Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Choose Life

“Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life…” –Deuteronomy 30:19b-20

I’m going to speak plain.

Because I’m no Ann Voskamp or Sarah Bessey, and I have no desire to be.

I’ve been tripping over poetry and metaphors for the last few months. Sometimes I have enjoyed the craft. Other days, it has been frustrating because I want to say what I mean.

For reals, okay?

Last Sunday during communion (Yes, sometimes I still call it that instead of eucharist because I was raised in fundamental evangelicalism. Other times I feel all Anglicany and go with eucharist. You know what I mean…), I was startled.

Nothing major, other than I looked slightly to my left and spotted a little girl looking right at me. Piercing gaze. She was barely higher than the sixth pew, where we sat, and was ready to receive the bread with everything in her. I could tell. When it was almost her turn, her father had to pull her back because she almost jumped in front of the person just before her. Not once did she put her hands down. She held them out in receiving position.

I watched her with a lump in my throat.

See, there are many Christians, lots of them close to my age, talking about how they weren’t allowed to ask questions in church or to have doubts growing up and that’s what keeps them away now. Me? I just wanted to be with Jesus. I wanted to run to Him all the time. I wasn't so much worried about doubts. I think I knew that church was a bridge to God, that sacred place where I could receive, and I was ready to be there. Every. Single. Sunday.

I could have cared less about sports or school. I wanted church.

I don’t think I ever could have explained that to someone when I was in elementary school, and this was way before the age when guilt was handed out for missing youth group on a random Sunday. It wasn’t coercion.

It was a source of life.

My feelings about Sundays now come in waves. They vacillate between wanting to be there so much that I nearly run over people on my way in the doors to I can’t do it. I can’t even drive myself to the building. Sometimes, I can’t be in that place because it reminds me of broken promises and expectations and another life altogether that I thought might be what God had for me.

My days are similar. I waver between brief moments of delight and long spirals of regret. The last couple of weeks, I thought the feelings of lament might overtake me. That darkness and death of dreams and all that Satan wants for my life might be my complete undoing.

I prayed for a new outlook. For a source of life that would keep me going each day.

Then there was this about being weary and wounded.

Followed by my reading this beautiful expression of spiritual warfare.

And I remember using the word “defeated” and right at that moment a poster on Pinterest popped up that said, “Never be defeated. Never give up.” And I thought about laughing aloud at God’s sense of humor.

Apparently, You heard me? I chuckled under my breath.

There was this about godforsakeness.

And Kaelyn laughing for no apparent reason on the way to school and Kyla learning, ever so slowly, how to pack her own lunch. She beams when she’s finally accomplished this new feat each evening.

There was also the walk I took outside yesterday when I couldn’t stop staring at the mountains or the only-in-Colorado-could-it-be-that-shade-of-blue skies.

And Elizabeth Esther mustering up her courage to say this and this that made my heart grow wings.

And last but not least, I was reminded of this sitting on my shelf. Morning pages are saving my life right now.

Joshua told the Israelites to choose life. That is what I’m doing. In the midst of the dry and dead moments, I’m choosing life. I can do this because He is life. I can run to Him in those places of inspiration, inside and outside of the church walls, because He defeated death. He looked it right in the face and knocked it down on its ass.

No one has that kind of power to fight for life and to fight for me. No. one.

So, I think I get it. Maybe just a little more here and there, in the moments of my days that seem to be growing longer and more often. And I can say this today:

I choose life.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Finding Freedom

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” –Galatians 5:1

“Don’t should on yourself.”  I don’t know who said this first, but I heard it from Emily Freeman

Over Christmas break I refused to make a to-do list for myself. I already live, and sometimes it feels I nearly die, by them at work. So, for the ten glorious days of vacation, I gave up being ruled by the neat lines of simple words and phrases on a page.

Similarly, I’ve become a bit weary of being bound by words, lines, and phrases here on this blog. I don’t want to be dramatic with an “I’m shutting this thing down” post, but I’m sure you may have noticed the infrequency with which I’ve been writing these past few months.

It’s not that I don’t have anything left to say. If you know me, you know I have plenty to say on a daily basis. It’s just that I’ve found myself feeling constrained by what I think I should say, what I shouldn’t say in this kind of a forum, and what is the best way to work out where I am right now.

I had wanted to blog regularly for years. I started this blog long before I was able to commit to regular contributions, and I’m grateful for the creative outlet it provided me while I was away from Colorado most recently.

But, with being home, I’m finding I need different ways of expressing myself, and I don’t really like that word “commit” right now in regards to my creativity. I’m committed to creativity but not to having a schedule or a to-do list for posts. I do not sense a call to professional blogging by any means.

I’m craving freedom. And with that freedom is coming the need for working through my thoughts, my words, my feelings, and my concerns in quieter places. Places like the booth at Village Inn where I meet my friend Sandi every other Wednesday.

Places like my old, abandoned journal where I am forced to think through each word as I write, rather than the quick pace of typing, which can leave some of my thoughts less processed. And I am allowing myself time to sit down and care for me.

I haven’t been doing this well, and setting aside checklists at home over Christmas was a small awakening for me. I’m also realizing that the more I give freedom to myself, the more likely I am to give it to others.

As I have written before, I’ve struggled with the graceless standards set on me by various Christians throughout my life. I think we all do this to each other to varying degrees, but the degree to which I experienced this was spiritual abuse. It has taken me a long time to use that phrase, and please know I do not use it lightly.

I do not want those experiences in my past to be the sole defining factor of my present or my future. And I do not want those events to control the way I live out my relationships either.

For these reasons, you may continue to see less of me on here. I need places to find me, other than the screen I’m looking at right now. I want to write at my own pace and to maybe even put together a memoir for my daughters. (I’m beginning to forget the details of how this awkward fundamentalist teen eventually became the wife of an Anglican clergyman.) In addition, I’m enjoying providing an opportunity for others to express themselves.

And so, for freedom, I am setting myself free to do these things. In my own timing and in my own way. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Inspiration: Christmas Break 2012

From time to time, I like to share a few things that are inspiring me. Here's my list from this last month.


Little Women

Watching this movie is a Christmas tradition for myself and the girls. (We try to get to Anne of Green Gables too but that didn’t happen this year.) Surprisingly, Kaelyn sat all the way through Little Women this year. Kyla is getting to where she knows the story well so she can anticipate what comes next, which is fun. We talked a little about the storytelling element of foreshadowing this time since she already knew what would happen later.

An Avonlea Christmas

Jeff got me this movie for Christmas last year. Having watched the entire Avonlea series when it was on Disney channel years ago, watching this movie is like visiting old friends. I giggle when Mrs. Potts comes to bother Aunt Hettie or when she just has to meddle in Felicity’s life. It’s her duty. Jeff doesn’t get it. I told him he will after I collect the series and he gets to watch all of the episodes with me. He was super excited about that. I could tell.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

As has been mentioned previously, I love a good independent movie. This one brought up the age-old quandary of what one would do if they knew they had less than a month to live. In this movie’s case, it was about 21 days before a meteor hit earth. Of course, unanticipated friendships form and there are some other surprises too.

I appreciated the pace of this movie. It was spot on with intense parts and then times when the characters were able to slow down and ponder their past decisions as well as what was currently taking place in their hearts and lives.

The other thing I enjoyed about this movie, though minor, was the fact that the main character’s cleaning lady kept showing up to work. He told her not to come back because who cared about a clean house when the world’s ending? But she was compelled. She loved what she did. She just couldn’t stop.

The King’s Speech

I know. I’m a leeettle behind the times. I just now got around to seeing this movie. And Oh. My. Word. Really, Colin Firth deserved that Academy Award. Where to begin on why and how much I loved this film…the history, the acting, the story, the fact that nearly every person watching the movie could identify with the king’s struggles in some way. So, so good. Also, I just loved Lionel Logue. So sure of himself and what he had to offer. No formal training but he saw a need, a deep and painful need among hurting people who felt they had no voice, and he courageously stepped up to meet the need. I loved it.


A few years ago, I started following this controversial blogger named Rachel Held Evans. I kind of thought she was crazy, and I really thought she had lost her mind when she posted about her experiments of trying to be the Proverbs 31 woman. In fact, I can recall a particular day when I declared to Jeff that I was going to write her publisher, Thomas Nelson, to ask why they had signed her for a book deal.

But….then I caught on. She wasn’t really agreeing with everything she was doing. She was trying to prove a point—the point that it’s impossible to follow every passage for women in the Bible and totally possible that we pick and choose what we want from the Bible. Palm of hand to forehead. Yeah. I became a fan real quick.

Rachel writes intelligent posts on her blog. Even more so, I could tell she’d done her homework for this book, where she chose a different virtue each month for a year and wrapped it with trying to live out that virtue in a way connected to Scripture as well as tradition. My favorite part of this book was the beginning of each chapter where she highlighted women in the Bible, lesser talked about women such as Mary Magdalene and Tamar.

One aspect I struggled with was that it felt a little like she adopted a hodge-podge of many different cultures in her conclusion. Also, in pondering the people she interviewed and observed, I think I would be a little offended if someone picked a particular aspect of my life that I live out with sincerity, for instance Anglicanism, experimented with it, and then wrote about it with a tremendous amount of wit in order to sell a book. I wrestle with that.

In the end, I remain a fan of Rachel’s and am grateful for her insight. I also want to say that Rachel is creative and honest. Though I didn’t agree with all her conclusions, she wrote from her heart and put herself out there in a variety of ways. Well done, Woman of Valor!

This book is a compilation of words from various individuals. Some I had heard of and others were new to me. A friend and colleague of mine, Kristin Ritzau, was a contributor, and that’s how I came to know about the book. Initially, I thought I would immediately flip to Kristin’s chapter in this book, maybe read a few more, and then skim most of the rest.

Not so. I actually started at the beginning and was easily pulled into each chapter, into each person’s unique story and what wisdom they wanted to impart from hard lessons learned. I did enjoy Kristin’s words, but I also underlined a line or two or more in nearly every chapter. I highly recommend this book. It’s something you could read in a sitting or two, but you could also take your time and pick up a chapter here and there when you need a little encouragement.

Jeff finished seminary in early December. For years we’ve been starting sentences with “You should read….” And so, now we are finally doing that. We’ve decided to pick books for each other. Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to The Study of God is what he chose first for me. Naturally, a theology book.

I must say I did enjoy it. It put words into some thoughts I’ve had swirling around in my head for years. I particularly appreciated a chapter that outlined the difference between dogma, doctrine, and opinion. Oh, how we get these elements confused, and I had been given doctrine for many years that was treated like dogma. On the opposite end, it’s also not a great idea to rely on opinion all the time with no specific beliefs to ground us in our faith. This book is for all Christians. We should all be concerned about theology. How else will we know how to be God’s people in our world?

One side note: Kae saw me reading this and asked what the book was about. I told her it was about God. She goes, “Oh, I like that word.”

“What word?” I asked. “God?”

“Oh, yes.”

“And what do you like about God? What do you know about Him?” I continued.

“Well, He created us. He loves us.”

“Very good. What else?” I wondered.

“He will save us, and He’s bigger than the monsters.”

I think she summed it up quite nicely. Who needs theology? Everyone. Even four year olds.


Our 10th Anniversary

Yes, it has been ten years since two crazy kids said, “I do.” We had no idea what we were in for. That first year, Jeff finished undergrad, we moved to another town, and then we had Kyla just before our first anniversary. Life hasn’t slowed down much since. Another two moves (this time to other states), two graduate degrees, three more babies (two in heaven), and here we are.

This morning, I accidentally hit the corner of our dresser with my elbow while I was putting on a sweatshirt. I looked at the dented dressers we still have, that were hand-me-downs from a family member when we got married, then I looked over at our bed with the quilt my grandmother made us. I thought about how there is no one I’d rather be sleeping with under that 10-year-old quilt, next to those old scratched-up dressers.

We’ve had more than a few surprises and disappointments in this last decade. But God has been so faithful and good too. Can’t wait for the next ten years. I love you, Jeff Stone.

My girls…

I love my spunky Kae, who just turned five! She is a joy and says the funniest things. She is a good sister to Kyla and likewise, Kyla, is a great big sister to her.

Here they are helping me make some pumpkin bread:

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Charred Potholder on My Back Deck: An Arrival

“Most of us arrive at a sense of self and vocation only after a long journey through alien lands.” —Parker Palmer

I was in an alien land this week. The evidence of my journey is in the snow on my back deck.

Alien land: the kitchen. Evidence: a charred potholder from when I almost started a fire making lunch on Tuesday. Further evidence: a bandaid on my hand covering some minor burns.

After almost two weeks of vacation, it was clearly time for me to return to the office. I smiled yesterday when I saw my sticky note on my monitor that says, “This is what you do.”

Sigh. Yes. I do.

I haven’t always been this glad to be going in to work. For the larger part of my life I thought a cubicle would surely be my foreign land and the kitchen my haven. At least, I think I wanted it to be.

I remember the summer in college when I watched Martha Stewart nearly every morning. I proudly declared to a family member that I knew how to make my own mayonnaise.

She looked skeptical. I think she knew me better than I knew myself that day.

It’s taken a long time and a lot of less-traveled roads to get where I am today. In fact, I think I’ve spent more time as a traveler than I have at home, living and dwelling and being okay with the place where I belong.

I write about writing a lot and about my kitchen failures not because I think that what I do is superior to individuals who find solace standing next to a stove. I write about writing because I need to be reminded over and over that the steps through the strange lands of godly woman classes and shoddy Bible studies designed to help me deny my emotions and my desires are not my true self—the self that God made me to be.

I know it’s a fine line between what is taught about denying myself and living into who I am. And the billboards along the way falsely advertised “taking up my cross” as a denial of all things, including my feelings, my passions, and my dreams. But, as with most advertising, I was subjected to a lie.

It has taken many a trusted friend and a late-night talk with my husband to help me see the right signs. They’re small. They aren’t flashy. Sometimes I even need to slow down to see them. But they are there.

They are the whispers to a riot taking place around me. They are the voice of my Savior saying it’s okay to live into the pain that I encounter. He did. Willingly. It’s okay to face reality and to allow my emotions to show. The emotions that He gave me. They are a gift.

It’s okay to be overwhelmed with joy and to be honest about my shortcomings. It’s okay not to smile every week at church. Sometimes we must weep.

It’s even okay that I burned up a handmade potholder I received at my bridal shower ten years ago. It was given in love. But perhaps it’s now time for me to retire such things. For, I was a different woman back then. I wasn’t me. I was still looking for something. Someone, I guess.

Maybe even a couple of Someones—the real me and the One who made me. Truthfully, He’s been there all along. I just didn’t know it. I was too busy putting out potential fires and running from the confines of my kitchen. Screaming.