Thursday, February 16, 2012

Till We Have Faces

"I knew that all this had only been a preparation. Some far greater matter was upon us...the air was growing brighter and brighter about us; as if something had set it on fire. Each breath I drew let into me new terror, joy, overpowering sweetness. I was pierced through and through with the arrows of it. I was being unmade. I was no one...the earth and stars and sun, all that was or will be, existed for his sake. And he was coming. The most dreadful, the most beautiful, the only dread and beauty there is, was coming...."

Every couple years since my sophomore year in college I've reread Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis. It's a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, from the perspective of Psyche's older sister, Orual (Or You All??). The first part of the story is her accusations to the gods for their injustice while the second part concedes that she was wrong. With Psyche's help, she's able to see glimpses of the hidden things that she wasn't able to see or understand along the way.

It's so good.

I know some day we'll see with our veils lifted. This life is a shadow, a glimpse of things to come where all things will be reconciled under Christ. Some days that just doesn't seem possible. Will God really reconcile all things to himself? I mean, all things?

We long for justice, mercy and healing in the big things. Children that are trafficked, starving, sick and dying. All creation groans in anticipation. All of this waiting and working intermingle in a way that just awakens more longing.

How long, God? How long till all is set right?

We can't ignore the every day tasks in the same way that we can't shut our eyes from the big things. Yet it seems there are so many things working against us. We're smack dab in the middle of the tension of now, trying to navigate what it looks like to love our spouses, families, friends and those around us. We try to reconcile our own story within the Great Story, but it looks different for each person. If we are to be God's hands and feet of reconciliation for these huge matters of injustice, we have to constantly be in the midst of reconciliation ourselves as we operate in unity within our community of faith and family units. No two people see everything exactly the same way, yet we still have to operate as one. It's this constant, often complicated dance of giving and learning what is best for the whole, not just one part, as every decision we make effects the others. The family, the local church, the universal church can only function and flow by constantly giving up our own power, bending over backwards and encourage each other while listening to the rhythm of the others, joining in where the others lack. I just wish there was less bickering within the evangelical community and more encouraging. I mean, I get it. It's hard to function well within a marriage where there's only two people; how can churches that are full of so many different people actually function well?

I sometimes wonder if all our differences hold us back from our full potential. I think of all that we could accomplish if we were on the SAME PAGE. Then again, I wonder if maybe that's just the wrong way of looking at life. Maybe we can't handle our full potential; if we're always striving to reach it than life becomes about us, what we can accomplish. Maybe our differences are what keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves, thinking we have all the right answers for how things should be.

It seems we could find more ways to celebrate our differences in a way that shapes us into people that put others in front of ourselves. Instead of arguing about who is to take the lead, letting the Holy Spirit take the lead. Wouldn't it be better to have a group of people outdoing each other in how well we serve one another, instead of focusing on who leads who?

When all is said and done, when the shadows are engulfed by Light, and we see things as they are, not as the distortions that we've made them, I think we'll be surprised by how all of our crazy lives fit together as one. And we'll be unmade, realizing that we are no one and yet we matter, not for our sake, but for the sake of the One who hung the stars. We'll be caught up in the dance, no longer having two left feet or falling over each other trying to lead.

"This is our King! The Lamb who died, so we don't have to- our Rescuer. All honor and glory! Forever and ever! And every creature everywhere, in heaven and on earth and under the earth joins in..."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

My Current Top Ten

I love listening to my kids sing around the house. I'm not big on kidsy songs though. My mom made the grandkids a dvd of family pictures and video with Praise Baby songs in the background, which I can handle because of it's sentimental value. I'm with my children all day long though, so if we're going to have a soundtrack for our lives, it can't be a chorus of women singing nursery songs. 

I hope this doesn't make me a bad mom.

Each time we hear a new song, Em asks what it means. I love this. Jax just closes his eyes and throws his head around. I love this too.

Here's our current top ten, along with a favorite lyric or two.

Beautiful Things by Gungor- "Could all that is lost ever be found, Could a garden come up from this ground at all...You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us. All around hope is springing up from this old ground. Out of chaos life is being found in You..."

Come By Here by Shaun Groves- "The widows need life to raise the dead and all the beggars plead for their daily bread. Oh we're all singing please, God will you come by here? Come, come and meet us here. Come and touch our tears that we may weep no more. Come, come and meet our pain, come and lift our lame that we may limp no more. Come that we may want no more."

We Will All Be Changed by Seryn- "We can shape but can't control these possibilities to grow weeds amongst the push and pull waiting on the wind to take us. We can write with ink and pen but we will sew with seeds  instead, starting with words we've said and we will all be changed..."

The Cave by Mumford & Sons- "But I will hold on hope, and I won't let you choke on the noose around your neck. And I'll find strength in pain and I will change my ways. I'll know my name as it's called again...I know my call despite my faults and despite my growing fears...So make your siren's call and sing all you want, I will not hear what you have to say..."

Poison and Wine by The Civil Wars- "Oh your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine...I don't have a choice but I still choose you."

Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons- "Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free, be more like the man you were made to be."

How He Loves by David Crowder- "And we are his portion and He is our prize, drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes. If grace is an ocean we're all sinking."

Toes by Zac Brown Band- "Concrete and cars are their own prison bars like this life I'm living in, but the plane brought my farther, I'm surrounded by water and I'm not going back is good today..."

Something Beautiful by Needtobreathe- "And the water is rising quick and for years I was scared of it. We can't be sure when it will subside but I won't leave your side..."

Dancing in the Minefields by Andrew Peterson- "'I do' are the two most famous last words, the beginning of the end, but to lose your life for another I've heard is a good place to begin 'cause the only way to find your life is to lay your own life down and I believe it's an easy price for the life that we have found. And we're dancing in the minefields, we're sailing in the storm. This is harder than we dreamed but I believe that's what the promise is for. So when I lose my way, find me. When I loose love's chains, bind me. At the end of all my faith, till the end of all my days. When I forget my name, remind me. 'Cause we bear the light of the Son of Man so there's nothing left to fear, so I'll walk with you in the shadowlands till the shadows disappear. 'Cause he promised not to leave us and his promises are true so in the face of all this chaos, baby, I can dance with you."

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Art of Tapping Out

There's something I've been trying to write for a week now but just can't find the words. I've spent the last several days staying up late, writing during nap time, filling space with thoughts that I can't knit together.

It's wearing me out.
So, I'm letting it go.

So my kids don't wake to a tired, grumpy mom.
So I don't snap at my husband.
So I'm not so freaking emo from an overused, under rested brain.

I'll return to these ideas after they've had more time to incubate because I want to use words wisely.
To lift up, not tear down.
To encourage, not frustrate.
But I'm not there yet.

For now, I choose rest.
First though, back to the every day tasks that have been neglected.

For the love, I need a good belly laugh.

Monday, February 6, 2012

I'm right, I'm wrong. Just Listen.

Second semester twelfth grade basic English was one of the most difficult classes I taught. The students had checked out long before entering the room and just showed up because my class was a requirement to graduate. Some were there because they had failed it the semester before. There was passive aggressiveness oozing from every direction. And sometimes downright aggression. Every time I was called a biotch by some angry teenager I had to remind myself that it wasn't really me that they hated. It was probably more of a projection of their own self hatred. At least that's what I'd tell myself so I didn't curl up in the corner of my classroom and cry.

There was always this one project that we did that allowed me to see past the teenage angst in them. It was a reflective piece in which I found the meaning of their name and they had to determine what it would mean if they were to actually live by their name. I asked them to share their story and how different experiences and relationships had shaped them. It exposed their hopes, fears, and long list of failures that already plagued so many of their lives. It gave me a framework in which to look at them for the rest of the semester. No longer was the sleepy girl with the permascowl just some lazy kid that refused to participate. She was a lonely ex-girlfriend who had always been pro-life until she got pregnant. Her parents and boyfriend refused to support her decision to keep her baby so she made the choice that she never thought she would. There were the countless number of kids whose dads had walked out on them. Some admitted to numbing their pain with drugs, alcohol, and cutting.

It's easy to disregard someone who you don't see as connected to a greater story. When they're just a name,  a face, and a strong opinion or attitude, you can just blow them off. When you're able to see the history behind all these abstract pieces of information, you can see them as the person they are, and it becomes much more difficult to vilify them. 

When we fail to listen to others, to allow ourselves to know them, our relationships become about power. We need to be heard because what we have to say is more important than the other person; we're right, they're wrong and they must be made aware of this. No one flourishes in this type of environment though. This was a big struggle with my students. They always felt powerless. People in those situations lash out or disengage.  I think this is why we have such trouble forming authentic relationships with those that are different from us. There's the tendency to want to control their thinking, to mold them into our image. We do this all the time and journey through life with an "us" and "them" mentality. It's easy to identify this in groups like the religious right, who use politics as a means of power to control the culture. Then again, I can vilify them as a group while failing to take responsibility for how I do this myself. For me, it's more covert than needing to win an argument or debate because I'm not wired that way. Instead, I internalize and just write people off. I stop listening. I don't think it comes naturally for anyone to give up the need to control and be right. If I'm not consciously asking the Spirit of God to lead me in this, I fail every time. I've seen how I need to relinquish my power in this area and allow for God to transform me. Only through this transforming power of Christ, found in giving up our power, can we actually play a part in transforming the world.

Friday, February 3, 2012

One Love. One Life, Together.

The day that Matt and I got married was by far one of the best days of my life. Obviously, much of this was wrapped in the fact that we were starting an adventure, three years in the making, and pledging our commitment to each other before God, family and friends. Engaged girls are always told not to get caught up in the wedding day. After all, it's about the marriage, not the day. While I fully understand the sentiment behind that, I say it's hogwash. When Em gets married, I want her to get absolutely swept up in the joy of the day.

I'm not a planner. I fly by the seat of my pants and tend to leave projects unfinished as I get bored with details, but when it came to my wedding day, I had every detail meticulously thought out. This day was a climax to two separate stories that both of us had been living that were now combining into one. Two different worlds colliding in a way that would forever bind us together. I wanted every person in attendance to know Matt and I as fully as possible. I also wanted each person to know that they were there because they had played a special part in our lives. The ceremony was deeply personal from the song I walked down the aisle to, to our fathers praying over us with our moms and wedding party. At the reception, we showed where we came from with pictures of our parents and grandparents framing the table that had the seating assignments, which were in the form of titles corresponding with stories from Matt and my dating relationship. Our favor was a CD that we put together with meaningful songs and a note explaining how much we appreciated each person that had made the point of not only sharing this day with us, but sharing life with us as well.

What I loved so much about our wedding day was having everyone we loved in one place. For one day, all the people that were important to us in so many different ways were unified because of their love for us. I mean, as egotistical as this may sound, isn't that the case? As the dancing winded down and Matt was ready to whisk me away for a whole other sort of unification, I had trouble leaving. So many friends and family in one place just made my heart swell and I didn't want to say goodbye. I loved seeing everyone enjoying each other. I was overwhelmed by the fullness of God that we were able to experience that day.

It's almost as if it was a glimpse of the oneness that we will get to experience...someday. All of that preparation, hard work, and creativity was stitched together in love.

I've been getting scattered glimpses like this in the last couple months as times spent with family and friends has been unifying and encouraging in ways that fill me up and make the difficult and in-between times more manageable. Sometimes it's small, simple things like huge hugs and sloppy kisses from my kids that make the toys cluttering the floor not an obstacle, but a reminder that this space is filled. With love. With hard work. With people that matter. Really, isn't that what's important? We get to live full lives with others, in the fullness of God, learning to embody the part that He has for us, wrapped in Him. I'm once again blown away by the extravagant love of God that not only invites us into His love but allows us to experience it with others. There are many times when I get caught up in life, being a catty woman, and just not seeing people as Jesus sees them. I'm reminded often of the extravagant ways that God works in us, pouring out his grace and strength in ways that we could never imagine on our own. In these moments, I need to stop, drink it all in, and rest in the glimpses that He gives me to see of life as it should be. The ache of knowing we're not there yet but someday...