significant, because there were so many and i don't want to pick one and forget one that was perhaps more significant. But I think the deconstruction of my faith, while it was a process and not a single event, has been very significant for me this year.  

  1. What were a few of the most significant moments (think small, like noticing the beauty of the bridge of your daughter’s nose, holding your grandma’s hand, paying attention to the snow fall)
Realizing the sweetness of love through my long distance relationship, finding my tribe and feeling understood, and less alone. Connecting with another person in entirely new ways (physical, emotional, spiritual, mental...), these moments at work where this spicy child will fall asleep with her hands cradling my face, the sacred beauty of forgiveness by someone I wasn't sure I would be forgiven by, coming home to myself in strange new ways. and this current moment, my first night in my new home, smelling the lemon in my shampoo and listening to my husband play video games in the background, because i never knew if i would get this moment

  1. What did I accomplish this year? List all your wins (even ones that seem silly small, like introducing yourself to your neighbor and making a new friend).
I got my first full time job, as an early childhood educator. I got married. I made new friends. I finished college. I listened to my gut. I told the truth. I completed a yoga challenge. I overcame a lot of my fears. I survived my long distance relationship (and thrived). I did laundry so i had clean clothes and made sure i didn't die in dirt (guys, sometimes that is hard), i survived the loss of some friends. 
  1. What were a few of the surprise challenges you faced this year?
Being engaged was definitely a surprising challenge for me. I found it so hard to be in that space and yet felt like i had to be happy. College was another one of those surprise challenges for me. I loved my first year, so found myself confused when my second year was so very hard. I found myself in a state of deconstruction, pushing against these rules and guidelines that had been set in place for me. It felt like i was on an entirely different track than everyone else, which was a really isolating feeling. and as i worked through issues - personal, faith related and relational - i found myself deeply and painfully misunderstood. I guess work was another challenge, just because i underestimated the toll it would take, physically and emotionally.  

  1. In what ways did I heal this year (emotionally, spiritually, physically)? Where do I feel freer?
I healed in so many ways this year. The deconstruction of my faith was a huge way i healed, and in turn brought me so much more freedom. Just realizing I don't have to believe everything i was told growing up, or everything that my parents believe, liberated me so much. I started listening to my gut and what felt right for me in terms of working out my faith. I started really questioning why i believe the things i believe, and i decided to stop believing some of the things that no longer worked for me. as a result of this personal deconstruction i got passionate about social justice. i was able to have conversations with people i really care about on things like #blacklivesmatter. i began to openly identify as a feminist. i used my voice to speak up for those who need a voice, who need someone to stand with them. and i let my heart be broken by the injustices of the world.

aside from this huge healing, i've also continued to do some physical healing. i started listening to my body, and am still in the journey of this as i continue to work towards getting as healthy as i possibly can be. so much space has opened up in my body through my yoga practice. and then there is the work i am doing on radical self acceptance, on viewing myself and my body and my heart with love and compassion rather than with such a critical lens.  

  1. What day was of 2016 did I feel the most alive and why?

I saved this question for last because honestly i don't know what day this year i felt most alive. i could say it was my wedding day, and that is true in a sense. i could say it was the day i got engaged, and that also wouldn't be wrong. i could say it was the day i walked out of college for the last time, and i had this sense of being able to breathe and figure things out for myself and make mistakes, and that would also be true. I could recall our family trip to the mountains this summer, or the road trip i took to new friends' wedding, or these past few days of being away with the person i love most. i don't know if i just have one day that made me feel most alive. I think 2016 was a year of being fully alive for me, the good, the bad and the ugly. i had a string of most alive days. But i think the day i felt most alive was the day i was driving back home after getting engaged. it was my first alone road trip, and i was listening to the radio and i had one of those "if this isn't beautiful i don't know what is" moments. and i had this sense that i had made it. all those hell days, all the days when i didn't think i would make it, all the days when i wanted to end it, all the pain, they had brought me here. and i didn't know what would come next, and it didn't matter. for a moment, just a moment, i felt this perfect peace, this freedom, this knowing that i was on the right path, that i was deeply, beautifully, amazingly alive 

  1. What day or season of 2016 did I feel the most discouraged and why?
I had a long season in 2016 of wilderness, of liminal space. Sometimes i feel like i am still there. This summer was an especially hard season for me in that regard. i had just gotten engaged, but we were still doing long distance. i was in the throes of deconstruction, and feeling alienated from the community i once had. there was a while where i didn't have a job, and then it was the transition into the new job and feeling overwhelmed. and in all of it i felt like i wasn't sure where to land. i remember that season most clearly in painting the fence at my parents house, listening to podcast after podcast, hoping to find someone who would say something that would speak to me where i was at. i just wanted to know i wasn't alone. i was fighting against my heart and my body and i was discouraged. some of that has passed as i have moved along that journey but some of that discouragement is still there

  1. What did I complete, release or surrender?
I completed a forgiveness journey i have been working on for years. There was always this sense of not being finished with my abuse story, and i couldn't figure out why i kept clinging to it, why there was this feeling of something in it not being finished for me. but after a few tough conversations i was able to release so much of that. I had to give up on some dreams for reconciliation, just because it became clear to me that those people cannot be a safe space for me, not because they don't want to just because of where they fell in proximity to the situation. i was able to make a lot of peace with myself, letting go of guilt and shame and moving on from the pain into the healing journey that allows me to move forward.  

  1. What am I holding onto that still needs closure?
I'm still holding on to a lot of body issues that i thought i had closed the door on a long time ago. my body has a lot of stories to tell, and i'm realizing i didn't make peace with them like i thought i had. so the story of my body - health wise, in terms of my self image, my femininity - those are all things that still need closure. 

  1. In what ways did I pay attention to others and bless them or help them meet their needs? Who did I grow closer to this year?
During this year, especially in the spring, i was able to volunteer at a women's shelter. being there was probably as much a blessing and healing to me as it was to the women and children i was there to work with, but i was able to touch so many lives that way. And then daily now, through my job, I am learning how to pay attention to others, to meet their needs and meet them where they are at. 

the question of who i grew closer to this year is a tough one to answer, because this year did feel so isolating for me. in the obvious sense, i grew closer to my husband this year, as our relationship changed from dating to engaged and now to being married. i grew closer to other people who were in the same stages of deconstruction that i was, as we had this common ground. i grew closer to my sister, as we began to talk about things that really matter like racism and sexism and how it affects our daily lives. and i grew closer to myself. 
  1. Where did I lose myself this year (what were my biggest time wasters and energy-sucks?)  
people pleasing. I am a recovering perfectionist and codependent so i lost a lot of myself trying to keep the peace and keep people happy and do what i thought they wanted. i put so much pressure on myself to make people like me and make sure they thought well of me that i burnt out. 

I lost a lot of myself in caring for other people too. my work is a huge outlet for that, and college was also like that for me. i put so much into caring for other people, even if that is a "good" thing that if i'm not careful i can forget to care for myself and end up exhausted. 

And as always i probably wasted too much time on social media. I wasted too much time caring about what i looked like as opposed to whether or not i was enjoying myself. 
  1. What did I do right? List what you feel particularly good about. (Working out regularly, keeping a journal)
I started practicing yoga more regularly, which is something i feel really good about. i started making self care a priority. i showed up for myself, moving away from what made me feel bad and towards the things that excite me. i was able to show up for other people, which at the end of the day is something i feel awesome about. 

  1. What’s on my Best-Of List for 2016?
  1. Favorite Books?
I just finished Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult and absolutely loved it. I read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell this year which was huge in changing the way i look at faith and God. Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton is definitely on the favourites list. 
  1. Favorite Movies?
I watched Miss You Already this year and thought it was one of the most honest portrayals of life and death i have seen in a movie. I really enjoyed foreign language films on netflix this year. i don't know if i'd say i have a favorite movie of 2016 but anything that made me feel something made the list of movies i loved
  1. Favorite Restaurants?
We went to this little french place in the mountains on our honeymoon and i made smart food network like comments about the food the whole time. i think what i remember most about restaurants is the people i went there with, which means my favorite of this year would be Olive Garden the day before my wedding, the cactus club with my choices family, always starbucks (so many of my dates have happened at starbucks) and boston pizza with family
  1. Favorite Podcasts?
This question was originally different but since i didn't have a real answer to that one i thought i'd share some of my favorite podcasts of 2016, since podcasts were so influential for me. the \Jesus and Yoga podcast is probably my all time favorite podcast. I am lucky to call these ladies my friends and their insight on life and yoga and deconstruction is amazing. The Romance and adventure podcast is also one i listened to regularly as i asked the big relationship questions (and its hosted by Morgan, who created these questions, and her husband). I am a huge fan of the robcast (Rob Bell's podcast) and the liturgists had some episodes this year that literally took me hours to get through because i had to keep pausing it to catch my breath. 
  1. Where did joy surprise me this year? How can I bring more of that into next year?

joy surprised me this year when i let myself be present. when i dropped the business and the trying too hard and the stress and thinking i have a million things to do and when i was still, when i was really present with the people i love, when i allowed myself to breathe into the moment and feel like i had time. joy surprised me when i listened to my gut, when i opened myself up to possibility and stopped trying to fit into the things that were no longer right for me. 
i desire to bring more of that into 2017 by continuing to listen, continuing to get quiet, continuing to show up. i want to be intentional with my time, in being where i am and to not try and be a hundred different places at once. i want 2017 to be a year of intention and getting honest about what matters, a year of showing up. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Love wins

When my old blog posts pop up on my facebook feed i love to read them. I marvel at the girl I was back in high school, so wordy and wise. I wonder if i lost some of that along the way, or if its still in there somewhere.
I believed I was destined to never experience love. I was broken, fragmented. I had been used and abused by too many guys and victimized by my own heart one too many times and all of it had left me very cynical towards the idea of love. It was out there, just not for me. For happy girls, for pretty girls, for girls with minds less full of noise.
As i approach this season of marriage, I find myself thinking about all those other loves. About the way i threw myself into them like an acrobat on a tight rope dives into a cup of water. They were never enough to hold me, but I told myself if I tried hard enough they could be.
I remember how it felt like my skin was too much for me, how I would scratch at it just trying to find some relief. I remember all the times I told myself this would be it. And i remember the last time, when it felt like my heart was literally falling out of my chest and all I could do was scream. I felt empty. There are still stories there, still words that can be written about my years of searching for love like it was water in a desert. But thats not the story I want to tell.
In 18 days I say I do to the man I love with every piece of me. All those pieces I believed made me broken but really were just in the wrong hands.
He found me not long after I had given up on love for the last time. I wasn't looking for him, or maybe i was. Either way I know those early months felt hopeful and dangerous and exhilerating. I waited, for a really long time, for the crash. For him to decide i was too much, too broken, to leave. I didn't want to be in love but at the same time I wanted it more than anything. I thought he would fix me. But in the end it was never his job to fix me, or to love me. I am healing me. I am loving me.
He is the ocean. He believes in me. He makes me feel whole. He reminds me that I need to love myself first.
I never wanted to get married. But I do know I want to love him well, for as long as i can.
I wrote in my notes a while ago that I love him because all the others told me what I wasn't. He tells me over and over again who I am.
In 18 days I get to be his wife.
The story is still being written. Love wins. Forever and ever Amen

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sitting in hard spaces

This summer i spent hours painting the fence. In the heat, under the burning noonday sun, i made large sweeping brush strokes. I listened to podcasts, swallowing them as if they were water and I was the desert wanderer. And in a way it was true. In my desert i clung to these words of truth, of solidarity, of the wisdom of those who had gone before me like they were water to my parched soul. The spirit is like water, says Mark Nepo, you cannot live dry.
I believed my season of dryness, of living in the liminal space, would end when i got a job. When Cody and I lived in the same town. When i said i do. When the hot season of summer ended and normalcy returned. When i got healthy. When i left my tightly religious circles.
Being engaged has been a liminal space for me. The first few months it felt so strongly like drinking bitter water. I knew it was for me but it was bitter to taste. I longed for the sweet water i imagined healing would bring.
I ached to leave the liminal space. I told myself i was sitting in it only to inwardly fight against it. I grieved and raged and wailed. Then i collapsed. Then things started to change.
I've seen this quote that says all the women in me are tired. And i feel this deep in my bones, friends. I am tired. I am 6 months tired. I am 2 years tired. I am 5 years tired. Maybe i'm even 20 years tired.
I'm realizing you can't rush your healing. I tried. I thought my liminal season should be over. And yet i find myself with this familiar, scratchy ache. I find myself tired. I find myself brought back to the desert i thought i had left. Only this time i am here with the knowing i must sit in this discomfort.
Truths about myself are emerging, ones i'd rather not face. And i don't know how to sit here and hold space for all of this when it feels so overwhelming, so breath stealing.
If you are here, know that me too. This longing to be in another season, i get it. This wild confusion and not knowing the next step and sitting in this mess, i'm there.
Dear friends, how do we sit in this liminal space, both personal and cultural, when all we want to do is run?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Equality and the table

I didn't leave Bible College midway through my second year. But i should have.
I stayed because i thought i should. Because someone told me to stay unless i knew exactly what i should do next and i believed them even though it went against my deep knowing that i didn't belong there anymore.
One quote rang in my head over and over and that was "you need to get up from the table when love is no longer being served."
Its strange to think of love not being extended at a bible college. But thats the way it was for me. At that table, the one where i tried so hard to sit at, love was not unconditionally served to me. The appearance of love was. But not love itself.
Not after i came out as a jesus loving yogi. Not after i disclosed to a few friends that i was gay affirming. Not after i publically said i was a feminist, and what that meant for me.
Lately the body of christ has been making me really uncomfortable. I've had many conversations with friends and pastors and other people in my life about injustices in the church and how in all honesty it makes me not want to be the church. How because of it i don't strongly identify as christian.
Within the church i've seen so much injustice. I remember sitting in church a few years ago when they announced the demomination my church is a part of would not allow women pastors and feeling angry and broken hearted. If my church wouldn't allow women to speak for God what about me?
I remember anger rising up in me when the bible college i attended spoke about the dress code and how it put men's lust on my shoulders (i am sure unintentionally) and body shaming me by regulating what i wore and said and did and putting it out there in the name of protecting our brothers in christ.
I remember all my years of youth confrences and church services and bible school chapels and how i don't remember a woman preaching, or a person of color, or a person with a disability or who didn't identify as cis gendered and straight.
I remember listening to my sister talk about black lives matter and realizing i don't live out black lives matter. The world i live in doesn't live out black lives matter.
And it makes me angry.
When we do this, we are silencing the voice of God. We are furthering the message that God only speaks through and looks like certain people. We are saying only a select group of people get to sit at the table of divine love. We are making an us and a them. We are making others.
Personally i love my others. The people who have spoken God most clearly to me have been women and people of color and gays. In my experiences these people, the people we routinely shush in church services and religious circles, best get what the gospel was trying to say. That it is for ALL of us. That we are ALL in. And there are no others.
I'm still working through my thoughts on these issues. In no way is this my perfect compiling of my thoughts. Its messy, and raw, and real. It comes from a place inside of me so filled with the knowing that the way it is isn't how its supposed to be. God is bigger and more than we've made him or her out to be. And everybody is in.
I've always said i'd rather be wrong in the name of love than right in the name of drawing lines and i agree with that whole heartedly. I want my life to be love, to reflect divine love.
I want to continue talking about this issue because it matters. I want this to be the start of the conversation around equality in the church, and in the world.

"I want to be outside with the misfits, with the rebels, the dreamers, second-chance givers, the radical grace lavishers, the ones with arms wide open, the courageously vulnerable, and among even—or maybe especially—the ones rejected by the Table as not worthy enough or right enough."

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

"It's not time to worry yet"

This past weekend I was blessed with the opportunity to attend the wedding of my childhood best friend. It was beautiful (Seriously, my friend and her new husband are two of the coolest people ever and they are way more artistic than me which sometimes makes me jealous but mostly makes me so happy because I get to enjoy their beautiful art) and I cried more than a few times.
This is the girl I used to sit with when we were just 4 and 5 and 6 and we would dream about the future. We would dream about babies, and being teenagers (which at least in my mind seemed like a big deal to 6 year old me) and play pretend. We decided when we were just little girls that we needed to marry brothers because we just needed to be sisters (which, of course, didn't happen. We've settled for being friends instead, though I still haven't given up hope on being related to that sweet family through marriage some day. We both have single siblings!)
My weekend seemed to be full of marriage related things. My soon to be brother-in-law announced his engagement, and my fiancé and I spent Sunday afternoon on the couch of the couple doing our premarital counselling talking about serious things and less serious things about our special day, and the rest of our lives together.
I remember on Saturday night walking out of my friend's wedding reception feeling this overwhelming sense of love. Because I had just seen such beautiful love between these two people I care about deeply who had just promised to be each other's person for the rest of their lives, and because of this amazing man beside me who will soon be my husband and the way he takes such good care of my heart.
This weekend was full of so many moments that gave me confidence in the decision I have made to engage in this sacred relationship with this human being. I spent most of the weekend in tears, but it was the healing kind, the kind that once they dried left me with life in my bones and the return of this spark, this feeling of rightness for the direction my life is going.
I remember one moment during our premarital counselling on Sunday where we had to walk through the last fight/argument/disagreement we had. It was something I was rather worked up about, for various reasons, and even as we were acting out this argument again, I was struck by his calmness, his steadiness. I wanted this to be a big deal, to be so strongly moved by emotion, for him to share in my dramatic waves of feelings on this particular subject. And during our acting out this argument, someone said the words or something stirred up the words in me that brought an end to all my internal struggle. My mind was still. I got it.
He's confident in us
I was reading a quote by Glennon Doyle Melton today where she talks about To Kill A Mockingbird, and how there is this fire that creeps closer and closer but Atticus remains calm. His calmness tells his children "It's not time to worry yet."
It takes me a while to feel sure of a good thing. I am quite introspective, and if there is something to worry about I probably will. But that day, and this whole weekend, as I watched the man I love and his steadiness and his confidence in things, I was reminded that its not time to worry yet.
Everything is still ok, or it will be. I can do hard things, uncomfortable things, and not be broken by them. Come what may, life is about loving more and not less. Even in the face of fear and doubt, even in the face of circumstances you really wish weren't there.
It reminds me of the Joan of Arc quote I've clung to this whole engagement: "I'm not afraid. I was born to do this."
I am afraid, but that doesn't change that I was born to do this. I was born to love, and be loved. Just because it's hard doesn't mean it isn't beautiful and worthwhile and good.
I feel so profoundly lucky to be in this kind of sacred relationship, bearing witness to each other's lives, reminding one another to lean in instead of out, that its not time to worry yet, that there is so much goodness and beauty in the hard.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Bitter Water (On Marriage Part 2)

There are days this season of my life feels like drinking bitter water. When for so long I anticipated sweetness, I am met with the bitterness of this drink that doesn't taste like I thought it would. Yet I know this too has something for me.
I'm the girl who never wanted to get married. I'm sure I did once, when my head was filled with Disney princess ideals, when I was a little girl still craving that fairy tale romance. But as I was thrust into my teen years, I decided I didn't want to get married. Because I didn't see the point of signing a little piece of paper saying that I would spend the rest of my life loving somebody when I could just spend the rest of my life loving them. Because I had seen so many marriages around me fail, and in some place inside of me that still believed in love I held marriage too high to willingly enter into something I had seen fail so many times before. Because of the negative talk I had heard about marriage, the way I had seen it played out and knowing I didn't want to enter into a union that looked like anything I'd seen played out. And because in those early teen years I was already so distrustful of love and the goodness of my own heart.
I can recall a number of occasions, even as young as 13, swearing off marriage because I had lost my belief in the goodness of love. And looking back on that now, my heart aches over the jadedness of that little girl. Looking back everything makes sense, but of course things always do in hindsight. In the middle of it all I felt alone, and like there was something wrong with me and my heart.
This engagement season for me means revisiting a lot of those girlhood thoughts. It means reopening old wounds and letting this bitter water wash them clean. Even if it stings. Even if my first instinct is to pull away in pain. Even if the healing scares me almost as much as the pain does.
I've been forced to re-evaluate what I think and believe about marriage. Because there is this man that I love more than I've ever loved anyone before and he still thinks marriage is good and that love can be trusted. He believes in standing up in front of people and celebrating love even if I don't. And if there is one thing, I'm finding, that can change my beliefs on love it is being loved right, and good.
So in planning my wedding, and in planning for my marriage, it looks a little untraditional. Because I don't feel like I fit in the world of the stereotypical bride. But I also don't fit in the world of women who have sworn off marriage anymore. I am in this rare place in the middle of not being sure what I believe about marriage but being sure that I believe in love. And that's what I want. To enter into this forever kind of love with my person.
In my quest to reshape what marriage looks like for me, I have become very protective of my ever changing views, and of my relationship itself. I need space to grow and purge and grieve old things and be excited about new things, and this changes daily as to how it looks.
I knew fairly early on that I wanted to be honest about this transitional process. I want to tell the truth, with my words and my life and my love. Mostly because I spent so long not telling the truth. I want, and am experiencing in this stage, brutal honesty. And I want my wedding, and my marriage, to be built on the same.
At the same time as I am simultaneously deconstructing and rebuilding what marriage looks like to me, I am trying not to let myself be swallowed whole by the fear. The fear that threatens to leak my unworthiness all over this relationship, that whispers to me that my heart isn't good, the one that says because I have this beautiful love I need to build higher fences. At the same time its drawing boundaries, and showing up to the hard work of my own heart and surrounding myself with so much love, because I finally believe my heart is something worth loving.
It's a tough balance, and more often than not I find myself stumbling, not so gracefully, through this hard and holy work I am being called into.
I have been reading and listening to podcasts on the Israelites lately, about their encounter with bitter water, and how what tasted bitter was ultimately meant for their healing. That's the best way I can describe this season. It feels like a season of bitter water.
In one podcast I listened to on this topic, my beautiful friend Stephanie from Jesus + Yoga talked about how we belong to each other. "Ubuntu," she said, quoting Mark Nepo, "I am because you are. You are because I am."
One morning after a particularly hard trigger that dug deep into my healing, I was listening to a talk from Gabrielle Bernstein, where she talked about this same sort of concept. She talked about how you have this deep love for this one person, and how the challenge lies in taking that deep love for this one person and spreading it to the world. The same level of love you have for your spouse, have it for that person over there. In this, there is no room for ego. And I can't say I'm there yet. I still cling to my love as this precious flame that cannot be touched.
I remember the story of a candle kept under a covering as to not be disturbed by the world and to be kept burning, while it was the covering that ended up burning the candle out.
When I think about marriage, though, I think about this. Ubuntu. I am because you are, you are because I am. This idea of belonging to each other. And then I think about this love that burns so brightly there is no room for ego. Wishful thinking, maybe. But what I'm trying to get at is I don't want love to begin and end with the two of us. I want to enter into the flow of all the love there is and was and will be. I want to be a part of something bigger than myself.
By entering into marriage, I decided, I am entering not into a legal contract or a lifelong commitment. I am entering into the flow. I am surrendering myself to love. And with everything in me I want the entry into that journey to be sacred, and intimate and beautiful. I want it to be Ubuntu.
In this engagement process, I am letting old wounds be washed clean by this bitter water. I am healing, so I can enter into the Promise Land clean. And I can feel the sacredness of it all as it happens. The purging, the washing out of old wounds, the reopening of hurts, the deep dig into negative beliefs I have about myself and love and marriage and sex and relationships. I am making space, making peace. I know this which is painful is for my healing. And it is good.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

On Marriage

I've been wanting to write for a while now. For a week I've wanted to sit down with a keyboard and my thoughts and tell the world the scary inner thoughts I have on things like marriage. Don't ask me why.
A week ago today I was in a room full of my people. A year ago this month I stepped into the big room at Choices Seminars a little bit afraid, looking for a reason to run. I didn't find one. Instead I found 85 reasons to stay. I found faces that looked at me with such love and wonder. They looked at me like one looks at a caterpillar emerging from a chrysalis. It was like they knew the miracle was going to happen. They knew it, and they held their breath in anticipation, and when it did they let out a little gasp of wonder. They taught me the joy of sober dancing. And it was in that room that for the first time in 18 years I clued into the fact that maybe, just maybe, I was worthy of love. Of being loved by others, and of loving myself.
A week ago I stepped back into the big room at Choices Seminars and it felt like coming home. It felt like a breath of fresh air, like just by walking through the doors a bit of the magic was put back on my skin. And in that big room I got to see some of my favourite people in the whole wide world, being some of the other amazing humans that went through that crazy journey with me.
A few days before I walked into this room, I had written in the memo notes on my phone "I want to be anointed for marriage. To be found worthy of this calling and blessed into it. I wish for the affirmation of my heart."
The words didn't even make sense to me as I wrote them, but I knew that was what I wanted. When people ask me how I feel about being engaged I smile and say I am excited. And I am. I am so excited and have so much joy about embarking on this new journey with the man I love with every piece of me. I am also afraid. I am so afraid of marriage and I've said to multiple people that I don't know if I believe in marriage anymore and its not because I'm having second thoughts about the person I'm marrying or if I want to spend the rest of my life with him. It's because I look at marriage, at what I want marriage to be and think marriage is, and it is a calling I feel unworthy of.
I'm the girl with a bruised heart. I fell in love (or infatuation) with the wrong boy a few too many times and gave away pieces of my heart. I failed so greatly to take care of my own self, to provide for my own basic needs. More often than not I found myself deserving of punishment rather than love. It was easier to starve or cut away the pain than to sit with it. And always I have found it easier to run than to stay. And when I look at this wonderful human being in front of me, the one who wants with his whole heart to enter into this forever kind of commitment with me, I feel unworthy. I feel distrustful of my own heart, and how strongly it wants this and him because of all the other times my heart has led me down the wrong path, and all the other times (which is far too many to count) that I have seen marriages fail.
I walked into that Choices room a week ago today and saw my friends who have become family. And they hugged me and congratulated me. And then, ever so gently, they poked at the tender places of my heart. The places that doubt marriage is a good idea, that doubt myself. At first I was a bit taken aback, because I had forgotten how well these loving humans know my heart just from looking at me. Because I thought I was doing such a good job hiding behind the masks and not telling the entire truth with my life but only living in the positive glow. And then I realized they were right. I had a conversation with a good friend about my fears, about all the negative thought patterns I have around marriage. And she told me that it's ok to be afraid. She asked me what I was willing to lose. Would I hold so tightly to the old thought patterns I had about relationships that I sabotaged the real and beautiful one right in front of me. Would I let fear win? And like a prayer, a blessing, another friend of mine whispered the words over me "You are strong enough to accept love."
It felt like the affirmation of my heart I had been waiting for. I let out a sigh of relief when I saw the only thing standing in my way was me. My heart was good. And despite my past mistakes, or maybe including them, I was worthy of love. I was strong enough to give and receive love.
"I am not afraid. I was born to do this."

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

redemption story

It's been a while now since the first day he slid this ring on my finger. And I haven't yet been able to write about it because its a story filled with so much hard, holy ground, with the twinkling hope of redemption and also the bravery that comes with being afraid. I don't know why I am sharing this sacred story now, only that this story is telling itself whether I share it or not, so intricately woven into the very fibre of my being, and I am so grateful to be living it. This story is something I feel I am not enough for, that I keep waiting to be snatched from me. It has opened up my heart in new ways, and brought with is so much healing and redemption. The season I find myself in is a strange mixture of grief and gratitude, of a heart aching from fullness. It's a story so sacred and beautiful I need to tell it, even if I fumble through it at times, even if at points in the journey it doesn't make sense, even to me. So, here it begins with the story of how I got engaged.
I haven’t yet shared the story of how I got engaged because it is something that I am still processing, something that still feels so raw and big and monumental that I haven’t yet had the time to ponder in my heart the way I want to. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be ready. I wonder if people are ever ready for the events that change their lives, or if maybe we all spend every single day waking up and realizing we don’t know how we got here.

 I got engaged on the first of July, under the summer heat, just down off a busy highway by a creek that ran with murky water. I knew it was coming but the moment caught me off guard, perhaps as all big and grand moments do. Despite my desire for something small, lacking in the grand gesture department, I felt the shift the moment when he came to me by the water and took my hand. Maybe in that moment I knew. I knew my life wouldn’t be the same. I knew I was walking towards my future in a way that most women feel when they are walking down the aisle. Perhaps that is why I lingered by the water a moment longer than necessary, whispering to the man soon to be my fiancĂ©, “Come, look at this. Do you see?” Do you see this snail and this slug and this frog, this life that exists within murky waters, that is thriving in this place that looks like a wasteland? Do you see this water, flowing, carrying with it everything I’ve left behind?

 I remember once, during my first year of college, going to the river. I had this burning desire to create a ceremony for myself, to let go of this heavy pain I had been carrying since the death of my cousin, the confusion and the inner turmoil and the desperation that had been etched into my body by his hands before they turned ice cold. I needed a release for myself, a cleansing ceremony so I could finally feel forgiven, so that I could stop looking for affection in strange men and food and self-hatred, to be free of the ghost I was carrying along behind me like it was my birthright. By that river I begged and pleaded to be clean. I had forgotten, or perhaps I didn’t know then, that suffering isn’t the birthright of any human on earth. That to let go, all I needed to do was let go. I wanted to be clean, free, but what I didn’t know was that I already was.

 I remember in my late teenage years bringing with me a jar of sand and ash on a family vacation. That vacation was a purging time for me, when I brought so many toxins into my body it made me sick, and when I exhaled them with just as much ferocity and weeping. The jar of ashes represented this grief that I was carrying around with me, this mournful howling that filled my bones ever since I became so ill I thought I was going to die. I collected this ash and howled and wept over this empty space in my body that had once been full, over what had been taken from me while I was sleeping. And on this particular trip, after having arrived with grand intentions and my jar of ashes, I slipped out to the pond with the water that flowed and was recycled and came out new, and I let my ashes slip between my fingers. In the days that followed I shook and bled and howled, but when I left I felt the work of refinement that had taken place.

 The water, that had represented so much pain and heartache for me, where I had released and burned and purged and wept and vomited and begged for forgiveness, the same water that flowed at the river and at the pond because everything is recycled and flows and moves, flowed before me in the moments before he took my hand. And I sat there, with my feet dangling into the coolness, on the edge of a log, and I had a feeling that this meant something. I didn’t know what, only that this moment and this water and this log and that slug inching its way across a rock and him and me and the flow all meant something. I could feel the newness on the wind, and I wanted to savor the now. I almost had a moment where I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to get off the log. I didn’t want to leave behind the water, the slug inching its way across a rock, this breath. I didn’t want the startling entry into something new, to be birthed into a world which I didn’t yet have language for, to enter the flow.

 But I did. And I remember that last breath, the sharp inhale before I rose off the log and took his hand, following him up away from the water. I was stepping into something new.

 I followed him up the steep incline of shifting rocks and pebbles, the ground shaking and giving way under my feet. And then I saw it, the words he’d written on the side of a bridge, the words asking me to be his wife. And I felt the rebirth. In that split second between my recognizing the words and what they meant and my yes, I felt the starting over. And I knew I was ready. And I knew I was afraid. And I knew with every fiber of my being that I was born for this. And I knew that the water that had always flowed and carried my pain and hurt and agony was still moving, and I must too. It was time to step away from the old and enter into the new. It was time to enter into the flow that was all around me and in me and through me.

 My hands tremble with anticipation and fear and promise and wonder as I stare down at this ring on my finger, the one I never wanted but am becoming so grateful for. It reminds me that redemption runs deep, that the old passes away and the new comes, that I must be willing to step into the flow, that love wins. Love wins and love wins and love wins and I am and I am and I am.

 Adjusting to this new season has felt thick and hard, and at times I wonder if stepping into new waters was too much. My legs tremble and leave me aching for the shore, for what I knew. This engagement season has felt so full of redemption and healing, the kind of healing that cuts deep and burns through, the kind that purges the soul and washes clean, like flowing water. It is bitter at first taste, yes, but it is sweet. There is something for me here, and I am as sure of it as I am sure of the wind. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there. I can feel it deep within my bones, in the places that I once thought of as void and empty.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Lion in the wilderness

I've been in a season of wilderness for a while now.
It started when I was beginning my second year of Bible school, maybe even a bit before that. But it was during my second year that it really began to sink in. I ached, daily, with a hurt so deep I didn't know what to do with it. I yearned to hear the voice of God in this place that was seemingly so full of it, but I was met with silence. In fact I was met with more than silence, I was met with people telling me God wouldn't answer. That my way of coming before God didn't fit inside the neat box of Christianity. In this place that was where people came to meet God, I was felt like I was standing in a desert. And I wanted to leave that place. With everything in me I wanted to walk away from that institution and I almost did. A number of times I almost packed up and left because I was craving God in such a deep way and it seemed like He wasn't there. It seemed like His people weren't there. I was hurt, and I was lost in all the confusion and the chaos. And I was deep in the wilderness in a place that I was told, and a place that I thought, should be an oasis.
When I did leave, when school rolled around to a stop and I packed up my dorm room along with my hurts, I thought things would magically get better. I would walk out that door and into the outside world where God seemed to alive and vibrant and real to me, and I would get on my yoga mat and write and love and connect to God in the way that I did best and everything would be fine. If I could exit the physical location that had housed so much wilderness for me perhaps I could exit the wilderness itself.
But I came home, and I found myself still in the wilderness. I struggled to find a job. Suddenly I had no community whatsoever (Finding that forced connections made better noise than silence) and long distance was putting strain on my heart. Here I was, thinking I would now hear the voice of God, and I didn't. At least not in the way I was expecting to. It was only me, and the quiet, and the space.
And it was here God began to speak. In whispers at first. It was here that the things I believed about God that had been moving and shaking while I was at college began rumbling and shifting, and I discovered teachings and ideas and concepts that made everything click for me. I stopped pursuing Christianity and "a personal relationship with Jesus" the way I was told personal relationships with Jesus look, and instead entered into the flow. I redefined things for myself instead of trying to fit into someone else's version of Christianity. Frankly I don't know if I fit into Christianity at all anymore. But I do know that I fit into the flow more than I ever did before, fit into God and what He's doing in the world and what He's doing in hearts and that openness and connectedness makes more sense to me than years of pouring over the Bible and trying to fit into conservative evangelical Christianity ever did. (I'm not saying that any of this is wrong. I am grateful for the things I was taught growing up in the church. I'm just finding things that work for me where I am right now with the truth God is revealing to me.)
Still, in the midst of all this coming together, I ached for the things I didn't have. I ached for the stability a job would provide. I longed to be in the same city as the person I love most. I missed community. I remember clearly one morning as I spread out my yoga mat to practice speaking the words "This is a good road. My heart is good." over myself and weeping. Because this doesn't feel like a good road. My heart doesn't feel good. And it's taking so much work to believe it. I keep speaking the words over myself because I know they are true even if I don't feel it. Over and over I am proclaiming this as good.
I am making space for these stories inside me to exist, for these old wounds to be healed. And as I look back I can tell that all this time I was slowly leaving the wilderness. I couldn't leave bible college and immediately be thrust into this world of blessings because I wasn't ready for that. I don't know if I'm ready now. I had to learn how to listen to God's voice first, to be slowly led out of that place. I had to realize that nothing was chasing me out of the wilderness. I had to leave clean, to leave behind me all of the things that didn't serve me anymore. And I am in the process of doing that.
Honestly in the last couple of days I feel closer to that than I have in a long time. I am beginning to see the light as I stumble into it, knowing also that I have not fully left the darkness behind me. I am emerging into something good, and I am leaving behind something that was good in its own right.
And now, as I look back, it is only in retrospect that I see He was there all along. He was the lion. Even in those hours that I begged to see Him in a place that I thought to be so rich of Him, He was there I just hadn't realized.
Maybe this road doesn't make sense to you, and I am only beginning to realize how it all fits together for me. but I know one thing. This is a good road. my road is a good road. your road is a good road. This is holy and hard work, friends. If I can encourage you one thing, let it be this: He is the lion.
“I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mill so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”  

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Thoughts on Sobriety

I've been thinking the last couple of days about being sober.
I'm in a place right now that's pretty alright. And by that I mean I'm not constantly being tempted to fall back into my addictions.
It's like after a storm, when the rain begins to let up a little bit. And you look to the sky and the clouds are beginning to part and the rain is still falling but not nearly as heavily and you turn to the person next to you and you say "I think the worst of it is over."
I don't want to say the worst of it is over, because it feels like knocking on wood or something. I still have struggles in my life but they feel minor compared to the hell I walked through a few years ago, even a few months ago. It's this moment when the rain is letting up and I'm looking to the sky and thinking maybe the worst of it is over. Maybe I get to be happy now, for good.
To be honest, that phrase both completely thrills me and completely terrifies me. Because I don't know how to be happy. Because there is this lull, the break in the clouds, and things get scratchy underneath my skin and I look to the sky, almost begging for there to be another hint of a storm cloud. Because I don't know how to handle being happy. All of my life, I was trained for chaos. One crisis followed another, head over heels, and I got good at dealing with it. And the stillness, the silence, the lull, scares me to death.
I look at my life now, and I feel the squeeze of normalcy tightening around my chest and I want to run from it. I don't ever want to forget where I came from. I don't, for a second, want to forget the hell I fought through to get to this point. The label of being in recovery is one of the ones I am the most proud of, and I never want to forget what I went through to earn it. I want every word I speak, every move I make to be a living memorial to the hell I went through and survived. I don't want to be detached from the pain that made me who I am. I guess in essence what I am saying is that I never want to forget where I came from.
Where I am now, the pain is mostly fallout pain. It's the aftermath of death, the aftermath of my body fighting against me, the aftermath of the addictions. The fog has cleared just enough that I can see where I am going and live my life without being acutely aware of all these things that happened to me. I'm working out and I'm not constantly being sucked into the hatred I had for my body. I'm in my relationship, happy and loved, and not constantly thinking about all the times when I wasn't. I'm sifting through the aftermath and finding out what I believe and seeing the truth about things and it is good and hard and it is all part of recovery. But sometimes it seems the farther down the road of recovery I get, the more I want to turn and run the other way. Back to my addictions, to my self hatred, to the deep dark depression that clouded my days. Because it was comfortable. because in the thick of it all there seems to be an air of worthiness.
I heard a comment by Russell Brand in an interview he did once where he was talking about addiction, and how no matter how far you went there's always the one thing you wish you'd done, the one drug you wished you'd taken. Because then it might make recovery feel a little more earned.
I'm in a place now where I'm finally reclaiming my voice. I'm telling the truth about my story, even if my voice shakes. Even if finding out the truth sometimes reveals cracks in the solid foundation I thought I had. Even if it makes me uncomfortable and I have to draw boundaries where there wasn't any before because I am finally learning that what I want matters.
I guess what I'm saying is that this is recovery too. And I never want to forget the hell I fought through to get here. I always want in recovery to be one of the labels I am most proud of wearing. I also want to learn how to be grateful for the good moments, to enjoy the beauty that I have. And I never want to take for granted what I have, to think that I have reached a spot where I can stop being insistent upon my recovery and being brutally honest about what I feel, think, experience and need. There's no recovered for me, always in recovery. There are ups and downs because that is life, and its a journey. A journey that matters more than the destination. There's always more stories to be told, more layers to be shed. And I never want to stop being in recovery.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Christian Mysticism and where I fit in the sacred spirituality

I stumbled upon the term today "Christian mystic" and it felt like coming home.
When I think back on my life, I can think of many times where I bounced around within the church. After a particularly life shattering event, I leaned heavily into the religion aspect of Christianity. I was under the impression that God cared what color socks I wore that day. I thought that if I did everything right and went to church and went to youth group and got myself a discipler things would work out for me. I did all of those things, and my life didn't get better. No one told me that this isn't how it works. And so, when things didn't magically get better after I started the radical pursuit of the "good Christian" I thought God didn't care about me.
Early on in my teen years, something in my mind shifted from that "good Christian" mindset to a more agnostic way of thinking. I went to church because I had to, not because I wanted to, or more accurately because I had an image to maintain and something to get from God. The tone in my writing turned drastically away from scribbling out prayers. I had Bibles but I didn't open them for years. I lost myself in the world of love and infatuation, of addiction, of anything I could think of to fill this hole inside me because it was made clear to my adolescent self that God wasn't showing up.
The process of coming back to faith (in anything!) was a long one. I can't pinpoint an exact moment when I started showing up again. I started going to a new youth group, one I went to mainly because I wanted friends and I think secretly because I wanted some kind of answers. I wanted someone to prove me wrong, that all Christians weren't the same, that God was still out there for a person like me.
I think back on my late teen years (from about 15 or so on) and I remember it being a really mystical time for me. Nothing was really working right in my life, one messy situation followed the next. It was one of the biggest times of pain and grief that I've gone through. And yet it seemed so sacred and spiritual. Not because I was reading my Bible or praying regularly again but because I began submerging myself in a world with people who were real about how hard life is (this is how I fell in love with slam poetry). I read blog articles and listened to podcasts from people with different perspectives. Suddenly the things I was absorbing were less about theology and sermons and rules, and more about every day life. I found myself drawn to the Christians who weren't afraid to say the word "Shit" followed by a story about how they encountered Jesus at the car wash.
So for me, it was kind of a funny place to be when I ended up at Bible college. I was submerged in theology all day long. On my first campus visit I remember commenting to the admissions manager I was with that these people were praying all the time. It was so foreign to me, and maybe that's why I was intrigued by it. I made my decision to go to PRBI based on a comment from a guy (he scared me at first, and when I told him this we bonded and became friends) who said coming to Bible College would tear me down and make me miserable. I didn't really like the idea of being miserable but I needed something to shake me up.
My first year at PRBI was great. I learned so much, my care group was beautiful, and I met some amazing people who are still in my life today.
I decided to come back for a second year, but somewhere between the end of my first year and the beginning of my second year I felt resistance. I thought it was just nerves. I thought that because my first year had been so great, how could anything go wrong?
But within a few weeks of my second year having begun, I knew this wasn't what I wanted. Not because I think there's something wrong with being taught the Bible and being in that Christian environment. But for me it wasn't where I needed to be. The theology I was taught became another thing to get through, more studies and rules, and it took all my passion for spirituality. Because of the environment I was in and some of the rules set in place (obviously a community like that needs to have some guidelines in place) I felt like I wasn't free to discover God the way I did best. And the good old Christian bubble slowly sucked the life out of me until I found it a struggle not to be bitter and resentful. I almost quit on a number of occasions, but pushed myself to finish because I thought "How can there be anything wrong with being at Bible College? This must be what God wants for me."
I did have some good moments during my second year. I made connections and was able to build into others and be built into, and I value all of that. Please hear me, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with Bible college. I'm saying at this season in my life, there's something wrong with Bible college for me. Instead of feeding my faith, it shriveled it. Instead of making me come alive I felt like I was dying on the inside.
But being at Bible College for a second year did give me a gift, which was the eyes to see that the ways of Christianity I'd always been taught weren't working for me. I could push and push and push but I don't know if I'll ever be able to encounter God in theology, in organized services, in a sheltered environment.
I want to be the kind of person who sees Jesus at the car wash. I encounter God when I'm on my yoga mat. I see Jesus in the eyes of the broken, the hurting, the every day people. I learn about God most through stories of others. And when I am open to regarding the people and things around me as teachers, I learn so much about myself and about who God is.
I was having a conversation a while ago with my boyfriend about the different ways we view spirituality. The moment I remember most clearly was when we were talking about the importance of Bible reading, and I was struggling to get my point across. Because I do believe reading the Bible is important. I don't have a set Bible reading schedule. I've tried working my way through a specific book and find it becomes just another thing to cross of my to-do list. Sometimes, though, I'll read a story and it will minister to me in a whole new way, and show me something about God and myself that I didn't know before. But when I think of Bible reading, I don't want reading the Bible to be the only way I encounter God. I don't want to read the Scriptures, but live them. I want them to become real and active in my life, and I'm finding for me that doesn't happen by reading them over and over but by going out into my daily life and letting myself be used by God.
My spiritual practice is just showing up.
Maybe everyone else thinks like this too but just isn't vocal about it. Maybe I still have this idea in my head of what Christianity is because of what I've seen and what I know and I think people fit into this boxed idea of Christianity. Or maybe it is as they say, and I am just a little bit of a mystic.
I don't know why I'm writing about this other than the fact that I think its important. Over the past little bit I feel like I've had to defend my view on things and how I do God and faith, so maybe this is part of that. Or maybe its just that I don't feel like being silent anymore about the things that matter.
Maybe this all makes me a mystic. So be it, I've always felt more comfortable out there with the mystics anyway. But if I'm being honest, I think we should all be a little bit mystic.
Jesus didn't come to create denominations and ethical systems, but rather invited them to enter into a life of love that transcends ethics, a life of liberty that dwells beyond religious laws (Rob Bell)
And I think maybe, just maybe, that's part of what Jesus meant when he said "I have come so that they may have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10)