A Resolution from a friend…

Breaking free is sometimes hard.

It was a delightful birthday meal with friends….great Cuban food, laughter, plans for future vacations. My heart felt safe and warm and reveled in feeling of it all.

This time of year, my good friend, Alisa, is all about the resolutions. She’s one of the few people I know that actually writes them down and tracks her progress throughout the year and it is always great fun to hear what crazy antics she is planning for herself each year. I think it drives her nuts that I don’t set resolutions anymore…so in a moment of seriousness, she leveled her gaze at me and said, “Let’s set each other a resolution for this year and promise to keep it.”

Ya’ll this is a loaded request. Alisa doesn’t play with her resolutions. They are hard! From run a marathon and jump out of a plane, to read a book a week and cut sugar out of your diet….they tend to be full on life changing type statements that she takes seriously. I looked at my husband, he nodded slightly, and I said, “Ok…let’s do it!”

We went around the table…some resolutions were immediately rejected. It was honestly difficult to come up with something as I love these people in their current state so much. It came time to receive my resolution from Alisa and she looked at me hard…pursed her lips…leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. This one was gonna be difficult. I could tell by her posture.

“Your resolution is to forgive all the stuff that happened this year and move on. Let it all go.”

Crap.

Ya’ll this year has been the hardest of my life. There are people who have hurt and wronged me beyond what I thought was possible. There were relationships that dismantled my identity to the point that I considered ending my life. There was cancer and systemic infection and cures that seemed as bad as both. There was a loss of a dream that I thought was from God and in result, the shaking of what I had previously thought was an unshakable faith. I stopped writing, painting and creating…I stopped speaking and teaching…I stopped living and started surviving and it nearly killed me.

Through it all, the people at the table with me had held me up and walked me along. They (and so many others) had fought for my heart and reminded me who I was and just wouldn’t let me give up, but, Dear God- it was so close! And now, she was challenging me to “Let it all go.”

There is so much wrapped up in that statement. Forgiveness foremost. Of people…of myself….OF GOD. On (mostly) the other side of things, I can see all the things that I have learned and all the beauty that has started to blossom from the ash, but it doesn’t make the hurt less and I am reminded of it each day. Each day, as I see it, the grieving I thought was grieved wells up alongside the tears in my eyes, and I feel the ache of the loss I have avoided dealing with for the last few months.

Checking your bags is hard when you are in the middle of unpacking them, but I met her gaze and said, “Ouch….OK.” I agreed to something I honestly have NO IDEA HOW TO ACCOMPLISH, but I know this pack of mine will surround me and help…and I guess I’ll bring you guys along with me as well. Buckle up, ya’ll, we may be in for some turbulence!

Returning to this place…

Rapha….to release…to let go….

It’s been so very long since I have written in this space.  So very long since my words have been released out into the ether for people to read.  

So much has happened over the last two years, and especially, over this last year in my life.  It has been one of the most difficult seasons of my life.  But so rich…so full of beauty and adventures.  I have been holding onto the stories of this last season, waiting for complete healing and understanding before I share.  Waiting to arrive at a destination of wholeness to start leaving bread crumbs for others.  

I am not there yet…

I begin writing from the journey not the destination. I am learning so much in the season, and I feel the distinct call of God to share it from this space.  Someone, somewhere needs to hear this and I need to write it…so here goes…today…this day of Thanksgiving…I begin. 

And I begin by saying, “Thank you…”

I need to take a moment to thank my pack….not my tribe…my pack (look for a post explaining that statement!) I have learned so much about safe spaces for full vulnerability.  I have learned so much about who to allow to speak into your life- who gets the opportunity to challenge your identity and your value.  I have learned so much about relationship and life. 

I lost myself completely.  In doing so, I lost so much….my faith, my relationships began to suffer, and in the process, I lost the guiding message of my life….that the ONLY entity that has the right and voice to speak to my identity and value is God.  I gave away that power to a person…and it nearly destroyed me. 

But God is faithful…and never leaves us…and He never left me in that season.  He spoke to me through the people He placed in my life to call out that I had run myself into the ditch.  People who continuously questioned my thinking and didn’t give up on me….even when I made mistakes…even when I acted out of character. 

I cannot thank these people enough.  These light bearers kept shining on me….wouldn’t leave me no matter how I pushed away.  And I thank God for them every morning when my eyes open.  Thank you for my friends, for my family, for my pack that gathered around me, that nursed me back to health, who prayed and listened and sat silently with me when I didn’t have words or the strength to speak.  They came for me not once, not twice, but over and over and over again…and I am here today because of them.  

I want to share what I have learned with you…leave bread crumbs along the path…I’m steering clear of labeling the journey because I think what I have to share with you is so applicable to life as a whole…so here we go…a return to this space.  A return to writing.  A return to sharing. 

I’ll be honest, I’m a little rusty. It’s been years since I’ve written anywhere other than my journal.  And I am scared to death to share this story with you.  But I am leaping anyway.  

Love to you all, 

We’re all speaking in tongues…

“Denominationally, we have chosen to be at war with one another. We use our words as weapons…words central to our faith.” – Charlie Kaufman

“I’m looking for couples who express the fullness of God’s gifting in their lives to walk along side me in a new work.”

I cocked my head to the side and looked hard at him for a second.  It’s taken me years to learn to say these next words….

“Tell me, exactly, what you mean by that…what does that look like in real life?”

He began again in simple words, but strung together in way that sounded more like poetry than the mathematics I was looking for, and I had to stop him.

“I’m not sure you’re speaking a language that I understand.”

It was his turn to cock his head and look at me quizzically.  We had been serving together in ministry for years, and, I think, misunderstanding each other for about that long.  I watched as that realization broke like dawn over his face.

“I need some couples who are mature and secure enough in their faith to pray with me, to serve in church with me and, most of all, to tell me when I don’t make sense.”

This conversation got me thinking…as a person who began her religious education as a practitioner of Wicca, converted to Christianity and practiced as a Southern Baptist, and now finds herself as an ordained minister in a non-denominational church plant while working on staff at a Lutheran (liturgical) church- I have a fairly ecumenical vocabulary.  But I have noticed that we, the  people of the church, often use the same words to mean vastly different things…or perhaps at times incrementally different things…and either way we use those differences to draw a line in the sand and create a deep sense of disunity.

Some of my most frustrating conversations find their source in these misunderstood words.  I generally have no problem asking about words I have never heard before.  This is a good thing- my work in the Lutheran church has forced me to rub up against a whole new Christian vocabulary, but I do find myself wondering if the words my friends, pastors and other Christians are using mean what I think they mean.

Surely, I am not the only one…so I asked my Facebook community to share with me words they found were commonly misunderstood, particularly across denominations. I found the replies very interesting.  I guess I was fairly certain we would misunderstand the larger theological concepts between denominations (and we do, largely)…but the words folks struggled with the most were words like:

God

Saved

Jesus

Gospel

Holy Spirit

Grace

Words formative to our identity as Christian.  Words that are central to our religion as a whole….these are the words that, by and large, Christians are unsure of in a general ecumenical context. Or, worse yet, we think we are all speaking the same language, but in reality have very different understandings of the these words that we interact with every day as Christians.

Turns out…we are all speaking in tongues…and most of us don’t even realize it…

Perhaps what we need is more folks with the gift of interpreting….

Or religious dictionaries that strictly define these words…

Or better yet, lots of coffee and tea and open discussions about faith, belief and the foundations that form our traditions…

That’s scary business and requires a disciplined insight into your own language and the ability to step into the fire of the question, “what does this word mean to me?”

It’s time though…

to stop drawing lines in the sand and start pulling chairs up to the table…

Coffee, anyone?

Five Minute Friday- Fly

 

On Fridays around these parts we stop, drop, and write.

For fun, for love of the sound of words, for play, for delight, for joy and celebration at the art of communication.

For only five short, bold, beautiful minutes. Unscripted and unedited. We just write without worrying if it’s just right or not.

Won’t you join us?

Here are the rules:

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

2. Link back here and invite others to join in.

3. Most importantly: leave a comment for the person who linked up before you – encouraging them in their writing!

OK, are you ready? Give me your best five minutes on:

Today’s prompt is:  Fly

Ready? GO!

There is a moment when time stops just before I jump.  There is a split second, blink of the eye instant where doubt creeps in and I pray that my people see me, that they hear me and that they know me well enough to know that I am going for it. There is a moment when I wonder if my troupe will catch me…or not…and my launch into the air will be met with gravity and floor.

But it’s just a moment….because in this world- as it is in the world of improv…you have to trust that when you jump, you will be caught.  And because I was born without wings or a superpower and my cape is dirty and in the wash :), when I jump, the only way I can fly is on the hands and strength of the people I trust to catch me.

In our improv troupe, when someone assumes the role of a superhero or bird or some other flying character, the troupe will come together to "fly" the individual by lifting that person into the air (or catching them as they jump).  It is a profoundly moving and frightening experience, and so magical to watch.

In our improv troupe, when someone assumes the role of a superhero or bird or some other flying character, the troupe will come together to “fly” the individual by lifting that person into the air (or catching them as they jump). It is a profoundly moving and frightening experience, and so magical to watch.

STOP!

Just Across the Bridge…for when you move toward life

Mid-BayBridgeIt had been a long day of driving. With the goal of dipping our toes in the ocean before sunset, we had set out with our friends before dawn and pushed hard through the day, only stopping to use the restroom and refuel.  The last fours hours were filled with the cacophony of children cries- “How much longer?”  and “I wish we were there already.”

We finally began to see palm trees and sand and signs for our destination and our hearts began to wake up.  As we paid the toll at the Mid Bay Bridge, the weariness of a day of driving fell away and the “Are we there yet’s” turned to “Woohoo’s” and we opened portals in our car to the salty air and in our heart to beat of the beach vacation drum.  We lifted arms out the sunroof and waved like madmen to the cars passing by.  The freedom was as tangible as the humidity in the air.

We arrived at our God-gift of a last minute condo as the sun was beginning to set.  We didn’t even go inside, instead, we slipped off shoes and started across the beach walk to the ocean.  Realization broke over me like a wave as we crested the dune. I grabbed my husband’s hand and jumped into his arms, “We’re at the beach! I can’t believe we’re at the beach!” He smiled and kissed me sweet and gave me that “I know, right?” look and we took off running to the surf.

We hadn’t planned this vacation with our dear friends. Come to think of it, neither had they really.  They had decided to get away just three days prior and it had all fallen into place in a beautiful way.  They were sharing their plan with us as we prepared our church for Sunday morning services.  “We are leaving for the beach tomorrow!” They told us.

Jealousy mixed with genuine happiness for our friends flooded into us as we celebrated with them.  Then the inevitable conversation.

“I wish we could go with you.”

“You should, there’s another condo available. All you would have to pay is food and gas.”

My husband’s eyes met mine.  He was already burning vacation for the week.  I began running the lists of “We couldn’ts” in my head….I mean could we? That’s crazy….just take off for the week…to Florida? The kids are in school and only have 2 weeks left, the dog- we’d need someone to take care of her, Charlie’s off- but I would have to tell my Mom/boss that I am taking an extra week of vacation and we’re right in the middle of a big project, we’re not packed, I don’t have any laundry done and I had planned to lose twenty pounds before anyone saw me in a swimsuit- we couldn’t, just couldn’t go….right? But, oh dear Jesus, how my family (and I) could use a break…

And then God started knocking down the dominoes….one. by. one. As He did,my husband and I started smiling, more than we have in a long time, even as we packed at two in the morning for a 4 am leave time.

cari and alisa on the beach

And I still don’t believe it.  Each time we cross that beach walk to the white sand of the Destin beach…I am in awe of how God brought us here and is ministering to our hearts.  It’s beautiful and restful and I am blown away by His love and generosity. We were floundering in the midst of our everyday existence and were beginning to be suffocated by the tyranny of our schedules back home.  God has been guiding us to rest more, but we keep pushing Him back- “after this event, Lord, I’ll rest.” “When school’s out, we’ll take a little break.”

But then He extends this beautiful invitation to LIFE and REST, and the siren song of it was more than we could resist.

xan and jacob on beach

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”- John 10:10

From the beautiful beaches of Destin,

The Dream Interpreters…for when you need a heart to hear

The last two weeks have been amazing in their lessons for me.  Last week, my silent directed retreat to Little Portion left me rested and better prepared for the journey ahead and while there I learned so much about my relationship with God and my need for rest.  This week, I have just returned from the Jumping Tandem Retreat in Ashland, Nebraska and what an amazing experience! I have learned more about living my God-sized dream, what that means and what it is.  Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing reflections from both these experiences.  Here is the first, an introduction to Jumping Tandem.  

Logolight350x111

After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison—had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.  

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?” “We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.” 

Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

– Genesis 40:4-8


There were a hundred of us gathered in a small chapel room at the Carol Joy Holling Conference Retreat Center in Ashland, Nebraska.  We came for different reasons and at different stages in our journey. Each of us fancied ourselves writers or artists of a sort, but all of us were dreamers…and that’s really what we came for…to learn about God-sized dreams and spend time fleshing out our own.

My sweet friend and heart sister, Holley Gerth, kicked off the weekend with a challenge- put your dream on paper…and then tell someone about it.  She asked us to lay down the sword of criticism and pick up the Sword of Truth, and turn to a heart sister we hadn’t met yet, pull up our ribs and show off our beautiful, captivating, Jesus-imprinted hearts.

The room erupted in the fervent sharing of each other’s dreams and smiles and encouragement floated in the air, divine appointments were met and I had the intense sensation that this weekend would be one of openness and vulnerability, of encouragement and deep thinking, and that somewhere in that room was a heart that would help me interpret my dream.

Dreams are funny things, you know? They have life and breath and emotions. They teach us about ourselves and our world and how we view it.  They make us yearn for something more and reach beyond our lives and experiences to a bigger understanding of the mystery that is this existence.  But, if not carefully interpreted and shared, they can invite doubt and fear and anxiety and comparison to set up camp in our lives and breed together to birth resentment and bitterness.

I know that the passage above from Genesis is addressing specifically prophetic dreams, but I think there is something more in it for the dreamers of the world.  

“Why do you look so sad today?” Asked Joseph.  “We both had dreams,” they answered, “but there is no one to interpret them.”

Don’t we feel that? When we have dreams and no one to help us make sense of them? No one to hold us accountable to them. No one to go along with us on the experience?

tandem-skydive-burnaby-ontario-toronto-girl

Tandem, by definition, is the arrangement of two or more persons, or objects, behind each other. So in essence, tandem skydiving is arrangement of two skydivers, the student and the instructor, where the instructor’s harness attaches them to each other. During a tandem jump the student sits in the front of the harness and both the student and the instructor share the instructor’s parachute.

Jumping Tandem Retreat was about not going it alone.  Was about having another heart hear and interpret your dream and about making the leap together using the same big God-sized parachute.  Our “skydiving” instructors this weekend shared with us their own God-sized dreams and how God was making them happen (most often in unexpected and sometimes uncomfortable ways), they shared with us their own fears and they shared with us how they learned to jump anyway, and then they helped us suit up to take the leap.  I have never experienced anything quite like it…and I can’t wait to go back next year and hear the stories that are being written on the hearts of those who attended this year.

AVFM: And Then the Bells Rang…for when you send someone home

This post is part of a series I like to call “A Visit From Mom.”  These posts are written by, well…my mom. I think she kind of rocks! My mom and her mother were the primary inspirations for me to starting writing way back as a little girl.  Now, I share my blog with my mom cause I think she has some things to say that you might really love.

woman-dying-from-cancer

Walking with a loved one in her final days is a sorrowful and daunting experience which brings up age-old questions of faith and fairness.  It tests our beliefs and wrings our spirits.  But in the end, there is always a signal of God’s presence and solace in our pain.  Today, the church bells were mine.

church-bell-224x300

And Then the Bells Rang

Home, surrounded by my refuge,

I prayed for comfort for my dear one,

Grateful for knowing her

And saddened at her suffering,

Pondering what new dilemmas

Would be faced in coming days.

I questioned what possible good

Could come from this horrendous pain

And why such gracious people

Should have to relinquish every

Remnant of dignity and joy

In this final stretch of the journey.

And then the bells rang

At the church down the street

And the answer was clear.

Heavenly Father says, “Welcome Home.”

© Carlene Welch, 2012

Carlene Welch is the General Manager at Home Instead Senior Care of Northwest Arkansas, and avid writer and poet, and my mom. She serves as a Stephen’s Minister at her church and is one of the wisest women I know. She writes custom poetry and prose for cards and gifts. For more information, contact us at stringsattachedministries@gmail.com.