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?

Sunflower Song

5099691_origUsually I like running, but today was not that day. I squeaked out the miles in new shoes that were no bueno for my feet. But this sight stopped me in my tracks.

We’ve had drizzling grey weather the past week, unusual for Colorado especially this time of year.  The stark contrast of the grey horizon and the bold sunflower reminded me of my own story.

It was a long process of awakening from a world of grey, and I was and will always be so thankful for the sunflowers in my life that beckoned me to more.  Those sunflowers have names and faces.  My amazing mom who listened to me with profound patience and endlessly spoke life and vision into a weary soul, Joanie who sat on the floor before me in a little prayer room and held my feet to ground me while she prayed over me, even a favorite author, who at the time I hadn’t met before, whose writings spoke to me at a new and deep level.  God reached me through each of these people in ways unique and beautiful.

I’m thankful for these people.  I’m even thankful for the grey.  For where there was no awareness of grey, there would have been no sight to see the color of freedom.  I am forever thankful for you, my sunflowers, my heroes.

A drop of color in a world of tasteless grey
A burst of light to chase desperate gloom away

In your honor, you beseech me
And draw me toward worlds anew

Poison creeps in and suffocates the soul
But a power awaits beyond all control

I draw strength from your great beauty
Courage from wonder once lost

Poised to defeat by strength of light
Reckless in every act of love’s bold might

Little sunflower formed of gold
You were not made to fight alone

Your sense of self sways with every gust
With your face to sun you know to trust

Unpretentious little flower
What secrets you must know

Gentle petals of valiant hue
Seeps all that is good, wonderful and true

To the sun and wind, you may bend
Yet grow bright in tender strength

A poetic bloom of mystery
Captivating in raw honesty

A little hope of color
Most gracious dash of life

A priceless beauty to be sure
A warrior of freedom’s great valor

Striking passion in field of earth’s hot breath
You sing a different song

For you stand your ground
In a world tragically grey bound

A song of hallelujahs
Some broken but made whole

So simple and so true
You stand firm as true you

So stand your ground and sing your song
Driving twisted grey away

Cheap Chaos & Tantalizing Grace

9033326
Trapped.  My mind a cave.
Thoughts like floodwater, rushing in.

Heart racing, body tense, mind ablaze.
Paralyzed by my striving efforts.

Blatant silence.
Prayers ricocheting off an invisible ceiling.

Desire to control and to know tantalizes and tempts.
Darkness creeping in quietly beckons and sickly woos.

Questions, dreams, and ‘what ifs’ vie for attention.
Romancing the dark, I stay in a place of cheap chaos.

Running.  Running in my mind.
This way.  That way.  Running into walls on all four sides.

I’m a slave to my thoughts.
Self-obsession the bolt to my self-made prison.

A sinister dead end in every way.
Still I wrestle.

I lie down to rest, but I am awake.
Running, rushing, thinking, grasping.

A pinprick of light.
So small I nearly miss it.

Light.  Focus on the light.
Slowly, as slowly as ice melting in winter’s sun it grows.

My mind begins to clear.  Thoughts still.
I breathe in the light, I breathe out the darkness.

My heart slows to a steady rhythm.  Peace stirs.
I breathe in light, I breathe out darkness.

My body calms.  Striving energy turned to stillness charged with joy.
I breathe in light, I breathe out darkness.

Another light.  Brighter.
I reach out to it.

A feeling of love sweeps through like a warm gust of wind.
Spiraling toward me and into my soul.

It steadily grows.  Stronger and stronger.
Wind so warm and strong. I close my eyes and breathe it in.

Love like a faithful companion, I know I am not alone.
Love that delights in me, I know I am seen and known.

The wind strengthens.  I can feel it stir inside.
I surrender to this wind.  Light now radiates within.

My mind awake with its reality.
My heart at rest in its certainty.

My body resonating in its presence.
My soul pierced with freedom.

Love.
Pure, sweet love.

Wrecked by grace through winds of mercy.
Undone by love through purest light.

I am His and He is mine.

Awakening to Glory

809880We look within.  Obsessed by troubles, doubt and human goodness.  No light within.  Trapped in a cell of our own bodies and minds.

We look out and see the face of God in Christ our Lord.  God living and breathing in me.

Delivered from my state of death.  Awakened to Christ in me the hope of glory.

We stand not within ourselves, but out in an open free space where He has been waiting all along.

“Light up the darkness, Little One,” is what He said.

Light pours forth.

Light impacting me, light streaming from me.  Light surrounds and abounds from all directions.

Light pulling others in, its magnetism inviting them into the kingdom.  To come, rest, and just be.

The promises of God in my open palms.  Hands and heart extended to heaven as one.

He takes my frail human dreams and expands them into the universe.  No longer my dreams, but His.  Glorious in nature.  Far greater than I could imagine.  More extravagant than I would ever dare to ask.

I see a glimpse, a glimpse of what is promised.  That promise rests in my heart and spurs me forward.

We recognize the song of heaven sung out across the open space.  A familiar tune we were born to hear and embrace.

Light from His Being, His Spirit strengthens me.  Not rough, but a gentle constant inner strength.  Light softly pulsating from within.

Letting go of my small life and pathetic control.  Surrendering to Him who is greater.  Fully impacted by Grace.  Full breaths of blessed air.  Fresh, full draws of grace mixed with glory.

Awakened to the free life.  Lean in and listen to His call.

Christ cultivating a free spirit within me. Living unreservedly, energized and stirred by God’s Spirit.

His Spirit.  My closest companion, my heart’s guide, my mind’s sculptor.  Power and light collide within me.  He whispers to me of glory unseen and grace to be consumed.

His love has the first and last word.  Hemmed in by grace.  Overflowing with the light of His being.

I am His and He is mine.  Life, together, in the open free space.

Dancing in light that arouses His glory in me.  Breathing in love so pure it hurts and yet heals.  Embraced by grace that draws me in deeper and higher.  Awakened by the Father as He covers me with His dreams and delight.

Christ in me the hope of glory.

“Wake up Little Light.  Will you come to this open space with Me?”

Freefall

7041497You are standing on a cliff.  Not just any cliff, but your cliff.  The cliff you know more intimately than you know yourself.  The cliff made of things that keep you feeling safe, secure, comfortable, and in control.  It is a world of grey, but it’s known-ness keeps you paralyzed in hazy contentment.  You wonder, “Can I leave this all behind?”

You walk to the edge of this cliff.  You hesitate not knowing if it’s worth the risk.  A voice softly calls out your name.  You strain to hear it as you lean into empty space.  You hear your name again and again and again.  You are being called.  Summoned by love into a greater depth.  Beckoned by risk to awaken to a world of freedom.  You shiver in anticipation.  You wonder, “Do I believe enough?”

Freefalling won’t be pretty, but the choice to leap is yours.  You step closer.  Your heart lured by the thought of embracing a truth so real; a freedom so wonderful you must abandon comfort to find it.  You gaze into an unknown land, familiar only by the promises echoing in your heart.  You hear distant laughter.  You sense joy.  You hear Love calling your name.  A daring, relentless freefall awaits.  You step forward and embrace risk.  You wonder, “How much will this hurt?”

You plummet through that place in the sky that lies between your cliff and the abyss somewhere below your downward spiraling body.  Wind everywhere.  You can’t catch your breath.  You’re falling or maybe you’re flying.  You don’t think.  You can’t think.  You hear only the sound of your beating heart.   You are freefalling.

Suddenly you feel it.  Love.  Love in its purest form.  Unadulterated by the world.  You dive deeper and deeper.  It invades every cell in your body.  A warm weightless blanket.  You feel as if you might explode by the depth of His love and pleasure.  Fears do not enslave.  Chains do not bind.  Doubts do not haunt.  You float, fly and fall in a whimsical world of love.  It feels like eternity.  It feels like seconds.  It doesn’t matter.  You have been swallowed up in the chasm of His love.  You wonder, “Can I freefall forever?”

Strong arms effortlessly catch you out of the air and hold you so close.  His tender strength envelops your soul as you lean into His embrace.  Your roaring heart pulses near His steady heartbeat.  The tremors in your hands and legs still.  You realize who is holding you and tremble once again.  You look up into warm eyes; endless pools of love and delight.  You wonder, “How long have you been waiting for me?”

Then, in a moment of sweet silence, He writes His freedom on your heart.  He smiles at you, and in His smile is the pride and affection of a good and gentle Father.  He laughs and in his laughter is the contagious joy of a child.  You feel like you could run and dance and play forever.  You laugh because you know He wants to do the same. Whimsy is your companion.  Freedom is your song.  Over and over your soul cries out, “Jesus is enough.”

To the Rich Young Ruler in You and Me

2091512Picture this.  A young man walks through the dusty streets of a small town.  He stands a little taller than the rest.  His stride is calm and confident as he makes his way through the bustling crowds of people.  He has everything he could ever want.  Power, wealth, position, and good health are his.  He has followed all the rules since boyhood and has done many good things of which he is proud.  There is nothing that can stop him.  Except maybe a conversation with the Teacher.

You see, he wanted eternal life.  This is good.  However, he wanted this on his own terms.  This is where it gets difficult.  To enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you must do what the Father tells you to do.  The man understands this and is willing.

The Teacher speaks.  You must not murder, steal, or lie.  You must love others.  The man thought this all was very good.

Then the Teacher told the man that he must give away everything.  Those words had the effect of ice cold water poured down his spine.  He must give away all his possessions to the poor, so that his wealth would be in heaven.  If he could let go of those things, then he could lay hold of the Kingdom of Heaven.  The young man was deflated.  It was as if all the air just left his body, leaving him depleted and unmoving.  This was the one thing he did not want to hear.  So he left and did not come back.

How often do we hold onto things that keep us from fully living and fully trusting?  It could be good things that are dear to us like family, friends and ministry.  It could be things like money, power, and position.  It could be something simple like eating, reading, or dating. But whether it’s a relationship or an addiction, you must let go of that which has become your captor, things you are holding onto and keep you from embracing the Kingdom. What keeps you stuck, trapped, immobile, fearful, angry or depressed?  This is your mud puddle.  What keeps you from fully trusting because it makes you feel comfortable, safe and secure?   What are you trusting and holding onto more than you are trusting and holding onto Jesus.  This is what keeps you from true freedom.  This is your cliff.  Until Jesus is enough, you will be forced to set up camp here.  This is a dangerous place to dwell.

God is calling you to step forward.  God is saying to you, precious daughter and precious son, to trust Him.  Be brave.  Jump.  Leap off your cliff in belief.  There is only one requirement and that is desperation.  Are you fed up with your mud puddle?  Are you in urgent need of freedom from your cliff?  How much do you need Jesus?  Is He enough for you?  Is your faith reckless enough to dive into the depths of His love?

Then do it.  Believe.  This is your moment.  Today is your day to believe.  Leave behind the chains that hold you captive, the bonds of comfort, the barricade of fear.  Leap for freedom.  He has already set you free.  Embrace your freedom.  Jump for love.  It’s all about love.  That is what the abyss is below the cliff.  It is love.  So free-fall through His chasm of love.

In the exhilaration of free-fall, there is peace, there is wonder, and there is relief.  There is great joy when you leap and find your True Love waiting with outstretched arms.  When you free-fall into your Father’s arms you will land hard in undeniable freedom and uncontained whimsy.   You will find that He is enough.  He will laugh with you, He will cry with you, He will take you by the hand and show you His Kingdom.  You will fall deeply in love and just maybe you will want to free-fall again.