Monday, April 14, 2014

hashtag envy

{Photo Credit: @staceywoods Instagram}

This morning I cruised past this photo on IG with the hashtag      #ilovelivinghere tucked beneath the killer sunset/silhouette/sea image and was struck once again with the sheer beauty that emerges exponentially when one of us human beings is rhythmically connected to our tiny place on this earth.  It's not just the pink sky or the back lit children playing in the sand or the shimmery reflection on the water, although any one of those things is holy enough. Anyone can grab a snap of a sweet spot and toss it online for others to drool over.  That's not it though. That's not the thing that pulls at my soul. I can follow any number of feeds or peruse Pinterest for ideas meant to inspire envy but they don't. I'm after the backstory, the lens through which the image is viewed. The pounding heart moved by a crescendo of the senses in that nook of the soul where creation meets real life, 

where heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss

where the art spills to overflowing as a result of loving where you live. 

I don't envy people who have bigger bank accounts, fancier houses or more expensive cars. I don't envy people with prestigious titles or walk in closets full of designer labels. I do not envy power. Or fame. Or pedigree. But I do envy those who absolutely love where they live, wherever that may be. The farmer's wife bottle-feeding piglets before sunrise, the executive walking to the office in the big city, the artist in the dingy downtown loft, the beach bum on the island, the astronomer in the desert, the mountain biker in the pines - it is no small thing to truly love your small space on this planet. 

During our most recent visit to Flagstaff, one of our favorite little college towns just two hours north, we were walking back from a brewery along a chilly little downtown street where we grabbed dinner and beers after paddling a local lake when I saw a bumper sticker on a muddy truck that read "SEA LEVEL SUCKS: breathe thin air". I literally stopped in my tracks to make sure I read it correctly. Someone actually thinks this? Someone actually thinks sea level sucks? This person loves the mountains that much. How incredible it is to me that we are each designed with such a variety of affinities. My affection for that little town grew that day as I imagined the driver of that truck living FULLY ALIVE with the pulse of their life synchronized with the song of the wind through the pines in the place they absolutely love. That's holy stuff right there, friends. 

Latitudes and longitudes speak to our souls sparking wildfires within our createdness. Whether we visit those places or make a life in those spaces, they matter. It's why we are drawn to wander. For years now Eric and I have been practicing beauty #growwhereyouareplanted knowing with intense certainty we have been exactly where we are supposed to be. For so many reasons and with layers of purpose we have been sure. For us there is no greater priority than following the Spirit's leading in our lives because apart from Christ we can do nothing. So when our conviction began to lift toward the end of last year and we started to wonder if change was coming our tethered dreams began to regain buoyancy. Fast forward through Eric's shocking job loss a month and a half ago and here we find ourselves. Palms up. Prayers up. Ready. And still waiting. As our lives are currently swirling with in-state, out-of-state and international job applications submitted, emails and phone calls trading back and forth, the possibilities seem endless and a new adventure feels eminent. All of the pieces of our normal lives are floating up in the air waiting for a place to land and yet we rest in the knowing that this journey is laden with direction and every single quiet breath now is pure gift in preparation for what lies ahead. But it's hard to be patient. So hard. Like kids waiting to open a long-awaited gift, we are crazy with anticipation for the next plans God has for us! 

There is no adventure quite like trusting God with your whole self. Even the parts that you think are insignificant or frivolous, like the things your heart loves, the things that make you feel FULLY ALIVE. Every bit matters. Every bit is on purpose. Wherever it takes you or wherever it keeps you may you always seek those spaces where heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss just for you. 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

G & me - an unexpected birthday story

My Garrett turned six today. He is pure magic, I tell you. All boy. All Star Wars and Legos and bows and arrows. Equal parts goofball and hero-saving-the-world-and-battling-the-enemy. Oh how I love him for that!

As we drove away from saguaros and into pines today for his birthday adventure with him and two of his buddies screaming and punching and pretending and laughing in the backseat, while Carsyn acted very tweenish with the iPod and earbuds in the way-back, I couldn't help but think about the day he was born. We all do this, don't we? Every year, it never fails. We pull out the birth day photos and ooooh and ahhhh over how wrinkly and squinty they were in their burrito blankets and inked footprints. We reminisce about the early days with romantic memories that make us want another baby. But this year looking at those photos was different. I saw things I don't usually see and remembered things I don't like to remember.

The story I like to tell about Garrett's birthday is how I randomly decided to go trim our lemon tree in the backyard. I was on a mission to prepare everything for his arrival and the lemon tree was mission critical. It was out hand and needed to be tamed.  I grabbed our large shears and headed out back to handle the jungle of lemon branches which was taking over the corner of our yard and within a few minutes I began having side pains. Hoooo. I'd rest, catch my breath and keep going. Hoooo. Then more side pains. I'd sit down with my feet in the pool, catch my breath and keep trimming. Hoooo hoooo. Finally the pains were enough for me to tell Eric and we began timing them. After an hour he made me call the doc. I still had five weeks to go and I needed every bit of those five weeks because I had a broken foot that was still in an air cast and I needed that foot healed before it had to go into a stirrup! Yes, I was quite a vision of loveliness with my big ol' belly, aircast and knee scooter complete with a basket and handbrakes that I wheeled around on. You can imagine.  I figured if I went to the hospital they would tell me it was false labor and send me home but my doc suggested I go... so we did. No bag. No plans to stay. Just a check.  And, of course, I was admitted at 4cm and G was born that next morning perfect as can be. I like to tell the stories about wrapping him up like a burrito and being served tea at 4 o'clock by the volunteers pushing the fancy tea cart and delivering dainty desserts. I like thinking about introducing Carsyn to her baby brother for the first time and how excited my brother Jeremy was to hold Garrett in the nursery where his blood sugar was being monitored. The flowers and balloons and all the fun things Nana and Gramma did to spoil Carsyn while we stayed in the hospital.

All the sweet things.

But what happens when memories of your little love's first days are hard?

See, the stories I don't like to tell are the ones of how afraid I was to leave the hospital. I didn't want to go home to my normal life. We stayed as long as we were allowed to and on the day that we were discharged I sat alone in my hospital room packing my things and cried. I wanted to stay. I wasn't afraid of how to manage two children instead of just one. I was afraid of how to manage period. Garrett was born into, hands down, the most tumultuous time in our lives thus far. Perfect and pure, he was placed down in the middle of chaos. I've been talking about this "desert" season of our lives since moving back to Arizona in 2005. I've eluded to the hardships and hurdles, but in April of 2008 we were sinking. We had already lost a house, were newly unemployed, had experienced the most heart-breaking wounding at the hands of our church, had left our ministries, our finances were beyond a mess, my brother Jeremy was well into his brain cancer, Eric's identity was being stripped down to its foundation with disappointment after disappointment, I was fighting against post-pardum depression and we were becoming ships passing in the night. We. were. drowning. I didn't want to go home. I wanted tea at 4 o'clock and nurses to tell me everything was going to be just fine. I wanted to watch my brother coo over Garrett and I wanted to believe he would be a father someday. I wanted the flowers to never wilt and for Carsyn to never feel the weight of what our lives were enduring. Please don't make me go home. 

We carried a weight during those days, and for many many days after it hung over every moment and every occasion, but it didn't hang over Garrett. Not ever. It never hung over Carsyn either. It's like they had some magic forcefield of protection because instead of being weighed down by the circumstances we were bearing, they glowed hope. Garrett is my snuggler. He has always been most content curled up in my arms. Safe. Secure. At least I could do that. Holding him became such a refuge of comfort and he and I formed a unique bond that was nothing short of a gracious provision from heaven. He may have needed it, but I needed it too. There were many nights when we were so stretched that I felt such peace knowing that at least I could feed my baby well. I could hold him and shield him from the punches that just kept coming toward Eric and I from every angle. Protected. Peaceful. At least I could do that.

Eventually Eric was working again, four jobs instead of one, and although life was changing it was not getting easier. My brother passed away and I cannot count the number of nights I spent rocking Garrett to sleep in his room while softly singing the song from Jeremy's funeral, Annie Lennox's Into the West. Eric would be working. I would be trying not to get freaked out by every little noise in the night. And so I would rock G. That song still puts him to sleep to this day. It wasn't long before anxiety and depression kicked into full gear in me and I was reduced to the day's basic functions just hoping that if I could just get the kids to bedtime I could hide in another bubble bath where I could cry without them hearing me. But every time we would sit in his glider, every night he would snuggle in under my chin, I would catch a glimpse of glory and the pure gift that he was and I could just breathe...

Garrett wasn't born into the wrong time in our lives. Oh no. He was part of the rescue. He was perfectly crafted and perfectly timed and I needed him as much as he needed me. And as I watch him sleep tonight looking so big and every bit a year older I am overwhelmed by the sheer gift of his life.  Daily he challenges me to loosen my grip on his wild little spirit and daily he grabs on to me and won't let go.
We are so far beyond those early days of drowning, but those same eyes twinkled at me tonight as we  lay nose to nose on his pillow and I'm rescued all over again, freed up to listen to the tales of my rim-country exploring/elk chasing/snowball fighting/bait fishing birthday boy.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

a sun-scorched land

This little gem jumped out at me from between the prickly pear and agave last Friday night at the Desert Botanical Gardens where eight of us piled out of a single minivan (one from the trunk) for Agave On the Rocks, an event boasting local cuisine and margaritas peppered throughout luminaria-lined pathways winding around 140 acres of desert plant life. Maybe it was the Chihuly glass art and smooth tequila combo, or maybe it was the tricky-March-weather-at-sunset factor, but this was literally the first time I have enjoyed the DBG. Paths of cactus aren't really my jam. 

I don't think I noticed any other signage that night. But this quote, this one with words I've used to describe my restlessness, my square pegness, my tension with this sun-scorched land, this quote is the very lesson I have been learning and the very reason I have grown to love succulents so. These lushies dare to thrive even under the most intense conditions. Succulents soak up every bit of life-giving moisture they can so when there is none, when the rain doesn't come, when there is no shade from the relentless heat of their native land they remain. Steadfast. I love that. Just thinking of this design fills my eyes with tears because it is so very much on purpose. These little baubles aren't victims of a hostile climate. They are bits of beauty declaring freedom from circumstances in a place I have often been convinced has been forgotten. A place where I have often felt forgotten.  


We live in the desert. Both literally and figuratively. Although we moved here voluntarily to be near family after Carsyn was born in 2005, a lot has changed and I truly have felt exiled here for almost nine years and for almost nine years we've been asking ourselves why? because friends, it has been hard. Really really hard. There have been valleys we almost didn't make it through and sucker punches we almost didn't recover from. One after another. If you know us at all you know that we are adventurers and risk takers who don't give a rip about the norm and who believe that Jesus uses every drop of our blood, sweat and tears for His infinite glory. But His glory isn't cheap. Nor is His grace. He does not drown us in oceans of love so that we can be free to do whatever we want. His love deep and wide shapes us and frees us to be who we are meant to be, designed to be. His workmanship. And so for nine years we have been reminding ourselves of this truth over and over again through every mistake, every disappointment, every setback, every change, every loss, every wounding, every fear, every wondering (as my friend Monica says here) if our prayers are just too big, and God has those thing for other people – NOT for us. We've grown accustomed to the answer being 'no' and to things not working out, we've come to expect difficulty and trial and I've made an anthem of Bono's "40" asking how long must we sing this song? 

But God.

Every step of the way He has gone before us. He has made a way and kept whispering follow Me. He has never asked us to go anywhere that He himself has not gone first. One foot in front of the other we have followed. Nothing heroic. Just following, as Eugene Peterson says, "a long obedience in the same direction". Sometimes we've seen actual real-life understandable purpose that has sustained us from one hard place to the next and sometimes we have not and reason eludes us. I have made a practice of finding beauty in the places that challenge me, in the difficult, and I have learned to cultivate that beauty in tactile spaces in our lives out of sheer necessity - reminders of what is good and true. And to my surprise, even though my weary soul has felt shelved and forgotten, the exact opposite is true. I have been fortified in having been allowed the opportunity to need Jesus so desperately. Where His indwelling is what propels my feet forward. His endurance, the breath of life that hovered over the waters, is alive in me and has been scaffolding surrounding me and holding me up in the rebuilding. I have been changed. I am no longer who I once was. 

The Lord will guide you always;    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.

Isaiah 58

Even in this hostile climate, landlocked and drought-stricken, there are signs of life. Creation adapts in the face of oppressive heat and little water and dares to thrive! The nerve! And so I dig up the beauty in any way I can. I soak up the few months of good weather and fill my soul-storehouse with images of color. I plant gardens and paddle lakes and chase sunsets and swim in early spring and declare that though this desert is harsh, it is on purpose. It is not a forgotten land. It is for His great glory as has been the metaphoric desert of our season in life. For great glory. 

I believe there is a spiritually Edenic connection we experience in relation to the creation surrounding us. If we are paying attention, I mean really paying attention, we feel it. We are part of it and rooted deeply. It's magnetic the draw I feel to the energy of moving water and the pull of tides. Earth under my fingernails planting seeds that will explode with new and edible life just levels me. Blazing light from our star bending through the atmosphere in neon masterpieces has me pulled over on the side of the road in awe or running down the street for a better view almost nightly. This terrestrial ball of biodiversity spinning wildly and yet centered on an axis so still. I just can't get over the magnificence of this planet - and finally I can say, even this desert. It's been a lesson long in the learning and one that comes with a sense of conclusion, like one of many finish lines.

I keep writing about how a swell is building in our lives. How the winds are changing. We've been feeling it for awhile now, searching for our next course. Our next adventure. Hearing whispers. Sensing new affections for new places. The more we listen for the motion of the Holy Spirit the more we recognize the motion of the Holy Spirit. That sensitivity is compounding and we are heightened. Pricked with expectation. We know this familiar breeze. It's picking up and though we feel like everything is spinning wild we know we are centered on a still axis. Right now Eric and I seem to be being given sneak peeks at good things on the horizon, threads being woven together on our behalf. And friends, it feels good. And all the hard things seem to be revealing their true purposes allowing me to see them not as void of life but in full bloom. And again He goes before us. We just get to follow.  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

scenes from the middle

We did it! Yesterday, with just hours to spare on our original deadline, we reached the 100 mark and our screening of the trafficking documentary TRICKED is officially on! Thankyouthankyouthankyou to every person who reserved a ticket, shared our links, liked our posts and encouraged us! Thank you to those who donated tickets from out of state and to those who cheered us on from other countries! Awareness about sex-trafficking will be furthered because of YOU!

In other news, Eric got fired.

I know. Keep reading.

I was grabbin' a little vitamin D out back with the chickens yesterday, writing and soaking up some gorgeousness while asking God to reveal His next steps for Eric and I and this groundswell we sense building in our adventure. We feel like we are on the brink of something new. Something completely other than. The winds are changing. Our passions are dovetailing, our convictions solidifying. Our sails are up and the tell tail is beginning to flutter. What is it? What lies ahead? Such anticipation! Such excitement!

And then my phone rang. It was Eric. He had just been fired. Why you ask? Because, while at home on Sunday, he sent a group of emails about the TRICKED screening from his GCU email account.

That's it.

Yes, I'm serious. 

My guy has taught for Grand Canyon University for seven years as an adjunct professor, associate online professor and ground professor and was one of the original instructors for their now BOOMING online education model. He has been an incredible educator in a field that encourages mere facilitation and was repeatedly invited to guest lecture in colleague's classes on the topic of sex-trafficking. Yesterday they packed up his desk into a cardboard box cliche as HR let him go because, while at home on Sunday night, he unknowingly violated a policy by sending a group of emails about the TRICKED screening from his GCU email account to people who attended an anti-trafficking summit he attended at our church last fall. He didn't send random solicitations. He didn't send anything inappropriate. No one complained. The system flagged it. There is a policy against it. Done. He was then escorted out of the office and could only say goodbye to those who followed him out the door. His supervisors were in tears apologizing with their eyes in disbelief and he was reassuring them! It's funny how peace confuses people. When all was said and done he was excited to tell the HR person how close we were to our goal, offered her a TRICKED flier and told her he hoped to see her at the screening.                                       

Gosh, I love that man.

See the thing is, it's okay. We are actually oddly excited! Not excited that he lost his job. Not excited that he lost his job over something so ridiculously trivial. Not excited that our main source of income and benefits just disappeared into thin air. We are excited because God is moving! We are fully convinced. We can feel it. From the moment it happened, and the moment he called me, each of us independently have been shaking our heads going Lord, what are you up to? We have been praying since last summer for direction. We have been watching Him prepare us and bring our passions into focus. We have felt freedom rushing in and a lifting of our current season. So much movement and inspiration, clarity and calling. So much timing and connection and confirmation surrounding the things we know we can't. not. do. With every next thing, every breeze that blows, every new opportunity, every holy conversation, we catch our senses being pricked and our palms up because the kingdom of heaven is just on the other side of our skin.

Do you feel it?

Do you feel the holiness of this one wild and precious life? Have you encountered your verse in this extravagant love story spinning on it's invisible axis at the exact perfect angle so as to allow moments of insane majesty like last night's sunset splashing fuschia and tangerine across the sky all because of light waves bending through dust particles and hanging cloud. Have you felt the magnetic pull of moments of intense beauty, birth or loss or courage or fear where being fully human becomes fully real and tears are literally pulled from your eyes like tides by the moon? Do you feel it? Do you feel your slice of this vapor? Do you know that there is a part especially for you? A space for you to step into and take up? And that it matters?

I believe in telling stories from the middle. Before we know the ending. Where you can't spin or frame or crop because you just have no idea what is going to happen. It is way easier to tell of God's goodness after a happy ending. It's even easy to tell a sad story in hindsight having learned lessons and experienced growth. But in the middle, there's nothing but faith and hope. Not blind hope. Not I hope I get a pony for my birthday hope. Hope in The One the wind and waves obey. Real time edge-of-your-seat drama.

This is our just-got-fired-so-we're-going-out-to-lunch-and-ordering-sangria face.

That's the place we are inviting you into by sharing this crazy news. Don't feel sorry for us because Eric lost his job. Jump in on our anticipation of the adventure ahead! We want you to have a front row seat for what comes next! 

Speaking of front row seats, we've met our goal to get the TRICKED screening going but we can still sell more tickets! Hope to see you local peeps there on March 13th! 

Monday, February 24, 2014

justice:: image bearers

Justice is not a trend. It is not a liberal agenda or an evangelical fad. Justice is the heart of the gospel woven throughout God's word, from the garden to the ten commandments to the sermon on the mount to the cross to the return of Jesus when every tear will be wiped away and all things will be made new. Justice is not just a talking point or a philosophical question. Justice runs through our veins. 

Justice feels complicated though. When we've been wronged we seek justice horizontally from one another. We can be slow to forgive and quick to hold a grudge. However, when we are the ones who've done wrong, we hope for grace and mercy, for pardon. Vertically, we assign those same dynamics to God. He does, or doesn't do, and we become angry, turning away from any idea that He could be good. And when we are the ones far away, the ones dripping with guilt and naked in shame, we hope for mercy but brace for wrath. 

It can feel like such a mess, justice. 
Our systems and our hearts alike are both so filled with contradiction. 
Because of His great love for us. (ephesians2)

His love. It's what drives everything that is of Him. Love. From the very beginning Genesis 1 tells us God created us IN HIS OWN IMAGE. We look like him! We bear his likeness! It is who we are created to be! We love being image bearers. We love being children of God. We are proud of the resemblance, the family genes and the inheritance, but we have a really hard time seeing each other as image bearers. We see each others flaws and crimes and bad choices and deserved consequences. Our neighbor loses their home and we raise our eyebrows wondering how they could be so irresponsible as we head to the mall with our credit cards. Our neighbor gets divorced and we shrug our shoulders because hey, that's what happens when you're a cheater, after we just happen past an old flame's Facebook page. Our neighbor is holding a sign on the freeway offramp and we avert our gaze and commit to not enabling a drunk as we drive home from happy hour. Our neighbor is handcuffed for being prostituted and we shake our heads after we just paid for porn on the internet. 

If we are followers of Jesus - IF - there is no separation between matters of faith and matters of justice. There is no religious and political. There is no sacred and secular. There are only people. 

I am not the only image bearer.

You are not the only image bearer. 

In it's simplest form, justice is this. Seeing one another as being created in the image of God. 

Let's start there.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

i get it. i really do.

We have six days left to fill 79 reservations for the screening of the TRICKED documentary about trafficking. There is a good chance it won't happen. And I get it. I really do.  I remember not wanting to know. I remember literally plugging my ears and telling my friends Jen and Christy that if they said one more word about it I was not going to be able to fall asleep that night. Or any night after. I simply couldn't go there. 

Carsyn was little and Garrett was a baby. Motherhood was full of fear in those days and I had yet to admit my lack of control over every tiny thing that would happen to them. Sitting at Jen's big pedestal dining table that night, my two friends gently encouraged me to consider learning about what was going on in our city. I just couldn't. They could've told me to get my head out of the freaking sand and wake up to the real world all around me. But they didn't. They just kept inviting me to learn. 

It wasn't long before Christy and her husband hosted a home gathering for a local trafficking prevention organization. A presenter would be there for an awareness night. They asked me to consider coming and after checking my calendar in hopes I was busy that night,  I reluctantly agreed. I was so anxious the entire drive there. I just knew that once I knew I wouldn't be able to un-know. I wouldn't be able to go back to blissful ignorance. But I also knew that my bliss was someone else's terror. I pulled up to the house and if it wasn't for Christy's husband standing out front waving I would have totally chickened out and driven away. I was sick to my stomach. Nervous. Sweating. So afraid of how the information would affect me. But I walked in, small talked with a bunch of people I would never see again and found a seat. 

This is when my story began to change. 

As the presenter began, she passed out packets of information. Stats. Bullet points. Definitions. Case studies. As she spoke about the horror of this crisis encroaching upon our cities, our neighborhoods, I found that, surprisingly, I was not cowering. I was not cringing or fighting back tears. In fact, I felt myself sitting taller and taller and taller. I felt my shoulders square and my breathing slow and my gaze focus. 

I was not afraid. I was pissed. 

That was almost four years ago. And the crisis is getting worse. I would love to say that I never feel afraid and that I always sleep well at night, but I do and I don't. Early this morning at 3:46am my cell phone went crazy on my nightstand with an AMBER Alert and it took me almost two hours to get back to sleep. Mind racing. Fear knocking. 

I get it. I understand why so many people are cheering us on in our efforts to screen this film and yet aren't buying tickets. I remember being there. And I respect that place in the journey. But I also want to be that friend that gently encourages others to learn. To feel. To act. Because it could be my child. It could be yours. 

This is really happening. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

would you rather

Last week a good friend texted:

i make dinner tonight for you guys?
you guys have eggs?
of course!

He showed up with all the ingredients for a killer gluten-free dish complete with rice cooker AND this after-dinner smoothie from the @fit_smoothies IG feed. Then his girlfriend shows up - even better - with fresh hydrangeas and enough love for the whole wide world. A total recipe for good vibes.

During dinner our two were dying to play table games with a new audience so Carsyn picked out the tattered "Would You Rather" card. One of the starters on the card reads:

"Would you rather be really good at one thing 
or just okay at a lot of things?"

Answers around the table varied but every time we play my answer is always the same ---> I would rather be really good at one thing. For sure. The game went on and our friends had super great and super gross "would-you-rathers" that made the kids squeal and stay up way too late. The guys cleaned the kitchen and we shared about that one season in life that seems like a lifetime ago when everything hit the fan and we were drowning deep. We shared about having our identities stripped away and being rebuilt by a Savior which gave way to hearing about our friends' LOVE for China and eventually waving them goodnight. That question has been nagging at me ever since. And my answer is always the same. 

I would rather be really good at one thing.

Maybe it's the Winter Games that have me thinking. The best of the best and they're like, what, twenty? Or maybe I'm trying to beat my children to the punch of turning my answer back on me in that innocent way that they do - Mommy, what would you be really good at? Or the dreaded what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you become it? God bless 'em. They know just the question to ask to take all of the amazing parenting strategies we employ, the ones to build hope and dreams and anything-is-possible into their character, and they go and apply them to us. Because they should. It's like the episode of Parenthood {Yes, we are fully obsessed as if the characters are a part of our real lives due in part to the fact that it is the only show Eric and I have ever been equally addicted to} where Sarah is trying to get Amber to apply to college and tells her not to give up on herself and then Amber flips it around and hands the Berkeley catalog to her mom and tells her not to give up on herself! Gah! What God says about them, He says about me. What I teach them, they teach me. 

So why don't I live that way? Why do I build my life in such a way that juggles so many balls, spins so many plates and has so many irons in the fire that it becomes impossible to ever experience my own would-you-rather? Why do I literally need a chalkboard in my bedroom that has my top 5 projects listed on it so I don't forget what is important to me? It's not just because of the brain lesions. I'd like to blame them for just about everything but I alas, I cannot. Why don't I orient myself toward what I wish was true for myself as a "could-be" possibility instead of a past "could've-been" memory? Why do I resign myself to less, to broad-spectrum mediocrity instead of focused and shameless excellence? Is that good stewardship of self? Is it an honest use of who God has shaped me to be? Is it my personality or perhaps a fun-looking lack of discipline? Is it an extroverted fear of missing out on exciting things going on around me or maybe an obligatory compulsion to always opt in? 

I want to do it all. I do. The feminist in me thinks I should be able to do it all. I shouldn't have to choose between this good thing and that good thing. And so I say bring it on and begin collecting and participating and leading and scheduling which eventually becomes managing and forgetting and delegating and sacrificing. And then all of a sudden I realize that I'm not really doing it all after all, am I? I'm still only doing some. Just a different some.

I can look at my Top 5 chalkboard and I can tell you which things God has placed before me, the things so wild I could not have come up with them myself. And then there are the things which I have placed before myself, the things that would be fun/productive/or just plain "good". The difference is clear. So clear. So what does that mean? Why is it so hard to trim the fat? And why do I get the feeling I've been here before? Hello my name is Israel! 

I've been revisiting a favorite blog post pretty frequently over the past three months letting it soak into my soul. The following is an excerpt but you can read the post in it's entirety here.

What’s so sad is that when women fail to take their lives seriously, nobody wins. 

Bill didn’t win. He married me, in part, because he saw in me a level of confidence, competence and energy for life and ministry that he resonated with and fell in love with. But decades of denying my true gifts and passions drained me of the very vitality he was initially drawn to and left me feeling incompetent and insecure—not at all the person he had hoped to share his life with. So he didn’t win. 

Our kids didn’t win. They got a devoted, conscientious mother, who picked up after them and made sure they got their homework done. They got a mother who adored them, prayed for them, always wanted the best for them. But they didn’t get a happy mother. They didn’t get a fun mother. They didn’t get to see, up close and personal, a woman fully alive in God. 

My son needed to see that. But even more, my daughter needed to see that. She needed to see me operating out of strength and passion, and I couldn’t give her that. Fortunately, there were other women in her life who modeled that for her. And I am grateful that as I have chosen to lean into my own true life, I am now able to give her something I couldn’t give her before. But if I had it to do over, I would not have waited so long. I would not have robbed her of the model of an authentically alive mother. 

I also have to say my church did not win. Yes, my church needed Bill, and his gifts and his passion. He is an extraordinary pastor, and I never wanted to hinder what he could offer to our church. But our church needed me too, not because I am anything special, but just because that’s where God put me, and he put me there for a reason. There was a perspective and a dream—there were words and influence—that I believe God wanted me to offer to my church. But I didn’t show up. I didn’t value what I had to offer enough to actually offer it. 

Most women I know are really good at giving. And we should be good at giving. We follow in the way of a Savior who gave himself for the world. But Jesus didn’t give himself indiscriminately; he didn’t give people everything they wanted. Jesus knew his calling from the Father; he knew the unique shape of the redemptive gift he was to give to the world. I believe that too many women give bits and pieces of themselves away, indiscriminately, for years and years, and never have the time or energy to discern their unique calling from God, never have the time or energy to play the redemptive role they are gifted and impassioned to play. The result is a lot of good-hearted, devout Christian women who are exhausted and depressed. 

-Lynne Hybels

Truly, I know the thing. The thing I would want to be really good at. The thing I am called to. And I've known it for awhile now. So what the hell am I doing? Maybe it isn't limiting to focus on one thing, passing up so much other opportunity? Maybe it isn't selfish to narrow my focus and chase after what God places before me, saying NO to a lot so I can say YES to a little. Maybe it is actually true freedom and the ultimate unselfish act to plunge one's whole-self into that which fully brings life "to play the redemptive role they are gifted and impassioned to play".