abide: what my story taught me.

This is the last post of a 31 day journey. See the rest of abide: love where you live right here.

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I’ve spent a day filled with fellowship and life and it feels sweet and warm and just right to end it here with you.

When I first entertained the idea of writing for 31 days about home, I didn’t plan to skim so close to the fault lines of the past nine years of my life. In truth, they’ve been hard and wonderful and full and breaking. This home thing has always been a bit of tender ground.

Before I began this series, my nine  years felt too heavy and difficult and there was space for a bit of bitterness to creep in. But then y’all shared your hearts and I realized that if I didn’t have this story I might not have this place or these words and I am ever so thankful and humbled to know each of you here. I set out to be a fresh spring but YOU are the sweetest water in these parts.

So. Wherever you are right this very minute-whether it is a hard surrender or a joyous celebration-I hope that you’ll cup it full well in your hands. Know this: whatever it is that rubs or heals or tramples your hope, lean into it. Lean into it. It’s worth every bit of yourself. And soon? You’ll have your story and I pray that you’ll invite others into it and then you’ll know. You will know how God did very good things with that sandpaper.

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belonging practically.

This post is part of a 31 day journey. See the rest of abide: love where you live right here.

How to foster warmth and acceptance and grace. That’s what we’ve worked our way up to.

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I have to confess I struggle the most with this part. I’ve spent much of my life trying to out-perfect the messy portions of my life so that I’ll feel worthy. But do you know what ministers to me most? When someone DOES NOT clean up their messes for me. And so I am learning to be instead of do more and more.

Instead of a list of practical applications, I’d love to point you to some sources that have really spoken to me about making genuine and real connections that are full of transparency and staying power.

1. Watch. This talk by Brene Brown is so smart and insightful. She’s spent much of her career actually researching belonging and what keeps us from getting there. If you spend any time at all around any type of people, you’ll be challenged and enlightened. (I do have to warn you. There is one bit of adult language.)

2. Explore. The Blessing is a book that I’ve had since I served with an inner city ministry in Roanoke, Virginia. Just this month, I’ve picked it back up and it is messing with me in the best way. The authors explore the idea of the family blessing in the hebrew families of the Old Testament and examine how the basic framework is essential to healthy attachment. This book is for children, mothers, fathers, friends, neighbors.

3. Read. One of my favorite places online is Edie’s blog . She’s been writing about radical hospitality this month and I can’t even pick a favorite post. They’re all beautiful and they’re all challenging.

4. Listen. As a former teacher and someone who is just generally interested in attachment, this podcast from This American Life was fascinating for me. Don’t be fooled by the description. You won’t be listening to an hour long debate about teacher strikes and salaries and all that jazz. Instead, the focus is on changing the fundamental educational philosophy of our public schools. I was left wondering about how building standards and classroom practices based on cognitive development fails children who have never experienced a sense of attachment. I’m not really offering this as an answer for all of our school system’s woes. The real impact for me was in realizing the ripple that belonging offered or withheld sends out into our world.

How’s that for a bunch of nerdy stuff? But, really. I’d love to hear from y’all about how you’ve embraced and offered belonging right where you are.

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dwell practically.

This post is part of a 31 day journey. See the rest of abide: love where you live right here.

Let’s talk about some ways to dwell practically, to adorn our dwelling place. How do you show up, stay there, establish yourself and your home, embrace grace no matter what your timeline looks like?

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1. Vision. You can set the tone for your home in two very actionable ways. First, take some time to know what you love. We’re not talking about like here. Everyone would like to skitter off to Pottery Barn or West Elm or Anthropologie and buy their picture of home. It’s easier. No. We’re talking about how you want to communicate love in your home. What is your story? What ministers grace to you? How can your home tell others about God’s grace in you? Darlene at Fieldstone Hill has a great series full of wisdom about this process. You could start there.

Part two. You can set vision and catch God’s vision for yourself and your home by embracing mornings.  Listen. I am one of those annoying early birds and I know it. But. If you rise first and allow just a little bit of time to root yourself in life giving things before the rest of your house is awake or before you have to go out and meet the world, your heart will be different. Your eyes will be more able to see with love instead of like. I like to read my Bible and pray, exercise, write some, eat my breakfast while sitting down in a quiet room. Sometimes I like to take a walk and watch the sun rise. The idea is to fill up with life giving things first. Then you can have clear vision for your day and your home.

2. Wait hopefully. Let your home be a comma. Don’t assume that because you can’t use your gifts the way you want to you, you can’t use them at all. Don’t give up in fake surrender. You know that not doing anything is not the same as embracing where you are. Do the hard heart work and look for ways to be fully present in the right now.

3. Take action. Small things are not any less important than big things. So you can’t change your kitchen counters or grow grass in your yard or rip the indoor-outdoor carpet out of the bathroom?  So you can’t make a husband appear or a baby appear or a job appear or the money appear? I get that. But right here is changing you. Right here is teaching you. Right here is refining your gifts. You have to find a way to choose love. Do the small things. Snip flowers or leaves from your yard and put them right there on your kitchen counters. Move things around. Light a candle. Play music. Write something. What things make you want to show up, make your heart sing? Do those things.

4. Elevate grace. So you have been grumbly all day or all week? Press the restart button. You’ve been walking under the heavy weight of fake surrender? Start the hard heart work right now. It isn’t too late. You can declare a do over at any time. It’s Christ’s gift to us. He is doing something new. He makes all things new. Step into that. Know this: if you have to start over and then start over again and then start over again? You are not failing. You are growing.

 

What can you do to dwell practically today? What are you already doing?

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to beautify.

This post is part of a 31 day journey. See the rest of abide: love where you live right here.

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All this talk about the heart is good. Home is a metaphor for the inward things of our lives. But. It doesn’t mean that abiding doesn’t have anything to do with beauty.

It is biblical to want to make our homes lovely.  I used to think that the limitations of my physical location in life were meant to snuff out my heart to beautify, that maybe I was silly and not godly enough.

I really love to decorate and rearrange and generally change things around our home. I’ve learned to accept that God placed that desire in me generally and specifically. God loves beauty. It’s everywhere in this world He dreamed up and I’m made to reflect Him. Naturally, I want to create and be around beautiful things. Specifically, He’s given me gifts for creating that beauty. You have your own gifts for beauty, too.

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I had to learn that my limitations were not a graceless, hopeless place where God was snuffing out some part of me that wasn’t good enough.

My limitations are in my life to refine my gifts.

My limitations made me focus on the foundational things. My limitations made me understand that loveliness comes from an inward place first. My limitations made me seek to understand what God wanted to say about beauty through my story and my home. My limitations allowed me to surrender my gifts so that they (prayerfully) point to the Giver and not myself.

Where you are is beautiful because God has allowed it in your life. The beauty is already there. You just have to choose it. Dwell there. Shelter there. Belong there. And, then? The outward things come. Then you can tell others about that beauty by using your gifts, limited as they might be.

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where to abide.

This post is part of a 31 day journey. See the rest of abide: love where you live right here.

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This abiding work is hard but important. If we want to come to the real table and feast and not whither, we’ve got to plant our feet firmly in Christ. If we want to have an abundant, fruitful, lovely right now, we’ve got to be rooted in Him. That way? Nothing can steal away joy, contentment, peace and security-not even the circumstances of the right now He’s given us.

This weekend? I pray you abide in Him.

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break bread, part two.

This post is part of a 31 day journey. See the rest of abide: love where you live right here.

But there’s more to this whole breaking bread thing. It might seem scary or impossible or too hard. It might feel like asking too much. You are busy. You are overwhelmed. You are behind. You feel awkward. You worry about getting picked apart.

What my husband does? Where we live? Who we love? These children? I need them almost more than they need me. I always get their names wrong. I never know the exact right thing to say. I say dumb things. I am skeptical of figures from their past. I fight championing my rights to my husband and our family time. I fail miserably and I’m selfish.

I’m a mess and I need them. I need them to teach me that I am broken just the same.

I need them to remind me that whatever bread I break, it isn’t really mine anyway. It might be my story but I didn’t write it. It might be my time but I didn’t order it. It might be my heart but I didn’t mold it.

Breaking bread is just allowing Christ to be rich in you toward others. It will feel hard, yes. I will be stops and starts, yes. It will be stretching, yes. But it is this: you break open your life and you invite others to the table and you offer them the Bread of Life in you.

You allow them to see how your belonging hunger has been filled and how your worth thirst has been quenched.

And then? Then you take what they offer. You allow them to teach you, help you, love you. You see their vulnerability, really see it. You surrender to this: receiving almost always teaches more than giving.

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break bread.

This post is part of a 31 day journey. See the rest of abide: love where you live right here.

pizza run. #wishicouldhavehershoes

All day yesterday I prayed and hemmed and hawed about how to keep writing about belonging. It’s been the hardest to write about for me. If you’re new here, you might not know that my husband works for a residential children’s home. We live next door. For nine years now, our hearts have burned and ached as we’ve walked beside children in this little home. Sometimes we know them for months at a time but a handful have been part of every day and month we’ve been here.

I ache for them to know what it means to really belong. To know that there is One who wants relationship with them so much that He gave His life for them. To know what it means to have a loved one do hard things for them because they are worth it.

The thing about child services right now in this country is that there are very few orphans. Most of the children we see still have some sort of relationship or contact with their parents.  I’ve learned to tread lightly there. While there might be varying degrees of attachment, there can be fierce allegiance. I have to check my frustration and anger as some times I watch tender and scrappy hearts be failed by human hands again.

It’s a sour water that runs underneath. We watch as children avoid failure by not showing up. They give up before it gets too hard. We watch as teenaged girls search every interaction with veiled longing in their eyes. Are they worth it? And while it looks like bad decision after bad decision we’ve learned to call it brokenness and to remember that we are all broken. This is what happens when brokenness sows brokenness. And it is why it’s hard for me to write about belonging. It’s awful close to my heart.

Belonging is breaking bread. All of the mixing and kneading and rising and waiting and fire and powder of becoming who we are isn’t really for us. We are called to break that open for others. To invite them to the table and share all of the richness that comes from our process of becoming. We will do the hard things because people matter. We will show our mess because people matter. We will heal and walk through brokenness because people matter. We will share our embarrassing and used-to-be-shame-filled stories of redemption because people matter. People matter to God.

That’s where you live. You live in that place, a place to break open the bread of your life and share it with others.

Be brave.

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rest from striving.

This post is part of a 31 day journey. See the rest of abide: love where you live right here.

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Has someone trampled for you what it means to belong? We serve a God of all grace and 2nd, 10th, 50th chances. He keeps all of his found and safe and warm ones under the shelter of His wings. But. He seeks out the lost and broken. His tender heart longs to find the wanderer, the one who is limping from heart wounds and desperate for a sip of water.

God defines belonging. He says it is being known to the core and carrying a home sense close to the heart. It’s loving and being loved sacrificially and abundantly. It’s sinking into that same old spot. It’s sitting close. Belonging is knowing that you are safe enough to fail and to give glimpses of your heart and to be messy and to share a bit of your crazy.

Belonging is not competition and comparison and lists and performing. You can not perform or best your way into this deep, down rest. Belonging doesn’t involve striving. You can rest from that. And it is hard, I know. But you can grow and you can move on and you can choose to let God build abiding into your life.

Wherever you show up? Your home, your office, your room, your school, your job; all these things give you an opportunity to abide. So for today, let’s choose less striving. Let’s ask God to show us where He is offering belonging in Himself and through others. Let’s ask Him to help us  offer in our stretched out hands a sense of home and rest that others need, too.

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sweet and wonderful.

This post is part of a 31 day journey. See the rest of abide: love where you live right here.

fall on the lake.

Today we met some family friends at their long time lake house. It’s a home I grew up going to for holiday weekends and hot summer days. It’s where I learned to water ski and jump fearlessly off the dock. A day spent on the lake is good for so many things. Mostly, my heart continued to stew on all we’ve been talking about here.

Nothing had changed much. Same walls. Same furniture. Same people. It’s been there for at least 50 years and that house has been part of so many more growing up stories than mine.

In my own home, I go through seasons of striving: rearranging, planning, wishing, saving. But there? When we drove up? I wondered for a minute if it would all be the same. Honestly, I was relieved to see so much just the way it was when I was 10 and when I was 15 and when I was 18, beginning to step into my own life.

Change is good. I won’t be able to give up rearranging and fluffing. It’s in my bones. But there’s something sweet and wonderful about the same, too.

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in the midst.

This post is part of a 31 day journey. See the rest of abide: love where you live right here.

For the eighth grade dance, I chose a hot pink taffeta dress. It had a sweetheart neckline, off the shoulder cap sleeves and a tea length hem. I tried to paint my own nails a very, very magenta. I had braces and a perm. Freckles smattered their way across the Dutch/Prussian cheekbones my daddy gave me (see him as a boy here). I went with a few friends who were girls. Boys did not notice me.

The problem with me and dances was that I loved to dance but I was deathly afraid of embarassing myself but I really loved to dance but I would have died a thousand teenaged eye rolling deaths if anyone laughed at me. Also. I am and was a textbook introvert.

So. Right there in the middle of a stifling, preteen filled middle school gymnasium slash cafeteria, my angst was at an all time high. I was alone. In the middle of all those people, I was totally alone. I couldn’t tell anyone how afraid I was because I couldn’t let anyone know how afraid I was. I had teased my bangs, for goodness sake. I held up the wall as the saying goes.

That feeling has followed me on and off throughout my young adult and then adult life. The feeling of being simultaneously surrounded and utterly alone is confusing and heart-wrenching.

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We long to be known, to be among others who get to the very center of our being. It’s more than classification. It’s identification. At our very core, we want to be enveloped and wrapped up in familiar heart knowledge.

Abiding means being in the midst.

Where you live can be a place where the very thick of who you are is wrapped up tight. It’s where the heart ties bind.

This weekend? Instead of being around our people let’s choose to be in the midst of our people. Being around comes first to be sure but being in the midst implies that we are showing up right to the core. It’s a present continuous type of thing. Let’s be being in the midst over and over again. Let’s search out hearts and offer them belonging.

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