Relishing the Moment

This weekend I started reading the gospel of Luke in The Message and I’ve really been stuck on one section in chapter one (verses 23 – 24):

“When the course of his priestly assignment was completed, he went back home. It wasn’t long before his wife, Elizabeth, conceived. She went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy.”

This section is part of the story of Zachariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist. This relatively small passage gives us a snippet into the lives of a high priest and his wife. At the point in their lives when the angel appears to Zachariah they are both old and have never had any children. And the angel appeared at the one point in Zachariah’s life that he would EVER enter the Holy of Holies and tells him he’s going to have a very special son.

Let me say this again, this is one small part of the story of the life of Zachariah and Elizabeth so I think what Luke chooses to share must be important to his point. And apparently their life had been a long, childless, and likely sad and lonely one that may have been defined more by what they weren’t (parents) instead of who they were (both descendants of Aaron the High Priest). Then Luke shares the information I am stuck on: “She went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy.”

She had waited for this her whole life and had likely given up on her dream of motherhood, considered at that time an important sign of God’s blessing on a husband and wife. But when God moved and pregnancy happened, she relished it. She relished right where she was and embraced the season she was in. Like any expectant mother I am sure she thought and dreamed about the life of her future son. It’s possible she didn’t know what the angel had shared with Zachariah because he was mute when he exited the Temple. I am sure she also struggled with some of physical ‘issues’ that happen with pregnancy, especially to older moms. I had my last baby when I was 30 years old and while I know that’s fairly young, I also know there was a huge difference in how pregnancy affected my body at 30 versus 25.

But Luke doesn’t tell us any of that. All he says is that she relished the pregnancy. She relished right where she was in that moment.

This afternoon I dropped my baby, Sophalopes, off at driver’s ed. Let me rephrase that – I DROPPED MY BABY OFF AT DRIVER’S ED! I asked her if she wanted me to walk into the enormous high school building and help her find where she needed to go. She said, “Nope” and practically ran from the car. In fact, I am not sure the car had come to a full stop when she hopped out. And then I pulled over and burst into tears. Simultaneously I was caught between mourning the passing of one season (I was finally promoted out of Middle School after 9 years last week) and rushing headlong into an uncertain future. And I am struggling.

It’s hard to relish the moments we’re in. Some are hard, some are celebratory, some are flat-out horrible. Some are a combination of all of the above.  Most moments are completely ordinary, and those are some of the most difficult to remain in. Each moment is a pre-cursor to the next and each one is pregnant with possibility. But no matter what’s happening in any given moment it’s the only one we have. If we are stuck looking behind or can’t stop looking ahead we miss the only moment we can actually experience.

Elizabeth relished her pregnancy. Alone. For five months. And I am asking myself, can I relish right where I am without letting myself be crushed between the weight of the past and the fear of the future?

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Just because I enjoy laughing at myself, I’ll give you this little peek behind the curtain so to speak…I decided to experiment with some different writing locales to help me focus so I tried a local bakery/coffee shop today. I put in ear plugs to mute the satellite radio that was playing a little too loud in the background. I could still hear the music, but it wasn’t distracting. Then all of sudden I found myself singing, “Play That Funky Music” out loud. Can anyone hear that song and NOT sing along? I may need to find another spot…or charge admission to the show.

 

 

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Waking Up From A Long Winter’s Nap

Or, The Time I Got Over My Amnesia and Remembered I Had A Blog. Just kidding. I never, not for one second of every day forget I have a blog. I do, however, periodically allow The Idea of my blog to beat me up a little bit and shut me up. Certainly when I started this journey I had ideas and expectations of how blogging would work, things I wanted to write about and how that all would look in the well-polished world of the internet. And of course it was all ice cream, rainbows, and unicorns in my mind.

Unfortunately, I underestimated how uncomfortable I am at times with my own thoughts and ideas as they play tug of war with my most closely held beliefs. In the past few months, I have started to ask questions of epic proportions (to me) that are causing radical paradigm shifts for me. (I sincerely hope that didn’t sound scary, but in a way it has been). As I’ve been dialoguing with friends about these things, praying about them, reading about them, studying them, I have been EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE!!!! But in a good way, because what I am learning more and more is that the Gospel really is MUCH BETTER GOOD NEWS THAN I EVER IMAGINED!

I have lived my life in a very carefully constructed world of absolutes that are now being obliterated in almost every way imaginable. Don’t worry, Jesus is still non-negotiable for me. His Word, Scripture, is still non-negotiable for me. The unconditional love of God is more real and important to me than it’s ever been. While they are foundational to everything I believe, they are also the flies in the ointment of my religious constructs. I am coming face-to-face with how my own experiences, culture, family background and pre-conceived ideas have limited/shaped my beliefs and then how I lived my life. AND I AM VERY UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THAT!

In fact, I have been so uncomfortable with it that I have felt very inhibited in sharing in this space. I feel total freedom to ponder deep paradigm shifting ideas. I feel very free to ask questions. But I am cognizant of the power of words and the enormous possibility of being misunderstood while I am in the middle of all of my messy processing.

So instead, I have been silent.

Fear that my mess might be misunderstood or judged has kept me from openly expressing my thoughts. For me these ideas are so life altering that they are certainly going to ooze out here in the blogosphere. To me that’s frightening.

My husband looked me in the eye last week (while we were sitting in the middle of a car dealership, buying a car – we have deep conversations in the strangest places) and said, “Kim, stop being afraid of failing and just go for it.” I couldn’t help but wonder, “What if I say something you don’t agree with?” The salesman came back in and I forgot to ask.

I knew God was speaking to me through Popey. He’s said it in several other ways, too. While I am uncomfortable with all this paradigm shifting, the Truth is there’s a ton of freedom in it. There’s more peace than I’ve ever felt. I feel like I understand what Jesus meant when He said, “My burden is easy and My yoke is light.”

So, The Idea of my blog, you know, the ice cream-rainbows-unicorns version has been shattered. I’m just going to show up, in the middle of my process (whatever that is today and whatever that may be tomorrow), share what’s on my mind, and invite you into the discussion in the comments.

In case there was any doubt, I have absolutely nothing figured out. But I am committed to this journey with Jesus and with you. Amen.

How is God speaking to you right now?  Are you always comfortable when He’s working love and freedom into your life? How does it impact others around you?

All the Days :: True Love

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When you are inextricably trapped, stuck, incarcerated by 9 inches of snow and a 45-degree driveway, it tends to bring out the best, worst, ugliest REAL in all of us. If anything was hiding just beneath the surface of a quiet, nicely polished veneer of calm in any member of my family, well…after three days of lots of togetherness, it’s all hanging out now.

I would love to say that we embraced this time together in true Brady Bunch fashion with lots of sing-a-longs, board games, and crafting…well, there was some crafting for about 15 minutes…but that would not have been US – The Popes. Instead, in one room there was a three-day marathon of ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ and in the other was non-stop channel surfing between the World Fishing Network and the Outdoor Channel (I want to meet the heads of these two networks and have a heart to heart with them – WHY ARE THERE SO MANY COMMERCIALS? WHY ARE THEY SO LOUD? WHY DOES THE BACKGROUND MUSIC DROWN OUT THE FISHERMAN TALKING SO MY HUSBAND HAS TO TURN IT UP TO HEAR THEM????). And in the corner was me. With my ear plugs in.

In all honesty, I am quite proud of how we handled our unfortunate incarceration, there were no major melt downs until the end of day three. Sadly, it was Valentine’s Day and we were all just d-o-n-e. So instead of the day representing how perfectly our love manifests itself every single day (insert raucous laughter right here), it was messy. No cards. No candy. Flowers never arrived. Lots of frayed nerves and very little capacity to hold anything in. We were a group of people whose filters were eroding faster than the melting snow.

Valentine’s Day was probably better represented in our home the other 364 days this past year:

  • the day when Popey shoveled those 9-inches of snow off of said 45-degree driveway;
  • every single day for four months when Popey had to work 14-hour days, 7-days a week out of town;
  • the days when a week’s worth of filthy-sweaty-construction-site laundry had to be washed, dried, folded and packed up to leave again in just six hours;
  • the days when a week’s worth of food had to be cooked and packaged as individual meals to send to work with a man who didn’t have time to stop and eat or even go through a drive-thru;
  • the days of sleeping alone in two cities because work and family don’t cohabitate for us;
  • the days of mothering through the tough, rocky emotions of three teen-age girls alone;
  • the days of crazy long beards;
  • the days of crazy short hair;
  • the days of just plain C-R-A-Z-Y;
  • the days of just plain;
  • the days when he said, “Let’s go out to dinner,” because he knew I was spent;
  • the days when I said, “Let’s stay home for dinner,” because I knew he was spent;
  • the days we spent in bed watching TV together when he only had one day off that week and was too tired to do anything else;
  • the days when one of us or both of us realized we don’t understand the other one nearly as well as we thought, but we love anyway;
  • the days one or both of us realized we don’t understand ourselves as much as we thought we did, but we cling to the other one in desperate hope that they’ll hang in there with us through it (it’s possible that one was just me);
  • the days of getting up and doing all the things married people do when they are tired, lonely, feel misunderstood and misrepresented, and missing the fairy tale they thought they signed up for on day one when they said ‘I do’;
  • ALL THE DAYS.

The ordinary days of what true, messy, real love is. Most of the time it’s just showing up, even when you have nothing to offer, and doing the best you can and trusting Jesus for the rest.

And then there’s the day after Valentine’s Day while you are typing a blog post about true love, and the bedraggled UPS man shows up in the melting snow and ice to deliver the two dozen roses that were guaranteed for delivery on Valentine’s Day. And they are beautiful. But they pale in comparison to the brutiful mess we make every other day of the year.

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Thank you for loving me well Popey. For almost 27 years you’ve taken good care of me and loved me even when neither one of us knew how. I pray we have many more brutiful messes together. I know there will be more messes because I understand now what I didn’t on our wedding day – neither one of us have any idea what we are doing!

(And for the sake of my sanity – please turn down the fishing channel…uuuuggghhh!)

The Truth

Last week I found myself on the other end of the line of someone else’s crisis. After two panicked phone calls and several text messages that didn’t feel sufficient or comforting enough for someone coming unraveled (her, not me this time), I was suddenly overwhelmed by the peace of The Truth. And I heard God whisper to me that He is enough for me, and He is enough for her. In Him she is safe and well loved. And I can relax.

So I simply sent texted the following:

“You are the righteousness of Christ. You are complete in Him. You have EVERYTHING pertaining to life and godliness. In no way are you deficient or ill-equipped to handle whatever comes into your life because you have Christ, the Creator of the universe (and you) living inside of you. And you really can do all things in Him. Not by yourself. He sees right where you are and is crazy about you. He doesn’t care if you handle things perfectly He just wants to do life with you. Every second of every single day.”

As I typed that message the words rang through me like a bell.

He is more than enough.

For me.

For you.

For all those we love.

In any storm we face.

Psalm 46:10a (ESV) ~ “Be still and know that I am God.”

I’m No Multi-Tasker

Years ago I remember one typical Wednesday evening leaving my office in downtown Charlotte about thirty minutes late.  My kids were little so I had to pick them up from afterschool care by six.  Obviously I was going to be late, barring a miracle right up there with The Parting of the Red Sea. Unfortunately, there was some unfinished disaster at work that I had been unable to resolve before I left. And my husband was running late from class. And he and I were both supposed to be at church by 6:30 pm so that we could practice with the worship band before service. And we had to eat.

(There are just so many things wrong with those first few sentences! And it feels really strange that I’ve never written in this space about singing with church worship bands for 18 years of my life…material for more posts!)

On the ride down from my office in the elevator to the parking garage I closed my eyes, ignoring all of my co-workers and friends, and mentally prioritized the challenges I needed to take care of ON MY DRIVE HOME (the all caps are just to reinforce the insanity of the situation).  So when the elevator doors opened I practically ran to my mini-man, jumped in and pulled off almost before I had time to close my door.  I then proceeded to cut other drivers off –you can read “other drivers” as “people who were as worn out, spread thin, beaten down, exhausted and frantic as I was”–as I wound my way up and out of the bowels of the prison I worked in.  (Just so you know, all those pretty, shiny, glass and metal buildings downtown wherever you live are an illusion.  They are really prisons where the bars are invisible but daily people slave away without ever feeling like they accomplish anything, trying to keep their heads above water and not get fired…or maybe that was just me).

As soon as I shot up out of the parking garage like a cannon ball and had cell service I called the school and let them know I was going to be late.  Then I dialed the local Italian restaurant near home and ordered a pizza for pick-up. When they asked for my name I just told them I would be the woman running in the door like her hair was on fire. As soon as I hung up from that call my phone was already ringing. My boss and I then spent the rest of my drive hashing through some “life and death” issue that had to be resolved before I went to bed that night.  I think whoever invented the technology that allows us to be 100% available 100% of the time should be shot. And for goodness sake, what life and death issue can a bank really have? It’s just money people!

The rest of my trip was a total blur, but I remember standing on the stage at church at 6:30 pm, exactly on time, quite proud of myself.  I had faced multiple challenges, but I had masterfully used my multi-tasking skills and conquered all obstacles. I am pretty sure my kids ate in the van and I seriously doubt my husband and I said anything to each other on the way to church, but we made it.

We made it, but I had to work until midnight when I got home to meet a deadline. And then I had the privilege of getting up at 6:00 am the next day to start the whole thing over again, after waking up all night every hour on the hour because of all the ANXIETY!!!

In case you are reading this and thinking, “Wow! That sounds like my life,” or “Wow! She’s insane,” please know three things: 1) that scenario happened multiple times a week in my life during that season; 2) it’s not a life; and 3) that specific incident happened only a few short weeks before I had what I like to call an “episode” when I cried uncontrollably for three days and I had to be on antidepressants for several months just to function.

It was terrible and it was torture.  If I was with my family I was worried about all of my problems at work and how the world was going to fall apart if I didn’t solve them.  If I was at work I felt terribly guilty about my failure at being a good wife and mother.  And I constantly felt guilty that I wasn’t doing enough to serve God.  Multi-tasking gave the illusion of life by keeping me so busy that I didn’t have time to stop and think about everything I was missing…like breathing and laughing.

All that to say, I used to hold a graduate degree in multi-tasking, but no more!  The other day I was trying to turn left at a busy intersection at night and I had to turn down the music and cease all conversations in the car so I could concentrate and make the turn safely.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that lately it’s been difficult for me to pause and put my thoughts down in this space.  I have TONS of them, my brain never stops and I feel like I am in constant conversation with the Lord, but my thoughts haven’t flowed out of my head and onto the blog as frequently as I would probably like.

My sweet Madelou pointed out that since the beginning of 2014 she and her sisters haven’t had a full week of school (Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 3:00 pm) because of exams, holidays, and our CRAZY NC weather.  Plus our dog died. Plus my husband’s work schedule has changed multiple times. Plus…a hundred other things.  So I have just naturally been more engaged with my family.

What I really appreciate about this season is that as God has healed me with His Love I don’t feel the pressure to make things happen. I don’t feel like I have to write things down and publish them. I am free to be in the moment.  When I am engaging, embracing and enjoying (most of the time) each moment I move through and the people I move through them with, there’s less room for multi-tasking.  There’s nothing to prove, just plenty to be.

Someone asked me the other day about my slower posting frequency lately here on the blog.  I love this space.  I believe that one of the ways Christ uniquely expresses Himself through me is in writing.  But recently He’s been expressing Himself in other ways through me and I am just going with the flow.

Discovering what it means to be Fully Alive (or Totally Crazy)!

Restfully abiding in Him, trusting Him for all the outcomes, or lack thereof.

Amen.

Play It Again: Love Transforms

This post originally went live in the spring of 2013, but it’s a message that plays over and over again in my mind.  Living Loved in relationship with the Father instead of living by expectations and rules…

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I realize this so-called series on reigning in life may now have morphed into a general theme for the blog rather than just a series.  But then again, Pentecost Sunday isn’t until May 19th, so I guess technically speaking, in a church calendar sort of way, we’re still celebrating the Resurrection.  Shouldn’t we be doing that anyway???

I made the shocking revelation in my last post that Elf is one of my favorite movies (right up there with Steel Magnolias and Mr. Holland’s Opus) and that I believe it has some great parallels to abundant life.  I ended that post with a thought to ponder:

Love transforms us from the inside out, while the law conforms us from the outside in.

We all know there are several forms of love and in the Bible specifically, there are three.  So just for the sake of clarity let’s focus on the unconditional kind.  The kind that God has for us, agape.  Not only does God have this type of love for us, but according to 1 John 4:8, God is Love.  God is unconditional Love and through Jesus Christ we have direct access to that Love.

Not only do we have direct access to Love, but the living God, who is Love, then comes and takes up residence in us.  At salvation we are united with Christ.  It is no longer we who live, but Christ in us the hope of glory.  (Sorry for the huge leap, but I am making the assumption that we all ‘get’ the idea of the Trinity…if not, well apparently WordPress will allow me to write and post as many things as I would like and we can discuss it another day.).

So let’s just talk about the impact of that Love, the God of unconditional Love, that comes to dwell in us.

I think the Bible records the transforming power of Love most beautifully through the lives of three amazing men:  Peter, John the Beloved (as opposed to John the Baptist) and Paul.  These men were so changed by their encounters with Love and the life Love lived through them that their names were actually changed.  Simon became known as Peter;  John, a son of thunder, became John the Beloved; and Saul became Paul.  By the time Love was finished with them, they were completely different men.

Love transformed an uneducated fisherman into a pillar of the new church.  It took a man who wanted fire to come down from heaven and kill people who didn’t believe Jesus and transformed him into a man whose major theme in writing is Love.  It also took a man who followed the law to the nth degree, even killing under its authority, and transformed him into a man who wrote most of the New Testament.  And what was one of his primary messages?  That we are no longer under the law and we are to live free from the law.  We are to live by Love, Jesus’ new commandment.

What was so wrong with living by the law?  What is wrong with it now?  According to the New Testament it kills.  It brings death.  There is no life in the law.  The only life is found in Jesus who is The Way, The Truth and The Life.  By definition the law does not transform it conforms to pre-determined specifications.  It is limiting, confining.  And the truth is we can NEVER live up to the law’s expectations.

So, why do we go back to something that is going to kill us, hem us in and keep us from experiencing the unfathomable depths, heights and widths of the Love of God?  I am not necessarily talking about the over 600+ Jewish laws.  What about all the rules we put on ourselves to be closer to God, that we use to define a “good” relationship with God?

I am talking about “good” things like, a quiet time with God at 5:00 am every single morning, an hour reading the Bible every day, or being at church at least twice a week, or feeding and clothing the homeless every week.

Have you ever started the New Year with one of these goals in mind because you want a closer relationship with the Lord?  Then of course by the second week, unless you are highly self-disciplined, you have already missed a few quiet times or Bible readings because you got up late or your kids were sick or…fill in the blank.   So what happens then?  The condemnation comes.  Why?  Because that is what laws do (even the ones we place on ourselves), show us where we fail.

The problem with developing our own system (you could substitute the word law for system) for a closer walk with God is that it becomes all about us instead of Jesus.  It becomes about what we do instead of who we are.  Life in Jesus isn’t about a system or a formula, it’s about a relationship.

I am not saying there is anything inherently wrong with any of the things above, but when they become a set of rules they become death for us instead of life.  They become one more way for the enemy to tell us we don’t measure up.

The Bible doesn’t record any system Peter, John and Paul followed to be closer to God.  It records some of their relationship with God, and some of the things God LED them to do, and then the eternal fruit that came from that relationship.  They had Christ IN them and as believers we do too.  Honestly, we can’t be any closer to the Lord than Christ IN us.

As Paul told Timothy, the law is for the unrighteous.  The law, even our own moral codes and formulas, only have the power to tell us what we do wrong.  They don’t change us.  God’s Love IN us has unlimited ability to transform us, if we let it.  If we can lay down our own expectations and definitions of successful Christian living, then God can make us unrecognizable too.

Fully Alive?

So I asked God for a word for 2014 and He gave me two, Fully Alive.  Sounds a little exciting, doesn’t it?  I had visions of adventure, mystery and joy.  Somehow Fully Alive (as opposed to dead) sounded exciting and happy to me.

So far though, Fully Alive has been TWO hot, messy emotional melt downs; being angry for multiple, ridiculous reasons that make no sense at all; experiencing a traumatic loss and walking through grief; being happy, joyous AND overwhelmed and feeling unworthy for ALL THE GOOD THINGS THAT ARE HAPPENING; and simply being confused.  And since I’ve decided to be kinder to myself, there was also one brief moment of total brilliance that I really enjoyed.

And literally, as I am writing this, another bird just flew into my house.  And he felt trapped.

And I feel trapped.  Trapped inside a body that refuses to cooperate and just be fine.  A body that won’t just sit down, shut up, paint on a smile and pretend to be happy regardless of what’s going on.

I am forty-five years old and all of a sudden I have emotions and they are whipping me around like a ride at an amusement park…minus the amusing part.  Apparently I was born with them (AS ALL HUMANS ARE!) I just became very adept early in life at stuffing and hiding them.  It really didn’t seem to matter to anyone else when they made an appearance.  They were inconvenient and inefficient and so down they went.  Down into the pit of my stomach where they hid.  Until now.

They aren’t hiding anymore.  They won’t be quiet and they won’t leave me alone.  They don’t care how embarrassing, inconvenient and inefficient they are.  They are coming out and are on full display.  This really is some of the ugly part of life.

Fully Alive people have emotions.  And they allow themselves to be human and experience them.

This is hard for a woman who wants to do her hair, put on her lipstick, tuck in her mess and say, “I’m fine.”

Well I am saying it right now, I am not fine.  Fully Alive is hard.  It means being vulnerable and living in relationship with others and engaging with them even when it’s painful.  And it is painful.  And messy.  And beautiful.  And exciting.  And overwhelming.  And worth it.  (I am really counting on that last one being true because in this moment I’m wondering).

It’s 2014, I AM NOT FINE, but I’m Fully Alive.

Pray for my family, they look scared.  🙂  I think they are wondering if Fully Alive might possibly mean Totally Crazy!