one thing not on your to-do list (but should be)

The good girl speaks loudly today. She is a cloak of shame and a ball of fire and a pointy finger and an evil laugh. She is rude and polite and two-faced and genuine and knows just how to push my buttons. I kind of hate her. And also want to be her. I will never out run that book I wrote.

When you write a book about a good girl learning to let go of the try hard life, you’d better believe that yours are the hands with the whitest knuckles. This life is not stair-climbing, getting closer to the top with every glad step. It’s more like an onion, peeling back the layers of lies and regrets and misconceptions.

Last week, my husband and I stood by the sea, heads weary from the travel, hands open with time to spare, and we didn’t have much to say. It was lovely. Still, I felt pressure to make the most out of our time. Production followed me to the shore, tapping on my shoulder, waiting to be checked off my to-do list. It took a full day to shake him. And even then, it was a fight. I have a disease, I think to myself. I am addicted to producing things.

We are tethered to our own usefulness, big-headed with our own accomplishments, crushed by our shortcomings. We miss the soul breath. We miss the smallness, the doorway through which we must walk to find freedom from the ever moving treadmill of time. Even if we steal time from our productivity to find the sitter, pack the bags, pay the money, sit through the layovers and fly to the shore to relax, sometimes once we get there we forget how. And I realized as I tapped my foot on sand that I have shed my truest identity. Instead of being the beloved, I feel more like the doloved.

How do you calm a life of activity? How do you shake the guilt of rest? How do you smooth the frayed edges and loose ends that wave frantic in your face? To start? Don’t just look at that comfortable chair. Sit in it. Poke a hole in the bucket of time and let the minutes spill onto your lap. And as you do, consider this: you are loved. So be the loved. Fake it if you have to, the being. Because you are loved, so even when you fake it you’re not faking it because it’s true. Read page 44 slow. And then read it again, slower.

We know by heart, take out the trash, sort the laundry, submit the article, call the teacher. We may even know be kind, be patient, be loving. But what about the gift? Be loved. It doesn’t come natural or easy, but it does come. He did come. Take your time to consider God’s gracious love toward you. Let him show up refreshingly new. Item number 20 on the list today?

It just might change everything.

how to come home

My oldest daughter (and when I say oldest, I mean by 3 minutes) told me last week that if she ever has two girls and a boy she will name them Chevon, Sabine, and Jeddel. We don’t know anyone with those names and I don’t think she’s read them in any books or seen them on TV, though I could be wrong. But she is eight and loves to read and thinks up stories as easily as she breathes. So for her to think about her someday children’s names is quite perfectly normal, however unique they may be.

We spent five days in Chicago last week – it was the first time our kids have been to a big city. They’ve been to Charlotte countless times, but never uptown or anywhere close to the buildings. I’m sure they have sore necks for all the time they spent looking straight up while we walked. On one hand, it was a gift to be there – to buy birthday gifts for our girls, to stand in line for deep dish pizza, to gaze through windows of four story shops. But there is another hand, one on which I heavily lean, and that is where I noticed how easily I was swept along with the crowd of people. There was no space to make a decision, to turn around, to take a photo or choose to walk more slowly. There is one pace and one direction on those sidewalks. Even I grew impatient when someone compromised it.

I realize these fast-walking people are most likely not the city people at all, but people like me from North Carolina and Pennsylvania and Arkansas. Visitors. And we all arrived in that place from our various pockets of the country and hustled past the blind man on the corner of Michigan and Superior, the kids stared and the grownups pretended not to see. And I wanted to run screaming to the cameras that were surely hidden in the light posts, Okay! We get it! We are all totally and completely messed up down here. I give up. We lose. At the same time, I longed to bring our dog and my curtains to Lincoln Park and move right in. I wanted to embrace the city life and find my own place among these bustling, Starbucks people. I wanted to bring mini hotdogs wrapped in crescents to the brownstone two blocks over on New Years Eve.And while I was there, I was my own Sabine. I imagined myself making different choices in life and this shadow, other-me lived in the city, did city-ish things, had a life that was both mine and not mine. Her children knew how to ride the train, the noise was normal, and life was big. I wonder what that would be like?In a way I don’t have to wonder. 2011 was the sidewalk on Michigan avenue. Thrilling. Heartbreaking. Fast-paced. Both frantically loud and painfully beautiful. This past month has been a gift at the end of that sidewalk. After many months of breathing out, I have taken a deep breath in. I am amazed at how desperately I needed it.

This month marks six years of Chatting at the Sky. Thank you for coming back again. I am tempted to say Welcome to this new year! But that implies a bigness that I’m not comfortable with. So instead, I imagine we are not the ones doing the welcoming. Rather, we are welcomed into the new year, ushered into it, invited forward to a place we have not yet been.

As every introvert, home-body knows, the best part of a trip is coming home. I left my imaginary Sabine-self with the Chicago skyline to live her imaginary life and came home with my family to our quiet cul-de-sac, our white house with the black shutters, and our ridiculous dog. I have come home, in so many real and imaginary ways. I am certain you’ll see more Chicago photos in the coming days and weeks, as I was thrilled with the scenes each ever-loving minute and took way too many photos. It’s as it should be.I’d love to hear from you today. What would you like to see in this space this year? How can I best serve you? Or if not that, what is something you are working on this year in your space, be it a blog, your home, your business, your relationships? I’d love to hear your ideas and inspirations.

tuesdays unwrapped :: the last one

It sounds simple: go outside, step into the quiet, if just for a few minutes, and see what rises to the surface. But we can’t do that! It’s almost Christmas! We must do that. It’s almost Christmas. This is perhaps one of the most frustrating disciplines I’ve faced lately. Mainly because what rises to the surface is not very spiritual sounding. It isn’t profound, deep, or even very interesting. I’m tired. My hair is dirty. That leaf looks like a puppy. But I keep walking, avoiding on purpose the temptation to critique myself. Just keep walking.

Things don’t change. Problems are not solved. Angels are not singing. Rainbows are not bursting from clouds. There is no light shining like a halo around me. Simply, I am quiet. And that is it’s own miracle. With the rhythm of walking, breathing, being with God and what is true about me, there is a slight and almost imperceptible shift. My frantic movements are not so frantic now. I see things I would have missed.

We tend to pray with words because we aren’t brave enough to pray from our groaning soul ache. And so we chatter away with our Dear God, just…and we miss him in the middle of all. this. noise. He’s still there, though. He doesn’t roll his eyes or cross his arms or tap his foot with impatience. He hears all the chattering and he sees what lies beneath it. Even in the noise, He gathers us up and pours Himself out.

I come home after my walk, cheeks red from the wind, camera filled up with images of hope, soul breathing more deeply. I spent the time listening, but I can’t tell you what I heard, exactly. The language of the soul doesn’t always translate well into English. Instead, I lean my weight heavy into Him, longing to live in the quiet even in the midst of the noise. I know that may not be possible, not the way I hope. But this walk was a gift for reasons I’m not really sure of yet. And for that I am thankful.

We would love to read about your Tuesday walk by inviting you to add your link below. Be sure to include the permalink to your Tuesday post. If you need help to link up, this page will hopefully answer all of your questions. Be sure to link back here to Chatting at the Sky so that others can find our community. If you wrote a regular Tuesdays Unwrapped post, by all means still link up! I’m delighted you are here and so thankful for this community. What a gift these Tuesdays have been. The links will be open to add until Thursday evening.

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a question for the desperate

“When we make room for silence we make room for ourselves … Silence invites the unknown, the untamed, the wild, the shy, the unfathomable – that which rarely has a chance to surface within us.”

Gunilla Norris, Sharing Silence

We have slowed. After ten years of marriage and as many in youth ministry, after three kids, three houses, two books, lots of trips and a year-long heartbreak, my family has slowed to near stopping. The kids are still in school, the dinners still are made. But The Man has been gifted some time away from work and I have met the book deadlines and now we slow. And we are slowed. And so we wait.
We have never been the parents to have our kids in lots of activities. We are not the first to volunteer and we don’t typically overcommit with yes. Still, even for us, this slowing has revealed my addiction to activity in a way I didn’t expect. We think of war as something obvious and perhaps valiant, something for the brave and heroic. But maybe the most deadly is the war invisible, the one we live everyday without knowing, the one we forget to fight because it looks like home and it smells like dish soap and it sounds like a rerun of Friends in the background.

An invitation has gone out but only the desperate can hear it. What is it you truly seek? I’m not sure the words expect an answer, rather they invite us to carry our questions with us. Let them percolate and roll around in the chaos of the soul. Don’t fear the loose ends so much. Give yourself permission to actually be where you are, and to be so in the presence of God.
I never realized how much energy I spend in figure it out mode. I am fascinated by people, by what makes us come alive, wilt, break, desire, lash out and love. In some ways it makes me a better artist, this social curiosity. But in all the figuring and connecting of dots, I might be missing the point. Slowing invites the mystery to make His home with us. Quiet cuts a path through the chaos in a way study and figuring and reasoning simply can’t touch. The Man and I pray with silent hope. He looks into my eyes and his gaze lingers. He sees me now and I see him and we are filled with gratitude for both the sweet gifts as well as the suffering. Because all of them lead us deeper into the mystery.

And so it is December, the month of Emmanuel – God With Us. He does not wait to come until we get it right, clean it up, figure it out, or break it down. He is simply with us in love. I have to ask, though I don’t necessarily expect an answer (unless you want to give one): in the most honest place where you are today, what is it you truly seek?