What Love Looks Like: Halloween Edition

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The call came in mid-morning as I expected it would.  The one that says something along the lines of the tummy hurting and the pause long enough after to imply that I should probably go and pick him up.

I pushed a little bit and asked if it was really the tummy or more a discomfort with the day.  He confirmed, probably with a nod on the other end that I couldn’t hear.  Yeah, that.

When I questioned further there was hesitancy in his voice and I could tell that the truth wasn’t going to come out in this phone call so I let him off the hook and happily announced that I’d be there in ten minutes.

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We’re not haters of Halloween around here.  I know it’s what might come across with our lack of trick or treating and the longing to go home mid-day on what should be a fun one at school.  I know that it may look like we’re making some religious stance on this celebration but we’re not.  We’re simply loving our people.  And our people don’t like it.

One of the things that’s important to me as a parent is that my boys feel loved and safe.  This doesn’t mean they’re wimpy.  It doesn’t mean they’re sheltered.  It means that they know I love them.  End of story.  Nothing they do can change that.  Nothing they share can hinder it.  Even when I might be upset or impatient or frustrated, still I love.

I always want them to know that they are safe here, in our home, with our tribe.  I want them to know that we will do our best to orchestrate their life in such a way that they do not have to feel harm might come their way.  They do not need to feel uncomfortable in their surroundings.  The do not need to fear their day to day.  Do we push them and challenge them and stretch their boundaries?  Absolutely!  This doesn’t mean never making them try something new or take on a challenge that might make them feel anything but brave.  But it does mean that when the fear adds nothing to their life in general, as far as courage or strength, then I won’t push them.

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So the gore, the blood, the fake stitches and the glowing red eyes?  They don’t add a certain quality to my littles life.  They just scare him.  The bones and the costume with guts oozing out and the white faces with black eyes and dribbles of blood coming out of the mouth?  Yeah, they don’t make him feel super safe.

We’re not haters or religiously opposed.  We’re just loving our tribe and standing behind our values of loved and safe.  Today at school, he didn’t feel either of those things.  But I pushed him to go.  To be brave.  To remember that he is strong and courageous.  We prayed that God would not give him a spirit of fear but of power.  We remembered that this is a day that the Lord has made, just like any other, and that we would rejoice and be glad in it, just like any other.

Except sometime mid-morning it got to his tummy and he just wanted home.  Love.  Safety.

And what parent would deny a little munchkin that?

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We spent our rainy day snuggling on the couch watching old home movies from when he was a baby.  We laughed and copied the little mispronounced words.  We looked at each other and we knew that this place was exactly where we should be!

So we won’t go out tonight but hopefully we’ll get to hand out candy to some cute little bunnies or skunks or pumpkins.  I’m sure we’ll eat our fill too!

Happy Halloween, homies!  May you and yours be safe tonight and love each other well, whatever that looks like for you!

You are enough by nothing you have accomplished.

I want you to hear something today.  Not just hear it with your ears, either.  I want you to really hear it.  In your head but even more importantly in your heart.  I want you to breathe it in so you can breathe it out to others around you.  Would you listen for just a sec?  It’ll only take a moment.  You can read further if you want but all I really need you to know is 3 words. The rest is just backing up my thesis.  Ready?

You are enough.

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Right now.  Right where you are.  In this moment in time and space.  With your current level of understanding.  Enough.

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Stop for a second and think.  You, in your yoga pants and messy bun.  You, in your power suit and heels and pearls.  You, in your torn jeans and flannel.  You, in your kind of always stinky work out gear.  You, in your second hand coat.  You, with your name brand bag.  You, with the piercings.  You, with the crooked teeth.  You, with the flawless makeup.  You, with the house with the leaky roof.  You, on your vacation across the world.

Do you ever feel like enough?  Like you’ll ever be enough?  Or have enough?  Or do enough?

Listen again.  Please?

You are enough.

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Something has been amiss with us since the beginning of time.  Something that tells us that power is important.  Something that makes us need to be something we’re not.  Something pushing and pulling at us to be and do and achieve and out run and be smarter than, or more beautiful than, or more right than.  Than what?  You fill in the blank.

What are you chasing?

Is it the beauty of youth, the need for control, the yearning to seem better than just one other person?  Is it the pride that comes with having better children, better boots, better skin?  Is it the power that comes with being more accomplished, having figured things out just a little deeper, knowing that your wisdom runs vast and wide.  Is it that your circumstances, though not awesome, are certainly not as bad as THAT persons.  Or at least you haven’t done THOSE things.  Or heaven forbid, you leave the house looking like THAT.

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We went on a mini road trip this past weekend and while we were driving the road took its course and lead us right beside a train.  We looked out at the cars and then saw right quickly that the engine was just a little ways ahead.  Excitement filled the car and we cheered and yelled out, “Let’s beat the train!  Catch it!  Go faster!  We’re almost winning!”

For a few quick seconds we got in first place.  Ahead of the train.  We were all smiles and high fives.  But we know it can’t last, right?  We know that the train always wins.  The tracks gain the right of way and miss all the stop lights and are headed on a direct path while we stop and start with the ebb and flow of traffic.

There will always be trains in life.  The ones who seem to win.  The ones who look better and earn more money and go on better vacations and have whiter teeth.  The ones who seem to walk with their head held a bit higher.  They’ll always be there, if you’re looking for them.  If you’re seeking things to compare yourself too.  If you’re looking for things to judge to make yourself seem a little better.  Sure, you can try to beat the train and you may be ahead for a little while.  You might cheer and fist pump for a few seconds feeling like you’re on top of the game, but I assure you, if your eyes are open to comparing, it will only be a matter of time before the next train comes along and breezes right past you.

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So, what are we doing?  Why are we looking to those around us to set the standard?  What is it that is in us that makes us want to keep up, or do what they’re doing, or look like we’re 23 again?

Hear me again, would you friend?  You are enough.

Enough.

Truly and most emphatically, enough.

We can even spiritualize it all and want more good things, not just bending to the things of popular culture.  We can want a ministry that is booming and books published and more hits on our blog posts, for the glory of God, naturally.  We can get caught up in trying to serve more, and give more and be generally more.  We can try and try and try until we lie in a heap exhausted from the work of it all.  The striving.  The desire to be and do and succeed and …. and …. and ….

We can work so hard that our identity becomes all the things.  I am adoptive mom.  I am missionary.  I am writer.  I am sunday school teacher.  I am feeder of the poor.  I am social justice champion.  I am head of the prayer warriors.  I am meal maker.  I am encourager.  I am bible study leader.  I am world changer.  I am.

Even when we’re doing good things it doesn’t make us who we ought to be.  What it makes us is glory robbers.  There is only one who owns the words I AM.  The rest of us?  We’re children of I AM.  Because it’s not what we are but what He is. It’s not all the things we do, but the one thing He has already done.

You are enough.

Would you inhale that today?  Would you know that it isn’t all the things you aren’t that are important.  It’s not even what you are that is important.  Freedom comes so deeply by knowing that our heavenly Father cannot love us any more than he possibly does right now.  If He is unchangeable then His love for us doesn’t change.  Which means he also can not love us any less than He does right now.  His love is perfect.  And He is for you, right now.

He won’t love you more when you try harder or do better.  His love won’t grow when you finally heed that call to travel across the ocean.  He won’t love you in a higher category when you change history or disciple all the people.

You are enough.  Right now.  While you’re still in last nights pajamas at almost noon, and the kids are going berserk, and you snapped at them again.  When your marriage feels rocky and your faith unstable and you want to hear His still small voice but you just can’t.  No amount of makeup, or clothing, or home decor, or exercise, or botox, or the perfect lawn, or the biggest jump in your career can make you feel right.  It will never be enough unless you know that you are enough because He is enough.

Breathe it in.  And then go breathe it into the soul of someone else.  Tell them that they are enough and watch the look in their eyes when you do.

How One who is good could take one who was good.

You could always pick him out of a crowd.  The salt and peppery hair on his head always stood a good 6 inches above everyone else.  He had a broad and sturdy frame and hands bigger than anyone I’ve met.  We joked that his wedding ring could be a bracelet for my scrawny little wrists.

His demeanor was quiet and sure.  Intimidating to most yet a softie to those who knew him well and to say his little girl had him wrapped around her finger?  Well, I most certainly did.

My dad was a picture of stability for me.  He had strength of character, he was the sole provider for our family, he knew what he knew and he knew it well.  Rarely was he argued with because his opponents knew better.  He was either right, or not backing down.  Did I mention there’s a stubborn streak that runs in the family?

Though he never finished high school he was the hardest worker I’ve ever met.  There would be days he would come in from some project and I’d proclaim, “Dad, you’re bleeding!”  He would look down and shrug.  This made him invincible in my eyes.

It had never been hard for me to relate to God as a Father, given the Dad that I had.  Of course God was strong, and unchanging and right in every way.  So was my Daddy.  Of course God was just and good and patient and kind.  It all seemed so natural, because my Dad was too.

There was a time though, that these two figures started to clash.  When the strength of one began to hinder the strength of another and life wasn’t making sense anymore and why, if my Daddy was good would my Father who is Good, take him away from me?

I remember the phone call like it was yesterday.  I answered with a perky, “Hi Dad,” and he responded back with his tried and true, “Hi, babygirl.”

At 32 I was still his babygirl.  I knew I would be until the end of time.  I had no idea the end of time was nearing though.

My dad had been through a series of doctor visits and overnight hospital stays.  He had his lungs drained and blood transfused.  He had been poked and prodded and no one was quite sure what the deal was but something wasn’t right.  In fact, something was very, very wrong.

I knew he had been to see the doctor on this beautiful crisp, yet sunny winter’s day and as I pulled into the parking stall at my boys school I took his call and we chatted.

I asked him what the doctor had to say today and he announced, like he was telling me the score of lasts nights hockey game, that he was given three to six months.

Three to six months.

Three to six months?!?!

To my surprise tears didn’t overwhelm my eyes but venom instead.  I riddled him with questions along the lines of how could this be’s and second opinions and maybe they’re wrongs and this isn’t fairs.

Over the next 5 months I watched as my Dad’s life was slowly taken from him.  First, his capacity to go and do at breakneck speeds.  Then his ability to even get out of bed for more than a few minutes.  Finally, the tubes and the needles and the hospital became his normal, his permanent residence.  I watched as day by day the little things would fade away.  His eyes would stay closed now.  His ears weren’t hearing all that we would say.  His responses were few and far between.  I watched as his heart could no longer pump strong and his extremities started to grow cold.   I sat for a few minutes with my fingers resting on his arm, only to see the divets they created that would now stay.  His life not even strong enough to push the skin back out.

I’d never wrestled with God before.  Never questioned his ways or his purposes.  But I did now.

Now, when my earthly ambassador of Jesus, my very human picture of the love of God was being taken from me did I question the love of my heavenly Father.  As I wrestled through the questions and the doubts, as I battled the hard places of why he wasn’t healed and why so young, I learned so much.

I learned that though my earthly Daddy was leaving me  my Heavenly Father was saying, I’m here.

I learned that even though my earthly Daddies strength was fleeting  my Heavenly Father was saying, I never change.

My heart was grieving as I watched my Dad’s life drain from out of him but my Heavenly Father was showing me that only He could heal my heart in a way  my Dad never could.

I’m so thankful for the legacy my Dad left.  The things he taught me and the love he shared.  But even greater, I’m thankful that God is always my Father and that His love is perfect and His ways are good.

A whole bunch of books and a salad dressing recipe. Because I like you.

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I’m sure I’m not alone (famous last words of someone who, in fact, is alone?!) when I say that the changing seasons makes me pour my nose more deeply into good, rich words.  When the crisp comes to the air and the cardigans embrace my shoulders I want nothing more than to curl up with a book.  This season has me in a number of them but I’ve been so thrilled with my reading selection as of late that I thought I should go back and share the last few in case you need some to add to your library reserve list.

This summer I finished two of Jeanette Walls books that I hadn’t gotten to yet.  I adored The Glass Castle when I was lent it some time ago (oh my word, I still have it!  I’m a bad returner.  Janet, I owe you a book and a coffee…or 4…)  I was drawn to the perfectly descriptive and quirky memoir, the tales too outrageous to be real, and yet, here they were as real and as heart warming as ever.  Her characters were instant faves in my mind and I just hadn’t gotten to her other two books yet.  Until the summer.  They were perfect summer reads.  Her writing is just lovely and draws you into the lives of these part beloved and part hooligan-esque creatures.  I started with Half-Broke Horses and moved on to The Silver Star.  I can’t decide which I like best so I’ll just tell you to read them all.  Also, Costco has them for under $10 so you really have no excuse.  Buy them for yourself for a stocking stuffer.  Or borrow them from Janet.  I mean, once I give it back to her.  Cause apparently she doesn’t get mad about you not returning stuff you borrow from her.

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I’ve been making my way slowly through Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine, only because I don’t want it to end.  Each chapter has the most beautiful words written about her life and about food and about sharing both around the table.  Plus there’s recipes!  It’s glorious.  If you have a desire to open your home up in hospitality and need a little nudge to do so, read this book.  Our home is already a revolving door and there’s no place everyones sits in our place but around the table and still her words breathe fresh life into my soul and new recipes into my repertoire!

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I’m pretty sure I’ve said this about other books before but with each new one I read my list of favourites gets longer.  Tattoos on the Heart is my favourite.  I want to tweet quotes on every second page.  I have highlighted and dog eared more pages than is good for anyone.  I’m 20 pages from finished and I already want to read it again.  There is beautiful insight mixed into the memories of living life alongside gang members on the streets of LA.  There is compassion beyond compare.  Thus, there is conviction beyond compare.  Gregory Boyle may lead a radical life but the intricate moments he shares make my heart swoon.  I’ll leave you with just one longish one because it’s the last one I highlighted, not because it’s the best.  Who can pick a best in a book like this?

Twenty years of this work has taught me that God has greater comfort with inverting categories than I do.  What is success and what is failure?  What is good and what is bad?  Setback or progress?  Great stock these days, especially in nonprofits, is placed in evidence-based outcomes.  People funders in particular, want to know if what you do, “works.”  Are you, in the end, successful?  Naturally, I find myself heartened by Mother Teresa’s take: “We are not called to be successful, but faithful.”  This distinction is helpful for me as I barricade myself against the daily dread of setback.  You need protection from the ebb and flow of three steps forward, five steps backward.  You trip over disappointment and recalcitrance every day, and it all becomes a muddle.  God intends it to be, I think.  For once you choose to hang out with folks who carry more burdens than they can bear, all bets seem off.  Salivating for success keeps you from being faithful, keeps you from truly seeing whoever’s sitting in front of you.  Embracing a strategy and an approach you can believe in is sometimes the best you can do on any given day.  If you surrender your need for results and outcomes, success becomes God’s business.  I find it hard enough to just be faithful.

Amen, brother.  Amen.

I was at a women’s thingie at our church a bit ago (I know!!!)  and a beautiful woman with children a bit older than mine recommended a book to our table.  She said, by way of encouragement, that we just need to take our children’s struggles and very lives to God in prayer.  How else can we do this parenting schtick?  None of us is smart enough, capable enough, with it enough, long-tempered enough to ensure that our kids will turn out just the way we want.  However, we do have a great God who is in control of all things and who listens to the prayers of His children.  I was convicted at my lack of prayer for my children.  I mean, yes, I pray with them and for them daily but the depth to which Stormie Omartian’s book The Power of a Praying Parent has taken my prayers is a game changer.  She prays things for her children I never in a thousand years would think to.  She offers scripture to pray over our children that would have never come to my mind.  Her insight is powerful and fantastic and has changed the entire way that I pray both with and for my kids.  I’m so thankful for this book even though I’m only halfway through.  It might be my new baby shower gift.  Is that lame and old, churchy lady like of me?  Probably.  And I don’t care.

With the munchkins over the summer we read The Magician’s Elephant which fast became their new favourite book.  (The apple doesn’t fall far…)  We loved Kate DiCamillo’s Tale of Desperaux (Read the book, people!  Don’t just see the movie!) and so when we saw this new book by her we instantly snatched it up.  The reviews on the front of, “stories to snuggle up with on evenings or at christmas time…” made me love it before I even opened it.  But the fantastical story made us all fall in love with Peter Duchene and all the other quirky characters that are nearly always called by their full names, like how we refer to our friends from elementary school.  Just me?

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And finally, after we finished that one the boys and I moved onto A Long Way Gone:  Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah.  I chose this one specifically, not that it’s the most comforting nighttime read aloud story, but because my boys are at an age where shooting things seems fun.  They want video games that blow stuff up and in the woods they like to hide and pretend they’re at war.  As a girl, I struggle to understand their need for violence though the more scripture I read and the more battle ready language I breathe in there, the more I’m grasping their intrinsic need to wage war.  Perhaps not in the shoot ‘em up way, but in the dying to self sort of way.  Moving on from that tangent….I wanted them to see that guns and fighting and war is not glamourous.  It’s not something that only happens in movies, but that its something that is real and happening in our world right now.  To children.  It’s destroying lives of people they would be friends with should they live next door.  And so, enter this book about a 12 year old boy whose life was rocked by war in Sierra Leone.  It’s graphic and harsh but at my boys age they can take it and are being gripped by this boys life who is the same age as them.

What are you reading?  Have you grabbed anything off the shelf lately that’s rocked your world?

Oh, speaking of rocking your world, I’m going to leave you with this salad dressing recipe.  ‘Cause it will rock your world.  It rocked ours for our Thanksgiving dinner.  You’ll be so happy you tried it.  You’re welcome!!

Recipe found here.  I used goat cheese instead of bleu but that’s the only change I made.  Taste buds watering yet?

no matter whatness.

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I sat around my kitchen the table this morning with friends who, should you have asked, I would have said would never sit around my table all together again.  The world has pulled us apart as we follow dreams and calls and logic would have told our minds that this would never work.  But what does logic know, anyways?

Because this morning as 4 friends gathered it didn’t matter that we hadn’t planned this.  It didn’t matter that we hadn’t coordinated the trips for months, because we hadn’t.  We didn’t bust out our daytimers and work this into our agendas.  Instead, God.  He orchestrated this moment and the crossing of paths and timetables and flights in and out of town.  Let’s be honest, we couldn’t have pulled it off and we didn’t need to because He did and it was a gift and on this eve of Thanksgiving weekend all I can do is offer up thanks.

Sometimes the best things are unplanned.  Outside of our grasp.  Beyond our control.  Ask me 2 weeks ago if this morning could have happened and I would have laughed.  Just goes to show you I may have a bit of Sarah in me.  I’m not sure she meant to laugh at God.  It’s just that some things seem ridiculous.  Beyond our scope.  And they are!  We just forget that they’re not outside of his.

And then suddenly 4 friends are scooping yogurt and granola into bowls and sipping steamy cups of bold coffee and laughing and crying and everything in between and we whisper our thanks.  Because this moment was orchestrated long ago.  It was deemed necessary by One who knows we needed it.  Who knew the very conversation and coffee and connectedness was treading on holy ground territory.

We’re made for community.  You know that by now, right?

Lord knows I’ve mentioned it a time or two.  or seven.  or eight.

I had a moment of sadness this afternoon.  Not because I had to hug my friends goodbye or because I had the fleeting thought that this may never happen again and why for the love of Instagram did noone take a picture, but because some people don’t have this.  It made me sad that some people are sitting in their homes right now feeling alone.  Disconnected.  Craving something that they may not even be sure could possibly exist.

I want to tell you that it does.

I also want to tell you that it doesn’t come easy.

These women were here at my table today because we’ve fought.  Like, actually.  We’ve disagreed and challenged and spoke the words, “That’s just not okay.”  We’ve whispered words to each other that we didn’t ever think we’d speak out loud.  We’ve shared secrets that we were sure would go with us to the grave.  We’ve opened up a part of our lives to each other that was scary to tap into.  We’ve asked each other hard questions and waited in awkward silence for the answer.  We’ve dug into parts that got messy.  We’ve made each other cry with our prying and our insight.  We’ve made each other laugh with just the same.  We’ve flowed freely between fashion and following the call of Christ.  Grade 4 bullies and deep passions.  Identity and worth and favourite chai recipes.  It all happens around the table and it’s all as important as the next because this is what life is.  It’s not all dire moments and deep secrets.  It’s equally footwear choices and ooh’ing and aah’ing over the beauty of each others babies.  It’s all sacred ground.

I want to tell you that there’s only one reason we can live the deep and the hard and the ugly together.  It’s because the common theme is love.  Like, the real deal kind of love.  The kind that can ask you something tough and you know they only want you to answer because they love you and they want your good.  The kind that can challenge your view on politics or school systems and no one gets angry because love comes first and the challenge only comes because of love.  Out of love.  Not selfish ambition or conceit.  Not arrogance or pride.  But love.  The underlying notion that I want your good and you want mine.  Nothing more.  And never anything less.

I waxed nostalgic for awhile about how this rag tag group came to call each other friends.  I don’t know if there was a moment where it happened.  Where it became official and all of that.  But what I do know is that each one of us looked at the other with eyes of acceptance.  With eyes that said yes.  You are welcome here.  With your practical footwear and artistic spirit.  With your quiet wisdom and secondhand scores.  With your tattoos and your need for silence sometimes and even with your love of Big Turk.  Yes, you are different than I am.  Yes, you have different thoughts and opinions.  Yes.  Yes, you are welcome with all of that.  With every fibre of who you are I want you here.  Never I’m better.  Never I’m more right.  Never you just don’t cut it.

I had this dream today.  This dream that we would look at each other like this.  You and me.  You and the person standing next to you at school pick up.  Me and the person behind me in the grocery store line.  You and your neighbour.  Me and mine.  That we would drop the need to make ourselves feel important or right or better and that instead we would simply look into each others eyes, all eyes, and say you are welcome here.  Just as you are.  Please don’t try and be like me, the world certainly doesn’t need more me’s.  And I’m not going to try and be like you.  Instead, can we be who we were made to be and look at each other with love?

I think we can.

We can if we understand that the heart of God is love and we’re called to love as He did.  To love in a way that says I’m not here to fix you or change you or tweak you to suit me better but to open our arms and embrace each other in the same way God does to us.  In a way that says you are accepted.  You are loved.  Not when you get it together.  Not when you finally have all the answers.  But right now.  Always. No matter what.

This Thanksgiving weekend I’m thankful for so many things.  Today, especially,  its for friends who love me with the no-matter-whatness of God.

Asking for help: Why it’s wise and not weak.

It took me until I had 3 rug rats under the age of 4 before I realized I was not, in fact, super mom.  With one I was fine and I could do all things.  With two I was slightly frazzled but by days end could accomplish all that needed to be.  With three?  Forgetaboutit.

I remember the horrible feeling.  I remember the dashed pride.  I remember looking at my husband and saying, “Help?”

It’s not that he didn’t help.  Not that at all!  He did.  He worked hard and played with the kids when he got home.  He would chuck them in the bath and get them jammied up.  He did all of the things that he saw that there was to do.  It was the things that he didn’t see that I needed help with though.

Like the floors haven’t been vaccumed in weeks and the laundry hamper is spilling over and the ring in the bathtub is probably never coming out at this point.  It wasn’t just the loading and unloading of dishwasher that I needed help with, it was all of it.  I needed help with all of it.

Help to feel sane and help to rock babies and help with choosing immunization schedules and pre-schools and how to celebrate their birthdays.  I needed help mending the owies and soothing young souls and teaching all the things that humans need to know to 3 little people.

I was at my end and I realized that if I kept going at this pace I would crumble.  So I whispered the words in the form of a question.  Help?

How silly it is of us to think that people will see us as weak when we ask for help.  How silly it is for us to think that people will judge and look down and mutter things like, “well, maybe you shouldn’t have had so many kids if you can’t handle it!”  How ridiculous that we feel less than adequate for not being able to accomplish every single thing involving our own souls as well as the very lives of many little humans all on our own.

It’s nonsense, I tell you!  So stop it!

Since those early days of realizing my need for more than myself to do this thing I have come to love the phrase, “It takes a tribe.”  Because it does.  Literally.

But we don’t live in the jungle and we aren’t all gathered for shared meals every day.  Instead, we live in the Western World where individualism is hailed as king and neediness makes you weak.  We have our own houses and make our own meals and will make our own decisions involving everything our kids do.  We don’t like to rely on anyone for anything or we feel like we may have to repay the favour and nobody wants THAT hanging over their head.

I can’t help but think we’ve got it all wrong though, this individualistic way of life.  That it only breeds arrogance and pride.  Judgement and loneliness. We were made for community.  Even in the early days of scripture there was always an ‘us’.  There was the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  There was only Adam but then really soon after there was Eve.  There was family and community and the bond of relationship.  This is what our souls long for, how we function best, in short, what we need!

So why are we so afraid to ask for help when we need it?  I can only assume it’s our pride.

Yesterday I got three different text messages that made my heart swoon.  That reinforced our need for each other.  That reminded me that we are not in this thing alone.  That we’re all in it in different ways and different seasons but we need each other exactly every single day.

The first one said something along the lines of, I can’t believe I’m telling you this but….  The second was an update on a diagnosis of a beautiful boy.  Yes.  Autistic.  Here we go.  The third a simple and slightly panicked, help!  My daughter needs to be at work in 20 minutes and I’m no where near home, can you take her?

All of which require only one answer.  Yes.  I know.  We’re here.  We’ve been there.  It’s awful and it’s wonderful.  God has you.  God has this.  I’ve got your back.  Yes.  Yes I can help and yes I will pray and yes it’s going to be so hard.  Yes.  We are here for you for the bigs and the smalls and the everything in betweens.  We’re here for the emotional wilderness and the overwhelmed, I think I’m going to vomit, moments and the quick fixes of hopping in a car for 10 minutes.  Yes.  Yes.  A thousand times, yes!!

Because it takes a tribe.

I realized during this day that what I saw in each of these friends, tribe members if you will, reaching out is how strong they are.  I didn’t for a second view one of them as weak for not having it quite all together in a way that we sometimes feel we must.  Instead it drew me closer to them in love because I realized that on many of my days I feel just the same and it’s okay cause they do too.  I realized that it takes guts to ask for help and here they are so brave.  I realized how each of these women have been their for me on a thousand different occasions and I rejoiced in the fact that today I could be there for them.  Because tribes can’t be one-sided.  Community isn’t formed by only one person giving all the time and the other taking.  It’s  built on a recognition that I need you and you need me.  It’s built on a foundation of knowing that without each other we’d fall apart.  Without each other we’d throw up our hands and crawl under the covers and feel the burden of these enormous weights all alone and we would all be so much worse off if that were the case.

Instead there were whispers of help.  Moments of this is heavy and I need you.  Admissions that I don’t know what to do here.

It was beautiful and holy.  It was surrender and humility.  It was my people, my tribe.

I hope you have a tribe.  I hope you have people.  If you don’t, I encourage you to be the one to step out first.  Ask for help.  Admit weakness.  Be vulnerable.  There are people out there who are willing, oh so willing to help.  There are people out their who desire community as much as you.  There are people who want to serve you and pray for you and talk through the hard things with you.  But sometimes you have to go first.  Cause why should they, y’know?

Be brave in admitting you need someone, sisters.  We all do.  Because it really does take a tribe.

Identity. Who are you, anyways?

 

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(Who am I?  Rhonda.  Slightly blurry girl who curls her hair even when camping.  Saved by grace.)

I asked my boy the other day what it means to be a christian.  Sadly, he rattled off everything that I didn’t want him to say.  He said things like, someone who goes to church and someone who reads the bible and does all the things that God tells us to do.  He said that it’s someone who is loving and kind and who learns memory verses.

Nope.

How do you explain that while those are things that we may do as a result of being a christian, these are not the things that make us a christian.

For a long time I wouldn’t call myself a photographer but rather just someone who likes to take pictures.  People would stare at me in confusion, tilt their head slightly to one side as they tried to figure out the riddle.  But there was no coy answer or smart comeback on my part.  I just didn’t identify with being a photographer, which in my head was someone who has taken classes and honed the art and knew what every f-stop would do precisely.  And that wasn’t me.  I just liked to take pictures.

My boy has simply taken his cues from me.  It’s not his fault.  He’s heard me say that I’m not a photographer because I don’t know all the things and I didn’t study under the greats and I’ve never been in National Geographic and ….and….and….

So clearly it only makes sense in his mind that in order to be a christian there must be a list of things that we need to check off, to accomplish, to achieve before we can hail ourselves with the title.  Church?  check.  Bible study?  check.  Memory verses filed somewhere back there in our mind?  check.  Kind to someone today?  check.

Except that’s not it at all.

Those things no more make me a christian than one has to be published to call yourself a photographer.  Those aren’t the things that make you one.  They’re the things that may come as a result of you being one.  Do you see the difference?

In this season of my life, this theme of identity has been swirling around like the autumn leaves caught up in the wind.  Caught in the cyclic rhythm of do this, don’t do this, no – he is enough.  do this, don’t do this, no – he is enough.

At first it was all the things I should be doing and the guilt and shame that come with not having them in my life.  I’m not part of an organized bible study.  I should do that.  check!  I need to adopt babies because that’s what the scripture says.  Go!  Social justice, that’s what I’m lacking.  Find an organization helping the underprivileged and do that.  Big fat gold star!

Slowly and painfully, for our hearts don’t change easily and our hearts don’t mend quickly and our grasp on our ways is much too tight, these things started being pulled from my grasping fingers.  The bible study had to go with changing schedules.  The adoption didn’t pan out and the foster parent papers didn’t even get the dignity of a return phone call.

One by one God has plucked all these ‘need to’s’ from my hands.  He’s left me standing before Him empty.  No social justice notch on my belt.  No rescued baby in my arms.  He’s left me in this place of crying out, “What then?  If not these what?  What should I do?  What am I to be?  Aren’t I suppose to…?”

Time and time again He’s beckoned my heart, weary from all the trying, back to simply Him and said, “Just me.  Only me.  I am enough.

It makes the tears come even to think that I get so wrapped up, so busy, so do-goodery, that I forget that He is enough.  It cracks open the crevices of my heart that want to make it about me and look at this and see what I’m doing and brings me to my knees in repentance knowing that it’s not our works that He desires but our hearts.  It’s not all the things we can do or give, for truly what can we give the one who made it all?  How can we repay a debt that can never be repaid?  So easily the heart slips into the law and penance and even some weird version of karma when these aren’t the things He says we ought to be.

So it’s not the going to church or the bible study or eating organic or purchasing from socially responsible organizations that He wants.  It’s not the hybrid car or the feeding the poor or the youth group perfect attendance award that will earn us a spot in heaven.

It is always and only by grace.  Not earned.  Never earned.  It is free and unmerited.  It is a gift, and not the weird kind where you’ve been given something great so you must panic and pace the mall and search the online stores in order to return the favour.

It’s the kind of gift that is so far above anything you could give or anything you could earn that the only response to it is to humbly utter thank-you’s.  We can never, on our own, be what is required or do all that we ought to earn favour and the beauty is that’s not what he wants.  In fact, he calls those works filthy rags in comparison to what he’s done.

He wants our hearts not our chores.  He wants our worship not our work.  He wants us to know that He is all we need and everything else pales in comparison.

So, I’m not a regular bible study attender or a mama to many or an advocate to the poor just now, maybe I never will be.

But my identity is found in Him and not in those things.  My position is redeemed by His blood, not by the work of my hands.  My title is not adoptive parent or volunteer or teacher or anything but saved by grace.  It’s in this position I find all that I need and my struggling heart finds rest.