The Heartbeat of Valentine’s Day

How we love one another

With Valentine’s Day less than 24 hours away, the expectation to get the “perfect” gift or plan the “perfect” date for your spouse or loved one can feel like an overwhelming task. It’s easy to read stories of extravagant Valentine’s Day dates and think, “If only my spouse does (fill in the blank with your expectation)… then I would finally know how much they really love me.”

However, in the pressure of perfect gifts and grand gestures, we run the risk of loosing the simple act of expressing affection.

What if the true heartbeat of Valentine’s Day was less about “getting it right” and more about remembering ways you have loved your spouse in the past?

Here are just three different ideas for what this could look like:

  1. Write three adjectives that describe your spouse, and why you feel they do. When you pick up a pen and actually write words on paper your brain connects differently with the subject matter than it does when you create it electronically. Plus, this act requires a sacrifice of time — from both you and your spouse.
  2. Write three things that are funny about the other one. Let this be an opportunity for you and your spouse to laugh together as you reminisce. An added bonus? Laughter helps to release dopamine in the brain.
  3. Arrange some time to remember your vows together, and if possible, write them out. Couples say vows at the beginning of marriage, but often we forget to revisit these special promises we made to one another later in marriage. There’s no better way to grow together in understanding those vows than experiencing the the ins and outs of day-to-day life.

So this Valentine’s Day, what if we choose to remember how we have loved our spouse in the past as well as the ways we will continue to love them in this coming year?

I Wanted To See Whales

Living with desire

I went whale watching in Washington.

Searching for whales in the San Juan Islands is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack—these islands are massive and waterways are 100-lane highways for freightliners. I boarded Island Adventure Cruises and we set out for a six-hour tour, with about 60 people.

Once aboard, the crew began to give us detailed instructions on how we help them look for whales, which I know nothing about, thus I hired them to take me out. Quickly, I knew that if it depended on me we would not be finding whales today. I barely knew how to keep my balance on the rocking ship. Then, I began to engage with an inner dialogue that was, inch by inch, seeking to lower my desired expectations to see any whales.

You don’t have to see whales today, I reasoned with myself. After all I was,

  • on an adventure (in Washington!)
  • with my daughter
  • in the San Juan Islands
  • on a beautiful boat
  • experiencing a perfectly sunny day…

By lowering my desire, I was adjusting my expectations, preparing to be disappointed, I’ll just choose to silence my desire for anything more than all this beauty I am experiencing, right now, in this moment. This is what I began telling myself.

How often do we lower our expectations when we are beginning something that holds possibilities? How often do we not name our expectations for fear of having to face not getting to experience what we think the moment is meant to be?

So I said this, what I perceived to be a profound and rather mature thought, out loud to my daughter.

“If we don’t see whales, I will still be happy, I mean ALL of this is overwhelmingly beautiful.”

To which my daughter replied, “Yeah, that’s nice. But I’m going to be really disappointed if we don’t see any whales today.”

And, wham! She hit my “profound wisdom” like a rotten melon, shattering it right before me. You know what?

I really wanted to see whales.

I mean, I really wanted to see whales.

We are talking WHALES here—humpbacks, orcas, grays, minke, and this is the season where they hang out around here!

So, grabbing binoculars I began engaging the whale-spotting techniques we’d been instructed with in the beginning. Four hours into our trip, the radio revealed that whales had been spotted, but they were a long ways away. We headed towards the area, not knowing if we would arrive in time, but once again I felt desire rise up—I want to see whales. This time, instead of squishing it or controlling it, I let my desire jump inside me. I let it swim in hope and, you know what, I began to taste possibilities while I imagined these massive creatures.

whale-watching

When we disengage from our desires or silence stirring sensations that go with desire we begin managing an outcome that is not real. We fake living in order to not have to experience sensations on the black list of emotions:

  • Disappointment
  • Fear
  • Loss

While these emotions seem harder to deal with, they are real parts of real life. Here I was with a choice, would I taste of my desire?

“There be whales here capt’n!”

(This is one of the most-quoted lines in our family.)

Yes, I did see them that day. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed.

But as I reflect back on that moment, I realize that I was surprised by a joy that overwhelmed me. When these orcas crested and dipped in and out of the water I cried and clapped, turning to everyone around me and sharing a joy of seeing.

Desire will always leave us vulnerable. To taste of one’s desire will always involve risk.

What if we learn how to walk with desire in a new way?

 

~ Becky

Sitting With Judgment

This morning I am sitting with judgment.

It’s rather quiet right now, but it was active most of the night and robbed me of sleep.

It goes something like this: I hurt someone I love with words that came out of my mouth. Honestly I didn’t intend to, but the way they were received in our conversation, injured them.

And you know what? This someone told me. They stood face to face and shared with me how I had hurt them. What I thought was an engaging conversation, they experienced as painful. In that face-to-face moment, I felt the tugging to explain myself, so they would:

  • understand me…
  • see my heart…
  • see my point of view…
  • hear the words again…

Or, instead of scrambling to explain myself, I could instead just listen, hear them, and hold the their heart.

Who are we guarding anyway?

God is very clear in placing humankind into the garden—we have a purpose for being there. Maybe God’s words in Genesis 2:15 are painting a picture of how we are meant to live and what we can create.

“Yhwh, God took the human and set him in the garden of Eden to work it and to watch it.”

A few meanings might be helpful from the original language of Hebrew:

  • work =  work, worship, serve
  • watch = to guard
  • garden = delight
  • human = humankind (gender-full)

Foundationally speaking, how we perceive this verse in the heat-rising judgment moments will determine what we create.

If my understanding of this verse is rooted in the Garden belonging to me, myself and I, then what I am to guard and work turns my focus solely upon myself.

  • What is best for me?
  • What serves my purpose and creates what I want?

But, if my understanding of this verse is rooted in the Garden belonging to us all, then, together we are meant to guard one another and yes, this will mean engaging in the work of often hard conversations in order to build community.

  • What is best in this moment?
  • What are we seeking to create together?

Using the original Hebrew words this verse sounds like this to me:

“Yhwh, God, took the humankind and set them in the garden of delight to work, worship, serve it, and to guard it.”

Community can be uncomfortable

Judgment came and slept with me last night. And this morning I had to look up the meaning of the word. It means, “the ability to make considered decision or come to sensible conclusions.”

Yep, I think this definition is giving some direction to what it means to be engaged in creating a community who guards and works the garden in order to create together something that’s bigger than just about guarding me, myself and I.

My sleep-deprived night with judgment invited me into being in the risky place of forgiving and being forgiven. I was misunderstood. I also hurt another. Together we meet face-to-face and something is created in, around, and for both of us. In asking for forgiveness there’s an invitation to myself and another to enter into a new place—a place that involves the ability for us both to consider decisions that will help us see one another more vulnerably.

Dear judgment, I thank you for you for interrupting my sleep last night and inviting me to “revisit my words.” I don’t get to change what happened, instead I get to change only how I will choose to be in God’s garden.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if community were easy? It isn’t, but you know what? It’s good, very good.

Photo credit.

Easter Interruptions

My time is coming to a close there in this beautiful place called South Africa. I had my morning planned, eat a healthy breakfast, write a profound Easter blog, do a bit of cleaning for my daughter and then head to the seashore. So I headed to a local coffee shop I have fallen in love with and will miss deeply.

I was about halfway into intensely writing an Easter blog with amazingly profound thoughts on Jesus living aware to others during his final week and how death creates life, when I got interrupted. Andre was sitting at the breakfast bar to my right and had to keep asking me for a condiment sauce, sugar or the pepper grinder in order to not reach over my laptop to retrieve it. I enjoyed our simple interchanges, any excuse to hear this great South African accent. At one point he asked me about my accent, where I was from and what I did. I politely gave him a simple answer about being a pastor and working to help men and women discover relational wholeness.

Over the course of the next hour and a half he shared his story with me. He is taking leave for six weeks from working as a counselor for addicts in recovery, to do some healing around the loss of both of his parents in the course of one week—a tragically beautiful love story, they died within two days of one another, even death could not separate them. Andre is the son who was closest in proximity, he had managed all the practical end of life details for them, but capacity to function did not mean he had grieved.

Grief had returned him to his faith, these past three months something that because of his sexuality he had fled in order to not be abused. Grief was teaching him to risk being in relationship, and as he jokingly said, even talking to a pastor. We talked about God, love, life now and life eternally. He shared about how deeply he misses his parents, how he longs for a love that can impact another’s life—like his parents had experienced.  I listened, mostly looked at pictures of his vineyards, images of a Tuscany style home he is building and tasted a sample of olive oil that he had just harvested from his olive groves.

At one point he offered an apology for interrupting my morning and my writing. My writing, my plan, my words seemed far away and very insignificant at this moment, and quite truthfully I could have missed the whole experience. God laid a test out there for me to trip into—would I live aware? Could I let my profound words die and let someone else tell the Easter story about life?

As we were preparing to each go our own way, he reached out and touched my hand, looked me in the eyes and said, “You have a beautiful heart.” I asked if I could give him a hug, a motherly embrace and there in the coffee shop a grown man laid his head on my shoulder and cried and cried and cried and I cried with him.  When we wiped our snotty noses and laughed at the spectacle we must have created, he looked me in the eye and said,

“I needed to share this morning with someone to be reminded of what love is, one can’t face death alone.”

No Andre, one cannot and because of Jesus, neither of us have to. So, thank you for letting me taste of Easter, instead of just write about it. Thank you for taking the risk.

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Jesus lived aware, will I?

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?

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

Prayers for Boston

It came across an update

Bombing at Boston Marathon.

Men and women who had been anticipating and training to cross this finish line with exhaustion and complete exhilaration are now crossing the line scarred and full of fear.

 

  • How does this happen?
  • Who would do this?
  • Why? Why? Why??

 

As I was out this afternoon, I heard a little girl ask her Daddy, “does this cancel our life?” Oh the innocent question that is marked with great wisdom.

 

To the runners, the friends and family, the volunteers, the eager on-lookers and everyone in between – may you feel hope and comfort. I pray also for all of us that we would stand face to face with our own fears and its claws of temptation to retaliate. Only love can heal fear.

 

There is no reason for something like this to happen. As a dear friend of mine said in response to these horrible explosions, “I know we can do better than this”.

 

Me too.

 

#prayingforboston

 

~ becky

Yesterday Marathon Training, Today Crutches.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been training for my very first half marathon.

I have this love/hate relationship with training. But the discipline has been good for me to notice and name a few things.

Running – I am learning to gauge speed, terrain and patterns, how healthy equipment equips one for a better run. i.e. do not use shoes that have been buried in the closet for years and are worn out.

Recovery – cooling down after a run and caring for my body requires good food, plenty of water and a shower. This time invites me to be grateful for what I have completed. Also while sweat is a friendly detox program, no friend really wants to share this intimacy with you.

Resting –days where I am not suppose to run, instead let the muscles be without strain, which seems counter-intuitive – I mean I am suppose to be running, training and some how this has become the hardest part of the training for me.

These three prongs of training go hand-in-hand. Now four weeks in, I’m becoming familiar with this training rhythm.

Then something went wrong.

I wish I knew what it was exactly, but I don’t. All I know is that, yesterday on my run, something went wildly wrong.

One minute I was trotting along (at a pretty decent pace, might I add) without any pain, and then the very next minute my ankle began to scream the worst kind of pain at me. But of course, what did I do? I did my best to silence my shouting ankle, pressing on to finish my mileage.

But once I hit my desired mile marker, I quickly realized that I could barely walk.

What?! Why could I run, but I could not walk??

I ignored the pain in the middle of the run because that is what I have so often learned to do in life – push it aside, deal with it later, maybe it will disappear.

Swallowing my pride.

Now, here I sit with a nice, fleshy, swollen ankle that properly refuses to even bare the pressure of my weight (no joke). You know the worst of it? Now I have to sit and ask for help, which pricks my pride and stirs my desires…

  • “I do not want to be needy.”
  • “Buck up and press through—don’t be a baby.”

Every ounce of the “resting” part of my training is being tested right now. Will I hear my body’s need in the presence of the whining voice of my pride? I look that pride in the face and not-too-kindly ask it to be quiet. But as it continues to whine, I realize that pride is a desire I have fed and responded to without any thought of what God might have to teach through asking for help.

“Oh God, let me listen and help me tame this demon so that it even may become an angel in my life.”

Until then, you can find me right here, icing and resting.

~ becky