Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

Oh you conqueror, you.

Holy shit life is hard.  

Ugh. There is pain, and sin, and fear and disappointment. There are unmet needs and over-indulged desires and broken people hurting broken people.  Like, everywhere. 

Today a wise friend reminded me through tears shared together over coffee that we are all in a battle.   That the sin and pain that surrounds us is not the whole story.  That you and I are part of an epic tale of redemption, the God vs. Satan showdown that ends exactly how you might expect.  

Friends, we are in a war. 

In the old testament when God called his people into battle he didn't lighten the load.  He didn't make the enemy weak so that his people could easily emerge victorious.  In fact he allowed the enemy armies to be huge and frightening.  Sometimes he even told his own people to send some warriors home....to grow smaller, weaker.  Because how else could we know that it is the Lord who won the battle for them.

And when his people showed up in their own strength?  The enemy won.  

I am weak.  I regularly get tossed about on the waves of my emotions. I struggle to forgive, I make crappy decisions and I hurt people I mean to love well.  I know that you can relate.   But our God?  He is glorified in our weakness.  And when we show up in His strength, not ours, he does impossible feats with us.    

I don't know what kind of victory you need today.  I hardly know what my own victory would look like.  But I know that God isn't sitting back waiting to see how this plays out.

The things you and I face, friends, are not small and weak.  Those hurts and sins and seemingly insurmountable troubles are big, formidable foes and we are definitely the underdog.  But our God?   He's big enough.  He's got this.

The enemy who is a liar likes to tell us that we have no hope.  That our failures and our hurts and fears and weaknesses define us.  That it is too late, that the battle is already lost. But the Lord says that you and I are more than conquerors through God who loves us.  I don't even comprehend how we can be something beyond conquerors.  How we can more than win.  But I chose to believe God at his word.  We are more than conquerors.  

Those challenges we are  facing?  That sin that has kicked our ass more than once?  That pain that gnaws at our insides?   The fear that immobilizes us? 
Let us show up.
Let us grow small and humble, and then show up for battle. 
In his strength.  Not ours. 

God Bless you, fellow conqueror.

The World Needs Your Story

Yesterday I wrote about sexual assault.  More specifically, I wrote about my own sexual assault.  It got some page views, a few comments, but most importantly,  several people I know personally reached out to say thank you.  Friends whose stories I didn't previously know.  Some of them shared their own stories with me.  Their fears, their struggles, their journey.  Others just whispered a quiet thank you, a simple acknowledgement that we've endured a similar pain, that we aren't alone.

I believe strongly that when we share our stories, especially the hardest ones to tell,  we set others free to experience their own stories with more grace and self acceptance. We send the beacon out that says it's okay to not be okay, it's normal to not be normal, and in Christ we go from weak and damaged to wounded healers on a mission.There was a purpose in our pain.

Jean Vanier, in Living Gently in a Violent World says "What we have in common isn't an idea, but stories.  And I cannot tell my story well unless I also hear your story."   This is one of the truest things I know. 

Our stories don't define us.  Each of us are so much more than the worst things that have ever happened to us, and the worst things we've ever done.  But these stories shape us.   And when we share them, we begin to set each other free from shame and fear.  The telling of these stories rips them of the power they hold to isolate us from one another.  

These most tender stories breed compassion and understanding and fulfil heart yearnings for hope and community and someone who "gets us".

Each of us has a lifetime of stories.  Of sin and pain and grace and breath. The good news, that God would venture into the dark places of our lives and redeem us, save us from ourselves while we were yet enemies with him, be glorified in those most fragile parts of us, it resides inside each of our stories, waiting to be told. It's beautiful.

Friend, can I encourage you? With deep breath and trembling hands, say your story aloud.  Because your story matters.  
It's a glimpse of God moving in this broken world.  
And we all need that glimpse.

Friend, you aren't alone.

HEY FRIENDS,  TRIGGER WARNING. This story is about sexual assault and self harm.  If this story is going to put you in a rough spot right now, please protect your own well being and don't read it.  

Back then I would daydream about being raped, stabbed, and left for dead.

In my dreams nobody would be able to say that it was my fault.  I would be dressed in jeans and my favourite band shirt, not a little black dress and fishnet stockings. I would be sober instead of having had peach schnapps in plastic cups in the back of the van he borrowed from his mother.  I would have been somewhere bright and safe, nabbed off a street corner in broad daylight rather than pushed to the ground in the woods outside a shady concert venue.

In these dreams I fought harder.  This version of me wouldn't give up and watch the stars spin above me and wait for it to end. She would fight.

In my dreams he stabbed me and left me there bleeding until somebody called an ambulance.  In this fantasy land, I didn't have to pick myself up off the dirty ground and pretend I was okay.  I didn't have to call my dad to pick me up and cry in the parking lot with a beer in one hand and my torn stockings in the other, eager to go home and shower the feeling of filth off of me.  In the dream, people could see the wounds.

In the dream version, everyone knew without me telling them.  Word got around school,  friends and family and teachers came to the hospital to see me and tell me it wasn't my fault.  In this fantasy,  it wasn't a dirty little secret suffocating me day after day.

In the dream, I was allowed to fall apart. It was okay when my grades slipped and I wanted to stay in bed all day.  In my dream, it didn't take me 8 years to get counselling, and 8 more to get treated for anxiety. 

In my dream; everyone who knew me knew about the scars.  They could see the remnant of the pain on my body.  They could see that time closes wounds but doesn't fully heal them. In the dream, I didn't have to carve my own wounds with razorblades on flesh. 

In my dream, I knew I mattered.  I didn't have to give myself away to every boy with a drink and a smile.

In the dream it wasn't a forbidden subject.  We sat in rooms with circles of old blue plastic school chairs and talked about it openly.  Others shared their stories and together we reminded one another that we weren't alone.  That it's not our fault.  That the shame we feel doesn't belong to us.

May this page be that room for somebody today.  You aren't alone.  It's not your fault.  You don't need to own the shame for this any more. 

Dream version me could push publish on a post like this without this nauseating fear and and a rock in her gut.   Real me will push publish any ways. 

We aren't alone.

It's not our fault.

We don't need to own the shame for this any more. 

Friend, you aren't alone. 

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebooktwitter, or instagram? And thank you for reading my words, I'm honoured.

Ordinary Miracles for Grey Days

I sometimes joke that when the ground hog sees his shadow and returns to his hole, signalling 6 more weeks of short-but-oh-so-long, grey winter days, that we should all just double our meds. It could happen automatically in computer systems in pharmacies across the land. 6 more weeks of grey days, 42 extra little white pills to swallow and push back harder against the grey inside.

Except that I'm joking and I'm not. 

My second child turns 8 today, So I'm making cupcakes while the toddler watches a Paw Patrol marathon and plays with a plastic flute that some apparently heartless human being must have given to us in spite. 

I feel hungover but I'm not. I had one glass of wine with dinner last night but my whole body and mind aches. Everything feels heavier than it should. Words don't come easily. My thoughts are clunky and muddled in fog. The piercing sound of that damn flute is nauseating me. 

I don't have time to be depressed. I have a family to raise, a homeless shelter to start, meetings and appointments and errands and laundry. Cupcakes to bake. 

I have friends who are praying for big miracles right now and I pray with them. Beg, really, of the only One I know who can step in and change things. Healing in sickness, hope for their marriages, the return of their own prodigal child.  Prayers that would be big, hairy and audacious, except that God is God.

But me? I don't need a big miracle. An ordinary one will do.

I need the sun to shine in through the dingy kitchen window just right. 

I need a friend to text me about the silly funny thing that happened to her today so that we can share a laugh together through a series of LoL's and emoticons.

I need the toddler to nap without too much resisting. To fall asleep sweetly with her perfect messy curls on my arm while I admire her long eyelashes and her funny gentle snores. 

I need that carefully choreographed dance of school pick-ups and homework and dinner time and after school activities to go relatively seamlessly, without any major stumbles or tantrums or meltdowns.  

Mostly, I need to see God in the little things. 

Through the thought fog I can't think of a less cheesy way to say it: God is not running low on miracle juice. He can hear those big scary prayers and our quiet little ones too. He can show us himself in a simple way today and everyday if we ask and watch for it. He can be here, present, in these grey winter days. He can send a reminder that one way or another, spring always comes. 

I know I'm not the only one drowning in the greyness today. Longing to see God move among the cheerios on the floor and the to-do list on the counter. Believing that the grey will turn vibrant once again.   So today I am praying for an ordinary miracle, in my life and yours. 

And friends,  I know He hears us. 

I'm a Shitty First Draft (and you may be too.)

I have a friend who is a perfectionist. She would tell you that it's a problem, an illness, and I believe her. But on the outside it looks a lot like a gift. Her house is spotless, her kids well groomed, her hair smoothed perfectly and stylish. She has posture, class, good grammar. I've never once seen her spill coffee on her self or accidentally say the F-word.

 That's not me. I'm a mess. I sometimes obsess over making things perfect, but never the right things. I'll spend an hour shining the sink while the counters are covered in spilled coffee grounds and last nights dishes. I constantly doubt myself, my purpose, my choices. I suck at gardening and budgeting and having un-awkward conversations. I'm the girl with paint on her t-shirt and butt sweat on her jeans. A Bible college drop-out covered in figurative and literal scars from a life lived stumbling around on the precipice between passion and recklessness.

 Often when I sit down to write something new I title it S.F.D.  Shitty First Draft. To remind myself that it doesn't need to be polished and perfect. I wonder if sometimes our whole lives feel like the shitty first draft and we need the reminder that we just aren't there yet. That nobody expects us to have it all figured out yet.  We don't need to float through life all perfect and polished.

 Like the time I sat in the basement of a homeless shelter I'd previously worked at. Homeless, scared, coming down from one hell of a night on Ecstasy, just there to collect the guitar I'd stored there, heading out to the next city, the next round in my downward spiral. A friend, a former co-worker, sat across from me in that basement and told me that we all write our own stories, some are dramas, some are comedies, some are tragedies, but that mine isn't over yet. He told me not to become a tragedy, because "Kelly, if you become a tragedy I think I might become one too." I'm not sure I'd ever realized before that I am part of other peoples stories. That I'm a character in their own shitty first draft.

 Sometimes I like to pretend that Anne Lamott is sitting across from me on a stool at my kitchen island. I've brewed strong coffee and admired her hair and shared all my insecurities and fears and she leans across the butcher block counter top stained with red wine and grease and says "Kelly, stop comparing your insides to their outsides." Oh wise Anne.

 And she's right, of course. We see our own mess and pain and brokenness and fear and compare it to someone else's Sunday-best version of themselves.

 A mentor once responded to an exuberant epiphany I'd pulled out of one of the psalms with the words "That's nice. But what did you learn about your own brokenness." It took me 10 years to even fathom what he meant. I thought I wasn't there to talk about brokenness. I was wrong. It's why we're all here. It's why we have each other.

 Some days I don't want to go outside as I am. I want to stay under the duvet until I am a little thinner and wiser and braver and stronger. I am afraid that the world will see the awkwardness and the disjointedness and the raw unedited me.

 But it's community that edits us, isn't it? Iron that sharpens iron? The people and the events and the ordinary outside of ourselves that helps to shape our stories, build our character, teach us to love and learn and forgive and breathe deep the little treasures of friendship and community. Without others the draft would never change, without exposing our roughest edges we never get refined.

 So here I am, a shitty first draft. A bunch of disjointed stories and ideas that have meaning somehow, maybe. I am a wife, a mom, a missionary, a recovering drug addict, a broken little girl, a bible college drop out, a beautiful mess, and a million other things. But whatever I am, I am not a tragedy.

 And neither are you, because you aren't done writing the story yet.  

P.s. I know, this is the first blog post here in ages. Who starts a new blog just to abandon it 6 posts later, right? But my mind and heart and days are filled with another project lately, check it out here.