RSS Feed

Love Divine

I set my body in to motion, my feet kicking in to the familiar red dirt at Garden of the Gods. I love this place. On the move, I could smell the cedar and pine. My lungs expanded, taking in the cool morning air, and I instantly felt myself decompressing. I run in pursuit…. not of a running buddy or a faster time. I run with Jesus. He is my running buddy and I crave the time together. This is LOVE.

Exercising outside is prayer time for me. There is something so connecting when my body, heart and brain all engage. This morning I was hungry for some answers and in great anticipation of hearing something from Him. For at least the first half of my run, I just ran. Giddy to be out on a glorious day, I whispered many gratitudes, and I’m always stunned by the gift of the immense beauty all around me. This is LOVE.

“LOVE DIVINE” is the message I heard when I started pressing in to the Lord for some answers to questions I was asking. What I really wanted was some profound revelation. This is what was whispered in to my heart…  “I am here, I am here… I am LOVE DIVINE…You are love divine…This, Erika, is profound. It’s simple, and profound and LOVE DIVINE.”

I was reminded so gracefully yet powerfully that today was simply about communion. I stopped in awe, soaking the notion in. Enjoying His presence. I actually laughed; I get so pushy sometimes. But He sweetly pulls me close in an embrace and if Jesus could be rude, he was telling me to shut up and just let Him hold me in the sweetest place. Shaking my head at the profound simplicity of just being with Him, I ran once again, delighting in the freedom to just enjoy Him and let Him enjoy me. To be stunned in and by the LOVE DIVINE, ponder and be in awe of that love that dwells in me.

 

Facebook posts….

My feet touched the trail in the bliss of red dirt. I’m forever in awe on my runs. Breathing life in; my lungs and soul crying for more. Breathing out what’s hard and what’s left and leaving it with the dust on the trail.
The song of my night is camels that kiss, a moon rising amongst the rocks- turning as red as the dirt and rock beneath. The song of my night is the electrifying sound of nature’s voice on the air, of an eclipsing moon, the dance of cedar, pine and sage on my nose and mountain air on my skin. The song of my night is nearly overwhelming; there is such sensory wonder in this place.
The song of my night; His song, yet again fills me up. I always find a new song with a familiar lyricist; what a beautiful night. – Sept. 27, 2015

 

Tonight it’s the awareness of many little moments of breathtaking joy that fill the fabric of who I am. The things that wash over and soften the hard like water over a river rock….The gift and comfort of the very best family…more beautiful people in my life than a person deserves, tough boy heads on my shoulder when they hurt and bike rides in the sunset, drinking in tea and stories of a teenager’s life with my girl after she comes back from youth group, dreams for tomorrow and savoring today. Learning to be present right here, right now. Soaking in the smiles and tears, sunsets and golden leaves, flickering candles and my beloveds’ laughter.

Despite what muck is stirred up in life, it’s still good. So very good to be here right now. -Sept. 23, 2015

 

Here. Sitting with the clouded half moon tonight, I am aware of the fact that I can sit with the same moon as the entire world. This moon that hangs out with my grieving and grateful heart is present with billions of others. It’s a peaceful presence and has been for time eternal. I somehow feel connected to every soul that has sought out the quiet night for comfort.

I ponder the cries of hearts it’s heard, the shudders of despair it has witnessed and the tears that have been shed before it. I think of the kisses of lips that connect two souls beneath it, the walks and talks that have happened in it’s soft present light, and I am grateful. I’m present here tonight and full of weary wonder; it’s a beautiful thing. Present with the beautiful and wondrous Maker of this moon. -Sept. 21, 2015

 

There is a whisper in my home tonight. Many whisperings, in fact. The soft voice of life swirling all around me as I sit in the quiet light of the tree.

Too often there is a thundering noise in my heart. In my soul. The shout of doubt that I’m doing enough, that we will ever ‘get ahead’, doubt that I’m living this life as well as God would like me to be. The terrifying shout of too much and never enough drowning out the little whispers of truth. Truths of life well lived.

As I sit tonight, I hear. The pictures on my wall softly tell stories of delight and sometimes of the honest grit of life. Linked hands, tears falling, soap suds on a girl on a horse. There are handmade crosses and smiles, The Beauty Project board, dirt, sleds and joy. Even the irony of my ever-crooked sign proclaiming my desire for help in seeing God’s grace. The voice of love and life from the wall increases in volume as I soak in the soul it reveals.

The gifts the kids have chosen, wrapped, and stacked under the tree whisper consideration, selflessness, tenderness and joy. My worry for tomorrow fades as I hear the voice of blessing over and over reminding me I am raising up the greatest gifts of life in the three growing bodies and beautiful souls that sleep in the other room.

The tree whispers history and future. The traditions we participate in remind me of my history, and more so of my overwhelming gratitude for the precious gift of grace- daily, minute by minute sometimes. The history of Jesus and gifts given- out of love and selflessness. The ornaments of history are memories of my past, and the kids past, but in no way hold us there. My heart perceives the whisper of Christ reminding me of all He has done and all the future holds- new ornaments, unfolding dreams and plans; expanding the offering and experience of our lives, just as each year’s tree holds new adornment and arrangement.

The little whisperings that I so often miss are audible tonight. Perhaps it’s an extra awareness and perception of the tiny minutia of living- the small voices I too often let get drowned out by the swirling din of life. Tonight I’m listening. I’m present..filled with joy and gratitude for the overwhelming sounds of a beautiful and brimming life we are living today. -Dec. 15, 2015

Erika Barrett Chowning's photo.
Erika Barrett Chowning's photo.
Erika Barrett Chowning's photo.
Erika Barrett Chowning's photo.

Confessions of a Strength Addict

I laugh at the line in Miranda Lambert’s song that sings of  a woman’s behavior after a breakup, “Go and hide your crazy and start acting like a lady.” And at the sign my brother sent to me that reads “Your crazy is showing… you might want to tuck that back in.” I so get it. And yet, it scares me. Because it’s what I tell myself…. ‘Better pull your shit together, girl, lest everyone see that you are losing it today.” Tuck it in, hide it, fake it till you make it- whatever it takes. Don’t let anyone see you are less than all together, capable and strong. Never show weak.

So here are some confessions I am making….

I’m addicted to strength. I want everyone to think I’m tough. Physically, emotionally, mentally. . I want others to think I must be an amazing Mama to have such fantastic kids despite our circumstances. Even in my honest sharing of the struggles of my journey, I am still thinking somehow that I am strong in that I can be brave and offer my honest story. So messed up. I want men to know I’m not needy or clingy and don’t say much when asked how I can be helped. I divert conversations when they get a little too close to the weak spots in my armor and make sure I ask about their heart, so I don’t have to always share mine. I don’t even know how to let others help without feeling like I’m a burden or failing somehow. But I’ll let you get the door from me-that I can handle.

I am weak. In so many ways. Yet very, very few see or know that. I keep it cinched up and tucked in tight. But occasionally the stealthy fingers of life start pulling bit by bit and the atmosphere I maintain of a woman that can handle it all starts busting apart. I’m seen for less than strong and it quite honestly scares me to depths I didn’t know I even had. And usually I have no idea what to do with it. I’ve never learned to sit comfortably with the less than able, soft and vulnerable places of me.

I have disdain for weakness.  I’m just realizing this, and oh, how hard that is to say. I have disdain for my own weakness… When I can’t pull up my bootstraps, stop crying and pull my crap together; when the boots really need to just stay off and I allow myself to be seen in a moment or many moments of weakness. But instead I think I must be failing. I even struggle at a very core level to be patient with the weaknesses of others. There is that little twinge of contempt that creeps up in me. How heartbreaking and humiliating to admit. Yet God is working to change me. I know why I can’t handle the weakness of others… because I’m not comfortable with my own humanity that holds weakness and hard core vulnerable.

I have a God that desires wholeness and restoration for me and my ugly and crazy. He’s calling me out on my crap, and I secretly love it. He’s nudging me to go deep and heal…to look back in my story and figure out when and why I started to believe I had to be strong and mighty to be worthy. I saw the moment, and I saw God there. He offered His strength, but I didn’t take it. I thought it was my battle to assume. But what else I love in this is the sweet release of pressure that I have carried for so very long to be someone I thought I needed to be in order to be loved by Him first of all, but to be awesome and loved by the rest of the world. I get to take off my armor and let His be enough.

I know logically that I am to cast my burdens on to Jesus, but until your heart is ready to be sliced open on a matter, it won’t change. I always said I didn’t know how to give things up, but I’m beginning to learn. I’ve seen much of life as a battle to fight, and while some things are, my fight must come from a place of surrender, not finger-flipping defiance. The meaning of the word congruent is “In agreement or harmony,” and so when I surrender and can truly give the battle to Him, the logical mind and emotional heart melt into spiritual congruency with God’s design. Beautiful. This is restoration.

I am realizing that the enemy always takes our positive characteristics and somehow convinces us to get off track in how we offer our strengths and it takes an unhealthy direction. I am by nature capable and strong. But not invincible like I’ve tried to be for so long. By design, I am fierce…. but I’m not the only warrior in my camp. I’ve got Jesus, an angel army, and a whole community of family and friends that want to help bear my burdens and love me just as I am, like I desire to do for them.

I secretly like my little bit of crazy and ferocity. I’ll will hold on to them for the sake of amusement and plus they are hardwired in…. I’m working to just be, and love myself in the moments of weak and the moments of strong. And I promise to do my best to love you that way too..

 

 

Why I Taught My Son How to Use the F-Bomb Right

Because. Just because….. He’s mad and hurting and eleven years old. And I’ve stopped caring what others might think about me so much and have decided to be present and help his raging heart. So when he asked if he could swear when describing his feelings to me, I said sure. And swear he did. Quite appropriately I might add. You might say it’s a terrible thing to support. But I say I think he now knows (after we looked up meanings together), that it’s a word that is safe to use with me occasionally when a well-placed swear word just feels, well, so good to say. And that it can be such a vulgar word in the wrong context. And we must be respectful when we swear, you know. I’m kidding; swearing really isn’t ever respectful. It’s just part of this process we are living at the moment.

I recently listened to a book on Godly parenting. So much good and truth in the book, but I didn’t resonate with the author. AT ALL. I know this isn’t fair…I’ve not met her, but I think she’s probably perfectly beautiful and sweet, always delightfully eloquent with her words and her manner is calm and serene. I’d envision her home to be the same…. All quite the opposite of me and mine. Because in my mind I sometimes think I’m like Calamity Jane that seems to roll in through the side door and talk out of turn too much.

I’ve often said my little family is our own little tornado that rolls through wherever we are.  And I’m the mama that perhaps fuels the storm by teaching my kids to use swear words right, shoot guns, starting marshmallow wars, racing around parking lots and other rather endless impromptu escapades that might seem like foolishness or inappropriate behavior to others… I see it as teaching them there is adventure to be had in the moments of life. There is raw emotion and tremendous passion in living fully alive. And I want my family to know God by living fully alive. By teaching them that He is always the Eye of our storm; whether we create it or life does it for us. He is there, with more than his eye on us. His Heart is forever stamped on us. And that we can still have fun and love Jesus like crazy.

I suppose I am realizing I just don’t know how to do mild and sweet. I know fast and full, full throttle and crash, but I am the Mama God gave to these kids. So we do loud and sometimes tornadic, laughing almost all the way. We pause for awe and wonder, snowball fights in the moonlight, raw tears in the midst of real heartache and pain. I’m authentic and real and very, very flawed before my kids. And YET. I am forever leaning forward in the pursuit of showing them an active, loving and ever present God that must smile and sometimes shake his head at our antics. And at the Mama that looks up the word “Fuck” with her son and follows that with reminding him that God loves him exactly as he is right now. And to always, always remember to love; that love can reside simultaneously with hurt and anger.

With God in the lead, we are learning to not hide our hearts, but to get things out and process through them. We have God boxes and dictionaries, counseling appointments and date times, endless conversation and many, many apologies and requests for forgiveness. But the pursuit of healthy hearts, authentic relationship and learning to do intimacy really well is a journey. And that our home is a haven of love, safety and authenticity. And I suppose at least for now, my Jesus loving family might raise a couple eyebrows with our rebel kind of love, but make no mistake… the goal is a wild and full love we learn to offer and receive… within the walls of our home and to the rest of the world.

 

 

With my Heart

The freckles on my kids’ faces bring such joy to my heart and make time stand still. Sun soaked clouds over the evening mountains strike wonder.  The snowflake on Gantry’s eyelash captures my attention and takes my breath away. Wrestling with the fullness of emotions; mine, my kids, and my friends. Laughter, hugs, cold air in my lungs and red mud on my running shoes. It reminds me of beautiful life in and around. The pause to notice; It’s an invitation to participate and remember once again the glory of this life lived in moments.

When I close my eyes and breathe in God, His breath offers life, beauty and timelessness everywhere I turn. When I listen and see with my heart…..I say yes and choose to savor the moment that is right now. It takes intentionality to put aside my hurt, weariness, selfish pity or busyness and enter in to endless moments of grace that reconnect my heart to His. Restringing the strand of love that tethers me to Him; the continual “yes” response to live with my heart leading keeps me connected.

And so in the moments I spin out… there is my thanksgiving journal. Running outside on a rocky trail. A phone call for support, the beauty project board, hot tears and pounding fists, raw prayers to a God that always hears. He draws me in eventually, always, somehow….teaching me more about living with my heart leading.

Dear friend, how does God pull you back in? How do you see and listen with your heart? I’d love to hear.

A Holy Anticipation

I don’t know what God is up to in me as of late…..not exactly at least. It’s big. I know that much. So much is shifting… I’m preparing for something and I have no idea what that something is. He is moving me somehow and I have no roadmap in front of me. But I’m in a season of throwing off and out things that I no longer need to be burdened with; both internally and material possessions. And the feeling is so wildly peaceful, unsettling and exciting all at the same time.

I’m moving in to a state of Holy anticipation….The heart-healing work He’s doing is deep and profound, bring indescribable freedom and joy. There is a increasingly intense drive deep within my soul to continue the discovery of my brokenness that holds me back from walking more in my fullness. And to purge my home of the things that are not useful, bring me joy or feel like a burden.

The tangible possessions that somehow try to link me to my past are becoming almost repulsive to me. So strange… as I sat with some dishes from one of my relatives, I became nauseous. In discussion with Mom about it, she asked if I was somehow rejecting my past. In a moment of raw tears, I realized it was much deeper than some sort of rejection of things. An awareness dawned in me that I saw such sorrow and unhappiness in both sides of my parent’s families. Tremendous sadness, abuse and survival. Not much joy from what I know. These possessions that have been passed along to me don’t represent and hold fond memories; rather they feel more like things that may have brought bits of joy or beauty in to an otherwise heavy existence. As though the china was a replacement for the joy of life and a freedom of being. I could be so wrong with this perspective, and am grateful for the possible pauses of refreshment the refinery may have brought in to the womens’ hard lives.

But for me, I want freedom. I want to breathe in free the breath of God himself…. Yahweh. Our breath breathes His name and brings Him glory. I want to live in Holy Anticipation of all His next breath in me carries…. and that requires me to look squarely in the eyes of things I hide behind and continue to mine deep for the soul wounds I have limped along with and call them out. To expose it all, take it to God for healing and restoration, and toss overboard whatever stands in my way of freedom. To be radically honest with myself about what my truth is, more importantly what God’s truth is, and to begin walking in the path of honoring those truths more and more. I want my life to sing of His glory and being shackled with so much burden- internally and externally makes that inexplicably harder.

So the process continues. I, as well as my kids, are in a season of whirlwind healing. So hard, yet the wind stirring up the mess is beautifully good. It seems we are all taking on the mantle of healing and awakening to our design. We are learning to embrace life and find joy in seeing God in our midst everywhere. These days His presence is seen in charcoal covered hands from Barrett’s artwork, snowball fights and awe-struck wonder at a snowflake, laughter and friends, the color of the sky, discussions about a horse curling their lip and why dogs sniff each other’s butts. God is in it all, and it is all Holy. There is anticipation for what is coming, and that is Holy too… Set apart and so unbelievably beautiful…I can’t wait for each new breath of freedom.

Of Men and Women


Recently I have proudly (insert now sheepishly) declared that I think men are pretty simple to care for. That I have it all figured out….. my analysis is that they have these basic needs:

  1. Respect
  2. Safety to be vulnerable- to get off his white horse and be loved and accepted in that
  3. Good sex
  4. Good food
  5. Time together having fun without the kids
  6. Meaningful conversation

Says the single woman.

I’ve shared my theory with several men and most nod and agree and I’ve even gotten a few “that’s so true” replies. So perhaps I’m close.

But in a conversation with a date recently, I was challenged to give a similarly easy analysis of what women’s needs boiled down to. He brought up safety and protection, but I unfortunately launched in to a much more complicated explanation. I’m really glad he asked the question….I have done so much thinking on it. What an insightful and aware man he is to even ask and want to know.

I realize I have a sometimes unhealthy view of women, including myself. Sometimes I am in awe of how strong and resilient women are, admire the mystery of myself and other women, but often I laughingly say we must be a pain in the ass to figure out in that mystery. The day to day complexities of hormones, emotions and the thoughts and conversation that wind and interweave like an intricate spiderweb,  (that is sometimes in a hurricane). I have to admit that underneath that laughter there is a bit of a disdain for those aspects in me…. what so often feels like a spin of a thousand tops that must be impossibly difficult to navigate and figure out, let alone delight in.

So in all of this, I look inward once again, as well as to God for the answers. And here are a few thoughts before I give my list. First, I am reminded yet again that the secret space we all (men and women) crave to have filled must be given to God; that the longing of our hearts will always be short of fully met if God’s heart and love isn’t first in there for us. He should set the stage for love; He is perfect love and can only meet us where we truly want to be. I do believe there has to be a connection between two people that is strong, undeniable and almost unexplainable. But there has to be more than that to last. When there is that connection present, and both partners are looking to God to meet those secret places and then making their offering of love (albeit imperfectly) in an attempt to reflect Christ’s love to each other, it’s then I think we are on the right track.

This is my list pertaining to women’s needs; I’ve given a brief explanation of each that I didn’t do for the men’s list, because, well….. refer to the part about the complexities of women. And actually I’m writing this mostly based on my needs and self-analysis, but after so many conversations with other women, I think it is somewhat across the board.  By all means we could dive in to both lists and discuss each one and ways to fulfill them for days, but this is just an introductory post. I’d welcome and love dialog to help me (and you) grow in understanding.

  1. Safety and protection- to be able to be vulnerable on every level and to feel safe in that, and know there is a much needed strength backing me up
  2. To feel delighted in and pursued
  3. Time playing and laughing together
  4. Spiritual commitment and pursuit of growth in life
  5. Communication- to feel heard and have him share his needs, wants and desires
  6. Shared life goals

As I’ve written, I realize more and more that it all boils down to the same simple thing. We are created by God for a good purpose. We as men and women are wired in our own beautiful ways for a reason, and we want to be known and met in that…. The way each individual wants and needs to be met will look different; and that’s what I think the beauty and lure of relationship is. To have a love that is mutually committed to reflecting the way God already pursues and loves us, yet walking it out here on earth. To know that we are seen, accepted and loved for our good and despite our flaws, just as He loves us endlessly.

Peace,

Erika

 

The Terror of Quiet

This morning I gave myself permission to not run out the door. I was planning to race out of bed and go to fitness and adult streetwise class. But instead I sat with God. I wanted so badly to hear from Him, and I did. He said to just sit. Well crap, that’s what I suck at doing. Just being still with no purpose other than to just be still. To rest my soul for a bit, and instead of chewing on the thoughts and worries that came up, I handed them to Him silently; asking no questions and not asking for answers. I just emptied myself of the things that came up.

I am so good at running and hiding. Sometimes I run to God, but so often it’s out of sheer resignation; I’ve hit the wall on something or everything. I go in utter panic, and usually demand directions and answers. RIGHT NOW. Other times I just simply run from Him. I’ll let you in on a secret- this morning’s sitting with Him time was in response to an invitation and challenge I’ve had from God for over two years. TWO YEARS!!! I had the challenge placed on my heart to sit with Him for an hour. Seriously only an hour of being still with Him and it terrified me. I’ve been running for a long time.

You see, I’m lousy at slowing down and just being. There is always something racing through my mind- Worry about money, never ending needs of the kids, what’s for dinner, the underwear that needs folding, I have to color my hair right now, the zit that needs popping, or I have the coolest creative project that needs to be on my wall yesterday. I let those things pull my attention away and take priority in my life. I am fueled by adrenaline and am very good at avoiding deeper pain and emotional intimacy at times. I escape my pain or facing the matters of my heart as well as running from time with God by getting distracted or finding fun and adventure, or even dismissing it all together.

So yes, today I sat with Him. Can I share another secret? I only made it 50 minutes. I couldn’t complete my hour. But I quieted myself and sat. No prayer, no journaling. Just sitting at His feet. When the distractions came to mind, I simply handed them to Him. Nothing more. I even dozed off at one point…And it felt amazing and peaceful.

I’ve been working with a Life Coach for the past two months. I’m diving in to my wiring and personality, looking at what my strengths are and moving towards utilizing those things in my daily life… getting out of the dissonate state I seem to live in perpetually. One of the processes I’ve gone through is discovering my Enneagram number, and understanding that. It’s an ages old personality assessment that is wildly accurate at reading your mail once you land on your type. Some of my mail feels like junk mail, and some is the super fun letter from a friend that makes you happy. In summary, I strive to be excited. I like options, new adventure, fear boredom and complacency. I’m a free spirit that hates boxes and fences around me. I’ll keep life in a whirlwind and funny…. I am prone to overindulgence and impetuous and compulsive behavior at times. I love being fascinated with life and find the good and joy in things around me. I can’t decide on a track in life because so many things seem good. Apparently my type is fabulous at wanting life to be light and fun, and when things feel hard, escaping into activity and adventure. To the mountains or for a run, cleaning the house, organizing the nail polish, planning a trip or a new project. Running and escaping again. As a result of these revelations, I committed to my coach that I’d take God’s challenge. To be still..it struck terror to say I’d do it, but this adrenaline junkie loves a challenge..

I used to think I was this emotional pendulum, swinging wild chaotic all the time. I’ve grown to understand that I feel intensely, passionately and engage fully in experience, and that it’s ok.  But I’m having to learn to temper my fullness with quietness… much like the steady foot giving gas while letting out the clutch. Not the right amount of either and I’m left stalled out and empty. But a fine balance can take you forward smoothly and maybe even fast, which I love…So I am shifting gears in to making the conscious choice to learn to get quiet and still. With God. I’ve never been able to just be still, yet my soul loves quiet around me. I just typically enjoy quiet while I’m busy or moving. Distracted.

What this has revealed to me is that I have easily stayed busy and distracted out of a combination of temperament and fear of what I discover when I’m left with myself. Quiet and still uncovers my lack of love for who I am and how I’m made, and doubting the God that made me with a good purpose. That I might actually have to believe what He says to me about me. To hear that He knew exactly what He was doing when He made me, but that He’s not finished with me yet. That my areas of struggle and deficiency don’t define me, rather they need shaping and refining to allow the full package of me to be fruitful and on target. I’m grateful for the process, and am so excited to discover a new peace with myself.

Peace to you….

Erika

The Flow

In returning to a long overdue promise, I’m back to one of the questions I presented in my previous post.

A question I spend a lot of time seeking answers for is “What does true rest look like in the busy life of a single mom?” Or for any person, really.  It can be so hard to understand what true rest looks like, harder still to find it.

I find myself way too often asking God “When is it my turn?” I feel like my life pours out for three young souls; busy for any parent, but it feels crushing sometimes as a single one. My life is shaped around the needs of others; all the normal things of raising kids… school work and activities, mountains of laundry, mouths that are usually talking or eating. The beautiful, crazy chaos of constant motion. But the tremendous desire I carry is to nurture their hearts so well. To model for them how to love well, look to God for their everything, to delight in Him and love the walk. For them to know who they are, how phenomenal they are…. the nightly backrubs, prayer and blessings. And then I say, “What about me?” Who helps fill me up? I have to be intentional to make sure I’m nurturing me, and whew, where does one find time for that? I don’t have anyone pouring into my tank. Or do I?

To be sure, much of this sounds like a pity party. Everyone’s life carries challenges and lonely places. Over and over I am told “Put your oxygen mask on first, then your kids.” But that takes time. Intentionality. Effort, courage and energy. I found as of late that when I am feeling overburdened and weary; maxed out; I find myself scrambling to find ways to fill back up. And it never seems to be enough. I’ve had a prayer for some time now that goes something like this; “Lord, please help the little moments of joy and beauty overwhelm the overwhelming.” Life clamors for my attention, and it too often feels like a fight I must win with my own sheer will. I find glimpses of the joy when we can get away for the weekend to play. Or I can get outdoors for activity that always refreshes me,  stopping to appreciate the kids’ laughter, or I just stop to say thank you to God for the sweet details of creation and life.

Matthew 11:28-29 in the Amplified bible says “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take my yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls.

I just returned from such a weekend of refreshment in Palm Springs. I got pool time complete with a tan, solo runs up the mountain, and some really good food. It was wonderful. But even there, the stark reminder of being alone, parenting and nurturing solo slammed into me. As I was scratching Brody’s back one morning, I asked myself that same selfish question, “What about me?” I headed out for a run, and it wasn’t long on the trail that I heard a loving voice on my heart. I had noticed a sweet desert flower blooming and breathed a thank you to the Father for it. His lesson that burned on my heart was beautiful…. it said, “Erika, instead of looking at yourself as a limited, contained vessel that needs refilling after pouring yourself out, think of yourself as a open-ended vessel that allows my love to flow through you. I’m constantly replenishing you, and it’s your choice to see it that way or to think it’s up to you to continually search for ways to refresh your supply.” I was stunned by the simplicity of that, and the reality really lies in my mind and focus. Do I choose to see my lack as something I have to battle to fill or can the ease, relief and refreshment come naturally when I simply turn my face and heart back to God?

So this is where I am today. In the moments I find myself leaning into the awareness of “I’m overwhelmed and must fix it,” I am choosing to remember what I’m calling The Flow. Seeing it as never-ending replenishing that comes in endless, beautiful ways.

 

The Longing Runs Deeper

I just finished texting a most beloved, beautiful friend. I messaged Teri from the spot we sat during a night hike several years ago. Where we rested and soaked in the glory of a summer night, checking out her new Star Chart app on her phone, talked and talked, and mostly just delighting in the freedom of the night. The joy of that evening in the Garden of the Gods is etched deeply into our souls. Her words were “I was thinking of that spot just the other day–the magic of panoply (she uses much smarter words than I do…) of stars, the feeling safe because I was with a woman who wasn’t afraid of the dark, the beauty of being with a kindred spirit. That was a good, good night. I want more of them!!”

My response was that I did too. That in fact, I was just sitting down writing about the longings of my heart; why I want certain things in my life. I shared with her that I felt my longings, perhaps all of ours, boil down somehow to what she described. Deep connection. Rest. Awe and wonder at creation. Peace. Feeling small and safe, insignificant yet deeply significant all at the same time. In pondering it more, I would say what was lacking that night was any sense of striving for worthiness or acceptance. We just were.

I hit a massive wall about 6 weeks ago. Started a downhill skid and found myself in the rubble of a very messy crash a couple of weeks later. I was a walking mess, but fairly quickly realized that my weary circus act of jumping through performance hoops of what i should or should not be doing for work, and feeling like a performing monkey, striving to fit in and find acceptance had somehow been jolted out of me.

I have been walking very empty for over a month now. But it’s a good empty, because I know the refilling is with healthier perspective and ways of doing….God is showing me little bits at a time, and I’m good with that. The little bits that are really massive life-shifts I’m faced with learning and defining are things like “What does true rest look like in the face of a busy life raising kids? How does Jesus fight for me and be my husband as a single mom? What is the significance of the longings in my heart, and how do I move towards a life that satisfies those longings and walks in the values I hold? How can I trust and have faith for I need and desire, remain in work yet out of striving mode? Oh, and how do I let my worth be filled only by God? What this all is is very much an end to some messed up ways of being and a start of walking towards and discovering my truest self.

I will return to these topics, and share what I’ve been learning. In the meantime, I’d encourage you to ask yourself what deeper things you’re longing for in the superficial wants of your heart. For example, my desire for a home in the country has the undercurrent desires for a sense of rest, connection to God and nature, and peace. There is nothing wrong with wanting my home in the country, but understanding why I crave it helps me seek how I can work to allow and create  those things into my life as it is right now, not living in escape mode.

I’d love to hear what you come up with….