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We live our lives as orphans. We live impoverished and alone. We walk out our front door, down the sidewalk and completely forget who our Daddy is.
At least that’s my story.
When I was ten years old we moved across the country from Maine to Ohio. New neighborhood. New church. New Christian school.
I pushed through the giant metal doors of that jr. high completely intimidated by the painted concrete walls, the dozens of blue eyes staring back. I breathed shallow. I learned to live as camouflage, an iguana that changed colors according to the background. I held my arms tight to my body and wished I could blend in.
It was an impossible task.
80% of the other children were family, first and second and third and fourth cousins of Dutch farm families who had ingeniously settled that land, drained the swamp and farmed the black topsoil that remained. Their trucks crisscross the country to WalMarts and Meijer stores filling our vegetable bins. The kids in my class picked the lettuce and carrots in the summer alongside their fathers’ migrant workers. They were on their home turf and were made of sturdier stuff.
I was a singer, a reader who ate, drank, and breathed Lucy Mond Montgomery, and had an anxiety disorder I would only come to understand after I birthed my first baby. That was decades away.
As the kids teased, I took every arrow straight to the heart. I didn’t know how to deflect the pain, the fear that they might be right. I let them write my new name, carve it across my chest. The lies wormed their way into my blood system and it took years to erase the ink scrawled out: Rejected.
I walked through those metal doors into my jr. high stripped of truth. I walked in as an orphan. Abandoned. Devastatingly alone.
This is my story, my fight for healing, and the long hard road of transformation. This was one of the essential keys on the journey right here in Psalm 139:
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me tight.
This is not just theory, all these lovely words. It’s David’s story, a shepherd boy, struggling with fear on the side of the mountain listening to a lion’s hunting growls. He must have wondered if he had wandered outside of the circle of His Presence. And it’s my story.
Years later this matchstick girl has learned to cling tight. His Presence is no longer ethereal ideology, or some mystic’s fanaticism. Practicing the Presence of God is my life-line, especially during times of transition when my world has been emptied, tipped upside down like a bucket, my comfortable life tumbling out. I’ve learned to open up my awareness to His constant Presence and the Light of the World chases away anxiety’s clinging fog. I no longer walk into rooms alone, sit at tables alone, walk the edge of the water’s surf alone. The perfect love of God is always near, a banner over me. His love, no wait…His present love defines me. I AM adopted. The papers have been signed in blood. I walk with Jesus. It’s the with-God life, and my dears, it’s good.
After years of pressing close, years of this renewing of the mind, (Oh the tales of redemption that I could tell!) I no longer function as a practical orphan. I know who I am.
Friends, I’m hearing multiple questions in this Matthew 4:18-22 passage today, questions to stay present to this week.
It’s journaling time.
1. In what way am I divided and continue to go back to what’s familiar? The disciples fishing and mending their nets had already been following Jesus for at least a year. Yet, they didn’t have a vision for a total change of life, a vision which was profound enough to keep them focused. Do you think that maybe they didn’t know that the listening would be transformed into action…action they would be asked to take? So here’s another question: 2. In what way am I a passive follower of Christ?
3. What is Jesus asking me to set down in order to follow Him unencumbered? Fascinating, huh? We are weighted down by a to-do list that’s too long, expectations that are undesirable, an ego that is never satiated, fears which demand our obedience, and other people’s ideas of who and what we should be. No wonder we can’t answer His “Come Follow Me.” We’re a bit busy juggling our own heavy problems.
4 and 5. Where or to what is Christ asking me to follow Him? Perhaps you’ve been sensing a nudge into brand new territory. Perhaps you’ve seen something which you can’t unsee, something which demands you show up with intention to love, to fight, to humbly serve. Perhaps we can just simply ask the question, Jesus, what breaks Your heart? Then we follow Him there.
Finally, 6. Is there a person Jesus wants me to invite to meet this Christ?
Lord, open our ears to hear Your voice and make us brave enough to follow. Amen.
Every Monday and Thursday find a SLOW Word Lectio Divina video right here. I’m an audible learner. You too? I’m finding there are lots of us out there. Subscribe on the right to have these slipped right into your email…and find other tidbits there as well. Perhaps you know someone else who may want to sit at Jesus’ feet with us?
My holidays were straight up gluttonous. Baked brie oozing out of its pastry crust. Chilled mimosas for breakfast with crepes carefully folded over nutella and strawberries. Then later, Balsamic Roasted Beef, smashed potatoes, and peas and pancetta for Christmas dinner. With wine. Always with wine.
And that was just the first 24 hours. My people take feasting seriously.
Then gluttony took on a deeper level. I. DID. NOT. WANT. TO. STOP. for sleep, for exercise, for bathing (it’s getting real people!), for breathing. I wanted to bathe in joy, to seize it and ride it home. I sat Indian style with little ones on the floor, eating imaginary eggs from tiny hands and rolled onto my back to surge a curly headed nephew up into an airplane ride with my feet. I went on every excursion. I watched movies on the couch late into the night my brother reciting the lines of Chariots of Fire before they occurred. Then I stayed up later to journal. Each morning there was more coffee and less of me. Repeat for three more days.
I tried to remember to stop and inhabit the present moment, to listen, to drink deep.
Two days in, I slid into cruise control and held my breath.
Here’s the problem. I’m an introvert and a four on the enneagram. I only have so much energy, lots to process, and then I crash and push through until I hit a wall. Every year it happens. Every year I forget. In the past, I’ve shamed myself. Why don’t I have more to give? Why can’t I just be like_______ and dance my way through? Shame and I are close acquaintances.
But, it’s time to grow up, to slide into the wider spaces of self-acceptance.
This quote by Parker Palmer curated by Leanna Tankersley on her Instagram whispered a kind of quiet truth that made me come back…and back to listen again:
“They decide to live “Divided No More.” They decide no longer to act on the outside in a way that contradicts some truth about themselves that they hold deeply on the inside.”
Palmer’s words echo this quote by Fr. Romano Guardini which I’ve come to circle so often these last few years.
“The act of self-acceptance is the root of all things. I must agree to be the person who I am. Agree to the qualifications which I have. Agree to live within my limits…The clarity and the courageousness of this acceptance is the foundation of all existence,” Fr. Romano Guardini.
If Guardini’s words feel like an invitation to self-acceptance, my one-word for 2014, Parker Palmer’s words feel like a line in the sand. It whispers with a deep magic to this recovering people-pleaser.
Self-acceptance is a choice to be whole, not frayed. And no one else can make that choice for me. I’ve decided it’s time for me to grow up. It’s time to be “divided no more.”
(Christmas morning selfie by my daughter. Love her.)
Every Monday and Thursday we listen to the Word using a Lectio Divina. Subscribe on the right to get the word slipped into your inbox twice a week.
It’s now 2017. My witty sister-in-law Heather and I had a little New Year’s bubbly at midnight though our guys had to work for it…with power tools. Here’s the link to the video. After they went back to their game, we thought we’d put on pj’s and ring in the new year with a SLOW Word. Join us? I think you’ll discover as much hope as we did for our new year in Isaiah 43:19-21.
This is the facebook reflection from Ann:
The New Year’s transition is such a fantastic time for reflection. These podcasts from Dan Allender will lead you through this tender time:
Welcome to my kitchen, dear ones. I’m so sorry I’m late with this SLOW Word video. On our 13 hour drive up north in and out of spotty wifi all my technology decided to strike, but it’s never too late to soak up the Lord’s Presence, right? It’s never too late to turn our hearts away from the noise and back to this pilgrimage to the manger. This may seem like an unusual “Advent” scripture but on this busy week full of a great big helping of magic and crazy, this deep breath may be just the thing you need to remember who really IS the GIFT.