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She is who I am…

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This afternoon’s instructor asked us to quiet our minds and then let whatever came to surface have space in our thoughts. This is a scary request for someone with a mind like mine…a past like mine. The never-ending mechanical whir of my brain being asked to make room for only one thought is intimidating…and yet that is the why behind yoga…the thing that drags me to the mat…the pull of my practice.

As I stood in samasthiti in a quiet darkened room full of other people’s energy, I slowed my mind, folded my hands at heart center, and tried to obey the instructions. As my mind changed from whirling dervish to second hand on a old clock and my breath began to match the universal pace of breathing in the room, I heard a thought rumble in my mind. The kind bass gravel of my Dad’s voice saying “Lee-Li-Lou.”

This alliteration. These three simple sounds. This nickname.

My pulse quickened for a moment…then slowed in a wave of easy comfort…security. A nickname not spoken often in recent years. In adulthood, as my father and I became strangers to one another, he stopped using this gentle term of endearment. I do not like being called by nicknames. I answer to them only for the most special of people, tolerate them from some, and shut them down in all other cases.

But my father…my daddy…my dad…he can call me LeeLiLou.

For in those three little syllables lies a world of security, safety  and identity. It’s rolled up in the trust of a daughter for her strong, handsome father. It’s sweet to the ears of the little girl lost who still lives in the grown woman. It’s a name spoken in the farthest reaches of my mind…spoken today in the clear space…in the calm…in the changed woman.

Before there was a damaged little person with the weight of the world on her shoulders, there was LeeLiLou.

She of the fierce independence  She with the crazy hair and reckless laughter. She who could scowl with her eyes, put a smile on her face, and deliver a message with a look. She whose very existence was a challenge to anyone who would think to put her down, ask her to hide her light, or tell her she wasn’t enough. She of the brave, funny, mouthy, and soulful.

Before there was ice in these veins, there was fire. Before there was fear, there was fearless love. Before there was hesitation, there was a little actress, a writer, a singer, a dancer, a gymnast, a teacher, & a doctor. These were the dreams of the sassy and promises of the Divine.

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I keep this picture in my meditation space because this is a picture of undamaged, unafraid, unabashedly joyful with a kick ass tan, frizzy hair, fight in her eyes, and a smile on her face.

My mother has a different story about this picture…something like “bratty youngest child who cried until she got her way.”

What she doesn’t know is that though I was only 3 years old, I remember every detail of this day. I remember it as one of the last big wins before a series of losses. I picked the day of this picture. I picked the outfit. I picked the doll I got for finally taking these pictures on the 3rd attempt. I smiled the smile I wanted to smile. My eyes say what I want them to say.

Spoiled? Maybe.

In full control of my spirit at 3 years old? Completely.

And for the record…I’ve spent the last 10 years getting that girl back. Every therapy session…every fight to have what is mine at work…every time I’ve spoken up on my own behalf personally, professionally or spiritually…every difficult conversation with a family member…every breakup with a guy who wasn’t man enough…every dime earned…every story written…every dance danced…every song sung.

Every.
Single.
Word.

Taking me back…back to being her.

Like her or not, she’s my hero.

She is who I was…and by God…she is who I am.

Things That Matter Part 2: Sometimes a kitten saves lives…

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**Readers Advisory: If you are (a) sick of hearing about my cats, (b) a jerk who doesn’t like cats, or (c) going to comment with anything that involves the words “crazy” “cat” “lady” or any combination thereof, STOP!!!! Click the little X in the corner and go find your soul. ** 

This is the story about how one little cat has saved my life over and over…and gone on to save hundreds of others.

Once upon a time (August 12th, 2009 to be exact)…

There was a little brown house on a street with no street lamps. And inside that house was a girl who’d never had much success seeing meteors during a meteor shower (just ask my sister Kelly about that one). But with a glass of wine in hand, I went to sit in my little overgrown courtyard to give seeing some meteors a half-hearted attempt.

As I sat out in the warm New Mexican night I heard a kitten crying. I looked around the house a bit trying to locate the sound but couldn’t quite pin point it and since it was well after midnight, I figured I couldn’t go looking in the neighbors fences yards and windows. My immediate assumption was that someone had gotten a kitten and left it at home alone when it was too young. After a while I went to bed, and though I could still hear the kitten crying, I eventually went to sleep, feeling sorry for the little guy. The next morning as I sat in my home office working I continued to hear the kitten. 5204_116907156106_1733292_nFinally I couldn’t take it anymore and went out into the hot day to see if I could find it. As I stepped out into my back yard the kitten, seeing me, started crying even harder. The little yowls getting rougher and rougher as he wore out his little voice. I finally spotted him, high in the branches of the neighbors tree that hung over our shared fence. At the bottom of the tree sat the neighbors dog, patiently waiting for a snack.

I climbed a ladder, rescued a little orange ball of cuteness, and put him on the ground. As I turned to walk back into the house, he followed me. Trotting right into the office with me. I put him back outside as I had no intention of having a pet.  But he patiently waited at the back door and windows for me to let him in. His cuteness finally won and I let him in.

He stayed, named himself Malcolm, and has saved my life and the lives of hundreds.

The End…

Oh wait…did you say something?

I  think I just heard you say “Wait! It sounds like YOU did the rescuing. So how did he rescue you?”

I’m so very glad you asked! 🙂 Let’s see…

  • Before Malcolm came to live with me I was working at a job I hated and on the road about 60 to 70% of the time. I had stopped dating, stopped eating right, was gaining back all the weight I’d lost, and was just unhappy. Malcolm made it easy for me to say no to trips I didn’t want to go on and to make better choices about which trips I would say yes too.  He also made it easy for me to start making better choices because I suddenly took very seriously the notion that someone else was relying on me…even if it was a ball of fur anyone could love. He didn’t want a different mama and I didn’t want him to have one. (Still don’t by the way!)
  • Within less than a year of getting Malcolm I lost that job I hated and dropped right into one of the scariest seasons of my life. Nine months without a job and a fast approaching bankruptcy. During that time Malcolm became my reminder that life was going to work out. He reminded me daily that it all had to work out because the sun came up, the Fancy Feast cans needed my thumbs to open them and put food in the bowl, and I was the only one who could get the toys out from under the couch. When I thought my world was ending, Malcolm just flopped over near my feet with a face that said “You know what would distract you? Rubbing my belly!” And I’d laughed. And when you can laugh…you can find hope.
  • Malcolm, Rose, and I moved to Seattle last summer. This has not been an easy transition for me. When the days got short in the winter and the sun stopped shining, I felt old waves of fear, doubt, and depression sneaking up on me. I wasn’t happy with the job, I was lonely, and the days were too damn dark and dreary for me to find relief. I came home from work on a particularly hard day, sat down in my favorite chair, and said to the air “What the hell am I doing in Seattle?” At just that moment, Mal jumped into my lap and sat facing me. I said “Why did I bring us here?” He said nothing (he is after all A CAT…just in case you got caught up in the story and forgot!). He then proceeded to climb into my hoodie 7033_145776981106_7010302_n(something he’s done since he was a tiny kitten), wrap himself around my body, look up at me sleepily through the zipper, and go fast asleep. All I could do was smile. He’d done it again. He’d reminded me to stop thinking about what happens next, find a comfy spot, and wait it out. While I was caught up in wondering what I’d done wrong and what the future held, Mal was totally warm and cozy in the place that he feels the safest and most loved. Duh! That’s when I did what I do in times of great anxiety…I turned inward…where I feel the safest…and waited out the long days quietly. And they did indeed pass…Spring came…and I’d managed, with the help of my furry friend to keep depression at bay.

What’s that you say?

Oh…I forgot to tell you how Mal saved hundreds of other lives.

Well…here’s the thing. About two years ago I decided to give up meat, dairy, eggs, etc. for Lent. During that time I started having weird dreams…well…one dream. The dream was slightly different each time. In it, Mal was still Mal but he was never a cat. Sometimes Mal was a duck. Or a Frog. Once he was a cow. He was always Mal. I always loved him and he always loved me.

When Lent was over, I didn’t go back to eating meat and animal products. When asked why I share lots of different reasons…health, the environment, my migraines being cured, etc. But if I’m totally honest, the bottom line is that I realized through that dream that I could no longer eat animals because I love Mal. Mal is no different than a duck. Just because as a society we’ve ascribed value to Mal because he’s a cat (one of our domesticated pets of choice), doesn’t actually make him more valuable. Don’t get me wrong. Mal is extremely valuable…because God made him, he has a desire to live, and a personality. Just like cows, frogs, and ducks.

So every year, 198 animals keep on living because of Mal.

Sometimes a kitten saves lives.

Things that Matter Part 1: Sometimes hair matters…

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**Reader’s Advisory: If you are (a) sick of hearing about my hair, (b) uncomfortable with swearing, or (c) my mother, STOP!!!. Click the little X in the corner and go have a cup of tea!!!** 

Important Facts About My Hair: 

1) I was 23 before I scissors ever touched my hair. (Well…except the one time I was 4 and I purposely put gum in my hair so I could cut photo (5)myself some bangs. But that is a story for another day. Here is proof of the bangs in what is still my favorite picture of myself!)

2) My mother and father believe women should not cut their hair based on some biblical writings in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 11). I’ve known this my whole life…meaning I don’t remember ever NOT knowing this. I also never got it. I couldn’t figure out how that worked and was troubled by all the nice church of Christ ladies who were going to hell because they didn’t know about these verses. (Sounds just like me doesn’t it!?) However, I totally respect my parents beliefs and am impressed that my mother has practiced this for almost 50 years. I however don’t consider this a salvation issue. (That’s Christianese for “stuff you’ll go to hell over”)

3) I have a rockin’ head of hair. It has been my shield, my glory, the envy of others, the bane of my existence, and my one beauty (a Little Women reference for my fellow bibliophiles). And between my parents beliefs and my need for security, my hair has been a source of vanity, stress, and comfort through the years. 

4) Two weeks ago I cut my hair shorter than it has ever been in my life. I’ve been working up to this haircut for a very long time. A VERY long time. Since cutting it I have been thinking about a moment in time that, though years in the past, gave me the courage to cut my hair…and a whole lot more.

Once upon a time…

I loved and was loved by a tall, funny, beautiful artist. I loved him fiercely and deeply. In return he loved me with abandon and without condition. I was 29 years old and had NEVER been loved unconditionally by anyone. I was a terrified, uptight, shame-riddled women, being loved in a way that I could not wrap my head around. From the start our love was burdened with our different baggage. Mine a suitcase of overly conservative, religious upbringing and unresolved childhood trauma. His a duffel bag carrying his scars and wounds from the wife of his youth and a family history that left holes where love should have been.

And still…

One day as we sat together I said “Someday I am going to cut my hair really short. I mean…like Halle Berry short.” I threw it at him like a threat…a challenge. I expected him to disdain the idea and tell me that he loved my hair. But in doing so I would be free to judge his love for me. It was lose lose all the way around. It would have been an unfair task for a lesser man. But the Sweet Warrior rose to the challenge.

He smiled, let his eyes wander over my hair, then looked me in the eyes. He waited.

“What?” I shot back in response to his silence.

He softly said through a teasing chuckle, “What are you waiting for Leah?”

I was rattled. He’d done what he did so often. Answered my insecurity with a question. He easily handed me back my own fear and with a tilt of his head made me see the absurdity. But not being quite ready to deal with it honestly, I hastily spewed a stream of consciousness “I don’t think I could pull of a short short haircut with my fat face. Maybe when I’m thinner. It’s not like I want to look like a boy for God’s sake.”

He waited.

I didn’t miss a beat and without taking a breath continued, “My mother would hate it. She’d probably tell me that I was going to hell or that she was disappointed or that she hated it.”

Still he waited.

“And anyway, my hair is my only good feature. It’s really the only beautiful thing about me.”

When I finally took a breath, I could see that he was done waiting. He tipped my chin to him and said, “You will looked beautiful with your short short haircut. You know why?”

All I could do was shake my head side to side and blink back the tears in my dark eyes.

“Because you ARE beautiful. Your hair is beautiful…yes. But it is NOT your only beauty. YOU are beautiful. You are BEAUTIFUL. And when you have short short hair,” he paused to ruffle his then chin length hair, “shorter than mine, you will STILL be pure beauty. You will pull it off because you are sassy, funny, kind, and the inside of you is as beautiful as the outside. Your short hair will be beautiful. You will be every inch the woman you are now. Your smile will still be beautiful. Your eyes will still sparkle beautifully. Your lips will still be juicy and beautiful. Your curves will still be sexy and beautiful. You will still be you. Beautiful. The difference will be you’ll have short hair.”

I did that cry-laugh thing that comes when a woman is balancing the wonder of being loved against the weight of having her thoughts of herself challenged. I smiled. A big smile of love that welled up from an over-flowing heart. The smile that would sometimes make this man of mine raise his hand to his heart and pretend to faint. He kissed my forehead.

“As for your mother,” he paused for a long moment and smiled mischievously, ” Fuck her.”

This made me laugh wildly and what followed was, to the best of my recollection, some of the best kissing ever known in the history of kissing.

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Speak…

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About 6 months ago someone asked me “If you are as ‘healed’ as you claim to be from your childhood abuse, why do you talk about it so much?”

This quote answers that question very simply.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” –Dr. Brene Brown in “The Gifts of Imperfection”

I don’t think anyone enjoys being vulnerable…but I am glad I have learned to be.

I share because it is important to me that others come out of the shadows and speak their hurt, shame, and fear into the light because once it is in the light it begins to lose power.

I share because “healed” isn’t a one-time thing but a continuous transformation process over time.

I share because I have a voice, a tribe, a community, and an audience.

I share because:

  • A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds
  • 90% of children who are sexually abused know their perpetrator in some way
  • 30% of children who are abused will abuse their children later
  • 80% of 21 year olds that were abused present with some sort of mental disorderchild-deaths-per-day-line_9-30-2011
  • Abused girls are 25% more likely to become pregnant before reaching adulthood
  • Abused girls are more likely to practice unsafe sex and be exposed to STDs, HIV/AIDS, and physical issues
  • 2/3rds of people in treatment for addiction were abused as children

So yes…I share.

I am not ashamed. I am not afraid.

I will be the change…

Courage leads to courage which leads to courage…

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Through the years I have found that courageous acts tend to snowball into more courageous acts. I have found that to be true again these past few weeks.

Courageous Act #1
Deciding to bite my tongue and watch things unfold at work has involved courage for me. I’m an active participant in my own life and speak up when I feel there is injustice or wrong doing. But in this particular role, under these particular circumstances, I decided to just watch some of the interplay, do my job, and only speak when necessary for a few weeks to see where things go.
Good News: I’m valuable to my boss and have earned the respect of some of my coworkers and superiors.
Bad News: I’ve used bad judgement in trusting a few people and confirmed my suspicion that the company culture is a odd fit for me.
More Good New: I can work with my current situation while I wait for whatever changes come along (change is after all inevitable) and now my eyes open to make better decisions. I’ve also been reminded of the importance of having friends away from work.

Which leads us to…

Courageous Act #2
After several months of signing up for Meetup groups in Seattle and then cancelling at the last minute, a few week’s ago I finally went to a Happy Hour. This is courageous for me because I am super uncomfortable meeting new people. I am always convinced that no one in any new group of people will talk to me and I conjure up images of being ignored and treated horribly. Mind you…that has NEVER happened to me. And yet the imagination can be a crazy bitch and I can still get worked up every time. Now I’ve been to several meetups, tried a couple different yoga classes, have said yes to invitations for lunch or happy hour from people I’m meeting at work and out, and am slowly shaking this fear again and trying harder to give the chilly people of Seattle a chance.

This led to…

Courageous Act #3
Dating again. Uh…don’t get excited…I didn’t say I’ve been on any dates. I’m just willing to date again. After swimming through the entire dating pool of Albuquerque, I gave up a few years ago. If one more man without a job, living with his mother, with 3 kids from 3 different men asked me out I was going to SCREAM. So rather than take that chance, I just stopped being open to it. I dated in Denver…but somehow kept managing to date the same type of guy over and over and over. And since I didn’t have my medical marijuana card, me and the men of Denver didn’t have much in common. Then there was my brush with the past last summer. I ran into an ex and things heated up to a slow simmer between us. But ultimately nothing came of it. Which brings us to current times.
Willing.
Still picky.
Just willing.

And that brings us to…

Courageous Act #4
I needed a change. Something new to make me feel pretty. I needed to mark the changes I’ve been going through…emotional, physical, and financial changes. So after months (ok years) of wondering if I could be brave enough to do it, I cut my hair. It is SHORT! All day today I’ve been stunned by the girl in the mirror. I feel sassy…and I am EXCELLENT at sassy. I’m way cuter when I’m sassy.

And in some crazy, inexplicable way that takes us over to…

Courageous Act #5
For weeks I’ve been contemplating asking my mom and dad if they’d let me pay for them to join me on a long weekend in Northern California to visit with my dad’s family. For most people this seems innocuous enough. For me this is a painstaking decision that involves prayer, meditation, talking to my best friends, and daily decisions to “wait until tomorrow” or “next week” or “the weekend”. We do not have an easy relationship and being together could be great or really really hard. We could bond…or I could experience an emotional setback. And yet I couldn’t let go of the idea of inviting them. I watched my hair fall as Erin cut it yesterday and thought, “It’s only hair. It’ll grow back.” And a little voice said “It’s only an invitation. What have you got to lose?”

So today I took a deep breath, dialed the phone, and extended the invitation. As they take some time to think about the invitation and let me know, I am reminded that the reaction of the other is not what measures the act of courage.

What courageous thing do YOU need to try today? Before you chicken out, remember…

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Resurrection, New Life, and Fresh Starts

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“The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” Romans 8:11

I don’t know about you but I have had ENOUGH of limiting beliefs! And every time I read this verse I’m reminded that limiting beliefs keep me from moving freely into what God has for me.

In September of 2011 I read this verse and my journal for that days says…

“That very same Spirit…the one that raised a dead Jesus…the one that restored his life, rebuilt his body, rescued him from Sheol ..THAT Spirit lives in EmptyTombme. And yet I think I can’t get out of debt, lose weight, find love, reconcile my hurt relationships, get healed of old pains, etc. etc. etc. What is that about? Seriously? The HOLY SPIRIT raised Jesus from the DEAD and I’m worried that something will happen that will ruin me? I’ve got that POWER at my fingertips (from the inside??) and I’m still afraid…still sure I’ll fail some days?”

At that time I was living through a pretty rough season of uncertainty. Darker days were ahead but this day…reading that verse…set me on a course to turn loose of my fear-living.

Now any time a little fear thought sneaks up on me…any time failure weasels it’s way into my thoughts, I hear the words…

“That very same Spirit…”

And that lovely Lady floods through my soul and reminds me that She has not deserted me…She will not let me fail…She has the POWER to raise people from the dead…and She has the power to make life where there is none!

What have I to fear?

Thank you Jesus for coming…dying…and living again! (And all the good stuff in between!)
That you God for sending your So Loved to the rest of the So Loved!
Thank you Holy Spirit for Your creation energy, Your soul leading, and Your life-giving, death-overcoming, story-redeeming power!

Rob Bell and God Places…

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On Friday night I went to hear Rob Bell speak about his new book “What We Talk About When We Talk About God.” Briefly I’ll tell you that it is another winner by a writer who never fails to deliver. I can’t imagine that it is as controversial as “Love Wins” if only because the first half is fairly intellectual science talk that many will just give up on once they start.

Rob spends a great deal of time breaking down how we are energy…the breath of God (ruach)…on a subatomic level of our being and then goes on to tell401221_10151436755236107_24575479_n how God is WITH us, FOR us, and AHEAD of us pulling us to better existence and a more divine state of being and love through the centuries (my wording at the end there, not Rob’s). The book and his speaking are engaging, funny, and on-point for so many of us struggling with how to marry the relationship we have with the creator of the universe with the confusing rigidity, exclusivity, and politicization of the church.

I went into this lecture expecting to hear a Word from God. I needed one and had asked for one in the days leading up. Then the moment came. The “Oh this is for me” moment where my skin tingled and my hair stood up on edge.

“Many of us have fallen prey to a Gospel that talks about God-things, God-moments, God coming down. We’ve been taught that God is *THERE* and we are *HERE* and that sometimes God comes *HERE* to help us and then goes back *THERE*. Sadly that leaves us with a great deal of time where we are here…alone…without God and it’s easy to start believing that maybe we don’t need God after all  Or maybe that God isn’t real. At the very least we can’t understand why God shows up sometimes in some situations for some people and doesn’t for others. For instance, the Holocaust would have been an excellent time for God to come *HERE*. The truth is that God is HERE…always…all the time. God is breath, energy, life, all around us. And that is why not only do we feel God in the joy, we feel God on the cellular level in the deepest, darkest, soul-sucking times too.” (Close paraphrase)

He went on to take these thoughts deeper, but at those words my eyes flooded and I was reminded of what I know to be true. God was there. In that darkest of dark. He was there all along. Yet using conventional Christianity I’ve struggled at times with why He didn’t DO something. But He did. He was there. Being. Bearing witness. Holding space. Giving me God-breath to survive rather than to be crushed by the weight of the moment.

Grace. But more than grace.

Breath. But more than breath.

By being in that place…my darkest place…the ugliest of moments…and saying “I see you in this moment and this is not love”…God was WITH me.

By bringing me through it. Out of the dark. Teaching me to walk in light and change my energy and beliefs about my past. To celebrate my survival and move through the mud, muck, and weedy riverbank and into free flowing waters. To give me countless opportunities to grow and give and celebrate and serve and love…God was FOR me.

And in showing me that the limiting beliefs I had about being a girl…about being a Christian girl…about being an abused girl…about being a fat girl…about being a poor girl…were so very very wrong. Showing me what it means to be a CALLED woman in a world where there are those who still think that is unfortunate or impossible. Showing me how I can be kind and ambitious and smart and courageous and spiritual without having to bow down to patriarchy or custom or tradition…God was AHEAD of me.

Oh I got a word that night all right.

And I’ve been getting it, digesting it, working it over, and feeling it work its way to my deep parts ever since. Last night, As I lay awake for the second night in a row, pondering all these things, I was reminded of a verse that I’d tucked away a couple weeks ago to think on  some more. I knew as I recalled it that God had asked me to tuck it away for just this moment…

“Surely God was in this place, and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:16) 

 

Lent Continues–Wrestling

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Jacob_Wrestling_with_Angel_Delacroix-208x300 I have been wrestling with God for as long as I can remember.

Maybe that’s why my favorite picture in my first real Bible as a child was one of Jacob wrestling with God. And  maybe it’s why I so easily accepted the idea of a Christophany…the appearance of Jesus in the flesh before his birth to the Virgin told in the New Testament. I have loved the idea that Jesus meets me in my place of struggle and wrestles with me. I love that the word for wrestle also has it’s meaning in DUST.(Often when you read verses where dust is kicked up in a struggle it is the same word as the writer of Genesis chose for Jacob’s wrestling in Genesis 32.)

And the good Lord knows, I can kick up some dust!

Then this week I happened across this passage again…

Yes, he wrestled with the angel and won.
    He wept and pleaded for a blessing from him.
There at Bethel he met God face to face,
    and God spoke to him
 the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies,
    the Lord is his name!
 So now, come back to your God.
    Act with love and justice,
    and always depend on him. (Hosea 12:4-6 NLT)

Jacob didn’t just put on his funky high school wrestling uniform (come on…those uniforms are awkward!) and meet Jesus in some drawn up circle to practice feats of strength. Jacob cried. Jacob begged. Jacob wanted not only to stop being the supplanter ..the claim jumper ..the thief ..the cheat. Jacob wanted to stop being afraid and to believe in the calling on his life. This was not about showing off his muscles. This was about identity. This was about new names and fresh blessings.

When I think about my own wrestling, I am grateful for it. I am no longer proud but humbled by the necessity of the struggle. For I too needed to struggle with the Man of God about identity, new names, and fresh blessings.

For centuries the church has been firm in it’s authority model for men and women. Just Google “submission umbrella”, go to images, and you should quickly find a picture of the basic principle that the church has been teaching for generations. And each time a girl-child  young lady, woman, or crone was brave enough to say:

“What about Deborah the judge and leader of God’s people?”
“What about Phoebe the Deacon?”
“What about Priscilla the Teacher (and my vote for writer of the book of Hebrews)?”
“What about Mary the first evangelist ”
or less frequently (sadly)
“What about Junia the Apostle?”

the church has shut down that train of thought with the argument that when there wasn’t a man around God would sometimes use a woman. As if God in His might would have to go to His second string (women) because his first string (men) didn’t show up.

<insert eye roll, tsk tsk sound, and heavy sigh here at the lack of faith in our great big God!>

So I grew up believing myself to be a claim jumper. A supplanter. Despite knowing without a doubt that I have a call on my life from God and a gifting for teaching, leading, prophecy, encouragement and spiritual formation…I have bought into the lies that claiming these gifts is somehow an act of supplanting the birthright of men. If I accept and display the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, then somehow someone else’s gifts must take a back seat. Specifically that I am a thief and God’s second string, who will take some mans opportunity to lead away from him and he might never find the fullness of his calling.

In response, I have wrestled.  You can rest assured and receive this testimony…Jesus has not gone easy on me because I am a “girl”.

I have said “Bless me or I’ll have to leave your church.” I have cried out with a wail of “WHY!?!?” I have begged to be released of these gifts because others called my gifting sinful, promised my exclusion from ‘the group’, and when feeling generous considered me generally distasteful.I have pleaded to be blessed by Him, with whom I’ve struggled, and to be free of my fear, to stand in my truth, and to know without doubt that God is still God and I am who God says I am.

And the cloud of dust kicked up…

Like Jacob, the hand of the Wrestler has touched me and I’m broken. And it is in my brokenness that I am able to lay down the label of supplanter and to rise up, covered in dust, face streaked with tears and mud, and without shame claim my place. Free of that fear. Sure of my truth. Fully standing in the identity given to me by the One who gives out identities.

As the NKJV version of the Hosea passage says…I have, by the help of my God, returned and will observe the mercy (hesed) of God, show justice, and wait on God continually for…

“I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved.” (Gen. 32:30)

Meet Me on the Bridge

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Yesterday I drove across the Evergreen Floating Bridge that spans Lake Washington going to the Burbs on the east-side  I don’t drive this way often and it never ceases to surprise me that the water on each side of the bridge can often be shockingly different. Yesterday the water out one door of my Jeep was jumping, spitting, white water. While the water out of the other door looked as if Jesus had recently spoken “Peace be still” over it.

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As I watched the water display it’s split personality, I recalled an article I’d read when I first moved here that described how the waters to the south are often choppier than the waters to the north because of the way that the winds usually blow across the lake. I also remembered that the author of the article said “However, there are times when we have a strong arctic wind event that it can be reversed, and the choppy water is on the north side.”

I had to laugh as I thought about the water and the bridge as a symbol for where I am in my life right now. I have so many questions and my willingness to ask those questions seems to keep the water churned up on one side of my life. The people around me…those who have been in my life for a while…are not sure what to make out of my doubts and willingness to go on an exploration of my faith. It makes them nervous and their anxiety spills over onto me and keeps the waters roiling. I feel it when I say something controversial, when I’m honest without hesitation, or when I choose the position that is not the status quo of the people I grew up with or who thought we had similar beliefs. eastboundtraffic510

Then there is the deep running calm water of my spirit. The peaceful roll of tides that come with me when I meditate, do yoga, pray, write, or sit in conversation with those with whom I am fully myself. On this side of the bridge the edge is off. I am vulnerable. I can feel the very presence of God working with me, hearing me, and giving me guidance into the next season of life. It is on the calm water that friendships are made, joy is fulfilled, and truth is revealed.

And just in case we forget…sometimes an arctic wind blows through and changes the course. Sometimes something I read bothers my peace. Sometimes someone from the camp of judgement speaks comfort and acceptance over my life. Sometimes I’m not edgy enough for those who have come to like my rebellious streak. Sometimes I am too calm for those who want a good fight. Sometimes I can’t meditate or hear God through the noise of my work or my fear.

But no matter how the winds blow, God is the bridge. The bridge doesn’t belong to any one side more than the other. My calm, peaceful, meditative state can’t clam God belongs to it more than the human, frenetic side of me can say that it owns God or needs God more.

God is the bridge that sits between the opposing waters and offers a path, a meeting place, common ground. God is still in my movement and shows me that I am both a place of peaceful meditation and the place of creative energy. God is waiting always to meet me in the place of security…the divide. The Divine is in the place where anyone from either side of the water can come for rest…to meet someone different than themselves..to be challenged with a different point of view. God is in the place where different waters meet to share a kind word, a cup of blessing, or some light for the journey.

I need the bridge as a centerpiece between my divergent nature. We need the bridge as a culture so divided that we oft fail to find common ground and forget that we are all in this together. We need the bridge as a world seeking meaning, clarity, and hope.

images (3)  Meet me on the bridge!

Lent Week 3…There is bread enough

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He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? —–Romans 8:32 (NASB)

**For Linda…the Bread-makers Daughter**

I am homesick.

Homesick for me is a longing for giant blue skies that reach as far as the eye can see, snow capped mountains in the distance, and coffee (or a cocktail) and meaningful (or silly) conversation with my tribe.

Today homesick also meant missing Pearl’s bread. This grand lady usually appears at my door a couple times a year with long, beautiful loaves of homemade bread wrapped in foil and tea towels  It is brought to accompany some paltry thing I might have come up with for dinner, but soon steals the show and becomes the main course for all invited to the dinner table. The bread is always warm, filling, and I can never get enough.

As I considered the bread and the blessed bread-maker my mind wandered to scripture. Pondering bread during a time of Lent can send a person on a journey through scripture that could take days. But today I stayed in two places. And in those two places I found myself thinking of the daughter of the bread-maker…my dear friend and sister of my soul.

Scene 1
The Israelites have just been rescued from slavery in Egypt. They have seen plagues, miracles, and have walked across a dry river bed while the water stacked high above them waiting upstream. They are footsore, uncertain, confused, and in shock. Two month into their journey the people start to complain that they wish they had been killed by God in Egypt. After all, at least in Egypt they had bread.

Clearly the lack of carbs has caused these folks to lose their minds.
“Oh that we had died back there because at least back there we had bread!
Yes…but you’d be DEAD.
Who among us hasn’t acted the fool when we’ve gone without carbs for a few months? But I digress…

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions. ” –Exodus 16:4 (NLT)

The people, who had only recently been enslaved and making bricks for the merciless rulers of Egypt, were now being given manna that was “white like coriander seed and tasted like honey wafers” by a merciful God. They didn’t work for it. All they did was wake up in the morning and it was there. Each person could pick up as much as they needed. It did not last overnight and had to be gathered every day.

Maybe they didn’t need to be back in Egypt after all. Maybe they didn’t need to be slaves to Pharoah for a little bit of food to feed their hungry bellies. Maybe…just maybe they had a God who saw them in their lowly state. Saw their need and sent provision. And not just provision..an abundance. Enough to fill them every day.

All they needed to do was go to sleep every night trusting that when they awoke, God would provide enough for the day.
He had been worthy of trust yesterday.
He had proven himself to be good again today.
Their part of the deal was believing that God would still be trustworthy and good tomorrow.  

Scene 2
It’s the day after Jesus has fed 5000+ people with two loaves of bread and a couple fish. The disciples and the people following him had seen him pray food into existence. And not just barely enough. There were leftovers…plenty of leftovers…12 baskets of leftovers.

This was a rabbi the people could see themselves following. This was a guy they wanted to spend time with. This was a guy who could tell a good story, make miracles happen, and fill their bellies. And that is indeed what the crowd wanted. They wanted Jesus to keep feeding them.

Instead he told them a different story. He explained that he is the bread of life. That he could give them life from heaven in a way that even the manna that God provided in the wilderness couldn’t do. He could fill them to overflowing and leave them with spiritual leftovers. He could give them more than they’d need to make it through life but they had to trust him. (John 6:22-71)

The people who liked Jesus the Chef, where not super excited about Jesus the Meal. He was freaking them out with all his “you must eat of my body” talk and many of them left. Those who didn’t really know where else they could possibly turn, stuck around.

All they needed to do was go to sleep every night trusting that when they awoke, God would provide enough for the day.
He had been worthy of trust yesterday.
He had proven himself to be good again today.
Their part of the deal was believing that God would still be trustworthy and good tomorrow.

Scene 3
The roof is leaking. The mortgage is due. The cat has been in a fight and needs to go to the vet. The elderly parent needs attention. The car unexpectedly needs a new tire. There is food to buy…and not the cheap processed stuff…the good stuff that you’ve promised to put into your body in order to treat it like a temple. The job fell through. The check is late. The gas tank is empty. There is medicine to pay for. The neighbor needs help with her small child. The church needs a pair of strong hands to help serve.

All you can think is…is there enough? Will there be bread enough to go around? Will everyone go to bed full? And even if they do, what will happen tomorrow? Or the next day? Or the day after that?

Then the Holy Spirit comes with her reminders…

All you people who are thirsty, come! Here is water for you to drink. Don’t worry if you have no money. Come, eat and drink until you are full! You don’t need money. The milk and wine are free. –Isaiah 55:1 (ERV)

You cause grass to grow for the livestock and plants for people to use. You allow them to produce food from the earth wine to make them glad, olive oil to soothe their skin, and bread to give them strength. …They all depend on you  to give them food as they need it. When you supply it, they gather it. You open your hand to feed them, and they are richly satisfied  –Psalm 104: 14-15, 27-28 (NLT)

You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead?  Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!  So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. –Matthew 7: 9-11 (NLT)

Then you are reminded that even the Prodigal Son went home after realizing that “At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!”

Jesus offers himself when he says “I am the bread of life.” On his final night he ate with his friends and told them that his body would be broken for them and that they were to remember him when they broke bread together. He offers life abundant. He offers blessing. He offers the hope of feasting with him when he returns for us. He offers hope. He offers nourishment. He offers real honest-to-goodness filling. Not only with bread and wine. Not only with love and joy. But with his very Spirit coming to live in us and bring us peace in the midst of our mortgages, hunger, and doctors visits. He alleviates our one true fear…that God will stop loving us.

All we need to do is go to sleep every night trusting that when we awake, God will provide enough for the day.
He was worthy of trust yesterday.
He proved himself to be good again today.
Our part of the deal is believing that God will still be trustworthy and good tomorrow.