i am reminded this morning of how common foot disfigurement is for birds.  sitting outside at redmond town center, savoring coffee and a good book, i glanced up to watch a few birds skittering around the fountains for a drink.  one bird looked perfectly fine, one bird limped on a gnarled foot, and one bird had no foot at all.  call me a soft heart, but i felt a little sad.  were they in pain?  were they born that way, or were they involved in some traumatic accident that left them broken?

and then one of the birds flew away.

and it hit me.  having an injured foot is pretty inconsequential to a little birdie.  they didn’t seem to struggle with their affliction.  the footless bird had no trouble at all using its stub as if it were a foot.  and the limping bird seemed perfectly equipped to bear its entire weight on its good foot.  if i were a bird, i would much rather have a broken foot than broken wings.

because birds were designed to fly.

and it hit me.  why do i worry so much about my imperfections, my shortcomings, those things i just can’t seem to get a handle on?  why, when i’ve got beautiful, strong wings of creativity and intelligence and language and grace?  why do i struggle because the walk is hard when i can just spread my wings and fly away?

god watches the sparrows.  thank you, god, for giving me your eyes for the birds.

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i don’t know how else to express myself except to tell the story.  so here it is —

i threw on my glee soundtracks to accompany me on my harrowing journey of cleaning and reorganizing the kitchen.  the music is new to my itunes library, so while i’ve seen the episodes, i feel like i’m rediscovering much that i’d forgotten.

this — http://youtu.be/Y8gDtVOXeys — was one such discovery.  truth be told, i never liked the song.  i didn’t like the way joan osborne sang it, either.  she was one of the sheryl-crow-melissa-etheridge-folk-rock-femmes who just didn’t appeal to my teenage tastes.  (or current ones, for that matter.)  anyway, “one of us” came on, and i dried my hands in preparation to skip to the next (and obviously better) song.  i’m not sure what stopped me.  i stood in limbo, literally — halfway between the kitchen and the living room — and listened.  maybe it was shadows of the episode that flickered across my mind and wound meaning into melody.  maybe it was the somewhat haunting and entirely heartfelt vocals.  maybe it was the holy spirit inviting me into something deeper.  whatever the reason, i began to cry and sing along.  i felt a little like job in the old testament, indignantly and unashamedly confronting god.

what if god was one of us?!  i’ve often had trouble wrapping my mind around god.  not unusual, i know.  but sometimes he’s not just an enigma; sometimes he simply feels far.  when i want to get closer to him, i try to conjure images of what he’d be like.  of course i think of jesus.  god with us.  but even then, how on earth do i snuggle up and pour out my heart to a middle-aged, middle-eastern, jewish carpenter/preacher from about a bajillion years ago?  this guy is supposed to help me have a relationship with god?  really?

i’m in the middle of an amazing book called love does by bob goff.  in his chapter called “jeepology,” he talks about people who “leak jesus”.  he writes, “i’ve met people…who leak jesus.  whenever you’re around them, jesus keeps coming up with words and with actions.”  the bible says that we are the body of christ, and if that’s true then we must be like jesus.  i began to think of the people in my life, and the more i thought the more i realized that god is many of us.

if god was one of us, he would be like my amazing husband, nate — loving me more and deeper than anyone else on this planet and providing for my every need (and some of my wants, too).

if god was one of us, he would be like my therapist, ben — whose face shows all of the emotion i feel, even when i try to conceal it.

if god was one of us, he would be like my new friend, emily — ill-content to sit back and let love and friendship pass her by, but eagerly pursues intimacy.  and fun.  and stories.  and laughter.  and beauty.  and prayer.

if god was one of us, he would be like my in-laws, stevepamsteph&matt — opening their arms and their hearts and welcoming me into the family i never had.

if god was one of us, he would be like my best friends, nesscarly&sarah — women who challenge and encourage me, who have stood beside me through so much that i cannot fathom life without them.

i listen to this song all the time now, and it is a comfort, a reassurance, a gift.  when i hear it, i’m no longer upset at a god who feels so distant and so different that to love him (and be loved by him) would be a fairy tale.  when i hear it, i am grateful for emmanuel who dwelt with us and for the holy spirit who dwells within us.

i encountered my first boggart this afternoon.  as i was driving home from therapy, i felt like i had seen clearly into the mind of j.k. rowling, like i knew exactly where her concepts of evil had been birthed.  now, just for the record, i actually do not claim to know anything of the creative genius of j.k. rowling.  but i must say, i have never felt so connected to harry potter.

today has been a weird day, more emotional than usual.  when i woke up this morning, i was tremendously grateful that i’d be seeing ben today.  we started talking about things, as usual, and it wasn’t long before we hit upon my unfulfilled need to grieve my past…as usual.  my childhood has long been a source of anger and sadness in my heart, and no matter how far i’ve run, i have been unable to escape the pain.  ben asked what specifically about my past i was most angry about, and my reply was easy — never feeling loved and feeling (as an adult) inadequately prepared to handle life.  ben then asked which parent i was most angry with.  that was tougher.  i decided that i felt wronged by both parents equally.  in response to that answer, ben unknowingly introduced me to my boggart.

ben began to explain a therapeutic scenario in which someone closes her eyes and imagines that the person who hurt her was sitting in front of her.  someone, then, eyes still closed, begins to speak up for her wounded parts.  (ben had not walked me blindly into that exercise, but rather proposed i try it.)  as ben was talking about me potentially confronting my mother, fear overtook me as i contemplated the mere vision of my mother.  when ben asked if i wanted to try it, i said no.  i was surprised that i was so afraid, especially because my mother wasn’t actually in the room.  but my boggart…is my mother.

in harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban, professor lupin introduces his class to the boggart.  as hermione asserts, a boggart is one of the most fearsome creatures because it assumes the form of what its opponent fears most.  others in the class approach the boggart, and the audience watches at the boggart changes from a spider to a snake to professor snape.  when harry approaches, the boggart becomes a dementor — a horrific creature whose sole purpose is to suck out your very soul.  sitting in the office with ben, thinking about imagining my mother in front of me, i felt like harry potter must have felt in that classroom.  the fear was no less intense than if my mother had actually been there.

i felt like a failure, essentially standing down and allowing the boggart to get the best of me.  i wished that i had accepted the challenge and accepted the opportunity to grieve in spite of my fear.

i still feel like a failure.

but for some bizarre reason, i feel comforted by the fact that i’m not the only person who has come face-to-face with a boggart.  if no one else, i think i can safely say that j.k. rowling has…

i have been seeing an incredible therapist for at least a month now.  whenever i leave his office with tears in my eyes, i get into the car, grab my phone, and immediately turn to these two songs.  the soundtrack of my healing.

i don’t have anything original today.  just a couple of songs and a bit of my heart.

http://youtu.be/MnPICiigM5Q

http://youtu.be/-FPA8DHdia8

i got my butt kicked yesterday.  spiritually.

on mondays, the eastlake interns meet for a couple hours to share stories from the weekend and glean wisdom from some of the staff.  sometimes we have the privilege of watching excerpts from “radicalis,” a leadership conference that the staff attended last year.  yesterday, we heard rick warren speak about the stewardship of health.  while a lot of what he said about caring for our bodies was incredibly convicting, i’ve spent the last 24 hours mulling over a sub-point (if it’s even significant enough to be called that).  he was speaking about why so many diet and exercise plans fail, and he said that it comes down to will power versus holy spirit power.  as people, we can only power through something for so long before we give up.  if our only motivation for eating well and exercising is to have a better body, be sexier, or even be healthier, it’s not enough.  rick warren stated that we ought to take supreme care of ourselves for jesus.  god created our bodies, jesus paid the ultimate price to redeem our bodies, and the holy spirit lives in our bodies.  our bodies belong to god, and we can show him how much we love him by how we take care of ourselves.

nothing but love should be our motivation.  and no motivation but love will bring success.

(insert god’s 2×4 here.)

how long has it been since i did something because i love jesus?  i started to think through my routine, and i realized very quickly that i try to will my way through even spiritual pursuits.  why do i read the bible?  because i’m supposed to.  because it’s what a good christian does.  because i feel guilty if i don’t.  and i wonder why i remain inconsistent in bible reading, in prayer.  i fail at discipline, because i expect to rely on myself to be disciplined.

no motivation but love will bring success.

how long has it been since i’ve been in love with god, since i was reduced to (happy) tears by my father, my savior, my counselor, and the lifter of my head?  when did i allow that disconnect to happen?  and why?  why, when i’ve known his sweetness, his tenderness, his unconditional love?

i’ve always had difficultly changing my thoughts.  it’s easy to figure out that something’s wrong; it’s another thing entirely to make things right.  i want more than anything to be close to god, and i’ve got to get out of my head to do it.

the bible calls it “the renewing of your mind,” “taking every thought captive to christ.”

please, jesus, i don’t want our relationship to be just another exercise.

i’ve heard it said that you always go back to what existed in the beginning.  okay, maybe that’s only true in the movies, but the fact remains that something in my soul has been aching to reconnect with the past.  and i’m not quite sure what to do with myself.

when i was in the midst of the most devastating times of my life (which consisted of about 20 years), i felt like my purpose was clear.  whenever i got through the pain and the struggle, i would help others do the same.  when i was young, i aspired to be a clinical psychologist.  as i grew and studied and explored, i found the role of “counselor” more suitable — operating through a ministry rather than out of an office.  right now, if i aspire to be anything, it falls under the category of “mentor.”  no office, no church, just my own living room, a coffee maker, and an invitation for the holy spirit to participate.  throughout all of the revisions, my dream had been the same.  my purpose was undeniable, my focus sharp, and my heart trained on people in need of compassion and understanding.

while i’m nowhere near perfect, i cannot deny that i am currently having the best time of my life.  my struggles are few and faint, nowhere near the desperate red screaming i succumbed to for years.  i used to feel like i was drowning.  a couple of years ago, i started treading water.  and now, now i feel like i’m on sitting on the beach as the waves break at my feet.  to be ungrateful would be ridiculous, and i thank god every day for how far i’ve come and how blessed i am.  on the other hand, my identity is in that ocean.  and it’s the last place i want to be.

so here i am, happy but disconnected.  i’ve been struggling to figure out my purpose — whether it’s the same or needs changing based on my current circumstances.  i’ve been struggling with where i belong and how i should be spending my time.  i don’t know what to dream, let alone how to achieve it.

many years ago, my mentor, holly, shared a vision with me.  she saw the depths of hell quake in response to the ministry i would do, the way i would affect young (women’s) lives.  some time later, god gave me the same vision, and i was thrilled!  today, that vision is a memory that seems to ebb with the tide.  maybe it’s wrong, but i refuse to let go.

i cannot let go.

i am a mess.

capital m-e-s-s.

 it’s like when you haven’t eaten in a while and then start to feel sick.  you know that you’re not really sick, that eating will make you feel better.  but you don’t want to eat because you feel sick.

how often is life simple? direct?  and yet how often do i yearn that it be so?  we are not very different, you and i and everyone.  different lyrics, perhaps, but the same song —  the same beautifully chaotic string of notes to which we etch out a melody.  mine crescendos here while yours rests.  and just when i feel like i’ve got the rhythm, i turn the page and the tempo changes.  

why would i give anything to be the composer,

when i am the masterpiece?

with a capital ‘m.’

bluebird

flits out of her cage.

her tail feathers graze the open hatch

that will no longer contain her.

she is free.

her tiny wings are strong,

and they carry her

on the winds of grief

and change

and hope.

to soar above the storm

would be so much easier,

or to return to the confines

of the only home she’s known.

whether it is pain

or love

that propels her,

she cannot turn around.

no longer captive,

she is captivating,

and her refrain joins the song

of the heights.

blue(sky)bird.

goodness knows that the saga of my unemployment has been the hinge upon which my life has turned for the past six months.

six. months. unemployed.

and for the most part, it has been nothing short of the longest, most frustrating, discouraging, and depressing time in recent years.  sending off application after resume with either silence or rejection from each employer, watching helplessly as my bank account dwindled away to nothing, wondering what on earth was so unattractive about me that not even the local grocery stores wanted to hire me — that was my reality.  until now.

over the past couple weeks, i’ve had five interviews.  i had one yesterday, one earlier this afternoon, and i’ll be going to a third at 5:00 tonight.

while i was walking to the bus stop this morning, it occurred to me that my luck seems to have changed.  i wish i knew what is suddenly so drastically different that more employers have contacted me in the past two weeks than in the past five months.  it’s not like i’ve been doing anything differently.  but finally, finally, i am seeing a light at the end of this tunnel.

and all i can think is “praise jesus.”

i’m trying to trust god, i really am…and more than that to entrust myself to him. i always want to control and figure it out and fix it. i want to work and stretch and strain to give myself as many opportunities as possible, because one of those hundreds of attempts has got to yield something positive. i plow ahead, because i feel guilty if I don’t. and to a certain extent, i think it’s good. but then again, i don’t stop to consider god or his perspective. i don’t ask for his guidance, not really. it’s just “bless this,” “help something to work out,” “oh, god, please intervene here!” i have no idea what i’m doing, what to do, and i keep thinking that with enough effort… but it’s not about my effort. i’m not being obedient; i’m just going crazy.

holly shared with me recently about how god wants to provide (even when that means bailing us out of our own stupid messes) like any loving father would. and i’d never considered that. when a child (no matter how old) is in trouble, parents don’t think twice about helping. even if it’s costly. even if it’s painful. they just want their kid to be safe and sound. and what does the child have to do? the child doesn’t bail himself out of jail or drive home in his wrecked car. all the child has to do is ask.

i don’t ask. for all i know, for all i “believe,” i still don’t ask. i depend on myself, my own effort, my own merit. i give absolutely zero credit to the maker of the freaking universe to possibly be able to alter circumstances that i cannot change myself.

really? really?!?! i am so ridiculous.

ask. and not just ask, but wait. listen. it’s been so long since i’ve listened… i’m worried i’ve forgotten how. …and i’m still a tad scared that he won’t speak or won’t act or won’t be exactly who he’s consistently proven himself to be.

yeah. ridiculous.