Taking my place in the Pews

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about ‘new’ Christians. People who’ve just decided to accept Jesus or maybe they haven’t accepted him yet but they are ‘trying on’ the Christian life. I have some good friends who have just begun attending church. In fact, they were previously pretty Anti-church. So now when they sit next to me, I’m keenly aware of all the nuances of the service. How church members relate to each other. The rituals and habits we have. It must seem so foreign to them! I remember when it was foreign to me. The churchy language, the small groups, full immersion baptism. Oh man , THAT one used to freak me out! (I worked hard on my hair and makeup and you want to ruin it? In public??) I’m also aware of the expectations that can sometimes accompany church membership.

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One of the things I dearly want for my friends is not to confuse who they are to the church with who they are to God.

I  started attending church again regularly after a lengthy almost  two decades  hiatus during which I royally screwed up life (another many stories for another time) I was happy to be there but I felt like such an outsider. It was like being the new kid in middle school and all the other kids had been friends since they were in Kindergarten. Fortunately, the congregation was incredibly friendly and welcoming. Plus they served snacks after service. Bonus! They drew me into their tribe, their culture, their lives, their conversations. It was amazing! I couldn’t get enough. After 14 years in my  2nd abusive marriage (no judging) my self esteem was next to nothing and I didn’t feel like I had anything of value to offer other than my hairstyling skills. But these people-they seemed to love ME and that’s what I so desperately needed. So, in true over achiever fashion I jumped right in to everything they had to offer. And there was a lot!! I did women’s ministry. I did Bible studies. I attended conferences. I helped with and planned events, dinners, children’s ministry puppet shows. You name it, I said YES. Heck , I even went to Bible college and graduated Valedictorian! I drank ALL the Kool Aid! I was killing this Christian thing!! And for a while it felt awesome! I was accepted. I was praised. I was wanted. I was appreciated.

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When I was at my lowest God knew what I needed and He generously supplied.However, while I was moving up in church leadership I began to realize that something was off. My church family seemed more interested in what I was producing rather than what I was becoming. I was a major player. One of the ‘special’ ones. I also felt tired, judged, confused, stretched thin, and vaguely empty.

I began to realize that I wasn’t doing all this for God. I was more concerned with what people would think of me if I Didn’t do #allthethings  all the time. Ashamedly,  I also realized that I was addicted to the accolades that I got from being ‘one of the chosen’ who sat at the front of the church. Or being one of the few that attended the inner circle meetings of church hierarchy. I’d become one of the cool kids and I liked it. It made me feel special. Somewhere along the line I’d gotten it wrong. I’d come back to church and to Jesus because he accepted and loved  ME.  Not because of Anything that I did. He loved me when I wasn’t doing anything ‘special’. I didn’t want to have to do all the right things to be accepted anymore. Jesus had only one qualification for me to follow him and that is that I am totally Unqualified.

My marriage(s)  had left me with the wound of ‘ never good enough’. Even though I thought I’d left that at the door, all I did was bring it with me and put a Sunday suit on it. I’d moved my hamster wheel of worthiness from home to church. I’d spent years and years trying to become whatever people wanted me to be so that I’d be valuable to them. Constantly trying to figure out what they wanted from me.

What I didn’t understand was that all God wanted from me was– Me.giphy (1).gif

 

Because God likes to mess with my comfort zones, He led us away from that particular church and all the activities I’d put in His place. He removed my protective Armor of Productivity and put me on a ‘Busyness Time Out’.  I no longer had my committees and bible studies and women’s groups to take up my time. In the absence of movement there was only me…..and God. And you know what I began to realize? I didn’t need all the busy work. Not once. Not one single time did I feel any less loved for not ‘producing’ . In fact, I felt peaceful and comforted and accepted again. As I spent my time with God and reading His word it slowly dawned on me that He just wants me to love Him. Trust Him. Love others. Be kind. It doesn’t matter if I do that for 300 people or just the guy bagging my groceries.  I don’t need to do something that looks Big and Amazing to people. To God the smallest gestures of love ARE big and amazing. He knows that my giving of love produces far more results than anything else.

So, if you want to find me at church don’t go looking where the volunteers are. That may come at another season of my life again; but not now. For now, you can find me sitting in the aisles next to my newbie church friends and just being with them.

Building the Butterfly

“The caterpillar is a necessary stage but becomes unsustainable once it’s job is done. There is no point in being angry with it and there is no need to worry about defeating it. The task is to focus on building the butterfly, the success of which depends on powerful positive and creative efforts in all aspects….” Elizabet Sahtouris 

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I’ve been thinking a lot about butterflies lately. Like there aren’t far more important things, right? I know it’s weird but whenever something sticks in my mind like this I usually know that God has something for me to share. So stick with me on this one even if it gets a bit ‘science-y’ okay? It’s fascinating. Truly.

It started when I went to see my dear friend and business partner, Patti, in the hospital after she suffered a horrible car accident. This was not the type of accident where you have a few broken bones and some whiplash. This was a stay in the hospital three weeks, wheelchair, home care nurse,six month rehab, let’s hope you heal normally type of an accident. LIFE Altering!

One of the first things she said to me in the hospital was, “I just want to hurry up and get this (recovery) over with!” Well, yeah! I mean, who wouldn’t ?! As I looked around her room at the cards and children’s drawings meant to cheer her up I noticed how many butterflies were on them. Patti. Loves. Butterflies. They are all over her house. And I thought, how funny that we always see the beautiful butterflies but not the cocoon.

As a culture we are obsessed with the pretty. Me included. #shinysyndrome .We love the ‘before and after’ photos of people who’ve gone from obese to gym beast. We can relate to a Before photo and we  desire to be the After, but we ignore the getting there part. Why do we celebrate the butterfly and despise the chrysalis? It’s in the butterflies getting there stage that all the magic happens. That’s when I realized how much we have in common with these little winged creatures.

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Although we can’t see it, I’d imagine that being stuffed in a cocoon is  cramped , uncomfortable, and dark. Isn’t this pretty much how we feel when going through a transformation? I know I do!  The stretching , molding, breaking down and building up again into a new creation generally sucks when it’s happening. It’s painful. Caterpillars can totally relate to this.  (Get ready! Science-y part coming!) Inside the cocoon, they go through a stage called histolysis which is defined as “the breaking down [of tissues] during the process of metamorphosis.”  Ok, first off , Eewwww!!! Secondly, Holy wow! have I been there! The last 15 years of fully turning my life over to God I’ve changed in a million ways. Every habit , attitude, or belief I hold now required the tearing down of one I held before. Old dreams perished and new ones were fashioned. Goals I’d had, no longer seemed worthy of pursuing. Huge parts of me had to disintegrate and die in order for new ones to be born. People knew something was going on WITH me but they couldn’t see what was going on IN me. And, just like Patti, I wanted to hurry up the ‘getting there ‘ process and reach my ‘After’.

Ok, here’s my last ‘science-y’ butterfly fact. When I read it, it blew my mind. Inside of these insects are structures called Imaginal Discs.These discs are responsible for the caterpillar turning into a butterfly. They are what actually becomes the wings. AND they are only activated once they are in the cocoon!  Why does a caterpillar even form a cocoon? I’m so glad you asked…. Because they run out of something called juvenile hormone. Basically, their carefree days of living off the tree and eating free leaves are over and they have to get out and get a job.Seriously, I’m not making this up. Can’t you see how this is so much like us?

At some point, being juvenile doesn’t serve us -it stunts our growth. God knows the potential He’s placed in us and He loves us too much to let us stay as children in our faith. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like He loves us because the whole ‘getting mature’ thing is even More painful than staying immature. For me,I wanted IMMEDIATE change, not months or years of angsty self examination. I reached out to God looking for light and freedom and it felt like He put me into a dark crampy cocoon. Then He made me stay there. Well, I really made myself stay in the dark. I remained until all the lies I’d believed about myself were crushed and my mind was renewed with God’s truth of who I really am. I am made in God’s image and everything I needed to be a butterfly was already in me.

Because here’s the thing about us humans, we will happily walk around consuming things of this world until something forces us to seek God and the change that comes with that. We don’t just wake up one day and think, ‘Today I want to question all my motives, goals, and relationships. Then I’ll reexamine my dreams and where I put my finances. Yeah! This is gonna be awesome!” #no  . It takes the cocoon; the journey through the dark, to find your wings. When your time comes to go through transformation, embrace it. It’s in the dark that we find the power of Christ that is in us. It’s that power that will give you your wings.

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A Declined Invitation

Have you ever had someone turn down your invitation to join you for a party or an event? It stinks, doesn’t it? I mean, the whole point in asking them to come is because you want to be with them. You want to share the experience with them. Partake in the enjoyment of it together.

This happened to me last week. I sent an invite to someone I really wanted to spend time with. It wasn’t just that they declined, they didn’t even bother to respond.Initially. I gave them the benifit of the doubt thinking they must not have seen the invitation.We’ve all missed evites that got buried under the spam mail, right? So, when I saw them I asked, ‘hey, did you see my invitation? I didn’t want you to miss it!’ Yep….they’d seen it. Seen and Dismissed. Ouch! Not only did they not answer, but they couldn’t give me an explanation as to Why they didn’t want to attend. All I got was shrugged shoulders and a mumbled “Idunno’. Dannggggg ya’ll. I’m not going to lie, I was pissed. And hurt. RSVP

Issuing an invitation entails a certain degree of trust.

You trust that:

they will share your interest

they will make an effort to attend if possible

they will, at the very least, RSVP.

Here is the thing about Invitations though. They come with options.

Yes. No. Maybe.(like those notes we passed in elementary school)

Invitations don’t guarantee someone’s presence or participation. They are not commands bereft of  a choice. The invited are allowed to exercise free will.

And really isn’t this the way it should be? If I invite someone to be with me I want them to attend with the same enthusiasm that I invited them with. Attendance out of obligation is meaningless.

Issuing an invitation is an act of vulnerability. We put our hearts out with every invite by offering a piece of ourselves to the other person. We are saying ‘I want you. You matter to me and I want to share some of my time with you’. That’s why it hurts so much when we get declined.It doesn’t just feel like a negative response to the event it feels like a rejection of US.       expectation

So, as I was licking my wounds and being really ticked off, I started wondering how God would want me to respond. I was pretty sure that my initial reaction of being sullen and snarky wasn’t the proper way to handle it. It made me think of how many times He issues invitations to me that I decline. Or invitations I don’t even acknowledge. How many times does God beckon me to come spend time with Him? How many times has He asked me to do something with Him and I just hit delete without responding? The awesome thing about God not being me is that He never gets sullen and snarky about my lack of response. He just keeps inviting as if I never rejected Him. He’s far more secure in His worth than I am in mine.

In thinking of how God responds to me I came up with a few guidelines for me to remember when my invitations get rejected:

A negative response does not determine my worth or value.It’s never personal When I say no to God it doesn’t mean I don’t love Him. My response is solely based on what I’m feeling or focusing on at the moment. Yes, I know that’s selfish. Don’t judge me.

My joy is not based on their presence or absence. I have expectations of people and when they aren’t met I get hurt and disappointed and sad. I don’t think God has these unrealistic expectations of us. He wants us to decide to be with Him. I believe He’s delighted for US when we choose to accept His invitation but I don’t think it ruins His day when we don’t.

I can’t control what people will say Yes to or when.I can only hope they will. And they will, when the time is right for them. I say ‘yes’ to God when I’m ready. He doesn’t try to control my decision, He just keeps issuing the invitation. No pressure. No expectations. Just patient and continual offering. He doesn’t give up on me because I initially reject His offer. He knows that being with Him is awesome!  (that is some amazing self esteem) The ones who think that being with me is awesome will accept my invitation. The ones that keep ignoring it…well they’re going to miss out but it’s no longer going to ruin my day.god pursues

I’ll be honest. Even with this insight my feelings are still bruised. Except now instead of being a deep purplish one it’s turning into a pale yellow one. A few more days and I should be healed. Maybe next time I’ll dodge the blow altogether.

 

 

 

9 Things I’ve Learned Through Blogging

Blogging is much more difficult than I expected. It’s not only attempting to write content that’s engaging. There’s grammar, punctuation, spelling, wording…and then there’s the self discovery. This one I was not prepared for.

In writing a blog about my life experiences I’ve been  forced to examine what I think, feel, and believe about everything. Since I’m a storyteller and not a fiction writer (there is a difference) I cannot, in good conscience, write lies to my readers.Truth be told (pun intended) I’m a horrible liar Period! Zero poker face.Gambling is not in my future.cannot tell a lie

I can sense a post straying from authenticity when I lose my ‘flow’. If I am completely at peace with my story the words tumble out so quickly that I can scarcely type fast enough to catch them on paper. The moment I dig up and Un Truth my words become forced. That’s when I know something about the subject hasn’t been settled. There’s anger or pain still lingering. Or the really fun discovery of how far away my perceptions were from reality. Man , I Hate that one!

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This truth telling endeavor has uncovered more self deception than I anticipated. Here are some examples of my most frequently used :

It’s not that bad

It didn’t really bother me

I’m fine

I should have known better

It’s my fault

When the truth is:

It WAS that bad

It more than bothered my. It was devastating

I was so Not fine

I  couldn’t see a better way

It wasn’t my fault

The thing about this Archaelogical Truth Excavation is that instead of being IN the situations I can now look AT them. When you’re IN something you can’t see all aspects of it. When you’re looking AT something you can take it all in , walk around it, away from it, observe it from afar. The distance allows me to assess the past more objectively and come to terms with it’s impact on my life both good and bad.

Another thing about a personal blog is that it’s so, well…..PERSONAL. I don’t get to look you in the eye while I narrate my life and discern whether or not I should censor something based on your smile or your recoil.I have No idea whose reading this, what their reaction is, or how they’re judging me. Imagine reading your diary out loud in front of a full auditorium wearing a bikini. *shudder*

Writing this blog has also been a test of my faith in God. I never would have begun this journey if He hadn’t nagged me relentlessly for about a year. Seriously, it was like a toddler saying “mama.mama.mama.mama.” Except it sounded like, “you gonna write it? How about now? Now? How about now? Now is good do it now”…To which my very mature response was,’FINE! If it gets you off my back I’ll do it!” I’ll bet God loves my obedient nature.

I really didn’t know who I was writing for or what the purpose was. I still don’t know who I might be helping or even if I am .Not worrying about that takes an incredible amount of trust in God. I want to write content that people will like. I’m a people pleaser. This is my thing. The minute I start obsessing over whether or not you guys will like it – I lose the flow. I have to give up control over it and let God do what He will with what He inspires me to write.

So here is the list of the Top 9 Things I’ve Discovered about Myself while Blogging:

  1. I’m impatient and impulsive. (Those of you who are already saying, ‘Duh!’ , Stop it.) This one is evidenced in how quickly I mash the Publish button before proofreading/improving a post.
  2. I’m still healing.  I’ve moved from Hot Mess to Lukewarm.
  3. I’m more confident than I realized. depends on the day.
  4. I’m more insecure than I realized. depends on the day.
  5. I still hate my ex husband. Like, a lot. I’ve tried so many times to write about him and my marriage. I can’t.It would just be hate mail. This ones a work in progress.
  6. My motives are not always where they should be I have to check my self on who I’m writing for. Me & you or God.
  7. I care too much what other people think. #peoplepleaser
  8. I don’t give a rip what other people think #recoveringpeoplepleaser
  9. Giving up control isn’t the same as losing control holding on tightly crushes things. Loosening your grip lets them expand.

There you have it. We’ve covered squashing self deception, being transparent, giving up control, and obedience. See how Fun this is?!! You can’t wait to start your blog now, can you?

In all honesty, (no pun intended) I love every minute of it. It’s challenging. It forces me to do something I’ve never done and to move ahead into unknown territory. This is exactly the kind of project that Thrills me! I thank all of you who stop by for sharing this journey with me. My deepest desire is that you find treasures that make you giggle or give you hope or maybe dislodge you from being stuck somewhere. It’s not easy in the least, but I can genuinely say – it’s worth it.

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Dawn Chorus

I’m an early bird. There is something soul nourishing about being awake in the stillness. The crisp morning air . The scent of clean earth. There is so much hope and promise in a sunrise. Nothing has been done yet. No decisions or mistakes. No conversations that you wish you could do over. And the birdsong. I love the birdsong. I make my coffee (#priorities) and snuggle down in my favorite place; a big oversized chair in our living room that looks out through a bay window. In front of the window is a bird feeder. I can sit for hours just watching every sort of chickadee and sparrow flit down to peck a few seeds and fly away. They are a delight to watch and their plumage never ceases to amaze me. But it’s their song I love the most. Before the first rays appear, while it is still dark, they begin.

.bird singing

How do we sing in the shadowed places? The birds sing in anticipation of the first glimmers of dawn. Long before the arrival of the first light they sing with assurance the sun will rise again like it’s done thousands of times before. They sing of hope and faithfulness. Not every song is buoyant.Beside the joyful twitter of the bluebird is the haunting coo of the mourning dove.There have been so many times when I thought midnight would last forever.When my song was nothing more than the choked out sobs of despair. But I kept scanning the horizon, looking for the dimmest glow in anticipation of it’s arrival. It’s not that I’m the eternal optimist.(though my rose colored glasses are well used). It’s the fact that no matter my situation God has been faithful to me. Whether you sing a melody or a dirge I promise you God is listening and He is faithful to you when you call to Him. Always. Even when it feels like you’ve been singing for an eternity without an audience.

.flock of birds singing

Tomorrow morning I urge you to go outside and listen to the chorus. The lyrics intertwined, overlapped, a blended cacophony of unique warbles, twitters, and trills. Not one more important than the other This is their Dawn Chorus not a Dawn Solo. The birds don’t sing alone and we aren’t meant to either. We have to find our flock. When we intone our hymns of grief there will be others grieving with you. When we explode with uncontained joy there will be others who rejoice with us! Their voices lifting up our own song in solidarity. Find the ones who remember the light that came after their darkness. Those are flock. Your people. The ones who will help you remember the sunrises of your past.Search the horizon together and sing your Chorus of anticipation to the God who shines light in the dark.

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                                                    A Certain Kind of Courage

Courage is found in unlikely places;

in shattered dreams and tear stained faces.

Raising your hand in front of the class when you’re so afraid they are going to laugh.

Proclaiming the truth and exposing the lie.

Whispering secrets you’d locked inside.

Choosing to live when your loved one is dead and finding the will to get out of bed.

It’s seeking forgiveness

and asking for help.

It’s forcing a smile and facing yourself.

It’s shaky legs that stand up for the weak and the timid voice

that bravely squeaks.

It’s finding your dark and choosing the Light.

Loving yourself;

being able to cry.

It’s laying it all at your Saviour’s feet;

all of the messy and none of the neat.

Trusting His strength and His sovereign hand.

Having Peace in your journey without knowing the plans.

-C.Pay 2015

Holding Patterns

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I’ve heard it been said that laughter is a universal language. Let me also offer this as a universal : the extreme dislike of Waiting. Never in my life have I met someone who actually enjoyed waiting for things to happen. For me, it’s right up there with doing your taxes and horrible stomach pains from Indian food…you just want it to be over. I tend to be the type of person who wants things done yesterday. And if I’m really excited or anxious about it then having it finished by last week would be preferable.

This isn’t something I feel with people. With people, I tend to be very patient and empathetic to the point of enabling. (see my post on ‘Breaking Ties with Toxic’) It’s not the type of waiting such as being in line at Disney or on hold with the gas company for 45 minutes I’m referring to . I mean waiting for Life Changes.You’re ready to get married, get the promotion, move, have a baby, start a business, do SOMETHING,but the pieces won’t fall into place. Or even more frustrating, you don’t know where you’re supposed to go next. You just know that there’s Something More. The “Next Big Thing” is waiting for you, if you could just figure out what the “Next Big Thing” is. This is me. Right now.

Over the past few years God has been repeating one phrase to me over and over.

Be. Here. Now

Be. Here. Now.

Be. Here. Now.

Be . Here. Now.

Honestly, I love Him, but He can annoy me. After I quit whining about it and started saying the phrase out loud a few hundred thousand times it started to make sense. Also, my life wasn’t moving where I wanted it to go so I figured I should pay attention. Here’s what I’ve learned:

BE . Here . Now. Just Be. Stop striving to make the deal or manipulate the circumstances. Stop obsessing over the what if’s and should be’s. Slow down and breathe. Listen to your heart.Spend more time listening to God than shooting ‘why’ questions at Him. God doesn’t speak Whinese. Nurture yourself and take time to do the things you love. Read, paint, draw, pray,write, work out. Do the things that make you lose track of time. Immerse yourself into anything but striving for the ‘Next Big Thing’ and the answers will begin to reveal themselves. “Let be and be still, and recognize that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 AMP

edna mode never look back

Be . Here. Now. Not back then. Not there. Not when.Not someday. Here. There is a reason you are at this place at this time. There are lessons to be learned here that will get you there. Examine the obstacles you bump into repeatedly and figure out what you need to change to avoid them.Planes stay in a circular holding pattern while they await permission to land. Timing has to be right and obstacles must be cleared from the runway before they can execute a successful landing. Be assured that God is working things out and clearing the pathway you will land on. In HIS timing. *Sigh*

Be. Here. Now.  You know that cheesy quote, ” the past is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, today is a gift which is why it’s called the present”.? It’s true. I have spent wayyy too much time worrying over what I should have done yesterday and what might happen tomorrow. What I’ve found is that the past doesn’t change if I rehash it and most of the things I worry about never happen. What Does happen when I don’t focus on now is the people I care most about lose out. They lose out on my full attention and presence. And I lose out on enjoying them. If I’m trying to hold onto the past or grab at the future my hands are too full to embrace the ones right in front of me. The best thing I can do on while waiting for  the ‘Next Big Thing’ is to make memories along the way my family will cherish.

The craziest thing I’ve learned so far? Is sometimes the ‘Next Big Thing’ is the thing I’m doing right now. Maybe someday I’ll listen to God without whining about it first. Maybe.

How do you cope with waiting for life to happen?