Thursday, May 24, 2012

Nicky the graduate


He chose spaghetti for his celebration dinner. Just him, Mommy and Papa.  He's been a champ about sharing our attention lately. I love how delighted he is over the little things--like getting to eat spaghetti and mac & cheese, and when the server brought him a pink lemonade.

His self portrait at school--I like how the pants are high-waters, because he was almost constantly growing out of his pants this year.


With buddies at his kindergarten graduation. These boys are hilarious. Future plans from left to right: ninja policeman, astronaut, and spy. Nicky said "I've never explored the moon and I'd like to know what it's like."


Hard to imagine they were timid on their first day!


The class of 2024.

I just can't get over what a special boy he is. Intelligent, meticulous, thoughtful, sweet, affectionate, oh-so-silly, sound-effect making, Gogurt-loving, endless question asking, creative, monkey-like in his climbing ability, absolutely wonderful Nicolas!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

broken in

We've officially been "broken in" as a foster family (I typed "foster parents" first, but now I know this is a whole family deal.) We took care of a sweet two year old girl for the last five days. Not our first call, but the first one that's actually worked out! We knew very little about her home situation--only that she was the youngest of a sibling group, and that they were removed from the home because of neglect. We saw such a wide range of personality from her--quiet, subdued and a little stunned at first, then cautious but playful, then full of more grief than I've ever seen from someone that age, then silly, giggly, and a little bossy (she did her best to keep Silas in line--no easy task :) It was truly amazing watching her come out of her shell and slowly get more comfortable, although she pretty much never left my side unless she was sleeping. We mostly stayed at home, except for an outing to church and taking Nicky to and from school. I learned that having two toddlers at one time is a CHALLENGE. Wow. It was pretty non-stop, and when it did stop, I was either hurriedly folding laundry or sneaking out to go grocery shopping or falling asleep (usually falling asleep).

We finally got sand for our sandbox, and at first she cried when I put her feet in the sand. Soon, she was fighting for her right to shovel.

I feel like now I understand how hard this is. We can do it, but it's not going to be easy. It was heart-wrenching returning her to CYFD yesterday (she and her siblings are being placed with relatives). Even though I'm so glad she gets to be with them, and we knew that was the most probable outcome, it was still so, so hard. She started sobbing uncontrollably when she saw her family, and again I was overwhelmed by how much grief a two year old child can hold.

I keep going over little moments in my mind. I'll never forget how delighted she was to see herself in the mirror after I did her hair, or the sound of her laugh, or how she kept her sippy cup cradled under one arm at all times, how she kept track of Silas' shoes and brought Ricky his flip-flops to wear on Sunday morning, how she warmed up to Nicky right away. 

I fell in love with her. My heart is broken for her. I hope and pray life treats her well; that she gets a chance.

So now, we wait for the next call; a little sadder and wiser I suppose. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

white sands

A few weeks ago our small group went out to White Sands for the full moon night. This one was pretty cloudy, but we had a blast with the group and it was fun just being out and about. We're usually concerned about bedtimes and such; it's fun to blow that off once in awhile. Lots of silliness, snacks and good conversation while we shivered and waited for the moon to rise. It's been so good being part of a small group again; it's both stretching and comforting, and where a lot of "church" happens.

Anyway, my friend Crystal took some fun pictures and I thought I'd share:






and here's one I took of the sunset. What a gorgeous place.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

right now Nicky is....


  • using the word "recognize" a lot in conversation. As in, "Papa, did you recognize that I'm wearing a flip-flop on my head?" and the like. To which we always reply, "you better recognize."
  • going into Silas' room in the morning; talking and singing to him. So yesterday he did this, as usual, but managed to get his leg stuck in the crib. When I went to rescue him, he said "I think this is a job for the fire department."

  • reading really well! I need a plan to keep him reading this summer.
  • about two seconds away from finishing kindergarten....
  • asking lots of questions about God
  • hoping to learn some more Taekwondo this summer


  • occasionally using phrases like "I will never", as in "I will never drink chocolate milk again" or "i will never, ever try that avocado", etc. At which point we invite him to rephrase or go to time out...  
  • into Power Rangers, Angry Birds (still), cuddling with Penny, drawing, spontaneously bursting into song, digging big holes in the dirt, and watching Wonder Pets with Silas (we pretend like it's just for Silas and Nicky's just doing him a favor), water guns, building Transformers 
  • trying to figure out the art of telling a joke; cracking himself up 
  • taking piano lessons once a week
  • as wonderful and joyful as ever

igniting passion

I'm blogging through Kathy Escobar's fantastic series, Rebuilding after Deconstructing, in an effort to clarify some things for myself, to share my story, and to encourage forward motion. This is so not about whining or placing blame, or picking on any person or institution.  Just the story of God and me, up to now... abridged. 

Lately I've been thinking quite a bit about how to transition from the journey inward to the journey outward. It's so easy for me (probably for anyone) to get stuck in a place of constant self-examination and evolve toward narcissism rather than personal growth and giving back. I think I've been where I needed to be, and up until very recently, where I needed to be was on that inward journey. From what I can tell, the important thing is to pay attention to the stirrings in my soul--and for a little while now the stirrings have been calling me outward. I'm actually really excited about it--this is the fun part, right? I've had to dig through a lot of junk to get to this point, but I do believe I am finally getting somewhere. Whew.

I dream of a life where my passions and daily routines are intertwined. In some ways, I already have that. I've learned to be passionate about my family; to see my mothering as a ministry. I've learned to commune with God throughout my day, in the mundane, the exciting, the sweet, the tiresome. I'm learning to stop clutching onto my life; that to engage in the moment seems to create more time, but to cling to minutes and to-do lists (my default) is to lose the day swiftly and have nothing of substance to show for it. I'm learning to approach life more openly. All of those things are good, and I want more of the same.

There are some things I dream about, most of which I've been dreaming about for a long time:

  • seeing my kids grow up in a spiritually, physically, and emotionally healthy home; setting an example of that myself
  • midwifery, when the time is right
  • giving comfort and quality care as a nurse
  • growing our family through foster care and adoption
  • cultivating a healthy marriage
  • finding a way to translate personal growth into ministry (finding my niche in the church? or something outside of it? I don't know yet.)

The word "healthy" is in there a lot. For so much of my life, I haven't been internally healthy. I've been trying and failing to play a part that wasn't even super well-defined in my head; trying to understand a God I had placed in a box (and who was placed in a box for me.) So I absolutely had to deconstruct. It's funny, looking back on it now--of course I had to. Something had to change.

This part is about laying groundwork while maintaining the basics. For me the basics are prayer, honesty, evaluation and re-evaluation, kindness to self and others (basic is not synonymous with easy.) I feel a lot of potential energy, welling up and waiting for the right time to spring into action. I'm figuring out that I won't ever have it all together, but that's no reason to not pursue things I care about or to stop working on myself. Both matter, both are needed.

Each dream has it's time, but I can honestly say that everything on that list has a foundation in my life right now, to varying degrees. My marriage has gotten so much better over the last few years, because of some difficult conversations, some beautiful experiences, shared sorrow and joy, simple kindness, and a lot of intention from both of us. It's an ongoing process, and an amazing one! I see my kids growing up without un-necessary stress (so far) and fiercely want to preserve that. I hope our home remains a haven for them, always. Nursing is a small part of my week (just one day) but I try to give it 100% of my energy when I am there. Midwifery feels a way off still, but I did recently join a study group with an experienced midwife who is a wealth of knowledge, to, as she put it, "keep the dream alive." Foster care and adoption is right in front of us; the process could begin at any moment. The hows and whens are unknown, but it feels like the time for that dream is now. I really hope so. I feel "expectant" :)

And as far as ministry things go, that is pretty cloudy to me at this point. All I know is, I feel passionately that Christians need to be talking about their journeys in a way that is real, honest, and spacious. Having some sort of framework for this process has been so helpful for me. I would love to give people a safe space to ask their questions and share their hopes out loud (shaky voices and all), or even just have a way to be in the church if the songs or crowds or sermons are daunting because of where they are in their spiritual journey. If going to service is too much, maybe they could have a place to go that's a little safer, where someone is waiting to listen. Maybe it's a small group thing, maybe a Sunday morning thing, maybe even a blog thing-- I'm not sure. I would just like to cultivate that vision, to be there for my brothers and sisters that are wounded--not so much to offer my own wisdom although I'll gladly share my journey. Just to let them know they're not alone; that maybe God really is all they hope he is.

I like the idea of adding new passions to long-standing ones, as life happens. As I learn.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

celebrating the past

I'm blogging through Kathy Escobar's fantastic series, Rebuilding after Deconstructing, in an effort to clarify some things for myself, to share my story, and to encourage forward motion. This is so not about whining or placing blame, or picking on any person or institution.  Just the story of God and me, up to now... abridged. 

Next up is Celebrating What Was and honestly, I've been stuck on this part for over a week, because I'm having a hard time writing about some things in my past without sounding like I'm bashing people. That's certainly not the point of this exercise. So, here we go again. Maybe I can say it right this time.

This part is all about looking at seasons of one's life that caused feelings of hurt, shame or maybe just embarrassment, and finding something to celebrate about each season. It's hard, because people are complicated and life is messy. I think the place to start is looking at my own progression. There are things I've said and done over the course of my life that are just plain embarrassing, but they're a reflection of where I was at the time and not my essential self.

The truth I keep coming back to is this: when I'm gentle with myself, I can be more gentle with others (insert whatever word necessary: patient, kind, etc....) I've been able to let go of a ton of burdensome, poisonous, grudgy junk because of that truth.

So I look back over my entire journey, and ask--how does God see it? I think he sees the big picture. Where I've been, where I'm headed. Just that thought covers everything with peace and takes my anxiety away. I don't know if everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that God redeems.

Because of hard times in my life, I have gained

  • insight into human nature 
  • a backbone (I'm a little more aware of manipulative techniques now I think)
  • knowledge about myself, how I respond to different situations, what my "deal-breakers" are, what my true joys are
  • the ability to put up needed boundaries
  • gratefulness for genuine friendship
  • an ability to be myself and let go of the constant need for approval (a work in progress)
  • the ability to say NO

Those are the biggies I think. Letting go is beautiful and so freeing. On to better things, carrying the lessons of the past with me like the treasures that they are.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

words for today

I'm not sure why it always flows downhill
why broken cisterns never could stay filled
I've spent ten years singing gravity away
but the water keeps on falling from the sky

And here tonight while the stars are blacking out
with every hope and dream I've ever had in doubt
I've spent ten years trying to sing these doubts away
but the water keeps on falling from my eyes

And heaven knows, heaven knows
I try to find a cure for pain
Oh my Lord, to suffer like You do
it would be a lie to run away

-Jon Foreman, The Cure for Pain

-------------
  
Pick up any language by the scruff of its neck,   

wipe its face, set it down on the lawn,   
and I bet it will toddle right into the godfire   
again, which—though they say it doesn't   
exist—can send you straight to the burn unit.   

Oh, we have only so many words to think with.   
Say God's not fire, say anything, say God's   
a phone, maybe. You know you didn't order a phone,   
but there it is. It rings. You don't know who it could be.   

You don't want to talk, so you pull out   
the plug. It rings. You smash it with a hammer   
till it bleeds springs and coils and clobbery   
metal bits. It rings again. You pick it up   

and a voice you love whispers hello

-Jeanne Murray Walker, Staying Power





Tuesday, May 8, 2012

what works

I'm blogging through Kathy Escobar's fantastic series, Rebuilding after Deconstructing, in an effort to clarify some things for myself, to share my story, and to encourage forward motion. This is so not about whining or placing blame, or picking on any person or institution.  Just the story of God and me, up to now... abridged. 


An important part of this journey for me has been finding ways to run to God instead of from God, even when I'm not too sure what's what. Like I mentioned before, I truly believe this process has been mostly about re-defining who God is to a soul that's become sad and cynical over time (yup, that's me.) One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 27:13--I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

In order to have an authentic belief in God as a good being; I've needed to somehow disconnect Him from some negative associations. I've found that this sort of thing takes a lot of time, intention, and space.

Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts has been hugely influential for me. The beauty of her prose, the raw-ness of her story, and her desire to be well all resonated with me. I found comfort and inspiration in her words. I started keeping my own gratitude lists; noticing the beauty right in front of me. The thing that's really special about what Ann proposes though, is choosing to see all of the beautiful little details as gifts from God. It's brave, really, to choose to see a sunset or an unexpected surprise or the expression on your child's face while he sleeps as gifts from a loving God--it's brave when you're torn apart about whether or not He's good, anyway. It's a bold declaration of faith in what you're not quite sure of.

So that has really helped. My thank-you's began as tentative whispers, but I can see now how thanking God for the small things has made Him bigger in my life. He's in the bedtime stories, the garden planting, the momentarily clean kitchen, the coffee outside in the morning, the much-needed conversation. He's here; and I'm starting to like him again. He's starting to feel like a friend again. It's actually a little weird to say again, because in a way this all feels pretty new.

What else worked/works?

  • giving up dutiful Bible reading (the kind that stems from obligation, not love)
  • practicing stillness, being quiet, listening
  • getting honest on this blog; being braver in my conversations
  • books about spirituality
  • day to day things with my kids--I've found space in my days for prayer and contemplation, for meeting with God while I go about my routines. Also, the times when I feel overwhelmed as a parent have become points of connection with God. I'm asking for help more, and trusting that he will help me more. 
  • my job--because it's mentally and physically challenging, and I miss my family when I'm gone, and I often see my children in my patients. Because it gets me out of my head. Because it helps me to remember Jesus, the least of these, and what this is all about.
  • working through some issues in my marriage
  • pursuing the dream of foster adoption (another step of faith)
  • honoring the creative spark, making space for it

Those are the big things that come to mind. Everything is spiritual; I believe that. A healthy mind, marriage, home atmosphere, nurturing of dreams, silliness, laughter--all of those things are spiritual, so putting those things in order help me to be in tune with the divine. I feel a new steadiness because of it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

what remains


I'm blogging through Kathy Escobar's fantastic series, Rebuilding after Deconstructing, in an effort to clarify some things for myself, to share my story, and to encourage forward motion. This is so not about whining or placing blame, or picking on any person or institution.  Just the story of God and me, up to now... abridged. 


I talk more about what I don't know than what I know. You know? :) Honestly, it's a lot easier to tear down than to build up. This is where the building up begins.

Today, I'm thinking about what I do know; what I haven't lost. Here's what I think remains for me:

  • prayer. I can't imagine a day without it. Not really a structured kind, more of a meditative, talk-to-your-heart, listen, breathe kind of thing. Some of the prayers I say often are I will not live with anger in my heart, I will not be afraid of what people think of me, I will not hide my face from you, Oh God, and most recently just I am here. God is here. And then just naming who God is to me, who I know him to be. He brings clarity. He comforts. He understands. He is freshness and light and newness. I'm less likely to give him credit for the bad stuff these days. I'm redefining to my fickle, distrusting, wounded heart who my God really is. That's actually what I think my whole process of deconstruction has been about.
  • words. This one just occurred to me. I still have the gift of words. I have beautiful old songs that speak to me, and poetry, and there are passages of Scripture that don't make my heart hurt. (One day I hope that none of them will, we'll see.) But I have a huge collection of words that soothe, heal and inspire.
  • community. I have dear people in my life that I can be real with. That is no small thing.
  • a sense of awe. It's not gone. When I hear stories of restoration, when I see beautiful things, when I talk about my experience with the divine and see that spark of recognition in another person's eyes--I am full of awe. God is bigger than I can make sense of.
  • Jesus. I have had moments where I'm full of doubt and fear, where I go to church and feel like I don't speak the language anymore and what was once familiar is now bizarre, but I love Jesus, and I continue to feel his kindness. I get to hold onto that.
often, we think it’s all gone because it feels that way.  but if we dig down deep, we discover that there are remnants of our faith left.  parts that still are alive.  parts that can’t be taken away.
-Kathy Escobar 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

loss


I'm blogging through Kathy Escobar's fantastic series, Rebuilding after Deconstructing, in an effort to clarify some things for myself, to share my story, and to encourage forward motion. This is so not about whining or placing blame, or picking on any person or institution.  Just the story of God and me, up to now... abridged. 


Next up in the series is acknowledging and grieving losses. This is a new way of thinking for me. Of course, because my journey involved the death of a loved one, I acknowledged that loss and have done some work to intentionally grieve in a healthy way (it took me a while, as I mentioned in the last post). But I hadn't thought about the rest of it in terms of loss. It's true though--when you grow and shift and change, loss inevitably occurs.

When I think about it, I've lost:

  • some trust. I don't know exactly when I started thinking of groups of people as "safe" or "not safe", but it did happen at some point. I discovered the seriousness of it one day when we were in a group discussion at church and Ricky shared some things about our parenting style, family habits, and such and I totally flipped out. He was just being his usual transparent self, which I usually appreciate, but this time I felt threatened and invaded (poor guy, trying to figure out why his wife was freaking out over a fairly harmless conversation).  I guess I developed some fears in the aftermath of a few bad experiences, and whether they are rational or not, they are very real in my head and have caused some serious distress.
  • the emotional high I used to experience during worship songs. I'm often so pre-occupied with lyrics that don't ring true that I can't focus on anything else. There is one song that everyone seems to love--to me it makes God sound like an abusive boyfriend. It likens him to a hurricane that will blow us away or an ocean that we'll drown in. Then the chorus is about how much he loves us. Seriously, all I can think about is the cycle of abuse when I hear that song. I used to try to sing along with songs that bothered me, because maybe I liked certain parts of them, or maybe I thought I was just over-analyzing. Now I see how damaging that has been to my soul. It's very important for me to protect the good things I know about God. He's not the hurricane, he's the shelter. He's not drowning me, he's pulling me to safety.
  • the ability to pray a certain way. This bothers me, because while I don't want to treat God like Santa Claus, I do want to approach him like a loving parent. 
  • the feeling of being part of the club, the inner circle, whatever. I don't feel like I've been rejected by anyone; I just know that if I speak my mind (which feels more and more necessary these days) I'm simply not going to fit in. I'm coming to terms with that.
  • having the right answer, or feeling that someone will have the right answer at least. Now I think maybe, maybe not.
  • my certainty about the Bible. It's been used as a weapon a few too many times for me to feel super comfortable with it.
So there they are. Some of these have been good things to lose; some very painful and unfortunate, but they all came about when I started picking apart a system that just wasn't working anymore. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

the wall and the journey inward: part II

I'm blogging through Kathy Escobar's fantastic series, Rebuilding after Deconstructing, in an effort to clarify some things for myself, to share my story, and to encourage forward motion. This is so not about whining or placing blame, or picking on any person or institution.  Just the story of God and me, up to now... abridged. 

I didn't wake up that Sunday thinking I would reach a new low. It was actually a celebratory day; a service dedicated to testimony. People shared their struggles and victories from the previous year, and I sat in my chair, feeling their joy and sorrow, laughing and crying. It was so, so good. But then people started sharing about physical healing. Ever since my Dad's death I had felt fragile about that topic. I took a deep breath, asked God to help me, and and I was okay for a while. But it continued. A woman healed of a degenerative disease ran across the stage. A few others shared. I kept doing my deep breathing. Then a young woman talked about how she had a food allergy, and prayed to be healed from it, and guess what? She was! To the point where she binged out on the food she couldn't have and look! She was fine. Just like that, all is well.

I felt my heart shut down; tried to give myself a little pep talk, told myself just be happy for her. Don't make this about you.... but it was too late. I felt a dam break inside of me, and I panicked. I have to get out of here, NOW, I thought. Because sometimes people die, sometimes prayers are not answered the way we'd hoped and nobody was acknowledging that. I don't know if it was a panic attack, but that's what it felt like to me. I've never been so full of anxiety, sadness, and frustration. I managed to pick up my kids and drove home, shaking. I railed at the heavens, I asked God if he was really that cruel, I cried for hours.  And then, when I was done, I realized I had to take some sort of action to help myself. I couldn't remain here forever.

I did a therapeutic exercise that afternoon called The Chair. My friend had told me about it months before, and I had been avoiding it, but I wanted to do something to get better, anything. I imagined my Dad was sitting across from me, and I said everything I had needed to say when he was dying. I started off wrily with "I know you probably wouldn't approve of this, but...." And I chose to believe he could hear me.

Exhausted, I opened my computer and started reading a blog I had been following for a few months, rachelheldevans.com. I had already found solace in her writing, but that day (I don't remember how exactly) I stumbled upon links to a few other blogs, sarahbessey.com (then called Emerging Mummy) and elizabethesther.com. All three of these women were asking some of the same questions I was. All three were struggling to find a home at church again. Maybe, I thought cautiously, maybe this is a gift. That day, for the first time in a long time, it dawned on me He might just be taking care of me. I began to feel hope for better things in our relationship. I wrote a post about a month later called bread crumbs to mark the beginning of a new season.

I realized many important things in the months following that day. One is that my faith doesn't need to look like anyone else's. I gave myself permission to be a misfit, to be perceived as undisciplined, lazy, liberal, lukewarm, or whatever else. There will always be people who talk about easy fixes and overnight miracles--and I don't want to judge their experiences as not valid either. But that has never been my experience. Christianity, for me, has mostly been about putting one foot in front of the other. About seeking and waiting and learning to be content. Believing that I really do have what I need, right here and now. Persevering. Choosing to be a recipient of grace, humbling as it is.

And I hope that the more comfortable I feel in my own faith, the less I will freak out when it looks different for other people. There is still a bit of dread when it comes to church things; that has not gone away. Sometimes I'm not sure that it will. But I'm trying to be gentle with my soul, because God is.

I also decided to fight against having multiple selves--my church self, home self, work self.....wow, that is so exhausting. This is a hard thing for those of us who grow up in evangelical culture I think. We get so used to the happy Sunday morning identity that it's hard to take off. I still struggle to be real on Sunday morning, or in any church setting really. Blogging has really helped with that. I find that if I can summon the courage to say something on my blog first, then I can bring it up in a conversation later.

So that was the beginning of my journey inward. One very dramatic day followed by a lot of quiet reflection, a year of re-shaping my perception of God by noting all the things, big and small, that I have to be grateful for (hats off to another amazing blogger, Ann Voskamp, for writing an incredible book and opening my eyes to the power of saying thank you), and many conversations with my husband, whose experience has paralleled mine in many ways. I'll write more about finding new spiritual practices a little later.

It can take a lot of hard work and a lot of time for God to heal our hearts; to reshape our perceptions of Him. I believe more strongly now than ever before that He wants to. I will honor this process.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

the wall & the journey inward: part I

I'm blogging through Kathy Escobar's fantastic series, Rebuilding after Deconstructing, in an effort to clarify some things for myself, to share my story, and to encourage forward motion. This is so not about whining or placing blame, or picking on any person or institution.  Just the story of God and me, up to now... abridged. 


This post is dedicated to working through the issues discussed in Part I: Honoring the Process. I highly recommend reading it for some context, but the idea in a nutshell is that there are stages to the Christian life. They are:
  • recognition of God
  •  life of discipleship 
  • the productive life 
  • hitting The Wall 
  • the journey inward 
  • the journey outward 
  • a life of love 
Last year my church went through a series called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality that, as I remember, pretty much uses the same model, so the idea of stages is not completely new. Going through the series with a small group got me thinking about my journey so far, but I've still never written it all out. Looking at my own life objectively (as much as that is possible) I believe that I was at The Wall for some time, and more recently began the journey inward.

The first time I can remember questioning God was when I was eight. I was having a conversation with my parents about free will, and they were trying to help me understand why God leaves some choices up to us. "He didn't want us to be robots", they explained gently, "he wants us to choose him because it's what we want; because we love him." I cried dramatically and said that he should have made us "robots", without free will, because then no one could make the wrong choice.

As I grew up, I was of course confronted with some big questions--I saw injustice in the world, the exclusivity of the Gospel as I learned it, the struggle of Jesus followers to actually act like Jesus, the arrogance and ignorance often found within church culture. I also experienced a lot of wonderful things--compassion, generosity, community, the way the Holy Spirit changes people, and so many second chances. I struggled with doubt, but I had a connection, a friendship, with God that steadied me. It seemed un-shakeable to me, especially as a zealous teenager.  I felt I was part of something bigger than myself: a counter-cultural movement (teenagers tend to like that sort of thing, no?)

My questions grew during the college years. Being an English major opened up a new world of thought. I gained an ability to craft an argument, an appreciation for the power of words, and awareness of the different types of writing that influence thought and culture and vice versa, or "literary theory". And so I learned to try on different lenses, to attempt to understand different perspectives. During this time I felt less and less at home in conservative evangelical culture, and more acutely aware of church culture's discomfort with postmodern thought. Unfortunately, there were also a few hurtful church experiences involving legalism and misinformation, and I developed a guarded attitude toward church leadership in general. Still, the connection with God remained, even as I felt less sure about what I believed.

At age 22, I was married to my college sweetheart, finishing my degree, and processing a surprise pregnancy just a few months into the marriage (my  Nickyboy is five now, and remains full of surprises.)I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with an English degree (is anyone?) and I got a little tired of being in my head all the time. I was overcome with a strong desire to learn a skill, to do something with my hands. So I went back to school to study nursing, and learned how to be a mother, how to be married, how to live on a tight budget--all at the same time it seemed. That was a season of pretty intense learning, of highs and lows, of growth. In many ways it was a sweet time.

When Nicky was two months old, my Dad was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. We were all devastated. My parents both had a strong belief that he would survive, and they amazed me with their faith and perseverance. He was with us for nine months after the diagnosis. Thin, tired, and unable to speak above a whisper, a few days after starting hospice care, he passed on. It was a relief to know he was not suffering anymore, but it was unbearably sad too. He was only 58; we certainly wanted him around longer than that.

There is so much more I could say about his dying process, but I think it's a little too personal for others in my family for me to share here. He was a precious person to all of us, and at his funeral people talked for hours about all the ways he had enriched their lives; all his years of service, his corny jokes, the freshness of his faith. I miss him every day. I wish my kids could have known him.

After his death, going to church was so difficult. I couldn't get through a worship song without crying or feeling disillusioned by the lyrics. I tried picturing him in heaven, without pain, stress-free, and that helped a little. I felt the closeness of God at times, but I was keeping my distance. I found myself scared; I went to church and felt like I didn't speak the language anymore. I hadn't felt like I fit in with the culture for years, but it felt magnified now. I volunteered for kids ministry, hoping to do some good and avoid focusing solely on my own problems. That was helpful, and I loved being with the kids. My church community was full of kind, down to earth people, but hearing phrases like "stand on the promises of God", and "prayer changes things" only seemed to increase my sorrow. I think this was the beginning of my Wall. The relationship that had been central to my life ever since I could remember was in trouble, and it scared me to think I could lose it.

I stayed busy with nursing school and home life, and we were part of a small group with an atmosphere of honesty and acceptance. It really was a healing environment. I think sometimes people didn't know what to say or do around me when I would talk about my issues, but they let me anyway, and they prayed for me. I'm so grateful for that. My deep un-settledness about God and church culture continued, but I got by. Life marched on as it does. We both finished school, got jobs, bought a house, and had our second baby, Silas. I loved my life but when it came to spiritual things, and especially when it came to church things, I often felt like I was just playing a part. One summer day in 2011, it all came to a breaking point.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

deconstruction.

one thing that makes me the most sad about “church” is how few places we have for deconstruction.  the mystics and desert mothers & fathers knew that seeking something deeper was a natural part of spiritual growth.  they weren’t afraid of questions & doubts and trusted the guiding, faithful work of the Holy Spirit to keep showing sojourners the way.  we, however, have built systems, buildings, and organizations upon certainty, right belief, and a clear path that makes us feel comfortable.
-Kathy Escobar
So, I've been reading through and processing this series of posts by Kathy Escobar, a pastor from Denver, Colorado who I discovered earlier this year. I think one of these days I just need to drive up to Denver, find her church and give her a hug (and maybe ugly cry) because her writing has been a Godsend.

It makes me think of the line from the movie Shadowlands, where one of C.S. Lewis' students tells him "we read to know we're not alone." That has stayed with me over the years, and I am so grateful to have found kindred spirits both on the internet and in person. And I am grateful for people who forge paths, and give us language that is useful for figuring this stuff out. She describes deconstruction as a time where:
...much of what we believe shifts.
where things we once held dear unravel.
where the number of questions begin to overtake all of our past certainties.
where we find ourselves saying “uh oh, our faith might be in big trouble.”
where we lose the safety of familiar communities because we’ve changed.
Sounds incredibly familiar to me. So I'm going to blog through this series, and at least get this whole process straight in my head. I've been writing about this stuff here for a while now, but not in such a structured way. Structure just might be helpful....

This is in no way an attack on any person or institution. It's really just about me and God, and my hope for better things. This has been a looooonnnng process, and it's still going on, and it may continue for quite some time. Only God knows I guess. So if this frustrates you, that is so okay. Trust me, I get plenty frustrated with myself. But if it resonates with you too, know that you are not alone. And I hope that sharing my story here is helpful in some way. And if you feel compelled, you can share your story here too, or head over to Kathy's blog and join the conversation there. Let's get this stuff out in the open.

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