Drenched in the Chase

So I broke a rule today.

You know that rule about not running with scissors?  Yeah, I broke that one.

You see, I was inspired by beautiful prose and just had to go find some wildflowers.

Even in the rain.

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Sometimes you stumble upon beauty and sometimes you have to go chase it.

So off I went mismatched in pink running pants, a teal rain jacket and armed with scissors

The rabbits scampered away in surprise.  They weren’t expecting company in the drizzling grey.

I was a girl on a mission.  A mission to let whimsy be my guide.

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Sometimes gifts are placed in your hands and sometimes you are compelled to throw on some running shoes to run into gifts.

Friend, your mission should you choose to accept it, is to daily, intentionally chase gifts.  Because if you are armed with thankfulness, bitterness can drip off you like little raindrops.

Eternity is soaked in moments like these.  You start chasing wildflowers under sprinkling skies and moments later you’re knee deep in grace.

Grace, because who are you to hold a gift as fragile, yet resilient as beauty?

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You are tangled up in a field of whimsy and you wonder if it’s just for you.

Step by step you shake off shame, breathe out anxiety and lay down fear.

Then you pick up beauty, pluck some wildness, clip off some joy and grasp it gently.

One foot and then another on the path of peace.

You hunker down on holy ground and inspect a delicate piece of sunshine.

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It’s a natural rhythm of receiving and thanking, like breathing in and breathing out.

Serenity soothes an aching soul and you breathe deep draughts of delight.

Each is a gift that gives back.  And the greatest gift?  His face.  A living gift with the sweet breath of heaven aimed straight for you.

Standing there you catch a glimpse of His face in wide open spaces.  A place where you find yourself already known, desired and delighted in.

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This is home out in sopping fields of tender flowers and brilliant color playing in pockets of light.

Saturated with wonder.  Lost in a moment so humble in its simple hopefulness.

Sometimes whimsy takes practice, but don’t hesitate.

Always embrace the chase.

 

The In-Betweens

IMG_3605Not knowing is awful. Transition is draining. Walking without vision is dangerous. Being unsure of your next step is depleting. This is what I feel in this season I will call the in-between. I feel like I should give this season a name or write a children’s book about it. Esther and the ordinary, predictable, simply mediocre, very unsexy day. That sounds like a best seller just waiting to happen!

In all seriousness, mountaintop experiences are amazing! They are glorious, fulfilling, they cast vision and give you insane energy for the days ahead. These are the mission trips where you literally see God move, the youth ministry events where everyone cries and hugs like there’s no tomorrow, it’s the finished book, the breakthroughs, the new babies and the graduations.

And then there are the valleys. Some call this rock bottom. And most would say this is the worst of all seasons. But here’s the weird and twisted thing I sort of don’t mind about the valleys … and that’s I know what to do with them. I pursue God with everything, pray with all my energy, seek out wisdom from others and move forward one day at a time in faith that this is just a season and it too will pass.

God promises that we will walk through the valley of the shadow of death – this is not a surprise. He says he will be with us and not to fear the evil. There is dancing on the mountaintop – this is great! And there is weeping and praying and seeking in the valleys – this too is great (even if it doesn’t feel that way). But where I get stuck are the spaces between the mountaintops and the valleys.

We focus on the mountaintops and the valleys, but most of life (for most people) is lived in the space in-between. If mountaintops are defined by their uplifting, mind-boggling, heart-filling glory, and if valleys are characterized by pain, heartache and uncertainty, then how would we describe the seemingly endless plateau between the two?

I’ll tell you what I think. I would say it’s about trudging. You may want to check out this (slightly inappropriate) clip from one of my favorite movies when I was in high school.  Here’s what Geoffrey Chaucer says in A Knight’s Tale, “To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on.”

Trudging has a negative connotation (and apparently includes butts), so I’ll give you another word. It’s my word for the year, but I’ll share it with you. The word is abide. I wrote about it here.

How do we abide not when the going gets rough, but when the going gets ordinary? If we live with intention, grace and courage, step by step by step, then I believe we can be wildly free, wonderfully brave and breathtakingly kind even in the in-betweens. We must keep our eyes to the sky – nothing depletes faster than a case of inward eyeballs. If our attention is on God, we’ll be changed and filled no matter what. So let’s paint a little bit of whimsy on the canvas that is the in-between and fill it with color.

Will you join me?

ESTJs and Life with Joan (of Arc)

How do you fill in your blank? I’m too much. I’m not enough. I’m just too ____________.

So often we fill in the blank with lies. Sometimes we listen so intently to these messages that we eventually embody them and they become a part of us. They are like a little tumor we nickname and grow strangely fond of even though they are the cause of our demise. “Hello failure, so we meet again.” When we do this, we become the enemies of our own stories.

I’m quite fond of personality psychology and enjoy personality tests like Myers-Briggs. Pinterest got wind of people’s interest in personality and iconic movies, so we now have Myers-Briggs profiles for Star Wars characters, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Downton Abbey, Disney and many others.

You can find this and a hundred more on good ol' Pinterest.

You can find this and a hundred more on good ol’ Pinterest.

I’m an ESTJ, which apparently makes me the Darth Vader-Professor McGonagall-George Washington-Judge Judy-type. In a Holy Week version (because Christians want to play the game too), ESTJs are the Joan of Arcs. Even to me this could sound intimidating, except I know the truth about myself.

I am not a heavy breathing villain with a machine for a heart. While I may be a strict, but fiercely loyal Transfiguration professor at Hogwarts, I’m not at liberty to say.

Here’s what I can say, for many years I was a scaredy-cat. I learned to carefully tame my President McGonagall of Arc-ness. It became easier and safer to be that sweet, quiet girl. I found my identity in being who I thought others wanted me to be. I had on so many masks it would take years to remove them one at a time. After all, who could really handle the real me?

I was timidly prancing around like a mousy Jane Bennett when a bold Joan of Arc lay restless and dormant inside me. Identity crisis? I think yes. I was no more a Bennett than Joan of Arc was, but I didn’t have the faintest clue how to be the real me – the girl I had toned down and shoved back for so long. (Disclaimer: I think Jane Austen rocks)

'Joan of Arc' Painting by Sir John Everett Millais in 1865

‘Joan of Arc’ Painting by Sir John Everett Millais in 1865

If it was possible, I was even more afraid of my strengths than I was my weaknesses. I knew what to do with weakness – stare it down, overanalyze and “work on it” until it went away. Healthy, right? But my strengths were terrifying and exciting like a rare creature both familiar and exotic – a creature you instinctively knew you weren’t supposed to touch.

When I discovered that I was ardently pursued and fiercely loved by Jesus, that’s when things shifted. A daughter of the King does not live life masked and afraid.   A daughter of the king must wake up and stand up for such a time as this. When I realized that it was me and me alone holding myself back, I knew something had to change.

To dare to be known – to be real and to be known for exactly who I was and not who I was projecting – took practice. It also took someone else saying to me, “I see your beauty. I see your brokenness and I’m not afraid. You are a daughter of the king. Who you are is strong, tender and enough.”

For years I scoffed at who I was without understanding myself fully and without owning my story or my weaknesses and the part I played. I put the blinders on thick and blindly swung my sword around – this is both awkward and dangerous. I thought I was playing a key role in a battle, but really I was swatting at flies. Flies that were pestering me because I was in fact stuck in the muddy pit of comfort, holding tight to fear while sitting in a pile of poo. I was my own prisoner and I was fighting fear with poo. Not awesome. But now I know I must own my own story. And I must become friends with my story to be at peace and to find my strength.

So often we typecast people.  She’s so sweet! He’s such a nice guy. Oh, he’s just being a boy. I had typecast myself as the quiet, sweet, good girl. And then I got stuck there. When Joan of Arc started slashing her sword around, I told her to quiet down. I didn’t know how to do life with Joan. And I definitely didn’t know how to invite others to be their true selves whether that be the Joans, Chewbaccas, Thors or the Mother Theresas around me.

But now I want to dare greatly to be who God made me to be and allow others to do the same. I want to create an environment where people are free to be the best version of themselves. I want to call out the greatness, the beauty, the fire and the tenderness in those around me. I’ve been learning this from others and it’s a beautiful and freeing thing.

This is not a case for ignoring weakness. Instead, it’s a call to press into weakness and lean into brokenness and the darkness so that we may find intense light, love and life. I think the path to heaven is lined with discarded masks. Each step we take deeper into the kingdom of God reveals another characteristic of our Father and we can know a little more intimately who we are in Him and let down our masks.

We can do this because we are not slaves to fear. I have a confession to make – I don’t usually like Christian music. (I know… you can judge me a little). But this song is an exception. I’ve been listening to it over and over. Listen with me until you believe it too.

PS – What’s your Myers-Briggs type?

Make It Happen

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Freedom, leadership and love in all shapes, sizes and colors.

International Women’s Day was Sunday.  I’m a few days late, but I still have thoughts.

First, I’m so thankful.  I haven’t been held back in life because I was born a girl, but there are countless women who have been held back and still are.  That’s why we celebrate this day.  This day is still needed in our world.

And I can’t help but think this day is also needed in our churches.

What would it look like for the church to celebrate this day?  What would it look like for churches everywhere to value, equally, both halves of the church?  How beautiful would that be?  There wouldn’t be leadership roles painted blue and supportive roles painted pink.  There would be splashes of color everywhere.

If the kingdom of heaven is right here and right now, which it is, and if the Holy Spirit is active in you and in me, which He is, and if we’re all made in the image of God, which we are, then the God of heaven and earth is equally and gloriously reflected in each of us and our most powerful stance is to link arms in this upside down kingdom.  That is the church.  That’s what I want to be part of.

This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Make It Happen.”  How can we make it happen today and every day in the church?  Making it happen is the church that says, “Everyone is welcome.  Everyone’s gifts are needed – at all levels of service and leadership.  We don’t paint truth pink or blue and we certainly won’t paint roles pink or blue because in the church, as in the kingdom, we are all made in the image of God.”  That’s where I want to be.  My guess is we would have many more people knocking on our door to join us on weekends, but more than that, I think we would have people who know the door is always open for them to come on in and make themselves at home.

And again, I’m so thankful.  The women I surround myself with are those who work endlessly to end Human Trafficking, were missionaries in France for twenty years, run marathons benefiting charities, bravely write their stories, teach students and dare greatly whether in the classroom, the boardroom, in the home or in front of a canvas.  Likewise, the men God has used to speak into me are those who write and speak truth even when it’s opposed, fight to be present with their families and empower others to lead and have a voice.

So, to the church still dragging their feet on this issue, I must ask, “What will it take to make it happen?” It’s time we don’t just occasionally “let” women lead because we’re feeling magnanimous or culturally pressured to have a token female leader, but because we recognize women and men both play a vital role in the making of the church.  Just ask Junia.

Can we make it happen so the church is the place to use our voices, use our leadership, use our passions and be empowered to live fully as heirs of the King?  Let’s make it happen so truth trumps color and gifting trumps gender.

 

PS – I work at a church, I love the church and I know these thoughts don’t reflect all churches.

Breaking Enigma or Embracing It?

419622_10200430372023974_1308410213_n - CopyIt’s been one year.  It’s been a year of walking, talking, growing, sharing, laughing, crying and praying with three amazing women.  We call it a mentor group, but it’s so much more.  People use words like “awesome, great and amazing” so often, but these are understatements when describing the gift of this year.  It’s rare to find people you trust enough to lean into the mystery of faith and life and share your ugliest and brightest, and know with certainty they won’t run from either.  They won’t run from your darkness and they won’t be intimated by your light.  Instead they’ll embrace you and celebrate you and hold up your arms when you grow weary.

Have I sold you on mentoring? Great! (Totally not my point.) Instead, I make a case for mystery.

Life is full of mystery – the fear of the unknown can hold us back so often.  However, Jesus embodies mystery.  This can be beautiful and let’s face it; this can be frustrating.  We like order, known-ness and clarity.  But can we freefall into mystery and become friends with ambiguity?  Do we have a choice?  Of course we do, but perhaps we’ll breathe a little easier when we shake hands with the enigmatic.

Have you ever stood before a mountain range more powerful and more magnificent than you?  Do you seek to understand it’s greatness or do you embrace the climb?  Have you stood on a stretch of sand breathing in the salty breeze?  Do you dare to understand the ocean’s pull on your soul or do you marvel at the gentle calm and raging power of the sea?

Is the mystery of Christ in me any different?  Mystery and victory go together, just ask Jesus.  There is no time for sleep in the ocean of mystery for transformation is but a wink away.  To resist mystery is a prison of our own making.

Lean into the mystery
Jump in

In the depths of the unknown
We find ourselves intimately known
We are named
Again and again Grace calls out

Who am I to dance in delight and tinker with desire?
Beckoned into a vast sea stirring with power
Mercy on the surface and strength below
Stillness covers a raging war

Mystery wreaks havoc within
It’s the kindest act of mercy
Lonely soul jolted with truth
Smooth out wrinkles in my twisted breath

Boundless tenderness and strength
Tug and pull this heart of mine
Awaken and jump, Dearest One
The mystery flirts and flits before you.

Soaked full
I press deeper into the mystery

And then I asked Him, “Lord, what do you want me to learn about you and your mystery?”

My heart already knew the answer while my head was catching up. He reminded me of truths I learned in a little prayer room warmed by the sun and by the love of a woman after God’s own heart.

I can rest in His mystery and be at ease in the unknown. I can rejoice in uncertainty because He holds my heart close. I can delight and be delighted in—that is the measure of joy in embracing the risk of mystery. There is no end to the unknown – it’s the only thing that’s certain.  When did we become obsessed with safety? There is no celebration in risk-less living. The call is to step out, to jump into the mystery of daring to be known in certain unknown-ness.

When was the last time you jumped? 

Fifteen days into 2015

5603130The past few years I was inspired to choose a word or focus for the year.  Have you ever done that?  Last year, God took me on a journey of learning to be present in His presence.  I was also inspired by Shauna Niequist to “live freer, softer and braver”.  This was my prayer countless times throughout the year.

This year my word is “abide”.   I want to learn to live with intention, grace and courage.  I chose these words, or more accurately these words chose me, after a painful, yet eye-opening moment.  I had forgotten how messy freefalls are.  Wouldn’t it be nice if waking up a little deeper were just clean and pretty?

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What I learned brought me into this year slightly bruised from sliding into home plate, but exhilarated from the run.  (You’re welcome baseball fans.  And yes, I know it’s not baseball season.)  Being present in God’s presence looks a lot like resting, waiting, listening and being still.  Things I’m naturally quite terrible at doing.  I thought abiding would look the same.  I was wrong.  I think abiding – remaining connected and living deeply – looks much more like stepping out in faith.  Thanks to Andrew Murray’s beautiful little book, I’ve learned that God is even more invested in me abiding in Him than I am.  After all, he abides in me as well.  Crazy wonderful, yes?

A year of being present (or doing my best) has prepped me for a season of stepping out with intention, living with grace and listening with courage.  Let’s call this “Game Day”, but in the quietest of ways.  There probably won’t be much shouting or face paint or butt slaps (well, maybe a little bit).  There will be a sense of purpose and poise in stepping out.  I will step out onto the field of writing bravely and daring to pursue my dreams, and I will step onto the court of leading with grace and loving deeply.  I’ll say yes to things that matter instead of staying paralyzed with fear and waiting so long for the right moment that it passes me right by.

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So here are fifteen things I’ve learned on the fifteenth day of 2015 (because I’m sure you were dying to know):

1.  Bossypants by Tina Fey is a worthwhile read – don’t take yourself or the book too seriously, but don’t be surprised when you learn something.

2.  Moving in with your sister and brother-in-law and bonus roommate is surprisingly awesome, but don’t make a fire in the fireplace and close the vent too soon.  I’m now sporting a musty scent today at work.  It’s not my favorite.

3.  Eating clean makes you feel good inside and out.  It takes planning and budgeting, but it’s worth it and the buddy system helps.

4.  Make new friends and grow old friendships.  (I’m not saying I’m old).  Community is priceless and takes work.  Build community and be committed to it.  It’s a beautiful thing.

5.  Support other people’s dreams.  I love giving my brother books by comedians so he knows he is seen, loved and supported in dreaming big.

6.  Chase moments of whimsy and grace.  They go hand in hand more often than you think (or so I think. Bob Goff does too).

7.  You are never too old for Disneyland, Harry Potter, the zoo and dance parties in the living room.  Enough said.

8.  Networking is really about friendship and wanting the best for others.  I’m so thankful to be surrounded by great examples of this.

9.  Sometimes you feel lonely.  Know that it’s okay.  Just sit with it for a moment or two.  Maybe cry and hug a dog.  Then get up and shake it off just like said dog. (Psychologists say this works).

10.  I’m convinced family is God’s greatest gift.  Friends that are family are just as wonderful.  Someday I’ll take them all to Disneyland.

11.  Embrace moments of “Carpe Diem”.  Remember those who have gone before whose shoulders we stand on and then look around for those who have grown weary and need someone to lift their arms for them until the battle is won.

12.  Learning what kind of eggs you like is liberating.  (In case you were wondering, I like them scrambled with lots of veggies cooked with curry, salt, pepper and a dash of cardamom).

13.  Be mentored.  My mentor embodies intention, grace and courage.  I have learned so much from her of the kind of life I want to live – find someone like that in your life.

14.  Read a lot. Read your favorites, read recommendations, and read something totally outside your norm.

15.  Say yes, say no and let things go.  (Brilliant, I know).  I’m learning to say yes to what matters and to what takes me deeper, say no to what adds clutter and chaos, and know when it’s time to let something go.

So there you have it.  Fifteen things that you didn’t ask for, but you got them anyway.  If you’re one of my tens of readers who made it through to fifteen, let’s be friends.  Chances are if you read this, you already are.  So here’s to a season of intention, grace and courage.

Wishing you a brave week friends!
Love,
Esther