cultivate your life

What's on my heart & mind lately:

Dignity in the Deconstruction

Dignity in the Deconstruction

These past months have been ones of sorrow and breakthrough, lost and found, seeking, searching, hope and despair. My faith has been evolving in the gentlest and most violent ways, in fits and starts. It’s been hard to take you on a journey where I […]

What A Former Satanist Taught Me About Faith

What A Former Satanist Taught Me About Faith

  It’s Halloween this week, my favorite holiday of the year, and I thought I would get into the spooky ooky spirit over here on my blog. I’ve never been one for full-on scary movies, books, and tv shows, and you will usually find me […]

When Your Faith Needs A Tune-Up

When Your Faith Needs A Tune-Up

 

Ok, I’ve been trying to write a post on taking a Sabbath for the past few weeks. Every time I sit down to write, I’m in the weeds with my message and what I hope to get across. I’m unmotivated and it’s probably a good indicator that I NEED a Sabbath!

 

I also feel a little burnt-out and uninspired in my faith lately. We all go through this I think. It’s not the only part of my faith life, of course, but it’s something that’s been on my mind. So instead of writing on Sabbath, I’m going to put something out there about refreshing your spirit so maybe you can get to understand just how important taking that Sabbath is.

 

If I’m going to compare my faith to anything lately, it’s going to be a comparison with my car. My husband and I love taking care of our daily drivers, and we maintain and repair a classic car of my dad’s as well. It’s so fun to learn how to do things yourself, to save a little cash in repair costs, and to really take care of your things. I invest enough money in cars as it is. I should take good care of them! As far as money goes, they are our most expensive possessions. I guess, in that way, they’re pretty treasured and valued.

 

The reason I’m comparing them to my faith is that my faith should be a really precious and treasured and valued possession as well. It’s a gift directly from God, so doesn’t it deserve the same care and attention as a bunch of metal and spark plugs? With a car, it’s pretty easy to figure out how to maintain it. With your faith? That takes a little more creativity.

 

Just like a car that needs a good tune-up from time to time, so does my faith. Just a few tweaks to get the thing running smoothly, using its fuel efficiently, and taking me from Point A to Point B. A little extra performance and power is a bonus too. Of course God is the one who adjusts us, does the major body work, and realigns our hearts. We can do our part to perform some seasonal maintenance too. As we’re headed into the winter and the start of the liturgical year (for me, that’s Advent on Sunday, December 2), it’s the perfect time to take a good look at our faith and make the necessary adjustments to keep it moving forward.

 

Still following my car maintenance metaphor? Good! Now it’s time to spell out just how I’m doing a little faith tune-up and hopefully encourage you to do the same.

 

 

 

+ go to the source

 

There are plenty of passages in scripture that talk about refreshment or a new spirit or sound in our faith. I’ve found over twenty of these verses including:

 

 

Proverbs 11:25

 

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. 

 

Exodus 31:7

 

It will be a sign between me and Israelites forever, for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.

 

Psalm 19:7

 

The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

 

Psalm 23:3

 

He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

 

Jeremiah 31:25

 

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.

 

Philemon 1:20

 

I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 

 

 

Doesn’t all of that sound great?! I think everyone needs a fresh start, a fresh perspective, a little rest, and some new energy. Refreshment for me is a feeling of full rest, fresh motivation, renewed strength, and a positive outlook. I have to assume if this single word appears over twenty times in scripture, than God must have thought it was a worthwhile value and something to pursue. It’s also a gift to receive with grace and gratitude. And a gift that is abundant! God doesn’t restrict or withhold this blessing.

 

So what does refreshment look like for you? It’s helpful to start brainstorming about exactly what you’re hoping for or wishing for. Speaking to God in prayer really honestly and outlining what you’re asking for is important. It’s also good and valuable to go to Scripture and tease out the verses you find that give you that feeling of rest and refreshment. I like to use the BibleGateway website to do a keyword search, but any way you can dig through scripture to find verses that inspire you is great. The point is to start moving toward a concrete picture in your mind of refreshment.

 

Any kind of scripture and research work too! If you’re not the Bible type, it might be good to start collecting quotations, inspirational messages, song lyrics, maybe even a vision board to start getting a good idea of where you want to be after your tune-up. Anything that helps make the picture crystal clear is a good way to get going.

 

 

 

 

+ get it all on paper

 

I have a unique way of Bible journaling that I outlined in this blog post. It’s basically a way to pour my heart out to God in an unstructured way that spills all my thoughts and feelings on to paper. So many of us like to journal or write morning pages or write notes on post-its to get our ideas out. For me, it’s so helpful to just put everything down from my head and heart as honestly and fully as I can. That requires carving out a bit of time to let myself feel thoroughly understood and not cutting corners with my thoughts and feelings.

 

I know I pour out my heart so much better on paper, but I have a lot of friends who do this well with a trusted friend or therapist. However it gets out, let it out! Bottling up every thought and feeling is a good way to keep yourself stuck in old patterns, feel burnt out, and unable to move forward. I start to feel refreshed almost immediately after I put words to paper, and it encourages me to turn to my journal any time I’m feeling off or unclear about things. If you unburden yourself in one way and it doesn’t seem to being doing the trick, try another method until you find one that resonates with your soul.

 

 

 

 

+ detox

 

In my faith tradition, a formal confession is an essential part of a healthy faith life. Is it hard to spill all your secrets to a priest? Heck yeah! But having that fully honest conversation helps purge some of the spiritual backlog in your soul. I particularly like how formalized the whole process is. This sacrament has a structure that includes an intro, a confession, an act of service or prayer (penance), and then a formal forgiveness (absolution). That kind of structure helps frame my my own spiritual journey at any given moment, and it’s the most refreshing feeling in the world when it’s all over. Unburdening your heart fully and totally is a great way to move forward.

 

It’s funny… whenever I am afraid to confess something that I keep returning to or an habitual weakness or habit, I’m reminded of an anecdote I heard once from a priest. His penitent came to confession and said, “Father, I feel like I’m telling you the same thing over and over! It’s so frustrating” He said, “Well, at least you’re not coming back with anything new!” That reminds me that we all have ways we habitually fall short or aren’t living the life we hope to. And it encourages me to keep going back to confession, no matter the sin, to receive the grace to move forward.

 

Not every faith tradition has a formal way to purge all wrongdoing. There are so many other ways to repent and turn back to a place of goodness and right behavior. And who doesn’t want to live a life of integrity, honesty, and a clear conscience? Sleeping soundly at night is a great way to feel refreshed. I don’t think we are always aware of the kind of toxic load our wrongdoings can have on our own spirit and that it can manifest in physical ways. That’s why I think it’s such an important process to tune-up our hearts by detoxing all this negative energy.

 

Whether it’s confessing to God on paper or in prayer, apologizing and making right the ways you’ve hurt others and yourself, or following some of the more formal twelve steps toward recovery, it’s one of the most important things we can do to have a healthy relationship with ourselves and others. It’s good and healthy to take stock of our own wrongdoings, mistakes, and shortcomings and work toward making amends. I’m not normally one to “clear the air” with others in a big and dramatic way and tend to avoid conflict, but I try to quickly and fully apologize the moment I realize I’ve hurt someone. I like to get it out of the way so I can work toward making things right and mending any fences. I don’t want to dwell in any relationships where there is a hardening or hearts or resentment: whether that’s a relationship with God, the people around me, or even with myself.

 

Scripture promises a ready refreshment if we repent and turn back to a loving heart posture toward ourselves and others.

 

Acts 3:19

 

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sings may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

 

It’s a pretty clear if/then promise and one worth pursuing any time we are feeling burdened or burnt out. Trusting that forgiveness will come with repentance is an important step too! Forgive yourself for any ways you’ve missed the mark and try to move forward with a clear heart and a clear mind. It makes practical sense to apologize and make things right, and the blessings aren’t restricted to Scripture. We can see and feel so many moments of refreshment in our lives as we move forward with an honest heart.

 

 

 

 

+ get out there

 

 

The last way I really feel refreshed is to get out there! I like to put myself in the company of those who make me feel better, build me up, uplift me, encourage me, and help keep my heart and mind refreshed. For me, that’s my husband, son, and dog, a few close friends, a few close relatives. What’s that saying again? “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I’m not going to verify the math there, but I can definitely see the difference in my heart and mind when I surround myself with positive loved ones, neighbors, believers, and coworkers. Not that I should completely avoid those who bring me down! I just like to spend the majority of my time and energy with those who refresh my heart. Their positivity and good feelings are contagious and help get my out of the mess of my own thoughts.

 

This is also where all that basic self care comes in: fresh air, physical activity, sleep, good food, hydration. These aren’t throwaway suggestions either. I have such a difficult time prioritizing these, but when I do I reap the rewards pretty much immediately. Give me three nights of solid sleep and fresh air, and I feel like a new person.  I like to build in small breaks throughout my day that refresh and restore: my favorite music while I’m taking a shower, a good podcast on a commute, walking my dog outside, some stretches or yoga to start the day. It can be as little as ten minutes and the cobwebs and clutter in my mind and heart start to disappear.

 

This is also a good time to put yourself in the Presence of the Divine. For me, that’s going to church on Sunday and attending an adoration holy hour. It’s also listening to worship music and touching base with Scripture. I don’t pretend I know what moves your heart toward peace and wholeness. Those are just the things that get me there! It’s important to have a handy list of the things that connect you to God in your mind for times like these when you need a new start. Once you look through that list, start implementing the concrete things that help lift the burden of your heart. Make a plan for it and get out there!

 

 

 

 

I hope these are some good suggestions to give your heart and spirit a little tune-up. I feel like refreshment and a fresh start are themes I continually write about here on my blog, and for good reason! These are lessons I tend to forget and the things I leave off my to do list. At some point, they all build up and I’m just a mess who feels directionless, burdened, burnt out, and unhappy. It starts out with a few things falling through the cracks. As they build up over weeks or months, I start to feel a call in my heart to realign things, to GYST, and have a fresh start. This seems to be a common theme I hear from loved ones too. Sometimes it’s just a general feeling of being off. Sometimes it’s a full breakdown. Sometimes it’s somewhere in between.

 

Our lives can be so busy and messy and cluttered. We can forget to take stock and take care of our soul. Modern life and modern adulthood can really take their toll. If it wasn’t for writing and reading and consuming things that call me to refreshment and a little tune-up, I would forget or put it off or avoid the ways that I can truly heal and feel better. So if you’re reading this, take it as your check engine light telling you to turn things around, give your heart some maintenance, and start living a full and healthy life, full of refreshment and happiness. If your heart is your most valuable possession, it makes sense to take good care of it, make sure it’s in running order, and give it the tune-up it needs.

 

 

 

 

 

For more inspiration and a look into all the things I love, head over to my Pinterest board and my Instagram account! 

 

Having Faith in the Enneagram

Having Faith in the Enneagram

    Way back in February, I wrote a post called, “Who Are You? 10 Ways of Knowing Yourself.” In it, I featured all kinds of fun tests, questionnaires, and activities to get to know yourself a little better. One of the things I mentioned […]

Modesty in the Era of #metoo

Modesty in the Era of #metoo

    “Your top is too low.” “Your skirt is too high.” “Your shirt is too tight.” “Your shorts are too short.” “Quit showing so much skin.” “Dress like a lady.”   If you’re a woman, you’ve probably heard these things more than a few […]

There Is No Domestic Heart

There Is No Domestic Heart

 

My son lives in a world without shoes. Not out of poverty, which is staggeringly common elsewhere in the world. It’s out of my inability to tame this little guy. And I love it that way. He’s also never known a barber’s shears. We’re trying to keep his hair crazy and wild until he’s at least two. Just letting him go a little unvarnished for as long as we can.

 

I studied and worked in a Catholic school environment where shoes & haircuts were as important to the forming of young minds as phonics & algebra. I found a lot of freedom in my twelve years of wearing a school uniform. I never had to decide what to wear! And for a night owl like me, the fewer decisions in my morning the better.

 

The democracy of it really resonated with me. The idea that we’re all equals in the classroom, even when that was rarely true, appealed to the way I saw the world from a young age.

 

The philosophy behind a uniform is sound, but when it started bleeding into who & what I was, I found myself pushing against the very boundaries that were intended to help me grow. My heart lived in the frontiers of my faith, but I felt stuck behind a hundred fences. I was protected and hidden and guarded and shut away by my family and my culture in tower just like Rapunzel.

 

In the midst of the stone walls of my school, I tried to find moments of freedom and inspiration. The majority of my teachers were consecrated sisters in habits. Two of the schools I attended were inside convents. I loved the camaraderie & focus of religious life & considered it often over the years. I have great love & devotion to those women’s sacrifices for me. They inspired me with a life lived fully within the walls of their home and engaged fully in the community inside and outside their gates.

 

I especially loved the sisters who saw the adventure in my soul & sent me down all kinds of paths of discovery.

 

Sr Lucia taught me to sit under old oak trees to sketch their creeping endless root systems. These trees knew no borders and often send their roots below the stone walls to push them up and break them wide open.

 

Sr Barbara introduced me to the young adult novel The Bronze Bow. In it, teenage Daniel witnesses his father’s crucifixion & goes on a journey to right the wrongs of a 1st century Roman republic. Each of her book recommendations for my never-satisfied reading appetite took me far away from all the bells & rules & routine of my everyday school life.

 

Sr Ann brought Maryknoll missionaries speakers to our school who set my heart on fire with tales of dramatic gospel moments all over the world. They created a desire to engage in the wild world away from my comfortable life.

 

My most treasured example will be always Sr Dorothy Kazel. This teacher from my high school during the late 1970s left safety & family behind to preach the word of God and help the helpless in El Salvador. She was martyred in the most terrible way & buried in a shallow grave off a dusty road. Her death and the death of her companions was a turning point in the civil war in her adopted home.

 

I thought of her often when I was teaching in a Catholic high school myself. Her bravery. Her sacrifice. And the wildness in her heart that drove her to serve the poor in the midst of years of violence in a civil war so far from home. Her example asked me to stretch more, encounter more, and bravely follow the call of God on my life.

 

There’s an exciting thing about nuns that few of us think about. When you get a large group of women religious together, few of them fit the mold of a soft-spoken, serene saint. More often than not, they are women who looked at the life around them & opted out.

 

At some point they opted out of dating & makeup & hookups & magazines & limited job prospects. They opted out of #momlife and #toddlerlife and #roseallday to do something truly radical with their life.

 

They knew what it was like to be a little wild inside & encoraged me to follow that seldom-traveled breadcrumb path into the woods of my faith.

 

 

 

 

Years later, when it came time to choose names for our son, my husband & I decided to give him the (nick)name Hansel for this very reason. To symbolize a freedom we both cultivate in our life together.

 

Since our first date, my husband & I have looked for every reason to embrace the German idea of Waldeinsamkeit. It’s the truly untranslatable concept of that unique feeling of being alone in the forest. The great adventure of woodland solitude. We’ve visited every national park we could find & backpacked in the mountains and wilds of Colorado.. Being alone in the woods is one of the few places where I can take a deep breath & stop the noise of all the nonsense in the world. These travels reminded me of the fairy tales and stories of my youth.

 

The story of Hansel & Gretel to me is about walking away from a bleak and ordinary life into an unknown that can only be better than the known. Their known world of famine and violence made a warm gingerbread house all the more enticing. It also gave these forest children the survival skills they needed to exact revenge on a premature end to their journey.

 

Fairy and folk tales are like that. They take us into the wood and show us the way out. Many scholars focus on the warning aspects of fairy tales. They can behave as a code of ethics to manage the dangers of a frontier existence. (Yes, early modern Germany & France had their frontiers too.) These stories can act as a sociological tool to understand how societies keep & maintain order.

 

They certainly help children listeners explore fear & death & violence & anxiety from the safety of their parents’ laps. Hansel & Jack & Red Riding Hood are Everyman for children living in a world of uncertainty. Their stories help children imagine a world filled with safety and danger, happiness and sorrow, light and dark, good and evil. And heed the call to walk into the woods on their own.

 

So what do martyrs & woods & wolves have in common? They’ve all been ways I’ve found to challenge myself to cultivate a wild heart.

 

One of my very favorite musicians, John Mark McMillan, released the song Wilderlove from his album Mercury & Lightning in 2017. The refrain from that song has been playing in my head since I first heard it.

 

There is no domestic heart.

 

It’s such a chorus in my life that I’ve been working on an embroidery piece for my son’s room for the better part of a year with that memorable verse.

 

What does it mean exactly? For me it means that we earthly creatures were never meant to be tamed, never meant to be civilized, never meant to be domesticated. Despite our fine haircuts & sensible shoes, we are still a heartbeat away from the wilderness of God’s heart for us.

 

He created us in a garden of vines & dangerous fruit & serpents. He calls us back to it with every heartbeat. That wilder love is hidden within all of us. Unrestrained. Untamed. Unbound. Wild.

 

If you find yourself caring for little ones, I invite you to remember that there is no domestic heart. No matter how civilized children seem when we dress them up & comb their hair. The nurturers of the world – classroom teachers, parents, nurses, doctors, dance teachers, music teachers, art teachers, coaches – would do well to keep this in mind.

 

Let’s raise brave young daughters who make wild choices in life, scraped knees, dirty handprints and all. Gretels who can fight their way out of the forest but always find their way home.

 

Let’s raise wise sons who walk barefoot through life, with long hair & tall tales. Hansels who are smart enough to leave breadcrumbs on the trail and are drawn to things as sweet as their hearts.

 

Let’s allow our hearts to love a little wilder, fight a little harder, think a little smarter, and bravely face the wolves and bears and serpents hiding in our own forests.

 

When we embrace the storms and tangled branches of life, live amidst the serpents and temptations, encounter each other in our weaknesses, joys, fears, failures, sins, and triumphs, we are more fully human and we allow God to be more fully divine. We trust Him with the outcome. I don’t think we’re meant to be locked away in convents without at least living in community with those around us. We are called to engage with the whole person sitting next to us, even if they could be wolves in sheep’s clothing.

 

It’s in those moments that we release fear and allow God to lead us into the forest for a time so we can bring light and love to the wilderness. This isn’t meant to be an easy task or an uncomplicated journey. It’s meant to challenge us as we wrestle with it.

 

What strikes me most about the story of Hansel and Gretel is that they had to leave the safety of their home to find out who they truly were. They had to encounter the darkness to find the light. It’s important to equip ourselves with breadcrumbs, but it’s also important to strike out into the forest. If that means we come uncomfortably close to danger and disaster, all the better.

 

 

 

 

Bravely stepping out our front doors to walk in community, whether that’s in the four walls of a church, the four walls of a classroom, the four walls of a cubicle, or the four walls of a domestic church, is a brave and worthy adventure. Setting our security behind is the best way to encounter each other. We can live in a dangerous, frightening, seemingly hopeless world, but if we want to bring light to the darkness, it’s up to us to strike out, breadcrumbs in hand, and get to the work of the Gospel.

 

Jesus gives us the best words of encouragement for our journey. In Matthew 10:16 He tells us:

 

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

 

God doesn’t lock us up in towers like Rapunzel, keeping us from hurt and disappointment and confusion and pain. He equips us with His gifts and promises to always accompany us on our way. He gives us the gifts of shrewd discernment and innocent hearts. His love for us is strong and unguarded and free and wild. He asks us to honor that part of our souls that follows His lead into the dark and deep woods. And when our breadcrumbs are the Bread of Life, we can trust that He is leading us ever closer to home with each step of our journey.

 

 

 

 

 

“Wilderlove” by John Mark McMillan

Plumbed the badlands as a child
Where the dust devils dance
On the dreams of the ivy wild

The places you grow up
The tumbling ground is rough
There is no domestic heart
Then what have we become: less pedestrian?
There is no domestic heart

The Wilderlove is hidden within us
And we reckon with it, and we wrestle with it
The Wilderlove is hidden within us
And we wrestle with it, and we wrestle with it

You are the wilderness and I fall fast drawn
To the rise of your vast expanse
I feel so underdressed so civilized and small
By the powers that you possess

The places you grow up
The tumbling ground is rough
There is no domestic heart
Then what have we become: less pedestrian?
There is no domestic heart

The Wilderlove is hidden within us
And we wrestle with it, and we wrestle with it
The Wilderlove is hidden within us
And we wrestle with it, and we wrestle with it

The Wilderlove is hidden within us
And we wrestle with it, and we wrestle with it
The Wilderlove is hidden within us
And we wrestle with it, and we wrestle with it

Plumbed the badlands as a child
Where the dust devils dance
On the dreams of the ivy wild

The Wilderlove is hidden within us
And we wrestle with it, and we wrestle with it
The Wilderlove is hidden within us
And we wrestle with it, and we wrestle with it

The Wilderlove is hidden within us
And we wrestle with it, and we wrestle with it
The Wilderlove is hidden within us
And we wrestle with it, and we wrestle with it

We wrestle with it

 

For more inspiration and a look into all the things I love, head over to my Pinterest board and my Instagram account! 

 

Trusting God With Process

Trusting God With Process

  Last week, Avril Lavigne released her first single in five years called “Head Above Water.” In her lyrics, she walks through the struggle she experienced during a protracted illness and feeling close to death in the process. She also writes about how she reached […]

Creating a Godly Home

Creating a Godly Home

    In my faith, there’s a lot of emphasis on this idea of the “domestic church.” It’s the idea that our families and homes are as integral a part of our faith as the community we experience on Sundays. Parents are called to cultivate […]

You Belong

You Belong

 

When I moved from Colorado to Pennsylvania in 2012, I not only moved away from friends who became family, our first home, the best weather in the world, access to all the best National Parks… I moved away from my local church. This local church was really special. It was a small church with just two rows of pews and an extra all-purpose room with folding chairs for the busier masses. It was one of those pioneer churches that I came to love so much. Nothing fancy, no air conditioning, just the tabernacle and some people in a room. Those people sometimes wore torn up jeans, sometimes had tattoos, sometimes came with their same sex partners, sometimes came smelling like weed.

 

And the music! The music was this amazing guy with a guitar and his kids and a few youth group kids. On Christmas Eve when I knew I was moving to Pennsylvania, they played Casting Crowns “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I don’t even like Casting Crowns, but the humility and love and talent and sacrifice that this youth group band had in their hearts and the warm cozy feeling in the church with about a foot of powder falling outside… We were in the second row and I was openly weeping. This was a special, sacred place. It wasn’t perfect but it was mine.

 

When we moved to Pennsylvania, we joined a church that was huge. Just really massive. It was gorgeous inside too. The stained glass, the architecture, a great sound system. Everything was new and shiny. I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t greeted at the door and nobody said hi to me when they knew I was a stranger. I dug into the youth group as a volunteer, but I constantly felt like I was searching for something more in my community. I kind of said hi to people in my pew, but they never became friends. I had some struggles moving out here and nobody really noticed.

 

I opened up to a few other groups I joined. I know the people were trying their best, but every time I opened my mouth to say something, I was met with confused stares and probably a little judgement. I seemed to have this alien perspective that didn’t fit with what they thought a nice Christian girl should think or say. I saw a reality of a pilgrim church on earth in the foothills of the Rockies where everyone belonged. Nobody else saw that because nobody else went there.

 

For some, their faith was wrapped up in a culture and identity I didn’t share. They did things because that’s the way it was always done, not because it necessarily brought them happiness and a fresh new reality. Some of them mixed up culture wars and American political conservative values with our faith. And if I didn’t dress the way some of them wanted, or say the things some of them expected, or had a viewpoint that didn’t fit, I was kind of on my own.

 

I started to feel really alienated and it led me into all kinds of rotten weaknesses: grumbling, complaining, judging, murmuring (to put it biblically). I mean, here I am years later, and I guess I’m still murmuring! It’s hard to shake off hurt and rejection. It’s hard to remember the good things and the good people I encountered because all the other stuff left a bigger impression. I had what’s called negativity bias: my negative experiences allowed me to survive and keep going, but blurred out any other feeling or impression. I was NOT living my best life.

 

It’s taken me awhile to unpack it all and to allow God to rewrite that script a little. It’s taken me awhile to trust that I was plucked up from Colorado and placed in this exact place at this exact moment for His purpose. I left my home in Colorado through a lot of trust and obedience and listening to God’s call. He doesn’t do things casually and hope for the best. He works with purpose and certainty. I had to set aside my negativity and listen for Him to make sense of the change and use it for His purpose and glory.

 

Through me obeying and through me just being me, I attracted a bunch of people into my circle. With youth group and with teaching, I often joke that I was the “Island of Misfit Toys” from that old Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer movie. All kinds of kids started trusting me with themselves and their hearts. They felt safe around me. The outcasts. The lonely. The flamboyant. The wacky. The funny. The unpopular and rejected. I didn’t do anything specific and I certainly didn’t disclose too much about my identity or my past. I guess I was just a safe haven, and I tried to love them for who they were, not who the world wanted them to be. I also think that when we are authentic we welcome authenticity in others, and draw it out from them.

 

I looked around at the youth of the church and I found the home I was searching for. I went to a giant youth conference a few times and felt that same passion and inspiration that the kids did. I fit in with the young church, not the old. The future of the church was bright and optimistic and full of energy. It was exactly what I needed to grow in my faith and inspired me to keep going.

 

The problem? I was old enough to be their mom. I had a very select few tight friends in my faith, but I didn’t have a lot of peers on Sundays saying and thinking and doing and showing me a reflection of myself or something to work toward. I was like, “ok, I’m going to be strong for the misfits and the alienated and the weird and lonely,” but that left me a little alone sometimes. I was bereft of example or a path forward.

 

And that’s where you come in.

 

No matter who you are or where you’ve been, you belong. No matter what you say or what you do, you belong. No matter what you believe or what you doubt, you belong. No matter who you vote for or who you root for, you belong. No matter what you look like, you belong. No matter your abilities or talents, you belong. No matter your outlook, no matter your upbringing, no matter your race or ethnicity, no matter you gender or sexuality, no matter your past, no matter your future, you belong.

 

How many time was Jesus Himself the Island of Misfit Toys? Pretty much every day! He had a pretty strange collection of friends and disciples: tax collectors, adulterers, day laborers, unbelievers, Roman soldiers, Samaritans, the unclean, the needy, the rejected, the alone. I mean, look at the Beatitudes! It’s a listing of all the people left behind. The meek. Those who mourn. The poor in spirit. In His culture at that time, the people around Him weren’t always the people who fit, who had a place, who were admired or sought out. They were just an odd collection of people who needed Him. It was that simple. And it was through them that His light was shining the brightest.

 

If you’re feeling left out or alone, I ask you to come to church on Sunday. Not because you are going to feel welcome or it’s going to be easy. Not because people are going to be super friendly and love you right away. Not because you agree with everything you hear. Do it for me. I need to see you in the pews so I can see myself there too. I need to see people bravely trusting God despite their past or the way they look or who they love. I need to see people working on it and working through it.

 

When I was in high school, I had a radical conversion to Christianity (despite being a Catholic from infancy). I thought I knew what that Christianity should look like. I spent a bunch of time throwing out my novels about vampires and my explicit pop music and embracing this wholesome ideal I thought I was supposed to be. I thought if I chased after modest skirts and positive, encouraging music, I would be a Christian. And it was that splitting and that conflict that caused me to walk away from my faith a few years later. I wanted all the things I wasn’t supposed to want. I had fun doing the things that I thought I wasn’t supposed to do.

 

My journey back to my faith was long and a little complicated, but as I got closer to now and to Him, all those disparate parts started fitting together. I didn’t have to hide from God. I could be my whole self with Him. Good and bad, modest and immodest, crazy and sane, conforming and rebellious, curious and secure, content and discontent, questioning and believing, rejecting and accepting. God saw my wholeness and didn’t require the splitting of everything into “good” and “bad” in my heart. He called me to righteous living, but He knew I liked all that other stuff, I had fun with all that other stuff, and my heart was in a lot of that other stuff. With Him, though, nothing went to waste.

 

I wish back then I had met someone who accepted all of that. I think it would have been a little faster and easier to follow Christ. And in that giant, lonely, anonymous Church I found when I moved here, I think it would have made it easier to be myself and stick around. We packed up and moved to a different church, but I wish I could have stayed and uplifted the misfits in the pews next to me. It was just too hard and too much of a fight.

 

So if you feel like you don’t belong or you look like nobody else you see on Sundays or you have a past or a present that don’t fit the mold, please stick around. Please keep attending. Please stop taking out your piercings and covering up your tattoos. Please stop censoring your speech or your opinions. You may not be in the pew next to me, but someone else needs you there. Be braver than I was and stronger than I was. Stick around. Fight the good fight. Welcome everyone like the brothers and sisters of Christ people really are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because we are all on a journey home. We are all messing up and saying and doing things wrong, but we are all trying to get there the best we can. Home is where the heart is, right? And whether that’s a heart-shaped locket or a heart tattoo with mom scrolled in the middle of it, you belong. You belong in front of the altar and in front of Christ. You are welcome here. I want to see more of us in the pews because I think there are people who don’t attend because nobody showed up to say it was ok to be themselves. Nobody was there to tell them that we’re all being formed and crafted and changing and moving forward together, through the strength of God. We’re not supposed to be perfect or acceptable or ok or wholesome. We’re supposed to be sons and daughters of a King who love and are loved.

 

Next time you consider hiding yourself in the back of church, please move to the front so I can see you. So I can see myself. So I can know it’s ok and that there are others. I need you. Christ needs you. And you belong.

 

 

 

 

 

P.S. These fun pictures are from one of my trips to China. My traveling companions were funny, sweet, kind, joyful, and just who I needed to spend my days with. As Vonnegut once wrote, “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.” I couldn’t agree more.

 

 

 

For more inspiration and a look into all the things I love, head over to my Pinterest board and my Instagram account! 

Making Time for Quiet

Making Time for Quiet

  Even though I’m a stay at home parent who intentionally makes place in my life for quiet and peacefulness and I reject any attempts to be hurried along and packing my schedule, I still find it really hard to set aside time for God […]


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