4.30.2013

God Sized Dreams: Letter

Michelle,

I don't really know you, not really.  And yet, I know the you of your writing, and she rocks.  I need to tell you--Graceful woman--that even though I don't really know you, I know this God you write about, and the smile He must have when He takes in your blog, your books, YOU.  I know that I can't help smiling when I think on all that you've taught me.
  • Find faith in the every day.
  • Hold onto Sunday when I get to Monday.
  • See the connection between shopping habits and faith.
  • Back faith story matters to my now faith story.
  • You've modeled how a woman of words and faith can hold them together.
  • You've introduced me to Benedictines and practices that continue to re-shape my life.
  • You've taught me about lent through pages in my hands on so many early Spring mornings.
Do you know that you are a holy spirit conduit?  

You are a light in our church, and I wish you could see how the glow simmers through so much of what's happening there, and beyond.  I've been a part of so many conversations that started with, "Did you read Michelle's blog today?"  The conversation extends far beyond posts and comments--so many comments I should have posted, encouraged you along the way.  Your courageous ability to put words to paper and honestly talk about doubt creates a space for others to enter in, to join the conversation without the pretense that suffocates.  Thanks for your candor.  You are a breath of honest fresh air in a stuffy world.

Thank you for your writing.  It has mattered to me.  

Evi

*I'm (in)couraging Michelle, a trailblazer, today through a letter.  Who could use your encouragement?  I dare you to write a letter, call them up, just find a way to let them know they've blazed a trail for you and helped you along the way of life.  That voice that's saying, "Oh, they'll think it's creepy" or "I don't have time for that" or "I can't think of anyone," it's lying.  Do it.  No really, do it.





4.29.2013

escape artist


Getting a new puppy when you have a nine-month-old daughter is, um, not a good idea.  Don't get me wrong, we love our new boxer, Daisy, but navigating the ever-changing movements of a toddler and the ever-moving bowels of a puppy can feel like wrangling a kindergarten class of 35 in a candy store.

Yes, having a puppy can be a challenge.  The other day I came home from work to realize I'd forgotten to latch Daisy's kennel.  Even though she could have been gallivanting around the house all day, creating a beautiful mess, I found her with big ears perked up and tail wagging, waiting to be let out of her unlatched kennel.

This weekend's reading from church has Peter in his own "kennel" of sorts in Acts 12:1-17.  He's in prison during Passover--ironically, a celebration of freedom from Egyptian slavery.

Three things strike me about this story.
  1. Peter's imprisonment was hard core.  Two chains + two soldiers at his sides + two guards at the door = no chance of escape.  
  2. The angel who comes to bust him out doesn't mince words.  There's no, "Oh, Peter, how are you doing?  It must be tough here in prison."  Instead, there's a call to fast action.  "Get up quickly.  Fasten your belt and put on your sandals."
  3. Two people are oblivious.  While the escape commences, Peter thinks it's a vision.  Then, when he reaches Mary's house, Rhoda answers the door, and instead of letting him in, she runs around the house saying, "Peter is at the gate!  Peter is at the gate!" Again, oblivious, not letting him in.

My previous image of this story included a jail cell--bars and prison garb, Shawshank Redemption stuff, but Pastor Sara challenged my thinking in her sermon notes by listing all the other "prisons" that we might find ourselves in today:
  • grief
  • pain (physical or emotional)
  • abuse (physical or verbal)
  • depression
  • guilt
  • doubt and uncertainty
  • fear
  • loneliness
  • anger
  • debt
  • bullying
  •  pressure (from parents, peers, self society)
  •  expectations of success
  •  insecurities about the future
  •  drugs and alcohol
Like Daisy, Peter and Rhoda, I'm oblivious.  I've been in prison not seeing bars, not to mention the gate that's been open all this time.  When Peter realizes an angel has led him out, he comes to his senses and says, "Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me."  He cites it as evidence.  He's sure.  He was beyond escape--but not beyond God's rescue.  What prison are you in today?  Has God opened the gate?  If the next right step out of the cell seems fuzzy, lean on Peter's evidence, his assurance of a God whose power shows up when we know there's no chance of escape.  


4.28.2013

jumping tandem

This first warm day of spring lured us outside to garden work, mowing, and Charli's new favorite game of eating sand from the sand box.  We came in dirty.  A shower erased dirt sock lines and left me revived, but tired.  Now, a tinge of tightness crosses the ridge of my nose after it's first sun of the season.  Three retreats in a week's time have left my mind and body numb as I sit here, ready to dig back through notes.  Some scribbles don't make sense, with meaning lost after a few short days, but others glimmer, reminding me of the oomph of the Jumping Tandem retreat.  My body sits heavy, tired from spring movement and retreat over-indulgence, but my mind churns awake to the tune of dreams and the dream giver. . . and I sense these words aren't just for me.


My child (the notes seem to say),

I know this dream you have.  You don't quite see it yet, but don't worry, you will.  And no, you don't have to invent it.  It's been with you since before you were born.  Your dream is unique and important.  It fulfills a big need I care deeply about.  Don't try to control the whole process.  Just focus small.  Look only to the next small step.  Will you trust me to move or let your self doubt stop you?

Give back to Me what I've given to you.
You are who you are, and I love that about you.
Comparison is lying to you.

Your biggest fear is the unknown.  You want to plan it all.  Stop it.  Lean into the unknowing and you will find Me there.  Trust me, sense my guidance.  I've taken you grand places before, why would this be different?  Why are you so quick to forget, silly?

You were created to give Me a face.

Step outside yourself and into my heart.  I will transform pain into hope if you will accept my invitation.  You were made for a place and time like this.  Co-create with me.  Do you dare?

I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

You are My masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10).

Those hurts you've felt, they're your gasoline.  Let your engine run for the ones who feel outside, who don't fit in, the not-good-enoughs, the lonely ones.  Their hurts need seeds of action, words of comfort.  Give your laughter, your whole-heartedness, your you.

That fear you've got, it's normal.  Your ONLY job is to have courage, and courage doesn't negate fear, but rather moves IN SPITE OF it.  Courage--at its root--is to tell the story of your heart.  You know the tune.  Wrestle out your faith, for you see, everyone has hurt bubbling just below the surface.  Access your own.  Comfort it, help heal it, give it hope.  Shine it up, call it a liar when it is, give it steps for movement.  Vivify the dullness.

Take small steps child, small steps, and I will be right here beside you, just like I've always been.


weekend word: tapestry




4.27.2013

God Giggles Saturday: Bathroom Humor

I went to my final night teaching confirmation at our church excited for non-traditional learning with prayer stations around the room (candles, low lighting, reflective music).  After explaining how the first group of 150 middle schoolers and parents should be quiet and reflective for the full 45 minutes, I took a quick trip to the bathroom... when I returned, a couple of parents were looking at me pointedly. 

"We heard all the flushing and stuff," they said.

I wondered if something were wrong with my iPhone music... when one of the dads discretely grabbed my arm and whispered, "Your microphone, Evi." Turns out I had worn my lapel microphone to the bathroom and it was ON, so the prayerful mood was drowned out by the sound of my trip to the bathroom and the toilet flushing.  Lovely.  A group of moms close to the speaker had to do everything in their power to avoid laughing hysterically. I heard on NPR once that the best stories happen to people who can tell them.  

Is God giggling in your life?  

Sharing these stories lightens life, and it's good medicine for the heart.  Giggling is a posture I want to practice, since I tend to take myself too seriously.  Let's be honest, we are serious beings on a serious journey, but w
hat we focus on gets BIGGER!

Where do we tend to focus?  What makes news?

Jesus focused himself differently.  When faced with verbal traps, he creatively responded in a third way.  When people and organizations, like Nebraska Loves our Public Schools, choose to magnify the good, it gets LOUDER!  Let's get our mind magnets clinging to what's good and uplifting.

It's easy to get in on the giggles, just:

1.  Notice at least one smile in this week--either take a pic, video or do a short write-up (like 5 min. or less).



            * NO humor at others' expense.  We are all the "other" to someone else.
            * That said, humor at our own expense is encouraged.
            * Don't stress.  If it's more funny than wrong, go for it.



Fill your mind and meditate on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things worthy of praise. 
- Philippians 4:8

4.22.2013

altArations


As I sit under my crazy quilt, corners worn, pattern irregular, colors dancing, it's like I can taste mashed potatoes and hugs after a hard day.  Only mom-made quilts seem to wrap me up like that.

At home in my comfies, things seem quiet, a valley after a weekend of mountaintop movement.  One of the gals I met noted on Facebook, "That wasn't a retreat.  That was an advance."

And an advance it was.  A group of women, each with crazy God-sized dreams came together in a weekend that this say-it-like-it-is farm girl, would dare to call life changing.  But even as I key those big words, I'm afraid the mountain's gonna fade.  My slippery mind sneaks and scoots on back to the status quo no matter how much I will it otherwise.  I'm scared I'll forget the people, forget the stories, forget the stirring of God in my heart and the courage that got smashed together to bolster me up for the first tiny steps of my God-sized dream.  I want to set up a Google calendar reminder for the rest of my life that will whack me upside the head saying, "remember!"

After a month or so, the "reminders" I set for myself always seem to fade.  The font reads grayer somehow.  The quote that I just had to remember sits lifeless as I skim past it in my Moleskine notebook.  The special cross on my desk fades into the background as I reach for my to do list each day.

The thing is. . . I can't irrevocably alter myself--only God can do that.  

I'm not the first Christian with a forgetfulness streak.  In Joshua 4 when the Israelites finally cross the Jordan, God instructs the people set up their own version of a Google reminder, an altar. 
Take for yourselves twelve stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan, from the place where the priests' feet stood firm.  You shall carry them over with you.  When your children ask in time to come, saying, "What do these stones mean to you?" . . . these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.
My heart is so full after this weekend.  Like the Israelites, I'm taking in the Promised Land, if even for a moment.  My face is glowing on the mountain descent like I've got glory stuck all over me.  And I want to sit back, relax, party, and soak it in.  

But that's not how it went for the Israelites.

The Promised Land meant lots of blessings, but it also meant battle in this new place where they learned to trust . . . and God is never in a hurry.  He's not finished with us yet.   He's more interested in our being than in our doing, and he loves us enough to realize we need altars to remind us of the alterations that he's been working in our hearts.  

What's an "altar" you can set up to remind yourself of God's movement in your life?

4.21.2013

itty bitty baby blogger


Hi.
I'm Evi.  (You say it like Chevy.) 

While I fling this phrase with gusto in real life--hoping those I meet might feel comfortable navigating my often mispronounced name--the words ring a tiny echo in this big Internet space.

But.

I'm flinging words anyway, as I try to straighten up the shoulders of timid sentences, leaning into my prayer for courage to move words.  This first post comes after a retreat where I arrived with certainty that I would never write a blog.  Like normal, God's giggling.

Maybe you know the feeling.

I envision God's face with laughter lines, well etched.  Whether God's face is one you would recognize or one that's new to you, I'm glad you're here.  Welcome to this space.  I would show you around and point out bathrooms, but . . . I'm not all that familiar with it yet myself.  Heck, if you're feeling lost, don't worry.  Me too.  Hah!

One thing I do know. 

No matter how lost or under-constructioned you feel, I know you matter infinitely and deeply in this moment.  Right here.  Right now.  Even if it's just a Tuesday and you don't feel all that shined-up, and you-just-found-your-kid-eating-a-Cheerio-and-you-haven't-had-Cheerios-for-like-five-days, you matter to the Maker.  Whatever nudged you toward this little corner of the Web, I choose to believe God had a part in it.  He wants to catch up.  And today, like most days, is a good day for that. 

My intent in this space is to turn up the volume on God's still-small voice in my life, and maybe (God willing) do the same for at least one other person.  Paul encourages us, "Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands" (1 Thessalonians 4:11).  My hands seem to sense God's pleasure when at a keyboard, open to what needs saying, so here I am.

When all my jumbled mess falls away, I'm just evi jane (with no capitals).  I want to live and and act on Jesus' command in Mark to just have faith, but I fall short--like every five minutes--as I over-stretch into something far from what I've been created to be. 

But, we'll get to all that. 

For now, I just want to introduce myself.  It's an answer to prayer that you're here.  Thanks so much for being here and for living into the answers.


-just evi jane