Airline bucket list

My starboard seatmate

After a full weekend of work that included many hard conversation-filled days and nights, I was ready for space to capture some thoughts on paper and get started on the pile of emails that needed to be sent.

I boarded a plane to return home, only to find that the plane was not working correctly. When flying you don’t want to hear, “the engine is not starting properly.” These words seemed like a good enough reason to choose to be re-routed through a southern state in order to go north.

As I squeezed into my last minute, middle-seat assignment and brought out my iPad to begin working, Jim, my starboard seatmate began a conversation. A conversation that would continue for the next hour and five minutes, with hardly a breath taken.

Jim has led a fascinating life. His bucket list is quite lengthy and holds things that I have honestly never imagined were even a possibility nor have I considered as worth pursuing.

  • “Feed the sled dogs at the start of the Iditarod race in Alaska,” – Fascinating.
  • “Cave diving in Iceland to see the crack in the platonic plates of the earth,” – Sounds cold and I am not sure I wanted to know that were cracks.
  • “Walked the trail that Christopher Columbus took from Italy to ______,” – Quite honestly I can’t remember the other city, but it sounded impressive.

As I glanced at my still open iPad, I realized my ambitious flight plans for working were slowly ebbing away and I had a choice:

  1. Listen (no, he never once asked me a question) or,
  2. Shut him down (my razor precision for doing this was definitely  an option).

I looked into his brown eyes and began to ask questions. What made him choose this trip? How did he manage to find a guide to take him into the caves?

Comparing my life to his

As he talked, my life adventures seemed small in comparison, and I realized I was beginning to compare my  life to his. A sense of measuring began to form in my brain of what “adventure” really is.

  • Do I lead a boring life?
  • Do I not dream big enough?

“I bought a bike in Columbia to ride the trails of (sorry I don’t remember this famous place), and I almost died. I wonder if my wife would have missed me.”

Suddenly I was snapped out of my trailing mind and asked, “who do you enjoy doing these adventures with?”

“No one,” came his response, “it’s my bucket list.”

After I left Jim and was sitting on my next flight I realized something. We all have our own bucket list (verbalized or preverbal) and we put on that list what is truly important to us. And while my bucket list isn’t written in draft form, divided out by continents, and time zones — yes, Jim’s is — this conversation has caused me to reflect on what I value most about the adventures I have experienced.

The most important part of life is not what I do, but who I am with.

So, if I actually did have a bucket list it might read something like this:

  • to see others
  • to listen to people
  • to value the story being created through relationships, and
  • to honor the process of life.

I will most likely never dive into an underwater cave or pet a white tiger, but IF I ever do, I want to do it with someone I care about in order to share the moment — not be the sole owner of an event.

Thank you Jim for sitting beside me today, for sharing your life with me, and allowing me to see you, to listen, and to recognize the value of this moment and what I could learn.

~ becky

Photo credit.

How sweet it is to be loved by you…

I think love is risky…

I had breakfast with a friend the other day. We talked about our shared moments in history, our life stages, grown/growing children, and then we turned a dark corner into the hard stuff. The kind of things that once they’re said out loud can no longer be hidden.

I think love is messy…

We talked of our fears, our hopes, those dreams left in the dust, and the dreams that are kind of still being formed within us. Words in our throats got caught and in the pausing we made space for oozing tears to be mopped up yet again in our already-crumpled napkins.

I think love is scary…

A dream of sharing life with another is on hold for her as she gives her energies to her children growing into adulthood. “You know that point where you let go of what you think is IT and discover what’s been waiting to be seen? What if this is that point? I don’t want to miss it.”

Way too soon, she had to leave our shared space and re-enter her roles of breadwinner and single mom of two teens.

I think love is returning again and again…

We lingered a bit at the curb, she invited me into her car to listen to a song that has brought her hope in dark places. She spoke of it as a tool that strengthens her to remember how to engage in her journey to hope in hard places. She spoke of how learning to love herself is teaching her to risk loving others more fully.

I think love creates motion…

As the melody filled the car, I found myself in tears because at the core we all need to experience many different dimensions of love. Too often we run—or too often I run—when a melody of love requires my acknowledging the need for someone else or the dimension of inviting another to see our process.

I think love is nourishing…

That day at breakfast, I had a great latte, an egg sandwich, and a lesson on loving well.

I think love is a journey not a destination…

Here’s the song.

I’d love to hear how love’s journey is teaching you today.

~ Becky

The Special Vintage of Her Life

It is her birthday.

She is turning thirty.

She gathered her friends from across the structural lines of work and pleasure and asked them to all show up in a vineyard – hard to struggle through I know.

She dreamed of celebrating.

So we all came.

We met one another, shared a living space for four days, drank, cooked, toured, drank (it is wine country), laughed, swam, napped, ate amazing food and cried. Yep, all of us, even John.

What could possibly make grown people, some who barely know one another, shed tears together?

We gathered, fifteen plus around a table, food clinging to forgotten plates, loud chaotic conversations, and glasses of wine swirled, sipped, and savored. Someone rose and invited us all to gather our attention to the birthday girl – the one who had brought us all here, the one whose life had created these weekend connections between random people.

One by one we spoke of what we know to be true of the birthday girl, and as the strong affirming words rose in the air and we all began breathing the same air of knowing this woman we ALL cried.

The motion of feeling

Emotion is a funny thing – it stirs something in us. E-motion is about movement. Yet, too often, I want to move past what is being stirred and quickly step into logic and defining something that’s meant to be experienced.

I began to taste our tears, not just my own. The birthday girl gathered us and in bringing us together she was crushing and squeezing our lives into this weekend, she was creating a wine that held a special vintage of her life.

grapes

What is truly crushed is joined with and to another. It will cease to be alone and instead be a part of something bigger.

We paused to let one another’s words be shared. We honored the expansiveness of shared understanding. We drank deeply of seeing her receive these words. We finished this bottle completely not wasting one drop of the love shared.

Thank you for letting me be one small grape, crushed into the rich vintage of your life. Happy Birthday sweet friend.

~ Becky

 

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.

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.

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.

When Healing is a Process Instead of a Destination

Crutches are an aid to my learning to walk, but they cannot walk for me.

When learning to walk in a new way, every step requires that I be present to what is in front of me, not assuming the way is clear, but instead depending on these two (ugly but practical) metal devices to assist me.

As one friend put it, they are my “guard-rails” guiding my recovery.

Healing is a process, not a destination.

Learning how to take it just one step at a time.

In my work with Truessence, one distinct privilege I have is working with men who struggle with pornography. 

I say privileged for three reasons:

  1. For a man to be vulnerable about this topic takes real courage
  2. Struggling with something that cultural deems “normal” is hard work
  3. Shattering the silences changes their intimate relationships

I believe culture, family of origin and stereo-typing of gender can lead to intentional and unintentional lies men believe. Things like:

  • sexual drive is uncontrollable – so why bother
  • a sexual drive = shame – so just keep it hidden
  • entitlement – sex is my right

Are we willing to struggle with the vulnerability of a new goal?

Right now, with these two crutches, I can only take one step at a time. Everything within me wants to run again, but that will never happen unless I engage fully with the process of healing and learn to walk in a new way.

So God being God makes things practical for me – honestly I don’t like all these, but I do have a goal and so I  must submit to:

  • asking for help (a lot), 
  • admitting my weakness (a lot) 
  • discovering I am not alone (a lot)
  • seeing obstacles for what they are, obstacles not failures

Easy to say – harder to walk out (pun totally intended).

Time to start walking in a new way.

What happens when we suddenly realize that we can no longer walk in the way we have been walking and we want to walk in a new way — sexually? Jean Vanier says it this way,

“It is not possible to grow to greater love if there is no space for error.”

Too often it is an illusion of health that robs us from seeing the inclusive nature of God’s love that is always seeking to teach us to walk in a new way towards wholeness.

As I see men struggle to learn to walk in a new way sexually, I find that they have to address the pain that prevents them from seeing their bodies as:

  • crafted by God to experience pleasure
  • designed as a sexual and spiritual being
  • seeing beauty as something to be in communion with, not something to consume

There is no simple solution, no pill that can be taken and white knuckling it out seems like a bizarre form of torture if God is love. What if God wants to meet you IN the dark places in order to teach you to walk in a new way?

What I know about a bone stress-fractures is that in order to heal it takes time and rest from the previous activity that caused the fracture. My slow clumsy cantor is a part of the process of healing. My vulnerability requires an inner strength that is learning to submit in new ways to one who created me to experience wholeness.

Newsflash: we all need help learning to walk away from old unhealthy patterns.

~ becky

Earthly experiences | Dallas Willard

 “We are spiritual beings having an earthly experience.”

Years ago, to a crowd of people in a large auditorium, Dallas Willard spoke these words and they pierced my heart, changing my perspective on life and death. His words took root in the soil of truth that was buried deep inside of me and every time I returned to remember these words, they grew…

Dallas Willard’s earthly experience is now complete. I found this out when opening my inbox this morning and now I sit here with a lump in my throat and tears on my cheeks. I truly loved this man and am grateful for how his words continue to tutor my heart.

While many will write eloquent words of eulogy for a life well lived, I merely want to offer up a small thank you to this man and how his words have carved hope into my life:

  • Challenging my legalistic view of the disciplines, calling me to come home to God’s heart
  • Comforting my father on his death bed, calling him to trust as he journeyed home, returning to God’s heart
  • In seeing my father comforted by your words, I was invited me to stay present in death to God’s heart
  • Crafting your language to reveal intimate truth in Scripture, familiar words now caress my heart by God.

Yes Dallas, your spiritual journey goes on and though your physical experience is now complete.

The words you spoke in love, the ones we heard and let penetrate, they are still very much alive, moving among us and will continue to do so for generations to come.

And now, even in your death, dear friend, you tutor me. I feel deeply aware that much of what I am planting right now in my physical experience will live beyond me…

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Oh Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”

I will continue to meet you at the heart of God.

With gratitude,

Becky