The time I get to sit is rare anymore.  Most of my time these days is spent managing the gym I’m partnered in, working with the nonprofit my husband and I began, and coaching clients both in person and online through the labyrinth that is physical health.  It seems like a lot when I say it like that… especially when I consider how much I actually enjoy sitting and doing relatively nothing with a good book and fluffy blanket.  Alas.

  I wish I could say that I choose to read and meditate on scripture in the original Greek and Hebrew all while marking my Bible up with various colors of highlighter.  I wish that I worked more diligently on my writing or that I studied independent news media to keep an open mind toward the realities of current events.  Mostly, I don’t.  Sometimes I shop, sometimes I watch YouTube videos about how to do yoga for self-care, and then proceed not to do yoga for self-care.  Sometimes, like today, I get caught up in scrolling social platforms and get huffy, or envious, or worse…I start to compare.  

Today was particularly tricky because it was my own feed that got under my skin, and it’s just a bummer to be the source of your own disappointment.  It began innocently enough; I was trying to be productive… (It occurs to me that that sentence should be written on my headstone)…anyway…I was rolling through my Instagram looking for old writing content to move to a different page. 

It should be said here that scrolling to the bottom of one’s social media feed should legally require the oversight of a licensed therapist.  I felt things.  None of those things were that great.  

I don’t know who that girl was six years ago, but she sure was into fitness…and I don’t know who that girl was three years ago, but she sure was into Jesus.  Each frame is unforgiving.  Each little write up is a kind of sweet wound.  Kinda cute.  Kinda painful.  It’s not that I’m no longer into fitness or Jesus anymore…It’s just…different.  

I don’t mind admitting it made me a little sad that I don’t feel like I used to about fitness or ministry.  I know social media is the place where we all say things with lots of passions and agendas, but you get a different feeling when you live in between and long after the frames.  As I scrolled down through years of posts they exposed me as shamefully attention seeking all the way around to an unsophisticated saint.   Looking around for a therapist and finding none, I was left to my own analysis…”you seem kinda stupid” I said to myself and finished the analysis.

Five years ago, in a different marriage, scraping out my own business, I was a girl whose faith was placed in work ethic.   I had grown up in, and had grown out of, church. I believed in God, but was desperate for that God to turn his face away from me.  Up to that season in life, I had learned one thing about faith; whatever it was, I didn’t have enough of it.  I tried really hard to be religious.  I tried to fit in at church.  It always culminated with a big, fat, faithless, failure on my part.  So, five years ago, I had already resolved to lay low, spiritually speaking.  It was a pretty solid strategy.  You can see it in my posting.  You can hear it in my writing. It was a faith that kept heaven out of reach and hoped for God not to notice. 

Years of posts later, I’m different girl.  My current husband and I began a nonprofit ministry.  I had started life over with a new job…all the blessings.  The posts were from a girl steeped in faith.  The things I wrote and the way I thought dripping with scripture.  Faith had awoke in the wide-eyed kind of way one gets when falling in love with the childhood friend who’d been there all along.  Somehow in the space of three years’ worth of posts I had a heart that seemed to beat harder for the sufferings of others.  Somehow being closer to my own pain provided more empathy then than feels like I have right now.   I was quick to serve, energized, and full of the kind of optimism that thinks everyone should care as much as I did.  You can see it in my posting.  You can feel it in my writing.

I seemed like a much better person to me then, than I do right now. I seemed like an entirely different species from the girl of six years ago.  There’s always a bit of melancholy mixed with memories, and this was no exception.  Looking through the past,  I felt like my faith wasn’t what it once was and, if that was true, was it ever what I thought it was?  Yeah…that’s the kinda stuff I think about sitting around.

I don’t feel like I used to.  

I don’t rush to the side of a girl who thinks she sees demons in her room at 10 o’clock at night.  I don’t try to listen to every plea for help or attention.  I don’t push to get involved with other nonprofits because I think they might get me more connected.  I don’t get upset when I can’t give what is asked for.  When I can, I don’t get any feeling of chills or any such tingly thing.  Every one of our volunteers is a much better person than I am, and I am well aware we are nothing without them.  

I used to think everything was such a big deal.  That we were going to change the world by speaking love and life into those who were marginalized and abused.  That never really happened, at least not from my particular vantage point.  In the last three years I have been a guest in the lives of more than a few drug addicts.  I have been stood up on Thanksgiving for hours while the girl I waited for was sleeping off her latest hit.  There have been countless hours of portable workouts and church services, late night hospital visits, baby gifts, and prayer requests.  I have watched merciless cycles of relapse on repeat.  I have been disappointed by people I thought were different than I thought, and humbled by people whose goodness was hidden by what I thought was otherwise.  I am sometimes harshly judgmental of choices I think are foolish from people whose pain I can never fully understand.     I am often changing my opinion about what is holy.  And sometimes, I don’t think all the effort matters at all. 

I don’t think ministry is that big of a deal anymore.  I think it’s just a kind of living where you are in the midst of God in the space of others. It’s simpler and infinitely more difficult.  Every day, sometimes every hour of every day, I am surrounded by people of every kind and I can’t tell which is ministry or who is ministering to whom anymore. 

 I struggle to love, I’m selfish with my time, outcomes are seldom what I think they should be, and I’m often salty.  I can be discouraged by the smallness of what we do but simultaneously, uncomfortably overwhelmed by just how big that smallness really is. I am uncomfortable in church.  And in fact, I get envious and cynical when I see churchy people post or say what I think is vending machine Christianity.  I don’t want to hear it.  I don’t think it’s cute anymore. I can be a relapsing cynic. Like that girl I was so many years ago, I already know I’m not faithful enough, unlike her, I’m not interested in hiding or pretending but I’m also not jumping up and down shoutin’ Hallelujah,  joining a small group. 

The faith I used to have…both the kind that was barely enough to be called a mustard seed and the kind that thought anything good was possible have given way to whatever I have now.  It’s battle tired, sometimes skeptical, but daily renewed. It’s no matter what, and whatever I’ve got. It’s been broken down but it’s far less frail.  Its less flashy but more formed.  It’s not cute or post-able, because it simply is the thing that continues to believe God turns toward us even when He knows we don’t have enough.  

 The faith of the young biblical character, David, who killed a giant, had a kingdom singing his praises…It seemed like a big deal.  But keep scrolling and that same David, many years later, forced to his knees in repentance after moral failure, still had faith… It probably didn’t feel the same.   Yet, it was probably harder for an old man to trust that God would forgive him, than it was for a young man to trust for Gods victory.  His faith actually had to be stronger for him to hold to it in the midst of failure.  A young man full of hope and without as many mistakes has a different kind of faith. But faith over time is thickened and hard like a callous formed to fit the work. It is year after year that one experiences God in all circumstances and finds Him faithful enough to look at us squarely and say “this, still, is one after my own heart.”

What I realized was that much of my sadness over the kind of faith I used to have was just a faulty judgement of what my faith should now be…what it “should” feel like.     Faith, however, is more in the doing than in the feeling.  Sometimes it’s only strong enough to stand still, sometimes its hands in the air singing hallelujah, and sometimes it’s head down and do the thing again.  As the years go by, if you expose it to a world that makes hard demands, it gets tough.  It won’t feel like it used to but it will be stronger than it ever was, not on its own merit, but because it has seen who He is over and over again regardless of who you were.  It has always been small and simple, but it actually is a really big deal.

In conclusion, maybe be more productive in your down time.  And when you’re tired, don’t scroll your own feed digging up what you’ve already buried under years of filters and circumstance.  Expose the faith you have to things that might ugly it up a little bit, but just may toughen it up a lot.

Why do you do whatever it is you do?

I’ve been thinking about that lately.  The world stopped for a precious minute and we’ve all had time to ask ourselves for the first time in the history of probably ever why we do what we do without the eyes of the outside world expecting much.  We have had a literal minute of silence followed by a horrific noise leaving us all speechless, and Silence again.

So, no one is paying attention but everyone is watching.   What matters to you? What do you actually care about?  The world was stopped and now its inflamed.  Everyone is speechless with their mouths hanging open and I ask myself why and what next.

I love transformation.  I seek out people who want transformation.  My life has been a process of slow transformation, and transformation is the kind of work I do with my life.  While I make my living in the physical transformation of bodies, I get to be a part of the spiritual, mental, and emotional  transformation that is all part of a divided whole.

This picture feels like what we so desperately want.  This little girl, arms open wide, shamelessly joining in what she hopes to be good, and where she hopes to be included.  It may just be the warm up to a workout, but she’s all in.  She knows getting it perfect doesn’t matter, she’s already loved.   She has no shame in her.  She’ll do as much as she wants, stop when she wants, and take her shoes off at inappropriate times.  Those of us surrounding her are riddled with obligation, addiction, and bear the consequences of living past her age, but are quietly, desperately trying to get back to her.

While my job is training and helping run a gym and nonprofit ministry, what is it really that I want to do?  Strip down the logo and expose the foundation and what is it that drives me to keep trying?… It took me more than a minute of thinking and staring out of windows serenely, but now I know, when it’s all shut down or burned up,  my heart wants this:

To be a witness to transformation.  To invite strong women who have let life teach them to be small to embrace the bigness of their soul and to feel the even biggerness of God’s grace as they break things on the way. 

And to watch the boarders of privilege blend with poverty.  In the same room…Rich with poor, Weak with strong, sober with addicts…all the colors. To see the pious and the social outcast share life.  To live out stories that ground us to our knees in empathy for the load every one of us is carrying.  

You see?…Its never just a job or a place…or a gym.  It’s  where we meet together to accomplish a thing.  Where we sweat and struggle and lean into what is hard on purpose.  Its where getting to the goal demands getting rid of old habits, fears, and the weight of self-protection.  All in.  Everyone exposed.

I love transformations.  It’s part of what makes me love training the body.  I  love that moment we wake up to recognize that we have strayed far from the little girl who didn’t hide, and didn’t worry, and didn’t try to control.

It doesn’t matter if you’re fresh out of jail battling a 20 year drug addiction, or a soccer mom faking your happiness  worrying about what happens to your marriage when the kids leave home. It doesn’t matter if you are black, brown, or white.  A holy thing happens when you start to pay attention…and then you decide…and then you move. Transformation.

It’s really brave, really messy, sometimes inconsistent, and there’s no limit of bartering, begging, or re starting.  It’s all transformation.  It starts sometimes from your hatred for what evil or neglect or sabotage has happened to you…or the apathy you have allowed to happen.  And it tenaciously grows out of what is most hoped for, and the peace you long desperately to recover…and it’s all holy.

It’s a decision point.  A pain point.  The time you try again, or the time you decide NEVER AGAIN.  It wakes you up from numbness to see God, wrestles to break free, sits with failure, and reaches for salvation.

 It’s in the hard labor of breaking a sweat, the fear of not knowing what sober, or thin, or strong, or equality even look like.  It’s fragile and yet it’s terribly strong. 

Its why I do what I do, and no matter what I do, I look for its likeness.   And as long as I do things, I hope they are things that hold space for what is transformational.  Arms open wide, shamelessly joining in, already loved. 

Right now.  You as an individual may be at a pain point or a decision point.  The world has stopped a moment to get your attention.  What is it you really want?   A good body?…Peace on earth?…  all good things.   All things that need you to seize a moment and decide what happens next.  You get to be this girl in the picture, unafraid to say what is true but grounded into a deeper truth of her absolute rightness in taking her place on the floor.

What will you do with a world that is sick and burning or a body that is weak and dying?  You can go numb…or you can begin to move.  It’s my favorite thing…that moment of decision.  It’s the moment where you see your life as a thing that can change.  You have a body, a mind, and a heart that can transform. You are a business, a city, and a culture that can decide.  Arms open wide, shamelessly joining in, already loved.

 

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.