a journal entry from my Christian Prayer class on my experience with Unceasing, or Breath Prayer:
I was deeply thankful again that this week’s practice was so timely for my life’s circumstances. Recently, I received news that I had lost a semi-permanent living situation which I would have moved into very soon. I had been planning on this move for about seven months. I have been living in transitionary places for the past two and a half years, and my entire being is weary from it. Feelings of deep disappointment and confusion have been dominating my consciousness ever since, and I have struggled to see any good in the situation. Last week, in practicing unceasing/breath prayer, I asked the Holy Spirit what my deepest desire was. I realized I desired to be settled and simultaneously, to feel secure. In the days that followed, I asked the Spirit to show me what His answer is. It seemed to be a different answer each day: “home”; “comfort”; “guidance”; “leading with peace”. So my prayers each day that I would breathe every time I felt anxiety about the situation – which was often, if not constant! – were: “Jesus, be home for me,” “Jesus, comfort me,” “Jesus, please guide me in Your way,” and “Jesus, lead me with Your peace”.
The situation remains unresolved, but I noticed a change in me: where before I was pretty upset with and closed off to Jesus because it seemed like He took away my good living situation, now somehow I am able to access and express freely to Him the pain of disappointment I am feeling. My constant prayers and efforts to engage in unceasing prayer using my exhales more often than not, is building this mysterious connection of trust between us where I have become viscerally aware that because I am asking for Him to help me in these various ways so often, He is seeing me in my vulnerability. He is seeing me in this vulnerable place, and though His voice still feels far off, I am aware that His presence is with me. And I am crying about it all the time! I am experiencing that phenomena of holding both grief and pain in one hand, and peace that comes with His comfort in the other. Thanks be to God.
_SFAD 585_Journal Entries_1/20/21
Color me confused, sad, concerned.
Color me upset.
Color me upset because I was never exposed to a colored person’s perspective; narrative; experience; interpretation.
Continue reading “january 20 . 2021”
I didn’t see them
Did anyone else see this one coming,
That the very steadiness we stand on every day would crack right in two, three, four, twelve, twenty places around us?
Under the surface, just waiting for the shaking that would make a decision finally – to close up, or to split open
What a relief?
To have the clarity
To have the definition of the spaces, even if they are split, ripped to shreds, cut up into sharp shards that cut and rip and split if you’re not careful, if you don’t watch your step
If you don’t watch your words
If you don’t watch your tone
Actually, …maybe you should watch your thoughts
Pretty sure it doesn’t matter much – what you say and what you do with those words, with that tone – if the words and tone inside your head is sharp, ripping, cutting
Because then you’re harming two: the “other”,
I guess the quake was inevitable
And we probably needed it.
At least it’s all exposed now
At least there’s less pretending now
At least the truth is out now
At least maybe now, or soon,
Little trickles of healing can start to drip into those great expanses that stand between us
finds the lowest places.
written on a lanai on the magical island of Maui
I’ve begun a new chapter in my earth-life.
I didn’t know that I had; at least, I didn’t intend to. I guess it started, or, the sharp, short inhales of new breath started filling my lungs the day I left Dad’s house, knowing I didn’t want to live there again. I spent the Summer and first bit of Fall trying to find my bearings. To use Jonathan Martin’s analogy: the ship – my ship – had wrecked, the floorboards shattered and sunk beneath my feet. I watched in horror as everything I had stood upon, trusted in, put faith and security in, sunk deeper, deeper, deeper past the reach of my clutching and grasping fingertips into the depths of the sea.
Completely shattered. Beyond salvage, repair, or restoration.
So, He rebuilt me. He is rebuilding me. He has grasped the hand that once flailed for the remnants of what I knew, and drew my gaze up to meet His. His eyes, shimmering with tears, seeing and knowing and feeling my horror, sadness, despair, hopelessness, and confusion. His eyes, full of the deepest riches of compassion. He adored me, and wanted to show me the way to being loved by Him, to trust His desire and ability to rebuild me. He is the Master Builder, the Great Artist, the Creative Genius that knows, knows, KNOWS me, and knows the best way to build. He took the Summer and Fall to teach me to trust His ways, His method, His heart.
He is so good.
Writing that looks way too simple for the weightiness those words strung together hold in my spirit.
He is so good. He can’t be anything else.
But He hasn’t proved His trustworthiness by doing whatever I ask. No.
He brought Himself close – His very visceral presence.
He is God with me. His presence communicated more in ways of bringing deepest peace than Him satisfying every desire I could have come up with.
I wasn’t expecting that. I expected to surrender, and then see Him bring all the things I needed as I needed them.
Instead, He brought Himself.
And as I felt Him and heard Him and saw Him, all the things I thought I needed faded into the periphery. And over and over again, I knew – ginosko, knew (perceive, feel, understand intimately) – that He is and was enough, . . . He proved it to me. Again – not by satisfying every need and desire (physical healing, paying off debt, mending brokenness, bringing a husband) – but by being WITH me in the midst of my pain and heartache. And His presence began to heal me.
As I woke up day after day to new visions of Him with me in my room, in my car, by my bed, next to me at the table, I began to believe: You’re really with me. And then came the night that I saw the demon of panic that I had allowed to be there…
I woke up, turned over, saw the dark thing there. I just stared for a minute. I wasn’t afraid, but I knew it shouldn’t be there. I told it to leave. I began to worship. After awhile, it was still there. Since I had seen Jesus multiple times a day for weeks, I thought to ask Him, “Where are You?” and immediately I saw Him next to me.
His arm was draped across my chest; there was gold light shimmering from it. It was protective and comforting.
And in an instant I received the greatest revelation that I have ever comprehended. It has marked me, and changed me forever.
He was sleeping in the presence of the enemy. And not just that – the enemy that I had allowed to be there by the agreement that I had made long ago: that I would fear when anything negative happened to my body.
That didn’t stop His closeness.
It didn’t stop His comfort.
It didn’t do a thing to distance Him from me.
“There’s no shadow You won’t light up,
mountain You won’t climb up,
coming after me
There’s no wall You won’t kick down,
lie You won’t tear down,
coming after me”
He was so unconcerned . . . so unaffected by anything I had done that might separate Him from me. He wasn’t threatened, wasn’t concerned about, wasn’t intimidated by my fear and even my choice to engage with fear.
He couldn’t care less. He was sleeping beside me – holding me close.
In a flash, the vision changed from a real-time experience to a prophetic one: I saw two massive angels on either side of the dark figure. I saw the dark figure begin to shrink smaller – smaller – smaller – until it disintegrated. I understood that it had no power outside of what I gave to it – and I knew that as I trusted Him and His withness more and more and more – I would have no need for the false protection fear had offered me.
I haven’t had a panic attack since that night last summer.
Healing is incredibly multifaceted, I’ve learned. He can do it in a moment: Cancer – gone. Dead – raised. Barren – pregnant. Afraid – at peace. Confusion – clarity. Despairing – hope-filled. He can do it, and He does. I’ve seen it and experienced it many, many times.
He can also extend a hand, and point to a path, a journey, and invite the sick and pained and anguished to walk with Him and learn from Him.
Sometimes, He disciples into wholeness.
My healing journey carries with it a host of choices, most all of them boiling down to this:
Will I trust Him to lead me to good?
Will I trust His reckless love for me?
Will I rest in His love?
Healing comes. It WILL come. Sometimes instantly, sometimes in periods of time, and sometimes in Heaven.
My freedom led me to find a sturdy foothold of flagstones in the dirt path when I accepted that mystery, and let go of my need to control the timing.
It’s completely ironic – that letting go of my obsession with control would push open the forgotten door into a secret garden of delight and intimacy. My favorite mantra for months now has been: “I don’t know, and isn’t that wonderful?”
It’s freed me from the pressure to perform
the pressure to achieve
the pressure to provide
the pressure to hurry
the pressure to move
the pressure to acquiesce and please
the pressure to be anything besides His Beloved. His Daughter. His Lover. His Chosen One.
He knows, and I trust Him. Oh, how I trust Him!
I’m so thankful there is more! I’m so thankful He will never stop freeing me! I’m so thankful He will always light up my shadows, climb the mountains I’m scaling, kick down the walls I erect, and tear down the lies I chose to believe!
He will never stop His pursuit.
He will never be more than a breath away.
Never has it been more clear to me that humans are intricately, intentionally connected beings – spirit, soul, mind, body – and each part relies on the others in order to thrive.
I’m being healed of adrenal fatigue thank you, Jesus. After many months, the longest, darkest, hardest season of my life is finally showing some outward signs of hope, and I’m responding with joy. Carrying the flame of hope is a struggle, a daily battle, a journey not for the faint of heart nor the apathetic. I moved to a farm deeper into the Willamette Valley, and I can’t articulate fully to you just how vital that move has been for my healing. At least, I think, it’s evident in my smile which is back in fullness.
Just about every day, I take a walk around the perimeter of the farm. I only take my phone along for pictures; otherwise, the walk is marked by steady steps in my muck boots, the two farm dogs that accompany me (one who is going blind and has completely stolen my heart) and my deep, deep breaths. Sometimes I talk out loud to them, or to God, and sometimes I sing. Most of the time, I’m just quiet. Breathing. Looking around. Taking in the glory of open space and skies. I can’t remember the last time I felt so overwhelmingly content with myself…even though I am still getting to know this version of me, who is totally other than who I was before.
Back to humans being connected – all parts of us. If one part suffers, eventually, all parts will suffer.
Here is what I articulated to my spiritual director last week: Looking back at my life after the Redding season, I observe that I “burnt out” four times in five years. The first three burn-outs were a matter of working fulltime + serving 10-15 hours a week at church + normal life stuff. The result was, I quit everything except my job, and then slowly but steadily added things back in until I was over-committed again…then burnt out…rinse, and repeat.
This last burn-out came after I thought I’d wised up: I scaled way, way back on weekly commitments so that I was only working fulltime + volunteering 2 hours in one area of ministry + adding a silence and solitude practice + honoring a weekly Sabbath + working on mindfulness.
It came even though my daily life included eating clean almost always; building physical and mental strength through workouts and running five miles a week; sleeping 8-9 hours a night; seeing my therapist once a week; attending my supportive and encouraging home group weekly; leading worship for women’s events at my church.
It came as a crash…this time, my body calling time out, and I had to quit that “life” as I knew it.
By all appearances, I was living in “healthy” and “balanced” ways – my body and my spirit were totally thriving. But my soul and my heart were suffering from the trauma of my parents’ divorce (two year process), rising tensions in some family relationships, trying to keep up the family home and land, and a stressful position at a job that I only loved because of the great team and the great money.
As I’ve crawled out of the hole of extended illness the last month – stripped of everything I relied on for health and security and solidarity – I began to say to the Lord, “You have to teach me a different way to do life. Obviously, what I thought worked still led to my ship wrecking.”
Now, in all honesty, my ship needed to wreck. In His glorious kindness that makes me teary when I talk about it, He saw past what I portrayed on the outside to the bondage that was rooted in the very depths of me, and wasn’t content to let me live another day not knowing freedom. The process with Him has been so beautiful and complicated; there is no way I could unpack everything even if I blogged every day for months on a different lesson He’s taught and is teaching me. Suffice it to say, this is the one thing I’m sorting out with Him every single day: teach me how to live whole.
Teach me to live as Jesus did: everything He did was from a place of knowing how loved He was; from a place of rest; from a place of compassion for those around him – not obligation or duty; from an unhurried, willingness-to-be-interrupted place.
So I’m learning. I’m learning as I sit daily in His presence and listen to His voice. I’m learning as I listen to my body, laying down when I need to, eating when I need to. I’m learning as I receive real-time Holy Spirit wisdom, like yesterday at the grocery store: “there’s no need for Us to rush.” So I slow. I breathe. I settle. I’m learning.
a letter to my future self
In which I deviate from my usual prose to record how I’m doing in the season I find myself in.
You’re thirty now – 3 decades in which you’ve loved, and lost, and grown, struggled, toiled, thrived, and learned, and so much more. It’s been nothing like you’d ever thought, and it’s been better, too.