Sunday, December 15, 2013

Being Single this Christmas

Apparently you have to be about.....this age to be considered an expert on being single.  I don't know whether people just give up on you by this point or what, but it's super fun.  Until it's not. 

People in their 20's ask me questions with the tiniest hint of "I don't want to grow up and be like you" look in their eyes.  People much older than me seem intrigued by my life as if I'm what they wanted to be but couldn't possibly have imagined. 

I actually like being single.  I don't kneel by my bed at night and ask God to bring me the right person.  Mostly I ask him to move annoying people away from me.  I was never the person to cut out magazines of the perfect wedding.  I love children, but don't really want the responsibility of raising one to be a good human being.  Have enough trouble doing that myself! 

But, around the holidays I do get a little sad so I'm beginning my series on singleness with a post about how to cope.

1.  If you don't want to do it - don't.

Personally, I hate attending couples anything alone.  If it says bring a guest and I can get out of it, I'm probably not going to go.  My friends have a fit every single time I don't attend something, but I really don't care.  Sure, it makes me a little jealous when they get dressed up and leave (as a couple) and I'm on the couch in my pajama pants.  But, my general rule is, if it's going to make me feel more alone to go somewhere, I'll stay home.

2.  Practice good self care

Nothing makes me crazier than people who don't know how I feel telling me how to feel.  I know what makes me feel bad and I know what things I can do to help myself feel better.  So, during the holidays I try to get extra sleep.  I buy some new novels.  I maintain good spiritual disciplines.  And I spend time with people who love me just for who I am.  This past week I knitted a birthday gift, filled stockings for my dogs, and spent a whole day watching movies.  Because I wanted to.  And I can.  See?  Fun to be single.

3.  Remember this is temporary

The pictures on Facebook of perfect family gatherings, happiness everywhere, and people who look like they are surrounded by all the love in the world - will pass.  After everyone kisses at midnight on New Year's Eve - January comes and people go back to hating each other.  Just kidding.  But, after the holiday season comes real life.  I find I fit in better there.  Most people do.

4.  Maintain good boundaries

Tis not the season for working for all your coworkers who have kids.  Or cleaning up after the baking fun because you don't have anyone to go home to.  It's perfectly fine if you're going home just because you want to.  You don't have to help just because you have nothing better to do. 

5.  Enjoy the season

It's such a marvelous time to snuggle in close to the Christ child in the manger and listen for his heartbeat.  Tune in to what this season is saying to your heart and to your soul.  Our God is with us.  That means whether it seems like it or feels like it - we're not alone.  Go to parties with other people who aren't attached.  Buy yourself a Christmas present.  Go to church and soak up the music and readings of the season even if you have to sit alone. 

It's a season of hope.  Not that you'll find the perfect mate and all your problems will disappear.  The hope of eternity.  Of Heaven coming to earth one glorious night.  His love is unconditional and more genuine than any human being is capable of offering.  If you feel like the person outside the window of a Christmas party moving the curtain and looking at all the people surrounded by happiness, try not to feel left out.  If you can't join in the fun, go home, put on your comfiest pjs and drink some holiday wine. 

Cheers!  The holidays don't last forever.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

By our love

Let's just get this out of the way first.  I like to judge people.  I'm especially fond of judging people who judge me (or might judge me) first.  That's fair.  Right?  Justified even.

Except it's not.  And that's how I found myself wide awake in the middle of last night repeating in my head, "Judge not, lest you be judged."  Apparently the Holy Spirit doesn't take naps.

I like to judge people I don't know about things they should or shouldn't be doing.  I have an opinion on situations I know nothing about.  I want people to see me as a whole picture offering grace for my faults and love for my insecurities, but I don't want to do that for other people.  Ever really.

Oh, I can act spiritually appropriate when I have to.  I can offer endless grace to people I love and like.  I can forgive and forget anything you do.  As long as I want to.  

And it's possible, on a good day, that I'm not as bad of a person as I think.  Maybe.

As I returned to the Gospels this morning, I paid attention to how Jesus walked.  We don't see him gossiping with the disciples.  We don't find him telling everyone about the woman at the well.  You know, as a prayer request.  We just see him loving all people all the time.

And it isn't that he's just a nice guy who doesn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.  He stepped on everyone's toes.  In love.  To make them better.  To make them like Him.

I'm called to do the same.  Not to those I want to.  Not to the ones who are like me.  Not when I feel like it.  Not when they don't judge me.  Everyone.  All the time.  

It doesn't mean I can never have an opinion.  It doesn't mean I can't verbally hash things out with my people.  It just means at the root of who I am, in the midst of any situation, in response to every injustice and every hurt, I love.  Bitterness will kill me.  Anger steals my joy.  And being mean spirited makes Jesus cry.  And I try not to do that!

Not because we know everything.  Not because we're more spiritual than the rest of the world.  And certainly not because we have it all together.  

No.  They'll know we are our love.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Praying for the world

I fall onto my unmade bed dramatically pushing three dogs a bit here and a little there so we can all fit.  "Life is tricky," I say to no one in particular, but  I guess to them.  They continue to chew on their new bones oblivious to my wonderings.

I grab Shine, my formerly abused rescue dog by the ears and say, "It is!  It really is!"  She licks my face and returns to her bone. 

The world is a mess and really, it always has been.  We just now have immediate access to every last detail, real or imagined, of every single event in the world today.  As if it wasn't enough to have the actual story, thanks to social media we now get all the speculations in the process.  I don't have cable for a lot of reasons, but one of the main ones is the news.  I don't like it.  I don't want to watch it.  And it stresses me out. 

But I wonder sometimes as a Christian if that's the right approach.  Jesus didn't bury his head in the sand when the going got tough.  He figured out how he could help and he did.  And I want to help!  I'm just not sure I can solve the Middle East Crisis, world hunger, or countless other worldwide tragedies too awful to mention. 

As I was talking to a friend later that day, I remembered a story from the monastery.  I asked one of the monks how long it took for them to find out about 9/11.  He said, "5 days."  He didn't offer how he found out and I didn't ask.  "Didn't that stress you out not to know?"  He looked at me like I was crazy.  "I cannot be stressed about what I do not know."

Of course!  But these are people that have devoted their lives to prayer for themselves and for the world.  How can you do that if you don't know?

Wiser than I (duh) he gently said, "Every morning when my feet touch the floor I pray for the world.  I ask God to bless it and keep it and to give those who walk upon it peace.  How could I know better than God what the world needs today?"

That gives me peace.  I can't fix worldwide problems by myself.  I don't have the political or financial resources to save a country from famine.  And I certainly can't comfort every single hurting person in the world today.  But I can pay attention to the world that surrounds me.  I can offer a cup of cold water to the homeless man with an oxygen tank on the side of the road in 100 degree weather.  I can hold the hand of the dying woman in the nursing home.  I can show up where I am.

Thanks to that monk, my prayers for the world have changed.  I still pray specifically for needs as I know about them, but generally I just pray that God would walk among us.  That He would bring healing and hope to a hurting world.  And that if I can help, He would show me.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What I know for sure at 33

Not presuming to know everything or even have most of the answers,
these things I know for sure at this point in my journey.

I can fail gracefully: there may be perfection expectation from some people, but not from within me.  Those who walk genuinely will trip, stumble, and occasionally fall flat on our faces.  And it's okay. 

I can be alone: There's some strange pressure in your 20's to fill every moment with social scheduling whether you want to participate or not.  I love my friends and like to be social.  But I also like to just hang out with people without an agenda and see where the conversation trail leads.  And I like to curl up in my favorite chair with my favorite blanket and read a book or not.  And it's okay.

I have something to say: I got a tiny bit of slack for writing a somewhat memoir last year from people who out-age me by a lot.  During the process I more than once doubted myself.  But the book has done well and God has shown up in the lives of people because I put his words on paper.  My blog just passed 34,000 visits.  I have no idea why.  It helps me to document where I am, where I wish I was, and where I believe I can be.  People find companionship with my journey - good, bad and ugly.  And that's okay.

Perfection is Unattainable:  I wish I was thinner.  I wish my hair would cooperate even 4.8% of the time.  I wish I wasn't so fragile sometimes.  But I'm where I am right now today.  Wishing I was something, someone different steals today of all the joy it contains.  And that's not okay.

Life cannot be preserved:  Saving time today won't give me an excess check for tomorrow.  My life clock could run out at any minute.  I'm grateful to be here and will be very grateful to go Home.  I hold on loosely to the things of this world.  And that's okay.

Simplicity is amazing:  I love some material things as much as the next person, but that's not where my heart finds fulfillment and that's not where peace gains expression.  I find God in the sunrise, in a set of lost keys, in the smile of a stranger, and a short line at Starbucks.  I'm thankful as I go for little things.  And that's okay.

I am not broken:  Life presents itself with cracks, weaknesses, and downright ugliness.  I'm no exception.  But I'm taking every one of those things and learning to see them as opportunities.  A chance to grow.  A chance to do better.  A chance to ask for forgiveness.  I am not broken - I'm human.  And that's okay.

God is the only for sure:  I used to wonder if I loved God so much because He was all I had.  Now I'm sure of it.  I'm not apologizing for my faith, but I'm also not going to shove what I believe in your face.  If you can't find my faith, my trust, my love for a Living God in who I am, then that's my fault - not yours.  We may believe differently.  We may understand the same things in contradictory ways.  And we may both be children of God.  And that's more than okay.

Yes, Jesus loves me: Undeserving as I may be, the Trinity has me surrounded.  They know on my best day, I'm a sinner.  They're convinced given enough opportunities to, I'll make them look bad.  Jesus knew He would die for me and I'd still act like an ungrateful two year old most of the time.  The Holy Spirit must break a toe a few times a day kicking me in the head.  But, Jesus loves me.  There's no way around it.  Signed, sealed, delivered - I belong to Him.  And that's so okay.

God loves me so that I can love His world and his people. 
That includes my enemies and that includes myself. 
Love will win. 
Love has won.
And love is enough. 
Of that I'm sure.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Only Hallmark is happy about holidays

I was having a discussion today with someone who said only Hallmark is happy about holidays.  They're probably right. 

Although God blessed me with a wonderful step-father who gladly took on the responsibility of two children, there's always a bond (good or bad) with your father.

It's hard to believe he died 6 years ago.  It's harder to believe he encompassed so much of my young life and so many hours of therapy in early adulthood.

He was the best guy.  So funny.  So likable.  The best friend anyone could ever ask for.  And if you ask my cousins - hands down the best uncle on the planet.

He just probably didn't need to be a father.  He loved the good times, but he couldn't tolerate the rest.  He didn't want to be a parent.  He didn't want to be unconditionally committed to anyone and whether you're 8 or 80 - you know that.

The last time I saw him was when I was in college visiting at Christmas. He never looked up from the table.  I hadn't seen him in 2 years.  He asked me how school was in Tennessee.  I went to school in Kentucky.  And when I left I said goodbye and he never answered.

I don't blame him.  I just don't think he was capable of genuine relationships and he proved that from his death bed.  I can't imagine knowing I was dying of cancer and having an extended period to say good bye and not taking it.  How do you not at least call your child at the end?

I can't answer that.

But God gave me a sweet gift.  My dad held on to life at the end and no matter what anyone said, he wouldn't let himself go on.  Finally they called me at work and asked me to tell him he could die.  That it was time. 

And because it was the right thing to do - I did.  I told him I forgave him and I loved him.  And then he died.  I like to think that interaction covered time and space and said more than any conversation could.

At this stage in my life, I can only thank him.  When someone described God to me at a very early age as a Father who loved unconditionally - I was all in.  And I've been all in ever since.  I'm thankful that he made me a better person because I never want anyone in my life to think they aren't loved and that I wouldn't fight for friendship and relationships.  He made me want to love with reckless abandon even if it's meant getting hurt sometimes.  And it has.

With or without meaning to, he made me better.  And for that - I'm thankful.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Be thou near to me

It’s both my spiritual theme and the biggest fear I have that when arriving in Heaven God will say, “You made that really hard for both of us.”  And He’ll be right.
He invites me to trust Him while I lose sleep worrying if everything will be alright. 

He promises me security within the confines of His perfect presence while I kick and scream that no one cares.

He ensures the promise of Heaven when Earth is overwhelming even as I place all of my hope in the temporal.
I'm making it hard - on both of us.
I’m learning to stop overcomplicating what is not my concern.  I’m discovering great peace in letting God mind my own business.  And I’m finding joy in learning to trust.

Although I love complicated prayers with big words that explain to God what I can’t articulate, I also love the simplistic, heartfelt cry of a soul that just wants to know Him.  A heart that wants nothing more than holy, reverent friendship with the divine creator who calls me his own. 
So I pray the prayers I love still and I seek guidance from the God who ever invites me to follow Him with whatever is on my heart at the moment. 

But, more frequently these days, I find myself closing my eyes and praying one prayer more than others – not just for me but for the ones I love.  A prayer that I am confident God gladly answers every single time I call.

“Be thou near to me.”


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Permission to be Single

I don’t think people mean to come across condescending and negative.  Well, maybe they do, but I’m going to choose to believe they don’t.  We all have this unnecessary urge to label everyone and fit them into a category of our own choosing.  We do it with denominations, careers, relationships, and lifestyles.  And when people don’t fit, we don’t know what to do.  I’m as guilty as the next person.
For those of you who need to hear this, let me offer you a freeing truth – you can just be single.  You don’t have to be married or even want to be married.  You don’t have to have children or even want to have children.  And just because you don’t want to enter into a lifelong covenant with someone does not make you gay, unattractive, or unworthy. 
I have friends who kneel down beside their beds every night and beg God for the godly spouse they’re waiting on to arrive from the castle.  And honest to God, I hope he shows up because they deserve it.  They feel called to be a wife and a mother and it’s heartbreaking to watch that seemingly never come to pass.

But it’s not for everyone and you’re not a lesser person if it’s not for you.

Don’t get me wrong.  The perfect guy shows up who can contribute to this life without killing it?  I’ll reconsider.  In the meantime?  No.  I’m not opposed to marriage.  I’m surrounded by people who live marriage really, really well.   I think kids are awesome and my friends always want me to hang out with theirs.  I just don’t like the part where I would have to raise them into decent human beings.  I’d so much rather be the fun person who lets them eat ice cream for dinner and tucks them  in at night… two times a week max.

I’ve never once cut anything out from a bridal magazine unless it was the card in the middle at the dentist office so I could spit out my gum.  I did not watch Disney fairy tales as documentaries.  And I’m certainly not producing offspring just so I won’t die alone.  Lord, have mercy.

I get self-conscious about it, too.  I get it.  I worry what people think, get tired of being alone all the time, and feel like I have to constantly defend myself about not being gay, not being the marrying type, or somehow be missing something by being alone.  I get sucked into that vortex of crazy.  I honestly do. 

But, guess what?  It passes.  And I can return to a life that I feel perfectly called to live. 

You can be a child of God, perfectly lovable, within the will of God for you, and be single. 
Stop apologizing.  Stop living like you’re waiting for something better to happen.  Because even if it does?  It’s not guaranteed forever.  Go have fun with your friends.  Take vacations with people you love or all by yourself.  Find friends with funny kids and be the cool person who stops by to play.  Seriously, live.

You might feel like a lesser species, but trust me.  Plenty of people think single people are the smart ones.  I tend to agree.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

When the Trinity Speaks

On some deeply theological level the Trinity is super complicated.  1+1+1=1.  I get it.  What can I say?  I don't like math.

I like the ruling, overwhelming power of The Father.  I like that He's too big, too holy, too perfect for my finite mind.  I couldn't even stand in his presence without collapsing into a cloud of "you're nothing but dust."  And I need that hefty dose of humility.

The Father would be enough, but He would feel so far away.  So, he sent the Son.  And Jesus offers me access to the trinity, friendship, tangible proof that God was here.  He was ever divine, but also human. me! 

And Jesus would be enough.  But, Jesus left.  He fulfilled his mission and went Home.  And we're still....well, here.  So, proceeding from the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit.  That gentle hurricane that both comforts and convicts.

To me their voices are different when scripture portrays them.  Their tone and intentions are often different and yet the overwhelming purpose is to draw us to the Father.  To make us like them.  And like One.

This Trinity Sunday I'm thankful for the guiding love of the Father, the friendship of the Son, and the peaceful presence of the Spirit. 

Three in one.  And One. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Pentecost Presence

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.
I learned a long time ago that you might as well tell God how you feel.  Acting spiritual is crazy making and not just for him.  Even though I so know better, I still like to think playing Hide and Seek with the Almighty could result in me winning the blue ribbon.
It goes something like this.....
Me trapped in a corner.
God saying, "Found you.  Found you.  Found you.  Found you."
Tiring.  And not just for him.
If I had to pick one piece of the Divine Trinity that's my favorite, it would be the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost must have been awesome, especially for the disciples.  Jesus was there and He upgraded to this mystical, powerful, very present presence that seemed to whisper to everyone there that day, "you are not alone."
This season of this life has been intense mostly of my own making.  In the interest of telling God exactly what I think, the other day I prayed a deeply spiritual prayer that will surely be added to the next version of the Book of Common Prayer.
"God. Fix it.  Or fix me.  I want comfy pj's, a hammock in the shade, a fabulous book, and a hug.  I need your comfort to calm the questions and your peace to prevail.  The sooner the better.  And that's the Earthly version of soon.  Amen."
And I remembered the verses about the Holy Spirit.  How he comes like a dove carefully when we're fragile.  How his honest conviction kicks us in the head reminding us to keep our mouths shut and our hearts open. 
And most important to me anyway, how he'll wrap us up like a favorite blanket and surround us with the love of God.  Just because we asked him.
This Pentecost and always - He is with us.  And that's a promise.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Art of Procrastination - Writing Edition

As far as this writer is concerned, I spend most of my writing life ......not writing.  I think about writing.  I even plan whole days where I write intend to write.  I'm an expert, really.  So, if you don't know how to spend a whole day writing - I'll tell you all my secrets.  You're welcome.

Dear Diary, tomorrow I'm gonna write ALL day!  From like 6 a.m. to Midnight!  It's gonna be magical.  Goodnight!

6:00 a.m. Hit snooze button and condemn yourself for having a subscription to Netflix and staying up until 3 watching Hoarders to feel better about your closet.

6:10, 20, 30 .....Snooze

8:16 Have heartfelt conversation with yourself until you're convinced that true creativity needs rest and extra sleep will speed up the creative juices later in the day.  FOR SURE!

10:01 Fall OUT of bed having a dream that your manuscript was buried beneath a large pile of takout containers and bottled water.

10:02 make, drink, coffee - repeat, repeat, repeat.

10:28 decide to get dressed for the day in your writing clothes.  Find this t-shirt only slightly not so clean and put it on. 

10:40 Walk outside.  Even though it's 95 degrees and you never walk, go for a walk.  It's good to exercise.  You heard Dr. Oz say that recently and it definitely should start today.  Immediately.

11:20 Wander home.  Pat yourself on the back for getting started writing by noon.

11:22 Write an e-mail to a friend about how much you love being an author

11:25 Check book sales of your last book

11:27 Open Word document and save it as.....something.

11:30  Starving - you must have lunch.  Cooking from scratch really is healthier and besides, you can watch Homeland on your Kindle while you cook.  Efficient!! 

2:00 Tired from your big morning, take a nap.

3:34 Groggy, make coffee, drink, repeat.

3:40 Sit down at computer.  Make grocery list, dentist appointment, order shoes, and check Amazon for organic green beans while eating cheeze curls.

3:45 Google how to clean cheeze curl powder off keyboard.

4:06 Remember funny joke your friend told yesterday.  Find it on line and laugh all over again.  Share it on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.  While you're there, might as well see what everyone is up to.

7:19 Where does the time go?  Think about that for a little bit and how life is fleeting.

8:00 Hungry again.  Should probably go eat with friends since that's where your material comes from anyway.  Eat good food.  Drink good wine.  Laugh and laugh and.....what time is it?

11:45 come home, get in your comfy pj's and check the computer one more time.  Open word document and write at the very top......

Chapter 1

11:59 Go to bed.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gone Fishin


I looked up from watering my roses to see the dirtiest kid ever running in my direction barefoot and wearing only overalls carrying a fishing pole.

I like kids.  No, really, I do.  Especially clean, funny kids.  At that moment he was neither to me.

"Lady?"  I almost didn't answer, but I'm afraid of being the single crazy cat lady in the neighborhood that makes all the children afraid so.....  

"Hey, what's up?"

"Lady, do you have any worms?"

"Worms?" I asked borderline condescendingly.  

No person child or adult has ever looked at me like he did.  His face twisted into this look like adults were just the saddest people and he flat felt sorry for them.

I jumped back as he said at 10 level loud, "WORMS!  FOR FISHIN!  WORMS!"

It took me a minute to remember he was a minor and beating him up would probably make me a bad person.

"Oh," I said stepping back, "no, sorry, I don't."

Exasperated, he put down his fishing pole and folded his arms across some unknown slime on his too big overalls.  He got uncomfortably close to me before asking for real condescendingly, "do you THINK you could help me FIND some?"

I looked at my manicured fingernails and back at the at this point scary little person and heard myself say, "Um, ok?"

So, we dug around in the dirt with great purpose and found a few worms.  It was, perhaps, the best way I've spent 10 minutes lately.  He picked up his fishing pole, stuck the worms in his front pocket and hopped off down the road stopping only to stomp in a puddle along the way.  

I sat on my front step and smiled.  I prayed for that little boy that he would always have childlike faith and never forget to jump in puddles.  I prayed that whenever he needed help, someone would be there - even if it was just to find a little bait for a fishin trip.

And I prayed he would catch a fish because I like to think the smile on a child's face brings one to God's, too.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Confirmation - one year later

Do you renew your commitment to Jesus Christ?

I do, and with God's grace I will follow him as my Savior and Lord.
Truth be told, I wasn't sure it was going to be that big of a deal.  I had just spent a year of my life in the trenches trying to convince people who weren't listening I was not going to Hell because I walked out the door of one denomination and into the doors of another.  And maybe, just a tiny bit, I was trying to convince myself, too. 

God knows I tried to find out for myself why joining the Episcopal Church was such a terrible idea.  But, it wasn't working.  I read doctrine and history.  I listened as people told me what the church meant to them.  Probably with arms crossed I told the priest during one of my confirmation sessions, "I'm not going to agree with everything in the Episcopal Church." 

She never missed a beat.  "Okay, that's fine."  Quickly apparent to me was this church let you think and have an opinion.  Fascinating! 

I even made a pro/con list, but never got past the first pro - "God led me to Christ Church."  I don't believe you can always trust your feelings, but sometimes you just know.  Run around, read a bunch of stuff, drive yourself crazy if you want to, but when God speaks - listen.

It's my experience that the important decisions are often fraught with opposition.  Test of faith?  Maybe.  An opportunity for God to get all the credit?  Absolutely.  And I'll gladly give it to Him because I still find myself at the altar sometimes thinking, "Wait, what?  How did I end up here?"

Confirmation was a spiritual line in the sand for me; a leap from confusion to confidence.  Oh, I loved the same God before and after.  My faith remained.  But, I was different.  And maybe that's the point of any true spiritual transformation anyway. 

God doesn't need me to defend Him or what he's up to in my life.  He only needs me to follow Him as my Lord and Savior.  And I will continue to.  With God's grace.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Brave Enough

Scripture is often frustrating in an attempt to be helpful.
                Worried?  Don’t be!
                Anxious?  Don’t be!
                Afraid?  Don’t be!

Uh huh.  If my genuine leather copy of Holy Scripture didn’t cost more than 2 pairs of heels, I might be tempted to dramatically throw it in the air and scream, “Easier said than done, God!  Easier said than done.” 

But, courage and bravery have been echoing in my heart lately.  I’m fragile.  I get hurt too easily and break too permanently.  I proclaim that God is enough and then act like He couldn’t possibly be. 

Warning: if you ever have a book published, people will use your own words against you and you will hate it! 

God has helped me lately to dig through some emotional garbage and find the truth.  And the truth is, I have to be braver. 

Brave enough to realize I can and am doing life on my own and that’s okay.  I have to make every decision - career, financial, household, and life.  No one else is going to do it for me.  And brave enough to know I may feel alone sometimes, but God will never leave me.  He promises.

Brave enough to realize I love maybe too much.  Some, (not all!), but some of my relationships are painfully one sided and that’s not fair.  Quality relationships have to be give and take.  And I can be brave enough to know that some of them need to go.

Brave enough to realize I’m okay.  I’m not drop dead beautiful, anywhere near the perfect weight, or emotionally super stable most of the time, but I’ve made it this far when sometimes I never thought I would.  I did the work and I’m way more okay that I could have been.      

So, I’m praying for courage these days.  I’m not praying that I would be a super Christian with all the answers and a perfect relationship with God.  I’m not praying that life would go my way all the time and in every way.  I’m not even praying for miracles or signs or wonders.  I’m praying God would remind me that He loves me and that He would show his love through this cracked and fragile vessel.  I’m praying for an authentic life over a perfect one. 

I’m praying that I would always be His.

That I would be secure in Him.

And that no matter what comes……

I’ll be brave enough.      

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why I keep the Daily Office

The Daily Office is meant to be prayed together in community.  There have been few greater spiritual moments in my life than sitting in the pews with the monks at the abbey listening to the daily office prayed and sung seven times in a 24 hour period.  It feels stable and connected both with God and each other.  There is deep soul work done in the repetition of the words and the heart cry of prayers passed on for hundreds of years to the faithful few who dare to keep it. 

But we don’t have the luxury of constant community, so I often pray it on my own.  Over the years I have changed from exactly the written prayers to several others I’ve found along the way.  I love Celtic prayers and the prayers of the saints.  I rarely keep all the offices on any given day, but very few go by when I don’t keep the watch of Vigils at 3:15 a.m.  It’s been years since I’ve set my alarm for this office, but still around 3 I tend to wake up.  I no longer need a light to pray the prayers so often I soak up the darkness and stillness and find God to be very present to this life.  It's holy ground for me.

Sometimes it’s a 30 second prayer because I’m a firm believer the most spiritual thing we can do for ourselves at times is sleep.  But, more often than not, 3 a.m. finds me praying true soul prayers.  It’s my best writing and journal time.  And it’s the time of day I most feel loved by the Father.  I live as we all do in the tension of the now and the not yet of the spiritual life, and that is what 3 a.m. tends to be for me.  It’s not really night and it’s not really morning.  And God is present without distraction.

People always ask me how to pray the offices.  The short answer?  Do it.  I don’t believe in people telling me what to do so I wouldn’t suggest everyone pray vigils.  Last week I prayed morning prayer at 2 p.m. still in my pajamas.  Hey, it’s morning somewhere!  I have friends who faithfully pray an office at lunch and others when they wake.  Some like to end their day by praying Vespers or Compline.  It doesn’t matter.  Find what works for you and do it consistently.  There is great wisdom in the ancient spiritual fathers and those in monasteries today who create a discipline of prayer.  And if we’re faithful, we’ll soon find when it’s not a part of our days, we miss it.  And that’s how we nurture our spiritual lives.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Remembering Brennan Manning

Last year when Brennan Manning’s latest book came out, we had a little debate at the bookstore where I worked at the time.  Having loved his writing forever, I immediately added All is Grace to my bookshelf and my heart.  It was the final work of a man that had, more than once, saved my spiritual life.  And I never take those people for granted.  Never.
That day at the store someone suggested Brennan Manning maybe wasn’t a Christian because he struggled with addiction and doubts the entirety of his life.  They felt that maybe he never found Christ because he wasn’t ever truly free by worldly standards.  They didn’t think anything negative should consume the life forever of a true follower of Christ.  I refrained barely from making a comment about judgment, ahem, and said nothing. 

At some point we’re not supposed to struggle?  Is that even possible living in a place we don’t belong?  Aren’t the faith and the growth and the victory IN the struggle?  To reach a place where we are beyond stumbling and past falling would be……Heaven.  Literally.

I’m not a big crier, but the first copy of his book Abba’s Child I owned ended up with tear stained highlighter running off the book and onto the floor.  It was maybe the first time in my adult life I truly understood.  I was not just loved by God, I was unconditionally sought after, saved, and kept by the only One able to keep every promise and forgive every sin.  With Him, I belonged!

So, here’s to you Brennan Manning.  May you rest in peace knowing your transparent love of the Father and honest stumbling made those of us covered with patches and held together only by grace feel like we had company on the journey.  Enjoy being Home. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The church and depression

The recent news of Rick Warren's son committing suicide has not only rocked people individually, but the church as well.  I've written extensively on here about my own journey with depression and my spiritual thoughts about mental illness.  I'm certainly not saying every person having a bad day needs dragged to the altar for a splash of oil and a low key exorcism, but I am saying as the church we have got to get better at helping struggling people.  

Rick mentions in his letter to his church family that his son had everything possible available  for healing physically, mentally, financially, and spiritually.  He lived at least ten years longer than he wanted to and still last weekend he killed himself.  He died.  He's no longer here and if you want my two cents - he's in Heaven.

Check back later this week for my blog post How to go to Hell and stay there.  For now I'll say it's not up to us to assume everyone who commits suicide goes to Hell.  I happen to think God understands suffering much better than we do.  

Trust me on this - you can love God with everything you have and still not want to be here another second.  Even a soul saved by grace has a dark night sometimes.  And often that darkness lingers.   Despair is exhausting.

People don't have to be throwing themselves off a bridge to be dying.

And the Warren family tragedy is proof that the church can't save everyone from ending their life, or suffering, or feeling hopeless.  But, as a church we can be there and we can do better.  We can show up.  We can be in community enough to know how people are doing.  And how they're doing really.

Having all the answers is never a requirement for helping.  If you have hands then you can hold someone else.  If you have ears you can listen.  And if you have a heart you can help.  People would much rather hear, "I'm so sorry," than a 12 step solution for feeling better by Friday anyway.

As for eternal life, that's not up to us.  I like to think God picks up the bottle of tears to overflowing and feels the hurt.  He senses pain before we do.  He knows when hearts are broken and the repairs aren't holding.  He knows.

I echo the sentiment of Ruth Graham today who said, "When a believer takes their own life, God hasn't called them home, but He welcomes them home."


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

I hate Holy Week

Between the palm branches last Sunday and the Easter lilies coming up, I tend to focus less on holiness and more on remembering my Zyrtec this time of year.  I don't like holy week.  I don't like all the drama that sends the Savior of the people down a scary, lonely path to a Father forgotten cross and into a common tomb alone before we get to party.  

I don't like Jesus praying alone in the garden without the support of his friends.

I don't like Judas and Peter acting stupid when Jesus needs them most.

I don't like the King of Kings standing before Pilate having to defend Himself when HE is the Truth.

I don't like the depiction of Mary in The Passion movie where tears run down her face as her son passes bloody and torn struggling to carry the weight of the cross and the sins of the world.

I don't like that the other thief on the cross doesn't choose Christ in what has to be the best evangelism scenario of all time.

I don't like that Jesus felt forgotten by the Father.  That on the worst, most painful, agonizing day of his life, he had to walk alone.  

I don't like the body of the Son of God, the body that healed the sick with a touch of his hand, that called Lazarus from the dead with human lungs, and that used ordinary muscles to draw a line in the sand, got put in a tomb like a lot of other people that died that day.

What can I say?  I don't like the story until he rises again.  It's not triumphant until the tomb is empty and Peter is reassured and Jesus is back with the Father.

I don't like that he had to die.  And I don't like that I'm responsible.  So there.

But, I'll walk this Holy Week with joyful anticipation of that first light of Easter.  I'll rejoice when the tomb is empty.  I will.  But, until then, I'll walk with Jesus through the garden, down the road, to the cross, and into the empty tomb.  I'll thank him that long before I took my first breath, he took his last on Earth.  For me.  

He paid for the sins he didn't commit so I could be free.  He fulfilled his life knowing it would matter to every single life that would come after his.  Including mine.  He felt alone and abandoned so I would never, ever have to.  

For that and so much more, I'm forever grateful.  Especially during Holy Week.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


"Chicken or steak?" she asked from across my living room.

"What?"  I asked.

"Chicken or steak!  Would Jesus eat chicken or steak?" she asked again.

I rolled my eyes.

"Fish.  Jesus would eat fish and he probably shared it," I insisted.

She thought for a minute before she said, "You don't know that."

It was one of those deeply spiritual moments that keep some people out of Hell and lead others closer to Christ.  Life changing for sure.  Obviously.  

But, it's actually just the kind of discussion I live to have.  

It may not be important what he had, but it matters to me that Jesus ate lunch.  I like the thought that right after he got heartburn, he ran to John the Baptist and told him he knew locusts were a bad idea.  I like that maybe a mosquito bit him one day and he had a private chat with the Father about his decisions at creation.  I feel certain he got tired of walking the same dusty roads in not very comfortable sandals with people who had to occasionally drive him crazy.  And I wonder in those moments if he closed his eyes and remembered how it felt to walk and dance on streets of gold in the ever available presence of his Father.

Maybe his heart skipped a beat as he thought, "I'm here for a little while, but soon I'm going Home."

Did he question his calling?  Probably not.  Did he have some bad days, some fearful times, and loneliness?  Absolutely.  Anyone would feel like that where they don't truly belong.

More than anything, while he was here, he loved.  He did the work the Father gave him wherever he found himself.  Dealing with hard headed disciples, comforting a woman at the well, raising a child from the dead, spinning a hyper kid around telling him, "God loves you!" holding a single rose afraid of what those thorns would mean, weeping tears of blood in the garden, forgiving those that murdered him with his very last breath, and listening from a better place when the veil was torn.  

I can almost hear him shouting to those people, to all who would come after, and to you, and to me, "You have access to my Father now!  Go.  Do what he has for you.  Soon you'll be Home, too."

And if I'm very still and very quiet, I can hear him whisper those things to my own heart.  

The Creator of the universe, the One who is ever present, all knowing, and still interested in in a little life, reaches down to this tiny speck of humanity and invites me to be like Jesus.  To trust Him.  To be like Him.  To love.  

And to be faithful.  

Even in the great big important things.  Even in the small seemingly pointless things.  Even when I don't feel like it.  Even when I do.

Even if it means sometimes the only thing he needs me to do today is share my lunch.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

True Confessions

Although I do believe in celebrating Epiphany in it's 12 days after Christmas Day entirety, my Christmas tree is still up.  Part of it is it's in a room I never go in.  Part of it is I'm just not ready to put it away.  Every single year I feel the same.  Even though I didn't work in retail this Christmas, even though I participated in so much of the liturgical tradition this year, even though I attempted (and failed miserably) at celebrating Advent - I just don't feel like the season has soaked in enough.  I don't feel like the peace of Christmas really got into the heart of who I am.  So, I'm not taking it down.  Yet.

Maybe it was because I scheduled my first real confession just a few days before Christmas. Oh, don't freak out.  I have, do, and will forever believe that God hears my prayers, confessions, whiny moments and tears just as well from anywhere I happen to be as He did from a priest's office.  But, I needed a big do-over in some ways and that's how I chose to make that happen.  More about that another time.  Maybe.

I'm living in the aftermath of having a book published.  It's such a wonderful season, but starting work on my next book makes me miss so much being able to do research by sitting down with the monks and letting them tell me about God.  I miss observing their lives and learning from their example.  I don't think there's a second book about the monasteries, but in a little bit of a homesick way, I wish there was. 

I'm also loving only having one job.  I'm loving getting close to finishing up school.  I'm finding it pure luxury to stay home in my pajamas and write papers and the occasional page or two of a book.  I'm learning about slowing down and living intentionally.  I've returned to a daily yoga practice and a jogging schedule.  I'm doing fun stuff that I haven't had time for in years.  I'm finding God in small ways and big ways every step of the way.  True Confession?  I've never loved Him more.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year. Same resolutions

Proof that I'm a slow learner?  My New Year's resolutions this year are the same as last year.  And they just might be the same next year.  I've settled into the fact that becoming more like Christ, trusting God in all things, and resting in Him might just be the resolutions I seek to master for all the days of the rest of my life.  

2012 was good to me.  I went through Confirmation in the Episcopal Church and that experience ended up meaning far more than I anticipated.  I've only spent 2 years in the Episcopal Church, but I'm thankful God has called me to the liturgical tradition for such a time as this.
My first book came out!  The experience was more rewarding, more frustrating, and more wonderful than I ever could have imagined.  It's a sweet season now to be reading e-mails and comments from readers who feel drawn to a more monastic life because of this book.  My time at the monasteries are such a big part of my love story with God and how He found me when I needed Him most.  

2013 will find me finishing grad school, working for a new hospital company, and finding God in new and similar ways.  He's faithful.  Of that I'm sure.

Happy New Year!