Monday, May 05, 2014

Notes #20 In Which I Stay Rooted

A few weeks back, I got a headache that grew louder than the voices of the four women who joined me in a women's retreat planning meeting. My eyes were aching and I just felt wiped out as we talked about themes and speakers and women's issues--and I didn’t know why.  I was juicing a lot that week for heaven’s sake. I was eating tons of greens, no sugar, no meat (...except for those two GF brownies I ate after a day of only juicing). But anyway, I was in this meeting feeling like my progesterone levels were taking a nosedive off a cliff into a rocky canyon, trying to keep up with the ideas, the different directions, which I couldn't do. So I wrote them down and thanked the ladies and prayed and said I needed time to process. 

I got in my car and drove to the preschool parking lot where I would pick up Tiny and I just sat, with my head on the steering wheel and I thought I can’t do a women’s retreat. We should scrap it all. This is too much work! And right there was my second clue (headache being the first) that I was Not Okay--because planning stuff is sort of what I live for. And then my head started spinning through the engagements and deadlines and speaking commitments and classes to schedule and I could feel the anxiety mount. But how did I get there? How does one go from walking at a brisk pace to running out of breath with no chance to stop? Because that’s what it felt like. And my body was boycotting, having it’s own little Revolution Against Over-Extension.

Of course, there’s no one but myself to overextend me. Everyone I work with is gracious and we are mutually protective of each other's energies and abilities. But I often feel this urgency, this urgency to get to the next thing, to build and keep building—a new class, a retreat, deeper levels, better curriculum, more supportive structures for particular areas of church life. There are so many things in the distance, so much possibility for the future. And I want to build it all right now. And yet, I can’t get to them until I set down these foundation stones in my hands, in place and in order, one at a time.

The headache worsened that night. My whole body ached. I had trouble explaining it to my husband, to my friend. I’m sick, I think. And I feel stressed and anxious too. But which caused what? Chicken or egg?

In periods of stress and on the days of Revolution Against Over-Extension, I often have to just bear the revolution out. I don’t always know how it got started or what my soul is trying to tell me or what message it is I need to hear. And so I just wait with my head on my pillow and a questioning eyebrow at God—what? What do I need to know?

Last time, after a day of that posture, there were two things that broke through my frenetic internal buzz. One, I played the audio of my YouVersion online Bible app. I love the NIV, read aloud by some William Branaugh sound-alike. So Shakespearean and poignant, he chided me (and I cried):

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

I know that, if you’re not familiar with everything the writer of Hebrews wrote of up until chapter 12, that this sounds like a bunch of cultish gobbledygook. Spirits of the Righteous Made Perfect. Sprinkled Blood that Speaks a Better Word?

The writer is saying, in my plain Iowa English, that our God isn’t distant or untouchable. That we have access to a joyful, welcoming God and all of heaven supports his welcome of us.  We are welcomed by God the Judge who judges us as “right” simply because of our trust and faith in Jesus, who helps us continue on in our lives of faith.

Why did I cry upon hearing this? Oh the mystery of our own souls--maybe because it was a spirit-touching-heaven moment, a reminder that all the stuff of our lives—the bills to pay and forms to sign and the offspring’s favorite clothes to launder and the class curriculum to write and the marriage to maintain—is not the endgame, is not the reason, is not the why. 

He loves me. He just does. And that is Something.

And then, the second thing that broke through the noise in head:

I read two blog posts from two of my favorite bloggers, women negotiating writing and blogging and speaking and ministry and parenting. One wrote about reassessing her commitments. It was so helpful to know I’m not the only one asking these questions about what is and is not working and what I’m supposed to be doing in a particular season of life.

The other blogger wrote about criticism, a bad review, of her book.  It was a comfort to remember that I will fail--especially in other people's perceptions of my endeavors--and that this is Okay.

No matter how hard we try and no matter our whole-heartedness in trying, we won't please everyone and we won't always succeed. And so, we must stay rooted in What Has Been Revealed and What Is, and grounded in our purposes, our callings, and the intentions of our lives. 

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