what i want you to know about doubt {a linkup}

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there was a time in my life that i had no doubt.

only certainty that what i had made the center of my life was, indeed, the whole truth.

then, my foundation suddenly crumbled underneath me; after the seeds of doubt i’d been hiding in the bowels of denial put down roots and made quick work of destroying all i thought i knew.

a switch flipped one day, when i asked the question – at age 22 – newly married and just out of college: “what if it all isn’t true??” i spent the next seven years desperately trying to get that switch to flip back, to turn the lights back on.

i wanted it back – the easy, certain faith of my youth.

it was a miserable seven years; full of dark confusion, desperate searching, depression, resignation, wishing for it all to end (one way or another).

(i have never been more grateful than the moment i stepped out of that fog into the warm lovelight of a present God.) 

 

what i didn’t know back then was that doubt is normal.

 

it is a vital piece of a vibrant, alive faith. because certainty is no faith at all.

“If we are unwilling to live askew for a while, set off balance, to wait on the ever-spacious threshold, we remain in the same old room for all our lives. If we will not balance knowing with a kind of open ended not knowing – nothing new seems to happen. Thus it is called “faith” and demands living with a certain degree of anxiety and holding a very real amount of tension.” -Richard Rohr, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective

i have found this to be oh-so-true.  once i have learned to sit with my doubts, allow them to inform my faith; accepted, rather than denied, them… brand-new doors have opened to me, doors to freedom – and even creativity – with God.

 

but here’s what i want you to know about doubt:      ::it doesn’t feel normal::

 

not when you’ve only ever known certainty, and have believed doubters to be “…like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” (James 1:6-8 NIV). my impression was that doubting was cause for shame, so i had just never gone there.

during those seven years, as i approached pastors and philosophers, apologists and religion professors, i was trying to pull myself out of what was surely a shameful situation of no longer being able to simply believe. it was incredibly painful, that upheaval of the faith i’d once known. it was excruciating to no longer know what was true, no longer know how to orient my life.

no one chooses doubt because it is the easy way out, because they’re being lazy about their faith (somehow i had this impression). it is anything but easy.

i had a few people during these years tell me, with a wave of the hand: “oh yeah, of course – we all have doubts.” i’d – at first – begin to breathe a little easier, until they followed that up with “that’s normal; but i just keep coming back to the Bible, where it says God blah blah blah…” nobody stopped long enough to hear me that i was questioning everything. not just the specifics of where my beliefs would land, but the big things they took for granted, like God’s existence or the veracity of the Bible. this doubt i was experiencing was not “normal“, based on the responses i had to what i was experiencing all those years. no.one.got.it. i was alone. 

the very few responses that helped me, that gave me hope, were the ones that spoke to their own personal experience of a big God. the friend who said “i will see the light for you until you can see it yourself.” and refused to be anything but present. the ones who guided me deeper into my doubts to see what they were telling me – about myself, about God. these hearts held mine gently until that day that light pierced the fog.

my faith now is so much messier than it was before the lights went out. and so much more beautiful and free and real. 

now, there is daylight and there is moonless night.

they both move in my spirit, and i am with God.

***

this post was written as a linkup with the Doubters Anonymous group my friend Alissa runs (and i am part of) – if this is a topic that you’d like to read more perspectives on, go check it out:

What I Want You to Know About Doubt

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Spread the Love [blog tour]

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art by Beth Morey

Beth Morey is one of my favorite people on earth. about a year ago, i messaged her and told her we needed to be BMFF (best mama friends forever, obviously) after reading an article she wrote as part of Wild Goslings. She is amazing and creative, both as a painter and a writer – she inspires me every day. I have one of her paintings hanging in my studio, entitled Brave One. (i wrestled it away from Rachel [who is also posting as part of this blog tour today, tagged by Beth as well] because my “word” last year was “brave”, and the blog i was writing on at the time was entitled thebraveone). Beth suckered me into invited me to be part of this blog tour, so here goes…

1. What are you currently working on?

I am knee-deep in a project that has my heart. It is a series of found poetry art pieces based on my interactions with the Bible. I have made my way through genesis 1-3, and am considering publishing options, while I continue the process.

(I am also creating course content for my workshop for the MADE ecourse, as well as some content for other collectives and ecourses, including ones within the Story Sessions community. And I’m always art journaling.)

2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not aware of anyone else working in found poetry as interaction with the Bible – it is a really deep art & faith intersection for me. It is prayer. My process currently includes blackout poetry in an actual Bible, as well as the finished art pieces, so that’s…unique (sacrilegious/scary/freeing/awesome).

3. Why do you write/create what you do?

There is a long backstory relating to how this process came to be, as well as the “why”. Suffice it to say there came a point in my life where I was longing for God, for truth spoken deep to my soul-depths… but the Bible was a threatening place, rather than a comforting one.

This creative approach to the Bible via found poetry and lectio divina has freed me up to engage with the text and themes on the pages, and in my heart and life, without feeling “triggered” back to the days of caged-soul-atrophy when those same words were misused against my heart.

I hope it can free others as well.

4. How does your writing/creating process work?

I begin my day and my creative time with some rituals that seem to open my eyes, remind me to be present and engaged. This includes a hot drink in the morning, with a one-word prompt drawn to set an intention for the day. I have a blessing I read as I enter my creative space as well. These all serve to center me, remind me why i create. If I am art journaling or painting, these moments tend to propel me straight into rhythm with the muse.

If it’s more of a writing day, i usually spend some time pouring out the contents of my soul onto 750words.com as compost for what words actually need to spring to life on my page.

As far as my Bible Found Poetry project:

>>I take a few verses at a time, some small complete section, such as Day One of Creation. I read it through a couple of times, and do a simple, short lectio divina with the passage. I listen, and look for what is shimmering, beckoning for my attention; both in one-word secret messages, and in the themes I feel come up.

>>I do a blackout poem directly in the text.

>>Then, I free-write about the themes emerging, and use some of the words from my stream of consciousness to “find” another poem within.

>>Last – and here is the fun part – I tear two random pages out of two random, coverless books from my shelf, and begin to pore over them, letting my eyes choose the words that resonate with the themes that have emerged in my writing. Then it is a flurry of cutting and arranging, before I’ll paint a piece of watercolor paper as a space to house my found poem. Sometimes I will draw some related imagery on the finished and assembled piece as well.

I come away from each time with an experience of myself and the holy. It has been a beautiful process for me, and I hope it will be art that can give others space to engage with scripture in ways that feel life-giving to them.

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So that’s me! I’d like to invite you to a few of my friends’ places next week – June 9th – to continue the blog tour.

First, Alissa Browning-Couch. She is so lovely, and has battled through so much spiritually; and now she is leading others through some of the darkness she herself has faced, both on her wonderful blog, and in the Doubters Anonymous group she created this spring.

Second, Jamie Wright Bagley. She is one of my fellow coaches over at The Story Unfolding, and she just released a poetry Book of Hours, In Shadow and Sun last week! (and yours truly had the honor of writing her foreword!) she is currently giving away this ebook for a limited time. it’s beautiful y’all.

And third,  Nicole Romero (also a Story Coach). This girl is doing ah-mazing work with Beauty and the Body. I took her Love and Making It ecourse in february, and i cannot recommend it highly enough. She is freeing captives, this one.

fourteen links later…

I’ll see you at Nicole, Jamie, and Alissa’s places next week!

the girl i once was

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there was a time when i didn’t know shame.

(i’m sure there must have been, there in that quietly happy childhood.)

and then there came that one day that i can remember feeling shame the very first time.

i was bullied into participating in something i didn’t want, and afterwards, on the longest-ever drive across town, i remember seeing my reflection for the first time. and avoiding it. my face darkly reflected back to me in the minivan’s backseat window.

it was the beginning of the hiding.

i didn’t want to see my own self, and i certainly didn’t want anyone else seeing that vulnerable not-quite-enough ten-year-old girl. the darkness spoke “dirty” to me, and i let it be branded on my soul. and spent the next couple of decades running the opposite direction, finding ways to be as pure as i could be.

but who was i before that moment? the one confident enough to play the lead part in the musicals, the one who yearly filled out “My Book About Me”, with different answers about my aspirations every time, who wrote songs and drew and painted?

here’s the thing. the self that i have discovered, my truest self, has been recovered from so much rubble, it’s hard to see what went wrong and when. it’s hard to see through the dust that never quite settles, back to before. before shame entered and the lies twisted. i remember the after all too well. but the before is only present to me in kindergarten memorabilia and photographs.

the self i have uncovered is so different from how i was [molded] throughout childhood. i mean, i’m an artist! my whole life i was the one saying “i’m not creative”. the one who would break out in a cold sweat when the teacher assigned creative writing, because what do you mean i can’t just regurgitate facts and get an A?

and i wish i could remember her, that little girl with soft blonde pigtails, and a softer heart; the one who must have felt something, sometimeright? most of my childhood (and adulthood) were entirely numb, for no apparent-to-me reason.

what must she have longed for, before she was told she couldn’t have the things she wanted, and she stopped wanting anything, ever?

i can only speculate based on who i have discovered myself to be, now that all the shoulds have been stripped away, and i have been free to embrace my truest self.

and that self? she loves to play, and swing high in the air. she loves to touch and taste and smell and see. she loves to share beauty, to create beauty, to be truthful, to invite others into her world, to snuggle close, to hold and be held, gently. she is brave and strong and lovely and… childlike.

my word this year is RESTORE, and it has been so much about becoming who i was meant to be, which is turning out to be even deeper than the girl i once was, because she was not the whole truth about me – precious pieces had already been buried by the time of my earliest memories.

but she is there. i am sure of it. i’ve seen glimpses, and the more i excavate? the more beauty i find. 

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an invitation

it is one thing to be invited in.
and another entirely to be invited out.

there has been a long-standing invitation
of grace
to enter in where it’s safe, be tenderly held, soft and cozy.
to let winter storms rage as we hibernate together
at rest in warm presence.
it is where i have felt met. seen. known. loved.
in that intimate quiet inside-space.

but there is a new invitation
spoken in those deep spaces, and it has sounded like
cocoon-veil tearing open
-almost harsh,
and cold as connection is made
between self-in-becoming and
the air outside.

i curl against this second windy call,
try to work my still-wet body
deeper into the shell
that has cradled me all this time.

but the voice is insistent:

“you have wings, you know.”

do i?
i’ve never seen them.
maybe i don’t after all.
(also. why did you open the door?!
i want to stay here and snuggle
a little longer
until i’m sure i’m ready
sure i can walk.
sure i can fly.)

“you can’t stay in your cocoon forever.”

maybe not
but i like it here…
(though not as much as before you
ripped a window-hole)

“that’s so you can breathe. so you can expand into your truest self.”

i find myself saying yes
to the invitation outward,
and it’s as if i’ve agreed
to have the blankets ripped off
against the morning air
to force me conscious.
i am all kinds of
dripping wet naked
exposed and shivering.

but then i see the others
all in our various stages of becoming;
we are together:
shivering
stretching out sticky atrophic wings
using our muscles
riding the wind.

we are a glorious mess
and it is beautiful.

***

and here is your invitation:

March 8 is International Women’s Day, and the Story Sessions community is inviting us (you!) to link up a post that day, themed “the girls we once were”.

join us?

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i run.

and i fall down the cliffs of fear,
chest encircled by twine-expectations.
i look back to see
what it is he is yelling at me,
what path he tells me to take,
and i stumble
down to rocks that break me again.

so i slow.

take deliberate steps
that i want to take.
stop and breathe the night air,
full of salt and seaweed.
look at the tender grass
around bare feet.
see its softness. appreciate my softness.

and step.

there is a red poppy blowing long in the wind,
awaiting its air-caress each moment.
it is thin and black-tinged,
with stamens standing tall and proud,
even as it bends under pressure.
even as i could snap it from its life source
at any moment.

i swear i will not.

i will hold its stem as tender as my own soul’s.
i will seek nourishment as its roots do,
shallow at first, and deeper over time.
i turn my attention to the wide vista of endless blue.
water and sky collide
and draw my eye and my heart to their
expansiveness, to my own.

i quiet.

in this moment i am unafraid.

i have a voice.

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it has been over a month since i have written. like, anything.

you may not believe me, since you have seen my words here, here, and here, as i’ve begun guest posting, begun letting my voice be heard in new spaces.

but ever since i decided to link this previously-anonymous blog with my real name, i have felt totally paralyzed. (i think it is a fear-based-people-pleasing issue – it usually is.) i have stopped writing because WHAT IF I ACTUALLY START TO HAVE AN AUDIENCE??? something in me had previously felt safe to write whatever i wanted and post it because i knew less than a handful of people (whom i knew and trusted) would ever read it. i liked living small.

but here’s the thing.

epiphany has been a new season for me. 

six weeks ago, i was given a gift as i was invited to offer a gift.

we were in the last call for the advent, christmas, and epiphany ecourse i took with tara owens, and she was reading something that described the gifts of the magi, and how we can offer similar pieces of our lives. offering jesus our gold would be offering him our gifts, the frankincense was our prayers, and the myrrh… i’m sure you have heard that myrrh was used for anointing bodies for burial. so as we walked through this part of the conversation, she invited us to offer our “dead things”, to bury them deep in the ground where they belonged.

i imagined myself going into my barren backyard with its layers of wood chips and compost and burying heavy chains, right there in the dirt..

and suddenly something spoke deep inside me:

“voicelessness

and

invisibility

and

powerlessness in general

ARE DEAD TO YOU.

bury them in their grave and be done with them.”

and so i have. something clicked in that moment that made pushing through resistance suddenly make sense, when before, it had always felt like disconnected striving. my false humility was exposed for what it was, and shame lost [some of] its power.

so instead of hanging back in silence, i have spoken up. offered my voice, my hands, my self. that is why i have guest posted, and that is why i am teaching three workshops in the next three months.

and that is why i chose, when i gave my words to new spaces in guest posting, to use my real name. because i am not helpless, and there is no need for fear and hiding.

but as soon as i made that choice, i stopped writing.

{until today.}

the shame still comes up, cyclical, but less, and leaves more quickly – because i see it for the lie it is.

you guys, i have so much to offer.

and offer i will.

i. have. a. voice.

***

here are the three workshops i mentioned, in case you’d like to join me:

::Be. life and the REST of it:: – a journey through lent with brandy walker – i will be teaching one week’s workshop, about found poetry and encountering God. (March 3-April 20)

::Made:: – an ecourse for christian creatives. i will be offering some of my journey with scripture and art-poetry (though i am creating and submitting my workshop for this course within the next 3 months, it doesn’t begin until september 1, and my workshop itself will actually be in december, advent time).

::40 Days of Art Journaling:: i will be joining Elora in leading some members of the Story Sessions community through some introduction to and interaction with art journaling, March 17-April 25.

this metamorphosis

I’m not the same person I was ten-and-a-half years ago, when we married, barefoot on the beach accompanied by hymnsong. I had all the right answers then, in that vague half-light, and none of my own heart. I lived as I thought I should, as I was expected to, as I had been taught.

We were on a mission, and had no idea how lost I was about to feel.

I’m not the same person I was four years ago, when I birthed our first child. Then, I was six years deep in the dark.

Not the windswept wilderness darkness full of the starlight only witnessed when the moon is new. It was the cramped darkness of trying to fit my soul into poorly lit rooms, the familiar spaces now outgrown.

Hell, I’m not the same person I was yesterday.

And yet. I am the same person… [join me for the rest of my guest post over at Sarah Murray’s place: A Lovely Frame]

the girl i never was

“A new beginning! We must learn to live each day, each hour, yes, each minute as a new beginning, as a unique opportunity to make everything new. Imagine that we could live each moment as a moment pregnant with new life. Imagine that we could live each day as a day full of promises. Imagine that we could walk through the new year always listening to a voice saying to us: ‘i have a gift for you and can’t wait for you to see it! Imagine!'” – henri nouwen

that is exactly how my word has been so far this year. gift, and the opening of my eyes to gift.

every morning, hot cup in hand, its first warm sip making its way down my throat, i draw a word from the bowl. it is a bowl full of one-word(ish) prompts from The Art Journaler community. i take this moment as opportunity to receive spirit-whispers of intention for my day. it is always rich. but this month? this beginning of my year of RESTORE? it has had an added depth.

because each time i draw my word, consider it, glue it down, i pair it with my one word. and it becomes a prayer. 

i draw a charm bearing the words “i am tenacious”, and my prayer is “restore + tenacity. make me who i am. open my eyes to who i am.”

it says “loved” and my heart cries “restore + loved. remind me i am deeply loved – restore the sense of freedom from fear i have in those moments of knowing i am loved perfectly (and imperfectly).

the day i drew the one that i had written myself: “my colorful, brave, messy, authentic, TRUE SELF“, i knew it was time to paint an image that has made its home in my soul these last few weeks.

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at the end of december, in a group spiritual direction call (led by the lovely tara owens), i confessed that i was terrified to look back at the year, in the practice of “examen“. i was so scared to even consider 2013 as a whole, because it was a year that i made many unfamiliar choices, and they often came with a sense of shame, especially when met with misunderstanding or outright condemnation. there were a number of things reflected to me in those minutes that felt very deeply comforting and true. but the one i want to describe here is this:

she said she saw an image of me as a little girl sitting in a puddle of paint. i was messy and colorful and covered with life. and God was loving it. she said some people are “tidy people”, but me? god made me to be messy, and he delights in it. he even stands protective, fierce against anyone who would try to get me to “clean up”.

oh, how this spoke deep.

i had been hoping, on this 28th of december, for another confirmation of what my word for this year would be, and as she was describing this scene, i thought, “that was never me. i never got to be that messy, delighted little artist-girl” and immediately “whoa. God wants to restore me to more than just ‘who i once was.’ he wants to go even deeper, more essential, to the one i was meant to be, in all the fulness of my design.” 

so. here is to restoration.

and play.

and childlike wonder.

and unselfconscious expression.

and mess.

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because, hey – that’s me. and i like it.

to the new year

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i have high hopes for you, you know.

 

i haven’t borne the feathered

weight of hope in a long time.

despair was heavier,

but easier somehow;

 

and resignation the easiest of all.

disengaged from a life

whose possibility seemed to have run out

some time ago.

 

i have big dreams,

and – yes – i’ve dreamed them before.

but they’ve stuck around,

and i want you to know:

 

i expect a lot from you, new year.

 

some live absent to the moment by giving their hearts

to a future of possibilities, staying there.

dreamers, they may be;

but they can’t see the beauty of right now.

 

i, too, have been unable to see the beauty of now

but it’s not because of dreaming

or living into a future hope

it’s because i give up. every day.

 

i’ve lost heart.

 

but in these beginning days,

this newness that hasn’t yet worn off,

i find myself awake, and longing

and hopeful.

 

my word is restore.

and it is both promise

and prayer.

 

i will be restored

to ways i was meant to be, to live

in this world.

maybe that means i get messier

(because God likes that about me).

maybe it means there is deep

healing of old wounds

older than you might imagine.

 

because he is not just restoring me

to “the girl i once was”

but

to “the girl i never was [allowed]

but was always meant to be”

 

this is deep shit.

 

i’m not expecting free sailing

to the restoration Promised Land.

i suspect it will get worse before

it gets better.

 

but i’m all in, 2014.

and you better be, too.

RESTORE

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this is the story of how my word found me:

october, and i’m beginning to consider what it is my next steps might be. what word i’d want to lean into, especially as my “official” word for the new year. immediately, i say “space“, and try it on for size. but i feel this internal shift in a direction i don’t want to go whenever i try to embrace it.

don’t get me wrong.

i still want space. still need space, long to give space, hold space, discover what lies in the spaces between.  (plus my 4-year-old is obsessed with space. it comes up OFTEN)

but when i hold that word close, weigh it against my longings, i find that the way i would be prone to engage it is to isolate. which is already my natural bent. and not something i want to intentionally go about doing.

i let go of this word, keep looking.

***
november now, i stop to listen, take stock of what has been speaking in my soul. i flip through The Artist’s Rule by Christine Paintner, a book that spoke to my deepest soul-spaces all august and september. and i remember: “open.” i heard the invitation over and over again. to open to love, to hope, to God. that’s it, i think, and wait for january.

***
december begins with a buzz of writer-friends asking each other: “what is your word?” i hold mine close, still waiting and wondering. in one particular facebook thread as my friends are talking about their “words” (or lack thereof – this process is laced with angst for some), someone says: “i think someone in this thread has the word ‘rest’.” and i cry. deep tears of knowing God has been calling me to rest, and to play, and here she is speaking it. i comment that this is making me cry, and she messages me. “i think your word is ‘restored‘.” and describes how rest is part of that.

my response? “i don’t want that word – it sounds like ‘a word people pick’, but it doesn’t resonate with me.” restore? really, God? so cliché. (and it’s the name of habitat for humanity’s retail shop: “RE-store”. ew – i don’t want a word that makes me think of a secondhand home goods store… except, i really like that store, but that’s beside the point.)

but because i believe she hears things, i wait and hold both words with open hands, one in each palm.

i take a walk to mull it over, and i find myself simultaneously in love with and resistant to this word, “restore“.

because, here’s the thing: it is all-gift.

when i consider my healing, my desires, things i would long for restoration in my deep spaces, it’s not something i DO, but something i RECEIVE.

and this makes me feel immensely loved by God. it rises up giddy in my throat.

but.

i kinda wanted a word i could “do”.

i’m not in control of how this word affects my year. my only part in it is to stay… you guessed it – {open}. 

to allow for rest and healing, to turn my heart in the direction of my longings so i can engage with God in the process of seeing restoration happen. it’s beautiful, really. i hold myself open to him, vulnerable to his tender touch. he restores. 

***
a friend describes to me some pieces of the process of restoring a painting: the incredible attention the restorer pays to the painting, his lovingly precise and gentle brush. my spiritual director explains even more: the way the restorer has to first take layers of old, unhelpful varnish off – deconstructing what was once protecting and now only diminishing the beauty of what is underneath.

i resonate DEEP with that. that has been my season these past months, a year of autumn shedding.

letting go of old stories and ways of being.

letting go of unhealthy relationships and systems.

next will be the restoring of the piece to its intended glory – the way it was designed to reflect light and depth and color in the heart of the artist.

and that, my friends, sounds amazing. i can’t wait.