What If?

What If?

“…love by its nature seeks union.  With the grace of recognition comes the awesome and alarming awareness that Jesus, the incarnation of the furious longing of God, wants more than a close relationship with you and me; He seeks nothing less than union.” ~ Brennan Manning, “The Furious Longing of God,” p. 68.

What if we lived like this statement is true?

What if the whole point of our creation is to be loved by Love Himself, to be one with Him?

What if we embraced the Truth of Song of Solomon 7:10 (NASB):

“I am my beloved’s,
And his desire is for me.”

What if we truly believed we are the beloved of God and He doesn’t just want to meet us and have a casual friendship, He truly DESIRES us?

What if we lived naked and unashamed?  No hiding, no covering up, no fig leaves.

What if we lived in deep, abiding, restful union with Christ?

What if this is abundant, reigning life?

What if this is what it means to be Fully Alive?

I’ve Lost It

So in late 2012 I asked the Lord to give me a word for 2013.  He didn’t.  He gave me three words: Engage, Embrace, and Enjoy.  The same thing happened the year before, at the end of 2011.  I asked for a word for the coming year and he gave me four words:  BE More, DO Less.

In 2013 those three words (Engage, Embrace and Enjoy) echoed everywhere for me, all the way to the very end.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the Lord meant by those three words, but in the end I realized it wasn’t my job to figure it out, it was His job to REVEAL it.  And He did, ALL YEAR LONG.

So as the year began to close down and the season of Advent arrived, it became apparent that those three words were an invitation to live in each moment with the Lord regardless of my circumstances.  To engage, embrace, and enjoy each and every moment with whomever I was with and in whatever was happening.  Even the ugly moments.  Instead of hiding from the unpleasant and the ugly things to lean in to them with the Lord and allow Him to speak and heal.

For me, the Christmas season has historically been a time I feel the intense and overwhelming need to put on my armor and hide.  For many, many reasons:  the shopping, the expectations of others to get the perfect gift, the pressure for everyone to behave and perform and get along because it’s such a wonderful time of year.  And it is a wonderful time of year, but the pressure and the expectations that it be perfect and that everyone smile and be happy make me want to crawl in a hole and come out with the groundhogs sometime in February.

But this year was different for me.  The revelation of Engage, Embrace and Enjoy really started to take hold in my heart, partly through 31 Days of Advent in October. 

This year I also felt a real sense of release to Engage, Embrace and Enjoy from Popey (even though he didn’t know it).  Early one morning in December I called him at work and this is how the conversation went down:

Popey:  “What do you have today?”

Kimmie:   “Pam’s Christmas party (side bar: my FAVORITE EVENT AT CHRISTMAS EVERY SINGLE YEAR because the only expectation is to have FUN!) and then more shopping.”

Popey:  “Have fun.”

Kimmie:  [Heavy sarcasm] “Well, you know how much I ENJOY shopping.”

Popey:  “Well, you need to enjoy your life.”

Then I promptly hung up and burst into tears because in his simple reply I heard a precious invitation from the Father, yet again, to enter into each moment and enjoy it for whatever it is and whatever it brings.

So I called Popey back:

Kimmie:  “Thanks for telling me to enjoy my life.” [Sniff.  Sniff.]

Popey:  “You are welcome.  I have to work now.”

So off I went engaging, embracing, enjoying.  I had a blast through the rest of the Christmas season.  The Saturday before Christmas I even ventured out one last time for some last minute shopping and enjoyed every minute of it (for those of you who know me in the 3D world, this is nothing short of miraculous).  I rode around town with my sunroof open (that’s what winter in NC is like – very schizophrenic) listening to my satellite radio and just enjoyed being out, in public, with people.

I was so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for all the good things God has blessed me with that I just sang and wept.  I cried like a little girl.  One of the things I was most grateful for is a husband who loves me, wants God’s best for me and gives me the space to figure it out (mostly because he’s not sure what to do with me or for me, but also because he loves me).

So I finally figured it out, right?  Well, I thought so.  But in the interest of keeping it real and honest and not hiding my version of crazy…here’s the rest of the story…

The Sunday after Christmas Popey and I were enjoying a quiet, delicious meal at home, alone.  He grilled the most fabulous steak I have had in a LONG time (he is known in certain circles as THE GRILL MASTER…which is the other main reason I love him, besides his money and his body (wink)).  We had a little wine.  We were both enjoying the evening, when I burst into tears.  And the truth is I am not entirely sure why.  I was just all of a sudden overwhelmed with an intense sense of loneliness, sadness, fear, and regret.

I didn’t just cry for a minute.  I cried the ugly cry…all night…and most of the next day.  And I am still not sure exactly why.

The bottom line?  Even in the confusing, ugly and less pleasant place I found myself in at the end of the year, I still hear the whisper of the Father inviting me to Engage, Embrace and Enjoy.  To lay down the right to understand everything, figure it out and fix it.  I hear Him saying, “Just lean into it with Me.  Don’t hide from it.  I’ve got you.”

I asked Him for a word for 2014.  He didn’t give me one.  He gave me two:  Fully Alive.  I think He’s showing me this week, even in the middle of the ugly cry, what it’s like to be Fully Alive.  Fully Alive doesn’t necessarily mean everything will be fixed and neatly tied in a bow.  Fully Alive may be ugly and painful, but the operative word is ALIVE.

As opposed to DEAD.

Dead people don’t feel.

Alive people do, even when they don’t understand what they’re feeling.

So here’s to being Fully Alive in 2014 – the good, the bad and the ugly!  I admit that I have no idea what that means at this moment, but I am ready to see what the Lord wants to show me.  And I am willing to Engage, Embrace and Enjoy the process, no matter how dazed and confused I feel along the way.

A Re-Run: The Deceitfulness of Fine

The post below was one I published earlier this year, however I wrote it six months before it ever found its way to the world wide web.  And I still think about it almost every week.  Not the post itself, but my need to live wide-open, honest, brave, real and vulnerable.  To engage, embrace and enjoy every moment that I move through, in Christ.

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I am learning to be honest (primarily with myself) about my emotions. I’ve actually been in denial most of my adult life that I even have emotions! Somewhere in my southern, Steel Magnolias upbringing I bought into the lie that we (Bible-believing, genteel, southern women) aren’t really supposed to express our true feelings. If we did it might hurt someone’s feelings or worse make someone look bad. This may actually be a chemically induced problem by all the lipstick and Aqua Net I grew up with, but that’s a whole other issue. The result is that when I am asked how I am doing most of the time my answer is, “Fine.”

F-I-N-E…a potentially deceitful four letter word. On the surface those four letters seem quite innocuous. When used appropriately they convey the correct message. According to “Webster’s 1828 Dictionary” (available free online and in my opinion the gold standard of dictionaries), fine (adjective) is defined as follows:

1. Small; thin; slender; minute; of very small diameter; as a fine thread; fine silk; a fine hair. We say also, fine sand, fine particles.
2. Subtle; thin; tenuous; as, fine spirits evaporate; a finer medium opposed to a grosser.
3. Thin; keep; smoothly sharp; as the fine edge of a razor.
4. Made of fine threads; not coarse; as fine linen or cambric.
5. Clear; pure; free from feculence or foreign matter; as fine gold or silver; wine is not good till fine.
6. Refined.

When I limit the state of my well-being to simply “fine” then I take away the full dimension of who I am. I reduce my life to small, thin, slender and minute. I give it the appearance of being clear and pure and free from foreign matter and refined.

To be honest about how I am would be to admit that there is a LOT of “foreign matter” (I think that is a polite way of saying dirt) in my life and I am not refined. It would mean that I am not perfect and in dire need of help! In fact, I am often common or worse, vulgar and rough around the edges, even though I try cover it up with lipstick and hair color.

What’s wrong with admitting we have dirt? What’s wrong with being common, rough around the edges? Absolutely nothing! Those are the things that make us human. They give dimension to our lives. They make our lives less, “small”, less “thin”, less “tenuous.” They also demonstrate our need for Christ.

When I pretend I have it all together I am telling the world and God that I can take care of myself and I don’t really need a Savior.

To admit that I have dirt in my life, that I am not always (in fact most of the time) fine invites people to see who I really am. It opens the door to relationship. Who wants to be friends with someone who always has it together, or at least appears to (because we all know they are faking, right)? Grace says it is ok to be honest. Grace says I am loved and accepted even when I am not fine. Grace invites me to freedom from the confining prison of fine.

And the next time I ask how you are, I am expecting more than fine. Wear all the lipstick you want, but answer me truthfully.

How do you respond when people ask how you are? Is there anything that keeps you from being honest? What do you expect to hear from others when you ask how they are? How do you invite others to be real with you?

Please Be Yourself

One of the thoughts consuming a lot of space in the three-ring circus of my brain lately is what it means to fully be ourselves.  In Christ, what it means for me to be myself and you to be yourself, ALL THE TIME.

I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while.  We are all created unique.  There are no two people exactly alike.  Even identical twins aren’t identical in EVERY respect, and they come from exactly the same sperm and the same egg.  There is something unique and different about every single human being.

According to WorldOMeters, Real Time World Statistics, there are now over 7 billion people currently living on the earth.  According to the same website, it is estimated that 106 billion people total have lived on the earth in all of history.  While 106 billion is not 100% accurate, let’s just say that anything over 7 billion is a really big number.

What I find fascinating is that over 7 billion times the Creator of the Universe, our Heavenly Father, the Infinite God, Love Himself, our Daddy, did not repeat a single human design.  We are all unique.  Why?

One of the infinite ways we are all unique is in our personalities.  Last week a friend of mine posted an interesting twist on the Myers Briggs Personality Type Chart to my Facebook page.  It’s based on the characters from The Lord of the Rings.  For the record The Lord of the Rings is right up there with Steel Magnolias on my list of all-time favorite movies – all three of them.  And the book itself is on my all-time top 10 reading list.  Thank you J. R. R. Tolkein!

Just to cut to the chase, when I took the assessment I was an INTJ (Introvert, I(N)tuitive, Thinking, Judging) or you can just call me Elrond.  What I realized though is that for many, many years I didn’t realize I was an introvert and tried to live as an extrovert.  In fact, in many ways I viewed being an introvert as less important than being an extrovert.  I mean aren’t extroverts the leaders?  Aren’t they the ones who are constantly out there getting things done?  In the context of Christianity, aren’t they the ones on the front lines serving God?  Aren’t they moving and shaking the Kingdom?  Don’t I want to be like one of them?

By living as a closet introvert (and a fraudulent extrovert, I might add), I robbed myself and others of the unique expression of Christ in me to the world.  I was not fully living as myself.  I was holding back something of myself that God intended to give to the world when He created me.   In the unique ways I am created by God, and in the unique ways you are created by God, we bring things to the world that absolutely no one else can.

The world needs us to be who God created us to be; to live from our union with Christ and allow Love to express Himself to the world in a way that absolutely no one else who has ever lived, or will live, can.  To bring it down to a more personal level, I need all those people the Father brings into my life to be fully themselves and to be unique image bearers of Love to me.  I need the Gandalf’s, the Aragorn’s, the Frodo’s and the other Elrond’s in my life to be themselves.

Our brief journey on this earth is too hard to walk alone.  J. R. R. Tolkien had C. S. Lewis to encourage him in the monumental effort to write The Lord of the Rings.  He almost gave up many times, but Lewis wouldn’t let him.  (It took over twelve years to write.  Portions of it were written during WWII – one of the darkest periods of modern history.)

Tolkien's Cover Designs for the First Edition ...

And Lewis was led to Christ by Tolkien.  Can you imagine a world without either of these men living in the fullness of who they were?  The echoes of their lives reverberate throughout eternity, but they didn’t do it alone.

And neither can we.  Please, be yourself.  Don’t conform to the expectations of others.  Give up your own expectations of what life should be like.  I need you, we need you, the world needs you, exactly how God created you, right where you are in your journey.  You are no accident and your circumstances are not coincidence.  As an image bearer of God, you have something of Him, of great value and worth, to express to the world that no one else can.

Matthew 5: 14-16 (NASB) “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

31 Days of Advent in October :: Day 5

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The Greatest Gift
Reading Selection for December 3rd
“Where Are You?”

Genesis 3:8-9 (NLT)“So they hid from the Lord God among the trees.  Then the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?”

In my last post I mentioned how as a little girl in Sunday School my big take away from The-Gospel-As-Behavior-Management presentation of the Creation Story helped launch me into life simply trying not to make mistakes because it makes God mad.

Trying not to make mistakes (which unbeknownst to me at the time is IMPOSSIBLE) led to a life, and I use that term loosely—closer to existence–of hiding.  Hiding from God, hiding from myself, hiding from those closest to me.  Hiding took many forms and many masks.  Let me introduce you to a few of them:

“Responsible Girl” –        She was responsible for EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING even remotely connected to her life.  Unfortunately this really made everything about her, including significant world events.

“Self-sufficient Girl”-      She never needed any help for anything even if she was dying…and she was, on the inside.  Her twin is named “NOT the Needy the Girl”.

“Good Girl”-       She couldn’t stand for anyone to ever think she did anything wrong.  If anyone ever did think she had made a mistake it completely undid her and sent her into an emotional tail spin.

“Smart Girl” –     She made me feel better when in my high school career I only had two dates.  And on the nights of my Junior and Senior Proms when I sat at home alone she told me it was going to be better in college and I needed to keep focusing on my grades because some girls were pretty and loveable and some girls were smart.

 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org

And on and on it goes.  Underneath it all the only thing I wanted was to be seen and to be known and to be loved for who I was, not what I did.

The truth is, I was seen, I was known and I was loved for exactly who I was, I just didn’t know it.  And just like Adam and Eve, in the midst of all my hiding, Love was asking, “Where are you, Kim?”  My fear that God was angry with me for all of my failures and mistakes kept me hiding and wearing masks for many more years…so long in fact, that I am now only beginning to know myself.

As I read those verses above in Genesis 3, though, now I don’t hear anger in God’s voice.  I hear a Loving Father searching for His children.  He’s concerned for them and He misses their presence.  He’s asking the question, “Where are you?” not because He doesn’t know where they are, but because they don’t know where they are.  “Where are you?” was an invitation to pause, take stock of their current position and run, not walk, straight back to God.  He was calling them back to Love.

And in a lifetime of hiding, I can now look back (hindsight’s always 20/20 you know) and hear the echoes of the voice of God in my life, “Where are you, Kim?”

He’s been coming for us, for you and me, since the beginning.  And He’s still coming for us, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

More Momma Grace

In my last post I shared a little bit of my struggle in this new season. However, if you read that carefully and saw that I mentioned that one of my daughters is in college then you know this season isn’t really new. In fact, I’ve been in it for probably five years, I JUST DID NOT KNOW IT! My oldest daughter, Liv Loo, knew it, but I was completely oblivious to the fact that the game had changed and I was still trying to play it the way I always had. In other words, lay down the law and expect to be obeyed at all costs, OR ELSE!

What is new however, is that I am in a reflective, nostalgic, evaluate-my-entire life place, and well, all I can say is that I am grateful for God’s unconditional love and that His mercies are new EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. for me and every member of my family.

Over the last several years though, I did miss a lot of opportunities for relationship, particularly with my oldest daughter, who has been the one to lead the way through all of these parenting transitions. I spent an awful lot of time telling her what to do, what to think, how to dress, who to hang out with, and just generally communicating all of my thoughts and expectations, but not really letting her try on some of her own.

But as transformation has occurred, albeit slowly, I’ve tried to give her the room she needs to live life as an adult, which has honestly felt like driving on the left-hand side of the road…completely unnatural. In the grand scheme of things I don’t feel like I’ve been very good at it and it only feels like I’ve been doing it for five minutes, but I’ve decided I can’t change the past I can just trust God in every moment I move forward through and trust Him to redeem the ones I’ve left behind in the wake of fear and control.

Left side driving

And in His love and mercy He gives me beautiful glimpses, Momma grace moments) into how only He can redeem all and restore all.  A couple of weeks ago Liv Loo was sharing a conversation with me that occurred between her and a friend who is also her age, almost 20 years old – an adult (I wrote that to keep reminding ME that she is an adult…it’s really hard). Without going into too many details, they were discussing an encounter her friend had with his parents and his disappointment in their response to something he wanted to try. The long and the short of it is he felt like they were treating him like a 14-year-old instead of a man.

And then some of the most precious words I’ve ever heard (and she didn’t even know it) came out of her mouth, “They don’t treat him like you treat me, Momma. You listen to me, ask questions, make suggestions and then let me make my own decisions. They just tell him what to do and what to think.” All I could do was thank God for letting me see that He is so much bigger than my mistakes.

He truly makes all things new, even when I make a mess.

I receive that grace.  This is abundant life.  This is walking through life with my tiara on straight, not because of anything I’ve done, but because of Who He is.

Taylor Swift & Momma Grace

It’s a little hard to segue from an unintentional series on how I am only now starting to know myself and how I really don’t know what to do with my emotions, but here’s giving it a shot.

I am in a bit of a nostalgic season. Since school is back in session (O summer where have you gone????) and I now have one in college, a high school junior and an eighth grader, it has put me in a reflective frame of mind. All of this reflection has made it more and more apparent that my role as a mom is changing, it’s a new season, and it is hard for me.

I don’t mean it’s hard in the something-is-terribly-wrong-and-I-don’t-know-what-to-do way. It’s hard because I don’t do change well, in fact I don’t like it.  I REALLY liked it when my kids were little. Even though I was completely clueless back then, I at least felt like it was a good Momma day if everyone got to and from school, ate three times, wore clean clothes, bathed, brushed their teeth at least once, and squealed with laughter while rubbing their bare feet on Popey’s bald head at bed time. In other words, I was pretty much in charge of everything in their lives, including their fun.

The hard part for me is transitioning from being the hygiene-police to whatever it is I am supposed to do now. My inner Momma wants to daily insert myself in every area of their lives. It’s hard to watch them struggle and find their own way, whether it’s in relationships or work or school or just trying to understand who they are and where they fit in the world. And let’s face it, it’s really, really hard to not tell them how to drive. Every time one of them backs out of the driveway I have to take a deep breath and push back tears. It’s not that I want things to always stay the same, I just miss my little girls.

We are in that season when, even though they all technically live here and put our address down as their legal residence, for the most part they are never home. They are either at school, at work, at church or hunkered down in their respective rooms doing homework. Or hunkered down in their respective rooms avoiding homework. I have learned that if I park myself in my bedroom at the top of stairs (I work on my bed a lot and have a direct line of sight to whoever is coming up or going down) or on the corner of our big red couch then I can catch a momentary glimpse of them as they are coming or going or grabbing a snack. It’s not much, but I will take what I can get. I miss my girls.

So last week one of our daughters had the chance to go see Taylor Swift’s concert in Greensboro, NC. She had the tickets for months, but the excitement really mounted around here as her iPhone counted down the final days to the concert. The afternoon she left with a friend and her parents to go to the concert I walked with her out to their car. When she got into the car I just asked if she would text when they got there and then again when they were on the way home. What I wanted to ask was that she text me every five minutes so that I would know she was alive, but I restrained myself. You may think I am joking, but God really has done a work in me.

English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak...

As they pulled out of the cul-de-sac I felt a twinge of regret that I had not bought a ticket and was going with them. But at that exact moment I realized I could really use a nap and there was no way I would have made it through a concert and the drive home (much to my family’s dismay I am often in my PJ’s by 7:00 pm and I am usually in the bed by 8:30 every night reading or watching TV).

A couple of hours later I got a text that they were there. I breathed deep and grateful relief. Then I got a text and photo of my daughter and her friend in their seats. Then I got a text about the first act. And then I got a text about the next act. And another text and another text. And then more texts when they got in the car to come home, written in ALL CAPS TO COMMUNICATE HER JOY AND EXCITEMENT.

My 16-year old daughter was having the best night of her life and she texted me through the whole thing. I receive that grace.

In this season of the struggles, the miscommunications, the misunderstandings, the stretching of wings, the venturing out, the trying on of new ideas and the shirking of old ones, the wrestlings of faith, and the pushing against the goad, I will gladly receive what they choose to share. I will celebrate who they are becoming. I will wait for them to reach out and embrace them when they do. I will be grateful that in all the moving forward and out they still reach back sometimes just to touch home base, just to share familiar love even just for a moment.

I receive that grace.

By the way, in all of the concert-texting-excitement my daughter made an executive decision to make me her manager. I am now tasked with making her famous and planning her world tour. I am so overwhelmed with emotion I can’t decide whether to eat ice cream, make sandwiches or send her an ugly, imaginary plant. Stay tuned for all of her concert dates and locations. But first I think I need that nap.

In Which I Learned Something about Myself

And there is still another layer to the riveting drama in my Winn Dixie post earlier this week. When I sat down to write that post on Monday, I had been really thinking about it and talking to the Lord about it for the better part of a week. The revelation of God’s profound demonstration of love for me in the midst of my brokenness and how he moved heaven and earth to show me that love was very overwhelming for me. While I am prone to exaggeration for comedic effect, I do mean literally that He moved heaven and earth because Popey had just been transferred back to the US after being stationed in Egypt for a while.  In fact, his poor lips were still scarred from the middle eastern sun and he had white lines around his eyes from squinting.  And we met at exactly the right time.

Anyway, as I was processing all of the emotions that welled up over the extravagance of God’s love, I wanted to share that with the man God used so wonderfully. So when he came in from work on Friday evening (now remember, I had been thinking about this A LOT and even shed a few tears) here’s how that conversation went:

Me: “Thanks for chasing me down in the Winn Dixie all those years ago.”

Him: (smile) “You’re welcome.”

Me: (my heart was full and my mind went completely blank and nothing else came out)

I was so frustrated with myself for not being able to say what I was feeling and actually have a conversation about it. And then I couldn’t even say that I was frustrated with myself.  But then we had ice cream and it was all good.  We deal with a lot of things over ice cream.  Which by the way is a tradition that started back in my Winn Dixie days.  Popey would drive home from Fort Bragg just to see me on my 15 minute break at work and we would go to the little frozen yogurt shop around the corner from my store.

Soft ice cream

Fast forward to Saturday morning. One of my daughters shared with me a particularly painful situation she is walking through and how her heart is broken (Just know there is a future post I am developing about how hard it is to watch your kids struggle and that Jesus really is enough for them too). On the inside I had a lump in my throat and a heaviness in my own heart, but when I tried to say something my mind went completely blank, AGAIN. I felt terrible for her. She poured out her heart and I went blank.

But I realized that I actually feel this way often, when my emotions well up somehow words don’t flow from my mouth.

Later on Saturday I apologized to my daughter for not being able to articulate my feelings earlier and she said, “It’s ok Mom. I get it when you write. I cry every time I read something you write, whether it’s a blog post, a text or an email. That’s how you communicate your feelings. You write them.”

Study

And that’s what I learned about myself…I am pretty good at verbally communicating thoughts, ideas, information, even instructions, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t say what I am feeling.

So to everyone in my life who has ever shared something painful, joyful, heavy or crazy and I just stared back at you like I had no idea what you meant, I would like to offer my most sincere apologies. Please know that I heard your heart, I felt your pain, I shared your joy, I was grateful for your gift, but my emotions closed off my throat and I was literally at a loss for words. Next time I will write you a note. 🙂

And if you are asking yourself, “Does she know herself at all?”  The answer is definitely no, but I know the One who does and He’s revealing it to me every day.

Amen.