Monthly Archives: April 2014
“Not knowing when the dawn will come
I open every door.”
I love this line from Emily Dickinson, a reminder that hope is about showing up, keeping our eyes open, and participating in God’s work in our lives . . . even when we don’t know, even when we can’t see, even when it doesn’t make sense.
We still watch for the coming dawn. We still trust a miracle is on its way.
I know that’s practically impossible some days.
Have you ever been through a really intense season, marked with lots of urgency and overwhelm and churning and swirling? And you’re so very in need of a dawn?
I have been waiting for a dawn of sorts in my own life, a time when all the internal urgency and fatigue and overwhelm would dissipate. I’m so grateful to say that this dawn is arriving, dose upon dose, and I feel remarkably grateful.
But, I have to say, part of this dawn arriving was the opening of every door . . . of pursuing my own health like it was my job, of investigating, sharing openly with trusted friends, writing about it, being courageous as I was able, beginning again.
Also, feeling very low and learning to invite Christ into that lowness. Not knowing when the dawn would come, I opened every door (with help, of course).
In my opinion, one of the central questions in all of Scripture (if not THE central question) is the question Jesus poses to the lame man by the pool at Bethesda in John 5: “Do you want to get well?”
“Um, hello, Jesus. I’ve been sitting here by this pool for 38 years, waiting to be healed. Obvi.”
Jesus knows that we all want someone to come along and help us get fixed, in the ways that we are broken or unhinged or disappointed or unsatisfied. But do we really want to get well? Do we want to participate in the process? Do we want to do the work? Do we want to make the hard decisions? Do we want to change?
Because these are brazen propositions.
“Do you want to get well?”
And if we do, if we really do, are we willing to open every door, to keep believing, even though the light has not yet come?
Where do you need a dawn to come in your life? What does it mean to open every door as you wait for that dawn?
I’m working on the copyedits for Breathing Room this week and next. It’s vulnerable to take that manuscript out of the FedEx envelope and begin looking back over it after you’ve been away from it for awhile.
Breathing Room was borne out of an intense season of my life, one that feels vulnerable to share.
I don’t think anyone relishes feeling overwhelmed or loves painstakingly capturing exactly what it all felt like. And yet, I believe (or, at the very least, want to believe) that this book will become a companion to someone out there who is feeling internally disoriented. Someone who really needs a good laugh and a good cry and to read something that helps them feel seen and known.
It’s scary though, isn’t it, to open up and talk about what’s under the surface. It’s scary to talk about how crazy we’re feeling sometimes, how much we’re longing for some breathing room, how unsure we are about the way forward. It’s scary to just put it all out there and not pretty it up too much. At least, it’s scary for me. All day yesterday I felt like that emoticon with all the teeth showing.
So, if you are up against something scary or vulnerable or uncomfortable today and you need the grit to take that very next small step, I’m with you and I get it.
Let’s shuffle our feet together, trudging if necessary. Let’s figure out what we need to help us get up off the couch and one step closer to telling the truth. Maybe it’s coffee. Maybe it’s therapy. Maybe it’s a ridiculous pen that helps us have a little fun when we’re feeling scared. Pink ink solves so many problems, if you ask me.
I once heard someone say that God is not behind us, pushing us forward in life. He’s out in front of us, inviting us toward him, his arms reaching out for us as we stumble and fumble in his general direction. Like “Come on, you can do it, take another step, this way, I’m here, keep going.” Let’s focus on that today. God before us, lovingly inviting us out into risky territory, asking for our trust, cheering us on as we do our best to live this crazy life.
Let’s focus on one small step. Then another. Then another. I’ve always believed you can make a long journey that way.
Here’s to grit and grace, two of life’s greatest traveling companions.
When I was 14, I started playing club volleyball, and I was on San Diego Volleyball Club’s worst 14-year old team, “14-Green.” 14-Blue was elite, 14-White was almost-elite, and 14-Red was really good.
Then there were all seven of us on 14-Green. Beginners.
Deanna, a college volleyball player at San Diego State, was our coach. She would often bring her very cute boyfriend, Tag, to our practices—which was one part thrilling and one part embarrassing (because we were so bad)—and he would try to help us, too.
Deanna was very blonde and very tan and she wore Quelques Fleurs perfume that would fill the gym as practice would go on. She was kind of a goddess to me.
She taught me how to hit a volleyball. The right way.
Over the course of my time on 14-Green, we practiced learning the proper approach and timing and technique to hit a volleyball. And I was awful.
I had grown up watching my older sister play. I had watched women of all shapes and sizes approach and hit the volleyball. Left, right, left. Jump. Swing.
But, as you might imagine, it’s a lot harder than it looks.
And when it was my turn to learn the finer points of being a hitter, it took time. A long time. An entire club season, in fact.
Each week I’d come to practice and Deanna would set so that we had perfect sets and we’d practice over and over and over again. Getting the rhythm and the timing and the footwork and the swing. It’s a complicated thing, jumping and hitting a ball that’s also moving.
Here’s the reality: you don’t get it until you finally get it. You lumber awkwardly. You miss the ball altogether, maybe. You trip over your own two feet. You send the ball sailing off your wrist, floating out of bounds, because you haven’t learned how to snap your wrist yet. You get too far under the ball, or behind it, or ahead of it. You hit the net because you haven’t yet figured out your body in the air. You look as awkward as a 14-year-old girl could look, which is miserable.
On the second-to-last practice for 14-Green, I approached, jumped, reached up, and I hit a ball out of the air and I knew THAT was what it was supposed to feel like to hit a volleyball. THAT was it.
But it wouldn’t have clicked without a years-worth of tries. That’s the inconvenient truth.
A couple months later, I made the varsity volleyball team at my high school as a freshman, played throughout high school, and went on to play in college. I was never an Olympian or anything, but I played and I was really actually decent and I always loved it.
I very often think about that club season I spent on 14-Green with Deanna and her intoxicating perfume and her SO cute boyfriend and the time it took to really GET IT. I hated how awkward it all felt, how frustrating, and then what it felt like when everything clicked.
When things aren’t arriving in the time or method that we believe they should, when life is not showing up on the wings of ease, things can feel so incredibly circular, wasted, vulnerable.
I guess I believe, more than I ever have, how important it is to keep showing up for practice every day, even when we don’t see much progress in the moment.
In fact, I think it’s actually very subversive to the darkness when we choose to walk ourselves out into the light each and every day, however awkwardly.
And I believe God wants to help us GET IT. Maybe (and this is the bad news) not in the ways that we would like. Maybe we want to get the right house to arrive or the right man or the right child or the right job. Maybe God simply wants to help the right attitude or perspective or truth or freedom or healing or compassion to arrive. Ugghhh. (Thanks for nothing.)
But, in the end, we see that the time wasn’t wasted and that we were given a gift that we wouldn’t have received any other way. If we’re willing. If we’ll keep showing up. If we’ll keep participating. If we’ll choose to begin again. Something arrives that we needed, even if it didn’t come to us in the way we would have planned.
So, my point is, I bet every single one of you reading this has something in your life that God is – right now, today – inviting you to show up for. And, maybe it feels circular and non-ending, and unresolvable, and inefficient, and maybe even pointless, futile. Oh well. What if we just showed up anyway? Together? What if we just put one foot in front of the other and we tried, trusting that our one step will be met with a thousand steps of God’s grace?
Christ appears on the beach after his resurrection. His disciples have been fishing all night with no luck and they don’t yet realize it’s him on the beach.
He calls out: “Cast your nets on the right again.”
I’m sure they rolled their eyes and said under their breaths to each other (with a lot of attitude), “Ugghhh. Hellooooo. Did we mention we’ve been doing that all night?”
But they did it anyway, and John 21 reports they couldn’t haul the net in the catch was so great.
Are we willing to send the nets out one more time? Even when our previous casts have produced “nothing”? Are we willing to respond to the subversive invitation of participation? Are we willing to show up to practice and work on that impossible footwork and timing one more time? Are we willing to GET IT?
Might Christ be asking you to entertain hope today? The audacity of possibility? The subversion of practice? The rebellion of showing up instead of floating away?
With love to you today as we cast our nets again,
First of all, THANK YOU for all the amazing encouragement and support as I launched my new website this week. Whew! So many, many thanks to Katie Gardner for her hard work, vision, and skill as she put a fresh coat of paint on this site. Loved working with her! A new look and some new photos were long overdue, so it’s been very fun to unveil.
And, also very exciting, Breathing Room – my new book, which will be arriving in October — is now available for presale on Amazon. So it’s a big week around here, and I hope you take a moment to check out the write-up on Amazon and pre-order your very own copy!
As Katie and I worked on the new site and the new pictures, something kept making me laugh.
Here’s the full frontal: No matter how slick and fresh a new website looks, there’s A LOT of non-glamour, non-slick, and non-fresh going on behind the scenes at my house. Like, A LOT.
I thought maybe, just maybe, your house might also suffer from some less-than-perfect moments, too.
So here’s the naked truth . . .
I actually look like this, too:
As you well know, I’ve got an ongoing and tumultuous relationship with my puffy eyes, and I’m always in the market for THE CURE. The latest installment is coffee grounds under my eyes. Apparently the caffeine is supposed to help??? Please send backup.
My kids actually do this kind of stuff, too:
Recently, Elle came into the kitchen buck naked saying “Heya go, Mommy. Heya go,” holding out an orange snack bowl full of poop.
Don’t worry, the orange snack bowl pictured is not the aforementioned bowl. That one went promptly in the trash, contents and all.
And on Tuesday of this week, I say to Lane: “Lane, it would really help me out if you would get in your seat and buckle your seat belt.”
To which she replies, “Mom, it would really help me out if you’d stop being a jerk.”
“Okay, good tip. Thanks, honey.”
My point here is that life is beautiful and creative and fabulous and breathtaking and also puffy and poopy and full of jerkiness (I was, actually, being a jerk. So we had to talk through our mutual jerkiness, apologize, and then agree to begin again. Ugghhh.)
So, what’s really going on in your household this week? The good, the bad, the ugly.
Let’s be in it together,
I think it was Jason Boyett who told me this story years ago when I met him in Grand Rapids at the Calvin College Writing Conference. We were collectively swooning over Eugene Peterson who was the keynote speaker. He spoke so softly that you had to lean in to hear him, and he talked about the pastor as poet, and I thought I could listen to this man forever. His combination of gentleness and brilliance was unparalleled. And what he believed language could do in the human soul was inspiring.
So here’s the story . . .
U2 and Bono were in Peterson’s hometown doing a concert. And they specifically called Eugene’s people to see if he could come and do a devotional and prayer time for Bono and the band before the concert.
At that exact time, Eugene Peterson was in the middle of paraphrasing the entire Bible we now know as The Message. He was on deadline, immersed in the book of Isaiah.
He called Bono back and said, “Sorry, no.”
Apparently, Peterson was relating this story to someone else—how Bono called and how Peterson politely had to refuse this (once-in-a-lifetime) invite.
To which his friend incredulously replied, “But it was Bono?!?!?!”
And Peterson said back, “Yes, but it was Isaiah.”
I think it’s amazing that Eugene Peterson refused Bono, but what I think is more amazing is that he had something in his life that was so worthy, even Bono wasn’t going to touch it. He felt that his work was so sacred that he couldn’t take time away from it, even for Bono.
I admire that kind of clarity in life.
Something I’ve become very clear about is that I am one of my YESes. My own health and wellbeing is as important to me as it’s ever been, and so I am much more able to say NO to things now that I see the toll certain commitments or schedules will take on my mind and body. I just don’t do it anymore. I choose myself.
And that’s mainly because my other big YESes are my family, my tribe, and my writing time. I can’t show up for those YESes if I’m a total mess. But how many times have I had to learn all this the hard way?
Is there a YES in your life that, even if Bono called tomorrow, you would protect? Is there a YES in your life that guides you to truer parts of yourself, helps you make sense of your world? Is there a YES in your life that helps to clarify your NOs? Life gains so much freedom when we gain clarity on our YES, don’t you think? Otherwise, we can be thrown around by the whims and wishes out there. But if we know our YES, the NO may not be easy, but it’s probably clear.
Here’s to the courage to find our YES and speak our NO.
I believe in you!