“We Are the sum of every Yes that we utter”…

I just read that in the book “To be Told” by Dan Allender.  He is a thickly wordy, PhD in psychology kind of author who sees God in in the story of humans.  If you like that kind of thing, you’ll love Allender.

Anyway…The sum of every yes…what a pretty way to think about choices. The mundane and dramatic, leading to the total amount of who we are.   Saying yes often takes you out from where you are into a place you may be a little scared and unprepared to be.  The new job, the date, the move…it’s all yes and then hold on.  It’s a word said in a moment where hope outweighed reality.

Sitting here, taking perhaps a little too long to process one sentence, I am the current result of all the things I had the bravery or stupidity to say yes to.  I have used my time on earth in ways that have lead me here and until I’m dead, every decision I make, even in my response to another’s yes, will have an infinite number of possible outcomes…blessed and disastrous.  ‘Yes’ to a new business, ‘Yes’ to a speaking engagement, and ‘yes’ to committing to a life changing habit.  Yes is the reach before falling or flying.  Regardless of the outcome, yes starts the fire to cook or be cooked.

Saying No… that’s always there too.  But its power lies in subtracting and protecting.  It’s the thing we don’t do or believe in order to add value in another direction…another faith.  Saying no is saying yes to unchanging.  Saying no, is to hold the agreement that I’m not going that way, or, I’m not moving, but it doesn’t necessarily know which way to go.  It isn’t bad and may many times be necessary, but it only exists in the absence of desire and it seems static to the kind of movement that is the fallout of “Yes.” No is simply what’s left in the wake and the shadow of your yes.

All of our lives we make agreements.  We say ‘yes’ to more than questions.  We spend our lives deciding who we are going to believe and how we are going to live.  As we live, every Judgement held either for us, or against us, demands our” yes” to hold any power over us.  Every opportunity or challenge we say yes to is in keeping with who we have already agreed that we are. 

So.

Who do you say that you are?

Who or what has drawn a yes from your frightened lips in order for you to answer that question?  Do you even know why you said it?  Can you look back and see what it was that you wanted?…and did it go how you thought it would go?

I’ve said yes to everything from marriage, to divorce, to world travel, to nonprofit work, to business ownership, to marriage again. I’ve said yes to love, and yes to hate.  To wasteful thinking and to what I thought had purpose.

I’ve said yes to good things and bad, and each time was the result of who I agreed that I was, and what I believed would be fulfilling.  I’ve said yes to what I deep down just wanted to do and to what I felt compelled to do for others.  I’ve said yes many times…so have you…

I’m willing to bet each time led to movement. Disruption.  Transition. If you say it often enough, it will turn your life into something unrecognizable and that can either be very bad or very good. It depends very much on the quality of the yes’s preceding it.   When I have said yes to the things that God has carved into my heart and story, it’s always been miraculously disruptive.  You are the sum of a great number of agreements.  Still, every broken decision to agree with what is destructive offers the redemption of another yes.  That’s what grace is…grace is God’s yes.

So where does your yes come from and how do you harness it into what leads toward where you ultimately want to go?

It is your deep desire. Your gut place.  The longings in the heart and hope in the mind.

My unwise ‘yes’ is the result of unhealthy desire and sick hope.  Catastrophically bad decisions are bred in a hundred lesser malignant interactions before them.  Remember, you are the sum of your agreements and therefore the progeny of your dark desire as well as your productive hurt.  It’s why we need grace for others and ourselves in the face of a really stupid yes.  It’s why the next yes is important.

If I bring it down to a practical example, then the cake you binge on tonight is the result of saying yes to the futility of this day, like all days before it.  If you walk the weeks, months and years backward you might see a parade of agreements to body image issues, stress mismanagement, and self-medicating.  Binging on cake then, while common enough…is the sum of all your agreements to self-destruction. Even more seductively, It is your “yes” to comfort and your “no” to health.  It is acknowledging that the world is hard and unpredictable, and cake feels good.  Therefore, feeling good, comforted, social, happy, whatever…those things have your heart…and your heart says yes.

Yes, is a reflection of your value system.

Healthy or unhealthy, the thing you agree to do is a direct expression of the person you agree you are and the deepest desire of that person at any particular moment. 

I am a personal trainer, a weight loss expert, if you will allow such a glorified definition.  When working with anyone, I always ask why, and I continue to ask the same person the same question over and over again, sometimes for years… because most people don’t know their own answer, and many pay no attention to the story their life is telling, even fewer recognize when the two are in contradiction.  Most people don’t realize that they are already living out their highest current value system…they just don’t like the result.  They don’t like the sum of all their previous yes’s.  They hire me to sort it out.

Journeying through body change is essentially an exposure of beliefs, the reality of ones circumstances, inherent values, and integrity.  So it’s always seemed kind of cheap to dumb it down into a before and after picture, but it’s the language of the day so that’s what I sometimes do.  For me however, the point isn’t to get a shockingly magnificent body transformation that allows you to feel confident wearing the latest fashion thing if that doesn’t fill the emptiness of your soul.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t keep anyone from trying, and social media has infinite evidence of anyone tiring of that anytime soon.

Likewise our daily lives, our jobs, our families, our future hopes and dreams…all reflections of what we have said yes to…all the expression of who we agreed that we are.  Even our social media accounts are an artistic arrangement of the idealized self.  Its not entirely wrong but it is entirely damning in its exposure.

Yet I hope and I wonder, if I were to use a higher question,  if I were to acknowledge my creator, would my yes be the same kind as its been…or can it change?   Can I fix my heart on an unchanging God so that it changes my deepest desire? Sometimes beautifully hidden things come from the desire for love, adventure, meaning, or purpose.  When your heart says yes from your God given desire, however imperfectly executed, it’s usually overwhelmingly accurate.

As we enter a brave new world and leave quarantine, what relationships, what events, what commitments will get our yes?…what foods, what habits, what activities?  There has been an unexpected break in rhythm.  Life is different now and we have an opportunity to change our answer.

Who do people say you are?… and did you agree with them on purpose?  

Yes, to a different pace…that may be slower…or faster if you’re lazy.

Yes, to moving forward with bravery…you’re still alive… so maybe consider why.

Yes, to health in all its forms…try again… but be honest.

Yes, to knowing who God says you are…It may change every yes you say from now on.

If we are the sum of every yes, then what will that equal when all added up?  If you have lived through this, you are still most likely going to die later…most likely.  I think It’s not a bad question to ask yourself if you think you’ll like the answer…I hope. it’s yes.

If not, I hope you know that the numbers aren’t all in yet.  You can change your answer.  You can seek a God who says yes to who He created you to be and let each decision add up to something devastatingly miraculous.  He redeems years that locust have eaten, He is yesterday and tomorrow, He says Yes and Amen.

This girl doesn’t think she’s ugly. She also doesn’t think she’s pretty. This girl doesn’t think much about how she looks at all.

This girl doesn’t worry about your opinion of her pony.

This girl is not concerned with the adequacy of her clothing, or money, or ability…and she certainly isn’t concerned that her mother for some unknown reason, thought it necessary to perm her hair.

It would be years before she would fight for the rights to her own hair.

It would be years before she learned that she wasn’t loved by everyone; that she wasn’t safe with everyone.
It would be years before she was told how unworthy she was…how ugly, how stupid, how fat, how weird, how messy, how loud, how poor, and how different.

But this girl is wild. This girl will mess up your house and eat all your food. This girl knows clothing is an option, but not a good one. This girl is always dirty and mostly jumping on things. This girl is a perfect little hedonist. She wakes up to play, eats her fill without guilt, and rests without making excuses.

She hasn’t yet realized the things she won’t be good at…or that being an astronaut or a mermaid is off the table.
She doesn’t know that fractions are hard and that prom is, at best, disappointing.
She doesn’t yet know that her clothes, her looks, and her grades will determine who wants to be associated with her.

This girl doesn’t know what’s ahead.
This girl doesn’t know that to some she will only be a punching bag and to others she will only be a body.
This girl doesn’t know that she will make decisions from fear and impulse, that she will shamelessly grasp for attention, or one day helplessly claw for the unconditional love she was born to crave.

But, this girl…right here…she knows…every hurt and disappointment. She knows every disapproving Baptist look, and every girl she wished she looked like, She remembers every boy that punched her in the stomach or threw her into a wall…or worse…ignored her. Every time the longing to be included was met with exclusion.

She knows the pride, the anger, the bitterness, and the shame of being human. She may have been wounded, but she did her share of wounding. She may have been hurt, but she returned her share of hurting.

She knows the world is broken.

When she looks back on that tiny version of herself, she thinks she understands a little of what heaven is like…a little of what God is like.

We are born helpless into brokenness. We are born flawed physically and spiritually and from there, we tend to navigate poorly.
Some are allowed stability and ease; some are born into depravity, and many, are somewhere in between.
But in every childhood there still exists a kind of freedom unrestricted by self-protection, an ability to be present and a joy that is not yet mixed with sadness…that has to be close to heaven.

I love this girl.

I know what she’s in for and yet I still don’t know what awaits her. What I do know is that she is unconditionally loved and fearlessly accepted. I know that regardless of what is done to her or what she does, she is protected and forgiven. I know she will love and lose and fail and fear, but I know God is a good father who gives good gifts and doesn’t waste the suffering of His children.

And even if she suffered a little she would enjoy far more grace than is common. That girl rode horses and swam all summer. She traveled the world. She had deep friendships, good health, and sound sleep.

Bad will happen. Live long past childhood and it is inevitable. It is when we learn how dark the world is that we can truly appreciate what is light. If nothing has been bad enough for you then I find that nothing will ever be good enough.

This girl looks back on that girl with gratitude and perhaps a little loss, but looking forward, can only smile at the future and perhaps demand another pony…

Occasionally, my generally content, mostly grateful heart becomes generally, mostly unsatisfied.   I experience a laps in what most would consider “good character” and occasionally I feel what most would consider to be something akin to “ungrateful entitlement”…This bothers me about myself.  Perhaps I am confessing as a way to finally kill my private darkness with light, but I thought I’d tease out shameful behavior in a shamelessly public way. 

In these moments, I tend to think about what it is that I am and what it is I have and hold it against what I should be and am not.  Simply put, I compare what I have learned from the world around me as the standard of awesome, and recognize that I fall embarrassingly short of the mark…which, I suppose, is a normal human thing to do.  What unsettles me about this undesirable comparison is that without anyone else in the world to have anything different than what I have, I would never ever think to want anything else.  I have all that I could ever need, I am cared for, I have clothes, I have food, I have shelter, I am really, generally, fortunate.  I have crazy amounts of undeserved blessing.  I am every day humbled by grace and everyday blessed with abundance…and yet….The thought that other people might not think I’m blessed, or  awesome, or significant, really just nags at the ugly parts of my soul.  And whether you like it or not, I am going to assume that you do this as well…or social media as a dominating force in this culture would not be a thing. 

I sat at dinner the other night with my husband, and, as I generally do, asked him annoyingly weighty questions like, “If there were anyone else you could be, would you quit being David Storvick and go be that person?”….also, “how many burgers do you think I could eat before people started judging my ability to process emotions in a healthy way…?”

His answer, “No one…and, about four…” 

I agreed.

Of all the wealthy, fabulous, fancy people I have known, I wouldn’t ask to be any of them…so why would I envy what they have or feel “less than” what they are?

There are very few people I have met who, once knowing them, I would change places or circumstances with.  I have traveled to places of extreme poverty and obscene wealth.  I have known and worked alongside the struggling factory worker, the Pakistani refugee, the independently wealthy child of an even wealthier father, the missionary, the single mom, the trafficked orphan, and the spoiled brat.  I have spent time in Papua New Guinea, Israel, Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Cambodia, Ireland, Scotland, and Greece.  I have worked for family farmers and for wealthy sheikhs.  As I have watched their lives lived out, witnessed their character, shared their space, there is not one I can say has any more peace and purpose than I have.  I would not want their power, and I would not choose their path.  They are as flawed and floundering as I am.  They have perhaps different problems than myself, but they are all essentially hopelessly fighting their own version of discontent.

The very rich are as miserable as the very poor…except perhaps even more so because they have exhausted all the resources the poor can only hope for…and there is something in the hoping they have lost. 

One country is as corrupt and violent as another except where it benefits the powerful to keep relative peace.  While America is full of the fairly entitled and is mostly distracted by nonsense, I still like it the best, because the water is fairly safe and the infrastructure is mostly reliable.  So you see, there is no amount of being anyone else or living anywhere else I should possibly long for.

When I slow down enough to think about the “why” for more, I usually stop before the truth…not today.  

Why would I want more money? What would I do with it that would bring me more joy than I have right now?  It stresses me out to think of how to get it, keep it, and who to leave it to when I’m dead.

Why would I want to have a different body or be more attractive?  What is the point other than the manipulative power that comes from beauty…It is a currency that evaporates as soon as you are savvy enough to use it.  The value of beauty is that it is only ever valuable to others, and often enslaving to its bearer.   

Why would I want a bigger, nicer house other than the envy it incites and the status you’d assume?  I don’t like entertaining, and I don’t have time to clean it.

When I think about why, I am ashamed to think I thought it at all.  When I have all that I need, could the reason that I want more be that what I really want is for you to think I am more awesome than I really am?…gross.

Just as penance, I am right now laying what is true out there.  Quite literally, I have nothing.

The only material wealth I have had as an adult, I have had because the man I married is educated and a good provider.  There is very little that I possess that is due to my ability to earn what the world says I should have to be at such and such a status. 

This was never more obvious than when I went through a divorce a few years ago and was left with the nothing I had come into the marriage with.  (side note: if a lawyer divorces you, get a lawyer)

In a western world where most are entitled to so much paid vacation time, 401k matches, and weekends off, those things are only unicorns to me…magical, and above my pay grade.  I grew up quite poor, I have no formal education beyond high school, and the vocational path I chose has been a rugged series of roots and crevasses, and not the structured and predictable corporate ladder.  As a result, sometimes, while struggling over a particularly unwieldy root, I stare with longing at the lives of those who have what appears to be stability.  Deep down, I understand that there is no such thing as “safe” and that stability is a fantasy… but it is a fantasy I would sometimes very much like to get high and live in…sometimes.

So perhaps the discontent I sometimes feel is more about what I  want you to think of me, rather than what I actually think.  Could it be I am more concerned with you thinking I’m happy than actually being happy?  Could It be that what I want is respect whether or not I am respectable?  And is it possible that what I desire is honor, instead of humility in the presence of a God who gifts it all.   If that’s the case, and I’m afraid it may sometimes be… then I have some business to do with this particular character flaw.

I hereby release the effort to make you think I’m awesome.

I release my horrifying desire to be envied and honored and even elevated.

I release the image I wish you’d see rather than the reality of my reflection.

I release the strength I pretend to have.

I release the intelligence I project when I’m fairly uneducated.

I release the hypocrisy of projecting myself as a “good person,” when I know that I’m really not.

I release the god’s I’ve made of the worlds opinions, and the worship I give to temporal things.

 It is when I let my gaze drift that I find the discomfort of my discontent.  It is when I choose to look at a fantasy.   It is when I take my eyes off of the purpose of my own life and with no small amount of insolence ask God for more.  I have seen enough to know it’s a phantom…I should know better.  I should know enough not to chase wind.  Ecclesiastes says “All things are wearisome…there is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also… is from the hand of God.  For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?”

When I look for enjoyment from creation instead of the creator, when I look at shadows of perfection instead of a God who is perfect, when I chase wind, I always end up unsatisfied and weary.  In these moments, I remind myself of what is true.  I slow down enough to notice that I have all that I need and have been created to be nothing other than what I am.  There is nothing better…and that’s pretty awesome.

Sundays are good days. Intentionally quite days. Days David and I rest from the endless cycle of production and expectation. This Sunday was not much different with the exception of my breaking one of those quiet moments to be irrational and insecure…Sometimes, I needlessly chase those thoughts other people seem content to ignore…That just how I roll…like one of those obsessive greyhounds…its charming.

I wake up first from a nap and gaze at my husband, still sleeping peacefully.

He is patient. He is kind. He is the human I trust the most and the place where I can rest.

And yet…looking at him in that moment, like many moments since we’ve been married, my sense of calm is disrupted with inaudible tension. When I should be blissfully grateful I am instead uncomfortably fearful. I hate being afraid, so I move into much more manageable emotions…aggression and insecurity.

He wakes… possibly from my blink-less staring and writhing internal energy, and I start up…

“Are you always going to like me?”
“Where’s the anger?… When is that going to show up?”
“Is this the real you?… when are you going to start shutting down? When are you going to flip the switch?”
“…It’s fine…I know it’s my fault… I just need to know when because I’m getting soft…I’m getting too accustomed to this niceness, and it’s making me nervous”….”When is the other shoe gonna drop?!

To which he responded, “Um, what?…”

So yeah.. I begin the kind of cry that is not cute. His initial confusion giving way to concerned listening. He has no choice. I had to exercise that demon at last and he has already learned that it’s best to be still and wait for the end. When at last I look up, He says,

“You are a blessing to me, and never a burden.”
“This is who I am.”
“I love you like crazy. I see your crazy, and I’m not going anywhere.”

I had spent nine years in another marriage. He wasn’t a bad person, but he was a broken person and I wasn’t much better. Nine years living a cycle that continues in my mind three years later and has now poisoned my nap time.

A week maybe two, into that first marriage, depression, anger and anxiety took him over and would be my real spouse for the remainder of that decade. I remember numbly making an internal calendar where I could keep track of the good to bad day ratios. Where I could prepare to wall up against the inevitable hurt. Where I planned for winter.
One day good: One week bad.
One week good: Three weeks bad.
One month good: Four months bad.

It was the cycle I would come to live by and count on. I could hunker down in the bad and wait for the good. I walked on eggshells in the good because I feared triggering the bad. Every moment was edged with tension as I absorbed the next swing, the next week of silent treatment, the next outburst, the next dark cycle. Just before I felt I might break, he broke back into a moment of normal where I could convince myself that everything was fine. It wasn’t. I tried to be perfect. I tried to be strong. I tried to be pretty, and happy, and awesome. I wasn’t. In the end, I failed…hard…and I was really tired. My pride kept me alone. My insecurity kept me quiet. My grief kept me angry.

Here’s the thing…I am not living that life anymore.

So why am I still re-living that cycle?… Why am I still braced for bad? I struggle to rest in the good I now have because I could never trust the good I had before. And yet… if I continue to live an old life, I let the new life die. I give honor to those broken things instead of pouring energy into the future before me and hope within me.

That thing back there. That relationship, that failure, that hurt, that sin, that embarrassment, that anger…they have no power here. That thing happened, but it is no longer happening.

We all do this in one way or another. We all let the memory of an old pattern bind our forward progress. We operate from places of familiarity even when they are wrong or painful. We make excuses for our hesitation in risk and expect nothing to change. We accept poor treatment or bad behavior because we are convinced its all we’ve known and all we deserve. We drag a lifeless past into the places meant only for the living.

I can stop waiting for the shoe to drop because it already did. I endured that thing. I felt that fear. I lost that fight. I had enough. I was enough. I am enough, because I’m still here…that’s enough now. There is enough danger in the present to need my full attention. There are other opportunities to be brave. There is a good life right here if I am willing to let what was bad die. Not because I’m still angry, but because it’s useless and heavy.

You’re not dead yet, but perhaps you keep dragging what needs to die along, for no other reason than the stench is familiar. Acknowledge it, drag it into the light and have a good long look, then pull the life support you supply and walk away. Perhaps it’s a habit. Perhaps it’s a relationship. Perhaps it’s a job. Perhaps it’s a mindset.

For me… perhaps it’s time. It’s time to stop living old lives. It’s time to let them die. It’s time to kill old fear and starve old hate. It’s time to forget what is behind and press into what is ahead… (Philippians 3:13) It’s time to let my husband love me and live the life ahead of me.

And probably, I will wake him up from many more naps, with many more irrational things to cry about… and he knows that… and he doesn’t ask me to be any other way… I like this life.

1 Chronicles 28:20

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God is with you…”

Another week goes by. Another Sunday I sit and can barely believe the direction we head.  One step, one moment one breath at a time we proceed in spite of fear and fatigue.

Last week was the first of many Tuesdays at Hope Center Indy.  Last Friday we again held chapel service for the women of the Volunteers of America Fresh Start program in downtown Indianapolis.  This week we look to extend yet again.  We work through complicated scheduling and uncertainty.  We wrestle internally with inadequacy and sorrow.  At the end of each day, David and I stare blankly at each other and cannot find the words to define the day.  We simply marvel at a God who allows us to share in the work.

Another week as their stories become a part of ours.  Another door opened, another scale falls from our eyes, another reason we can never turn back.  We hear them sing, we let them cry.  We get to be a part of their recovery and they are among the most refreshing parts of our day.  Gone is pretense. They can’t afford the walls the rest of us have built.  They are raw and they are wonderful.  

A girl asks for prayer,  she just wants her kids to forgive her.  A girl is abused as a pawn in her mother’s Satanic worship.  A girl fears going home knowing her pattern of relapse.  A girl wants her baby back but lives with the shame of the past.  A girl is beaten by someone who should have loved her. A girl has been raped by her father.  A girl has lost her husband to overdose…A girl recoils at kindness when hate is all she knows.

And yet… A girl sings with beauty and boldness, fully alive in her gift.  A girl commits her life to Christ.  A girl is hopeful.  A girl presses in to moving forward.  A girl embraces the God who sustained her.  A girl holds tightly to forgiveness.  A girl is baptized.  A girl releases her past and grins about her future.

Take it in.

These girls are your neighbors. These girls are your sisters.  These girls are in need of more than a government funded detox program or a well-meaning Christian handout.   They need us to get over ourselves.  They need us to stop worrying about things that don’t matter and get to work.  They need to walk out into a community that doesn’t fear them…doesn’t judge them.

So many of you want to help.  So many of you have offered support. We need it.

We need your prayer. We need your encouragement.  We need your talent.  We need your money.  We need your time.

But they need more.  They need foster parents who can weather the demons of addiction. They need a church family that is ferociously devoted to condition-less love.  They need know that they are not alone in their brokenness.  They need to know  that Jesus stands up for us in the midst of an accusing world,  and without flinching says “…Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11)  They need to see that in us.

The work is unfamiliar.  The outcome is uncertain.  The call is unmistakable: Be strong and do the work.  In our case, we just show up and watch God work.  Every time, It is a miraculous exposure of His power perfected in our weakness.   

If I can require anything of you today, it is this:  just show up.

Do the work you are called to do.  Hold comfort and competence lightly in your hands and trust that God is with you.  There is something more for you to do. There is a need.  You have a purpose.  Now you know.

After what was for me, a fairly brutal week, I am driving downtown to the Volunteers of America building where they house their “Fresh Start Recovery” center.  It is a relatively new and desperately needed program where the mothers of opioid addiction are allowed to keep their children through the grueling process of recovery.  It is a beautiful provision in an ugly situation.  It is by grace alone that I have been allowed to work with these women who are far braver than I will ever be.  It is a sweet breaking of my heart, and a bitter reality to face.

I’m wearing a shirt my husband, in his kindness, had made for me, per my specifications, featuring our logo and the word “FEARLESS” embroidered on the front.  I had wanted our ministry to project boldness in a broken world…at least that was my intent…but, as I drive, I am filled with what I can only describe as fear itself.

As usual, I left the house in a series of random scurrying movements, always underestimating the amount of time it takes me to do basic things. My dog-owner guilt is in the red as I leave Sherman without a walk, suffering from an ear infection and food allergy that is costing me more money than I have.

The week behind has been filled with boxes checked and schedules filled.  I completed a certification exam I had expertly procrastinated and had long been dreading.   We had our very first board meeting as a fledgling non-profit.  Up until this point, I had no idea what “bylaws” even were and, after sitting through a two and a half hour meeting Wednesday night, I am discouraged to think that I still don’t really know…I’m cold, I’m behind at work, I’m tired, discouraged with feelings of inadequacy, and despite my best efforts, crying.  Ah yes…just what everyone wants to see as they roll up alongside someone at a stop light…a messy haired, pasty complexioned, white girl… weeping…claiming to be FEARLESS…inspiring.

148 ministries began as a quietly held breath in my mind over 2 years ago as I sat one morning at 4 am in the middle of reading a book by Christine Caine called “Unashamed.”  I had found myself in a circumstance I never expected to be, in a place I didn’t want to be, and working a job I had told myself I would never again be working.

There I sat, divorced after 9 difficult years, in Michigan, on a horse farm.  In those small morning hours, I would read, or pray, or cry, or do all three at the same time in an unexplainable feat of emotional acrobatics. 

There, for the first time, I became aware of the trafficking exploitation of women and children with all of its global proportions, and its moral implications.  And like waking up to a sharp pain, I adjusted my cramped, narrow position.  I am not formally educated, I am not degreed, I am not even easily focused, and yet in that moment I knew I wanted to use the only thing I knew, as the Lord chose to lead, to serve in the healing of His daughters.  As I turns out, I understood only too well the scars of physical and emotional abuse, about the self-inflicted lies that bind all women in fear, and the healing, proving ground that physical stress and unconditional support could have.  I did not know how or when, but I did know God was speaking there, and admittedly with some fear I trusted that He knew the plan, and that it was to give me a future and a hope. (Jer 29:11)

Still a bit sulky, I haul what feels like 497 pounds of workout equipment onto my person and trudge through sloppy snow to the front door, I’m buzzed in by the always cheery attendant, and without a hesitation force an equally cheery face that must have been on retainer for such occasions as this. 

I rush to clear the all-purpose room of tables, I accidentally set off an alarm that could wake the dead, and follow that up by locking myself out. I am helpless as I wait to be rescued from the hallway…ln defiance, I crank up the grittiest Christian rap I can find on Pandora but get annoyed by it and land on a fairly clean station featuring Jenifer Lopez…whatever…I’m not proud.  

Around 10 minutes past the time I have been scheduled to start, girls uncommittedly filter in.  There are six.  Two are quiet and look like they hate me.  One is pregnant.  Two others are uncontrollably running around and disorienting the equipment I strategically laid out. One leaves because she has reconsidered her choice of pants…she may or may not return. None of them have reasonable shoes.

I don’t know how…every time I’m pretty sure I black out…but the next hour is a mess of introduction, warm-up, explanations, instruction, adaptation, exasperation, laughter, complaining, quitting, explaining again… and again.

They are unconditioned, unmotivated, and pretty unimpressed by my attempt to share my love of fitness.  

Heroine or Meth or some other drug I’ve never even heard of has rung their lives out.  Every day, every moment, for them is suffocated with the overwhelming call of a chemical relationship that can numb their pain and remove their shame.  Every moment they have to fight to love their kids more than they hate themselves.  Every moment they have to be fearless.  

We sit stretching in a circle on the floor.  Some tell their story while I fight for the ability to relate.  I cannot.  I am out of my league here too.  I ask if they want help with workout ideas they can do without equipment, if they have questions about nutrition or weight loss.  Some do.  I ask if they have anything they would like me to pray for or with them.  In doing so, I am asking them to give me the privilege of their trust I don’t yet deserve. Some do, and I pray with and for them.

They filter out. I pick up the 497 estimated pounds of crap I hauled in there…somehow its lighter…and leave the building without setting off an alarm this time. 

I sit in my car and exhale that quietly held breath.  

I am not without fear.  I am not without anxiety, sadness, anger, or complete disorientation.  Somehow I thought this would be easier, but I had no idea just how perfect.  No idea how an incomprehensibly good God could use my clumsy effort to show a few women on a Friday afternoon that hears them when they pray.  148 Ministries was a thought placed by God, a path provided for by God, with a human effort protected by God.  I know for sure just how insufficient I am, but I also know just how sufficient He is. 

Driving home, I know there is infinite work to be done, plans to move forward and expand and to step into a mess I don’t even understand.  Tears start to fill my eyes again, but this time with the overwhelming recognition that I just got schooled in His undeserved faithfulness.  God provided a way for the last thing and He will provide a way through the next thing.  I can step forward, not without fear, but in spite of it.  Not because I am good, but because He is.  Not because I am strong, or smart, or steady under pressure, but because He is steadfast, and patient, and He works all things according to his purpose and timing.  In that promise I can rest fearlessly.

I write it at the top of a new entry, 1/1/18.  This is the first time I have written it out and acknowledged the existence of a new year.  I am sitting comfortably in an over sized  chair,  wrapped in a ridiculously, large blanket, in a cozy room decorated with my particular style of “random things I like”.   I am married to a man who knows me fully and still loves me…even likes me, have a job that is a blessing to me, and a ministry in the hopeful stages of beginning before me.

I am overwhelmed.  I am weary.  I am speechless. I am unworthy. I am fearful, grateful, peaceful, purposeful and just plain in awe of what the turning of 365 days can do.  The last 3 years…arguably the last 10 years, perhaps even 20 if you’ll allow me to dig that deep have been a constant cycle of nomadic, restlessness, lonely, and without grounding or purpose.  Held captive by wandering, discontent with contentment, limited by my own arguments, and arguing for my own freedom.

I have landed, it seems by grace, for a moment, in a place where I feel loved, where I feel my home is.  I am where I feel that illusive lightness of knowing that I am cared for, protected, and safe.  I am shocked by the power in such simplicity and am led to consider that once we leave home for the first time under the pretense of autonomy, we are from that point forward working to re-create those feelings we once knew as unconditional love and unchallenged safety.  No matter what we end up doing in the world of adulthood, we are nevertheless only doing it so that (If we had a good childhood) we can reestablish the feelings of a safe family unit, and (if we had a bad childhood) we work to create what we think that may be.  In opposition and far more destructive, are those who passively attempt to forever remain children or passively slide into further dysfunction.  Neither is desirable but are nonetheless working from a frame of reference that they believe will bring comfort.

As I see it, we long for peace, community and everlasting acceptance.  The moment we realize that these are not the characteristics of this present world, we are forever straining consciously or unconsciously to create at least a pocket-sized version of protection.  

So, yes, after 20 years I feel at home, and yet, I am not.  If I see myself rightly, I see a nomad.  Walking the earth for a breath and then gone.  Our lives are short.  I am perhaps half way through my own if I allow natural decay to run its course and avoid stepping in front of a bus.  When I consider its brevity, I become sometimes painfully aware that if there is a point, I am missing most of it when I settle for what makes me comfortable and safe.

1 Chronicles 29:15 states “For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were.  Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding…”

I still sit here, comfortably in my chair, grateful for a moment of rest but mindful that I am transient.  This life I take hold of, and all of its pitfalls, glory, disappointments, and joy, cannot be taken lightly.  I tumble through it like so many bulls in so many china shops. I fail.  I fall.  I break things.  I learn.  I rest.  I move again.  All the time I recognize that fearing the journey is a waste of time, and falling hard is a result of running hard.

Be mindful of what you are searching and longing for, but know that you won’t find it here.  We are created for relationship with God, for work in His kingdom, and for resting in His presence.  Regardless of where your journey takes you, that is where you are home.

You don’t get a divorce because you’re emotionally healthy, flourishing, content, or strong.

You don’t leave your home because you feel safe and loved.

You don’t walk away from everything because you are whole and confident and rational.

You don’t hear logic when you feel shame. You don’t seek community when you crave isolation. You can’t take the advice given in truth when you don’t trust their love.

You don’t seek approval, or grasp for identity, or turn your life inside out…you just don’t.

But when you do all of those things and you are also a Christian you are left on the periphery of a moral question.  You are both shunned and pitied. You are a demonstration of grace and an example of destruction. You are a subject of what I like to call prayer request gossip and you are seen through a filter of fear and confusion. 

Christians know what to do with Unbelievers; they know how to treat the poor and the disenfranchised.  They are filled with love enough for the whole heathen world, and yet when it comes to their own, panic sets in.  What do you do with a girl who’s just a bad Christian?…what do you do with the bad girl?   How can she really be a Christian and fail to keep her list of sins within the “acceptable” range…like gluttony, or hatred?… How did she miss behavior modification at the moment of conversion?

I learned more about grace going through a divorce than I ever did sitting quietly through a sermon.  I learned about a God who walked with me moment by moment through loneliness, bitterness, fear, and self-loathing.  I learned that there were limits to my goodness, kindness, self-control, and long suffering and I learned that when I could do nothing but fail, He loved me still.  My faith stands in spite of my circumstances. The fact that I could do nothing other than what I did and that it cannot be undone only serves as a continual reminder of what Christ does for me daily. Only when I could no longer make anybody believe I was good, did I learn that we walk well only as we understand we are loved without deserving it.   We lose the ability to stand on our own self-righteousness but we find instead we are covered in His obedience.  Behavior modification alone is merely a parlor trick creating false comfort for distant judges and a paralyzing fear within the offender.  

Humans have a very finite threshold for experiences they do not understand.  I lost friends…mostly strong Christian friends.  Through no fault of their own, I simply became too much of an inconsistency.  These are strong girls… good girls…girls with a healthy fear of consequences and perhaps a stronger faith.  Our sins and failures often cast a shadow and sometimes that is in the love we lose.   I cannot and I would not change the path I chose or the place I now am.  I crawled through a pit to discover a God who is worth my faith no matter what my circumstance.  My repentance is in a life lived forward for His glory.  Because He first loved me and always loved me, I can operate from a position reflecting that love.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” – Ephesians 2:8-9.

When you are a Christian woman and you find yourself at the end of yourself, you make decisions with the knowledge you have and the will you have left, and you fall at the feet of a God who still calls you daughter.