Cleaning As I Go

I am woman who likes to clean as she cooks. By the time I serve a meal (which lately isn’t very often because I never know who will be home at dinner or worse what anyone wants to eat) I like to have the bulk of the meal preparation cleaned up. For instance, I just made myself a scrambled egg for breakfast, when I sat down to eat the egg I already had all the utensils used to make the egg in the dishwasher and all the ingredients back in the refrigerator. And the stove and countertop are clean. I find it very difficult to sit down and enjoy a meal while the kitchen is a mess.

Furthermore, I can’t move onto dessert while the dinner dishes are still out. I have to clean up the dinner dishes before I can serve the ice cream, or cup cakes, or whatever. In other words, I struggle to enjoy one moment until the remnants of the last one are nice and tidy. But that isn’t real life, is it?

JellO Salad

(Remember these?)

I’ve been in the middle of a messy place for many months. In my last post I mentioned that I was uncomfortable with my own thoughts and that they are playing tug of war with some of my most closely held beliefs. I’ve been waiting for those thoughts to tidy themselves up before I shared them. But that hasn’t really happened. I told a friend I feel like I’m waiting for the Jell-O in my mind to set before I can pull it out of the fridge and serve it.

I’d like to say it’s for some noble reason, but the truth is I’m a big chicken. I am afraid others will look at my mess and judge. I am afraid of being misunderstood. I am afraid of being wrong or being perceived as wrong.

As of this moment, the Jell-O’s not set and I’m done waiting for it. I’m pulling it out of the fridge and serving it up. There may be times we have to drink it with a straw because it won’t stay on the spoon, but I’m rolling with it. I don’t know how often I’ll be serving and I don’t know what I will be sharing, but waiting on everything to sort itself out in a nice and tidy presentation isn’t working for me anymore.

 

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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?

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.

Cure for a Writing Party Hangover

In case it isn’t obvious, this is only my second post in the month of November.  So what in the world is going on?  Well, I’ve been asking myself that for several days.  At first I felt like the internet needed me to be quiet for a few days so that there might be enough white space for people to process things other than 31 Days of Advent in October.

When it came time to put thoughts into words, sentences, paragraphs and posts again, and I struggled to do it, it dawned on me I am experiencing what I have decided to call a Writing Party Hangover.  Another blogger, Emily Freeman, recently posted that every year in October she writes for 31 days straight and then finds that she has nothing to say in November.  Well, I am experiencing something completely different.  I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head, it’s like a three-ring circus in here…in fact, it’s like a three-ring circus plus clowns and jugglers circling the perimeter, plus little kids on a sugar high squealing with delight and I think I heard a train whistle.  And they are all vying for my attention.

Elephant Trail

Sometimes writing, for me, is like giving those thoughts a safe place to land.  With the Writing Party Hangover it’s been really hard to just pick one thought, help it land onto the virtual page and then let it become a more fully developed idea.  But in some sense I don’t think this space is necessarily for completely developed ideas, more like ideas in process.

So, this morning I decided to break up my routine to help me look at things differently and hopefully get some of this circus of thoughts out of my head (now there’s a title for a post – Circus of Thoughts or Head Circus or How to Get the Circus Out of Your Head).   See what I mean?  It’s just a big mess in here.  God bless everyone who has actually tried to have a face-to-face conversation with me lately.

Hopefully unplugging from technology, being quiet, and working in a different room will shake some things loose for me and something coherent may come together.  Or not.  They say identifying the problem is the first step towards solving it.

Amen.

Looking Back on 31 Days (or Clueless and Loving It!)

Last week as the 31 Days of Advent in October series was coming to an end I realized I was so engrossed in writing it that I hadn’t had a chance to discuss it.  You may be thinking, “Wow, what an odd thing to say Kim.  In writing it weren’t you discussing it?”  Well, the writing of it is one thing, but the experience of the process is something completely different.  And it turns out I think I have a lot to say about the experience.

Just in case you have no idea what I am talking about you can check it out here and here.  But I just completed a 31 Day writing challenge over at The Nester’s online home.  For the past several years she has invited bloggers to write for 31 days straight about the same topic in the month of October as a way of building an online community, encouraging others in their blogging journey, and to help bloggers remember why it is they signed up for this writing life.

Last October, for the second year in a row, I read The Nester’s 31 Day invitation and subsequent series and really longed to join in what looked like a Big Fun Writing Party.  But alas, I had no blog and therefore, no way to join the party.  Until of course it finally occurred to me that all I needed was a name for my blog, $10 (or whatever it was) to register the domain name, and an afternoon to set everything up through WordPress.  And just like that, on a cold afternoon in January, on my big red couch in my living room, Gracefullyunraveled – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly was born.

So the couple of months leading up to October 2013 the question loomed in the back of my mind, are you going to do it?  Are you going to join the writing party?  The truth is I waffled back and forth for several weeks because I had a couple of big commitments (at least big for me) already lined up and I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of writing about the same topic EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR 31 STRAIGHT DAYS.  I wasn’t sure if I could do it.

Apparently it all worked out because here I am writing this post on October 31st (even though it will publish in a week), my last post in the series went live this morning at 6:00 a.m. and here are some of my initial reflections on this journey:

1)     I loved this experience from beginning to end!  I was concerned that if I made the “commitment” to participate that at some point it might become drudgery, but it never did.  Some of the posts were a little more difficult to develop, but it was never drudgery.  Sitting down to write each post was such a joy because I didn’t have to struggle to make anything fit.  As I read each advent selections I could see lots of different strands that I could pull and follow and respond to.  Ann’s book, The Greatest Gift, is so rich that I could probably go through this exercise multiple times and write completely different responses each time. (Please, please, GET THIS BOOK before December 1st…it was life changing for me and every bit as important as One Thousand Gifts, also by Ann Voskamp.)

2)     Even if no one else ever read any of my posts except me it was worth every second of it.  The process of writing each post ministered to me in a deep way.  When I say the process I mean reading each day’s selection, internalizing it, and then articulating a response.  I wept through almost all of them as God convinced me personally of His coming just for my heart.  And that He’s been coming for me since before the beginning.  I am tearing up now thinking about it.  The only struggle was that sometimes there just didn’t seem to be words adequate to articulate the work going on in my heart.

3)      As I thought about this post I considered including a link to my favorite ones in the series.  The problem is I LOVED EVERY SINGLE POST.  Of course they weren’t perfect and given more time I could have done a much better job editing and polishing them, but each one of them had a unique and necessary thing to speak to the series as a whole and I couldn’t choose any of them over the others.

4)      This experience confirmed to me that art inspires art.  My posts came directly from my personal conversations with the Lord about another artist’s work.  My responses were different than Ann Voskamp’s, but they were certainly inspired by hers.  And they were also inspired by MANY other things I’ve read and experienced over the last few years – One Thousand Gifts, Grace for the Good Girl, several books of the Bible, my Advanced Discipleship Training (ADT) class, all of my classmates in ADT.  I am still thinking about this and I actually believe it’s a very important point.  I think it speaks to our need for community on many levels.  I have heard other writers say that when they experience a “dry season” they realize it is because they are not reading and/or engaging in their life enough.  I am sure all of them will be glad to know that now I also agree. 🙂

5)      The end product, meaning each post, was less important to me than the process of creating it.  That actually surprised me.  I came to this conclusion when I realized that every time someone said they liked my post or gave me encouragement (which I really needed and was very grateful for because this was a huge endeavor for me), I said “Thank you”, but I found myself wanting to talk about how that particular post had developed.  I just couldn’t figure out a way to say that to anyone without sounding like I wanted to talk about myself.  🙂 (I tend to overuse emoticons when I feel awkward about something I’ve just written, but I think I am the only one who didn’t know that about myself.)

6)      One of the best things about this journey was dialoguing with the Lord about each of the posts and allowing the post to be an expression of my union with Him.  I know that sounds sort of mystical and I don’t mean for it to, but I am not sure how else to say it.  I was openly using a jumping off point from Ann Voskamp’s, The Greatest Gift, but chewing on each writing selection,  internalizing the message and then spinning it back out into each post for others to consume, enjoy (or even reject) was a very personal expression of something the Lord and I were doing together.

7)      This point is going to sound crazy, but in the interest of full disclosure, I feel that to exclude this one would be dishonest.  I loved the 31 Days journey so much that I am a bit concerned/afraid/worried/scared to death that the next blog writing project (which I have in mind, but will talk about later) won’t be as good or amazing in terms of process or end product.  😦 I know this is completely irrational…and will probably sound even more crazy when I share the idea for the next topic here in this space.  (I have said it before, but it bears repeating, I often think my role in life is to provide the comic relief for the rest of you.)

I may have more to share but these are my initial thoughts.  I am a firm believer in the idea that as we move through the events of our lives we have absolutely no clue as to their significance until some time has passed and we gain more context and perspective.  So here’s to being clueless and loving it!

31 Days of Advent in October :: Day 31!

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

After writing about the coming of Christ every day for an entire month, I have to say I feel a bit like celebrating–not in what I have done, but in what the coming of the Word Made Flesh has done in me and in the world.

Won’t you celebrate with me?  What better words to end this Advent series with than those of Isaac Watts:

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing.

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let all their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make his blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of his righteousness,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love,
And wonders of his love.

Grace.

31 Days of Advent in October :: Day 30

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

Photo Credit: Sophie Pope

The Greatest Gift
Reading Selection for December 25th
“Today”

Luke 2: 13-15  (NLT)13 “Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 ‘Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’

15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.'”

The angel tells the shepherds, “…peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”  Jehovah Shalom the God Who is Peace was pleased to come to us, to come for us, to come in us.

Love was pleased to come for us.  It wasn’t drudgery.  It wasn’t a last ditch effort of a reluctant Savior.  It wasn’t the act of an exasperated Father to say, “I told you so.”  He was pleased to come for us.  To rescue us.  To deliver us. To restore us.  To save us.  Us, the broken, sinful, forgotten and hurt.  Us, the one’s with nothing to offer, nothing to give, but our own filthy rags.

Us, the beloved creation of Creator God.

I love this line from “Hark the Herald Angel Sings,”

“Veil’d in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail, th’incarnate Deity:
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,”

He was pleased to come, as a man, for you and for me.

Advent is here.  He has come, for you.  He’s standing at the door of your own version of a stable, will you let Him in?  Don’t worry about the smell.  Don’t worry about the animal dung.  The straw all over the floor’s just fine too.  He doesn’t need a place to sit.  He’s not interested in the pretense or the view.  He’s come just for you.  He’s pleased to be here.

Receive Him.

And if you need words to celebrate His arrival, maybe these by Charles Wesley will help:

Hark! the herald angels sing, –
“Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled.”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem.”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!

Christ, by highest heav’n adored:
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the favored one.
 Veil’d in flesh, the Godhead see;
 Hail, th’incarnate Deity:
Pleased, as man, with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!

Hail! the heav’n-born Prince of peace!
Hail! the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
Risen with healing in his wings
Mild he lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die:
 Born to raise the sone of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!