Becoming A Parent

My life is changing…

Sometimes we get to choose change and other times we do not. I love being a mom. I am forever grateful for the ways marriage and children have changed me, but at times it is also hard.

I am entering this week knowing that in the course of five days my life will forever be altered and there are no guarantees waiting for me about a final outcome. Today there is a choice —will I be present? If I am present, the experience will have something to teach me.

When I leave South Africa it will be knowing that this is now our daughter’s home. From this point forward when I come to see her, I will be a visitor, a guest in her chosen place of creating a home.

The day after I return home, I will stand jet-lagged and blurry-eyed in the morning and wave goodbye to our other daughter as she drives away from her childhood home with her earthly possessions to create a home on the West Coast.

Okay just writing about this I’m having to use my sleeve to wipe my leaking eyes. But this is real. This is the experience. This is not a reality TV show, it is a very real example of what being a parent is all about—can we/will we let go? Again and again?

Honestly… I want to plead a case for Minnesota being home (really tough with all the winter records we set).

I want to not feel this gripping in my chest when I think of everyday aspects of life I miss sharing with them both. Let’s face it, electronics are no substitute for real touch in relationships.

Breathing in, breathing out…

Hmmmm, what is the experience seeking to teach me? I do not have a conclusive answer to my own question, though I wish I was through this one and knew the other side already.  What I do know so far about letting go is this—when we have children we become parents, but the becoming never ends.

The root of the word become is German “bekommen” and it means, “to get, to receive.”

Our becoming parents never ends if we risk being present to who are children are. We “get” or “receive something” from every choice that is made. Good and bad, each choice ushers us into an experience.

What is the experience seeking to teach me?

Right now on this side of the experience what I see are two things (I reserve the right to add to this list—remember it is a process).

  1. Grief not acknowledged creates false images – if I pretend it doesn’t hurt, just seek to be strong for them I am denying a very real part of what it means to be their mother. Mother’s grief can be real and without being manipulative.
  2. Joy not noticed is a lost treasure – how amazing that these once vulnerable and dependent creatures are now carving pathways that are beyond what I ever imagined possible. This is their life and it is a treasure.

So this week I am hanging out with the words of one of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen,

“Can you drink the dregs of this cup that is before you.”

The dregs of my cup hold both grief and the joy and therefore are the place where I will be nourished. My own  nourishment comes from the One whom I call my Creator.

Becoming a parent is to receive an amazing gift, but this gift, our children, are never meant to be gripped tightly, to become our source of life, or to feed our insecure egos. Gifts that are released continue to create life and new treasure to be discovered wherever they are.

Becoming a parent is a lifelong process… what is it you are “receiving” in the stage of parenting you are in?

A Game of Hide And Seek

I got the chance to play hide and seek a few nights ago. Three boys under the age of six and three adults–good odds, really. We took turns counting to 25 and hiding in new places (while also re-hiding in previous spots).

I noticed three things:

  1. There’s great anticipation in ‘being found’
  2. Not all hiding places are effective
  3. When found, I get to choose how I respond

There is anticipation in ‘being found’…

When I heard “23… 24… 25… ready or not here I come,” I sucked in my breath. Knowing someone is looking for you creates anticipation and longing. It awakens your senses to be more alive, listening to what is around you and noticing the space you occupy. How often do I “hide” from God wanting to know that someone is looking for me?

I do this with God sometimes. I mean, God and I have been in relationship for a long time and often I need to be reminded of what it feels like to be found, again and again and again. So I “hide” behind a feeling of justification for an action I know has hurt another, maybe just for a bit, and I know full well that God and I are going to need to address, once again, how to walk in forgiveness. If one has known real freedom, one rarely chooses to stay hidden for long.

Not all hiding places are effective…

The best thing about hiding with a four year old is when their small hand is pulling you to hide in a place where your sheer size difference will expose you, not them. Their sweet minds deem it fit for two when, as an adult, I know I have long outgrown THIS perfect place. Like an ostrich with their head stuck in the sand, I join with them, pretending by closing my eyes, covering my face, thinking myself hidden only to be the first to be found – exposed.

Oh yes, I do this with God as well – ask a question and then avoid hearing the answer because I really want another one. I pray, “Please forgive me my sins” when what I really mean is – bummer I got caught. And maybe this place in our relationship is about letting me remember that I can hide, but really I know I need to be found.

When I’m found, I choose how to response…

We played for close to thirty minutes and then last round was called. I was hiding behind pillows of a coach. As I lay there, my one-eyed view of the ceiling, I listened to the sounds of the searching – no one was finding me. Then I heard, “Becky, can you give us a hint?” I raised my fingers up above the pillows and suddenly found a small face peering over at me saying, “I found you!”

Yes you did.

Too often it is not my response to even want to give God a hint – though I know “hiding” is really ineffective when talking about the Creator. But yet, there comes a time when God must make a final call to our hiding. Think of Jonah going from the bottom of a boat to the belly of a fish. God did’t make him come out of hiding, the wind and waves were part of the ways to call him out of his hiding place. After everyone else endured a storm that was meant to call him out, God essentially says, “Want to give me a hint about how to get you out of this boat?” And Jonah’s response is kind of like waving his hand – here I am, I will jump in the water. God graciously swoops in with a fish to scoop him up, “I found you!”

When was the last time you let yourself anticipate being found by God? By another? What if there is an invitation to us all in hide and seek?

——

At bedtime, one little guy looked up at me and said, “Thank you for playing with me.”

I got to look him in the eyes and say, “Thank you for finding me.”

 

Photo credit.

“Your Image of God Creates You”

Just the other day, I got an early birthday present from a friend.

It’s a book.

Which is actually, the very last thing I thought I would want, only because I currently have five books that are half finished, three purchased waiting to be read, and seven on my “wish list” in Amazon.

With a touch of a smile, he slided this book across the table at me and asked me to read the introduction while he got some coffee.

I proceeded to find these phrases:

“…we each tentatively contribute our little part to the great truth of God.”

In that moment, it felt as though the words were penned for my heart. Richard Rohr, one of my spiritual tutors whom I have yet to meet in person, is a man who continues to encourage and challenge me.

So I turned the page to one of the first meditations…

 “Your image of God creates you.”

And suddenly this book became a river inviting me to dive in to the wonder of how my image of God is creating me.

I know I have said this before, but we are made in the image of God, and while these are great words, it isn’t something that is exactly definable. But, I’ve learned that when I have had a static view of God­–omnipotent and already finished–then I also have settled for a static view of myself.

Do we really think the very best we can hope for is this static, no movement type of personality that is forever going to be stuck in what has been?

I do believe God is omnipotent, but I don’t think this means God is finished, with me, with the world, with creating new things…

IF I think God has already done the best work (after all it is recorded in scripture), then I leave no room for God’s creativity to be a part of this situation, this fear, this day. So I am hanging onto the truth that God is busy creating every moment, of every day, in ways seen and unseen.

“Your image of God creates you.”

God in me is continually at work and how I view God, engage with God, interact with that creative aptitude of God – this will in turn create me.

I have vivid memories as a child of returning to the altar and surrendering my little life over and over to God. While I am not really sure about the accuracy of my theology at the tender age of six, what I do believe is each of those trips to the altar, the bending my knee to surrender, this has become a part of creating me and a pattern of learning to return to God.

“Your image of God creates you.”

My image of God as a little person holds a distinct sense of being invited, received, and seen at the altar over and over and over. Through my adult eyes it may seem silly and rather unnecessary part of my faith, I can’t help but wonder if, from God’s vantage point, God was creating something in me.

So I my question today is this: How is your image of God creating you? Are you willing to be in the motion of being created every minute of every day?

Thank you my friend for these words of wisdom. My challenge with creation right now is to let this book be a slow savoring vs. a quickly devoured meal. Wisdom can only burn me when I linger long enough to let the language seer my soul and begin creating something in me.

– becky

Let Me Introduce My New Friend

I would like to introduce you to a new friend of mine.

Actually, I don’t know it all that well yet myself, but no matter.

For the past two years, I have been looking, searching, and weighing in my mind how to continue to transform a once bedroom into an office space that honors journeying. Can former sleeping room become a healing space where people share deep heartache? Can an office be more than functional and be a place of discovery? You see, I kind of care deeply about creating space to receive and hold another’s journey.

About four months ago I saw this couch in a place (Omaha) that was crowded (a boutique with too many things) and inconvenient (I was driving a very small car) and yet, I knew that this couch belonged in my office.

I offered a price and was politely turned down. I walked away, but I knew this was the couch.

And I kept waiting…

A few days later, I went back and offered the same price again and was, once again, politely turned down.

I walked away, but this time left my name and number, just in case she changed her mind.

And I kept waiting…

Three weeks later I got a call that I could take my friend home. I was in Minneapolis – couch was in Omaha. A dear friend picked up my new friend and made space in her home for it to wait for my arrival. Snowstorms, ice, car-availability all played into three and a half months of my new friend in process rather than coming home.

And I kept waiting…

Everyday in Omaha, my friend in her own office space, had to walk around the couch (I told you, she truly is the kindest of friends). Each time as she the navigated around the coach, she prayed a blessing on it – sometimes through gritted teeth – “May God do much healing for those who sit on this coach.”

And she kept waiting…

photo (8)

Today it is here and the space feels sacred with its presence in this space where God is teaching me about how holding others is a process, not a place. So far, my new coach friend is teaching me more about waiting with others…

Waiting as a verb has much to teach me. I am seeking to make space to allow it to be more of an active part of my life, rather than a last resort…waiting that is.

Anyway, all that to say, welcome friend! I look forward to all that will happen in your strong arms while we wait together.

Standing Together with Ashes on Our Heads

It’s the season of Lent.

What this means to each of us can be vastly different, but last night when I had the opportunity to serve in our Ash Wednesday service, I saw something.

  • Men,
  • Women,
  • Children,
  • Babies in arms.

We all came and were marked by the black ash. This ash had once been palm leaves, the very same palm leaves that were fans of proclamation of Jesus became the ash that joined us all together.

Lent is not a place, but rather an invitation and process. I admit I have been known to use the 40 day period as a diet program (I mean, giving up sugar probably does more good for my waistline than my soul). Nevertheless, I have often approached Lent with two questions:

  • What can I realistically give up?
  • Can I skip my b-day (since it falls in the middle of the 40 days)?

Thinking of Lent as a process, rather than a place, hit me last night. As I placed black ash on my thumb and pressed it to the foreheads of all the people present, I felt compassion and comradeship…

“Turn from sin and return to the life of God.”

With each stroke of my thumb, I looked deep into eyes of people just like me. We share a commonality – we sin daily, hourly, moment by moment, and while sin marks us, God refuses to use “it” as a definition for our identity.

dear friend says it this way:

“I like the picture of us being a community of people walking around with ashes on our foreheads. For one day, we agree, ‘We’re messed up. We’re not as put together as we seem to be. We need help.’”

We all need help. And last night, as I looked up at the audience and saw a sea of faces all bearing ashen black marks, I felt gratitude and joy. All of us together marked by sin, yet defined by God’s love for us!!

We do need one another, we do need help, and we need love. Above all else, the season of Lent is a process of learning a pattern of turning from sin and returning to the life of God, again and again, and again, and again.

This year, instead of making Lent a definitive place, I am going to work on my pivots, and strengthen my ankle muscles by turning from sin AND
returning to the life of God.

Let’s go together, shall we?

 

Photo credit.

One Piece of the Mosaic

To my friends at Mosaic NEO,

Today, I sit at my desk and gather the bravery I need to tackle the mounds of unopened mail and all the other overwhelming and simple realities of being home. But first, before I move any further, I want to pause and remember some priceless moments from the past few days we shared together.

Feeling thankful.

The moment when I stepped off the plane and out into the sunshine and had someone there waiting to whisk me off to a lunch – complete with hummus and pita bread (something that had been a staple for the past two weeks in Israel) — created a connection between where I had been and where I was going. Thank you for nourishing me.

In the warm afternoon sun, I crawled into a hammock on the edge of the woods and rested my jet-lagged body, until I heard the tender young voices of three children who woke me up and welcomed me to their home. Thank you for a home to stay in.

Arriving at a lodge situated on the edge of Lake Erie, I encountered one of the Great Lakes, I had never seen. The vastness of a moving mass of water, reminded me again of the vastness of the story God is unfolding when we take the time to listen to one another. We walked, talked (and sat on some incredibly sharp rocks); this time marked me. Thank you for sharing time and beauty.

We gathered to celebrate God, to refresh our minds and hearts and focus on community. We learned about “blessing” being more than a passive approach of receiving, but instead of vulnerably bending our knee and choosing to stand up and into the ways God blesses us. Thank you for risking bent knees.

And yes, there were tears when hidden places were gently but firmly shaken to reveal the need for the tender heart of God to heal and bring hope. Thank you for trusting me to join you in that journey.

On Saturday, when we didn’t returned home until close to midnight, I was blurry-eyed with tiredness. As I crawled into the bottom bunk of a child’s bed that I was given to sleep in, I looked up and found this written on the bed slate:

“God love Becky.”

Thank you for the encouragement.

My final night there again we gathered, in a school gym to talk about how Marriage is Messy. I talked about the differences between men and women – how God sees this as good and longs for us to experience more of who God is through valuing these differences. Some held their breath as I talked about the s-word… sex. Others let out a deep sigh of relief. Thank you for sharing this sacred ground.

There are so many moments from the past few days that return to me – so many faces that are piercing my thoughts right now as I write this and I am grateful.

I experienced not just who Mosaic NEO is, but what it means to be a part of a mosaic.  If your vision was to be a place where brokenness, held in the hands of love, creates beauty – you do that well.

Thank you for letting me be just one small piece in your mosaic.

Climbing on the Edge in Israel

photo (30)Climbing to the Edge

“All you need is a mustard seed of faith in order to move mountains,”

No offense to all those Sunday school teachers that tried really hard to explain this to me, but honestly it never made any sense. I mean, come on, have you ever seen a real mustard seed? It’s close to being invisible.

The other day, during our Israel study trip, our group was out doing a bit of hiking on the Cliffs of Arbel. There we were, standing on the edge of beautiful cliffs with views that reminded me of the Princess Bride and the Cliffs of Insanity. I faithfully followed our guide to the edge of the first downward slope and realized that my heart started to quicken.

Why?

Because lately, I’ve been learning to walk in a new way. Three weeks ago, I was in a walking cast and entertaining ideas of needing to bring the appendage with me on this trip.

Some members of our group were sprinting ahead up and over the rocks, while others were staying behind to bring up the rear. Me and my weak and struggling ankles ended up somewhere in the middle of the pack.

But guess what?

My mustard seed faith seemed really small in this moment and yet, extremely necessary.

I took every step remembering where I had been these past few months and choosing to be present to where I was at – I had to move at an intentional pace.

photo (28)

I felt the mountain with my hands as I secured places to counter my balance. I saw every littered drop of goat dung scattered on the cliffs as a pathway to follow. I heard our guide call out instructions for where a foothold could be found. I smelled the rosemary growing between the rocks as it brushed against my cheek. I tasted the sweet drops of water when I paused to look back at what I had climbed.

I wonder if the disciples were surprised when Jesus told them that they didn’t need more faith that the tiniest seed? Did they too feel that their faith was an almost invisible amount? Yet is faith really faith if it is not put into practice, brought out into the light of day and engaged with?

The Cliffs tutored me that day in something that those dear Sunday school teachers tried really hard to give me all those years ago. I needed to grow into holding my tiny seed of faith and putting it into practice, even with shaking, weak ankles.

Maybe faith is risky because it requires not knowing how the story will end.

Too often I want to exchange my faith for fact and when I do this, I misplace my tiny mustard seed (after all it is rather small and easy to loose). Thankfully God invites us all to cliff hikes in life where we get to put into practice this tiny little seed called faith.

We get to actively be a part of the very vast journey in which our Creator offers us an invitation to discover being created in the image of one who can use even a mustard seed of faith to move mountains.

Ankles are sore, but I found my mustard seed of faith…

~ Becky

 

It’s “True” and “Essence” with one “e”

People often have to ask, “How do you spell Truessence?” and I always respond something like this:

 “It’s the word “true” and “essence” combined together with one “e” in the middle.”

Confusing? Well maybe just a bit, but during these past few months of our rebranding journey, I’ve been continually reminded of the why, where and how for how this name came to be.

Rewind a few years.

The sweet moment when I first heard the name Truessence birthed, came from a dear friend of mine named Emily. And one thing you should know about Emily is that she oozes creativity.

We were a group of women away for a weekend of vulnerably risking to share our dreams, ideas, fears and to listen to one another. Somewhere between a pedicure and a facial (and probably some really good wine), my raw heart was exposed: “I want to see people set free to see their sexuality and spirituality like God sees it.”

And just like that, the wheels were in motion. I had said it out loud and suddenly this desire was moved from a place of “I” to a place of “we”.

We sat there dreaming and wondering together as Emily doodled away on her napkin. And then she spoke it. And we all grew silent.

Truessence Logo_horizontal_color-01

My heart + people’s process + her words + God’s love = creating Truessence.

We began to asking crazy questions like:

  • What would it mean to return  to our truest essence?
  • Could God have created this place within us to long for our essence, in its truest form?

But first, I had a few rules for God.

On this day when the name Truessence found me, I had no idea what all it would involve – in fact I made some very declarative statements to God and to anyone else who would listen. Things mostly like:

“I will only teach women! Married women!”

But God seemed to hold a bigger vision that I was, at that time, unable to see. It’s mildly humorous now how quickly God began using others to stretch me.

  • Can you teach this to singles?
  • Can you teach this to men?
  • Will you risk stepping into marriages that are on the brink of divorce?
  • Will you see my image in the sexual addict?
  • Can you really trust me when you step into the chaos of how sexual disorder is hiding the truest essence of my image?
  • Can you be a resource for those struggling with sexual wounds?

Truth be told, the changes forming in Truessence these past years have been stretching, humbling and rich with learning. Back in 2006, when sweet Emily uttered forth the name Truessence, I could not have imagined all that has come to life or all the messy places where I would be invited. And most remarkably, how we’ve had to grow into our name’s meaning over the years.

You know who you are.

Today, I am a bit misty eyed sitting here and writing this. In reaching this new threshold of change, I am reminded of ALL those who have volunteered their time, energy and talents to help us reach this place.

The truest part of Truessence are the people. Yes, the people. You know who you are and if you have any doubt, please call me (once I return from Israel, that is) and let me look you in the eye and remind you. I’ll remind you that because you risked asking me really tough, uncomfortable questions, you’ve  helped me grow in ways that would have never been possible without your voice.

I had a dream that was born from trudging through the pain of the past, but it was within community that this dream was born, breathed to life and expanded. Thank you!!

The “we” of Truessence is continuing to grow through partnership with true, real and raw people like you. People who have requested to have an ancient story retold with new insight.

Here’s to exploring the truessence of being spiritually and sexually created in the image of God, together.

Cheers,

Becky

Finding God’s Image Even in the Dark, Messy Places

“The supreme religious challenge is to see God’s image in one who is not in our image.” – Jonathan Sacks

I found this quote in my inbox the other day and like an itch from a mosquito bite that disrupts  one’s sleep, it continues to follow me.

How do I define the image of God? Am I looking for something I can recognize about God from what I have experienced or from what God is wiling to experience?

The very best of me comes from the image of God. But what about the worst of me, is it separated out away from the image of God?

Does God view me as segregated into good and bad? 

No, God doesn’t.

To clarify – if I view God as outside of the very worst of who I am, I will continue to seek to improve myself for God vs. finding God in all things – even in the deep, ugly, dark wounds. Yes, I do mean that God’s presence is in the dark stuff, even where I least expect to find it.

What I believe and experience about the image of God in me (most days) is that

  • I am loving…
  • I am compassionate…
  • I am grateful…
  • I am sincere…
  • I am non-judgmental,

BUT,

Can I also see the image of God there with me in the ways that I am:

  • seeking approval and wanting to be loved…
  • swearing at the dumb jerk in the fast car who has cut me off in traffic…
  • judging another person…
  • nursing my pride when wounded by another…

If God’s image is only for the places of perfection, of what has been refined, then I make God a god that is absent the trenches of change, the real dirt of life. But when I look at Jesus’ life, Jesus shows me a different way:

  • Jesus ate with people – whom others saw as sinners. 
  • Jesus received gifts from people – whom others saw as prostitutes.
  • Jesus drank with people – whom others saw as betrayers.
  • Jesus carried sins for people – whom others saw as murderers.

Whoa.

The dark, ugly and super messy places.

Jesus saw, engaged, met and loved people where they were in order to bring the very best of God into some really dark and messy places.

I once heard Dallas Willard say, “God did not send Jesus to earth to show us who God was, but to show us who we are capable of being.”

If this is true, then it is during those moments of life when I stop long enough to see people as living, breathing image bearers of God that I will also see the presence of God in motion – in process – moving in and through another person. And then maybe, just maybe, I can treasure the image of God even in the dark and ugly things where absence seems bigger than presence.

I believe that to truly see God’s image in one another we will have to risk seeing all of who we are – not just the very best of who we are – but all of our image, both light and dark.

If God isn’t afraid of the dark, why am I?

~ becky

Numbing the Pain Just Seems Easier

I don’t like pain-killers, but I do confess to having them in my house.

The reason I say this as a confession is that some of my friends, who will remain nameless here – but you know who you are – do not let things like this cross under their doorposts. While I seek to find “natural ways to deal with pain”, the truth is out, I do sometimes reach for a quick fix to my pain. There. I said it. I am not a purist though I talk a good talk.

These ankle stress fractures are teaching me a lot about listening to pain vs. denying pain. I have had to notice where and when I numb pain, which has trickled over into more areas than just my physical pain.*

When I injured my ankle this past March, I was already two and a half miles into my run. But I could NOT ignore the pain any more.

The many levels of pain denial

  1. Ignore – pushing it away because it’s inconvenient
  2. Silence – shhhh, don’t be the needy one
  3. Pretend – this isn’t real pain 

What is pain really? Webster’s defines it as “A discomfort caused by injury…” But do we allow pain to talk to us? And if so, what do we hear?

Well, usually I hear something like, “Get back up, make it happen, are you going to give into this pain?! Come on Becky, be better than that!” Somehow I equate listening to physical pain as a sign of weakness.

While I don’t know where this false message first got started in my life, I have way too many examples of how quickly I have gotten up, ignored discomfort and learned to numb both emotional and physical pain with

  • switching on the TV
  • reading emails
  • one too many glasses of wine
  • surfing the Internet
  • checking my phone

You get the idea…

Numbing the pain seems easier

Daily I work with people looking at stress-fractured sexuality and I know that the quick fix of denial results in wanting to push away real pain:

  • expectations of a marriage partner
  • conversations about sex
  • separation of sexuality and spirituality
  • volatile emotions that seem out of control
  • choices of infidelity
  • impacts of pornography

I get it – ignoring real pain is intoxicatingly tempting, in fact I can see it so clearly maybe because I know how to do it sooooo well.

But what does listening to this pain look like? Who can we trust when we cease denying what is very real?

Last March, it was an old dear friend of mine that tenderly picked me up off of that floor, ignored my frustrated profanity, drove me to the ER and even laughed at my insistent attempts to prove that I was ok.

She walked along next to me in the pain and chose to calmly and firmly speak the obvious truth:

“Beck you have a stress fracture. So stop it!!

While I would like to say this was when I experienced a profound place of freedom, I can’t. That would be lying. Instead, this was one marker on the road to healing.

So what could it look like to allow pain to tutor us to health? Could pain have something good to teach us about sexual health?

We might need to learn to walk in a new way. What might that look like?

~ becky



God is always about more than just the obvious.