I Am The Road

photo (8)Last night I walked across the Georgetown dam with my dad. I’ve walked across this dam literally thousands of times with my father. Miles of my life have been worked out and tears shed as we crossed the dam’s paved top overlooking the lake on one side and the city on the other.  As a child I stood on this dam and watched flood waters rush around one end during one of the rainiest seasons my home town has ever seen. When I was a teenager the over-look at the end of the dam was the place to go when you were going to have a serious conversation.

This dam has been a permanent fixture in my life, steady, strong, and tall.

In 32 years, however, last night was the first time that I have ever crossed that dam in near darkness. Dad text me before I got off work and asked if I’d like to walk with him and by the time we got out there it was around 5:45pm. We walked almost the entire length of the dam and then turned around to the sight you see in the picture to the left. The road and horizon were dark, almost black, with the glow of the last rays of the setting sun burning out behind them.

It was breathtaking.

As I noticed the contrast between the dark silhouette of the hills in the distance against the orange pink of the sky and realized we were walking into that darkness I heard a quiet voice like a whisper say, “Do you trust the road?”

I wasn’t afraid of walking into those dark places on the horizon because I did trust the road. I had been walking that road since I was a little girl, I know it’s bends and curves, I know the sound it makes under my feet, I know where it rises and falls and even though the landscape on either side of the road has changed dramatically over the years of my life, the road hasn’t changed at all. Whatever might happen in those dark trees and hills ahead of me, I knew the road would lead to safety, to home, to light.

“I am the road.”

God’s words sunk into my heart with a heavy, warm, fullness like a the kind of hugs you get from your brother that squeeze the air out of your lungs, but feel gentle and protective at the same time.

I met Jesus in the backseat of my parents car when I was around 4 or 5 years old. I’ve had people question the validity of that experience, but I know that’s when God became a permanent fixture in my life and I have been walking his road ever since.

I haven’t walked perfectly, there have been valleys and rough places I had to climb,  but just like the dam, I know the road.

I know how God feels in my life and even when I’ve had to walk through the dark places He’s never taken His love away and the road always leads to safety, to home, and to light.

I’ve come to a place in life where I know I am going to have to walk out in faith into some big unknowns in order to do what God created me to do.

The dark horizon is terrifying and I don’t know what’s in those dark trees and hills.

But with all of my heart I trust the road.

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Somewhere In Between

There’s been a lot to read about women in leadership, specifically in Christian circles and conference circuits, the last week or so. As I thought about the different sides and perspectives reflected on social networking sights and blogs it occurred to me that something seemed to be missing.

Somewhere in between the Beth Moores and Rachel Held Evans’ of the world there is a group of women who need to speak up.

Nothing against either of those women– I have learned quite a lot from both and I find myself agreeing with many things they have to say– however, I don’t feel like I belong in either of the core groups these women respresent. In fact, when I thought about it, none of the women I know seem to belong to either of those groups.

Don’t worry, I considered demographics…
The thing is, having been involved with an international organization I’ve gotten to know women all over the United States and some outside of it.
It’s not just the women in my area.

So these two sides are what stands as markers for women of faith…

On the one side the more traditional/conservative Christian women’s movement seems to declare, “This is how women should be…” and the example is the woman who has it all together. She’s a devoted wife and valiant mother. She balances grocery shopping, coffee dates, and bible studies all while looking fabulous and radiating joy. She’s the organizer, the Sunday school teacher, and she never misses her running group. These are beautiful, lovely things… and a lot to live up to.

The message of progressive Christian women, on the other side, almost insists, “This is how Christian women are…” and here the example is of the woman who is self-sufficient, politically active and hot-button savy. She is in the fray and society’s face. She is pushing the boundaries of theology, questioning centuries of church history, and her tenacity is unrivaled. Her dedication and determination are also beautiful and lovely, but a lot to live up to.

Both of these groups are vocal and passionate.
Both are valuable and yet… I don’t believe either represent the majority of Christian women. These are not the women I know, these are not the women who have spoken into my life. These examples don’t reflect the woman of faith I am or want to be. And that’s not a judgement against women for whom these examples make sense, but I do believe a big part of the picture the world sees of women of the church is missing and we need to give voice to it.

Somewhere in the middle there are those of us who are mothers just barely holding it together, wives fighting for their marriages, and single women who are neither relationship starved or desperate, but still value their relationships with men. These women believe in balance. They value tradition while they explore creativity, they are confident in their equality and don’t need it to be superiority. You won’t find them signing petitions, joining boycotts or holding picket signs. They are not activists, but they DO act– they find every opportunity to help those around them in need, they give the clothes off their backs, the food from their kitchens, and the time they would be spending asleep in their beds. They err on the side of grace, always, forever, for everyone, no matter what the situation. They look for where God is and they go there, they run, they are the first responders and do their best to honor Him by cultivating relationships that breathe His love and life into the world and affirm what is good and right. They create culture instead of placate, embrace, or rebel against it. They respect each other’s differences and hold each other up.

In the middle they hope, they pray, and sometimes they beg.
They see beauty and call it what it is.
They fight, they persevere and hold on with everything they’ve got.
They forgive what society says is unforgivable.
They stay, no matter what.
They are courageous and they know where they stand with our Creator even when they can’t stand at all, when the best they can do is crawl.
They know mercy, they long for justice, and they love so hard it hurts.

The core female church of today doesn’t have time to look a certain way or to belong to one camp or the other because she is too busy rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty.

If you want to know why there aren’t more women speaking at Christian conferences, writing books or taking positions of leadership, I challenge you, take a look around in all of the least glamorous places, where the hard work that comes with little thanks gets done and you will find women of the church giving everything they’ve got.

These are not the Christian women I hear or read about, these are the women I know. These are the women who raised me, who have been there when I was the most broken, who have patiently stood beside me while I hurt, who have taught me what it means to be seen, heard, and loved by God.

This is my mother.
My sisters.
My friends.
My mentors.
My co-workers.
Women I have served with.

This in between group needs to find its voice– for all of the other women in the world who don’t feel like they can see themselves in the current faces representing Christian women. It’s time to step out into new water, deep water, and take a risk by being vulnerable and honest in the public square.

Women are a ferocious and exquisite part of God’s image, everyone of us. It’s on us to show up, to speak up, to be heard, to think out loud. All of us, not just the groups who are already used to getting out there. No matter what our personal beliefs are about male authority in the church, we can’t keep blaming them for our absence. We have to stop waiting for them to give us openings and start taking responsibility for ourselves, for when and where and how we speak.

My prayer and hope is that we are about to see a new age for women in the church, that together, and in all of our diversity, we begin to reflect the image of Christ in a way the world has never seen before.

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The Stories We Tell and The Stories We Believe

I’m pretty sure I caught a girl sneaking an Instagram photo of me last night and I’m pretty sure I looked crazy.

I was sitting on the patio at Starbucks (this is where you sit if you want to have serious conversation) and telling my friend Sarah about some things going on in my life that I feel really passionately about.

I talk with my hands. I come by it naturally, my Dad is notorious for nearly knocking people out when he is talking. Fortunately I only have a five foot wing span so there’s less risk of injury involved in being in conversation with me, but there’s plenty of entertainment.

So impassioned was I that a manhunt including a helicopter with search lights was taking place right behind me and I was totally unaware. Seriously people, you can’t make this stuff up.

To the small group of women sitting just on the other side of the window *inside Starbucks it must have looked like I was giving Sarah a piece of my mind. I’m sure that I was oscillating between shaking my finger with conviction to some kind of combination of flailing arm movements. Crazy.

Later as I was getting ready for bed I was chuckling thinking about it and remembering Donald Miller’s blog post I’d read earlier in the day about the narratives we believe about ourselves that may be a lie because we don’t know the whole story. When I read the post I thought back over different situations that literally have haunted me at different points and wondered if there was anyway that I had invented narrative in those times. My exciting coffee talk with Sarah and the half of it these other women were seeing landed the plane for me on just how easy it would be to do that.

When you realize that, intentionally or not, everything you do tells a story and in most cases you don’t have a ton of control over the type of story you’re telling, it really makes you stop and consider which narratives you should actually be taking seriously.

Check out Don’s post, I really enjoyed it! And if you come across an Instagram photo of me looking enraged, I was not about to beat Sarah with anything.

*I think it’s important to mention that while most sensible women would relocate to a safer place when it becomes evident that there is a manhunt going on in your general area, Sarah and I remained in our patio seats so that we could better observe police searching vehicles with flashlights. That’s the kind of women we are. =)

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The Gift of Going First

I heard someone use that phrase at the Love Does conference last week and it stuck to me like glue. He was talking about being vulnerable and how leaders lay themselves bare first to open the door for others.

Everything about the Love Does conference reminded me that I am a story made up of many parts and there are some parts that I am exceptionally comfortable telling and there are others I hold close and try to think of as background noise while the scene focuses in on something else, something less personal, or less painful.

Over the past six months I have felt with increasing urgency that these other parts of my story need to step into the light and when I heard this idea about going first it was like God tapping me on the shoulder and clearing his throat encouragingly.

I guess we can consider this post my attempt to put a toe in the water…

When I was twenty-six I found myself really disillusioned with life. Nothing was working out the way I had planned and it didn’t make sense because I had always been the good girl. When everyone around me was doing other things, I was towing the line for God. I prayed, I went to church, and I worked hard to be better than my peers. It was exhausting. It felt utterly unfair that I was lonely, unsatisfied with life, and worse, everything kept going wrong.

I lost my job, I had horrible roommate trouble and I ended up having to move home. It felt particularly humiliating being the oldest and being the only one to have to move home. I didn’t know who I was or where I was going in life and I was angry that after having tried to do everything right, this is where I found myself.

Timing is everything and I was ripe for something to change, so when I met someone and he planted the seed in my head and heart that I would feel a lot better about life if I worked on my physical appearance, I seized the opportunity with a vengeance.

What began as a plan to use the time I wasn’t working to exercise and make healthier choices about food turned into nearly two years of starving myself and exercising close to 30 hours a week.

The more weight I lost the better I felt about life.

It wasn’t just about what I saw in the mirror, even though I enjoyed the compliments I got and the way people praised my hard work, for me the greatest satisfaction came in finally having something I could control, and the more I controlled it, the more satisfied I felt.

I had dropped just below 100 pounds when God used a trusted friend to bring me back to reality with the words, “Hey, you’re starting to look really scary.”

One of the reasons I’ve avoided talking about this part of my story is that I have never wanted to wave the Eating Disorder flag for myself or let it be the center stage production of my life. I’ve feared both people’s pity and their disappointment. There is so much more to my story than this one part and it’s bothered me to think anyone might get stuck here.

What I’ve learned in the aftermath, however, is that our struggles don’t find us at random. As much as we are purposed by God, our stumbling blocks are strategically chosen for us by our enemy.

This might be hard to hear, but starving yourself is not easy. It takes an extreme amount of motivation and will power. Hunger is a basic and persistent human need and to deny it for long periods of time requires unwavering determination.

There are people who would say that through an eating disorder Satan preyed on my weaknesses– insecurity, self-esteem, belonging. But what I know now is that the truth is he subverted my God-given strengths and used them against me.

Knowing that changes the picture, it changes everything about how I take each step each day. Instead of seeing myself as a helpless victim, I have learned and am learning to understand that I am a target because I am strong, I am determined and I have what it takes to fight hard. My weaknesses are nothing compared to the strengths God wove into my being and so the best way for Satan to take me out is to distract me from what God made me for, not pick at the chinks in my armor.

This part of my story has been essential to me understanding who I am and how God created me.

Do you see the strengths in your struggle? I hope you will look for them, I promise you they are there and when you recognize them it turns life upside down in the best possible way.

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What Are You For?

We all spend a lot of time thinking about what we are against.
Before I even finish typing this sentence I’ve already thought of at least ten things that I am absolutely against. Everything about our culture promotes the sense that we are responsible to know what we are against and that we need to join forces with other people who are against the same things that we are.

We draw attention to those things that we are against through boycotts, rallies, demonstrations, and blog posts. We leave the world around us in no doubt of what we don’t believe in, what we disavow, and what we reject.

We fight and we fight hard… the question is what are we fighting FOR?

In the war against all of the evil we’ve identified in the world, have we completely forgotten that there are things worth saving, worth uniting over, that there is good to uphold, and there is beauty to be seen?

What would our world look like if instead of bonding over what we are against, we stood together for good, for love, for things done right? What if we devoted our social spaces to honoring acts of kindness, to recognizing strength of character in others, to capturing moments of freedom, justice, and unconditional love?

At the end of my life I don’t want to be remembered for the list of things I was against, I want to be known for what I was for. I want give my life to pointing towards something and not steering people away. I want to be in the business of shining a light and illuminating truth, not exposing darkness and lies.

Can we live in that space? Can we use our words to speak life instead of breathing death?
What are we for?

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A Straight Girl, A Gay Club and God.

I love to dance.

I know. I am deceptively introverted, so I understand how much of a shock this news may come as to some of you.

While you try to recover from having your whole perception of me shaken keep reading.

 

As a younger person I was shy-ish. I say shy-ish because a lot of people assumed I was shy, but the truth was that I was more cautious than shy. I stepped out into the world with circumspection and moved through it doing a lot more watching than acting. There was something hidden deep inside, however, that longed for wild abandon.

 

It wasn’t the same as a desire to rebel– I didn’t feel the need to fight against an invisible cage placed around me by other people or circumstances. I wanted to break out of the prison cell of self. There was someone inside of me somewhere who wasn’t concerned with her reputation or how she measured up to everyone else. Buried under layers of worry about whether or not I exceeded people’s expectations and the constant drive towards perfection was a girl who was fun, who loved who she was, loved how she was made and I wanted to find her.

 

It was heartbreaking to admit over and over again that I had no clue how to unearth a less severe side of myself. I’m naturally a competitive and determined person, so my approach to personal change or growth has always been to white knuckle it into submission. After one inevitable failed attempt after another I learned that this tactic was paradoxical to finding freedom.

 

Eventually resigning myself to the belief that the carefree person I had hoped was hidden in my soul just did not exist, I finally met her in the most unlikeliest of places– A gay bar.

 

I was twenty-seven at the time and had come to the end of many ropes. Relationships had failed miserably, my desperate need for control was crushing me,  and all of the ways I had tried so hard to live up to the standard that I believed God and everyone else had laid out before me were leaving me feeling dead inside. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize the person looking back at me. I’d had enough.

 

Literally and figuratively throwing caution to the wind I started going out with friends. I learned that a little liquid courage went a long way towards making me feel brave enough to face the dark side of the moon. If I couldn’t find a sense of freedom, I had decided I would settle for a sense of carelessness instead.

 

One fateful evening, weary of dodging the ceaseless advances of stumbling drunk members of the opposite sex, but anxious for something to do, my friend suggested we go to a gay club and dance. Up to this point dancing hadn’t ever occurred to me, the places my friends and I normally hung out were “grown up” bars where you sat around, looked pretty and drank fancy cocktails while pretending to maintain conversations. I had heard that gay clubs were a safe haven for the single straight lady looking for a place to have fun because there was little to no risk of getting hit on or propositioned in any sort of way.

 

Considering the way I was raised and my parents ministry I felt a tiny twinge of guilt and the hint of a sense of betrayal (which now seems ridiculous to me), but the appeal was too great and I agreed to go.

 

What I found there I will never forget. We stepped inside and the dance floor was crowded, the music was loud and the atmosphere was… brace yourself… joyful. It hit me like a wrecking ball– the air was light and easy to breathe with lack of judgement. People were jumping up and down and moving to the music, not only because they wanted to but because they couldn’t help themselves. Whether you were a skilled dancer or completely uncoordinated didn’t matter, everyone was welcome to cast off their labels, their insecurities, their pride and feel alive.

 

It was contagious. As Cher sang the words “Do you believe in life after love” to a roaring house mix I found myself, completely sober, in the middle of the dance floor flailing for all I was worth. The camaraderie between my fellow movers and shakers and I was unlike anything I had ever experienced anywhere else. These people didn’t know me, they didn’t care what I tried to live up to or how I failed, they just welcomed me in.

 

It felt like I was experiencing pure and unadulterated joy for the very first time in my life. Something cracked deep inside of my heart and God spoke– “This thing that you feel filling you up with a sense of wonder that is unrestrained is me. There’s nothing hidden from me, there’s no judgement in me, there are no wrong dance moves, but you can’t dance at all if you’re carrying all of your stuff, so come to me the way that you came to this dance floor.”

 

I love to dance.

It’s how I learned about surrender and joy.

I’m not perfect… Every day I have to remember to put my stuff down so that I can dance, but now I know that I can if I just will.

 

Will you have the same experience in the same kind of place? I don’t know, I can’t give you an answer for that. What I do know is that God isn’t limited in the ways he can and will speak. He is creative and he knows that sometimes what we need most is to see him in the unlikely places, not where we’re used to looking for him.

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Gaming For Good

When I was seventeen I was a group leader for a youth event called 30 Hour Famine. During the Famine event youth didn’t eat for 30 hours and were involved in community service projects, parents and friends pledged money by the hour and at the end all of the funds raised were given to a foreign mission group.

People pledged without blinking an eye, this was a good thing that these kids were doing, right? Right!

What I remember most about that 30 hours is that being trapped in a room with a group of extremely hungry teenagers has to be the closest I’ve ever been to a real life Walking Dead situation.

 

sardinesThis weekend I spent 25 + hours with a group of teenagers who had gathered to support one of their peers as he gamed for 25 hours with an organization called Extra Life to raise funds for a children’s hospital.

When the young man told another leader and myself about this project I was really excited, I thought, “What a fantastic way to engage people where they are at and give greater purpose to something they are already doing and are already good at!” What came as a bit of a surprise to me was some other people’s reactions.

As we started spreading the word I heard a lot of what sounded something like this, “Oh. 25 hours of playing video games, what a HUGE sacrifice that must be!” accompanied by eye rolling and dripping with sarcasm.

The general feeling seems to be that its not really a service worth doing or perhaps not service at all if it’s not something sacrificial in a way that means we are dirty, sweaty, hungry or otherwise physically or mentally uncomfortable and I have to disagree with that way of thinking.

 

God made us and he said, “This is good work.” and then he made us good at all kinds of different things. This young man is good at gaming, it’s evidence of the way God created his brain. How he enjoys it is a part of the way God is communicating with him and I LOVE seeing him engage in opportunities to use how God made him to love other people. It was also awesome to see how his peers rallied around him to support him, to play with him, keep him company all night long.

We have to get out of this habit of compartmentalizing our lives into groups of “This is me”, “This is what I do for God”, and “This is what I do for work”. We also have to get out of the habit of looking at certain types of service and believing that they are the only real kinds of service.

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Video Tuesday: Inland by Jars Of Clay

I love this song from Jars of Clay’s new album. Hope you enjoy and happy Tuesday !

Video Tuesday : The Cure.

 

This Video Tuesday is brought to you by an amazing, life altering book called The Cure. You’ve gotta read this. From the book …

the cure“We thought we were cured. 

We thought so, but most of us unwittingly carried an old, dead outlook into our new life. We couldn’t measure up to the standard we created, so we convinced ourselves it was God’s. We read his words through our grid of shame and felt ourselves fall farther and farther behind. We took it out on each other; judging, comparing, faking, splintering. Some of us retreated from the whole charade, becoming cynical, mistrusting, jaded from hope. Our marriages, churches, families, friendships, our marketplaces, our culture… they all need the cure. 

But God’s cures rarely come in the form we expect. 

What if, indeed, God is not who we think he is… and neither are we?”

Check it out at truefaced.com

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Mommy, What Does Gay Mean?

Originally posted on I Was Told There'd Be Cookies:

There it was . The question I had been scared of oh for about 8 almost 9 years, in other words since my daughter was born.

Why is this question scary to me, you might ask? Well I will tell you and it’s probably not for the reason you think, but first let me give you some background.

My dad is gay. My mom knew he was gay when they got married.It wasn’t one of those “ Let’s try to be normal and hope it fixes my gayness” things. It was more of a “ We don’t know how or why God want’s us to do this but we just know he does” kinda thing. And the blessing is it turned into a “ love of my life sort of thing” you can read part of that story here,or here ,if you’re curious (it’s really beautiful. )

I grew…

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