Me and this body.

Me and this body, we’ve seen a lot together.
This body is the only tangible matter that has been with me from the beginning.
It is the only thing that will not leave. Or lie.
This body tells the truth.

This body was never these words: supple. lean. tiny.
Even in all those years of ballet, this body never fit the mold.
It probably never will.
No, this body is these words: powerful. big. full.
I used to hate this body for that. Used to.
But not anymore. No hate for this body. It’s been a few years since then.
I have a lot of love for this body. A lot of respect for this body.

You see, this body knows me. Knows my story.
This body carried me on walks in the Andes, day after day, for months.
This body saw me through three surgeries.
This body has gone swimming in oceans, amidst dangerous things.
This body has held guns and fired well.
This body managed to stay alive through hell and pain and heartache I wish on NO BODY.
This body has rocked others’ babies to sleep.
This body has held hands with those some might deem untouchable.
This body has hurt people.
This body has tempted people.
This body has hugged people, loved people, and walked alongside people.
This body knows how to keep its balance on a sail.
This body has seen hundreds of miles of pavement.
This body knows how to run cattle.
This body lifts weights.
This body has climbed mountains and broken rock with hammers.
This body has sat beside the dying.
This body creaks and aches and bleeds and suffers.
This body has gone farther than her perceived limits.
This body knows no limits.

I’ve tattooed her with memorial stones of our journey together. I had to remember somehow.
We have had our ups and downs.
She is scarred.
She is calloused.
She is lined with the lines of a life lived a bit reckless.
But this body….This body is still here.
This body knows. Only she knows.
Other people might have something to say about this body. We don’t care. Good or bad, we don’t care.
This body knows: all flesh is fleeting.

Me and this body, we’ve seen a lot together.

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For the girls with the too-big hearts and the too-thin skins.

I get told a lot that I am too sensitive. I know. This heart loves too much and feels too much and aches and bleeds all over the place with wild abandon. I tip over and pour out at the first sign of distress in another. I know this. I know how it will kill me every time. I should probably be more intentional about protecting myself from all this breaking.

But…I am not there yet. I know what it is to live years of living hard and sheltered and quite alone. Those days and nights where no one got in and nothing of me got out are a distant memory, but they still haunt me. Those were terrible days. No love there. Not for me or anyone else. It just hurt too much.

A darling friend who has known me for a very long time recently told me that her favorite thing about me was that I love so hopefully…and hopelessly. I laughed then, knowing deep in me that this loving like a wildfire thing is both a blessing and a curse. I still choose it. The alternative simply will not do. Even when I know people are taking advantage. They think I don’t, but I do. I am a lover, not a fool. I still choose love.

In this journey of living out love and breathing deeply in who I am, I found this brief bundle of words recently and it touched my deep places, the places where the scars and joys reside in harmony. For the girls with the too-big hearts and the too-thin skins, because I know you are out there living out your love in your own little tribe, this is for you. With all the love and understanding I can muster this morning….

“she was always shunned away
for feeling way too much.
indeed, she did make everything too hard for herself by
taking every damn thing to her bones.
but what can she do?
you can’t really blame the sea for creating waves
or the moon for reflecting light
or the stars for shining bright
amidst the darkness of night.
she, indeed, believed that
we are supposed to feel
each and every little thing,
and for her,
that was the only way
to really live.”

From Martha to Mary. And back again. (originally posted 3.13.14)

I remember the first time I read the story of the sisters, Mary and Martha, and truly understood. I had been home from a wild adventure a little less than a month and was spending a few quiet moments delving into the Word. I read these words:

“Now while they were on their way, it occurred that Jesus entered a certain village, and a woman named Martha received and welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister named Mary, who seated herself at the Lord’s feet and was listening to His teaching. But Martha [overly occupied and too busy] was distracted with much serving; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, is it nothing to You that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me [to lend a hand and do her part along with me]!’

But the Lord replied to her by saying, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; there is need of only one or but a few things. Mary has chosen the good portion [that which is to her advantage], which shall not be taken away from her.’” – Luke 10:38-42, Amplified Bible

I read it and I wept. At the time, which is eight years ago now, I had just spent six months out of the country taking deep breaths and serving and dying to self and uncovering old wounds and struggling and healing. And all of that after a few years of working too much and worrying too much and getting my heart broken again and again. I had fallen headlong into Mary’s world after being an angry, hurting, self-righteous Martha for longer than I care to admit. I loved the taking of deep breaths. I loved walking in the world with a heart full of love rather than battling at everything and everyone.

But somewhere in recent months, I went back to bustling about with my finger pointed and my head down and my tongue sharpened for battle. Love and laughter falls easily from me these days, so harshness and bitterness are always an exhaustive practice. I don’t have the energy for them much anymore. But lately, I just feel overworked and out of breath and like I’m scrambling over mountains each day. The days hold far too many people and nonsense and activity for this introvert. My inner Martha is in full force.

Today I had enough. I left the office for lunch and went home to lay on the couch with my phone off and my computer closed and my eyes shut and I breathed deep and remembered the smell of the ocean and the Andes where I breathed for the first time, and felt my heart rate slow and calm sink into my bones. I prayed, “Lord, help me to better manage my time. I don’t want to DO. I want to sit at Your feet and BE. All this doing profits me nothing.” When I opened my eyes, my friend’s cat was sitting on top of the couch purring away and looking quite ridiculous due to the heft of kitty perched precariously on the smallest point of a couch. The giggles came then, full release of laughter at a silly joy. Praise the Lord who brings rest and joy in the middle of chaos.

This life is a wild, fickle beast. Nearly untamable. But the One who loves and saves invites me (and all of us) to breathe deep and sit at His feet. It is an invitation to be one of those who have “chosen the good portion.” Amen.

Measures.

I have been measuring myself lately and feeling like an abject failure. As I have for the last three years, I track my workouts, miles, calories burned all through my computer. I have been sick and tired of being sick and tired lately so those numbers haven’t looked so hot. Further, I started using a little device that measures my steps and calories and stays on my body 24/7. When the data syncs to my laptop, I check it. I sometimes meet the goals and sometimes I do not. Regardless, I feel like I failed.

This feeling of failure doesn’t end there. As a result of this new lifestyle I live, I have to use a scale. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the numbers; they are not headed in an ascent. But each little loss feels like a failure because I want more. I want impossible and I will settle for nothing less.

Failure has marked my work of late, or so I believe. I started a new job with little direction and the piles are growing larger and I don’t know what to do all the time and I am atrocious at asking for help. So I sit, determined and dejected, in my beautiful office that reeks of failure. And grad school and nursing school feel like little failures. Because an A is fine, but I want 110%, even if I do not have it to give.

This measuring is a waste of time. I know. The feelings of failure are the whisperings of the great lie that we are irredeemable. I know.

I also know we do it anyway: men, women, all. We measure ourselves (and others) by the size of our jeans, the size of our houses, the size of our bank accounts, the size of our contributions to society, the size of our hearts. It does not matter if we are discussing sacred or secular things (if you even split up your life in those neat little divides…I do not, personally), it all gets measured. And after we measure ourselves, we begin the heartbreaking task of measuring ourselves against each other. Still others take this a step further and lie about who they are to make this measuring and heartache all worth it, creating even more sorrow within. This should not be so.

To combat these lies, I propose a little truth. I am speaking as much to myself as to you….

You are not a failure. That measuring stick you’re using? Break it up into finite pieces and burn it in a bonfire. Cease looking at yourself with your feeble human eyes and choose to see yourself as Christ sees you: BELOVED. REAL. KNOWN. RAW. WORTHY. REDEMPTIVE.

This is not intended as a mushy, sappy, feel-good affirmation. I do not like those much. And this is not about increasing your self-esteem. (Frankly, I do not know why we bother talking about that either.) I mean to tell you that you can end these lies by living some truth but YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Measurement is a waste. In all forms. Just stop. You are hurting yourself and you are hurting others. Just stop. YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE. You are human and vulnerable and you will fail at things and you will succeed at things and life will still go on and you will survive. Do not let the lies win. Spend your time doing something a bit more worthy and honest than living and telling and believing lies about yourself and those around you.

Quit thinking so much about yourself and move on and spread some love and do some good in this wild, jacked-up world and know that people are people, God is good, and love is meant to be lived.

Day 1 of 30.

A wise friend recently introduced me to a blog: The Single Woman. After reading (and agreeing with much of what she writes), I have decided to take on her 30-Day Blogging Challenge about singleness. Without further ado:

1. Your response to everyone’s favorite question: “And why are YOU still single?”

Hmmm. I wish this weren’t “everyone’s favorite question”, although it certainly seems to be. It’s rude. It’s intrusive. It doesn’t really have one solid answer that fits everyone. Rarely is it asked with kindness. I wish it was the question no one had the cajones to ask. And yet, people ask away.

Sometimes, I tell them that I am still single because I am a painfully shy perfectionist adventurer with a streak of rebel, and that I’ll only marry the man who can actually catch me and keep up. I tell them that I have certain standards, and I am not seeking perfection (because, let’s face it, perfection is boring), so I see no problem with sticking to my standards and not settling for just okay.

Sometimes, I tell them that I am moving to Europe and living in a drafty Parisian apartment where I can write all day and I’ll take a lover who has to leave after breakfast. But just sometimes.

Sometimes I tell them that I plain don’t know. I love big and huge and wild and with such abandon that even I can’t always handle it all, I love and seek after the Lord, I love to cook for others, I laugh and laugh every day, I love bringing joy to others and seeing them freed from the bondage of bitterness, I want to be a mom one day, I love to be quiet, I choose friends wisely and carefully, I don’t cheat, I take care of myself, I am honest to a fault, and whomever I love, I love for real and as fully as I can. And I tell them that even with those traits – things I see as healthy and good, things that the Church has taught me are admirable as a mate – men still do not notice me and I don’t know why.

The truth is, I don’t have an answer. Not a good one, not one that has settled deep in my soul as a truth. I just don’t know why. And sometimes I just plain don’t care. Sometimes I want to see life ebb and flow as it has always done, and walk the path the Lord lays out before me, with or without my help. I just want to walk it out. And the traveling fellow who chooses to walk alongside me and walk out a path together for the glory of God and the love of others will be the one. ‘Til then.

Love hopefully.

Near the end of the movie, The Help, the noble maid, Aibileen, finally confronts the housewife who has caused so much sorrow with this question: “Ain’t you tired?” No matter how many times I have seen the movie, that part is where I start to cry.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and asked yourself, “Ain’t you tired?” Life has been too hard and it is largely your choices that got you there. Your lies have piled up. The hurt and anger settles deep in your soul. You try so hard to put on a brave and likable face for those around you, but in truth you’re running scared and you don’t love yourself much at all. You hurt others out of your own hurt and though you may not like yourself afterward, you cannot seem to stop. So you lie and hurt and lash out at the undeserving of your wrath so that others will hate them and love you. But it’s never enough to heal the deep ache in your soul. It’s never enough. So you lay exhausted at night and walk around exhausted by day because keeping up a ruse requires an enormous amount of energy. It’s exhausting.

I would know. I just described the first twenty-three years of my life. I was tired. So bone-deep tired.

Imprisoned in my own cage of feeling worthless and hated and drowning in self-pity. Hating others because I hated myself. My love was false, as was everything else about me.

I do not forget those years as they make the eight years following that much more meaningful and incredible and surreal. But sometimes I forget how hard I was then. Until I meet someone else like my younger self…

And that’s what happened recently. Perhaps it was God who made our paths cross. It is hard to say now. I’m still reeling from the blow. After a relative calm of friendship, I spent an evening watching the self-hate and hurt in her eyes while lies fell out on the floor. Lies about me, lies about how I treat others, lies about how I live my life. As much as I wanted to be angry, I was simply hurt. I have not felt so judged and despised and lied about in a very very long time. In a few minutes, a friendship was ruined. And yet…the love for her grew and grew beyond my own capacity to do so.

That’s the thing about living something for so long…you recognize immediately when someone else is living it, too. This is how souls collide and communicate – we know ourselves and we see ourselves in others. Perhaps the responsible thing to do is to walk away. But you know better. You know better because there were people in your own low season who should have walked away from you and they did not, but chose to stand with you and walk with you into freedom from your own broken heart. Their recognition of your tiredness, even if you did not see it yourself, called you gently into freedom.

So you choose that path, that walking with another. You choose it because you are now so free you cannot imagine doing anything else. Loving others is hard, hard work. Human hearts ache and bleed and the cuts are deep and sometimes the wounds don’t heal for a very long time. But you choose love anyway. To do less is simply not an option. You want to shake the other person, to smack some sense into them. You want to speak truth to them. You love them, but they take your love as hatefulness. That’s the hardest part. When someone is in so deep, they cannot see truth for what it is. It just sits piled up with the lies. They fear and hate what they do not know nor understand, as do we all.

As the lover, you wait. You pray. You hope. You long for their freedom. You wonder if maybe, just maybe, they will believe truth one day and live free and whole and healed. Because you know. You know what it is to be a prisoner in your own cage and you also know what it is to be free from lying about others, free from lying about yourself to make yourself look better, free from self-hatred, and free from hurt that causes cruelty to those you claim to love. Redemption is a process, a beautiful and hard and holy process. Those of us who are keenly aware of our own redemptive stories honor the Lord by choosing to love others in the course of their stories.

Loving others means loving them when they hate you, when they despise you, when they cannot see your truth for what it is. It means you wait, sometimes patiently and sometimes impatiently, because you have been made grateful for a free heart and as a result, you long for freedom in the hearts of others. Sometimes you get to see the end result and sometimes you don’t. Regardless, love hopefully. Love honestly. Love freely.

How I meet God at the grocery store. {Originally posted 3.1.14}

I made the dreadful mistake of doing my grocery shopping on a Friday afternoon at the end of the month only a day before a predicted ice storm in the South. Dumb? Yes. Surprisingly life-giving? Also, yes.

As an introvert, I find any store exhausting. And yesterday was an all-out war not to just leave my full cart in the middle of the store and come back another day. I was rushing about and ran by the deli counter to have some meat sliced for an upcoming gathering. The poor woman behind the counter had to be at least 70 and shuffled agonizingly slow between the counter and the meat slicer, painstakingly completing my order. I am never bothered by this sort of thing. A slow moment in the middle of a lot of busy moments allows me time to breathe. So I idly stared at the mountains of cheeses and meats behind the glass case and thought about nothing. It was lovely.

When that dear woman placed the last of my bags on the counter, she leaned over and quietly apologized for taking so long in getting the task done. I smiled and told her not to worry. Then she leaned over further and told me she had been fighting a sour stomach all day and wasn’t moving so well as a result.

I met God right then. In the middle of all of that noise and movement, I blinked back my tears, reached my hand across the glass case and took her hand and apologized to her for the fact that she had to work so hard and smell all that food all while sick to her stomach. Feeling her unsteady and wrinkled gloved hand hold mine broke my heart. She rewarded me with a smile. I choked back tears all through the rest of my shopping.

I told my mum about it later and said that the tenderness I am becoming is both a blessing and a curse. In her usual mum way, she asked, “Wouldn’t you rather be tender?” Well, yes. Yes, of course. I lived the alternative and it was hell. And it was hell to know me then. I’ll never go back…the Lord has promised me that. It’s just that the tenderness makes going to the grocery store harder and harder. I find myself doing crazy things with strangers these days. I have these conversations that do not leave me, conversations with people I will never see again, conversations that leave my heart scarred with the wonder and sorrow simultaneously. A lot of broken and hurting people walk past you in a grocery store aisle. I cry a lot when I get in my car afterward. It has become a minefield and my heart gets blown up every time.

And with every explosion, I meet God. I see Him in their eyes, in their bad teeth, in their worn out shoes, in their cars that barely run, in their wrinkles, in their stories. He waits for me behind the apple display, in the freezer section, over the blocks of cheese and the rows of celery, and even in the parking lot on a few occasions.

He tells me in Matthew 25:35-40, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

I believe this. I believe we show our love for the Lord in how we treat others. Man, that’s hard. I would make a really good Pharisee – all talk and show and Bible verses and hardly any effort. It would be so easy.

But all I can muster up is being a sorry sinner who loves and fails and loves and fails and loves and fails. The gratefulness and happy beautiful mess that is loving people who would be easier to ignore feels like worship somehow. And I keep meeting God at the grocery store. Amen.