Seven Days that Taught Me Who I Am

 IrelandI know that I am a different person than when I first arrived in Ireland, but I’m not sure in exactly what ways.”   My new traveling friend met me with a strange, how-can-you-not-know look that indicated he did not believe me.

What you are about to read is my attempt to explain the seven days I spent in Ireland in March 2014.  Grab your cup of coffee, make sure the kids are napping or wait until its your lunch hour because this entry – it’s going to be a long one.

First, a little back story.   In 2012 I went to Ireland with my dad.  We traveled most of Ireland seeing all that we could in the 10 days we were there.  When we were driving past Doolin, I instantly knew I would be back to this town one day.  Through various situations, circumstances and affirmations from family; I purchased my tickets to finally get back to this town.  I did not know what was waiting for me there but something was.  Before I left for the trip a plethora of people said “You should watch PS I Love You” before you go. I would also get text messages that would say “Watching PS I Love You and thinking about you and your trip.”  So I watched it with a few friends one evening.  Not much of that movie actually takes place in Ireland. There are a few scenes; but a lot of it takes place in NYC.  However, I felt drawn to the movie and watched it again two nights before I left.

There is a moment when Holly is waiting outside the karaoke bar for her friends and she says “Why does he [Gerry] keep taking me through all these painful memories?”   When she said this, I realized the last year, year-and-a-half of my life, Christ had taken me through some very painful memories and brought closure to each question I had in those moments.  Even in the week leading up to the trip there were many things that worked themselves out and had an ending. As with Holly, there had been a great healing in the reliving of those memories. Because of this, I was going to Ireland with knowing a chapter had ended and a blank page staring at me.

I could write to about all the wonderful people I met on my journey.  About British David who didn’t quite know what to do with the crying American while we were waiting to see if one of our flights would be cancelled. (Thankfully it was not.)  There was Michelle who so warmly greeted me at the cottage when I arrived 4 hours later than I had anticipated.  There is Patty, Karen and Pat, Michael, motorcyclists Tony and David, musician’s Philip (he’s 6’3”), Brian, and Bill.  Christy and Brett from New Hampshire, Jo who had been to over 40 countries, Mary,  Moira, Canadian-Irish Justin,  Australian’s Joy and Deacon (who met in Abu-Dhabi), the Germans, John the petrol station owner, Swiss friends Dr. Remco and David, the chocolate shop owner who loves country music and longs to visit Nashville, or the french-sweater shop owner who helped me pick out a new sweater, after she got off the phone with her mum.  I could tell you about the Asian leprechaun I met whilst hiking to the Cliffs of Moher (aka the Cliffs) or about the guy in the town of Ennis who showed me the preserved bodies of two leprechauns found in the bog near there.  I could tell you about Ted!  Ted was a 70-year-old man who lost his leg and hip to bone cancer about 30 years ago but made his way down to the pub to sing.  He sang me Tennessee Waltz and in between during down drinks he told me about how he survived lung-cancer too.

I could write about the ‘wild’ sheep that lived in my yard, the great ocean view, how comforting the light from the lighthouse was and time I had to ask the person behind me to move the car in front of me because I do not know how to drive a manual car and the road was not big enough for both of us to get through.  I could tell you all about these things, however there are other things I need to mention.

My sisters here in Nashville caught wind of the whole PS I Love You thing and wrote me letters.  They had spent time seeking Christ to see what encouragements they could leave with me throughout my trip.  If you are unaware — I LOVE LETTERS!  Love.Them. My journal from these seven days has quickly become one of my most prized possessions because of these letters. And because of what Christ did through them.

He pulled me out, called me away. To be with him. to learn his voice better. To be comforted in the wind, to express his love to new friends, to give of what I had, to be content with what I didn’t.  As outlandish as it may sound he wooed me.  He taught me to see him in everything. Showed me how simply being myself enabled me to share his love for others.  A smile here, an encouragement there, an offer of a ride.  All  seemingly simple acts that make a person, a stranger, feel at home.

Home. I looked up ‘home’ in the dictionary.  It has a lame definition about a physical building along with some other stuff.  That does not define home to me.  Home is different.  It’s a place in your heart. It’s the place you long to be.  Home is warm, simple, comfortable, genuine, messy…perfect. Home is a place of belonging.

The Irish often ask tourists “Which part of Ireland is your family from?”  Although I know I’m probably 1/32, 1/64th Irish; really I can’t count that.  Not over there.  So my simple answer was Ireland just feels like home.  It is warm (not literally),  simple, comfortable, genuine, messy and perfect.

I’m different when I’m there.  And I’ve spent the last couple of weeks searching for the right words to describe this difference.  The best I can do is to let you know I’m more adventurous, more out-going, more open, less self-aware. I’m more me there.

I can remember moments of being these things here in the States, but those are few and far between.  I’m struggling to be that same girl – the Irish Heather – here in Tennessee. Sure there could be a few outside factors that contribute to the Irish Heather – the adventure of traveling, the other tourists who are trying to also figure out how to drive on the left-side of the road, the wit and sarcasm, charm and compassion of the Irish themselves – but it’s not like I can’t be that person every day.  It is possible.  I am slowly learning to be me, here.

I was talking on the phone with a friend yesterday and she kept asking me if I was ok.  I seemed more mellow like I was still struggling with something.   Truth is I am.  But I am not sure what it is I am struggling with.  I feel like in learning to be me, in the saying goodbye to the old and false there is a season of waiting for the new.  I hate waiting.  Although I know its in the stillness and waiting that strength is gained; I’m still not fan. I would rather being actively pursuing something. But it would be the wrong something.

So I’m learning.

I’m learning that the new, true, created-before-the-world-was-spoken, Irish Heather is going to take time.  I caught a glimpse of her in the seven days in Ireland and I have known who she is not in the days since returning. (The contrast is disturbing.)

I am confident the depression I’ve entered since being back will lift.  I am confident my identity is being renewed. I am confident that the self-aware, jealous, timid, and controlling Heather is vanishing – although currently she is going kicking and screaming.   I’m confident my job or my weight or my smile will not define me; but rather the attitude of my heart.  I am hopeful for more dinner parties and more laughter.  I am hopeful to provide a space for people to comfortable and where they can rest and be renewed.  I am hopeful.

You will see some changes around the blog over the next few months. A new layout, a revision of why I’m doing this, a new identity – if you will.  Rebranding…but I’m not a brand.  I’m just me.  If you are looking to figure out who you are, come on back.  Maybe we can help each other.

I’m not My Shame

My sister-friend, knowing my love of cooking and meals and tables and all things around a table, encouraged me to read this book by Shauna Niequist entitled Bread and Wine: A Love letter to Life around the Table with Recipes.

Having gone to college in Grand Rapids, MI; I instantly connected with the people, places, and streets Shauna writes about. I have fallen in love with this book.  From the inside cover-flap she has given words to feelings my heart had felt but not been able to process.

Shauna briefly mentions her struggle with food in the feasting/famine chapter and she briefly touches on shame that can be associated with food.  I will leave you with the following quote.  I just read it this morning.  I will be processing it for a few months.  Shauna is talking bout summer and her love for all things summer…minus swimsuits.

…But has my friend Sara always reminds me, no one’s actually thinking about me as often as I think they are. Probably my friends are not actually counting the days till summer to see if I’ve finally turned into a supermodel…

That’s what Shame does, though. it whispers to us that everyone is as obsessed with our failings as we are. It insists that there is, in fact, a watchdog group devoted completely to my weight or her winkles or his shrinking bank account. Shame tricks us into believing there’s a cable channel that runs video footage of us in our underpants twenty-four hours a day, and that all the people we respect have seen it. Shame tells us that we’re wrong for having the audacity to be happy when we’re so clearly terrible. Shame wants us to be deeply apologetic for just daring to exist.

But I’ve been watching that footage on loop for too long. I’ve been my own watchdog group for decades. I want to do something risky. I want to dare to exist and, more than that, to live audaciously, in all my imperfect, lumpy, scarred glory, because the alternative is letting shame win.

I, too, want to do something risky, to live audaciously.  To be the girl I actually am, the girl Shame is trying to hide because he is afraid.

Here’s to you and I.  Here to us discovering more of who we are without the shame.

Sláinte!

 

 

 

Wrinkled Beauty…

It was early December and I was home for the holidays.  I was sitting next to my sister and I notice she is staring intently at my face.  I ask her what she’s thinking, assuming some warm Christmas-like thought is going to come from her mouth.  She looks at me and says, “I was just noticing all your wrinkles.”

Thanks sister.  I love you, too.

She went on to talk about how mom doesn’t have that many wrinkles and was just wondering why we have so many compared to her.  I’m not going to lie it’s made me slightly paranoid.  Do I need a wrinkle cream?  Can’t I just drink a lot of water?  Is my face really that wrinkly?  I’ve stared in the mirror a little longer the last few months, wondering about my wrinkles.

It was in the staring that I began to notice the wrinkles gave character.  They were reminders of the laughing I had done over the years.  They are reminders that I have lived a little while longer than others on this planet and that its not a bad thing.  I’ve come to be thankful for the wrinkles which give a new definition to my particular brand of beauty.

I could attempt to have them removed and now I understand why someone would want Botox.  But after a little reflection I’ve decided that I’d rather be unique in my wrinkles than just like everyone else in their smooth faces. There is no one else in the world who has this type of wrinkled beauty.  I do not want anyone to take it from me.

I.Love.You.

My friend posted this video on her Facebook wall the other day.  It is a very interesting look at the power of words. Words give life or death.  If plants can react as they did in the video, how much more human beings? Sticks and stones may break our bones but words will break our spirit.

This morning I was spending time with the Lord and my spirit sensed he wanted to say something important to me.   As I listened I heard the words “I love you“.  I have heard these words often in my life.  After I heard this I waited to hear the good stuff.  The stuff he wanted to tell me after the whole “I love you” thing.  I had heard I love you often, so obviously there had to be more.  But there were no more words.  Instead a little wisdom granted to me in that moment.

I have spent much of my adult life doubting.  Asking all of the doubt-filled questions Christian religious people ask. I have spent time in therapy trying to over-turn the lies that were inadvertently slipped into my childhood.  Finally, this morning it hit me.

As I mentioned much of my life, and more so in the last three years, Christ has told me over and over and over about His love for me.  He has whispered it, shouted it, and shown it.  He has given me eyes to see this love and how it is expanding, or rather – how my ability to see it is expanding. Truth is that this love has always been there.

What I realized just this morning is that He is undoing what the years of lies have done. He is instilling in me (and in us) a knowing.  An unshakable foundation of truth so that I  (we) can grow and flourish and bloom.  That I  (we) can recognize  lies when they are heard and I (we) can find shelter in the One who has spoken of his tender love for me (us) so many, many times.  His words of love bring life.

I love you.   That’s the good stuff.

Jesus Calms a Storm

“And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves, but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”  And he said to them “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sean, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”  Matthew 8:23-27

I was supposed to go to kickboxing this evening.  I am absent minded and forgot my gym bag at home, by my door.  So I told my co-worker I’d go for a run when I got home.  Then I drove near Radnor Lake, so I stopped. Radnor is always a great place for me to talk with and hear from Christ. I figured a three-mile mall-walk would be grand, after all it’s the perfect evening for it.

Today the first two and a half miles were me throwing a tantrum.  There are a lot of ‘heavy’ situations in my life right now. I have a lot of brothers and sisters here in Nashville going through some of the toughest situations and it just gets heavier and heavier.   I was fed up and Christ was going to hear about it.  It’s very difficult to walk quickly and not choke from tears.  There was a lot of pleading on behalf of my friends and family. A lot of  ”What the hell are You really doing?”  My rant continued into my own frustrations.

You see, my brothers, sisters and I are like the disciples in this passage.  Christ got in boat, we followed him there and now there is a storm raging.  And for me, on this day, it felt like He is asleep.  Others easily rest with Christ. Others trust  if Christ is resting then it’s the best thing we can do.  I’m not like that…yet.  I’m the one waking him up saying “SAVE US! It’s too much!  We cannot handle it! Could you wake up and do something already?”

In the passage above, Christ asks the disciples about their faith and then says to the storm “be still.”   He did not use those words with me.  Instead He said “I have been faithful in every area of your life.  You have story, after story of how I have personally been faithful to you - why would I not be faithful in these other areas of your life?“ 

With those words the storm that was raging in my head and my heart was quieted.  I have no answer to that question.  As he has been in the past, of course he will be in the future.  Why do I doubt? Because the waves seem to be bigger than the boat today.  They are not bigger.  And doubt is routed in fear.  Perfect love casts out fear.

Be still dear ones – of course He will be faithful.  It’s who He is.

 

Proverbs 3:5

I grew up going to church.  We went every time the door was open. I was ok with it. It was what we did and my friends were there. proverbs35 Because of this I learned the verse Proverbs 3:5 very early in life.  (It’s in the picture to the right, no need to re-type it is there?)

A few months ago I was having a conversation with my sister-friend and she was telling me about a time in her life when the Lord took her back to review the ‘simple’ verses of her childhood. If you grew up in church, like we did, these ‘simple’ verses are the scriptures you recite while rolling your eyes because, although there is much truth in them,  they are nauseating to you.  They are the last verses you want someone quoting to you when you are venting about how horrid your day had been.  Like this picture, you imagine you have to be in a happy-chalk-drawing-scripture-open place to receive it.  Many times it’s been used as band-aid to help cover the gushing wound you’ve received.  Obviously band-aids (verses) are well intentioned but they fall short when stitches (Christ) are needed.

This is exactly what I was doing that night with my friend.  It had been a rough Monday and she was sharing this verse with me. And I wanted to roll my eyes and maybe curse a little; but then…

Then my friend shared  her revelation of Christ.  And how ‘leaning on our own understanding’ is not trusting.  She talked of how ‘learning on our own understanding’ is based in the past. It is based in the good and bad of what has happened to us.  ’Our own understanding’ has nothing to do with what Christ is doing now.

In the book of Revelation, Christ says “I make all things new.”  And for reasons unknown we try and understand what He is doing based on our past. Our ‘own understanding’ is rooted in the decision Adam and Eve made thousands of years ago; when they decided to eat of knowledge rather than Life.  Christ has come, is coming and is currently here to set us free from the desire to know and understand and grasp and strive after.  He is bringing us Life.  Much like the love of and chasing after money is evil; so it is the same with knowledge. Knowledge is not evil; but the love of, the need to acquire more and be right in all things, is.   It does not bring Life as you would think it would. Rather it shifts focus from Life to things that are obtainable and understood.  Christ is too big to comprehend!   He is too vast.  And yet we think if we can ‘know’ enough or ‘explain’ enough; it’ll all make sense.

I have come to believe what Christ is doing now can be confusing and is not meant to be totally understood in it’s entirety. (Although this doesn’t keep me from trying.)  Trying to understand is probably what is causing some of my uncomfortableness.  Christ tells us His yoke is easy, His burden is light.  He tells us we can enjoy Him and trust that He is working on our behalf.  Scripture says the Lord will accomplish what concerns you (Try not to roll your eyes).

I recently completed a twelve-week book called The Artist Way.  The author talks again and again about how art is more about the process than the end result. A painter may start painting  with a specific focus but it is not what it’ll be at the end.  Likewise, what a writer begins writing may take a different shape by time he/she types “The End”.    Trying to understand the ‘new’ that Christ is doing is futile.  Your (my) energy is better spent trusting Him.  Your (my) energy is better spent remembering why He is trustworthy. Remembering who we are in Him. Remembering His great love for us.

W-L-E

W-L-E – It’s interesting, the different three letters make.

Lately I’ve been feeling very uncomfortable. Early in the uncomfortableness I thought it was because I needed a vacation and the beach trip I was going on was only 17 days away.  Then I went to the beach, had a marvelous time and came home still feeling the need to run away from myself.

This feeling is on purpose.  I know I’m to ignore my natural tendency to over-analyze and let myself be uncomfortable.  Do you know how uncomfortable it is to let yourself be uncomfortable??   It’s like accidentally getting honey on your finger and washing your hands only to find out on the drive to work your fingers are still sticky.

As I am in this constant state of ‘ewh’; I often ask Christ to remove it or simply bring about whatever it is He wants to do.  But as I sit on my front porch watching the squirrels prepare for winter; He tells me the uncomfortable is preparing me for the next season.  2013 is not over and there is much He is still wanting to do in me and in His Body.   There is still much to be released and learned.  We have a choice. We can rest in Him or we can wrestle with Him.   He’s willing to wrestle (i.e. Jacob) but there is something about resting. It deepens the trust and dependance on Christ to know that He is doing it. I have the opportunity to sink into Him and allow His arms to wrap around me and hold me, rather than pin Him down to answer my questions. It’s nice to be held and yet it totally annihilates my sense of control. Then I remember I’ve never been in control in the first place.

He is doing it.  If it looks like I am accomplishing anything it is only because of His Life that is at work in me.  Wrestle or rest.  Both are difficult in their own ways.  However, the peace that passes our understanding is only found in the rest.  This peace is gift to us if we are willing to receive it.  His yoke is easy, His burden is light.  He is doing it.  Allow yourself to rest.

All You Need is Love…

real simple

 

I saw this photo posted on Real Simple’s Facebook page and thought I would share. You see, recently I’ve had an amazing experience with being loved and it changed me.  I was going to write this intense blog about my experience; but I cannot.  It’s too deep, too personal, too…well..it’s mine.  In scripture we read that Jesus’ mom, Mary, “pondered all of these things in her heart.”  This is the exactly how I feel. I’m forever grateful for the expressed love of Christ I received.  The Word became flesh and dwells among us.  He is active and living. He grants freedom.

I hope you, too, are able to experience the love that changes you.

Love that allows you to bloom.

Love that heals old wounds.

Love like that is refreshing.

It’s unique.

It’s tangible.

It’s all around us.

Suprise Guest Post

I would like to introduce you to Jon. Jon is a brother who has been on this church journey with me for a while.  He helps me put words to my thoughts, he teaches me to give and not just receive and he reminds when it’s Flag Day.  Today is Flag Day here in the states, it’s also Jon’s birthday.

Yesterday Jon and I were chatting and he sent me a message he had sent to a friend.  I thought it was a great explanation of our last two years together.  So I’ll leave you to it.  Enjoy and maybe stop by Jon’s blog and say Happy Birthday if you get the chance.

I read your facebook status this morning… I understand your frustrations and I agree that church can and should be more than it is usually made. I would be interested in talking with you about this as my journey has led me to something that I think contains all that you are looking for…and quite more.

If you want to give it a name it has been labeled organic church (but there are a lot of people who use that label to mean different things). We mean a church that is birthed by Christ (not by people), in which he brings a group of people together who are learning to live by the indwelling life of Christ in community. We believe that church is not a place you go or a thing you do, is what you are…24/7. Whether we are at work, at home, having lunch with a brother or sister in the body, or meeting as a group, we are the church. And we are a family. We don’t believe in a clergy/laity split. We believe we are all priests and that Christ is the head and we are the body. We don’t believe in the offices of the pastor, elder, or deacons, meaning we don’t believe people are employed in this position or voted into this position. Instead, we believe these are functions (pastor = shepharding, elder = wise person in the faith) that anyone in the body can perform when Jesus wants them to and He will raise up someone when necessary and the next time maybe it is someone else. We believe that we are all leaders and that Jesus will raise up who He wants to lead in a certain endevor and then next time someone else. It all ebbs and flows based on Him being the head and determining what he wants his body to do.

The downside is that there aren’t a lot of people doing what we are doing. We know of a handful of groups across the US (and few more in other parts of the world), but that is it. That is not to say others are doing something similar, but because it is not easy, requires a lot of dying to self, and being comletely transparent with a small group of people, there just aren’t a lot of people willing to do it. But, we are also not the first. There have been groups since the 1st century doing this, again, they have just always been the minority and usually have been highly persecuted by the institutional church for that they were doing.

I know this all may sound crazy and heretical and nuts, but, it is the most beautiful thing I have seen and been a part of…ever. Look, I’ve been to seminary, lived as a missionary overseas, worked for a church, yadda yadda, and this makes more sense than any of that. It puts answers to questions I’ve always wondered about the church but was never allowed to ask or were brushed aside.

But above all, it is bout learning to live by His life that is inside us and that he is big enough to lead his church and that 40 people can come together and hear is mind and voice and be in agreement as to what he wants us to do. I have seen more of Christ in the last 2 years than in my entire life. It is about love. Non-judging love. We also believe that we are saints (as Paul referred to the many believers in the churches he wrote to). Yes, we were sinners in the past, but our belief in Christ has transformed us. Christ is our life and he lives in us. Yes, we may still sin, because of our flesh, but we are not sinners, we are just those that sin (and there is a big difference). Living from the perspective you are a sinner means you always need to be doing more, better, becomming something else. Living from being a saint, means you are already there because of Christ and now you are just living out of Christ’s life. And there is so much freedom in what we are doing. Galations type of freedom. We fully believe in the fact that the law has been fulfilled, there is no more old covenent of laws, rules, do’s and don’ts. We believe we are all free in Christ and Christ can lead us in what to do and not do.

We believe that there were two trees in the garden (look it up, it’s there). The tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were told they could eat from the tree of life, which is Christ and if they had done so he would have been their life and shown them how to live. But instead they chose knowledge of good and evil, ie, rules and knowledge of what to do and not to do. You can’t have both. You either have Christ or you have human knowledge of morals. It’s a choice.

If you guys want to know more, let me know. We can talk over the phone or I can point you to some books that people who have been doing this for a long time have written. And if it this sounds nuts, no problem. I’m not offended. It’s not for everyone.

Being called “Sister”

feastingI have an older sister and a younger brother.  Yet, it has been living in this community of believers, living in Body Life (the ekklesia);  where I have learned what it means to be sister.  It is here that I am learning what an honor it is to be sister.

When I was part of the religious system, it was often implied that the end-all, be all of experiencing Christ and His love was in a marriage relationship.  I was taught marriage was the relationship where you most experience the intimacy of Christ and His Bride. Because of this,  the title of ‘wife’ has always been a very deep part of my longings and my desires.  I have come to learn that the truth is this desire to be married is just a shadow of a deeper desire, which is to experience the fullness of Christ and His great love for me.

I no longer believe the marriage relationship to the be the end all, be all of relationships. I no longer believe it is the only place we can experience the fullness of Christ.  Please do not misunderstand me, the marriage relationship is an amazing and beautiful shadow of Christ and his Bride. By being in community with my married brothers and sisters I come to know a different facet of Christ through them and their marriages.

However, I used to cringe on the inside when someone addressed me as sister.  In my fleshly opinion, it was the ultimate “friend card” I had ever heard.  At first it left me feeling hopeless.  A false feeling, this hopelessness, but something I had to deal with anyway.

Guinness and Texts

The other night I was having a drink with a single brother and we were trying to get the bartenders attention.  He said, “We need a hot girl over here to help.” My response was something like “I got this.”  After ordering we went about our conversation, more brothers and sisters join us and we watched Star Trek: Into the Darkness in IMAX 3D.  The next morning I woke up to a text message that reads:

I didn’t mean to insinuate u weren’t a hot girl. Ur my sister. U are beautiful, K?

At first I did not remember what he was talking about, which is amazing in and of itself.  Four or five months ago his “hot girl” comment would have stuck with me for a long time.  I was giddy when I realized how much Christ has transformed my heart.

The more I dwelt on this text, the more truth entered my heart, the more freedom I received.  I began to realize how much more depth, richness and honor there is in a being a beautiful sister, than in being a hot girl. Again, an example of all Christ has done in the last few months. I used to strive after the lie that I needed to be a hot girl to obtain a relationship full of honor, depth and richness.

In the Scriptures,  Christ says that in heaven we are neither married nor given in marriage.  Marriage is for this side of eternity, a physical shadow of a greater reality (Christ and His Bride).  The eternal relationship that last is the brother/sister relationship.  Christ himself calls us brothers.  We are co-heirs with the Son of God, part of his family.

First and foremost, should I marry, he will be my brother in Christ. To know him and understand him as this prior to husband will significantly affect the rest of our relationship.  It will have an incredibly dramatic effect on our communication and our love for each other. If you are a married Christian you have married your brother or sister in Christ.  Honor your spouse as you would your brother or sister.  Words simply cannot express the depth of this brother/sister relationship.

It’s a Privilege

Now, sister is a title I wear with joy.  When greeted this way, my heart gets all mushy inside.  It’s a spoken reminder of a greater reality. It brings great joy to my heart, and ultimately to the heart of Christ, to live within the greatness of this title.  It is a privilege to be your sister.