Who Am I?

Existentialism aside, I think this is something we all ask and it seems like a pretty foundational question. And once it’s answered, we usually live out from the answer.

“If this is who I am, this is how I will act in relationships.” “If these are my gifts, then this is the calling God has for me.” “If this is what I’m feeling, then this is how I should move forward.”

But here’s the problem with that line of thinking:

“If this is how my dreams/ hopes/ desires/ demands are being thwarted, then God must not be for me or just doesn’t even exist.”

Escalated quickly, yes?

I think we have embarked on our search for identity wrong. And we may “know” we are to find our identity in Christ, but do we really by-heart know it?

I was recently introduced to a line of questioning by my small group leader, but this was adapted from Jeff Vanderstelt. Here’s the order in which I usually ask these questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. So how do I respond?
  3. What did God do for me?
  4. Then who is God?

But how unfortunate is that? My self-view and behavior have no bearing over who God is and what he’s done!

For example, when I was once passed over for a professional role I had thrown my hat in the ring for, I was trying to re-examine some goals. Who was I? I was a failure and probably not meant to be where God had placed me. How was I to respond? Hide, of course! I had failed and been rejected and could not let people know I was a fraud! What did God do? He had placed me here to reveal my inadequacy. Then who is God? He’s trying to teach me a lesson about not feeling too confident in my abilities.

…There’s a lie in there somewhere. Maybe more than one.

If I truly want to understand who I am, I need to flip my understanding of myself on its head. This often means flipping my frame of understanding around:

  1. Who is God?
  2. What did God do for me?
  3. So how do I respond?
  4. Then who am I?

When these questions are answered in the proper order, I am able to live out of the story of the gospel, rather than the story of selfishness I am trying to tell on my own. Living out of the gospel gives me and outward and upward perspective, rather than trying to satisfy my inward longings.

Let’s look at that same scenario:

Who is God? He is my father and creator. What has he done for me? He as saved me and covered me in his righteousness because of his great love for me. How to I respond? I trust that what he has for me is best in both success and failure. Then who am I? I am dearly loved and no good thing has been withheld from me.

With these questions in a proper order, my view of God and view of self are also ordered properly. From there, I can respond out of truth and walk forward in faith despite the hurt of my circumstances.

Which set of questions are we living out of and how is that effecting our friendships, families, marriages, vocations, and even our self-talk?

The first question may be, “Who are you?”, but the second question must be, “How are you going to answer that?”

Daily Graces

I was recently reminded of a blog post that posed the question, “What’s saving your life right now?” The lovely Anne Bogel talked about how we so easily can get caught up in that situation or feeling that is “killing us”, but how often do we recount the things that are saving us?

This was a great concept to think on as I find myself in a mid-season slump—the newness of summer has worn off, everything I look forward to is too distantly in the future to do anything about, and things have just slowed down. It’s not a bad season. It’s one that’s calling me to faithfulness and reordering.

I love summer—the slower pace, the great weather, all the opportunities to enjoy my people and my city. But so often, I forget about these things and instead get caught up in busy-ness, producing, and just plain discontent. I spend my time paying attention to that which is burdensome and ignore the daily graces that abound.

So here’s a short list of the daily graces I’m choosing to appreciate this week:

Good books

My July is a little slower than my June and August and it’s been a great chance to tackle my ever-growing to-be-read list. I’ve had a great time digging into Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter and Jamie Smith’s You Are What You Love. Next up? I’m breaking into my first Steven King novel—it’s so about time.

Tea

It’s no secret I have a tea problem. In attempting to carve out space for liturgy and good habits in my daily life. Starting the day with tea forces me to slow down my morning. It also gives me motivation to get up with the alarm rather than pressing snooze for the fifth-time.

Taking the time to make the tea and then enjoy the tea helps give shape and perspective for the rest of the day. It’s a little reminder to take a moment and acknowledge the one who made the tea leaves and the morning and think on who my day belongs to.

Frequent Writing Time

I’m getting better a making time for my writing during a given week. I’m not great at it, but better counts for something! I’ve been so refreshed and challenged by the editing process and it’s been really satisfying.
I think any creative outlet for even the smallest amount of time brings the refreshment one needs in a hum-drum season. It’s life-giving.

This Playlist

Just click here. Happy music makes for happy summers.

Women’s Work

Tsh Oxenreider has been hosting a great series on her podcast, The Simple Show. “Women’s Work” is a series exploring the work of artists, entrepreneurs and other great women who are doing what they love in a creative manner. I have learned so much as a storyteller and professional and it’s only half-way through the series. Worth the listen!

Fresh Fruit

One of my favorite things about summer is all the fresh things you can buy so easily from local sources! Cherries have been great this year and we’ve done so much with strawberries in our house—it’s been great! Over the weekend, I made a salad topped with peaches and goat cheese—definitely a new favorite.

 

What daily graces are you dwelling on right now? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

The Rule and Currency of Grace

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My post is late this week mostly because I have not been in the head-space to write a post I would be comfortable with by the time it hit your eyes. I’ve been keyed up all day and it only just hit me tonight why. (I’m coming at you live from Monday night.)

See, I collaborate with a few friends on a project that brings me a lot of energy and joy. A situation has recently come up where I have felt one way and a couple of my friends have felt very differently. I’m quite passionate about my stance, but a kind friend pointed out gently that for the sake of the group, this is probably a battle not worth fighting.
It wasn’t until my drive home that I realized how demanding I was of justice rather than mercy for some of the people involved in this project.

And then it all came together.

I’ve been feeling rather anxious for a while. I think you may be feeling some of this as well.

Watching my social media channels spiral farther and farther in to pits of cruel statements, thoughtless insults, guilt-laden tirades, I have been appalled by the behavior of so many friends and leaders. Disgusted is actually the word.

Many in my world I have highly respected have been spouting nasty sentiments across the internet for the sake of “biblical politics” and I am very ashamed of what I’ve witnessed.

And before anyone points fingers, let me set the record straight and say that this is from both sides. And my Christian friends—in general—have been much less forgiving than my friends who are not.

I have felt very disillusioned by the body of Christ as we have approached election day and I know I am part of the problem as much as anyone. For months, I think we’ve been asking where is the kindness and the reason? Where is the compassion and the decisions informed by love. These are all things that have been absent, yes, but it hit me on my drive this evening like lightening. Like God whapping me in the back of the head with a ruler (because that is sometimes what it takes.):

Grace.

Grace was what I wasn’t calculating in with the work I do with my friends.

Grace is what we have been missing this election. The laying down of what I deserve for the sake of blessing my neighbor. The understanding that I may not be right, but God is in control and will make all right in his time no matter if my neighbor agrees with me or not. No matter if my country agrees with me or not. No matter if I trust my president or not.

It is by grace we are ruled. Grace is the currency in which we deal. So why has this been so absent from our discourse?

There are good people in every spot on the political spectrum. Image bearers with strong, passionate, and informed beliefs—beliefs that may be different from yours, but are just as important to them as yours are to you.

My sweet and wise friend sent me words I needed when I confessed how anxious I was feeling in my indecision over tomorrow:

“What needs to happen is repentance and people coming to the conclusion that our nation isn’t the church. You just have to do the best at what God has given you to do.”

Can we repent our lack of grace together? Can we walk into the polls tomorrow knowing that all we can do is vote in a way that demonstrates how we feel our country can best care for our neighbors given the choices before us? Can we respect that others in our body are just trying to do the same, even if it is not the choice we ourselves would make?

We do not have to answer for the decisions made by leaders above our station. They will. God will care for his people no matter what happens. There is no vote a child of God will cast tomorrow that is less “Christian” than any other.

Walk in grace. Show grace to a world that so desperately needs that. That’s what we have been supposed to be doing.

I think tomorrow is as good a chance as any to start.

Loving Ugly and Struggling Pretty

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I’ve noticed recently that I take grace with a grain of salt.

I don’t know when this became the case, but for a while now, I’ve been behaving on the instinct that though I believe in God’s great mercy, I haven’t quite earned it, so I can’t quite rest in it.

Um…miss the point much?

But this has been the understanding I’ve been unconsciously shouldering! And as result of not understanding grace, I have not accepted grace, and not accepting grace, I have become terrible at offering it.

See, I have an unfortunate heart. We all do.

Ugly and scraggly. A little scabby, a little slimy. Small and dying—no life to pump in, no life to pump out.

When I’ve thought about surrendering my whole heart, I’ve always felt guilty about the parts I haven’t wanted to hand over. But those weren’t the only parts God wasn’t getting because somewhere along the line, I made an assumption.

I decided that there were pieces of my heart God didn’t want.

For so long, I have been handing him pieces as I’ve deemed them fixable, while feeling guilty for having parts I think are too far gone. I’ve been frustrated when I am unable to fix my own brokenness or clean my own heart-junk.

I’ve  tried to hide it or compensate for it for so long, but I’m tired. And I just long for someone to love my ugly.

But he wants those bits just as badly as I want them to be loved! He wants this shriveled, crusty little heart enough to die for it.

He longs for our ugly, dirty, and broken. There is nothing to redeem in perfect, whole, and shiny. There’s no dependence on him in what I insist on healing myself.

Penny & Sparrow is a folk duo I’ve really come to respect. (Stick with me, it’ll circle back. I promise.) Their music is beautiful and at times surprising. Their lyrics are thoughtful and so damn honest it sometimes hurts.

As I’ve been wrestling in my brokenness over the past few weeks, it has become apparent that God has been trying to get my attention—he has been trying to ask for my ugly heart again and again. A stanza of their song ‘To Haunt, to Startle’ has come to mind during this wrestling, God reminding me of his invitation.

So, choke back smoke and cough up glass…
This whole place is ending; know that it’s not built to last.
When you hear nothing…
And you feel less…
Your struggle is pretty,
Sit still, and know that I know what is best.

The pain in the ugly both within and without are temporary. We are invited into something lasting. We are invited to hand over small, battered hearts in a daily struggle. It is that struggle that God finds pretty. It is in the wrestling he is well pleased. It is in the stillness he begins to bind our wounds.

This is the gospel I’ve had to preach to myself over and over in the past few weeks. It’s the gospel we need to preach to ourselves daily.

So on this Labor Day, as we pause and rest before plunging in again, I want to invite you in to stillness. I want to invite you to remember that your ugly is loved and your struggle is found pretty.

Loving Ugly quote

Social Culture Shock

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In the being back on social in the last couple months, I’ve been asked if it is weird using it again.

Answer? YES! And at the same time no.

No because I was using it for work on hiatus. It’s not like I forgot how to use Twitter. (I may have had to look up videos on Snapchat like a 60 year old…it changed a lot in a year, okay?)

Yes because, well, it’s kind of intrusive.

In my first week back on the grid, I tried to catch up on messages that had accumulated over the year. I commented on a post a friend had tagged me in while I was messaging. As soon as I responded, there was a response back and then responses from others.

My introverted brain began to hyperventilate slightly. I loved these people, but I was a little taken aback by the rapid nature of the communication. I was doing this in my quiet time—my recharge time. Suddenly it felt like the world was infringing on that.

I had to get off, take a break, not be there. It felt like culture shock.

In my time away from social media, I noticed that I had to work harder to connect with friends and loved ones. I had to make more of an effort. Obviously, it was worth the effort.

I also found that having boundaries on my social time was valuable. In my time back in the digital social sphere, I have found that I am still bad at respecting those boundaries. There is a balance between being connected and being over-connected.

I’ll be honest, I’m not great at finding a balance in things. When I’m in something, I’m all in—not always a bad thing, but I was seeing some bad consequences connected to my social media usage.

Coming back to this, I having to learn how to balance. Taking yourself out of the equation completely—not exactly balanced.

As a culture, we’re terrible at maintaining boundaries and I am just a product of the culture. Being in constant connection with each other doesn’t really lends itself to boundaries easily and I’m wading into that tension.

As a people-appreciating introvert, I know that I need space to recharge, but I can easily ignore that need. Maneuvering the culture shock of social media, I’m seeing the importance of respecting my own boundaries and limits.

So yes, the temptation to run away again is definitely there. But along side it is a desire to find balance. I know I can write and recharge and build a platform. It’s a balancing act and in it, I’m discovering the multiple meanings of grace.