Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

What Crocheting a Row a Day is Teaching Me About My Mental Health

It started because a friend was beginning a temperature blanket, crocheting a row a day for an entire year, in a colour that represented that day's temperature. I wondered what if I did the same thing for moods?  Chronicling a year worth of emotion in a colourful, seemingly random stripe-y blanket.  So I pulled out my yarn stash and made up a plan.

Ten colours and ten moods.  Black for depressed, grey for sad, red for angry, orange for anxious, yellow for inspired, pink for excited, purple for frantic, green for ashamed, turquoise for contented, teal for happy.

Some days it's hard to pick a predominant mood.  I could've used a rainbow yarn for those days but I wanted to force myself to dig deep and see what I was really feeling.  This is work, emotional work.

The blanket is a reminder that every mood will pass.  In the moment, the darkest days seem to last forever, to cover everything in a thick and endless fog, but they always come to an end, don't they?  No mood, no matter how debilitating and pervasive, lasts forever.    

The blanket is a reminder that every mood will return.  No mood is ever gone forever.  Those dark days will return again, and pass again.  Good days are always on the horizon.  Life will ebb and flow, and that's ok.

I'm seeing patterns emerge.  That some moods lead to others, that purple, the frantic colour, appears for me every 28 days or so, and that sometimes moods cycle faster than others. 

I'm learning that I can stick to something I've begun.  I have a long history of uncompleted projects,  I give up when I become bored or frustrated.  But this blanket has become proof that I can choose to see a project through.  In this small but meaningful way, I am persevering. 

Most of all, The blanket is a chance to reflect on the day and my emotions. To check in with myself every 24 hours and examine how I'm feeling.  How much of those feelings was my circumstances, my attitude, my brain chemistry?  How can I prepare for a better day tomorrow?  It helps me recognize that good things can happen on hard days, and bad things can happen on otherwise good days.  It shows me how seasons and medication changes are affecting me. It's a quiet moment and a deep breath at the end of each day to make some sense of my day and accept that it was what it was.

So I will continue this work, this emotional work of identifying and crocheting my feelings.  Of checking in with myself and watching patterns emerge and trusting that no mood lasts for eternity. And I will be truly thankful for those rare teal happy days.  

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram? Or don't miss a post by signing up for my RSS feed. And thank you so much for reading my words, I'm honoured.

How Inviting Each Other Into Our Mess Changes Everything

It was a Saturday afternoon and I texted my friend who'd be arriving in a couple hours for our families to eat together and connect.  "I'm coming to terms with the fact that my house won't be clean in time."   I'd been running around all day trying to prepare for the perfect dinner, baking and cleaning and obsessing over things that didn't matter.  I love this family that was visiting, I wanted it to be special.  She texted back with "Can we just choose not to do this? Not worry about the societal expectations?  Not try to entertain or impress one another?  Can we just be us?"

My friend's text was an invitation to freedom.  An invitation to lay down all my striving and expectations, all my doubts about myself and my home and the meal.  An invitation to be, and to be accepted.

I accepted the invitation.  The seasonal coats were half sorted in one corner of the dining room and there were muddy little hand prints on the bathroom door.  There were signs of life, messy, chaotic, often in-over-our-heads life, all over the house.  And you know what? It was fine.  We drank good coffee and laughed and let the kids paint birdhouses with glitter paint at the kitchen table. 

It was better than fine.  It was a sacred space.

Friends, this matters.  Whether or not we open the door when the counters are messy and the floors are unswept and dinner is from a box, it matters.  Because it is the times that we need people the most that we feel most inadequate.   It is when we most need to sit raw and exposed that we feel as if we have the most to hide.  It is when we feel most overwhelmed by the mess that our hearts most need us to swing open the doors and invite others in.  

Because the mess, inside and out, can isolate us.  It can make us feel alone and unknown.  Or it can draw us together into a sacred community of messy, broken people who need each other. We need each other whether there are crumbs on the floor or not. 

What if our messy house sends a much needed message that imperfection is welcome here?  What if those cheerios on the floor and the legos under the sofa says "I need this relationship more than I need to have it all together."  What if  opening the door to our mess and chaos is the first step of inviting people into our truth and our journey?

I need this reminder often.  I forget, again and again, that all grand and beautiful things are created in mess and chaos. That we ourselves are made from dirt.  That authentic community begins where our need to impress ends. 

Friends, can we just choose not to do this?  Not worry about the societal expectations?  Not try to entertain or impress?  Can we invite one another to just be, and to be accepted?

Because if we do, I am certain, we will find a sacred space amid the messiness.  Cheerios on the floor and all.

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram? Or don't miss a post by signing up for my RSS feed. And thank you so much for reading my words, I'm honoured.

Telling the Stories that Hurt to Tell

When I was a teenager, a child really, depressed and reeling from a sexual assault, I cut my arms.

At first it was because I wanted people to see. I knew there was often a correlation between self harm and sexual assault and I desperately wanted somebody to ask me the question I wasn't even sure I had the guts to answer.

So it started as a cry for help, but it became a habit, a coping strategy. I scratched and cut and burnt my body. I carved lies into my thighs.

The day I first called out to Jesus I was kneeling on the dusty rose carpet in my bedroom in the house my parents had built. I had cut too deep and was afraid and finally called out to the one I knew could save me from myself before I went to the emergency room for stitches and a lecture.

My arms, my body, is covered in scars, some faint and old, some fresher and more raw. I am wearing my hurt, my sin, and sins committed against me on my flesh, everyday, for the rest of my life.

Shortly after my 18th birthday I got a large Jesus tattoo on my arm where the worst of the scars reside. If you look closely you can still see the scars peeking through. But most people don't. They see the tattoo first. They see Jesus.

And isn't that the story of our hearts? Our lives?

That the brokenness we couldn't hide anymore and the sins that were defeating us are covered, redeemed, that we are made new?

Covered but not gone. If people brush closely against our spirits they can still feel the rough raised edges of those broken places, can't they? Those willing to get close enough can see our hurts and wounds and, somehow, because He is not afraid to enter in to our dark places, see Christ in them.

Each of us has a lifetime of stories. Of sin and stain 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.

So now? My body tells another story.

Not just of the little girl who followed the wrong boy into the woods and shouted the news with her own blood. But of the young woman who found hope and unconditional love and scandalous grace in a soup kitchen run by nuns. A story of redemption and of grace upon grace upon grace. The story of a God who left his throne on high to enter into our darkest places and be with us.

It's taken me too many years to become free to tell my stories; free to tell the bits and pieces of God's story that I've witnessed. Too many wasted opportunities to come alongside someone and share the story of hope that God was, and is, writing on the pages of my life. But I've learnt to love those stories. To sit with hands wrapped around big mugs full of cozy drinks and share the stories that hurt to put into words. Because these stories are a picture of who God is and what He can do.

Because these stories breed compassion and understanding and fulfill heart yearnings for hope and community and someone who "gets us". These stories contain the freeing power of "me too"

Because when we share our stories we set others free to experience their own stories with confidence 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.

Because when we tell our stories we become free to be so much more than the skeletons that are in our closets. We become liberated from our fears and our shame.

Friend, with deep breath and trembling hands, can I challenge you this?  Say your story aloud. Set one another free from the lie that we are alone and unknown. Unleash the powerful beauty of "me too" by giving words to the experiences that threaten to isolate us. Because your story matters. It's a glimpse of God moving in this broken world. We all need that.

Will you take a moment to follow me on facebook, twitter, or instagram? Or don't miss a post by signing up for my RSS feed. And thank you so much for reading my words, I'm honoured.

For When The Shame Threatens To Crush Us

A few days ago I screwed up. I committed a sin I hoped to never commit again. I know you can relate.

And the shame has threatened to cripple me. To hold me in that place of despair indefinitely. To drive me back to my sin and hold me captive in my brokenness. But that is not what God desires for me. Or you.

I am a sinner. I crave the created things more than I desire the creator of my soul. I make decisions that hurt me and those I love. I fall. Again and again. 

Oh friend, I know you can relate. 

This quote from Spurgeon was the balm my soul needed,
"I believe that as often as I transgress, God is more ready to forgive me than I am ready to offend." - Charles Spurgeon

I so easily imagine God as hesitantly forgiving me. But God is not hesitant, is He?  He is not torn or divided. He does not forgive out of duty or compulsion. God desires to forgive us. He is eager to forgive us. Even, Spurgeon reminds us, more eager to forgive than we are to sin. What a beautiful truth.

No sin you or I can commit is greater than God's desire to forgive it.  

Guilt and shame are not the same thing.  Guilt has it's place.  It says "I've done something bad."  It drives us to repentance and reconciliation.  But shame says "I am bad." Shame is wholly and destructively contrary to who God says we are.  Instead He calls us His children, forgiven and made new. 

Scientists will tell you that shame ignites our fight or flight responses. But we don't need a scientist to tell us that when we want to curl into a hole and disappear, or come out swinging at a world of mutual disappointment. 

Shame is isolating.  It drives us away, makes us crumble and hide. But God's call is into relationship and community.  God convicts our heart to draw us unto himself, to bring us to repentance because he desires to redeem us. He never condemns. The God who stepped into our muck and mire longs to be with us. 

There is no condemnation for those in Christ.  Not for last year, not for last week, not for an hour ago. No condemnation.  

Shame is this deep and painful sense that my frailty has been exposed. I've put my faith in my own accomplishments, my own feeble attempts at holiness, instead of God's redemptive love. And I failed. But God has not failed. His redemption has not stumbled or faltered.

Gods love is so perfect that he could not love us more even if we had never sinned.  Take a moment to let that wash over your weary heart.  God doesn't do a half-assed job of cleansing us.

Friend, whatever you've done, whatever shame you carry, and I carry, it was paid for on the cross long before it even crossed our minds. You are not defective, you are a sinner in need of grace, sometimes a messy broken sinner in need of a raw and urgent grace. But the God who does not change or lie tells us that our sins are as far from us as the east is from the west.

Today I am choosing to believe God's love and forgiveness. Will you join me? Not a denial of who we are, but a steadfast hope in who God is.  Friend, let us cling wholly to a grace deeper than our depravity.

"Are you a believer and afraid of your old sins? You are afraid of foes which do not exist." -Charles Spurgeon