SHOWING UP LOVED

Walking through a forest, reflecting on life, justice and the wide world, a friend said the following to me:

“What would life look life if we showed up every day knowing that we were loved?”
(Marlyn Faure paraphrasing Henri Nouwen)

Eugene Petersen paraphrases 1 John 4: 17 – 21 in a way that explores this too:
God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home, and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgement Day – our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgement – is one not fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love – love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.
….Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.

This morning I was convicted of the fact that I often DON’T show up loved. I show up like I need to protect myself, like I need to question the people in my world, like I need to do more, be more and try more than I do. I need to control what is happening around me because if I don’t I fear what will happen. I don’t show up loved when I behave this way.

I am not saying that we should not put in effort, that we should strive to be the best we can be, but if we are not doing this from a place of love, then what is our driving force?

Making this real meant figuring out how would my life look different IF I SHOWED UP LOVED:
– What would my marriage look like?
– What would my work space look like?
– What would I be like and my attitude to the different dimensions of me (physical, emotional, intellectually, spiritually)?
– What would my friendships be like?
– What would my family space be like?
– What would my life dreams look like?

Doing this exercise made me realise how much fear had been allowed to show up – out of habit now rather than always for a good reason.

Fear meant that I took shallower breaths, focused on what could go wrong, focused on needing to protect me, and focused on needing plan B, C or H! Fear meant that I worked harder, pushed harder and judged myself harsher than I would anyone around me. Fear meant that things became personal when they weren’t intended that way always.
Fear meant pulling boundaries into rigid spaces rather than letting them be permeable and healthy spaces.
Showing up loved meant that words like the following peppered my page when I did the above exercise. TRUST, SAFE, GROWTH, FUN, VULNERABLE STRENGTH, DEEP, HEALTHY, GRACE, SATISFIED, PURPOSEFILLED, INSPIRED.
Showing up loved means trusting, checking in and then responding to God, to others before reacting from fear and behaving like I wasn’t loved.

I am re-committing to showing up loved.

showing up loved jpg

Between I will and I do….the “baby” question

Getting married at this stage of my life has its definite advantages. There is much of what I wanted to achieve and do that has been done.  It also comes with its own challenges.  Challenges that one would expect like learning to let go of some independence, learning what inter-dependence looks like and figuring out how to share my space naturally with another, appreciating that when God says two are better than one and a cord of three isn’t easily broken, that the bonding of this cord happens as things are resolved (this means wrestling, stand offs, choices and inevitable conflict at times). Challenges as families shift in their understanding of each other and the way that we are involved in each other’s lives.

It also means that we learn to trust another’s involvement in our lives and our life choices:  not because the other is the “boss of me” but because the other actually cares about me and wants me to be a good “boss of me”.

One of the hardest things for me, especially as we have made choices not to live together, not to sleep together and are doing our courtship the “old school” Christian way of preparing for marriage- there is lots of anticipating and excitement, but also recognising that our first year of marriage may have lots of ‘refining moments’– is the fact the people frequently feel the need to tell me to hurry up and have babies because I am getting on…. (Open private speech bubble: It’s hard not want to ask you what you know about my ovaries or my fiancé’s reproductive capacity in these conversations: Close private speech bubble)

Thank you for believing that I will make a good mom.

Thank you for being interested in our lives.

And now I am going to thank you for trusting that this is something that my fiancé and I have spoken about; have prayed about; have made choices about too.  A wise friend said to me when I voiced my frustration:  There isn’t only one way of having babies nowadays – and there are no guarantees regardless of age or planning or how much of a good parent one may potentially be. My Ouma had her last child at the age of 44, AFTER a mastectomy and a bout with breast cancer.  He is perfectly healthy.  Yes, the risks are there.  Yes, it may be harder but it also may be easier for me than for some of my other friends who have done EVERYTHING right – they eat well, they keep their body fat at the optimal percentage, they exercise, they LOVE children and they have a supportive community around them and yet, I know their heartaches and things just not happening despite trying for months at the optimal age. Not just one friend – numerous friends! There are no guarantees in any of this.

It has been hard to know how to respond when the day we got engaged people started telling me I needed to start trying; or asking how long we planned on waiting because….well, you know, Lex, you are old; or going to an appointment with the lady doctor and being told to go home and make a baby now because the egg was in the perfect place according to the scan (She got asked to behave!).  It’s hard when I know that people don’t mean this badly. 

We would like to walk down the aisle first.  We would like to be in a position, where as a self-employed person, I don’t need to work for 3 months and we will be financially comfortable.  We would like to have memories of us 2 before we make memories of us 3 or us 4.  We also know that we want to choose a baby –regardless of whether we ‘make a bio-baby’ or not.

In the midst of all the pending changes, the last thing my heart, my brain and my body can cope with is the idea of being a mom on top of this all.  Yes, there are risks. We are risking joining 2 lives.  We are risking making decisions around careers and homes and futures as a couple.  We are risking giving up individual adventures to have a joint adventure.  Allow us to risk this well before we risk together with the life of another little person.  We want to risk for and with them. We want to love them well – more than well.

Just give us a little bit of time to get there!

Salvation, independence and a deep grief….

Isaiah 30:15 “Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves.  Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me – the very thing that you have been unwilling to do” (The Message) 

In the past I have loved this verse – in other versions it speaks of in “repentance and rest is salvation, in quietness and trust is strength”.  I loved the fact that it spoke of strength and salvation and quietness and trust until suddenly this scripture, as phrased by Eugene Petersen took on a new meaning for me.  This morning I read a devotional by Rob Stegmann which spoke of the fact that God was grieved by man’s wickedness  and his heart was filled with pain (Genesis 6:6).  (Rob’s writing can be read here : http://robstegmann.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/broken-heart)

Then I reflected back to Isaiah 30:15 and had to (painfully) acknowledge that my hard fought for independence, the pride I had in having managed my life thus far was actually an idol.  It was a silly effort to save me.  It was something that bought God’s heart pain and my refusal to acknowledge that actually, this was and is something that I am struggling to relinquish and give over to him, deepens that pain.   Especially in a season where I am being asked to rest in God and trust a process – a process that is filled with risk and feels totally out of control.   Despite this being confirmed over and over and over again by different people in different parts of the country, of my world, who have no connection to each other – I kept saying yes, BUT… resting is one thing – but aren’t we called to active rest. Aren’t I supposed to be looking at options, you know actively committing our days to God and pressing into things while we wait for him to open or shut doors?  Things don’t just happen.  God honours our intentions and our actions not sitting around reading all day – and my rent doesn’t get paid by my perception of resting.   Yes, if I look at the motives and my heart intentions, I am challenged.

Actively resting in God means that when I want to say:

“Yes, but practically what does that look like?” the answer is:

  • Whose story is this?  Yours or MINE?
  • Are you on MY team or am I on yours as a resource?
  • You trust me with your soul and its eternal being – and yet you can’t trust me with the here and now detail?

You have forgotten I AM THE PRIZE – your “practical what does that look like” means to remember that you practically see ME.  Not the need, not the unknown. Me.  Your independence separates you from me.  You can’t hear a voice you are not willing to listen to.  Seek me with ALL your heart and then you will find me.   When you come looking for me, and want it more than anything else, I will make sure you won’t be disappointed (Jer 29:13 – The Message).

I have caused God deep pain.  Me.  Alexa.  The woman seeking to take on injustice and find ways of helping people see that they matter.  I have caused God pain.   Yet in the midst of this Isaiah (30:18) states:

“BUT God’s not finished.  He’s waiting around to be gracious to you.  He’s gathering strength to show mercy to you.  God takes the time to do everything right.  Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones”