dragon

Big Boy still takes an afternoon nap, but settling him down for this rest time takes more work now than it did a year ago. He’s three-and-a-half, and he knows that fun goes on while he sleeps. One of the few things that calms him down is me lying down with him until he falls asleep, and because we all need his nap, I do it.

I used to resent the extra time that felt like nothing for me, but his little self drifting off into a place of rest became an invitation for me to do the same. Sometimes I watch his eyelids drop softly closer and closer down to his cheeks, only to jerk back awake, sometimes I stare out of the window at the winter sky, bright and white with light on some days, heavy with snow on others. Often I close my own eyes and let myself sleep for a few minutes.

You don’t realize how much you are carrying until you give yourself permission not to bear the load. 

I have made the choice to honor these moments as rest in my day, rest for my body, yes. But more importantly, rest for my mind, rest for my soul. Everyone is different – I have never been a physically busy person, but my mind works at a fast pace, balancing a load of To Dos, doubts, fears, goings on, meal plans, anything from the very serious, Where Is My Life Going? to the very trivial, Who Won Best Actress at the Golden Globes?

It doesn’t matter what the content of these thoughts are, the busy swirl that goes round and round and round takes its toll. And I know the toll when I let it go.

Because every time – every single time – letting go leads to peace, rest, release, and it is so strong, so total, that I can feel my whole body relax.

Easily one of the best parts of last year was keeping a weekly Sabbath,  I’m borrowing the term from Jewish practice of rest on the seventh day of the week because it is the best example of total, God-honouring rest I can think of. I tried to do as much as I could in the first six days of the week, and when the last one came, the goal was to do as little as possible, to spend time with my family and to spend time reading and reflecting. It was a beautiful part of my week, but one of the worst parts of last year was when I stopped setting a day apart of the week to rest, to stop, to turn off. I stopped practicing Sabbath.

What is our aversion to stopping? To resting? Why is it something we have to force ourselves to do? Why does it seem so unnatural?

Your work may be in an office, at a construction site, your baby’s crib, the dirty bathroom, an unhappy child, typing words on a page, painting a canvass, teaching a classroom or a host of other occupations, but I’m going to be bold and say that I’m not alone here. You also struggle to put work aside, to come to a full stop.

Our world sends us two messages every day from the time we are born: “You are not enough. But you can be enough if you have ______. ” And we spend our lives, our time, our energy, our passions, our money, we will spend everything we have in the pursuit of that thing that will make us feel like enough. 

It is this journey to line our lives with adequacy that leaves us so finished and exhausted.

candle

This is why in 2015 I am drawing my boundary lines again around two places: One day of the week and one moment every day.

I am going to find a moment daily when I let my soul and body exhale. There is no giant time limit on this, it is the five minutes I spend watching my son fall asleep. It’s 30 minutes on a rug in front of a fire playing with cars. Two minutes spent lighting candles. Anything that welcomes rest.

And I put a wall around one day of the week, I am saying, No more. This day I will not engage my thoughts in things that for me are work. This day I will not do laundry, tidy up, stress out and make my family “do things.” What do I envision for this day? Playing a lot with two little boys. The phone is absent. The computer is off. I will cook – I love to cook. We will eat as a family, sometimes just us, sometimes with friends. I will choose to discipline my mind to not “go there” in the realm of busy, worrying, thoughts about what’s next and planning. We will pray. I will sleep when I can. I will chill out. I will not pressure the people around me to do as I do or live as I live. I will live freely from my space.

It means I will have to try to get some other things done on Saturday. Some of my projects related to writing or organizing and planning will have to end on Friday. I will have to create boundaries and limitations. There are activities that will remain undone. People will be disappointed. I will have to say, No. I will have to embrace imperfections. I will have to let things go.

Choosing sabbath rest is my declaration that I cannot do it all, that I am limited and fallen. Choosing sabbath rest is my radical belief that God will take care of my life, the details, everything. 

We are still in January, I have no idea how practicing a Sabbath will progress in 2015, but it’s one week at a time, one moment at a time. Last Sunday I was in bed with a cold; we will call it forced rest. Last week, I watched my little dragon fall asleep. I promise there is nothing more wonderful in the whole world that watching a green, three-and-a-half-year-old dragon fall asleep. Friday night I lit the candles in our windows, they are burned almost completely down, some were gone, but I lit them anyway. Because perfection is not welcome in our home or in my heart, and the perfect light of God will shine through our glorious imperfections.

Yesterday we had a big brunch with eggs and bacon, I read, wrote in my journal, my family napped. I tried not think about what comes next. It was restful. It was good.

Now it’s your turn: How do you rest? What do you need to do to stop the chase of enough in your life? Do you practice Sabbath in your day-to-day life? What does it look like?  

I’m linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and the #TellHisStory community.

ornament

I have written here and elsewhere that 2014 was the worst year of my life, and these are the kinds of statements that become mantras. The worst. The hardest. Never Want To Go Back There. Over time I don’t even know why I’m saying what I’m saying. Have you ever been there? In that place where you’ve had a label for something for so long, you know the label, you trust the label, but the thing itself, you can’t even remember what’s there anymore.

Sleeplessness had something to do with it, adjusting to a new culture with no support system, darkness and cold, I think those were the standard replies I trotted out in response to any follow up questions when I declared 2014 The Worst Year of My Life. 

When I sat down at the end of last year to pray and dream about 2015, lists upon lists of thankfulness is what came out of me. You are not more surprised than I am.

Because here is what I remembered.

Husband. Who accepted me when I failed, who woke up with our children when I was too tired, who cooked and cleaned and folded laundry. Who laughed with me. Who took care of the boys while I spent many, many days away, recovering and healing.

Big Boy and Little Bear. Stunning creations, unique, overflowing with creativity, thoughtfulness and mischief. Every single day with them I have smiled at something they have done. They changed in 2014, both were in diapers at the start of the year, one is now in underwear all the time. One was only drinking breast milk, now he eats more than his big brother. They play and wrestle and fight and jump on each other. I cannot believe they belong to me. I cannot believe I have sat on the sidelines (or the floor) and watched them grow.

d

Beauty. I live in a stunning city, beautiful buildings everywhere I turn, lakes, the sea, forests and fields. We live in a home that is full of beauty even when it is messy, we can walk to the water’s edge in less than a minute.

Friendship. A place of so much absence and bareness, a place where all I have known are the words goodbye and loss, 2014 brought the new. Friends with whom I can share my heart and my life, openly and honestly, with no judgment. Friends who share my creative passions. Friends who bring joy into the every day of our life. Friends who have lived life with me.

This isn’t even the half of it, only the major ones. I wrote three pages of thankfulness because there was so much, it overflowed out of me

I can imagine someone is wondering, But what about those essays you wrote about raging against God? What about the hard? The very, very hard things that happened last year? What about that? Oh, it was there my friend. Every week, every month, the ill wind howling in the face of every hope, you read about some of it here but most of the pain tucked itself away in my heart. The hard, it was here, it was real. 

But what I saw last week was the incredible good, the indescribable beauty, glory rising out of the ruins.

Our labels can keep us from seeing the truth. If the story of our life is written by nail-pierced hands, grace is the warm water that washes the pain, that wraps the bruise, that pours out peace.

Everything can be redeemed. 

Now it’s your turn: How do you look back on this past year? What were the toughest things that happened (if you want to share)? Have you seen beauty come out of those places? In what ways?  

flowers

Long blogging breaks are never planned. I stop writing one week, and the days start blurring, time gets away from me and before I realize it’s been two months since I last wrote anything. Yes, there are some lines in a journal, but mostly I’ve been writing grocery lists, Facebook messages and emails.

When I went away for three days in July to write, to pray and to think (and to sleep), I was ready to give up writing on a blog or writing for public consumption. Too little time. Too much work. And I could not see or understand the why. There are so many blogs out there – outstanding ones, I should say – why another one? The world is noisy enough, full of opinions about how we live or how to live, and I shudder at the thought of contributing more to the noise in your head and mine. I haven’t doubted that I write or want to write, only doubted the means through which I do that. But I’m still here, there is the seed of writing in this space, I have a home here, one that calls me back time and time again.

So this post is a bit of a free-for-all update, just stopping in to say hello, I am here and missing this space.

I tend to go quiet in November. Two out of the last four years it’s because I was in the first trimester of a pregnancy, and the other two years were for sleep deprivation from a not-sleeping-five-month-old. I am happy to report that this November involved neither of those two things. I played with the boys, I cooked good food and put frozen pizzas in the oven on other days, I worked up a sweat on an elliptical machine, I woke up early and sometimes woke up late.

For the first time in a long time, I can say these few words: I am starting to feel like myself again.

Marriage and motherhood changes us, and when it happens so quickly, the changes swirl around, there is no time to take it in, and for a reflector like me, no time to process and understand. But I know that I didn’t laugh the same way. The spark of life and passion that had always burned somewhere inside, it was gone.

light

We head toward the darkest days of the year now. Light breaks between 8 and 8:30am, and it is dark like the night around 3:30pm with the sun setting (if it is there) around 2:30pm. Trees shed their leaves, the ground begins to freeze, there is death, death and more death. My soul flows with these seasons, last year when November and December rolled around, I wanted to hide somewhere and sleep.

But not this winter. I wish I could tell of some miracle transformation, but in reality it has been slow, steady, hard work. Counseling appointments, going to a small group to discuss and deal with habits, hurts and hangups, steady time alone, sharing my life with a few trusted people, and going to the gym.

I am now a gym person, by the way. I would say I have no idea how that happened except I do. It has free childcare. Every time I walk into this place, I want to cry and thank them because I have energy again, I haven’t noticed the weather, I am enjoying my life in Sweden. The other day a woman at the gym asked me what I thought about Swedish weather, and I said, Oh it’s been such a beautiful autumn. I think this November was so much better than last years, the way the light shined and the way the trees looked, everything has just been so beautiful and gentle. 

She looked at me like I had absolutely lost my mind. Later I found out that we’ve had our darkest November in over a 100 years here in Sweden. I haven’t noticed.

My body was longing to work hard at something again, so much energy stored up inside, it needed release, and my spirit follows suit, working hard on some new projects, creating when I can, fighting to enjoy my children, fighting to choose kindness instead of anger. I can feel myself releasing as I put my hand to these things.

candles

So Christmas is here again. We’ve put up the lights, candles flicker in our windows, we are on day 12, and so far still not losing our minds (and tempers) over Advent activities. Last week a dear friend came over with her two kids. They watched a movie twice and ate popcorn and chocolate for dinner while she and I caught up. She hung a tree branch up in our living room. I think it took her less than 20 minutes. It’s even better than I ever thought it could look.

We had a branch over a couch in our apartment in Geneva. It was one of my most favourite things, and it’s taken a long time to do it here, but there it hangs, more beautiful, rugged and raw than the last one. Rigged from the ceiling by a friend who knew what she was doing, while our four children danced around the room singing Jingle Bells and Angels We Have Heard on High. It was basically a perfect evening. The relationships I longed for are here.

It’s been four years of conception and birth, fruitfulness that seemed effortless to my body, yet the same body held a barren soul, a space that increasingly became a wasteland of ideas and longing. But the season changes. I suppose it always does. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in a land of deep darkness, a light has shined. In Jesus was life, and that life was the light of all men. 

Merry Christmas, my friends. I so appreciate those of you who have read this blog over the years. This will be my last post for 2014. I’m going to be doing some thinking and hopefully writing between now and the new year, there will be a bit of travel, too. You can follow along on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. I’ll be back in 2015 but until then, I hope your Christmas season is full of the light of Jesus – may he hold all of your things and all of your life together in his tender hands.

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victory

We drive in cars to a retreat center on a brown hill. The buildings are brick. Dry, brown Australian bush is all around, still brittle from the summer heat. These aren’t glamorous accommodations, just simple bunk beds, a hall for food and an open room with concrete floors as a teaching space.

I had only been part of this church in Australia for a few months, but those of us in the “young adult” type category went away for something called a Victory Weekend in these hills. Many churches in the charismatic movement have a kind of “deal with your baggage” program, and this was ours. The idea is that your participate in some kind of a course or weekend where you hear about how God is powerful over everything, and you confess those things that you did in the past or what you struggle with or what others have done to you. The idea is you walk away with the ties of past mistakes, the curses of the generations cut off.

There are plenty of people in real life and certainly online who would take this weekend and find every way to poke fun at it. To find every theological flaw. To use it as a means for feeding cynicism. And there are many people for whom experiences at these kinds of events caused deep and permanent pain. But I’m not writing everyone’s story here – I am writing my own, and in my life this weekend was a fork in the road. The point where I walked toward life, the place where I decided to stop dying.

There are black, brown and white faces, we’re sitting in a room listening to a preacher, and he asks, Why are you here? I knew.

There are some things that are easy to explain, others that are much harder, but that’s what I try to do in this space, illuminate what I cannot understand in the hopes that the process reveals something true.

There was a heavy load I carried most of my life, a voice that said over and over and over You are not good enough, you are a failure, you are not lovable, you are not beautiful. I am certain that almost every mistake I’ve made in my life was somehow rooted in those whispers. I was in that concrete building because I was ready to put these things on the table, ready to have someone else know. I was ready for a different life, one that wasn’t plagued with insecurity and doubt. I was ready to believe that Jesus held something more for me than only a permanent place in eternity, I was ready to see with my own eyes that what I believed had impact on my daily life.

She has dark brown hair and a Yorkshire accent, and we sit outside on some playground equipment while she reads through my book of pages stapled together. It’s a profile, one I filled out before, circling different sins, writing down statements, and I hand it to her like I’m giving her the worst part of my life, but she tells me the truth – This is not who you are. We work through the little book, the statements, the memories, the moments, after each step speak, pray, truth, love. She puts her hand on my head and prays, I pray for a hedge of protection around Devi’s mind, words I have never forgotten because I know that every lie I believed about God or about myself seeped in through the cobwebs of my mind. I forgive people and let go. I receive truth and accept love.

And it’s there, sitting on this piece of playground equipment outside, working through this book, speaking the truth, crying my tears, everything in my life that caused shame or pain is laid bare before someone else and before God, and as she speaks Truth, I’m hearing his truth in my heart as well. I watch as the slate is wiped clean.

There is space to write a new story, imagination to dream a new life, ashes swirl together and beauty begins to emerge.

I’m writing every day in October (except for Sundays) about Living Church, and this is Day 20 of Write 31 DaysClick here if you want to read all the posts. I’m also linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and the #TellHisStory community today. 

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cardi

I can remember what I wore to most of the significant first days of my life. My first day of school outfits from grade seven to 12 (before that I wore uniforms), first date outfit with Husband, first day at a new church in Melbourne. It was a pink top, with a small v-neck, the strangest fabric that was supposed to look like suede on the outside but was plastic on the inside. I bought it at a second-hand shop in Manila. This is what I wore for my first service at the church that would become my home in Australia.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, you will know that I spent most of my childhood, young adult years and adulthood moving around. I haven’t written much about this, and perhaps one day I will, so to keep it very simple, this is what it feels like. Entering new spaces regularly, having no idea whom to talk to, rarely knowing what others are talking about, looking like an oddball because your clothes are from a different continent. It means introducing yourself repeatedly, laughing at things that aren’t jokes, not laughing when everyone else is. The opinions you have are based on experiences felt and sights seen for which the people you are with have no reference. And it doesn’t matter if you’re with white people in Arkansas, impoverished Filipinos in Manila, a multicultural mix of in Melbourne or blonde men, women and children in Sweden.

You are out of place wherever you go, and as an adult it means less. As a child, as a teenager, being “in” is everything. When you spend your life feeling out of place in social groups, having no cultural identity, and being transient between places, people and relationships, there is a fundamental insecurity about who you are that creeps into everything. I didn’t know it at the time, but I walked into that service with questions:

Who am I? Who will love me? Where do I belong? Where am I safe and secure?

These were the clothes I wore, the questions I asked, the needs I carried. More than anything else I was looking for certainty – certainty for my identity, certainty in relationships, certainty in place and a security that was certain.

I’m writing every day in October (except for Sundays) about Living Church, and this is Day 13 of Write 31 DaysClick here if you want to read all the posts