New website!!

Hey friends!

First, I’m so thankful for you and that you take the time to read my blog. It means so much to me…more than I can ever say.

Second, I have a new website!! It’s still a placeholder for when I have more time to commit to it, but I’m excited about it! I’m hoping to launch some new things over the next year, so I wanted to make sure I had my own website to do that.

This means I won’t be publishing here on the blog anymore, but you can find everything over at Justalumpofclay.com! (Yay!)

If you receive my posts straight to your email, you’ll still be receiving them from the new site. I just have to sign you up again, so look for a subscription link in your inbox for the new site. You will just have to confirm your email. You’ll be getting that one soon.

Thanks again for reading and come say hello on my new site! See you there!

Uprooted.

For the last six months a common question I’ve asked myself is this:

What lies need to be uprooted today?

I’m realizing the more work I do to work towards wholeness the more I have to come face to face with my own unhealthiness, with the lies I’ve always believed and the parts of me I would rather not focus on. It’s not always enough to just acknowledge these things…you’ve gotta roll up your sleeves, grab a shovel and do the work to uproot them.

Author Sarah Bessey tells a story about how her family moved to a new house and they kept noticing patches of grass dying and mold growing. They would dig that part up and plant more, but it would just happen again. Come to find out from an old neighbor, a tree used to grow in the yard and after it was cut down the stump was left underground. It was killing the grass above. The grass couldn’t grow in a healthy way until the whole tree stump was uprooted.

I think this is how lies work in our life. Even if we know they’re there, they’re still going to be destructive unless we do the work to uproot them.

At some point we believed that we would never be good enough so every day we seek and strive to show that we are.

At some point we believed that we weren’t pretty enough so we live every day avoiding mirrors or buying the next thing that will make us look better.

At some point we believed that we always had to be strong so we live every day pushing away any weakness that comes up and putting on a happy face.

At some point we believed that one life matters more than another whether that’s because of a difference in skin color, socioeconomic status, birthplace, sexuality or religion so we live every day thankful we’re not like “them”.

At some point we believed that there’s not enough for everyone, that scarcity is the way so we live every day making sure we get what’s ours.

At some point we believed that in order for me to belong someone else can’t so we live every day glancing side to side, trying to stay relevant and not finish last.

At some point we believed that life is black and white and there’s a set of rules to live by so we live every day in shame if don’t stay on the “right” side.

The lies could go on and on. These lies make us live in fear, they make us live in shame, they make us think we’re not enough and the more time that goes on the deeper they take root.

It’s not good enough to just know they’re there. We have to uproot these lies that have grown deep into our souls.

My prayer every day is that God would uproot the lies that have taken root in my soul and that freedom and truth would bloom in their place. It’s hard work, but it’s the best work.

Uprooting these lies and replacing them with truth allows growth to happen. With the lies cleared out, the truths can be planted and actually take root.

So instead…

We believe we are enough and live every day ceasing the striving and resting in our God-breathed worth.

We believe we are beautiful and live every day in confidence that we don’t have to meet any beauty standards, but we’re beautiful because we are who we are.

We believe that no one can be strong all the time and live every day knowing it’s okay to be weak sometimes.

We believe not one life matters more than another and live every day disarming any talk of other and do our part in writing a better story.

We believe that there could be enough for everyone and live every day looking for abundance and how to live with open hands.

We believe that we all belong, we belong to each other and live every day connecting instead of comparing and realizing where I am is not where you are and that’s okay.

We believe that in life there are a whole lot of shades of grey and live every day ripping up our checklist, saying goodbye to shame and living into freedom.

Can you see the new, fresh sprout growing? Can you see the new life that comes when we uproot the lies that poison our souls?

Don’t get me wrong, it is hard, hard work, but it is the most rewarding work.

It’s soul work. It’s “your Kingdom come your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven work.” It’s wholeness work. It’s worth it work.

uproot the lies that have taken root in my soul and that freedom and truth would bloom in their place

Photo courtesy of inhabitat.com

Half.

We’re not meant to be half. One of the worst sayings in the world is, “you complete me.” Thanks a lot Jerry McGuire… and just so you know…no one can complete you. You’re meant to be whole on your own.

I believe everyone wants to be whole. No one wants to just be a half, or be just enough, or 2/3 complete.

I don’t think everyone desires happiness, I think everyone desires wholeness.

I just finished reading the book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, by Barbara Brown Taylor and it’s a great read. [I highly recommend all of her books] Taylor helps rewrite the narrative around darkness and our misconceptions and tendency to only associate what is good with light. She encourages readers to see what God could be teaching you “in the dark.”

You can’t have dark without light and light without dark. They’re half of a whole. You need one and the other. You may not always want to acknowledge the wholeness that comes when there’s light and dark because of fear or anxiety or uncertainty, but it’s true.

Too often we try to be a half. We try to only accept the good. We try to only feel the happy things and push away the sadness, the anger or the unhappiness. We ignore that shadow side of ourself because maybe we don’t want to deal with it or maybe because we were told it wasn’t okay to have it. But, when we refuse to acknowledge that the hard times are just as much a part of us as the good times or don’t take the time to realize that the sadness we feel is just as important as the happiness, we aren’t living in wholeness. [Sidenote: Please watch Inside Out for further evidence of why this is important]

Barbara Brown Taylor has this to say:

To be human is to live by sunlight and moonlight, with anxiety and delight, admitting limits and transcending them, falling down and rising up. To want a life with only half of these things in it is to want half a life, shutting the other half away where it will not interfere with one’s bright fantasies of the way things ought to be.

To be whole we have to accept the sunlight and the moonlight, the anxiety and delight, the light and the dark. To be human is to realize we can both fail and succeed, we can be happy and sad, and we can have limits and transcend them.

To be human isn’t to be half…it’s to be whole. And to be whole isn’t about just “good” things or just “light” things…it’s accepting all of who we are, all of what we’ve experienced and remembering that we live by both the sunlight and the moonlight.

I don't think everyone desires happiness, I think everyone desires wholeness. (2)

Photo courtesy of pxleyes.com

Me too.

Me too. Those two words can carry so much power, more than you may think at the time, but they can be altering. I’m continuously reminded of the power of vulnerability and the peace that can wash over you when you hear “me too.”

You never know when you take a step out and share your truth when it will connect with someone.  You never know when you decide to be unafraid and share a piece of your story who that’s going to connect with and maybe even give them the courage to do the same.

When we can look at someone and say, “me too” we aren’t necessarily saying I know exactly how you feel, but we are saying you’re not alone. We’re saying I can identify with you on some level. We’re saying I stand beside you and you are not alone.

I think a lie we too easily believe is that we’re alone. We believe that surely no one could identify with this struggle I have or surely know one would want to hear my story.

But then we get that two seconds of courage and we just go for it. In that sacred moment when someone on the other end is there that says, me too, we know. We know we aren’t doing this thing called life alone. We know we were created to stand next to one another to walk along our journey.

So, if you’re reading this…please know you’re not alone. Please know that you were created to be in relationship with people. Please know that even though the thought of sharing your heart or being vulnerable can seem paralyzing, the freedom that comes from it and the possibility of hearing those two little words is life-giving.

You are not alone. We are not alone. I am so grateful for the people in my life who can look at me and say me too. Or who listen to all my crazy and may not be able to say me too, but they at least listen. They listen and they love.

What would the world look like if we believed that there is power in our story? That there is power in sharing our lives with one another? What if we believed that sometimes all we need to say is me too and that listening and loving is enough?

I think the world would be better.

Me too.

When where I am is not where you are.

My life looks nothing like I thought it would. I struggle with that sometimes.

I don’t know where we learn that our lives are “supposed” to look a certain way. I don’t know why we think we need to take a measuring stick to other’s lives and see where ours measures up. I don’t know why we get so lost in the comparison game.

Blame it on social media, society, movies, friends, family, whatever it is, it’s there…this feeling that maybe I’m not quite where I’m supposed to be, or those people over there really have it figured out. Sometimes I feel like there’s a benchmark to meet. I look ahead and see everyone keeping up with the expectations and I’m just a little bit behind, always playing catch up.

I’ve had to let go of how I think my life should look. “Should” can be a dangerous word for me. It usually means I’m motivated by guilt or shame and those aren’t the healthiest motivators.

I’ve had to let go of my measuring stick.  I can’t look at life like a race or a competition where people are either ahead or behind me. Instead of choosing to see a line of people ahead of me and me trying to play catch up, I see people around me. Each in their own place, each with their own life, not ahead or behind me, but beside me. All in different places, all on different journeys, with not one being right and another wrong, but just being.

Because where I am is not where you are and that’s okay. It’s a beautiful thing actually. Everyone is on their own journey. Everyone is just living their story and like Shauna Niequist says, “With people, you can either connect or compare, but you can’t do both.” I can look at what others are doing, I can wonder what I need to do to get where I think I should be, or I can just let go and connect where I am and with those who I am lucky enough to be surrounded by.

So I’m choosing to let go of the shoulds in my life. I’m choosing to let go of the measuring sticks and the side-to-side glances calculating who I’m ahead of or behind. I’m choosing to connect instead of compare. I’m choosing to see people where they actually are. I’m choosing to look down instead of around, focusing on my journey and where I am rather than where I thought I should be.

With these choices I’ve found there’s a whole lot of freedom to be had.

Because where i am is not where you are and that's okay

The Disconnect.

I’ve been reading Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil’s new book, Roadmap to Reconciliation, and it has been rocking my world. I came across one thing she said and it made me stop, “What we believe about God will tell us what we believe about people, and what we believe about people will tell us what kinds of communities and societies we believe we should strive to create.”

This is it. This truth is why I get so passionate about justice issues, about equity, about any situation where someone’s treated like their life is valued less. This is why it’s hard for me to understand why we don’t talk about the hard things and stand up for the right things in church. This is why it’s hard for me to believe someone who professes to follow Jesus can be racist, homophobic or turn a blind eye to such broken systems like our education and criminal justice systems.

Our theology informs everything we do, how we view people, the decisions we make, the causes we take up. Theology is just what we believe about God. If we really believe everyone was created in God’s image then we would treat them like they did. If we really believed that God meant it when he said to love our neighbors and even our enemies…it would change how we treated others. If we really believed God meant it when he said to take care of widows and orphans or that he’s on the side of justice…wouldn’t we care more about justice? Wouldn’t we believe we should be doing everything we can to bring more love into the world and help create a place that affirms that image of God in others? If we believed God created the earth and all that inhabits it and declared it good, why wouldn’t we help steward that and care for it well?

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I think we’ve allowed a disconnect to happen between what we believe about God, what we believe about people and what kind of communities we should strive to create. We don’t see how they’re connected. We lose sight of how our theology should shape how we treat people and if your theology involves following Jesus it should be rooted in one thing…love.

This is why it matters that we stand and declare that #blacklivesmatter because we recognize that for too long they’ve been treated like they don’t. Because my theology professes that each human is stamped with the image of God and that no life matters more than another. So I should be outraged and broken over the fact that there are too many examples of how white lives matter more. I can’t turn a blind eye to that.

This is why it matters that we stand and declare that refugees should be welcome here or that our goal isn’t to isolate ourselves from “outsiders.” No amount of American exceptionalism should trump our theology. Because what we believe about God will tell us what we believe about people and what we believe about people will tell us about what kinds of communities we believe we should create…and I’m pretty sure Jesus said to welcome the stranger and to not neglect showing hospitality to strangers. If we believe everything else he says…we can’t ignore the things that make us uncomfortable.

I’m tired of living in a world of disconnect. I ache over the lack of shalom in our world, but I believe there’s a better way. I believe God is love. I believe God created each of us in his image, therefore declaring that we have value, worth and that we belong. Everyone. No questions. No exceptions. I believe God is on the side of the oppressed and on the side of justice. I believe God has shown us what kinds of communities and societies we should strive to create when we pray your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We should strive to create communities and societies where everyone is welcome and loved. Where grace is shown and kindness is a universal language. Where the table is big enough for everyone. Where we are peacemakers and we remember that we belong to each other. Where we live into the truth that God loves us and out of the overflow of that love we are able to love each other.

I believe in a world built on connection, where the disconnect is no longer present because we remember that what we believe about God tells us what we believe about people and what we believe about people tells us what kind of communities we should strive to create.

And if it all starts with what we believe about God well…God is love.

I see my story in your story.

A couple of months ago I went to a women’s networking event at a conference and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What happened exceeded my expectations.

About twelve of us gathered in a hotel conference room, the facilitators wanted to create a space for women engaged in ministry to come together and share their stories. It became even more than that, it became a thin place. A moment where it seemed like there was just a thin curtain between heaven and earth.

The oldest woman in the group started with her story. A small painting sat at the head of the table, a painting of a small African American girl standing in a field with butterflies. While sharing her story, this woman said, I see myself in that picture. She went on to explain her life growing up in the deep south, her experience with the Civil Rights Movement and how she still sees slavery today, it just looks differently. Every sentence she spoke dripped with wisdom. She saw her story in the girl in the painting.

While another woman shared her story, everything she said deeply resonated with me. Her journey and season of life was so similar to mine, I actually couldn’t believe it. Even a song she referenced that had been a lifeline for her in this season was the same song that had been a lifeline for me. I saw my story in her story.

This same woman talked about a business she was trying to start and when she said the name of it, the oldest woman said, “That has been my secret name for God all my years…” without any hint of surprise. They saw one another in each other’s story. 

Another woman shared her story. A hard story of trauma and abuse that has led to confusion about where she should go and what she should do. She shared her deep hurt, but also her hopes and dreams. There was not a dry eye in the room while she shared. Tears flowed freely because everyone there acknowledged the depth of her pain and the vulnerability it took to let us in on her journey. It was a privilege for us to be entrusted with her story. After she shared, the same wise woman turned to her, looked her right in they eye and said, “I see my story in your story.”

Looking in from the outside, one would see our group gathered and think most of us had nothing in common. We differed in age, race, socio-economic level, background, life stage, dress…it seemed our differences outnumbered our similarities. Yet, we could turn to each other and say, I see my story in your story. 

Wow. What powerful words. Sharing your story is a powerful thing. Making space to hear someone else’s story is a powerful thing – it allows glimpses into another’s soul. It makes us more human. It allows us to remember that we’re all connected, that we all have been stamped with the image of God. We too easily forget that.

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I used to think…

I used to think I had it all figured out. I knew exactly what it meant to have faith and believe. Everything was in a pretty, wrapped up box and made total sense. We were meant to be happy all the time and go on with our lives accepting the sadness, but quickly flipping the coin over to joy.

I used to think I needed to keep Jesus in a box too. I knew this whole Christianity thing was supposed to be about following Jesus and being a disciple of him…that it means so much more than a label or a checklist or rules of right or wrong, but I spent so much time trying to be good, trying to make sure I was doing it right, and saying and believing the right things. I was missing out on the person of Jesus and who He was and how He is.

I used to bristle at being called a Christian…too much hurt, too much misuse, too much baggage is associated with that word. It was something I was not proud to be labeled as and the day I realized that a little part of me unraveled. What was wrong with me that I recoiled at this label? And even while I took a step back from the beliefs and traditions I’ve always known and confronted these doubts and questions, I never could shake Jesus. I never could shake that name, that person, that relationship and the more and more I stepped back from my pretty, wrapped up boxes and black and white definitions, I felt like I took a step closer and closer to Jesus.

I started to really think about who he was, what he stood for and if I’m going to say I follow him, what does that mean? I used to think it meant I had all the answers, I was on the “good” path, I should be able to fix everything and make sure it all works out for good. I should be happy all the time, but that’s not how this works, at least it hasn’t for me. My pretty wrapped up boxes have been destroyed, my world has faded from black and white to all kinds of shades of gray and I embrace the wonder, the messiness and the times it just doesn’t make sense because I don’t have it all figured out.

When you’re sitting in a funeral for a student who had been shot and killed, there is no way to fix that. When you watch his mother and brother and family cry out when that casket lid shuts, there is no pretty, wrapped up box for that to fit in. When the pain and the grief was choking me and all I wanted to do was make it better for them, all I could say was Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. That name over and over again. Because what else can you do? This doesn’t make sense, how does my faith explain this? I don’t know, but Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…

When I’ve been in my darkest place, feeling like the despair, the confusion and the loneliness may just overtake me, there was no pretty, wrapped up box for that to fit in. When I felt like the world swirled around me like a tornado and all I could do was hang on for dear life, I didn’t know how this fit in my black and white categories or my understanding of my faith. It didn’t make sense to me, but Jesus did and I said that name, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

Sarah Bessey says, “In your heart of hearts, in your raw place of grief and suffering, in your rich center of love and redemption, who do you say God is?” God is with us. That’s who God is to me. God is with us and he is love, he is comfort, he is peace and he hates what is evil. It is not his will for a teenager to be killed or for us to suffocate in the darkness, but Jesus is on the side of those who suffer and rather than looking down on our pain, sits with us in the brokenness, in the grief and in the sadness.

I used to think we were doing it wrong if we were sad and didn’t have a quick answer or reassurance for when that terrible thing happens, but now I know that we are going to be sad, we have to feel those feelings and there are no quick answers. We have lost the practice of lament and how true healing comes from walking through the grief.

I used to think I was damned for not loving being called a Christian, but now I think I am not alone in that and now I know that a label is not who I am. I never could shake Jesus and that’s who I want to be known by. I want to be known for all Jesus stands for…for love, justice, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, mercy, goodness, life, comfort and peace.

I used to think Jesus was present in my life and was the person I pointed to when asked who I believed in, but now I think He is so much more than that. He is there with me always, holding my hand to keep me grounded when the world is in chaos around me, sitting with me in the grief, walking with me in the wilderness and celebrating my joys. Always reminding me that He is there, he is love, he is comfort, he is constant, thank you Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.

{This is part of the Out of Sorts Synchroblog with Sarah Bessey answering I used to think_____ but now I think _____ …head on over here to read more!}

Out of Sorts.

Have you ever felt like you had it all figured out and then you didn’t? Maybe that you knew exactly what you believed about that one thing and then you realized, wait, maybe I don’t know what I think? Or that at one time the world was really black and white and everything you believed made sense…and then it didn’t? Have you had doubts, felt more like you’re wandering in the wilderness every Sunday morning rather than sitting in that comfortable church pew?

My answers to all these questions? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. My faith has always been a part of who I am, but it has changed and evolved over the years. Sometimes it has made sense to me, other times it hasn’t. Sometimes I welcomed the changes and sorting out with open arms and sometimes I clenched my fists and fought against the feeling that I need to let go of these ideas that I always thought were right. Sometimes I felt really alone, other times I felt like just when I thought it was just me out here wandering, I would see Jesus and a friend would come alongside me too. In her new book, Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey is that friend.

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Sarah Bessey is one of my most favorite authors and her new book did not disappoint. I think every other line is underlined and I’ve lost count of the number of times “yes!”, “amen”, and “me too” fill the margins. It’s packed full of so much truth. It’s her story of how her faith has evolved and how she has made peace with that, but through her story you are confronted with so much truth. Truth that makes you dig deep, that makes you reflect on your own story. Her words remind us that we’re not alone and that God is oh so present in the sorting out. I see my story in her story.

It’s hard for me to articulate all the goodness found within Sarah’s writing so I think I’ll have to do a series of posts about it, but whether she’s writing about the Kingdom of God, community and friendship or the Church, her words drip with truth, life and light. It’s clear her writing is Spirit led and this writing is necessary and important to us all. It made me feel less alone and has helped me make peace with my evolving faith and I think it will for you too.  Sarah explains what the book is about, “Really, it’s a book about not being afraid. This is my way of leaving the light on for the ones who are wandering.”

Sarah also says, “There are many of us out here sorting, I think. This might be a small candle, but I’ll set mine on the lamp stand and you can set yours there too — and maybe our glow will light the path of others.” So join us on this lighted path so you can join your candles with ours and we can remember that we’re not on this journey alone.

{I was lucky enough to be on the launch team for Out of Sorts, which means I received an advance copy of the book in order to review it and spread the word about it. I didn’t receive any compensation for this, just the benefit of reading it so I can tell everyone how great it is and that you should buy it! You can find it on Amazon here.}

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I was so excited to get the book! Seriously…go get your copy!!!

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And just in case you need any more reason to love the book, there are the cutest printables with some of the themes from the book that you can find here.

Lessons from a 1 year old.

A couple weeks ago I got to spend a few days with my nephew in Seattle. He’s the best. I hate living so far away from him and not being able to see him grow every day, but I cherish the time I do get with him. He’s so fun and it is fun to see the world through his eyes and all of the ways he continues to grow. I was there the week or so after he really started walking, so that was a fun time too to see him learn this new skill and take the world by storm in a new way.

Today is his first birthday (!!) so I figured it was appropriate to dedicate this post to him and what he has taught me. When I was spending time with him, I realized there’s a lot we can learn from a 1 year old. Since I love to make lists, I decided to make a list of life lessons from a 1 year old.

  1. Sometimes we just need to fall and trying to help can hurt more. Since he was just learning to walk, he fell…a lot. As someone who loves him and never wants to see him hurt, of course my reaction was to reach out and catch him or try to soften his fall, but I realized after awhile that, often times, that made him fall harder. (Sorry Jake and Em). Usually when he lost his balance and caught himself he was fine…he popped right up, ready to keep on walking like it was no big thing. I realized how often we can try to help someone or try to break their fall or fix it when they really don’t need our help. Sometimes helping can hurt and sometimes people need to fall on their own.
  2. Joy can be found in the simple things. My nephew and sis-in-law were in Michigan recently at her grandparent’s house and he loved this spoon he found so he got to take it back to Seattle with him. He loves a spoon…he also spent a lot of time entertained by my little shampoo bottle. These are not big, flashy, or expensive things, but simple, every day items. I think too often we get sidetracked by thinking that life is meant to be big and flashy, when joy and beauty is often found in the simple and every day.
  3. When in doubt…turn to wonder. Babies have so much to learn. Have you ever thought about all the things that we learn throughout life? That at one point you had to learn how to walk, learn to talk, to eat by yourself and learn how the things around you work. Sometimes I would see him look at something or hear something that he wasn’t sure about and then he would toddle over to check it out. Babies don’t have all the answers because they don’t know much yet, so they’re constantly turning to wonder and to curiosity. At some point in life, we lose this, we think we have all the answers or shouldn’t have any doubts, but that’s not reality…what would it look like if we turned to wonder more often? If we let ourselves do the work to figure things out and if we can’t figure them out, just turn to wonder and rest in the fact that we don’t have to know it all.
  4. Sometimes all the people in your life want is for you to show them love. He is a very active 1 year old…he isn’t about the cuddling life. Em would sit him on the edge of the couch every morning to wake me up and I just wanted to cuddle him, but he pushed away and wanted to be off exploring. I mean…I get it, there’s a lot to see out there! He doesn’t know any better, but it made me think about how much we want the people in our life to show us love, so are we returning the favor? Go hug someone. Go tell someone you love and appreciate them. It matters.
  5. Trust in who you follow. My nephew adores his mom and dad. He doesn’t hesitate to take their hand and walk around with them. When we put him down the slide, whoever was at the bottom would catch him and he hasn’t learned yet that maybe that person down there won’t catch me. He trusts in his parents and the people who dearly love him. I follow Jesus, but I don’t think I always trust him…not like a child trusts his mom or his dad. It’s a lesson I have to continually be reminded of.

So Happy Birthday buddy…you’re only 1 and you’re already teaching the world so much! I think we all need to strive to be more like little children and the world may become a more beautiful place.

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     Seriously…is he not the cutest? Such a cool kid.:)

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