I Used To

“It’s about the beautiful things we might reclaim and the stuff we may decide to kick to the curb. It’s a book about making peace with unanswered questions and being content to live into the answers as they come. It’s about being comfortable with where we land for now, while holding our hands open for where the Spirit leads us next. It’s about not apologizing for our transformation and change in response to the unchanging Christ.”
Sarah Bessey, chapter one, Out of Sorts

I used to think I had to have all the answers but now I think God is found in the “I don’t know.”

And as I learn to embrace the “I don’t know” in my faith, I’m learning to embrace it in my everyday life. I’m learning that God is found in the search rather than the answers. And that search can’t happen until we hit that vulnerable place of saying aloud, I don’t know. On the days I don’t know if I’m the best wife, the best mother, the best Christian, when I stop and recognize I don’t know, I’m suddenly freed from these self-imposed labels and am able to live in the balance of the unknown.

GODisHEREPrint-SarahBesseyI used to think God lived in church buildings but now I think God lives in hikes and coffee shops and long dinners and playdates and church buildings, too.

I still find hope and love and community in my church building. And I’m unable to give it up. Yet… On those Sunday mornings when we’re off and we just need to make scones and go for a hike, we do. And we find God and reconnect and are refreshed in this nature that is given to us. I’m learning that now is not the time to find all the big conversations in the right places – at seminaries and with theologians. For me, right now, I have those big conversations at playgrounds, where thoughts are constantly interrupted and I’m left wanting more. But, if I don’t start them (and stop them and start them again, all within twenty minutes) I’ll never have these discussions to begin with. I’m learning to take what I can get at this phase, and am learning that it is just as good as those devoted days of college discussions.

I used to think quiet time meant following a devotional and reading my Bible but now I think quiet time includes poetry and theology(lite) books and the Jesus Storybook Bible and actually taking quiet naps.

I’m finding that God can meet me as I read a Psalm aloud to a fussy baby. That I learn about the Bible from books snatched during quiet moments. That my one year Bible reading plan will most likely take two years because we just aren’t on a schedule, no matter how hard I try. I’m learning that self-care is just as spiritual as book knowledge and that God is bigger than a formula.

I used to think doubt was a phase to overcome but now I think doubt is a journey without scary finality but with beautiful questions that lead to more questions.

I’m learning to love the tension of doubt and belief and am finding that one without the other isn’t as sweet. I’m learning that doubt isn’t the opposite of the belief, but is part of it – like marriage. It’s a compliment and a push to go further, to be better, to learn more. Without doubt, I wonder if we could even have belief?

I used to think there were just a handful of ways to do Christianity but now I think Christianity is a tapestry with more threads than I can see.

This one still makes me uncomfortable but the boxes and definitions make me even more uneasy. So, I’m wondering what Christianity looks like without labels. Without denominations or even without one single path. I’m wondering about this mountain we’re all climbing and all the ways to get to the top. I’m imagining an amazing story, woven together, that needs plots and pivots and discord and mixed metaphors to reach that perfect denouement.

I used to think being out of sorts was a problem to be solved but now I think being out of sorts is the path that leads to redemption.

And I’m coming to terms with this idea that being out of sorts is how I best experience God’s love and mercy.

How have you changed and grown? What’s something big that has shifted?

Linked with Sarah Bessey’s blog celebrating the release of her newest book, Out of Sorts.

FB-Banner-600x222Out of Sorts just released this week and explores the idea that our faith is a dynamic, changing, living thing. That, as we grow and mature, our faith should as well. Sarah challenges us to examine our beliefs and continue to embrace the questions.

Review: Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey + Giveaway

I first started reading Sarah Bessey’s blog back when she was “Emerging Mummy.” She would write about motherhood, faith, life – quite similar to the topics I’m drawn to here, but much more poetic in style. Even though I was years away from starting a family, I liked reading her thoughts on motherhood – they helped prepare me and made me think of things I wouldn’t have otherwise. Similarly, her thoughts on faith were a few years ahead of my own experiences. She would cover topics that, when I was processing them later, would come back as a help.

Final-Cover-525x800When given the opportunity to be on the launch team for Sarah’s newest book, Out of Sorts, I jumped at the chance. Not just to read the book early (though that was fun!) but because I so resonate with the message of hope, love, and reconciliation that Sarah presents.

Presented in terms of a rummage sale, Bessey talks about how we all have bits of our faith that need to be sorted out – some to keep, some to toss. While the foundation should remain in tack, many of us have picked up faulty theology and responses along our journey. Perhaps they were fine at the time, but as we grow and mature, some ideas need to be rethought.

Bessey is clear that God and the Bible are not the ones being rethought through this process, but our own responses to them. Are we creating God in our own image and circumstance or is our journey shaped to reflect the image of God? I think often we can get those two confused, causing our faith to feel “out of sorts.”

In her usual gentle style, Bessey guides us through her own process of getting her faith back to sorts. She talks about unexpected ways she was led back to her faith, even to her childhood denomination. And, when I say “gentle,” I don’t mean in a weak sort of way. I mean gentle in the way someone offers their hand because they are on firmer ground. Bessey has gone through this process of doubt and discontent and she is offering her hand from the other side of that process.

12033039_10156153145440046_3055116346821440713_nBessey combines theology, storytelling, and open-ended questions to weave her own journey. And, while this book is her journey, the truths she tells are universal. She takes it beyond a simple faith memoir and into the realm of a guide for other wanderers.

While I found this book profound in the place I’m at now, I could see it being especially helpful to someone who is just coming out of their own out of sorts journey and needs the reminder that everything is ok.

Have you ever felt “out of sorts”? Where has your journey taken you because of that?

GIVEAWAY! I am giving away my copy of Out of Sorts. Leave a comment telling me about something you’ve chosen to keep and I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, November 6, 2015. (United States addresses only.)

As part of the Out of Sorts launch team, I received an early copy of the book for review.

Living in the Clutter

When we first walked through the open house (a year ago!), we knew exactly what we wanted to do with the formal dining room: Make it into the playroom. While I love separate dining spaces and long for the day when we can convert it back to its intended use, we are in a season where dinners are held at our cluttered farmhouse table and toys are strewn throughout the dining room.

IMG_8873
This is after “cleaning up…”

The dining/playroom is open to the hallway/eating area/main space and also to the sunken living room. This means that, while the toys are mostly contained to the playroom, it’s visible throughout our main living area.

I know this is a messy season and our playroom is the most tangible reflection of our current phase in life. And, when we have company – even for a playdate – I laugh and say, Haha. Why bother cleaning, right?! While inside, I feel my stress levels rising. It’s so messy! Why can’t I just clean after bedtime? How does it get so out of control so quickly?

I read articles about simplifying toy accumulation and how kids don’t really need all this stuff. I think, Great! We’ll just give it all away! And then Bea discovers a “new favorite” or I realize a lot of our toys are ones we’re saving for Elle or I just feel overwhelmed by how much work decluttering would be. So I shove it all in semi-organized bins and try to recognize that this is a short-lived stage.

In her new book, Out of Sorts (which releases next week!) Sarah Bessey talks about our faith in terms of decluttering. We accumulate ideas from childhood and add bits and pieces of theology. Not all are bad, and many are developmentally appropriate for our stage. But, there comes a point in our faith life when we feel out of sorts and need to declutter.

Like our playroom, ideas get put into semi-organized bins and they may or may not be useful or helpful. And, Sarah says, it’s ok to get rid of them. We don’t have to cling to our old theologies or denominations just because we have them. Perhaps it’s time to let go, to declutter, and to sort out what we actually need. And, like our playroom, we could be surprised with what we keep and what goes. It’s not that we get rid of everything, but we begin to sift and sort and reorganize.

12003406_10156153145205046_2413258844448624367_nAnd, what I keep and what you keep may be different. The denomination that feeds my soul and brings me life most likely will be different from your denomination. And that’s ok! Part of the beauty of Christianity and faith and journey is that we are all on it together but we are not all the same. We are in different places and on different paths, but we are all in the process of sorting and finding God through the clutter.

Out of Sorts resonated with my journey for many reasons, but one that speaks to my life right now is that we are all – or have all been – out of sorts and we are all learning to sort, to discover, and to find peace on this journey. Sarah speaks hope and gives permission to be in the place you need to be – whether you’re in the middle of the mess or in a place to declutter.

So, with our playroom, with my theology, with life in general, I’m giving myself permission to live with the clutter and to sort as I can.

Where are you on the journey? In the midst of the clutter or slowly sorting it out?

12011258_10156109094605046_8628146384862283098_nThis post was inspired by Sarah Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts. I have the pleasure of being on her launch team and just finished this book. I’ll write a formal review next week, but in the meantime, if you’ve ever felt “out of sorts” spiritually, check out this book. It releases on November 3 and I think many will connect with Sarah’s message.

Small Acts of Faith and Justice

Frank and I have been watching An Idiot Abroad on Netflix. Created by comedian Ricky Gervais, we follow his friend, Karl as he experiences the Seven Wonders of the World. The twist is that Karl is a homebody and is very critical of travel. I have laughed until I got teary; Frank has fallen asleep more often than not. But, it holds his attention enough that we keep coming back.

In the last episode we watched, Karl visits Petra in Jordan. As he’s preparing to go, he makes the observation that (and I paraphrase),

It’s better to live in a hole looking at a palace rather than living in the palace because the view is better.

Because of his comment, Karl spends a night in a cave with a view of the monastery. The next morning, as he is looking at the view, he comments that his point is proven – who would want to look at his cave when they could wake up looking at such impressive architecture.

I’ve been thinking about this twist in perspective. How if we just turn around, our view is so much different. It’s not that it takes a grand move or great effort – it just involves looking the other way.

How often do I focus on the cave I’m looking at – the injustice, all that is wrong with the world, my own small gripes – when I simply need to turn around and see the beautiful palace behind me – the ways in which people are making changes, the distance we’ve come, all my own privilege.

12009816_10156153220155046_7104302124610833731_nAt MOPS last week, we talked about race and reconciliation and what we can do as moms. Sometimes it feels as though I can’t do anything. I get so caught up in playdates and temper tantrums and nap times that I forget I can do something. It may not be big or immediately world changing, but it can change my focus, it can help build foundations for Bea’s and Elle’s worldviews, and it can change the world one person at a time. We talked about the simple act of talking with another mom at the park or of offering to help a struggling family with homework can help change the systemic problems in place. As Sarah Bessey says in her book, Out of Sorts,

Seemingly small acts of faith and justice are still acts of faith and justice.

I struggle with finding that balance between small acts of justice and slacktivism. How can my small acts change the world without simply forgetting about it after I reshare an article on Facebook?

I think it does start with a change in perspective – of looking at the monastery rather than the cave. Of seeing all that has been done before getting bogged down with all that still needs to be done. Of remembering the moms and small acts that were done before me – that the world is changed one person at a time, even though that seems so slow.

So this week, I’m focusing on shifting my perspective. I’m looking for small moments to seize and for ways to model the act of world changing, even if it does happen at the park.

How are you changing the world in small ways? And, would you rather live in a cave with a view of the palace or in a palace with a view of the cave?

Leaving and Returning

Because some of my greatest wounds have come from the church, and so my greatest healing has happened here too. -Sarah Bessey

In my twenties, it was the trend to talk about how the church had wounded us. We all have our stories – from hurt feelings to misunderstandings to very real and damaging abuse. Some were wounded as children and never returned; for others it didn’t happen until later. For some, they left the church and have happily never looked back. For others, there continues to be a grappling and a search for that perfect fulfilling of a need.

Of course, I have my own story of being wounded. But the most important part of that story is the healing – it’s the way I found myself back at church.

The journey of leaving and returning and questioning and discovering is, of course, not limited to church. It’s not limited to years or seasons, either. Yesterday, the culmination of a rough week, of parenting alone, and of miscommunicated expectations led to some stressful moments on what should have been a perfect autumn day.

As we drove home, Bea screamed from exhaustion and I was ready to give up. Frank suggested I go to my parents house for the evening. They’re out of town, so I would not only have a guest room to myself but an entire home to relax. After some debate, I decided to bring Elle along.

Sweet girl slept in, too.
Sweet girl slept in, too.

I was away less than 12 hours, but oh! How rejuvenating! I watched episode after episode of mindless Netflix from 4:30 to after 10:00. I ate my premade Whole Foods salad in front of the TV. I ate an entire box of cookies. (Perhaps I should stop there with my indulgences…) All that to say: I lounged – something I haven’t done in so long. Elle is a laid-back baby and she was happy to lounge with me.

After a relaxed morning, we came back home. Back to our messy house and dishes not put away exactly how I would have done, but I felt good. And refreshed. And ready to return.

I know I’m going to get tired again. That Bea and I will exhaust each other again. That I’ll long for time alone. But, for now, I’m renewed. That small break was enough to reset my attitude and my outlook.

Leaving church, I think, is much like taking a break to lounge and sleep in. Sometimes it’s what’s best for us, for our communities, for our spirituality. But, here’s what I think many of us need to remember: Going back refreshed is key.

I was so tempted to stay at my parents. I hadn’t even opened the stack of books I’d brought – I could have found so much more to do. But, I knew that there’s a fine line between being selfish with my time and rest and sharing my renewed spirit with my family.

As I look back on my spiritual journey, I’m glad I chose to return. I know church and spirituality aren’t for everyone, but for me, I need that community, the thought-provoking interpretations, and that sense of something bigger than myself. I’m glad that, even after small and big breaks, I’m ready to return.

Have you ever needed a break from church? Did you return to the same place or did you move somewhere new on your journey?

12011258_10156109094605046_8628146384862283098_nThis post was inspired by Sarah Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts. I have the pleasure of being on her launch team and just finished this book. I’ll write a formal review soon, but in the meantime, if you’ve ever felt “out of sorts” spiritually, check out this book. It releases on November 3 and I think many will connect with Sarah’s message.