A few months ago I was on a long weekend road trip helping a friend shoot on the street interview videos for a project she’s pursuing. In the lovely little city of Asheville, NC we met Sally.
Sally shared the story of her battle with alcoholism. She recalled the day she got sober – the day she woke up to find that her husband refused to go buy her usual daily box of wine from the liquor store. She went back to bed and finally crawled out sometime around 2:00pm. She had been drunk for so long that she didn’t know how to participate in her life as a sober person. What really struck me was what she did next. After feeling sorry for herself for a while she got up & started doing laundry. She had no clue how to “be sober” but she knew she needed to participate in the simple actions of life again & laundry was something she knew how to do. It was a life preserver she could grab hold of while she felt like she was drowning.
For a lot of my life I used work & busy activity as a way to avoid feeling, to avoid life. And there are times when I can still fall into that trap. But at the same time, when life feels like it’s spinning out of control all around me & I’m gasping for air, the work of life can be like a life preserver.
Growing up in church, I learned early on to over-spiritualize everything. When life knocks you to your knees that’s the best position to pray in, right?! That line of thinking would tell me that when life feels like it’s spinning out of control I should pray like I’ve never prayed before & God will give me peace.
I don’t doubt that God is the source of all peace. And that He grants it even when we don’t ask for it. But I’m discovering that doesn’t mean I have to sit idly by. Sometimes simply participating in the mundane activity of life gives me the space to catch a breath. It’s a handle to grasp onto. And as I go through the motions God’s love & peace soak into my heart through the back door that is unguarded by fear & doubt.
I pulled the invitation out of the mailbox and I immediately had that “I don’t like how this feels” feeling in my gut.
The site of those two little words immediately made my heart sink just a little.
Last they knew I was dating someone…seriously enough that I was posting pictures on Facebook…which was the only reason they knew because I don’t talk to my family often let alone about my dating life. But they knew about him and they were insistent he come with me on my next visit. In July. For the wedding.
The invitation has arrived. But he is no longer in my life. And no one has filled his spot. When I saw the words “and guest” I immediately felt the shame and pain of that void. The sadness of the loss came rushing back.
And not just shame. But the difficult admission to myself that I really want someone to be in his place. I want a name to put in the guest line. Not having a name to put there is lonely. Isolating. It can cause me to feel like I’m not enough if I’m not careful.
Six months ago…for that matter six days ago…I would never have let myself seriously consider posting a blog that had anything to do with relationships. But, here’s to living life a little more vulnerably & letting go of trying to control people’s perceptions of me.
It’s amazing the flood of feelings & thoughts that can be started by two little words, isn’t it? But I’m learning to pay attention to those little feelings & thoughts because I’m beginning to think my truest self lives in those gut instinct reactions, the ones I all too often miss.
We were catching up on life while several hundred folks swirled around us. It had been a year since we’d last chatted – in this same spot in a city neither of us call home.
“I quit my job,” he said. “I sold all my tools and decided I was done.”
“That’s awesome!” The tone in his voice told me that this was indeed an awesome thing – a leap towards something undefined yet filled with the Kingdom. “What’s next?”
The chuckle and the shrug told me he was in mid-step and didn’t know where his foot was going to land. “I don’t really know. But, I’ve always been inspired by your story & I figured ‘If Katie can do it, I can do it.’”
Something in my soul wasn’t okay with what my friend had just said. (And not just because I’m terrible at receiving compliments) While I was humbled in that moment I was even more so convicted. That’s not the first time I’ve heard the “I’m inspired by your story” line, but I can’t tell you the last time I heard it in reference to my present life. Most of the time people are talking about the life I was living 3 years ago – one of risk, of stepping out in faith into a hazy unknown mystery.
“Thank you, I’m honored,” I said while simultaneously resolving in my heart to quit enough things to make room for mystery in my life again.
Because mystery isn’t the language of my comfort-prone, detail-managing self. No, in my story, mystery points to the Storyteller. It’s in the mystery that He ignites dreams in my heart for things far greater than myself. And I want those dreams.
I have a calendar titled “To Be Remembered” for those days, moments, experiences, & conversations that mark me. Those that have forever shaped my life & little perspective on this big world.
March 4th is one of the days marked on that calendar. It was 2010. I was on my first trip to Nashville for a gathering of the Visual Worship Tribe. Quite honestly it feels like a lifetime ago though I can still remember it vividly – the people, the place that would become my church home, and one conversation in particular.
That day (my now friend) Paul spoke words that I will never forget, ones that forever changed the course of my journey.
“You don’t have joy for the ministry that you’re doing right now,” he said. Something like that isn’t easy to hear. It’s even harder to hear coming from a stranger. But I didn’t hear Paul in that moment, I heard God shouting at me. (I’d been trying to ignore him for quite some time.) And I’m forever grateful to Paul for obediently saying what his heart told him to say in that moment even if it was uncomfortable.
Moral of the story? Never underestimate the power of what you say. When your gut tells you to say something, say it! If someone is heavy on your heart, reach out to them. Your words may mark a day someone will never forget.
I still remember the teddy bear lamp that served as my night light when for far longer than it probably should have as a child. I was deeply afraid of the dark & refused to sleep without it.
As I got older my mom would often tell me that I needed to learn to sleep in the dark so I would get better rest. Something about the light keeping my brainwaves functioning more even while I was sleeping. As an adult I think she may have been on to something – I get better rest in the dark than in the light.
Many of us, even as we grow up, are afraid of the dark. Not the physical darkness of the night but the darkness of our world, our hearts & souls. We want to stay in the light where it’s safe & comfortable with very little mystery.
But what was true for my physical rest as a child is true for my soul’s rest as an adult. The darkness, though uncomfortable & at times even painful, is a place of necessary rest. Because in the darkness I am forced to admit that I don’t have the answers, that I’m not strong enough to find my way out on my own.
That point of surrender creates a stillness that only comes in the dark. The key is learning not to fight it trusting that from that place will come a brighter, otherwise unavailable, light.
The next time you find yourself in what feels like a starless night, welcome it as a necessary rest for your soul. Give your heart the gift of resting in it a moment holding onto the hope that it too will end.
This post was inspired by the Luminous Project. Luminous is a creative spiritual event in Nashville May 1-3, 2013. To find out more, check out luminousproject.com. You can use the promo code ‘BRINGitHERE’ to get 35% off the registration price.
Home. That’s always been somewhat of an abstract, whimsical…almost fairytale-like concept for me. Something that deep down I think I longed for but didn’t ever believe I would have.
Growing up with divorced parents was a life of multiple addresses. I added another to that list when I moved away from home to go to high school. And yet another for college. At one point I think my checking account had one address, my driver’s license another, my car registration a different one yet…and none of them were the actual address of where I was living. (You might be understanding why “home” didn’t seem like a very concrete idea.)
Then I visited Nashville. 72 hours later back in Wisconsin I was homesick for this city – for the spirit of this city.
Most days this place feels so much like home I hardly know what to do with it. I can’t believe I haven’t lived here all of my life. There are days I still awake waiting to violently wake up from a dream. Life today far exceeds anything I could have ever dreamed up because it is outside the box of anything I knew for so long.
I’ve discovered in this process, that something happens to our dreams when not only our hearts but our feet find a place that feels like home – they flourish. They flourish because we’re no longer putting our hope in them to “get us somewhere.”
When we come home our dreams are free to follow. They may hand us a map but we’re free to lead them in the direction we want to go. That’s hard to do when you’re wandering around lost looking for home as you drive in circles.
Has your heart found a place that feels like home? A word to the wise – community has more to do with that than location. It’s about cultivating relationships to surround yourself with a spirit that encourages the unconventional & champions dreamers.