God’s Sweet Spot

By Holly

I love to ask my daughters about their names. Tweener Maya, who currently wishes her name was Morgan, rolls her eyes while seven-year old Sage’s smile spreads under her lit-up eyes. I want to be sure Maya knows how she was named after two beautiful female writers, one a famous poet and the other who would have been had the drunk driver not taken her life in college. And I hope Sage will understand the multiple meanings behind her name – wisdom, its particular shade of green and the ubiquitous plant of my beloved New Mexican desert.

But it is their version of their name stories that I most love to hear, how the stories evolve over time and the details get mixed up, like Sage thinking she was named after an owl and Maya remembering the National Geographic magazine that came out the week after she was born with “MAYA” on the cover. We giggle as one story leads to another and, in the end, I feel satisfied. While they may not get all the details right, they understand the heart behind their names.

While I am convinced that Maya would be different if she were Morgan, it is how she understands and lives from the heart behind her name that matters. There are details, motives and feelings that I want to pass on to my girls about their names, but it is their own versions of the stories I tell them that will shape how they move through this world.

I like to imagine God asking me about the names he’s given me, listening with smiling eyes and open arms, patiently letting my versions of his naming stories evolve into laughter just as I do with my daughters. I picture God asking me to remember why he named me Free, New, or Wonderfully Made. I hear myself stumbling through my answers and leaving out important details.

Then, in the presence of the one who named me, I feel my fears about getting things wrong, and even my shame about not living up to these names, fade away. I understand that God had his reasons for giving us names and, just as my girls will never breathe in the New Mexico desert the same way I do, or feel the way my heart falls into rhythm when I read Maya Angelou, we will never experience our names exactly the way God does.

And this is exactly how it was meant to be.

God didn’t give us names like Cherished, Whole and Forgiven to see if we would get them right. He didn’t call us Washed Clean or Child of God to load us up with expectations and pressure.

God simply wants us to grasp the heart – the love – behind the names he gave us.

He wants to hear our versions of his stories, however crazy and far off from his intentions they may be. Because, more than anything, God wants to meet us in his sweet spot – the place where his story meets ours.

Dear Holly…

by Kari

skeeze / Pixabay

Three years ago
we took a step
FORWARD
TOGETHER

And I’m humbled to
GROW
with you

Ups and

D
O
W
N
S

Twists and turns
SURPRISES and
disappointments
have not rocked our journey
FORWARD
TOGETHER

Because
God
Knew
God knew we needed
EACH OTHER

…on that little tea hike in the woods
…on that crazy trip to Portland
…on the phone when I questioned cutting off my dreadlocks
…on countless occasions of tears and silence

You share my joys
Help carry my load
You see my heart
And help tune it towards
our Father’s

And so we
GROW
offer grace
unconditional love
in the mysterious places

W
I
T
H
I
N

Continually asking Christ to
accompany us in our
COMMITMENT
PARTNERSHIP
FRIENDSHIP

I thank you
SINCERELY
for holding this fort down
over these many months…
for believing in me,
being patient with me

You are a beautiful writer
INSPIRATIONAL
EFFECTIVE
CONNECTING
INSIGHTFUL
LOVING

Happy 3rd Blog Birthday Holly!

 

 

 

skeeze / Pixabay

We Don’t Have to See Eye-to-Eye

by Kari

445693 / Pixabay

For a few years now our church has taken VBS off-site to an underserved area of our town. It is privilege to learn, share and grow in this amazing community of people where there are many needs and many hands helping to bring light, love and hope.

I am sometimes at odd with myself as I lament how some of us who love this community used to walk hand-in-hand together only to part ways over reasons not always understood.  Now we fumble, bumble and stumble alongside one another in service instead of doing it in unison.

And guess what?

I’m okay with that. I am learning to celebrate the mystery and the love and the grace as we serve alongside one another and not necessarily hand-in-hand.

biancamentil / Pixabay

biancamentil / Pixabay

Is there a redeeming work
in Christ’s body
when we don’t see
eye to eye
yet work side by side?

Alleluia, yes.

Is there still a heart beat
when I feel cold
and maybe you do too
yet wordless glances
speak love?

Alleluia, yes.

Is there forgiveness
when walls are built
built, to protect
but does not love prove
to seep through the cracks?

Alleluia, yes.

Is there love written
in graffiti beautiful
because much is there
that cannot be understood
about our mysteries?

Alleluia, yes.

Is there our Jesus
with you, with me
and someday
we will be made whole
forever hand-in-hand?

Alleluia, yes.

A Surprising Life Ambition, On My 41st

By Holly

All those years while working part-time and navigating early motherhood, I thought my life was balanced.  I practically bragged to anyone who would listen about how lucky I was to be a mom with a job I loved away from home three days each week. And a dream of a babysitter.  It looked, sounded and felt like the perfect solution to the mom vs. career battle within me.

Unsplash / Pixabay

But it wasn’t balanced.  When your work is your obsession, it doesn’t matter how many days you are home each week.  While your body works in the kitchen, plays at the park, or hosts a playdate, your mind rehearses the next difficult conversation you need to have with an employee or composes the email you wish you would have written.

I wish I could say that work is the only obsession I’ve ever had.  But my tendency to fixate is pervasive.  In my college years, I spent so much time working out in the gym that a professor called me into his office and gently suggested that maybe I should consider exercising a little less.  “Don’t you think,” he asked with just the right mix of concern and sarcasm, “1000 calories on the stationery bike might be a little overkill?”  I knew he had a point.

At 41, I’ve given up my pursuit of the balanced life.  Maybe my obsessive ways have led me down path of defeat one too many times.  Keeping life’s teeter totter in the air is not how I want to live.

This is why, on my 41st birthday, I declare a new life ambition:  to live in the middle.  To find that fulfilling flow between the extremes of perfectionism and apathy, and to stay there.  This is how I see it:  We all tend to live toward the right or left of middle.  On the left, we avoid, escape, freeze and self-sabotage.  On the right, we obsess, overdo and perfect.  And the middle remains a mystery.  

FullSizeRender

Not surprisingly, one extreme creates the opposite extreme.  We work to utter exhaustion, then become productivity-paralyzed by stress and fatigue.   We try so hard to control a relationship that it completely collapses.  We go through life wasting our energy swinging from one extreme to the other, all the while missing out on the middle.

Buddhists call it “the middle way.”   Christians refer to it as the narrow gate and the easy yoke.  The Chinese name it the tao.  Whatever words are used, it’s the idea that there is a space – somewhere in the middle – where we can flourish.  It’s the notion that we don’t have to oscillate from good feelings to bad ones or from control to letting go; instead, there is a both/and place where the messy and the beautiful were meant to coexist.  Where we are meant to exist.

In the middle, we:

  • Embrace work with dedication, not obsession
  • Exercise for health instead of numbers
  • Parent with influence, not control
  • Love with openness instead of fear
  • Consume with purpose rather than escape

Staying in the middle means reeling myself in from the tantalizing sea of control, perfection and overwork.  It means holding boundaries that keep me out of resentment and allow me to accept help.  The middle is where letting go happens, creativity flows and there is space for my soul to be filled.

And so I wonder if, at the very end, the good life is being able to say, “I stayed in the middle.I found my flow there, took chances and flourished.I stayed away from fear’s paralyzing edge on the left and obsession’s self-destruction on the right.
I forged a path less traveled –
the middle path.”

Turning One of My Big Regrets Inside Out

By Holly

pixelcreatures / Pixabay

Out of the corner of my right eye, I could just barely see the green tassel dangling from my cap as I felt a surge of anxiety.  Suddenly, my attention split between the professor calling students with last names starting with “O” and the familiar cries of my youngest daughter coming from the back of the room.  I filled up with self-consciousness and spilled out these sarcastic words to the student seated next to me: “That would be my child.”

My tired husband hopefully bounced and walked our baby girl.  He had spent the day flying four hours with two small children to attend my graduation ceremony.  They were a trio of exhaustion.  Despite my anxiety-induced paralysis, I had a vague sense that my daughter wanted me.  But my name was about to be called.  So, without much deliberation, I stayed in my cap and gown role and did what was expected:  I walked to the stage to receive my diploma.

That was three years ago.  And as I recall the scene, I am still filled with regret.

If I could do it again, I would detour to the back of the room, take my fussy daughter from my husband’s weary arms, and proceed to the stage with her in my arms.   I know it would have been okay; it was a casual ceremony in a hotel conference room.  I feel sure that she would have stopped crying.   And I would love for that moment to be a memory filled with love instead of self-conscious regret.

I used to believe that living a regret-free life was both noble and possible.   I hoped that, in my last minutes on earth, my wrinkled reflection would reveal eyes free from regret’s dark weight.   I thought doing everything I could to avoid remorse was how to make the most of this fleeting life.

I didn’t realize that “no regrets” was my personal code for “do everything right.”  I wasn’t in touch with the depths of my perfectionism, or the truth that I doubted my ability to live with myself if I made bad choices or big mistakes.  I didn’t understand that my wish to live with no regrets was rooted in fear.

You see, our choices can look wise but actually be covers for our fears of feeling like a fool, doing things wrong or hurting someone.  We can self-protectively tremble behind inspiring-sounding maxims like, “no regrets.”   We can feel good about following rules, keeping it together, and be blind to our boxes:

My Box2

Staying in character on that graduation day made sense; some might even say it was the right thing to do.  But here I am, three years later, naming it as one of my biggest regrets.

Nothing bad happened.  My daughter won’t even remember the day I chose self-consciousness over her.  But the moment stays with me because I was true to my fear instead of my heart.

As I reflect, I wonder if this is regret’s recipe:  Letting fear win.  I am starting to believe that regret has far less to do with morality and perfection than with the choices we make around fear.    And, I am letting that cap and gown moment teach me.

We can live with regret and live free.  How good is a life of no regrets if we have stayed in our boxes?

I no longer want to live boxed in.   Or under the spell of life mottos that sound good and look pretty.

I want to look my elderly face in the mirror and see wrinkles that pushed me past my fears, lines that draw good stories, and eyes that learned to see my heart.