Monday, December 14

12 Days of Christmas: Insatiable

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As the holidays arrive and we all start making lists and requests, I remember how insatiable I am. How desperately insatiable I am, and how no gift or box or present will satisfy.

A couple of years ago, a friend had a bottle of wine on her table called 'Insatiable'. I clearly remember asking what that meant, to which she replied "impossible to satisfy". I shamefully identified myself,
"I'm that...insatiable".

I carried that for years, and still do today. However, before, I saw it more like I'm a woman who can't be pleased. I'm that awful cliche that men repeat in the locker room, as though we women are the problem. I'm the one always looking for more.

Today, though, I see it much differently. Isn't everyone insatiable, hungry for more? Even those who say 'God is my everything' and 'I do not want because He provides'; aren't they insatiable? I hope so. If not, it means you've lost the wonder that is God, you've lost the desire to know what "living abundantly" means. If you never feel like you long for more, you've maybe shut down that part of you that has descended from Eden.

I hate, by the way, feeling insatiable. I hate the longing and the pain for more, for what I know is never within reach. I hate, every year, feeling the longing of a holiday where I feel rest--real, deep rest. The holiday I hope for true joy and gladness, the holiday where all is right in the world, there is no pain, there is no suffering. There is only laughter and significant, authentic love. Then, to realize, that holiday hasn't come.

This year, I'll receive your gifts with gladness and gratitude because I do believe gifts show love in a unique way. But I will come up short on my list of ideas and suggestions because I want what no man can give me. I accept being insatiable because it means I know what it is to suffer apart from God, I know what it means to long for His presence, His love, His world. This insatiability in me can be mocked in locker rooms, put on the sides of bottles, and looked down upon, but inside I know this insatiability reflects my humility, my pain, my yearning for healing.  Though it does not feel pleasant, it feels good and true.

I hope for you this season you recognize how insatiable you are, too, and how good that is.

Wednesday, September 23

The Crucible

I've got a professor who calls seminary "a crucible".  She talks about it in terms of test and trial, coming into a setting filled with requirements, deadlines, questions, and discussions aimed to get you to look deeper, to find those things within yourself which are so dark they have become unknown.  It was for this reason I signed up for this particular school.  Many universities and places of training offer top-notch professors and curriculum, convenience for scheduling, and test scores that will make you go "oohhh".  However, when I sat down with this same professor and she said to me, "You won't be the same person when you leave, as you were when you came.  It's not possible.  And that's not all our doing, we want you to know the material, but somehow this place creates a space where God really wears you down.  Your life gets turned upside down, and your only option is to fight and battle through it."

Where do I sign up?.

Which, seems crazy in a world consumed by comfort and the desire for it.  It also reminds me of the time, weeks before I walked down the aisle, when I said...out loud..."I'm going to pray for the hard stuff.  I want to know that God is using me and has something out there for me.  I don't want to pray for comfort and be lazy, I want to pray for hard and be used and be better."  (paraphrasing, I'm sure).  The company I held in that moment looked at me with either shock or disgust, still not sure which.  Because why, why would any right-minded woman pray for hardship, battle, sorrow, pain, and difficulty?

Here's why I said it then.  I was young, doe-eyed and had big dreams.  I wanted to accomplish something in the world.  I had also already made a few oopsies and wanted to know there was more to life than shame and blame and mistakes. 
Here's why I believe those words to be true today.  Sure, I still want to do big things and I still dream of being a more Wholehearted (thank you, Brene' Brown), well-rounded woman who has a lot of grit, a lot of tenacity, and a lot of love.  But today I know a little more about those words I spoke.  I'm growing to believe, with each day and courtesy of Brene', that I cannot have deep joy without deep pain.  I cannot close myself off to pain and growth and difficulty, and still be able to feel joy, gladness, and gratitude.  Just not possible.

Plus, I'm learning this.  When you Google the word 'crucible' you get a box with three definitions.  The first, a ceramic or metal container that gets very hot and melts things (paraphrasing again).  The second, a 'place or occasion of severe test or trial', and the third, 'a place or situation in which different elements interact to produce something new'.

You saw it, right?  A crucible is both a place of severe test and trial, and also a place where something new is born.  You cannot have deep gladness without deep pain.

And sure, I still get pissed when severe pain comes my way.  I feel inconvenienced ("it wasn't supposed to be this way"), hurt, betrayed, worried, afraid, and scared shitless.  But give me a minute, and I'll remember this life can be that way...deeply hurtful, very scary, and totally unpredictable.  But on the other side comes that birth, the something new.  Out of the fire comes something really beautiful.

Give me a minute and I remember I do not walk alone.  God may also be unpredictable, but unpredictable in a way that says, "I know best, but I've got you."  It is no accident that a crucible is both painful and wonderful, because a heart must also be the same.  There will be pain, if you allow it, and there will be deep love, if you allow it.  Shut out one, and you lose the other.

Or, in my case, pray for one and get a whole lot more than you bargained for.  Someday, I know, there will also be great joy.

Brene' Brown. Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution. (2015)

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Friday, September 18

Silly Imperfection

We are working on perfection at our house.  Brene Brown is walking us through all kinds of skills and tools, including accepting we are not perfect, we cannot be perfect, and perfect is boring, anyway. We’re talking through combining all of our missteps and successes, our celebrations and our falls, to make complete, well-round, wholehearted, albeit frustrated, people.

For instance, little Reese is terribly afraid of the sound of the skillets on a hot stove, or the hour of 6 o’clock, or maybe afraid of missing a bite.  So, she finds herself perched between the two feet and in between the counter and legs of whomever is cooking.  You move so slightly, she moves so slightly.  You look down or tell her she’s in the way or making things difficult, and she stays put.  She has come probably the farthest in accepting and living with her imperfection.

Sophie, she has an imperfection about routine.  Her walks are to be scheduled, orderly, and the same amount of time on the same route.  When anything deviates, she promptly howls, cries at the door, stares at her leash, or “asks” to be picked up.  If she is picked up, she swings her body near the direction of the leashes, so you won’t forget. On a day where the routine is painfully detoured, she quietly lays by the door, lets out a sigh, and looks off into the distance where Disappointment and Sorrow must live.  She has come the least farthest.

Scooter, on the other hand, slowly accepts what imperfections come before him.  Reese chews on his face for entertainment, Sophie eats all the food, or Momma buys the wrong Chewies…again.  His go-to is sleeping in his big comfy bed, nearly all day long.  Acceptance or avoidance, we’re not sure. Alex, well, that’s his story and he can tell it later.

I, on the other hand, have had quite an opportunity for seeing and accepting imperfection.  Last spring, I was told to adapt the mantra “B’s and C’s get degrees!” and to stop pushing too hard or too far for each assignment to be my best work so far.  Then, over the summer, I adopted a Procrastinate Isn’t Late attitude, and found that the work still got done.  But, yesterday, I forgot to put on deodorant and sat next to many people in many close spaces in the duration of my 14 hour day.  Today, I found old gym socks in my tote bag, which also carries my professional notes, clipboard, and keys.  Then, a scoundrel at the mall captured me, unguarded, and wanted to talk to me about my pores, lines, wrinkles, and acne.

Someone may as well peg me as the old maid who lives in a shoe…

No more tests of imperfection, please.