Tailspin

I’ve never been in a plane crash. I really don’t have any desire to. In all my flying and travels, I’ve hit rough turbulence (probably the worst was in the middle of the Pacific when our double-decker plane dropped several hundred feet in a second…in the middle of the night…yikes), but never have I been in a crash. I haven’t been in a tailspin either. Though I’ve been on some really sketchy planes, the sketchiest being when the crew at the airport had to put me on the luggage scale (along with the rest of my group) to make sure we could actually take off. Our backpacks came on a second flight.

But, based on the wonderful world of Hollywood and special effects, I can only imagine and assume what it may feel like. Tail spinning appears to be something that is incredibly hard to get out of if it’s not a controlled spin like at an airshow. It seems as though the only thing you may be focused on as the pilot isn’t the beautiful view from thousands of feet above the earth, but one main speck thousands of feet below that you seem to be heading towards at great speeds.

Like I said, I have never been in an actual tailspin in a plane. I’m thankful for that. But I have been in a spiritual, mental and emotional one before. And the feeling I described above, is exactly how I felt. Focused on one thing-how quickly the end is coming at me (and by “the end,” I mean the worse possible case scenario…ever). I couldn’t see beyond the horrible imagined end. There was nothing else, nothing left. That was it and it was coming fast.

This last one was a doozy. Yes, I have gotten in tailspins before. So, imagine if you will, I’m in the pilot seat. The plane is spinning around in circles. In my shock, or perhaps in my desperation, I am trying everything I can to right the plane, pull up, and level out. And I somehow can’t take my eyes off of the ground. Spinning, spinning, spinning. As my friend told me last week over coffee, I had lost all sense of objectivity. I could only see what was going on immediately around me. No job= no money=not paying bills= we will be homeless= my kids growing up deserting me= Iris leaving me= me alone with nothing.

Yep. That is a pretty clear, disastrous end. I was in a quick, out of control, downward spiral.

Here’s an important question, was any of that true? No, not even hinted at. We were all doing well. Yet, my focus was on the worst possible end, and I couldn’t see passed that. I was hyper anxious. So, what changed?

I surrendered.

I surrendered control. I surrendered control of the plane I couldn’t right. I surrendered the future that hadn’t yet happened. I surrendered the notion that I could pull myself out of it. I didn’t surrender to the situation. That is simply giving up and allowing the outside circumstances to destroy me. That is a form of escapism. No, I surrendered all this control to the the only One who has the ability to control it all. And literally, within an instant, I was righted, leveled, at peace and able to take in what was around me.

That’s not a pat-yourself-on-the-back, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps story. That’s a I-don’t-know-where-I’d-be-without-Christ kind of a story. The out of control spin was because I was trying to control it all, in my power, in my will, on my strength. Not God’s will. Not God’s strength. Not God’s power. And there is no way I could have ever done that on my own.  He is the only One who can bring peace, true peace. Peace that doesn’t make any sense to us at all because we have never experienced anything like it on earth,  kind of peace.

This is not the last tailspin I will be in in my life. I’m not naive. I know me well enough, and my Savior well enough to know that to be true. But my hope is that I won’t be so far gone as I was, nor have it last as long as it did.

Perhaps these words of journeying through, of wrestling with words in the Bible and real life experience can bring someone else hope. Perhaps it’s you. I don’t know. What I do know is that the more we are honest about real life, where faith and reality tend to collide it seems, the more we create space for healing of broken people. The more honest we are with how we’re feeling and experiencing, the more freedom we bring other people. People like me, and maybe people like you.

be blessed today

 

 

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The Opposite of Scarcity

I’m going to be honest, looking for a job when you’ve been gone overseas for a while, is hard. It’s hard to not take a “no” personally. It’s hard to not be discouraged. It’s hard to live in peace and confidence that God will work this all out, and to not give into fear. It’s hard to not live on a constant plane of anxiety or stress. And it’s hard to not continue to think of the “what ifs” that plague my mind.

The last two posts I have been talking about scarcity. Wrestling through what it means when we say “God’s got this, it will be ok.” And, wondering if that is really true. In the end, I do believe it is true. But I must be willing (and “willingness” is a huge word) to accept that what rock bottom or scarcity may mean to God may be much different than what I think. I must willing to accept that rock bottom may mean much more than losing a job or even becoming homeless. Becoming a refugee in the harshest sense, like Abraham or the Israelites under the direction of Moses or like the Christians under Nero, etc. Losing all that I hold dear…just like Job.

Brene Brown, whose work on shame is powerful, said “For me, the opposite of scarcity is not abundance. It’s enough…” We have a warped sense, at least in North America, that when we have scarcity God will come in and provide for us in an over the top, extreme way- the typical American rags to riches stories we so love. I do believe that happens, and God can chose to do what he desires. But what if His plan is to simply give us enough. Enough to know we are loved. Enough to know we are taken care of. Enough to be “ok” and to know that it is true that “God’s got this.” I have been the recipient of God doing off the wall crazy over the top things. And, I was reminded yesterday, that God also gives what I always need- enough.

Like I mentioned above, this process has been hard, difficult and stretching me beyond what I thought my capacity for trust was. Yesterday was a bad, crappy day. Thankfully, I was scheduled to go hang out with people I love and cherish. My good friend and I sat on his porch and talked. And though there was no job offer, though there was no “here’s a million dollars I had tucked away for you” type of gifts, what he said were words of peace and truth. What he said was enough. It was enough to re-center me to God’s truths and peace….and joy. It wasn’t over the top, but it was enough.

I wonder where God is providing enough for you today and maybe where you can’t see it because you’re waiting for the lavish indulgence. Let’s see where He is enough for us both today, together.

be blessed today

Meeting Each Other

I really have good people in my life. There are good people that have surrounded my family and I. Encouraging, supporting, willing to call me out on my stuff when I start blaming or throwing myself a pity party. Yep, those kind of good people. I’m not sure where I would be if I didn’t have them. I would probably be living out of my own woundedness and dysfunction more than I already do, that’s for sure.

One of the hardest things for me when I started down my road of recovery was both sharing my own junk freely and letting that float in the air in the room. The listeners were quiet, none of them trying to break up how uncomfortable they felt with handing me a tissue or saying “it’s ok.” Another hard thing was sitting there when someone was sharing their junk and me not trying to make myself feel better by smiling, talking, adjusting my posture in my seat, etc. We all just sat. Quietly.

My first experience with this sitting in silence was in one of the dark times in my life. I wanted God to speak, clearly, as to what He wanted me to do. I was desperately searching for direction. But He was silent. Very silent. And the more I strained to hear anything, the more piercing the silence was. I finally unloaded about this in a  group meeting of other leaders as we went around the circle sharing what God had done in us that week in the San Bernardino mountains. But all I could share through tears was my frustration…and fear. And there it was again, silence….silence from the other 30 people in the room. But this time it felt inviting. It seemed that God was doing, even though He wasn’t saying. I say this in no light terms….it was holy ground.

Henri Nouwen, who knew loneliness and pain, wrote, ” I have always felt that the center of our faith is not that God came to take our pains away, but that He came to share them and I have always tried to manifest this divine solidarity by trying to be as present to people in their struggle as possible. It is most important to be with people where joy and pain are experienced and to them become aware of God’s unlimited love in the midst of our limited abilities to help each other. “

When we hit the wall and the bottom, we feel it. If we lean into it, and consequently God, we come out changed for the better. More grace, understanding, compassion, trust, joy…the list goes on. Jesus meets us in our pain. And, we can meet others in theirs. Who will you meet in their pain today? Who will you allow to meet you in yours?

be blessed today

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Rooting

I’ve always been an outdoor enthusiast. Backpacking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, hiking, rafting-things I really enjoy doing. In fact, at one point outdoor education was a minor of mine, albeit briefly. Those classes were some of my favorites as we got to experience things many people don’t. We were able to go on two trips during one of the semesters. The first trip was sea kayaking in the inter coastal waterways in the Southern U.S. The second trip was caving, also in the South. They were both fun trips, bonding with classmates I may not have bonded with otherwise.

I’ve always been fascinated by caving. The thought of these otherworldly places, entire ecosystems, deep underground that have been there, changing for millennia. Rivers cutting something as hard as rock, crystals forming some of the most beautiful creations this world possesses, life lived, from birth to death, in complete darkness. But there is a great fear that overcomes me when I’m caving. The gigatons of rock and sediment that can come crashing down on me or trapping me in a breath. It scares me, yet, I continue to be fascinated by it. Caving. Constantly moving downward…inward.

In the last post, I wrote about trying to find roots. How are roots aren’t in things. Part of finding our roots is where do we begin. And it begins with us. Connecting with people, with God, is a downward and inward journey into the very depths of our hearts and souls. To the depth that we allow ourselves to go into our  hearts, God matches that with His grace, beauty and love. As honest as we are with Him, he will be honest about Himself, with us, in return. But that journey starts with us, asking the Spirit to search our hearts, to reveal the depths of our desires and longings, of our brokenness, of our capacity to understand.

Our hearts, our souls, can be scary places. The darkness of the unknown, the pain of unmet expectations, unfulfilled desires, can be overwhelming. But there is beauty in what remains of the pain. Water carving out rock for thousands of years, that harsh cutting of stone, leaves beautiful caverns filled with crystals, gems, and stalagmites. When we allow there to be light shed on the crevices of our inner most parts, God can and will meet us there. Our hearts are searching for a place to be rooted. To shallow and we fall. But when they go deep, into the darkness and unknown, the roots are strong. And that requires the downward, inward journey. God will meet us there.

be blessed today

 

Photo Credit: http://www.thekalalochlodge.com/

 

Is The Storm Coming To Harm or Teach?

I’ve been on a few good hikes in my day. A few good places that I wanted to simply stay and basque in the moment a little longer. Hiking up Mt. Washington, in New Hampshire, USA…climbing out of my tent at sunrise in Denali National Park in Alaska, the view from the highest pass on the Annapurna Circuit on that cloudy day in Nepal, and several more. Moments I wish I could linger and soak in where I was, what I saw, what I was smelling, tasting, feeling. And that’s just hikes. Not to mention my children being born, Iris and my first date, the places we’ve visited, etc., etc.

Then there are those other times. Those times that I could not wait to end. Dealing with a car accident, being sick with the flu, waiting for the doctor to confirm if Iris had miscarried, our oldest having an asthma attack not knowing what was going on, feeling as if I were in a fog for months, unclear of where God was leading me. Ya, those times. Those times which felt like an eternity, and I just wanted them to be over. And to be honest, who wouldn’t? They’re painful, they’re uncertain, they’re times of instability and, because we’re humans, we usually become afraid. Well, at least I know I do.

I’ve had a lot of these moments, the ones that I wanted to end so I could have some answers, so I knew what to do next or where we were headed as a family. It seems that these moments (or months) have grown in intensity and rate the past few years. Part of that could be that they simply have grown in both intensity and rate. Or, it could be that I am in a different place nowadays and am more quick to acknowledge them and engage with them. Me in my pride would like to pick the second…but I’m still not sure.

Nevertheless, I’ve had a few more of these times in my life than I would have preferred. But I am becoming more welcoming of these times. Which for me, is really odd. I was speaking with my spiritual director the other day and he had this to say, “Every time I go through a crisis of some sort, I think ‘this is going to end…’ Meaning, this opportunity for growth is going to end. Therefore, I need to glean as much from this experience as I possibly can before the opportunity passes.” He has seen great pain and great joy. But for someone, who when they realize they are in a crisis, is able to step back and say these words, more importantly, live them out-this speaks of great wisdom.

In every crisis, fog or hardship I’ve gone through, God has used it to teach me something, grow me or lead me to a new place. Maybe not a physical place (though that has happened is happening now), but a place of better understanding of self, of others…of God himself. From past experiences, I have learned patience-a lesson I continue to learn, forgiveness, grace, peace-another one I continue to learn, humility-yet another one, rest, hope and deep, great joy. When the crisis is coming, I see it on the horizon, or I am in the middle of it, I panic. I try to figure out what to do, how to escape from it, how I can get it over with as fast as possible. But, if it’s there for a long time, I begin to settle into it. Not that I want to be in it, but if I am, I need to stop trying to escape and just be present. I don’t always have this attitude. I have people in my life that help give me perspective, help me see where I am and help me to hear what God might be saying to me. I am incredibly thankful for them.

Maybe this all sounds cliche. It might. I would not argue. It might also so pretty simple in word, but in action, it’s incredibly difficult to stop and be present-actively engaged in what God is saying. And, honestly, it is incredibly difficult. Stopping and being present seems hard to do because it is counter-cultural. We, at least we in America, don’t like to sit there and let things happen…we like to make things happen. When we make things happen, we are in control, we’re in the lead, we call the shots. But to sit and engage in the present, to listen, to just be…that is allowing something else to control, someone else to lead, and that’s hard for us. Usually when we allow others, we have victim mentality, blaming others for “doing” things to us. And in those cases, we need to use our voices and speak up. When it comes to God, however, this requires trust of him, because what is going on is him taking us to a deeper place of understanding. Understanding love, compassion, grace, mercy, trust, faith, and the list could go on. In these moments, if he really does have our best interest at heart and will never forsake us, then this can only be a time of learning. Still use your voice and speak how you’re feeling to him, question what is going on and question why. He’ll answer, this much is true. But we have to be at a point of engaging with him in order to hear it.

I only speak of personal experience. And, as I’ve said before, I wish I did this even half of the time. My prayer is for you…for me, that when that next crisis comes, or in the midst of the one we’re in right now, that we would have the courage to stop and listen. That we would ask for the smallest of peace to pause and see where God is in all of this and what he has for us. Because when this moment is over, we may not have an opportunity to linger with God in such a way that could be something utterly divine.

be blessed today

Photo Credit: https:the_tahoe_guy

 

One Way to Work Through Your Fear…Especially Today

So, today is election day in America. I debated back and forth as to whether or not to even post today. My assumption was that no one will read this, eyes will be glued to the tv screen or scouring the interwebs for the latest updates and numbers as to who will be in the position to lead my passport country for the foreseeable future. Why? Because Wednesday will be a different place, a different world, a different day for many. A day untraveled nor experienced, of course, but one that may be much different than we would have expected a year ago. That can cause fear, concern and worry. None of which will add an hour to our lives…at least that’s what’s written in scripture.

I have learned these past few years that when I am in a place of worry and concern, there is something I can do that helps to take that fear away. More or less, the answer is Jesus. Ya, I know, that’s the answer for almost everything in this life. It sounds cliche. But, he’s not a cliche, but many use him as one. “Jesus”-not on ly does it sound cliche, it can also seem a distant, disconnected answer. Yes, also true, he is the God that we can interact with, engage with, and speak to in a personal way, but when we speak of him in these cliche ways, he becomes disconnected and “powerless.” Meaning, we view him not really able to do anything. But, I’m rabbit trailing.

Part of making him personal or perhaps acknowledging his presence and the fact that he is real, is showing gratitude. There are a lot of the things that go on in our lives on a daily basis. No matter whether we are living in our normal routine that we’ve done a thousand times or a new adventure, there are still several things a day to be grateful for. As we begin as a family to transition from Mongolia back to our passport country after 12 years of living overseas, we have had many things to be thankful for these recent days.

I was chatting with a friend of mine last week. When I began sharing about all the things and in all the ways we’ve seen God’s provision the past few weeks, he suggested that I start keeping a gratitude journal-simply writing down the things that have happened and why I’m grateful for it. I did this while in my 12 step groups, but haven’t kept up the practice.

I decided to give it a try, and guess what….this simple act of worship released a lot of stress, fear and worry. Being thankful for what we have amidst the fear and concern about the unknown future, releases a lot of our desire for control. Seeing on paper, or just vocalizing what God has done and is doing, helps us to see that God really will bring about his goodness no matter what. And come hell or high water, he is there. He has been there. And, he will be there right alongside us. Which is another thing we can write down in our gratitude journal.

As we Americans head into today’s voting booths and spend time praying about the future of our country (or as any of us head into today), we need to hold our “freedoms”  loosely knowing that if every one of them is gone and taken away, we still have much to be grateful for. This simple-in-theory-act holds no power, but acknowledges the power that God already possesses and releases to him any power we may think we have. In that, we have more to be thankful for-we don’t have to keep the world spinning, that’s his job, and we don’t have to worry about tomorrow, he’s got it.  May we all be blessed in acknowledging the fear that we sometimes live in, who we are and who he is. Acknowledging reality…living in true freedom.

be blessed today

 

Photo credit: discoveringfatherhood.com

 

Why Are You The Problem?

Life has a rhythm to it. There’s a cycle, a general flow that continues on with our with out us. God set these things in motion and they will continue so until He desires them to stop. The seasons, jet streams, the ocean currents, day and night, the orbit around the sun….they all have a consistent, faithful, periodicity about them. And so, we’ve adapted our lives to work in these intervals and time frames as well. We go about our normal routines and habits, continuing to move in some direction. We created systems to operate in, as fallen as they may be. We continue in this system. That is, until something disrupts the system.

We in the West especially, do not do well with disruptions to our “normal.” Sickness, a pipe bursting, a quick run to drop off the lunch at school that our child forgot, these disruptions can sometimes be small or massive, depending on who you are. Disruptions are things I’ve written before.  But this post is about something different. It’s not about something causing a disruption in your life. No, this post is far different. It’s about being the thing, being the person, who disrupts the system. Not for the sake of saying “screw you all, I’m gonna do what I want,” or for some sort of pride or selfish gain. No, disrupting the system because you have chosen health over dysfunction.

There’s a psychological term that became very impactful to me several years ago while taking a psychology class in grad school from an awesome professor. He was talking about dysfunctional families, for example. Often times, there is one child who will be acting out, acting oddly different than the rest of the family. In some cases, sadly, these behaviors are detrimental to the well being of the child. In other cases, the behavior is actually good, but because it is sssoooooo different than how the family operates, it looks as though the child is the one with the dysfunction. This child is called the “Identified Patient.” Psychologists began to notice this type of situation happening time and time again and realized it had nothing to do with the child, really. It had everything to do with the dysfunction of the family.

Today, we can see this same type of situation in families. But it doesn’t just stop there. Churches, businesses, organizations, schools…anything with a group of people, we can see this very same scenario played out. And it is sad, because often times those in the middle of their dysfunction, cannot see that they are the ones being dysfunctional. I have seen people, Identified Patients,  torn apart from the raw sinful dysfunction around them. Iris and I have walked through that very same type of situation as well. For those of us that follow Christ, really for anyone, we always have a choice whether or not to engage with the dysfunction or not. The alternative option may not be a good option either, but we always have a choice. We also have a choice to continue on in playing the game, enabling the dysfunction and communicating to those involved that this type of behavior is ok. Or, we can chose where God is leading us, which is never to play the game of enabling dysfunction.

This road that God leads us down is not easy. Remember the 12 Steps and what we see in scripture? Often times hardship is the pathway to peace. One of the clearest times Iris and I walked through this, we had several people tell us that we should abandon ship, jump out before it continues to get worse. And, yes, I believe there is a time for that. But we continued to follow God’s leading into it because He hadn’t yet released us from that. Was it hard? Yes. Did it feel shitty, hurtful and at times, hopeless? Yep. It did. But we also had people, deep people, people who understood pain, who understood the suffering of Christ, people who have walked continue to walk that road of hardship, who patiently sat and listen. They are there even now,  to encourage us to keep Christ center, no matter what, to trust in Him and to not care what others think or what rumors they may say, but to simply (how hard “simply” can be) stay the course. These are the voices we listen to and staye a tune because those are the voices of the Spirit speaking.

Yes, in some cases the identified patient needs to examine themselves and see why they are acting in a way that is detrimental or harmful to themselves. But if you are living a life of Christ, trying to do the right thing, making amends when need be and owning your own stuff, please be encouraged by this-God is there amidst the cloud and fog. He is there. I have been there, and I’m sure I’ll be in the midst of that again.

When we begin to life a live of health, spiritual health, in a system that is dysfunctional all twisted and warped by the fallen world we live in, it disrupts the way things have always been. People who have grown quite accustomed to the dysfunction, learned how to play the game, moved in and set up shop there, do not like to be disrupted. And sometimes the uncomfortability of the disruption comes at you full force.

Christ was a disruption. He was living a life of true spiritual health in every way. When those attacked him out of their own dysfunction and hurt, he simply showed grace, love and Truth. Eventually, this got him killed. Yes. But not even the gates of hell could stand against him…not even in death. If He truly cares for the flowers in the meadow, or the birds each day, how much more will he be there in the fog? How much more will he rescue us? Reach out and find people who speak, breathe Truth into you, and lean onto them. Trust in Him, and I know how hard that is.  May you not lose heart, may you be a person of peace who God uses to bring Christ to a broken system and a broken world, and may we all accept what God has laid before us as the pathway to peace.  That’s my prayer for you…and myself today.

be blessed today

Photo Credit: http://www.borongaja.com