Finally Getting My Heart And My Body In The Same Place

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And here I am, speaking at my home church. It was a special moment for me.

It was kind of funny…and one of those ironic-God-is-chuckling-at-me moments. At the close of last year’s ladies luncheon at my home church of Kennesaw First Baptist, a friend asked me an interesting question. She was curious how it felt for me, sitting in the audience, knowing that I could be up there speaking. While I was honored that she thought me capable of it, without thinking very long at all, I said, “They’ll never ask.”

First of all, I didn’t think anyone at church really knew who I was, my gifting, or what I do.  I didn’t feel very “seen” or “known”. While I am blessed to occasionally travel to teach to college ministries, to other women’s groups, and in Europe, and while I love, love, love the college students I get to work with every week in Sunday school, I sometimes feel like I haven’t really found my place at my home church just yet. It’s that weird loneliness-in-a-crowd feeling we all have experienced at some point. In fact, my last few years have involved a lot of soul-searching about my identity (Who exactly am I?), about God’s calling on my life (What exactly am I doing here?), and about how to get my heart and my body in the same place…because, while I live in Kennesaw…to be honest, most of the time, my heart has been somewhere else.

And second, while I am not exactly sure what a “ladies luncheon” speaker is, I am pretty sure I am not that. I’m a Bible teacher. A messy one too. I talk about matters of the heart, and our inner world – the complicated, deeply broken places inside each of us that only we and God see – and how God wants to meet us there. I focus on those seasons of life when things get really dark, of what it looks like to walk with Jesus in pain, and how it can cause the ground to disappear underneath us. I wrestle with deep existential questions of the faith that defy black and white answers. And while the goal is to let the struggle lead us to intimacy with Jesus and the joy available to us as we let Him do His work in our hearts…such joy is often seasoned with a lot of tears along the way. Hardly the stuff of polite conversation over chicken salad and fruit.

P1010530So, imagine my shock when the leaders in our church’s women’s ministry asked me to be the speaker at this year’s event. I was incredibly honored. And humbled. And more than a little terrified. Because getting in front of people and vulnerably pouring your heart out, opening yourself up to criticism and risking epic fails in public…it is one thing to do it in another city or on another continent…it is very different to do it in front of people you see every week and who teach your kids’ Sunday school class.

But I gave it a go. Because deep down, even with the fear of failure, even with my concern over whether or not I would be what the ladies expected or wanted…I really do want to be known. I really do want to be at home where I am. I really do want to learn to be fully present where I live, and to also be fully who I am among those I do life with on a regular basis. And somehow I knew that offering my story and gifting to the women in my church and community would be an important step on my journey to all of those things.

And a funny thing happened that day. As I walked onto the platform…at the same time… it felt like I finally arrived home. It has been a long time coming, with many other “homecoming” events along the way, but this was a big one. Somehow, my heart and my body…long in a bit of an adversarial relationship, finally made peace with each other. The experience wasn’t as much about what I do, as being who I am, where I am. I wish I could explain it more fully than that, but…I’m pretty sure I got much more out of that day than anyone sitting in the audience.

Click here to link to the talk I gave , if you would like to hear it. It is titled The Wise Woman. It is in 3 parts. I love how it came out. 

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Grief Is This Funny, Freaky Thing (A Mother’s Day Post For Those Who Have Lost Their Mom)

(I wrote this 2 years ago.  I still miss her.)

My mom has been gone four years now. Four years. Four years. I loved my mom. And now, even now, I can’t believe I’ll never see her again.

The first few days after she passed were a blur. We had just gotten home from years in Europe and hadn’t

The last photo I have of me and mom, before she got sick. I gave her the necklace she is wearing. She told me it was one of her most favorite gifts I ever gave her. I have it now.

even unpacked all our stuff yet. I didn’t have clothes for a funeral. None of us did. I remember holding it all together through the details, tearing up occasionally as emotion welled to the surface. But…I just didn’t have time to cry. I did what I had to do to get through. People needed me. And I was afraid to let it all go for fear of the force of what lay hidden within me.

The next few months were…weird. I kept waking up at 3am with a compulsion to clean house. I felt so much better when a friend told me she did the same thing after her daughter died. My grief was, at least in this circumstance, normal. Whatever that is. But still, somehow I needed at that time to know I was…normal. Because so much of my life did not feel normal.

Grief continued to rear its head unexpectedly as time marched on. Sometimes I would call dad’s answering machine, just to hear her voice. And I remember the first call after he changed it. Reading her handwriting on notes left around the house…looking at photos of all of us…fragrances that brought her to mind. All pushed something deep within me, something I was often afraid to say hello to for fear it would never leave.

As the years pass, I see how our family has this huge hole in it, one we still haven’t figured out how to navigate. I began to realize that all I had lost wasn’t in the past, but in the future also. My kids weren’t going to have a grandmother. Abby would have no memories of her. I wasn’t going to have a mom anymore. I was the mom. Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays…all different. Lacking.

I live in her house… although I guess it is my house now.  I had a dream a while back where she looked like herself, when she was still healthy. She was wearing purple, just like she said she would do when she got old. She spoke to me. I realized I hadn’t heard her voice, the voice that lived with me every day of my life, in four years. It felt so familiar, like a part of my brain that had been asleep for a while, woke up. She said something to me I never heard her say in life, but needed desperately to hear. I tried so hard not to wake up, to stay there with her for a while. I couldn’t. She slipped away again.

Just the other day I looked out in the backyard and saw some stray roses blooming. Beautiful pink and red roses she planted with her own hands and loved. Just like my life that now blooms here also – she planted and loved that too. I wept. And wept. Then sobbed. So random. So not random.

I am too young to be motherless.

I am learning how grief is this funny, freaky thing. It has a life of its own. It will not be dictated to or controlled. It comes and goes when it chooses, yet never really seems to leave. Sometimes I think it is my friend, giving immense relief to the pressure of my inner world. Some days though, I am not sure. I can cooperate with it, letting it have its way when it shows up – or I can try to swallow it. Swallowing grief however, is a bitter pill… doing more damage than help. I am finding it is much healthier for me when it stops by for a visit, to sit with it a while . Maybe have coffee or tea together. Then, let it drift off again to wherever it goes when it isn’t front and center.

Doors to the past may close, never to be opened again. But they are often made of glass. I can still see what lies behind them, always in view, but out of reach.

 

(originally published 9/13/12)