vulnerability

On Writing Unpolished to keep on Writing with Purpose

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If you’ve been reading me for a while you know that for the better part of last year I wrote regularly, publishing one thoughtful post every Tuesday. It was my commitment to myself and a group of supportive friends, for accountability and to help me stay consistent. By the end of the year, I was mentally exhausted. I learned that writing of that nature once a week was not sustainable for me, as it demanded time and mental energy at a pace I was not able to keep.

But 27 days into this year I realized that my writing needed attention. My writing muscles needed exercise to hone my voice. You learn to do something by doing it and making the mistakes that come with doing something for the first, second, and fiftieth time. You learn to write by writing. So, I need to write.

I need the fluidity that comes with a more unabridged way of writing. Otherwise, the time and effort it takes to write “properly” will keep me from writing at all. This atrophies the writing muscles. Which I realized is what’s happening. So, to help me warm up my writing muscles I will blog in a more “first-draft style”. What I hope to accomplish is more frequent writing even if less polished.

Needless to say, it is scary and humbling to write like this. I fear of coming across thoughtless and careless in my craft. But, ironically, it is by giving myself the space to write this way, that I hope to warm up my creative muscles and hone my skill to produce better work. Everything needs to start somewhere, and all writing begins with a first draft.

Inspired by a discussion Tim Challies started on the subject of blogging, and this post by Trillia Newbell, both whose writing I enjoy and respect, I decided to write more informally from now on until June. The exception, of course, will be those pieces I submit to other outlets like Women Encouraged which I also share on my blog as part of my writing.

In the end, the kind of writing I (and most writers) attempt to do is meaningful when shared with a reader. It is a privilege to share one’s thoughts with a willing listener. So I ask for your leniency dear reader, while I use this season to warm up my writing muscles.

What will not change is the intention behind all my writing. I wish with my words to beckon the reader to navigate the human experience with an eternal perspective. Because it’s where the follower of Christ is to spend his or her life. And that is a fact that should affect and color everything about our present. So I will continue to aim to write from that perspective, even in first-draft style :)

I confess I did a little editing with this post before posting, but considerably less than usual. Moving forward, for this series I will write when I can and give myself a set amount of time to write and post. No editing or wrecking my brain what pretty picture can I take to go with it. I will use what I have on hand or take a quick one (sorry ahead of time!). The idea is to write, and make it about that. This quote by Julia Cameron comes to mind: “Making writing a big deal tends to make writing difficult. Keeping writing casual, tends to make it possible.”

Trillia, thank you for the freedom and permission I feel your initiative provided!

Canadian Thanksgiving and the Kingdom of God

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I always say I’m Canadian through the gift of immigration. It’s funny how that small stamp in our passports back in 2012, gives us a freedom we did nothing to defend, earn, or build. Immigration has taught my husband and me so much about the kingdom of God.

Though we were not born here, we get to call this nation our home and enjoy the same stability, peace, and prosperity as any other Canadian. This paints a picture of the kingdom of God, by which we face each day covered in grace and acceptance, just like the Son.

The hard things that bring shame, the hurts we carry, the ones we carelessly inflict, all – forgiven. Every day we get to face 24 hours worth of mercies. Grafted into a family, we enjoy a membership we didn’t work for, or pay. Through no doing of our own, we belong.

Yet membership is not always easy. Adaptation is the hallmark of being an immigrant. From your new home address, which will take more than a year to feel like home, to grasping social cues and looking awkward because you haven’t grasped them yet. You are frequently settling in and thus feel unsettled often. You feel your life uprooted, and taking root elsewhere is challenging.

Isn’t that like the kingdom of God? We are placed in it because we are in dire need of saving. The very process is painful. Being saved often will mean having to confront things we considered familiar, normal, and even comforting. After all, having our way feels like that. So, letting go feels contrary to our intuition.

Grafting connotes pain and certainly discomfort, for it includes cutting from somewhere to place elsewhere. But it also means new life will stem from the graft.  I googled the definition to shed some light. Graft: noun - a shoot or twig inserted into a slit on the trunk or stem of a living plant, from which it receives sap. The very purpose of grafting is so that the inserted piece may feed from the living organism where it’s been placed.

In this, our sixth Canadian Thanksgiving, celebrating with our small group, I got to see this so clearly. Looking around the room, I saw twelve very different people. From early twenties to mid-forties, some students, some working full time, some married, others single, a few born and raised in Canada, while several grafted from as far as the Middle East and Asia, all under one roof, filling the space with laughter that has no accent, while skin colors of every tone.

We come with a specific history, a set of beliefs, and our own ideas and preferences. And it is in the body of Christ that we sharpen one another’s edges by the work of the Holy Spirit, using imperfect, flawed vessels placed together under His grace. Jesus is the living water who feeds us new life.

I think belonging is one of the deepest needs we feel as humans. We long to be part of a clan, to have a community and say, “these are my people,” because it means we are known, seen, and heard.

But I think belonging is also one of the hardest things for us. We need it to survive and thrive because belonging creates an opportunity for needs to be seen and met. We end up undressing our hearts and letting our messy parts spill out. Whether we need fellowship, a plate of food, or clarity for a moral dilemma, belonging to His family calls to wash feet and raise our hands when our own feet need washing. It’s hard and beautiful.

He is building a new kingdom where every tongue, tribe and nation is represented. The colliding of all those accents, histories, and colours, makes for a beautiful tapestry, more unique in the sum of its parts, than any one of them all by itself. It makes for a messy picture this side of heaven but a glorious one in the life to come.

The transformation from a life lived according to me, to one lived according to Him, is nothing short of a miracle. That is the result of cutting and replanting us; the miracle is less of me and more of Jesus because all of me is being moulded into His likeness.

On this Thanksgiving, as I ponder on His active work of cutting and replanting my life, I want to invite you to look for His work in your life. A prayer for us both-

Lord thank you for saving us, that we may have new Life.

Give us eyes to see the present circumstances of our season in light of your plan. Help us remember you are building a Kingdom to make your name famous, through the miracle of changed redeemed lives,

and that redeeming and changing is what you are doing in our lives every day through cutting and grafting.

Lord reveal our heart to us. Where are we refusing to be grafted and take root with you? Show us and give us teachable hearts, willing to yield to you Lord.

Grafting is painful Lord, you know because you were willing to be cut from heaven and grafted into humanity, renouncing your power and glory, for death on a cross. Thank you, Jesus!

Please help us to trust you with our broken pieces, as you cut and graft them to renew us.

Fill our hearts with joy we pray,

That strange joy that coexists with more questions than answers, because we know the One who holds all answers. Lord we pray for blooms, a fruitful life in the things that matter to you.

We love you, and we need you, for everything.

In Jesus’ name we pray- amen!

The Gift of Shared Tears

Loneliness is a hard companion. Yes, I say companion, because although its literal meaning is that you are by yourself, unlike solitude – which we may long for and need at times, loneliness feels like an unwanted and burdensome companion. Its shadow-like presence goes wherever you are. In a room full of people or standing in line to pay for your groceries, you feel alone and devastated by it.

Sometimes it’s difficult to articulate to others why our sadness. We need people to be a safe place, where our words can land safely, quietly. A place absent of platitudes, and well-meaning but ill-fitting “let me fix it” type of comments. It’s hard because we really do want to fix things, don’t we? We want to fix them for others, and at times we desperately wish to fix our own broken hearts.

But not everything is fixable, and not everything that is can be mended right away. Sometimes it is meant to take time because in that space God is doing something in our lives. The hurt is being used for future fruit and today’s pain is an ingredient thereof.

There is that instance where someone will have the right word that speaks directly into our situation. Or we may have that timely word of encouragement that fits and helps someone discern and feel better. There are other occasions when we just want company in pain that is hard to articulate.

The Word says “Weep with those who weep”. This two-part verse also calls to “Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15 ESV). Both statements call to partake in the situation of the other person. Which means we place ourselves over there, wherever they are. This paints a picture for me. Sitting where they are to experience what they are facing and partake with them of that joy or sorrow. Some time ago I got an unexpected front row seat that helped me understand one way to weep with those who weep.

For days I carried my heavy companion. Some dear friends kept coming to mind. Online connections, who though removed in terms of geography, were close regarding some of the things I was wrestling through. I felt awkward and even silly at the thought of reaching out. Finally, I worked up the courage. With a lump in my throat, teared-eyed I shared with words a piece of my heart, challenging to articulate, needing a home away from home to land.

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At the other end, my teary words were received in addition to compassion with vulnerable expressions of similar burdens these friends have experienced. They shared openly about their own struggles and cried as they dug deep into their own hurt, to bring it to me in words. It was a sacred gift that felt like a balm. I had shared pains that felt heavy, and they were met with tears that said, “I receive your heart. Please hold my heavy heart too”, and in doing so, conveyed you are not alone.

These women wept on the other end of the line. Real tears and words spoken in a broken voice. Thank you Lord I whispered, feeling accompanied. This was an unexpected picture of “week with those who weep.” By that I mean, I had not seen its effect in my own heart. I understood better the inkling I had had all week to reach out to them. It felt uncomfortable to reach out to strangers in the traditional sense of the word. Women who lived in different time zones. Our friendship had been cultivated entirely in the digital space using technology in the form of email, voxer, and social media.

We knew each other’s voices and writing. We’ve seen each other’s faces in photos. But we’ve never met up for coffee or worshiped together on Sunday. Yet, these were the vessels God used to minister to my soul. In their own way, each sat by my side and beheld what I was seeing, feeling its weight alongside with me.

They wept with me as they opened their own heart to share what made theirs feel heavy. It made all the difference. Through this experience, I learnt that a way to weep with someone is not to be afraid to invite them into what makes you cry. Although this experience happened a little while back, I carry the lesson close to my heart.

Some of the things I shared that day remain today, as not every hard thing is meant to have a resolution, immediate or sometimes ever. But the one thing that was most life-giving was to find myself among fellow sufferers. To be shown their own tender areas with the pain they carry and wrestle in prayer moved me profoundly and made me feel cared for enough to be trusted. Being sad together was a gift that made my own sadness less overwhelming. It’s not sexy. It’s not what the world calls efficient or smart management of one’s emotions. But then again, neither is the suggestion to weep with those who weep.

It brought me closer not only to them but especially to God. There is beauty and sweet company in crying together. It puts us in touch with our own humanity. Weeping with others means I allow myself to feel things I don’t want to feel, or which disrupt my otherwise very organized life. It’s a call to break with the broken. Which I am as well. I’m so grateful for these friends, for the courage God gave me to reach out finally, and for the chance to weep together. By sharing in their sorrow, I felt less alone in mine.

 

To Be Seen and Heard We Need to Show and Tell

I don’t want to undress my heart and show others what I carry because vulnerability is emotional nakedness. And like physical nakedness, it feels embarrassing. The imperfections come spilling out. The not enoughness of my virtues. The too muchness of my issues. It’s an insight God has brought to my attention gently over the past few weeks.

Although I noticed it in my writing first, where I began to hear my own guarded voice, I slowly saw it present in all spaces of my life. My heart wears a heavy wardrobe. I am still processing. So, this is me, sharing with you, my reader, for accountability, and to process with you what God is teaching me.

We fear rejection, or best-case scenario, judgment. “Best” because you may judge some parts and still let me in. Rejection feels more final. Like red ink letters stamping the word “rejection” on an application for example. It’s the whole effort being rejected, no parts approved or wanted.

Because we all long to be accepted. We want our whole person to belong, not just the likeable interesting pieces, those we intentionally let out, as the business card of emotional interacting, here’s the better worthier part of me in a nutshell, but all of it.  

I do not mean we should wear all our emotions on our sleeve all the time. But to connect deeply, depth is required. And keeping a tone that floats on the surface, to ensure the heart stays afloat in others’ company, is sinking any possibility of serving and being served. I’m still figuring out what that means for my writing voice and the things I share. That fine line between fearing making it about me and humbly sharing my stories that bear His writing, that it may bring Him glory and that it may serve you. Connect with you. Draw us closer to Him and to one another.

My humanity and the limitations thereof are meant to need Him. And so are yours. The not enoughness and the too muchness, are indeed so. Not nearly enough to measure up, and too much to overcome alone. Yet I am gloriously created with limits because I was made to be complete with my creator. In and through Jesus, limits are made into enough and lack is completed with his provision. Like the fish and the loaves of bread, which although were just barely the lunch of a kid, were made enough to feed thousands.  

The tension we feel in our deficiencies is an invitation to step into the sufficiency of our Maker. This week’s post feels a lot like that for me. An imperfect string of letters I offer, knowing full well their value won’t be measured in literary quality. But hopeful that they are good enough to plant a seed in someone who may need to look at their long list of lack, considering God. Sounds lovely, and in my heart profoundly true.

I realize it also sounds hollow on days when deficient is all I see in the mirror. And I don’t have an answer for that and I think we’re not meant to have one. There are occasions when we are to go through the feelings. Because it is in the hard place where we can be comforted. Taken in. Understood.

And how healing that is, in the presence of the One Who holds our days and every tear we shed, in his hands. We skip on the hard feelings; we miss the healing. We deny the weaknesses we carry; we reject the power by which they are made strong in His strength.

How hard, dear reader, it is for me, I confess, to grapple with all of this, in terms of sharing and digging deeper in this space. I pray these words that feel spoken from my fingers to the keyboard, unto your screens, may help connect us a little more to one another, and to Him who wants all of you, and all of me. The good parts, and the ones wearing too many layers. Making them heavy to carry.

The next time someone shares more than what you are comfortable with, imagine how you would want to feel in their shoes, and offer them that. We all yearn for the same thing. We want to belong. To be seen and heard. But how can others see and hear who we really are, when few of us want to show our true selves and tell our stories? How else are we going to build the Church if we can’t serve one another, in the offering and receiving of what we carry, the way Jesus did for our sake?

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