Elisabeth and the Gift of Presence

It’s a funny thing, trying to make friends as adults. I haven’t decided for sure but I think it’s harder for us than it is for kids.
This girl. She came into my life at just the right time. January 2017, work was as hard and painful as it had ever been. I was highly anxious that my job might be cut because of finances. The anxiety and stress manifested in an annoying twitch in my eye and something. had. to give.

Then I met Elisabeth. I didn’t even want to go to the birthday party. I typically dislike going to kids’ birthday parties—especially if I don’t know the parents. My youngest was almost 3 and he’d been invited to the birthday party of another child from daycare and I didn’t know any of the other parents. Pushing aside my grumpiness over the whole thing, I took him to John’s Incredible Pizza which is like a more expensive, grander version of Chuck-e-Cheese’s, but without all the singing and costumed characters. It would have been awful had I not met Elisabeth, who immediately befriended and hung out with me. As it turned out, not only did we have kids in daycare together, we also had children at the same elementary school. It’s almost as if it was divinely ordained.

After the party, one of us Facebook-found and friended the other, and that was it. We got together for a first friend date lunch that wasn’t as awkward as it should have been, and have been good friends ever since. Just a few weeks after we met, she was laid off when her company was acquired. A couple of months after that, I was laid off because my employer finally got a handle on finances and decided they couldn’t afford to keep me. Although our lay-offs were painful for each of us in unique ways, it was serendipitous to walk through unemployment together. She blazed the trail and helped me figure out how to navigate it—from the confusion and anger and heartache, to the unemployment process and the new normal, to the job-seeking and all the millions of decisions and adjustments along the way.
Spending time with Elisabeth is coming up out of the darkness for fresh air, a lightening of the burdens that press down so heavily, and a glimmer of hope that one day I might be at home back in the light. You might call it coincidence or luck or the universe but I think it just might be God who brought Elisabeth to me as an angel of sorts, to journey through this season and hopefully beyond. I’m grateful for her friendship which is at least partially responsible for my journey back out of the darkness and solely responsible for the re-entry of Chick-fil-A and sweet tea into my life.

Calling

It was a warm spring evening in Abilene, Texas (2005) when I heard my calling–clearly, loudly, and undeniably.

Twelve years later I still bristle at the term, but my brief forays away from that calling (and numerous mentors) have confirmed its validity. I am called to use my gifts of speaking, writing, teaching, and leading in ways that announce and usher in God’s Kingdom here on earth. This happens everywhere–from the academy to the church, to the neighborhood and the grocery store, to the interwebs and the kitchen.

I am called to be a minister of the Gospel. We’re all called to do that, you might say (if you’re a Jesus follower). And you would be right. But some of us are called to dedicate our whole lives, our whole selves, our whole days—to that. Many of us are gifted and trained to be doctors, teachers, lawyers, chefs, firefighters, and business leaders, and our faith in Jesus calls us to engage in our professions in a distinct way. Wherever we find ourselves living, working, playing, eating, adventuring—in that place we are called to walk in the ways of Jesus, witnessing to the kingdom he brought in and is bringing in among us.

And some of us are called to be prophets—continually pointing us to Jesus and making straight the path towards him, helping us wonder about and discover the work of God in the world, standing up and speaking out against all that stands in opposition to the kingdom of God, being partners in the reconciling of all creation with God. And when you’re called to be a prophet, you can try to deny it but God just might strike you blind until you start listening. You can try to run away but God’s going to send something to swallow you whole until God has your attention. At 25 years old I finally said okay, and it’s been a wild ride so far.

What Yoga Is Teaching Me About How To Be Human

I’m no stranger to the yoga jam… I’ve been practicing on and off for at least the last 15 years. But usually when I go to classes or watch videos, the teachers are…

well…

vanilla. They’re exactly what you’d expect–super chill and stretchy, a little woo-woo, and no monkey business. I just started a 30-day journey with an awesome guide named Adriene who is not your average yoga teacher. She’s quirky, down-to-earth, a little stream-of-consciousness-y, laid back; she sometimes talks in silly voices and laughs easily at herself. I think if we knew each other in real life, we’d be friends. Just sayin.

While I love a rockin Zumba class, cardio kickboxing, or even just a good old fashioned run, something in me has been craving the energy, elasticity, and calm that comes with practicing yoga. One of my 12-week goals this year involves regular exercise and so far, that’s meant daily yoga. Each morning when I roll out of bed, stretch out my mat, and queue up that day’s video, I find new insights and wisdom in a place rather unexpected for a Jesus-girl like myself.

Adriene asks me about my motives, encourages me to set my intention, and says to listen to my inner guide. In quieting the thinking mind, we’re able to listen more closely to what our body is saying–is something tight or tense? Is there something I’ve been carrying that I need to release? This practice is about bringing the body and mind back together—rejecting and resisting the mind-body duality that still plagues us so many years after Plato’s time.

And it’s reminding me that I’m a human being. Finite. With limitations. I need rest. I need to slow down. I need times of simply being. For me, these glorious 25-35 minutes each morning are just that.

The Wisdom of the I Am

This morning, I was listening to Ya Hey by Vampire weekend. The chorus rattled around in my head all morning (“through the fire, through the flame, you won’t even say your name, only I Am that I Am”). At a worship service, the preacher mentioned our identity and how it’s not found in what we do. Although I’ve heard it and believed it for years–we are human beings, not human doings–in that moment it hit me between the eyes: we, too, are “I Am.”

Our “I Am” is rooted, grounded, found first, in the Great I Am. Of all the ways in which God could have referred to Godself, the term “I am” was chosen… not “I do” or “I make” or “I accomplish”… but “I am.” Even when this dude was insisting on a name–come on, how are they going to believe me? Give me your name… [I mean, it’s possible, even likely that Moses was begging for a name because that’s what you did back then–if you had a particular deity’s name, you could call on that deity and get them to do your bidding…but I digress.] God said nope. I Am that I Am. And this is our true identity as well. I am.

The essence of who we are is our being, not our doing. The one who created us in his and her image, the one who knew us and loved us before we were formed in our mothers’ wombs. Before our educations, careers, experiences, relationships, and histories defined us,… I Am. I Am gave us our identity and I Am is our identity. We are. I am. May we find our identity in God’s I am.